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8x42 vs 10x42 the old story from a new perspective

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Old Monday 3rd June 2019, 21:54   #1
Kenza
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Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: Belgrade
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8x42 vs 10x42 the old story from a new perspective

After reading quite a few threads on 8x42 vs 10 x42 binos i've decided to add a few thoughts based on personal experience.

Many people say that 8 x is better for woodland and 10 x for open spaces. This is a bit too general. Things are not that black and white. When you say this to someone who is a beginner they end up thinking that they need two different sized binoculars for birding. We need to clarify things with a bit more detail than just woodland and open spaces.

The only type of terrain where I advise people to bird with an 8x bino is mountainous terrain. For all other types ( coastal, wetlands, plains/steppes, desert etc.) take a 10x. There are two reasons for this: hand tremor and backpack weight. I haven't actually considered other segments like FOV or image brightness because frankly if I am not mountain birding I don't see a big difference between an 8x and a 10x when it comes to these characteristics. Let me explain.

For this test I used an 8 x 42 Kowa XD BD Prominar and a 10 x 42 Leica Noctivid. They are both mine, I haven't borrowed them or anything. Although the Kowa bino is MUCH cheaper than the Noctivid, if there is any difference in optical quality I haven't noticed it ( I hope the people at Kowa are reading this ).And I use both binos a LOT. Seriously the view through the prominar series is AMAZING! But that is not what I am testing here. I wanted to see how hand tremor and backpack weight will affect my viewing during long hours of hiking. Please bear in mind that I am not a newbie to hiking and that my physical condition is pretty good. I have hiked mountains for years. Initially I thought that the tiredness in my hands will show itself after many hours of hiking. But it doesn't. It actually starts pretty quickly. Why? Because on a mountain you rarely have the opportunity to watch birds on level ground ( except when you reach a plateau). You are almost always at an angle. It takes much more effort te keep things steady when you are like this. As if this is not enough, we have the backpack weight issue. When walking on the coast or through wetlands, or even level woodland we usually ( at least I don't ) don't carry a heavy backpack. A couple of stuff for a couple of hours and it's enough. But when you're mountain hiking you carry more things and the backpack gets heavier. I am not saying that this is a fact for everyone and for all situations but that usually this is the case. Let's say you are climbing for 1-2 hours and suddenly a bird takes off from a nearby tree. You quickly lift your binos and start tracking the bird. But besides the usual hand tremor your whole body is now wobbling slightly from left to right, as if you were on a boat. What's going on?? It's your backpack. Remember, it's a bit heavy. It takes time to settle. At this moment you can't tell if the bird you are tracking is an eagle or a sparrow let alone identify the species :-) . The wobbling stops and the view slightly steadies but the bird is gone. With the 10x this happens almost every single time, whether you are in an open mountain sideor inside a forested area. With the 8x things are much different. The view is much steadier and you can not only identify a bird but also enjoy watching it fly. All this above mentioned concerns not only birds in flight but also perched or ground birds. Now I don't carry a 10x with me anymore when I am on a mountain hiking. It's just pointless. The 8x does a very good job.

Conclusion It is not just open/closed spaces that matter. You have to also take into account the type of terrain where you bird most. If you are mostly birding on level ground ( wetlands, plains, coast, desert and so on ) my advice is to get a 10x. You will appreciate the slightly higher magnification. I haven't noticed a big difference in hand tremor , FOV or image brightness in this type of terrain. On the other hand if you prefer mountain birding than go for an 8x and use it in open areas as well as in forested ones. You can get great views with an 8x in open areas. But if you bird in all these terrains equally than what can I say. Get both! :-)

I hope this helps beginners decide and please , comments are very much appreciated.
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Old Tuesday 4th June 2019, 12:42   #2
Robert Wallace
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Halifax West Yorkshire
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Weight and field of view are not the only factors. Many years ago after using 10x binoculars for approx 18 years I purchased the Zeiss 7x42 and hardly ever used my 10x40 dialyts again. The advantage in woodland or forest was the deciding factor and this was due to better close focusing and depth of field. Depth of field is important in woodland and observing birds which are relatively close.
I would always recommend 8x as a first choice for new birdwatchers( you can use a telescope for higher magnification).
I'm lucky I have a pair of 8x32 and a pair of 10x42. If I could only have one pair it would be the 8x. This opinion is based on 46 years of birding.
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