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Please educate me: choosing binoculars

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 05:55   #1
2weels
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Please educate me: choosing binoculars

Hi all. My first post (after saying hello). My story and delimma:

I'm 62. Have had K-Mart Focal 7-15x35 zoom binoculars with Siam Cat Optics, made in Japan, for 35 years or so, picked them up on the way to a concert in Austin. I suspect they are made by Tasco. I also have some Oberwerk 15x70 (not Ultra) binoculars by brother gave me and recently got some never-opened Bushnell 7x35 Falcons for $20 on ebay including shipping as carry-in-the-car binoculars.

I recently moved to a mini-ranch at the foot of the Organ Mountains in Southern New Mexico, near Las Cruces, which is near El Paso. This is my first time to live out of town and I was delighted at all of the birds! Cactus Wrens, Curved Beak Thrashers, Western Meadowlarks, Ladderback Woodpeckers, Swainson's Hawks, and many many others. I bought some books to identify them. Some I only hear (like the pair of owls at night in the winter months).

So.....my old K-Mart binoculars seemed a bit worn as the zoom lever has a bit of play. The Oberwerks just don't work for birds, but I will be mounting them on a tripod for the amazing stars out here and maybe they will work for birds a little.

So I wanted to buy some new binoculars, and got some Nikon Action 7-15x35 zoom binoculars, never used, on Ebay. I was disappointed. They are made in China though they say Japan Vision on them. The zoom lever has no resistance at all. It seems as if it doesn't have any mechanism inside. The K-Mart Focals' zoom lever has a nice feel of moving a mechanism inside. I prefer the heft, solidness, and mechanisms' feel on the K-Marts to the newer Nikon Actions a LOT.

For all I know the Nikon's are great binoculars. I just don't know enough to know. I bought some 9x35 Rochester B&L Zephyrs, mint, on eBay except when they arrived they were in fact trashed, filthy, and very uncollumnated. Before returning them I compared them to my K-marts. The K-marts seemed brighter & clearer, thought to be fair the Zephyrs had junk inside, and seemed filthy in and out.

I need to compare the Nikons to the K-Mart Focals before returning them, for educational purposes if nothing else. Maybe I'll keep them, I don't know. They get the black surround much more than the K-Marts (maybe this means a shorter eye relief?). I wear glasses and have an astigmatism, but I usually don't look through my glasses when using binoculars so this is not a big deal.

I feel at this point, with my budget of $100 or so, I'd like to buy something on Ebay. There are many, many old made in Japan (MIJ) binoculars on Ebay. Some are Japanese camera brands (Pentax, Minolta, Yashika, etc) I recognize, and this makes me think they may be better than MIJ Tascos, and a dozen other weird brands. I have a Nikon D7000 and until I pulled those Nikon Actions out of the box, have had a walk-on-water reverence for Nikon. Still do for my D7000, what quality!

Nice Zephyrs are closer to 200. I see Zeiss Jenas for less than 100, but it seems the nice ones are also closer to 200. Or should I go for some other MIJ binoculars that are older?

I see Leupold Rogues going for 100-200 on Ebay. Would these be a better choice than some old, MIJ binoculars? I see old MIJ Swift Nighthawk 788 7x50s going for around 50. Swift Skippers for around 60.

I would just like some very bright, durable 7x50 binoculars that feel good and will be keepers for life. I just have no way of knowing what has good glass and a bright view.

I guess it boils down to: am I buying into a myth thinking old Japanese Binoculars are great because any glass from Japan is super great? That new binocs < $500 are junk? Should I stick with these made in China Actions? Or wait til I can afford some more expensive Nikons (new or mint used Monarchs and Tropicals are a bit high) or some other brand?

Would old Zephyrs or Jenas be better (if I can find nice ones)? Some vintage Russian binoculars?

This spring I'll be able to invest maybe up to 200-300 dollars. Should I give up on < $100 binocs from
eBay, and wait til I can afford something good, once you folks educate me about what that might be? I plan to watch birds a lot as well as look at the mountain range next door.

Yesterday in Sportsman's Warehouse, I looked through some $3000 Swarovskys. WOW. I didn't expect to notice much difference, but I see why people will spend 3 grand for them. How incredibly, amazingly bright and sharp, especially bright, like luminescent, full of light. I was a bit thunderstruck. But that's out of my range for sure.

Well I have obviously fallen into binoculars quicksand. Thanks for reading this too long request for help.

Jim

Last edited by 2weels : Wednesday 18th October 2017 at 06:20.
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 07:26   #2
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Hi Jim,
as you noticed with the Swarovskis, there is a huge difference in binocular quality.I would save up more and get the best you can afford. If you ain't doing much dusk viewing, a 42mm would be lighter, and you can even go down to a 32mm. Second tier brands like Maven, Trac Toric, Vanguard and Vortex make nice 42mms. Look out for ED or HD glass. These are more expensive then the $300 budget but are worth the price. A bit higher up, you can try the Meopta HD and also the Zeiss Terra but would be in the $500 mark plus. Try as many as you can and you will soon see the differences in ergonomics, sweet spots and clarity. I started off with the base binos, but slowly worked up as I could tell the differences. Wish I had never wasted money on the basic/ mid pairs and got the Swarovskis straight up.

Welcome to the world of the never ending quest for perfect glass!
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 07:40   #3
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See the very long thread on Sightron Blue Sky
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread....htron+Blue+sky
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 08:45   #4
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You’re better off with one pair of outstanding binoculars than half a dozen mediocre ones.It’s very hard to make a good instrument under $250 or so. Also, avoid zoom binoculars, they’re almost invariably poor.
Have a look at the $1000 Nikon Monarch HG 8x42, they shouldn’t be far behind the Swarovskis. If you combine that with the almost constant sales going around, you can probably get them in the 800-900 range.
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 09:52   #5
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Hey Jim - it sounds like you're in a great area for observing birds and other wildlife, especially now when a lot of migrating birds have come down. I would absolutely love to see, amongst other things, a prairie falcon or, if particularly fortunate, an Aplomado falcon...

I've read some very positive comments here about the Rochester 7x35 Zephyr, and it's a bit of a shame you were not able to have yours cleaned as I suspect you would be in a pretty good place with one that was mint externally, with everything attended to internally. Some of the old classics may be nearly as old as you are; 40 or 50 years is a long time for issues like hazing and fungus to develop, and most will never have been serviced or cleaned. I believe the best of this era still performs sufficiently well in the field to be worth considering (especially if you are accustomed to using binoculars without glasses), and some find a certain sense of enjoyment to be had in owning and using a true classic, but unless you can teach yourself binocular disassembly and collimation, you'll need to find a repair guy you can depend upon.

The sensible thing to do would be to get a modern offering from the likes of Leupold or Vortex - brands we don't see much of where I am in the UK, but which appear to offer very good bang for the buck; or a good second-hand unit from one of the big names (Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, the best Nikons). The best recommendation I could give is to visit as many outdoor shops as you can and compare their display units under something approximating field conditions. It may be that the quality of image you will be happy with over the long term - and that does differ from person to person - can only be attained with a bigger budget.

cheers
patudo

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 11:08   #6
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I’d be looking at used Nikon E2 or older Swift Audubons. What are these things worth? 200-250 bucks? Optically, they’ll compete with most any bins in existence. They’ll make your jaw drop just like the 3000K Swarovski did.

You don’t note that water has ever ruined or been an issue with your other bins so I wouldn’t worry about the E2 or Audubons being non water resistant.
Some folks are obsessive about having water resistant bins, while others couldn’t care less.

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 11:17   #7
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In the UK I'd be looking at 8x40s from the likes of Opticron or Viking for the money you have.

Although the suggestion of some good nick Audubons is very interesting: I can remember being very impressed with some many moons ago, but they would be heavier than some of the more modern offerings, if that is an issue.

Another question: is your astigmatism the same in both eyes? Mine is greater in one than the other, so I find a locking diopter ring is very useful and makes life much easier than a non-locking one.
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 11:55   #8
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Hi,

if you insist on getting a sub $100 pair of 7x50 I would recommend a pair of ZOMZ 7x50 - preferably late soviet or early russian production. Built since the 60s at least, single coated back then (my first example from 72 was singlecoated) They started in the late seventies with dual layer coatings - the russian example I currently have is multicoated. First two digits of serial number is year of manufacturing with soviet optics.

All three examples I owned were very good glass - extremely sharp on axis, huge sweet spot and easy to use due to low mag and huge depth of field. I once compared one example to a CZJ Binoctem and the ZOMZ won due to a larger sweet spot.

Over here in europe these go for 30-50€ if you shop around. Not sure how common these are stateside though.

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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 12:48   #9
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Hi Jim...
So you have $100 budget.. I stumbled upon a very decent binocular for $120 right now at Eagle Optics. I think you will be pleased. They are the Eagle Optics Denali 8X42.

https://www.eagleoptics.com/collecti...8x42-binocular
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Old Wednesday 18th October 2017, 14:50   #10
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Originally Posted by 2weels View Post
Well I have obviously fallen into binoculars quicksand. Thanks for reading this too long request for help.

Jim

I think you asked to be “educated.” Well:

1) Friends don’t let friends buy ZOOM binoculars ... ANY zoom binoculars.
2) Although I’ve been taken to task for the comment—by those who haven’t spent their careers in optics—$100 binocular is not going to be a value to you. ‘Better than nothing? Yes. ‘A value? No. Some of those enter the country for less than $5 a box. Think about the ramifications of that.

******

3) Check out OVERSTOCK situations on binoculars that already have a good track record.
4) I have found the best values in pawn shops. Most attendants are clueless about their used merchandise and sometimes let diamonds slip through.
5) The BEST will cost half the price of a used car ... and for good reason.
6) A value that will provide 95% of that performance and longevity can be had $300 or so ... with diligent and meticulous shopping.
7) Finally: “K-Mart” and “binoculars” don’t belong in the same sentence.

‘Best of luck,

Bill
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 01:51   #11
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I don't think for $100 you will do a whole lot better than what you already have, and you will be out the money.

Start saving for a pair of "real" binoculars.

Bill is correct.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 02:43   #12
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Although the suggestion of some good nick Audubons is very interesting: I can remember being very impressed with some many moons ago, but they would be heavier than some of the more modern offerings, if that is an issue

Sounds like a bit of a myth. I’d say they’re lighter than some of the modern offerings.

Digital scales are saying:

Swarovski Habcht 10x40 - 559g (non armoured)

Swift Audubon HR/5 8.5x44 - 832g

Swarovski SV 8.5x42 - 857g (Noctivid are about five grams heavier again)

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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 03:16   #13
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Hi all.

Well I have obviously fallen into binoculars quicksand. Thanks for reading this too long request for help.

Jim
Hi 2weels,

First of all, welcome to BF! Happy you found birding, it is a wonderful year round hobby and you're in a great spot to do it.
Binoculars are a very personal item, so anything you read may not be what you experience.
That said, you might try the Nikon 7x35 Action Extreme, a decent waterproof glass with good eye relief for glasses wearers and a a wide field of view, at a reasonable price of about $120. See:
https://www.amazon.com/Nikon-7237-Ex...rds=nikon+7x35

Note these are different from the Nikon Action line, which is optically and mechanically lesser. Both are old style dog leg optics, which are cheaper to build than the newer straight roof prism designs. That saves you money , as Nikon still does a good job with the old technology.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 03:21   #14
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I have a brother in Las Cruces. I have hiked one time on those Organ Mountains. Better bring heavy leather boots to protect yourself from the cactus!

I am convinced that 10x32 binoculars is a good fit for that environment. My brother has a Nikon E2 10x35.

Right now Cabelas is selling the Leupold BX-3 Mojave 10x32 for $170. I just bought them for $190, the best deal I found that day. They only have a 2 diopter adjustment from 0 in the plus and also again for the negative. So if you eyes are relatively the same strength, then they will work for you.

I was pleasantly rewarded by the advice given here in that these are very good and clear binoculars.
You should consider these.

Those were roof binoculars. If you start considering the Porro binoculars you will even find cheaper binoculars that have good construction.

Eagle Optics is shutting down their storefront. If you go to that website you will find many binoculars that were a hundred and a half that is selling now less than a hundred!

Rob.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 06:13   #15
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I would just like some very bright, durable 7x50 binoculars that feel good and will be keepers for life. I just have no way of knowing what has good glass and a bright view.

Jim
Welcome to the forum 2weels! Let's see... your current budget is $100, but maybe you could go higher in the spring. Could you swing $169 right now? Here are a couple of options...

https://www.mrstarguy.com/Vixen-Geom...l-p/rc1530.htm

https://www.mrstarguy.com/Vixen-Fore...-p/rc14504.htm

The Ultima is a demo, and the Foresta is a refurb. Both only have 90 day warranties (still plenty long enough to make sure there are no fatal flaws). But both punch way above their weight class when it comes to providing a quality view.
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Old Thursday 19th October 2017, 14:34   #16
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I hold no credentials in giving advice and I'm probably the most ignorant person visiting this forum relative to possessing knowledge of binocular inner workings.

That said - I would consider your age, that being 62 years young. If you hung on to your current pair for the last 35 years, I would think you'll be using these binoculars for at least another 20 years - God willing. Thinking along those lines - an excellent pair comes to about $43.00 per year - Ya, I know, the problem is paying for all those years at the time of purchase.

Those Swarovski's you looked at in Sportsman's Warehouse made an impression on you - I dare say there are probably less expensive binoculars on the current market that just might impress you relative to their brightness and sharp image - just not sure $100 binoculars will give you that WOW factor, you might be looking for and I'm thinking, if you came here to seek guidance, you want to buy right the 1st time. All the other posters gave you good advice.

Maybe wait until spring when you said you would have a little more money in hand - or (I'm assuming you're retired) get a part-time job soon and save that money for this next pair of binoculars and see what's available around the Christmas Holidays. I'm thinking the Nikon Monarch 8X42 HG's would probably be like a dream come true in your part of the Country but they are $43 per year for 20 years payable at time of purchase.

I wish you well on your quest.

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Old Friday 20th October 2017, 09:35   #17
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Well, as you can see it's quite simple. All you need is three grand for optical bliss. If you absolutely positively must stick to a C-note there are still discontinued Black Leupold 8/10x30 bx-1 Yosemite available. I bought a new 10X30 for around 70 bucks TTD. The new/improved/more expensive version is gray colour.

As previously mentioned an older Swift Audubon is a well respected bin. The HR/5 8.5X44 model Multi coated & later Fully Multi coated sell for around 200-$250. There are a lot of old bins from the 50's, 60's & 70's that are OK, but they will not be as bright as newer bins w/latest coating.

Not to say coatings are everything. Case in point is the also previously mentioned Swarovski Habcht 10x40 - (non armoured). I have one from the mid 70's. Lightweight und lovely to me a joy. Used on ebay I want to say also around two & half bills. That was a few years ago as me HR/5.

The 8x32 SII Sightron is a local legend amongst the cult following. Under two bills new there's no telling how many have been sold via word of mouth. For the most part Sightron is a riflescope manufacturer though they came up w/winner in the Blue Sky SII. They discontinued the 10x version.

Once again as previously mentioned the the Leupold BX-3 Mojave 10x32 for $170. Sold for 3+ bills not that long ago. This one I've never owned though it also appears well regarded in its price range. More so now under two bills. Some folks consider the Leupold line as hunting bins lacking a wide field of view.

Speaking of wide fov the Nikon 8x30 EII Binocular, 100th Anniversary Edition brand spanking new is 8 bills. Go down from there on an EII from 15 years ago on Ebay, cloudy nights classifieds, etc. It also came in a 10x35.

Anything by Nikon is a safe bet. The more you pay the more you get as w/any respected manufacturer. By now you realise the roof prism glass is more expensive than the porro versions. More bang for the buck in porro though some do not consider them sexy/worthy/whatevah.

Steve C has reviewed many bins here over the last few years. Including the newcomer Tract Toric. At 6+ bills it is out of your budget, but there is the less expensive Tract Tekoa around 4 1/2. Maybe come Black Friday it'll drop to 4 bills. One difference in the two, that you will notice w/others is fov. The 10x42 Toric: Angle of View6.5°/Field of View (@1,000 yards)341 feet/Apparent Field of View65°. The 10x42 Tekoa: Angle of View6°
Field of View (@1,000 yards)314 feet. I've never looked through a Tract though they appear to be one of the newer better bang for bucks bins.

Everyone will tell you to save unto X amount of dollars for a quality bin. You ain't everybody. If you've been using a zoom, lo these many years, anything anyone here has recommended will be a vast improvement. I still look look through old single coated glass from the 50's/60's and though I would not recommend them, they are not as bright, I still enjoy them on occasions. Set your price based on your budget then buy one binocular. Keep your eye peeled on the Binocular Bargains thread. Black Friday is just down the road and after X-mas not that much further.

The best deal is a porro that has been discontinued or a NOS model that being upgraded. That was deal w/me cheap Leupold in black. I needed another bin as I need another hole in me head, but the price was too appealing. Good Luck!
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Old Friday 20th October 2017, 23:58   #18
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No matter what you want, you can always get it cheaper ............ and it will be.
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 14:39   #19
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Thanks sbb, very much appreciated. What happened to poros I looked at all of those and they are all roof prisms. I went back to Sportsman's Warehouse and everything they had were also roof prisms. Is it because of the compactness and shape or is the roof prism a better design?


Quote:
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Hi Jim,
as you noticed with the Swarovskis, there is a huge difference in binocular quality.I would save up more and get the best you can afford. If you ain't doing much dusk viewing, a 42mm would be lighter, and you can even go down to a 32mm. Second tier brands like Maven, Trac Toric, Vanguard and Vortex make nice 42mms. Look out for ED or HD glass. These are more expensive then the $300 budget but are worth the price. A bit higher up, you can try the Meopta HD and also the Zeiss Terra but would be in the $500 mark plus. Try as many as you can and you will soon see the differences in ergonomics, sweet spots and clarity. I started off with the base binos, but slowly worked up as I could tell the differences. Wish I had never wasted money on the basic/ mid pairs and got the Swarovskis straight up.

Welcome to the world of the never ending quest for perfect glass!
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 14:43   #20
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Thanks Patudo, actually the Zephyrs were possibly a good pair to send to an expert. I did call one and he wanted about 100 to clean and tune them up,
but if he found a problem I'd be stuck, so I just got my money back.
I meant to say that they were not mint except in the mind of the seller.


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Hey Jim - it sounds like you're in a great area for observing birds and other wildlife, especially now when a lot of migrating birds have come down. I would absolutely love to see, amongst other things, a prairie falcon or, if particularly fortunate, an Aplomado falcon...

I've read some very positive comments here about the Rochester 7x35 Zephyr, and it's a bit of a shame you were not able to have yours cleaned as I suspect you would be in a pretty good place with one that was mint externally, with everything attended to internally. Some of the old classics may be nearly as old as you are; 40 or 50 years is a long time for issues like hazing and fungus to develop, and most will never have been serviced or cleaned. I believe the best of this era still performs sufficiently well in the field to be worth considering (especially if you are accustomed to using binoculars without glasses), and some find a certain sense of enjoyment to be had in owning and using a true classic, but unless you can teach yourself binocular disassembly and collimation, you'll need to find a repair guy you can depend upon.

The sensible thing to do would be to get a modern offering from the likes of Leupold or Vortex - brands we don't see much of where I am in the UK, but which appear to offer very good bang for the buck; or a good second-hand unit from one of the big names (Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica, the best Nikons). The best recommendation I could give is to visit as many outdoor shops as you can and compare their display units under something approximating field conditions. It may be that the quality of image you will be happy with over the long term - and that does differ from person to person - can only be attained with a bigger budget.

cheers
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 14:54   #21
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Thanks, yes it looks like a killer deal. As I said in an earlier reply,
I am surprised that everything has gone from poro to roof prism but clearly it has. I have something that I might win on Ebay but if not,
these look hard to beat at that price. I expect I will get used to the shape and design of the roof prisms although I've always felt the poro design is actually good to hold.

Quote:
Originally Posted by chill6x6 View Post
Hi Jim...
So you have $100 budget.. I stumbled upon a very decent binocular for $120 right now at Eagle Optics. I think you will be pleased. They are the Eagle Optics Denali 8X42.

https://www.eagleoptics.com/collecti...8x42-binocular
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 15:00   #22
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Thanks for the good advice WJC. How does one find the overstocked situations you mentioned?

Yes the good ones are pricey, too much for me right now.




Quote:
Originally Posted by WJC View Post
I think you asked to be “educated.” Well:

1) Friends don’t let friends buy ZOOM binoculars ... ANY zoom binoculars.
2) Although I’ve been taken to task for the comment—by those who haven’t spent their careers in optics—$100 binocular is not going to be a value to you. ‘Better than nothing? Yes. ‘A value? No. Some of those enter the country for less than $5 a box. Think about the ramifications of that.

******

3) Check out OVERSTOCK situations on binoculars that already have a good track record.
4) I have found the best values in pawn shops. Most attendants are clueless about their used merchandise and sometimes let diamonds slip through.
5) The BEST will cost half the price of a used car ... and for good reason.
6) A value that will provide 95% of that performance and longevity can be had $300 or so ... with diligent and meticulous shopping.
7) Finally: “K-Mart” and “binoculars” don’t belong in the same sentence.

‘Best of luck,

Bill
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 15:36   #23
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Thanks much, those look like excellent options.
I've saved links to them. I like the idea of poro prisms.


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Originally Posted by peatmoss View Post
Welcome to the forum 2weels! Let's see... your current budget is $100, but maybe you could go higher in the spring. Could you swing $169 right now? Here are a couple of options...

https://www.mrstarguy.com/Vixen-Geom...l-p/rc1530.htm

https://www.mrstarguy.com/Vixen-Fore...-p/rc14504.htm

The Ultima is a demo, and the Foresta is a refurb. Both only have 90 day warranties (still plenty long enough to make sure there are no fatal flaws). But both punch way above their weight class when it comes to providing a quality view.
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 15:38   #24
2weels
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: las cruces
Posts: 21
Cool, Las Cruces is a great little town though it took me a while to appreciate it. I love the desert. I'll add these to my research list.


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Originally Posted by Highway Dog View Post
I have a brother in Las Cruces. I have hiked one time on those Organ Mountains. Better bring heavy leather boots to protect yourself from the cactus!

I am convinced that 10x32 binoculars is a good fit for that environment. My brother has a Nikon E2 10x35.

Right now Cabelas is selling the Leupold BX-3 Mojave 10x32 for $170. I just bought them for $190, the best deal I found that day. They only have a 2 diopter adjustment from 0 in the plus and also again for the negative. So if you eyes are relatively the same strength, then they will work for you.

I was pleasantly rewarded by the advice given here in that these are very good and clear binoculars.
You should consider these.

Those were roof binoculars. If you start considering the Porro binoculars you will even find cheaper binoculars that have good construction.

Eagle Optics is shutting down their storefront. If you go to that website you will find many binoculars that were a hundred and a half that is selling now less than a hundred!

Rob.
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Old Saturday 21st October 2017, 15:51   #25
2weels
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Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: las cruces
Posts: 21
Thanks everyone for all the great recommendations; I've linked them all and will be doing some research. I've very surprised to see the move to roof prisms and away from poros. I always like the poro shape but didn't even know about roof prisms. In the great movie "Wind River" the protagonist is using roof prisms, and I wondered about them. I guess in the upper ranges they can have as good a view as the poros.

Thanks again, I really appreciate the responses!

Jim
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