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$300-400 Recommendation (1 Viewer)

czguy1978

New member
Long time lurker, first time poster.

I have a question for you guys. I have some decent binoculars including:

Nikon Buckmasters 10x42 (Lots of use)
Burris Landmark 8x32 (Kept in the truck)
Leupold Yosemite 8x30 (Kept in the car)
Pentax UCF WR 8x24 (Lots of use)
Nikon Action 10x50
Nikon Action 10-22x50
Old School Bausch & Lomb 7x50 (Owned a long time)
Nikon Travelite V 10x25
Nikon Sprint III 7x21 (Had these a long time and they've seen a lot of use)

Anyway, I talked the in-laws into buying some quality binoculars as they live in a remote area and have endless opportunities to look at birds, hummingbirds, deer and to a lesser degree, stars. They had a few sets of 10x50 Powerviews and a couple other sets that I'd given them. I threw out a few options and without looking through anything better than mine, they ordered a set of Leupold McKinley 10x42s, largely based on my Yosemites, the guy's favorable opinion of Leupold riflescopes and the fairly reasonable price. I was trying to steer them towards the Nikon 8x32 SE porros as they are, in my opinion, the best sub $1,000 binoculars I've ever looked through.

Flashforward, we house-sit their place when they are out of town and I've really grown to like them. I'm sure they aren't the best in the world but I really admire how clear they look edge to edge and how they just generally don't seem to induce any fatigue whereas my better sets will create minimal fatigue after extended periods though the old B&Ls are very easy on the eyes.

So my question is what will get me the closest to these for less money? I don't have a preference between porros or roofs and weight isn't very important to me on this pair. My priorities are brightness, edge to edge clarity and minimal fatigue. When I say brightness, I don't mean light-gathering as much as just a generally bright view. I don't need a ton of eye relief as those with more than 15mm or so, I tend to turn them back to about 15mm.

I'd like to stay under $300 if at all possible. $400 would be my absolute max unless I just put off the purchase for a year or so.

I've looked through Monarch 3s, Vs and Xs and the aforementioned Nikons. I've not looked through any Leupolds other than the Yosemites and Rogues and I've never looked through any Vortex or Eagle models.

Any of the $200 - $400 Leupolds worth the money?

Basically I would like something that looks about like the Yosemites but in a more robust package and just generally everything being a step or two better.
 

PhilR.

Well-known member
For under $300, several roofs come to mind. BHphotovideo.com has the Bushnell Ultra Legend HD's on sale for under $200 (normally between $225 and $275). You can get them in 36mm and 42mm. Also, the Celestron Granite 33mm's can be had for under $300 over at the Opticsplanet website, once you use their 10% off coupon (PM me if you don't know how to get their coupon code). The 7x version should be bright in view. Also, I really like the Pentax 9x32 DCF BC, which is one of few 33mm's that weigh under 20oz..

For under $200, look at the Sightron SII Blue Sky in either 32mm or 42mm, and the Nikon Action Extremes porros. The 8x32mm Blue Sky is a great bino for it's low price, and you can read plenty about it here. Also, Hawke has a 42mm porro in this price range that might be worth investigating.

For between $300 and $400, consider the Nikon Monarch 7 and the Krueger Caldera, the 8x42 version of which can be had at opticsplanet for around $325. The Monarch will cost much closer to $400, and only for a short period of time. The 42mm Celestron Granites can also be had for under $325.

Lastly, I can say that the Zen-Ray 8x43 ED2 has a really bright view. These are no longer available, but you might look around and see what the ED3 goes for. I can't think of any roof in the ED3's price range that is brighter. The plain ED is still available at the SWFA website, and I would think that one would be pretty bright too. Also look at their ZRS HD in 42mm, which I've read is also bright as well.
 

ceasar

Well-known member
:hi:Hi CZ,

Welcome to Bird Forum!

Try the Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 42.

http://www.eagleoptics.com/binoculars/zeiss/zeiss-terra-ed-8x42-binocular

It has the 3 things you are looking for plus 3 position eye cups and it is very robust. The price is around $350.00. You should be able to find them now in a Cabelas store near you if you want to try one out. I have one and I reported on it in the Zeiss forum. It has been reviewed and commented on there extensively if you want to read more about it.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=258748

Bob
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
Just an FYI though -- there is really nothing that is cheaper than the McKinley that will give you true "edge to edge clarity". This "sharp to the edge" flat field design is the province of complex eyepieces that cost $$$, and only recently (with the McKinley and the Zen-Ray Prime) was this brought down to the ~$600 price point among roofs (as you know the Nikon SE 8x32 and other porros at that price point have it too).

Your $400-and-under roof is always going to have edge degradation to some degree, even the best will have at most a ~70% sweet spot in my experience. The most pleasing (e.g. Zeiss Terra, Zen-Ray ED3) will have off-axis degradation that isn't distracting, so it will only be annoying if you intentionally go look for it, and thus will give the impression of "edge to edge clarity" as long as you don't intentionally try to let your eye wander too far off axis.

I'm not a porro man but I'm sure there are some in your price range that could give you close to what you are looking for, although they probably won't have the wide FOV of the McKinley.

My advice: hoard your coin and monitor the used market like a hawk. You have had a taste of quality and you may end up unsatisfied with something cheaper. The used market opens the door to gear that would otherwise be out of your price range. Several brands (Leupold, Vortex, Nikon, etc.) have fully transferable warranties which make the process much lower risk in nature. I've seen older Nikon Premier (LX/HG, not the newest "L" versions) go near $400, and that would certainly meet your criteria. A Leupold McKinley was recently offered up on the classifieds here for a bit over $400 (you could even pm Gwen and see if she still has it?). You can get other fine glass like Alpen Rainier, Vortex Viper, etc. for $400 or less.
 

czguy1978

New member
Thanks for the replies so far and thanks for the welcome!

Yeah... the McKinleys are very nice. Nicer than I thought they'd be to be honest. At that price, I assumed they'd be very nice but like I said, I hoped they would go in a different direction. Guess they got lucky.

I'll look into the options given thus far but I'm thinking more and more about just saving up my nickles and dimes until I can get them on sale or used.

As far as build quality, they feel solidly built but have reports been pretty good from folks that are a bit rough of binoculars? Are they as durable as one would hope from the price?
 

NDhunter

Experienced observer
United States
Just an FYI though -- there is really nothing that is cheaper than the McKinley that will give you true "edge to edge clarity". This "sharp to the edge" flat field design is the province of complex eyepieces that cost $$$, and only recently (with the McKinley and the Zen-Ray Prime) was this brought down to the ~$600 price point among roofs (as you know the Nikon SE 8x32 and other porros at that price point have it too).

Your $400-and-under roof is always going to have edge degradation to some degree, even the best will have at most a ~70% sweet spot in my experience. The most pleasing (e.g. Zeiss Terra, Zen-Ray ED3) will have off-axis degradation that isn't distracting, so it will only be annoying if you intentionally go look for it, and thus will give the impression of "edge to edge clarity" as long as you don't intentionally try to let your eye wander too far off axis.

I'm not a porro man but I'm sure there are some in your price range that could give you close to what you are looking for, although they probably won't have the wide FOV of the McKinley.

My advice: hoard your coin and monitor the used market like a hawk. You have had a taste of quality and you may end up unsatisfied with something cheaper. The used market opens the door to gear that would otherwise be out of your price range. Several brands (Leupold, Vortex, Nikon, etc.) have fully transferable warranties which make the process much lower risk in nature. I've seen older Nikon Premier (LX/HG, not the newest "L" versions) go near $400, and that would certainly meet your criteria. A Leupold McKinley was recently offered up on the classifieds here for a bit over $400 (you could even pm Gwen and see if she still has it?). You can get other fine glass like Alpen Rainier, Vortex Viper, etc. for $400 or less.

Eitan:

Your thoughts here are well presented, and I agree with them.

I have tried or owned several of those you have mentioned, and
it is good to hear the orig. poster comment positively about the
McKinley. I have only tried it with a quick look in a store setting,
and with these specs. should be hard to beat when trying to
spend less.

I am a bit surprised more birders here have not been using and
reporting on the new flat field offers, like the McKinley, and the ZR Prime.

It is hard to make hard and firm recommendations in the $300-600
price range, as many of these optics have strong points, and it does
come down to personal preference

Jerry
 

czguy1978

New member
Thanks for the replies so far, both in the thread and via PM. I really appreciate it. For clarification, I'm definitely looking at the McKinleys in 8x42, not 10x42.

I managed to compare my Buckmasters to a pair of Mojaves and to two pairs of Monarch 7s. Outdoors in bright light, there wasn't a tremendous difference between the three though seat of the pants, I think the Leupolds were slightly brighter but that would be picking nits.

I compared my 10x Nikons to the 10x Monarch 7s and to the Leupold 10xs but also looked through a pair of 8x42 Monarch 7s and they were pretty nice. I know that's an apples and oranges comparison.

I will say that the 8x Monarchs were much brighter than my 10x Buckmasters indoors but mottom line though, I don't think either of them would be a significant upgrade to the Buckmarks for my uses. For bird use, esp under cover of foliage or in very overcast skies, probably but wide open use... not so much though they are all lighter weight than the Buckmarks.

I also compared the 8x Monarch 7s to the 8x Monarch 3s, both indoors and outdoors and wow... the 7s were quite a bit nicer both indoors and outdoors but esp indoors!

I'm going to keep looking. I think I'll probably put this purchase off until spring.

I do think I'll pick up a set of more cost effective 8x42s for winter use and maybe to keep handy for general use and then get the McKinleys later. I'm thinking between the Zen Ray ZRS HDs, the Sightron SIIs and the Atlas Sky Kings if I can find them in 8x42. Any comments in comparing those models?

Thanks again.
 

JohnB2am

Member
Celestron SkyMasters under $50

Perhaps these type of binoculars are not meant to be posted here, nonetheless....

Every now again NBD(NoBetterDeal) will list binoculars in their Sporting Goods section...

At present there are two Celestron Skymasters for sale -- In case someone here, or perhaps, you know someone who might be interested. -- Everything in NBD is 13% off site-wide until midnight EST 9/28 -- use code: FALL13 [Keep in mind that these are open box items] I ordered a pair of Bushnell Legend Ultra HD's they had listed for $162. This was some time ago when they had them during a 20% off sale. Sadly they were received with a broken outer (hard plastic) diopter ring that was in little pieces(?). Everything else in the box was untouched. (?)-- As to warranty: not enough time to.... so, I moved on to look at different brand binoculars. On a personal note, I must say that my over all experience buying from NBD has been very positive. I poke around on their site every now and again. It's like an internet version of a Flea Market. They do have free return shipping. If you ask, they'll arrange to have UPS pick up your return from your front door.

Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter for
$40(-13%) +$4.95 shipping -- http://www.nobetterdeal.com/shop/en...er-giant-15x70-binoculars-with-tripod-adapter

Celestron 71012 SkyMaster 20-100x70 Zoom Binoculars for $50(-13%) + $4.95 ship -- http://www.nobetterdeal.com/shop/en/nbd/celestron-71012-skymaster-20-100x70-zoom-binoculars

Also listed in the electronics/camera section is a...

Celestron Heavy-Duty Altazimuth Tripod (may or may not fit these these particular SkyMasters) for $58(-13%) + $3.95 shipping. -- http://www.nobetterdeal.com/shop/en/nbd/celestron-heavy-duty-altazimuth-tripod

I hope this proves helpful to someone here(or is it out there) in the binocular forum.

Best,

jb (has left the...)

____________________________________________________________

"The cure for hubris is Natural History" -- Gregory Bateson

"I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance" -- e.e. cummings
 

gcole

Well-known member
Thanks for the replies so far, both in the thread and via PM. I really appreciate it. For clarification, I'm definitely looking at the McKinleys in 8x42, not 10x42.

I managed to compare my Buckmasters to a pair of Mojaves and to two pairs of Monarch 7s. Outdoors in bright light, there wasn't a tremendous difference between the three though seat of the pants, I think the Leupolds were slightly brighter but that would be picking nits.

I compared my 10x Nikons to the 10x Monarch 7s and to the Leupold 10xs but also looked through a pair of 8x42 Monarch 7s and they were pretty nice. I know that's an apples and oranges comparison.

I will say that the 8x Monarchs were much brighter than my 10x Buckmasters indoors but mottom line though, I don't think either of them would be a significant upgrade to the Buckmarks for my uses. For bird use, esp under cover of foliage or in very overcast skies, probably but wide open use... not so much though they are all lighter weight than the Buckmarks.

I also compared the 8x Monarch 7s to the 8x Monarch 3s, both indoors and outdoors and wow... the 7s were quite a bit nicer both indoors and outdoors but esp indoors!

I'm going to keep looking. I think I'll probably put this purchase off until spring.

I do think I'll pick up a set of more cost effective 8x42s for winter use and maybe to keep handy for general use and then get the McKinleys later. I'm thinking between the Zen Ray ZRS HDs, the Sightron SIIs and the Atlas Sky Kings if I can find them in 8x42. Any comments in comparing those models?

Thanks again.

I owned a pair of the Zen Ray ZRS HD 8x42, one of the best dollar values($209) in a 8x42 on the market right now . You could spend twice that & still see no real gain except the loss to your wallet. .....gwen
 

Tantien

Well-known member
I owned a pair of the Zen Ray ZRS HD 8x42, one of the best dollar values($209) in a 8x42 on the market right now . You could spend twice that & still see no real gain except the loss to your wallet. .....gwen

I too cast my vote for the Zen Rays. I have their twin (Atlas Optic Intrepid EDs) and really marvel at the quality of the glass.

Quality for the price is certainly there. Check them out.
 

JohnB2am

Member
Zen Ray ZRS HD / ED3 / Zeiss Terra

I owned a pair of the Zen Ray ZRS HD 8x42, one of the best dollar values($209) in a 8x42 on the market right now . You could spend twice that & still see no real gain except the loss to your wallet.

...gwen
_________________________________________________

Hi Gwen,

Would you say that the ZRS HD's would [compete and/or equal ] the [performance] of the ED3's ? [ ] = tenuous terms-- Sorry, I'm not sure if they are the appropriate ones. It just sounds a bit like your implying that the ZRS HD's would also = or rival the ED2/3. ? The reason I'm asking is that I was considering the ZRS HD's, but I read so many great things about the
ED3's I thought I would order those and the Zeiss Terra's for comparison. Would you say that the ZRS would have made a better A/B comparison to the Zeiss Terra's ? (I guess I got an okay deal. I got them both for $625). Of course one will go back or I'll sell it. I need to decide on one, and then stop my obsessive behavior. I can't eat, I can't sleep, and I have a stomach ache. I fear I've put the OC in the OCD. (with a wink and smile)

Best,

John
 
Last edited:

gcole

Well-known member
I owned a pair of the Zen Ray ZRS HD 8x42, one of the best dollar values($209) in a 8x42 on the market right now . You could spend twice that & still see no real gain except the loss to your wallet.

...gwen
_________________________________________________

Hi Gwen,

Would you say that the ZRS HD's would [compete and/or equal ] the [performance] of the ED3's ? [ ] = tenuous terms-- Sorry, I'm not sure if they are the appropriate ones. It just sounds a bit like your implying that the ZRS HD's would also = or rival the ED2/3. ? The reason I'm asking is that I was considering the ZRS HD's, but I read so many great things about the
ED3's I thought I would order those and the Zeiss Terra's for comparison. Would you say that the ZRS would have made a better A/B comparison to the Zeiss Terra's ? (I guess I got an okay deal. I got them both for $625). Of course one will go back or I'll sell it. I need to decide on one, and then stop my obsessive behavior. I can't eat, I can't sleep, and I have a stomach ache. I fear I've put the OC in the OCD. (with a wink and smile)

Best,

John

Hi John ..... First I would like to say why I liked the ZRS HD 8x42 ... it is one of the nicest 8x42 binoculars that I have handled in the low $200 price range that gave me plenty of eye relief, comfortable/easy to use, compact, it does not look cheap/very good value for the money & most of all the view thru these is very nice. I did not mean to imply that they were equal or should compete with the more expensive Terra's or ED2/3. In today's binocular/scope market the gap between cheaper priced optics compared to the high end stuff is getting so small when it comes to the difference in optical quality it really depends on what you like / works the best for you & how much money you want to spend. Paying only $209. for the 8x42 ZR HD's & saving hundreds of dollars is something only you can decide. ..... gwen
 

JohnB2am

Member
"Hi John ..... First I would like to say why I liked the ZRS HD 8x42 ... -- I did not mean to imply that they were equal or should compete with the more expensive Terra's or ED2/3. -- ... then it comes to the difference in optical quality it really depends on what you like / works the best for you & how much money you want to spend. Paying only $209. for the 8x42 ZR HD's & saving hundreds of dollars is something only you can decide. ..... gwen"
_____________________________________________________________

Thanks Gwen for your return reply. I recieved the Zeiss Terra 8x42 & ZR ED3 8x43, that I ordered. I've spent part of two days now comparing them, and will spend more time evaluating before I decide which is the keeper. So far, I can see it is going to be a difficult decision-- Both have plus and minuses. -- it comes down to which are the differences that make a difference to make a decision. Keep both? Send money...

*<|8^)~jb
 

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