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Best Binocular $500 or Less

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Old Wednesday 5th September 2018, 16:42   #26
Nixterdemus
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"Jet.com is an online one-stop variety store."

Deals were better before being swallowed by WallyWorld plus there was no tax levied at that time.

Best under an uber-fin eh?

Are you very sensitive to chromatic abberation?

If you only had two choices would you prefer more of a globe effect/rolling ball or a fairly heavy hand of pincushion?
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Old Thursday 20th September 2018, 14:38   #27
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Old Thursday 20th September 2018, 20:01   #28
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Monarch 7 and Vortex Vipers are the best of the $500 and below price point. I have looked through many bins below this price point and not found any that hang with these two including by Bushnell, Vanguards, Leopold, Alpen, and Zeiss Terra. I find Monarch 7's wide field of view appealing and Vortex's warrantee and light weight appealing. Optically they are very close.
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Old Friday 21st September 2018, 23:58   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinL View Post
Monarch 7 and Vortex Vipers are the best of the $500 and below price point. I have looked through many bins below this price point and not found any that hang with these two including by Bushnell, Vanguards, Leopold, Alpen, and Zeiss Terra. I find Monarch 7's wide field of view appealing and Vortex's warrantee and light weight appealing. Optically they are very close.
Add Bushnell Engage to that list. Every bit as good as the Monarch 7 and Vipers (better than the Vipers IMO) in a compact, durable frame. Of the three, I'd pick the Engage first, and then flip a coin between the 7's and the Vipers.

Fact is, these are good times for binocular users. You can get pretty spectacular binoculars these days for under $500 and sometimes under $400.
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Old Saturday 22nd September 2018, 12:30   #30
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I've seen all of those except for the Engage. The Leupold BX4 is better to my eyeballs than all of them. I don't see what all the rage is with the Vipers....mediocre stuff.
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Old Saturday 22nd September 2018, 15:00   #31
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I think the "rage" with the Vipers is the quality for the price. And the Vortex name which really took off in the hunting community due to a lot of sponsor support and warranty.

I don't consider Vipers mediocre. I consider them the benchmark for that price range. Some will be better, some worse, but Vipers are a very solid value for the $ spent IMO.
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Old Saturday 22nd September 2018, 15:11   #32
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I just recently compared the newer Vortex Viper HD to several different binoculars at Cabella's in different magnifications. I tried the Leupold BX4 and I didn't think the build quality or optics were as good as the Viper. The Leupold BX4 has a really weird feeling focuser. Almost spongy feeling and the armor on the Leupold was IMO very plastic looking and feeling. I also tried the Vortex Razor HD 12x50 and I didn't think it was that much better than the Viper especially at twice the price. In fact I thought the Viper 's FOV felt wider and the Viper was more compact. Anyway, I bought the Vortex Viper HD 12x50 and I am pretty impressed with it for an under $500.00 binocular. I use it for astronomy and sometimes long range birding. Cabella's had no Engage's to try. I worry a little bit about the warranty on the Bushnell's. A couple of times I tried to contact Bushnell about a problem I had with one of their binoculars and received no reply. Kind of different than Swarovski where you always get an instant reply.

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Old Saturday 22nd September 2018, 15:32   #33
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Originally Posted by justabirdwatcher View Post
I think the "rage" with the Vipers is the quality for the price. And the Vortex name which really took off in the hunting community due to a lot of sponsor support and warranty.

I don't consider Vipers mediocre. I consider them the benchmark for that price range. Some will be better, some worse, but Vipers are a very solid value for the $ spent IMO.
We can agree to disagree on that then. The Endeavor EdII is better as well, and the build quality of the new Chinese Viper is very average at best. The warranty is the only reason to ever buy a Vortex anything.
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 01:09   #34
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Not a Viper fan either. I owned a Japanese made pair and they were just ok. The new generation have a wider feel of view but don’t feel as nicely built. I checked a pair of Legend M side by side with the Vipers the other day and would take them over the Vipers. I’ve also owned the Leupold Pro Guides and would take them over the Vipers. You pay a lot for the Vortex warranty! There are better options at every price point in my opinion.
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 01:33   #35
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It looks like that is the business model for Vortex, however if glass has to be sent back often, sales have to continually be really high for continued future profits other wise, Ze...y.

Andy W.
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 02:03   #36
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I don't know I don't notice too much difference having had Japanese built Vortex's and now a Chinese built Vortex Viper. The Chinese one doesn't seem much different. I can't find a thing to complain about with it. It is all in how much emphasis Vortex put's into quality control. They now their reputation is a stake if they put out a bunch of junk. It certainly is comforting to know they have a no-fault warranty and such a fast turn around if you have any problems. I would imagine hunters do like that because hunting can be rough on your equipment. Drop them off a cliff or into a river and Vortex replaces them no questions asked. The trouble I had with the Legend M was how BIG they are! That is one thing I like about the Vortex's. They are compact and light. The12x50 Viper I bought at 28 oz. is lighter than my SV 8.5x42's. This new Bushnell Engage looks much smaller than Bushnell's of the past though. For me that is a good thing.

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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 14:15   #37
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I've always really liked the Viper HD series, and many of my wildlife colleagues seem similarly impressed. They are very robust and provide very good central performance in all aspects, e.g. sharpness, control of CA, and brightness. The narrow FoV was their biggest flaw, but the new MiC models do not have this issue. I do not know if they will hold up, long-term, as well as the MiJ models but I will not fault them solely for that difference.
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Old Sunday 23rd September 2018, 18:45   #38
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I've always really liked the Viper HD series, and many of my wildlife colleagues seem similarly impressed. They are very robust and provide very good central performance in all aspects, e.g. sharpness, control of CA, and brightness. The narrow FoV was their biggest flaw, but the new MiC models do not have this issue. I do not know if they will hold up, long-term, as well as the MiJ models but I will not fault them solely for that difference.
If the MIC models don't hold up you can just send them to Vortex and they will send you a new pair.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 00:59   #39
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Swaro, Meopta, and Vortex learned how to treat customers from Leupold. They wrote the book.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 02:08   #40
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If the MIC models don't hold up you can just send them to Vortex and they will send you a new pair.
I agree. Leupold has always had excellent customer service.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 14:45   #41
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Vortex does have excellent customer service. With the warranty finding used Vortex in nice shape is a great option.
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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 18:21   #42
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My biggest complaint with Bushnell optics are not so much the optical performance but rather the quality control and build quality. Bushnell's in my experience produces a good value optic where you get pretty good performance for less money. The question was what the best was for under $500, not the best value under $500. Optically I like the Vortex Viper over Bushnell (Legend M and even their newer engage model) because of better edge performance in the vipers, better brightness and low light performance. I have had issues in Leopold in their BX 3 Mojave model which I own (not the Pro Guide model). In the Leopold, the diopter set wheel had some play in it which made if feel cheap. Otherwise I like them very much, but they are not ED glass so they don't control CA as well and they are not as bright in my experience. I think you really have to compare price point to price point here. At the $200 point, I like vortex diamondbacks, and Monarch 3s. At the $350 price point, one starts to have some lower end ED glass options I like monarch 5s and Bushnell Engage here. At $350 the Engage is a great value. However, none of these $350 models compete well against the ED glass models at the $500 price point. You get better field of view, better low light performance, less CA, better edges, and less glare. Now if you are comparing models around the $500 price point, you really do get good optics here, and seeing differences optically becomes more nuanced. I think use comes into play here as well. As a hunting optic, or hunting/birding combo, use is just harder, because bins are more prone to damage hiking through rough country and climbing over downed trees. That's why hunters spring for Vortex. If you are choosing a birding binocular, one might choose other features such as wide FOV over better warrantee.

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Old Monday 24th September 2018, 23:28   #43
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The Maven C1 at less than $400 needs to be considered here too. It is surprising what they got under the hood for the price. Ditto the GPO Passion ED
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Old Friday 28th December 2018, 22:21   #44
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Forge vs Engage

A lot of talk about the Engage series. I am looking at both the Forge 10x42 and Engage 12x50. From the specs it looks like the Forge and Engage have the same glass and the only difference is in construction. The Forge having a double bridge and rubber coated and the Engage single bridge and no rubber coating. I can get the Forge for $15 more than the Engage but the Engage is a 12x50 which kinda appeals to me. I actually cannot tell that much difference in 10 vs 12 power in the store but the 50 vs 42 should be better in low light. I have looked at them all at Academy and Bass Pro and of course the ultimate would be for the Swarovskis but I will not spend 2 or 3 thousand for binos. Any help and advice appreciated.
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Old Saturday 29th December 2018, 00:15   #45
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Grumps00,

If you wear glasses, the Forge might be more compatible with respect to Eye relief (ER)...the Engage 10X50 to me is less forgiving optically for daytime viewing (Eye cup length and ER out of sink), it is the smallest 10X50 I have ever handled. It is not a bad glass for dark skies except for the handling of ghosting from nearby light sources.
I am curious about the 12X50 for viewing the night sky, however I wonder about available ER.

Andy W.
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Old Saturday 29th December 2018, 13:16   #46
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From what I understand, the Engage is also a very new binocular. I haven't been able to find a ton of information on it either, but based on the company claimed specs and the price, it was a no brainer. As far as I can determine, it's a Forge with better glass. 🤷‍♂️

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I believe from specs that they both have the same glass. The Engage would not have better glass....according to the techs at Bushnell. The Forge is their top line.
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Old Saturday 29th December 2018, 14:47   #47
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A couple of thoughts:

A lot of people on this forum have used more binocular models than I have, but most have used one (maybe two or three) examples of a given model, so QC issues present in lower priced models probably have an effect on users' experiences (including mine). I just bought one of the Legend M 8x42 to see what the fuss was about, and it's indeed decent for the $139 I paid, with well-controlled color fringing and a nice bright image due no doubt to the new coatings, but it's not quite as sharp as either of my Japanese-made binoculars (Leupold and Opticron). Did I get a bad sample? An average sample? I'd need to look through half a dozen to know for sure. Maybe the Japanese models just have better lens figuring.

Vortex customer service seems excellent, even better than Leupold, and I've used both in the past three years.

It seems that part of what you don't get with less expensive binoculars is hand adjustment, which can make a lot of difference. I've sent a couple of pairs in for collimation under warranty and they came back noticeably better (including the $60 close out Vortex Hurricane 8x28s that have been my go-to hiking binoculars for more than six years now - they're very sharp - as sharp in the sweet spot as the Japanse-made Bushnell Elite IIs they replaced). The point being that mid-priced binoculars may be capable of putting up a better image than they do right off the assembly line.

Look at deals/sales: A binocular with a $650 "street price" that's been marked down to $500 may indeed be a little better than a pair with a normal $500 street price.
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