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Binoculars for sustained use in shade and low light

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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 02:24   #1
chicoredneck
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Binoculars for sustained use in shade and low light

Greetings everyone. I spend a significant amount of time viewing wildlife, sometimes from first light to sundown. This puts me in a situation where most of my time behind binoculars is spent either in first and last light, or looking into shaded trees and bushes. I have a few priorities, but my first one is low or no eye strain after hours of sustained use. The second priority is the ability to see into shadows, shaded canopies and thick bushes often at distances that exceed 100 meters and be able to identify species. So on that note color is important as well. I would say 75-80% of my time behind binoculars is with them mounted to a tripod due to the distance I’m viewing and the need for a steady picture.

I had a pair of 90s vintage 10x50 Trinovid that I used for years that were friendly on my eyes. I few years ago I purchased an 8+12 Duovid hoping the extra magnification would come in handy, which it does. However, I find the optics, while very good, are not as comfortable to me as the old Trinovid and color rendition seems a little more yellow to my eyes.

In short, what brand and model would you recommend for these scenarios? I spent some time looking through Swarovski el, Noctivids, and even Meoptas (which impressed me for their price). I haven’t had a chance to look through any Zeiss products in some time. For what ever reasons, none of the stores around here carry them. They all looked very good to me, but I was not able to test them off a tripod and in low light to see how they really perform. Thanks
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 03:02   #2
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I should add, I have a pair of 15x56 Swarovski slc. I’m looking for some thing in the 10 or 12x range I think, although I’m not opposed to 8x.
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 05:19   #3
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SLC 8/10x56.
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 05:41   #4
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Peter's suggestion of SLC 10x56 is a good one but I wouldn't rule out Zeiss HT 10x54. I used to find HT42 useful when surveying for Water Voles in shadows under river banks. The 54 would be more comfortable hand-held too based on my experience with SLC 56, but if tripod use is your priority then the SLC has to be in the frame.

Value for money contender would be Meopta B1 8x56 but at the distances you mention and in twilight I think you need 10x and Meopta only do an 8 or a 15x.

Lee
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 08:06   #5
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Hi,

I was going to recommend sth higher mag when you mentioned using a tripod most of the time, but since you have a 15x, you're set there.

So we need sth which can be used hand-held and offers good low light performance. An 8x56 is good in theory with its 7mm exit pupil but not all users can actually profit from 7mm and also a higher magnification helps too in bad light. So I guess sth in the 10x5X range will be a good idea.
Since you seem to know the SLC 10x56, having a look at the other option HT 10x54 would certainly help - the 2mm less aperture will of course cost a bit of light, but the AK prisms plus the Zeiss trademark green-blue color rendition will help it compete (the green-blue color rendition means that the optics has a maximum transmission where the eye's rods have their maximum sensitivity).

Joachim
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 09:45   #6
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Another option would be Zeiss Victory FL 10x56, outstanding binos that can be bought second hand for a price around 1000+$.
You said "I spend a significant amount of time viewing wildlife, sometimes from first light to sundown". Out of curiosity, are you a biologist or a hunter?
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 16:13   #7
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Peter, I do hunt, which all my optics are used for. However, big game, which is my primary pursuit, has a relatively short season where I live. I love being outdoors, finding and seeking out wildlife. I am fortunate that I live in the western United States, where over 80% of the land is public in the area I reside. I spend many of my weekends out viewing wildlife, from small lizards up to elk, but birds have always been of particular interest to me. Particularly the smaller colorful species we have in my area such as tanagers, kinglets, wrens, etc. When I do this, it’s an all day affair. Many animals, even many of the birds in my area, disappear into the shade during the summer due to the heat.

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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 16:17   #8
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The 10x54 HT sounds like a perfect low light substitute to my 15x56 slc. How is the viewing comfort through the Zeiss? I’m not able to view the optics before buying unfortunately. As stated above, my primary concern is no eye strain and elimination of the annoying feeling of needing to re-focus.
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 21:40   #9
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8/10x56.
in whatever brand and price range you prefer....I use 8x56 Minox HG.....no complaints.....
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 23:26   #10
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chicoredneck

Taking into account that you are concerned with:
- ease of view over long sessions
- and viewing in low light situations

And that you:
- already have a 15x56 SLC (3.7 mm exit pupil)
- and primarily operate off a tripod

The main options would seem to be:
- 12x50 (4.1 mm EP)
- 10x50/ 54/ 56 (5 to 5.6 mm)
- 8x56 (7 mm)

So 10x is probably going to be the sweet spot in balancing magnification and exit pupil

When light levels are low, increased objective diameter - as it relates to exit pupil size - becomes increasingly important
The differences in cross sectional area are:
50 mm
54 mm - plus 17 %
56 mm - plus 7.5 % over 54 mm, plus 25 % over 50 mm

Usefully, Roger Vine has reviewed the Swarovski SLC HD 10x56 and EL SV 10x50, Zeiss HT 10x54 and Leica UV HD+ 10x50, see: http://www.scopeviews.co.uk/BinoReviews.htm
Roger’s reviews are detailed, perceptive and reliable. While he primarily writes from an astronomical perspective, he also addresses terrestrial use - including at dusk
So read carefully and go from there

The question then is how much improvement can you expect over your x42 Duovids (Roger has also reviewed the x50 version, so some comparison there)
In the end you should order what seems best, from a seller that allows returns like BH Photo or Adorama, and do a direct comparison


John

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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 23:38   #11
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Originally Posted by chicoredneck View Post
Greetings everyone. I spend a significant amount of time viewing wildlife, sometimes from first light to sundown. This puts me in a situation where most of my time behind binoculars is spent either in first and last light, or looking into shaded trees and bushes. I have a few priorities, but my first one is low or no eye strain after hours of sustained use. The second priority is the ability to see into shadows, shaded canopies and thick bushes often at distances that exceed 100 meters and be able to identify species. So on that note color is important as well. I would say 75-80% of my time behind binoculars is with them mounted to a tripod due to the distance I’m viewing and the need for a steady picture.

I had a pair of 90s vintage 10x50 Trinovid that I used for years that were friendly on my eyes. I few years ago I purchased an 8+12 Duovid hoping the extra magnification would come in handy, which it does. However, I find the optics, while very good, are not as comfortable to me as the old Trinovid and color rendition seems a little more yellow to my eyes.

In short, what brand and model would you recommend for these scenarios? I spent some time looking through Swarovski el, Noctivids, and even Meoptas (which impressed me for their price). I haven’t had a chance to look through any Zeiss products in some time. For what ever reasons, none of the stores around here carry them. They all looked very good to me, but I was not able to test them off a tripod and in low light to see how they really perform. Thanks
Hi, Chico:

You have talked of eyestrain quite a bit. That has nothing to do with aperture or magnification. The first culprit there is the binocular being out of collimation and your ability to accommodate the spatial difference in the lines of site.

Even that is less bothersome than the ability to accommodate the DIOPTRIC difference between your eye focused in a RELAXED setting and where you stop focusing. I have recently tried to explain the importance of STARING to a fellow on Cloudy Nights only to find that a long career in precision optics and metrology can’t hold a candle to a newbie with an opinion. I will try here.

Learning to STARE—and letting the focus mechanism do its job—is critical in focusing a binocular!!! Too many people REFUSE to take that advice and spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling unnecessarily with the focus and experiencing eyestrain.

The brain wants to see things in focus quickly and if you are not careful, it will cause the eye’s ciliary muscles to stretch and compress the eyelens to bring an image into focus at an accommodatable—but strained—setting.

Then, the observer tries to make things better by fiddling with the focus and without STARING repeats the problem anew.

Let’s suppose you have a 4-diopter physiological accommodation and you stop focusing just as soon as the image is acceptable. That’s great. But what if your eye has a -1.5 diopter AT REST focus. Your image might be temporarily pleasant. But you will experience some eyestrain because your eyes weren’t at rest when you stopped focusing. Learning to STARE and letting the focus mechanism do its job precludes this.

Finally, people put too much stock in the numerals on the focus mechanism. Too, often, they are not set correctly. They came in hand in a wartime setting and when the instrument is being frequently lent to others. So, just stare and bring the focus to you regardless of what the numerals say.

Bill
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Last edited by WJC : Wednesday 12th June 2019 at 23:41.
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 23:48   #12
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Bill,

Please go through the staring procedure in detail. For example, "Holding the binoculars away from your eyes ... (continue).

Thanks,
Ed
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Old Wednesday 12th June 2019, 23:54   #13
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Bill,

Please go through the staring procedure in detail. For example, "Holding the binoculars away from your eyes ... (continue).

Thanks,
Ed
Go for it Ed; my feelings won't be hurt. A little crying and a couple of trips to the shrink and I'll be as good as new, as new, as new ...

Bill
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 00:34   #14
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Go for it Ed; my feelings won't be hurt. A little crying and a couple of trips to the shrink and I'll be as good as new, as new, as new ...

Bill
Hey Bill,

The short way of saying it is that I don't quite follow what you mean by "staring" in this situation. So I'm simply asking you to describe the procedure.

Ed
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 00:44   #15
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I get what you mean by staring. Let me put it this way. When selecting binoculars, the first thing I do is go through pairs and pick a common focus point. Put the binoculars up to my eyes and focus them to the common focus point, then trade between brands and models. Maybe I’m very sensitive, but if I can detect the slightest amount of strain, stress, or whatever you want to call it, I weed out the binocular. I use it as my very first test when selecting a new binocular. I generally don’t run into this issue with the alpha glass, but have before.
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 00:45   #16
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John, thank you for the link!
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 05:32   #17
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Originally Posted by chicoredneck View Post
The 10x54 HT sounds like a perfect low light substitute to my 15x56 slc. How is the viewing comfort through the Zeiss? I’m not able to view the optics before buying unfortunately. As stated above, my primary concern is no eye strain and elimination of the annoying feeling of needing to re-focus.
I have the HT 10x42. I find them very comfortable to use and I feel like my eyes are relaxed using them. The eye relief works well for me -- I usually need a long ER to avoid having to hover. I find the focusing very precise on the Zeiss, and it is fairly easy to nail the focus quickly. I do not find I need to twiddle with the focus much, such as tracking birds flying across my field of view.

I picked them up used of the auction site for a very good price. They had a minor problem with the focuser, so I sent them in to Zeiss. They had to be sent back to Germany, so it took maybe 6-7 weeks, but they came back like new. No charge, even as 2nd hand.

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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 06:05   #18
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After reviewing the material in the link John provided, I’m pretty sold on the 10x56 slc.
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 06:50   #19
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Let’s suppose you have a 4-diopter physiological accommodation and you stop focusing just as soon as the image is acceptable. That’s great. But what if your eye has a -1.5 diopter AT REST focus. Your image might be temporarily pleasant. But you will experience some eyestrain because your eyes weren’t at rest when you stopped focusing. Learning to STARE and letting the focus mechanism do its job precludes this.

Finally, people put too much stock in the numerals on the focus mechanism. Too, often, they are not set correctly. They came in hand in a wartime setting and when the instrument is being frequently lent to others. So, just stare and bring the focus to you regardless of what the numerals say.

Bill
Hi Bill,

Another (perhaps less ambiguous) way of saying this: try to focus with your eyes at rest.
That's easier said than done for young people who have an excellent eye accommodation. However the magnitude of dynamic accommodation decreases with age (to about 1d for many members of the BF!) and the response time increases and then "staring" while focusing becomes less important, imo.

Regarding the numerals on the focus wheel, I believe only relatively old porros have them and I have never seen anybody paying attention to those numbers while focusing.

Peter
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 06:57   #20
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After reviewing the material in the link John provided, I’m pretty sold on the 10x56 slc.
That's an excellent choice. Personally I prefer the SV 10x50 for a number of reasons, but the SLC 10x56 is brighter (due to its larger EP and AK prisms) and that's important to you.
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 12:12   #21
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"Staring" is what you do when your eyes have very little accomodation. That's what good glasses and good binos are for. Bill is right, if you find a bino that works well and doesn't make your eyes do calisthentics . . . keep that one.

Mark
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 14:07   #22
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"Staring" is what you do when your eyes have very little accomodation.
Mark
Mark,

To me staring is what you do when you gaze off into the distance without focusing on anything, regardless of your eye dynamic accommodation.

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Bill is right, if you find a bino that works well and doesn't make your eyes do calisthentics . . . keep that one.
Mark
Sure thing, but he's not saying that. What he's saying is that you should focus the bino not your eyes, which should be at rest, otherwise you'll end-up fiddling with the focuser.

Peter
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 14:28   #23
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Chicored:

Have posted before my personal experience with the HT 10x54 and the 10x56 Swaro SLC (new model). I wanted that Zeiss badly for the ergos, but the SLC's performance for me was compelling in low to very low light. It wasn't a one-off comparison either--had both for months. Excellent bin.
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 16:29   #24
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Mark,

To me staring is what you do when you gaze off into the distance without focusing on anything, regardless of your eye dynamic accommodation.



Sure thing, but he's not saying that. What he's saying is that you should focus the bino not your eyes, which should be at rest, otherwise you'll end-up fiddling with the focuser.

Peter
Good points, Peter. I have rather lousy eyes, in my opinion. They need help at all distances so I really appreciate good optics, from microscope to telescope. And glasses for gettin' around.
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Old Thursday 13th June 2019, 17:14   #25
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There are TWO phases to focusing a binocular, or any other instrument for that matter. The first concerns the focus mechanism—the actuation of the focus knob, diopter ring, or flip lever. That is the one seen almost exclusively by the observer.

The second is through the involuntary focusing of the EYE through the eyelens being stretched or compressed by the eye’s CILIARY MUSCLES.

A 10-year old might have as much as a 14-diopter range. By the time we reach 50 or 60 that has dropped off to 2 or 3 diopters, making a focus mechanism necessary.

In learning to STARE one can prevent the eye’s INVOLUNTARY INPUT and limit focusing to that achieved through the binocular’s focus mechanism. This leaves the observer in control of whole focusing operation as opposed to having the two aspects of the operation fight each other resulting in the observer’s resorting to fiddling with the focus mechanism while TRYING to attain and accurate focus for an object at A GIVEN DISTANCE.

With learning to STARE being critical to focusing, one might hope binocular salespeople would tell their customers about it. But for most of them it is just a paycheck and nothing more; they don’t know. Every so often, you might come across an opto-geek like Marty at Company Seven (that guy challenges me in opto-nerdiness), but, for the most part, you are on your own.

I find it disconcerting that so very many observers who talk endlessly upgrading their binocular—many of those people already owning one of the best binoculars ever made—fail to take this indispensable facet of observing into consideration.

THE BRASS TACKS

The task is learning to STARE! Or, as Peter—another super opto-geek—points out, let your eyes be at REST. “(perhaps less ambiguous).” Yeah, yeah, always the gentlemen ... a Brit thing ya know. The method you choose for accomplishing that task is up to you. ED points out the aspect of pulling the binocular away from your face. That is part of one method. I learned, while still a Navy Opticalman to stare with the bino to the eyes. This is not going to be easy at the start, but it is possible and makes precise focusing at a giving distance possible. I keep saying AT A GIVEN DISTANCE because that, too, is important. You may be precisely focused on a stellers jay in a tree 40 feet away and suddenly decide to view the northern flicker that just landed on the other side of the tree.

Although the distance to the birds might differ by 8 feet, you may see no loss in clarity. But just know that is your brain ACCOMMODATING the difference through those ciliary muscles. There’s no “free lunch” in optics. The distance was easily accommodatable but if planning to stay focused at the new distance, you might want to focus with the focus mechanism. It’s only an OPTION and will be ever so slight. You might have a pleasant image without focusing for several minutes ... or ALL DAY. But this is because everyone has different perceptions and levels of accommodation.

TRY THIS

1. Focus on a target a few hundred feet away—without the binocular.

2. Focus on the target with the binocular.

3. Without looking at the target, defocus the binocular (each eye) -1.5 to -2 diopters.

4. Return to the target without the binocular superimposed.

5. Once satisfied, QUICKLY superimpose the binocular without touching the focus mechanism.

6. If the image stays slightly blurry for a bit, you are learning to stare. If the image becomes crisp too quickly, your brain is taking over and is focusing your EYE—something you don’t want to happen.

7. Repeat the operation until your brain “gets the picture.” Please, however, understand that one size does not fit all. You may come up with what works best for you. Perhaps focusing the bino at 1 diopter would work best.

THE METHOD IS IRRELEVANT; THE RESULT IS NOT!

Ed mentions pulling the binocular away from your eyes. Do this and note the image quality. No matter the method of learning to STARE, your observing sessions will be less troublesome and your images more crisp and pleasant if you learn to do so.

Three things to remember:

1. Learning to stare will not prevent problems related to poor collimation.

2. Learning to stare will not allow a paperweight binocular to perform like one of the big three.

3. Learning to stare will not increase image brightness.

Bill

PS Ed, Peter, jring, others: right now, I am trying to restore 31,100 files—ONE AT A TIME!!!!!!—to their proper place in about 40 folders. I’m hoping to get some sleep ... sometime next month. The one and only iMac geek in Twin Falls “helped” me with a problem and created 8 or 9 other problems in the process. I’m worn out. So, if you see a reason to protect others from me, PLEASE go for it! If my files had remained in the trash, I could have used the “put back” command to restore them to their original folder. In the 90 seconds I was in the bathroom, he created another folder on the desktop that we might not, by accident, “empty the trash.” Now to use the “put back” command would only send them BACK TO THE TRASH! Directly after selling me this Big Mac, Simply Mac went out of business and left town without giving me the promised user manual. Learning about the “Time Machine” would have prevented this mess.
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