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Advice on a good 12x50+ that won't break the bank (2 Viewers)


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I am looking to find an optic in the 12x50 category for slow-moving objects (mostly birds) at the shoreline and across lakes and open country, and maybe a bit of astronomy too. So mostly mounted on a monopod or tripod and with slow precise focusing expected. If it's a good x54 or x56 that's probably OK too as long as things don't get too huge to carry.

I don't have the budget for a Swaro EL or Leica UV HD+, so I would appreciate recommendations for cheaper models with a good central sharpness/contrast and CA control and a fairly neutral colour balance. There are a lot out there but not many reviews. I have seen good things said about the Vortex UHD and Meopta Meostar B1 (at prices above what I want to pay and perhaps colour balance not very neutral) and the Nikon Action EX porro (which seems too good to be true at the price?). Waterproof and nitrogen-filled would be very nice but maybe not essential, and I would like the option of using them with glasses if possible. If not, a 2nd hand Nikon SE looks very tempting. Otherwise perhaps other good MIJ optics from some of the many brands that seem to outsource their production and don't get as much exposure as the big brands.

Nice 12x40 Nikon E on E-bay. Won't break the bank and built well. Here's a photo of my 10X35 E.................


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Not sure what the situation getting Oberwerk products overseas but their SE porro line seems to be getting good reviews and has a 12x50 model.
I agree ..... I've heard that the Oberwerk 12x50 is very good... but I have never looked through them.
Dr Neil English raves about Oberwerk, and in one of his reviews, he got them sent direct to U.K. in a week or so.
He has 2 pairs, and rates them very highly.
I am looking to find an optic in the 12x50 category…I have seen good things said about the Vortex UHD
I tried both the UHD and Viper side by side last month and was impressed with both of them. The much more expensive UHD was excellent, though heavier and with the much higher price tag. Viper much smaller, very affordable, though with a longer close focus capability. For the price of it the Viper could be a great option for you.
I tried both the UHD and Viper side by side last month and was impressed with both of them. The much more expensive UHD was excellent, though heavier and with the much higher price tag. Viper much smaller, very affordable, though with a longer close focus capability. For the price of it the Viper could be a great option for you.
Your correct the the Vortex Viper HD 12x50 is an excellent binocular, especially for the price. I would say at the $500 price point, they are the best 12x50's around. The Razor 12x50 and UHD 12x50 are better, but not hugely. I would rather have the Vortex Viper HD 12x50 than the Oberwerk SE 12x50. I had the Oberwerk SE 8x32, and it was ok, but it didn't compare to my Nikon SE 8x32. The build quality or optics were not near as good, I returned mine the next day. I don't care what Dr. English said. I don't agree with any of his reviews anyway. I think people like the Oberwerk SE's because they are only $200.
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Thanks for all the suggestions.

I wasn't really aware of the Oberwerk SE line but the idea of making a waterproof version of the Nikon SE with ED glass is appealing and many over on Cloudy Nights (who seem to be quite careful about the quality of their optics) are very impressed for astronomy. The majority seem to prefer them to the equivalent Nikon actually, unlike denco. I'll also try to check out the GPO and Vortex models that are the more affordable roof prisms. A GPO 10x42 I Iooked through recently didn't really impress up against better opposition.

I wonder if anyone here has compared the Oberwerk SE 12x50 to the current best roofs e.g. Swaro EL and Leica UV. I would not expect it to compete on ER, close focus, speed of focus or optical performance right at the edge, but I am more interested in the image properties that matter most for looking at small, slow moving objects a long way away i.e. sharpness, colour rendition, contrast and CA control in the central 80% of the FOV. Also glare control.

Another interesting comparison would be the Oberwerk SE 10x42 vs the Swaro Habicht 10x40. Similar ideas in many ways: taking a classic 10x4* porro design and bringing it up to date with modern glass and coatings. Arguably the Oberwerk design is more modern but can they execute as well as Swarovski?
Compare the Oberwerk SE to the Swaro EL, Leica UVHD, and Swaro Habicht? Really! You're comparing a $200 MIC binocular to binoculars that are five to ten times as expensive. The Oberwerk SE is a great bargain for the price, but it doesn't compare with alpha level binoculars.

Well - let's try not to be prejudiced and see what our eyes tell us.

I have already established to my own satisfaction that in terms of image contrast and colour rendition there are binoculars at 1/3 price of the otherwise excellent Zeiss SF which compete.
I haven't used a lot of the binos mentioned in this thread, so can't help with recommendations - but it's worth noting that as magnification increases, the easier it is for aberrations etc to manifest themselves (more glass; requiring the optics to do more). This is actually also true of 10x vs 8x - quite a few manufacturers' 8x model is better thought of than their 10x offering in the same line - but when you get into 12x and 15x territory this is even more so. Because 12x binoculars are often called upon for quite demanding tasks - detail at distance is one of the most demanding tests for binoculars; because in that kind of viewing you may be glassing for long periods, as opposed to finding your targets with the unaided eye; and because factors such as shake/jitter are magnified (apologies for the pun), I would suggest this is not really a format in which one can make too many economies, even though you may not use 12x a great deal.

Ironically I did not really follow that advice myself when I bought my own 12x, but luckily for me - because I've ended up using it a lot more than I thought I would - the 12x50B Nobilem, despite being awkward to use, turned out to be pretty good optically. Of the ones you mention I think the 12x50 Nikon SE might be particularly worth trying, if you can find one.
Slightly over your budget, Macleod and Son have a used Ultravid HD 12x50 m'be showing a few signs of decrepitude :D. Think it's been there a while though; dunno could be an issue or maybe is a bit overpriced...

Think Nikon SE 12x50's are starting to get as "exclusive" as this motorcar that's been in the news :
Thanks for all the advice people.

With the universally positive comments on the Oberwerk 12x50 SE over at Cloudy Nights, the excellent review from binomania.it

whose preferences often align with mine (e.g. the Zeiss HT) and the equally excellent review on the 10x42 SE by Neil English, I decided to take a small risk at the bargain price and have one on the way to me right now from oberwerk.eu. Will let people here know what I think after I have given it a good run out for a week. My main irritation in high mag optics has always been too much central CA and these seem to be very good on that front so I am expecting not to be disappointed. The sharpness and colour in the binomania videos also seem to be pretty good - as much as you can tell from these anyway. Fingers crossed....
The Steiner 15x56 are easy to handle and sell for less than $900. I bought the Vortex 12x50 Diamondback and while very inexpensive at $239 their image quality is marginal. I encountered someone using the Nikon 12x42 binos and was quite impressed. They are the Monarch 5 series and so priced at a low $297.

What is great about the Nikon 12x42 binos is that they are 25% smaller and lighter than 12x50 ones. The 12x42 weigh less than 23 ounces. I often will grab them instead of my Swarvoski 10x25 CL and 10x32 EL binoculars.

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