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Best high-end birding binoculars without "rolling ball" effect? (4 Viewers)

I have been on a quest for a pair of high end binoculars for birding (8x42 format).

I have tried a few so far: I started with the Swaroski EL 8x32 and 8.5x42. I found, to my despair, that I am very susceptible to the rolling ball effect (I've done abundant reading on this forum on the subject). I could not get used to the swaro EL for a week, so I exchanged them for the SLC - which I returned because the focus know was pretty bad (I recall seeing reviews about this here and there too). I am left a little hesitant. I have tried the Leica Ultravids, but they seemed to have a rather narrow fielf of view. The Zeiss SF seemed to have a good amount of RB too... Am I asking for the moon when I say I want high end with large FOV and no rolling ball?

I'll add I wear glasses (so need good ER). Budget is flexible.
 
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eitanaltman

Well-known member
It does seem to be the case that the trend with super wide field high end birding optics is to pair it with strongly corrected distortion (so no pincushion, but plenty of AMD / rolling ball).

Have you tried the 7x42 Ultravid? It has a very wide 8 degree FOV and is stunning optically, and it has traditional pincushion like other Ultravids.

A used Zeiss FL is another one to consider, the 8x32, 7x42 and 8x42 have wide FOV and no chance of rolling ball.

The Nikon EDG is also worth a look. Although they do have a "flat field", I find the distortion profile to be much more "natural" and I don't see any weird geometric effects when panning. The distortion correction isn't as aggressive as in the Swaro SV or Zeiss SF, so there's a bit more pincushion in the middle transitioning to a bit of AMD at the edge.

From what I've seen, the EDG series does the best job of balancing very good distortion correction and edge-to-edge sharpness without going too excessive with the "rolling ball" at the edges.
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
It depends what you're defining as 'high end' but I take that to mean mid tier as well.

Try the Nikon MHG 8x42. That has a much wider field than the following:

Other options are the Swarovski SLC 8x42 (but a unit with a smoother focus - most of the units are average to good of the many I have handled - but just not Nikon, or Zeiss, -like)

Or the discontinued Zeiss HT 8x42 if you can find one.

Leica NoctiVid 8x42 is another possibility.






Chosun :gh:
 

elkcub

Silicon Valley, California
United States
I have been on a quest for a pair of high end binoculars for birding (8x42 format).

I have tried a few so far: I started with the Swaroski EL 8x32 and 8.5x42. I found, to my despair, that I am very susceptible to the rolling ball effect (I've done abundant reading on this forum on the subject). I could not get used to the swaro EL for a week, so I exchanged them for the SLC - which I returned because the focus know was pretty bad (I recall seeing reviews about this here and there too). I am left a little hesitant. I have tried the Leica Ultravids, but they seemed to have a rather narrow fielf of view. The Zeiss SF seemed to have a good amount of RB too... Am I asking for the moon when I say I want high end with large FOV and no rolling ball?

I'll add I wear glasses (so need good ER). Budget is flexible.
Ark,

I also wear glasses and need good ER (~18mm). I've been using an 8x42 SLC-HD for about ten years and find the focus to be excellent. When it came out of the factory box it was not as smooth as it soon became after a little use. I always find it to be enjoyable, however, for one reason because it doesn't overshoot. With regard to it needing slightly more force to move in one direction than the other, (which is another criticism you will find), I would point out that your fingers also apply force more easily in one direction (push) than the other (pull). So, as always, there is a period of adaptation during which the body learns to have the right expectations and muscle responses for use of the instrument. Ironically, those same learned expectations and reactions to current equipment may lead prematurely to rejection of a new instrument simply because it responds differently.

Anyway, you might wish to consider the SLC again in this light, and don't take too seriously what other people have to say about use factors, including me. ;)

Good luck,

Ed
 

PeterPS

MEMBER
I'd suggest you also try the new Swaro NL 8x42. They have a wide FOV, plenty of ER for people with glasses, and panning with them is quite comfortable, surprisingly with very little RB if anything at all.
 
Eitan I have not tried the 7x42 UVHD+. I have been using 8x and 10x and never considered 7x. Is the drop in magnification worth it? I probably need to read up a bit on the benefit/drawbacks of 7x mag for birding. I do not know of anyone using 7x binos for birding.

Chosun, I have tried the noctivid but had some issues with eye placement.. but I might have to give it another go.

Chosun and Eitan, I will defenitely try the Nikon MHG and report back. I dont think my store sells he EDG.

Peter, my budget is flexible but the NL pure might be a little too high too justify at this point. I have not tried it yet however.

Ed, I appreciate your comments. I just think if I am going to pay that much, I need a focusing confort that is really good. I have a better focusing experience of my $200 Bushnell H2O than the SLC. I might have had a bad apple but after seing reviews I just stopped trusting the SLC. Beautiful optics, though, there is no denying that.
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
There are a number of options out there: UV and NV 8x42, EDG and MHG 8x42, FL and HT 8x42, SLC 8x42. It will be hard to get your hands on the FL, HT or EDG to try at this point (or at least to try with the option of returning!), but it sounds like actually using them will be important. The EDG might well be by far your best bet - good FOV, excellent focuser, excellent optics, not "as" flat field. They can be sourced from Japan via eBay I believe - though returns would be messy, and they'll be discontinued and gray market which may complicate service. That all said, don't discount the Nikon MHG. It is optically slightly outpaced by several of these bins, but only slightly. But it is ergonomically at or near the top of the heap, has the largest FOV, and is the lightest weight of all of them. It's not quite an alpha but I'd pick it over a lot of bins on that list, honestly - spoken as a birder, not an astronomer or diehard binocular critic :)
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
I actually find the MHG 8x42 to have a bit of AMD / rolling ball, moreso than the EDG. The "compression" where the pincushion transitions to AMD starts closer to the center than with the EDG, so spatial warping while panning is more obvious. The EDG (at least from what I've seen, I haven't tried all the models) has less compression and keeps it more restricted to the edges, so it doesn't intrude into the FOV and make its presence felt as strongly.

It's not at the level where most people would notice or care, but if someone is extra sensitive to this phenomenon then I would be cautious with that model.

@Ark - I'm in love with the 7x42 UVHD, it's my favorite "general birding" binocular and I've gone through a number of them this year. I also have the 8x42 Nikon HG, and the increased clarity / transparency / contrast / depth of field of the 7x42 UV more than makes up for the small difference in magnification. The view is just so "calm" and vivid and natural, I don't even think about the fact that I'm not using an 8x. I can use them for hours and I don't get any viewing fatigue.

I was always an 8x42 or 8x32 guy until trying some other formats this year. I've tried a few 6x before, although not this high end, and always felt it wasn't "enough", but the 7x42 Ultravid HD is special. I've heard people say the same about the 7x42 Zeiss FL, which I haven't had the pleasure of trying. When you get that level of sharpness / contrast the extra depth and steadiness more than makes up for the slight magnification difference when birding hand-held.

The 10x32 EDG is my other favorite and is a wonderful complement to the 7x42 for situations where I'm birding in daylight but want lighter weight (taking a long walk/hike) but want more magnification (wide open habitat, lakes / marshes, etc).

I could probably get rid of everything except those 2 and be covered for any birding situation.

The MHG 8x42 is a wonderful "jack of all trades" with the light weight, wide FOV, nice ergonomics, good close focus, smooth focusing.... but it doesn't *quite* have the special vibrancy/pop that the best glass has. When I take the MHG 8x42 out, I enjoy them and can see everything I need to see, but I do often wish I had either the 7x42 UVHD or 10x32 EDG instead (depending on the birding style).
 

PYRTLE

Old Berkshire Boy
Personally I think the only one near to your request in terms of least or negligible "rolling ball" would be a Leica 8 x 42 Noctivid.

And yes, you're asking for or barking at the moon. An extra wide, flat field, negative roller high end alpha roof prism hasnt yet been commercially made - a couple are pretty close though. I use an SF 8/42 and thankfully not concerned by the slight amount of RB.
 

mfunnell

Registered Confuser
Or the discontinued Zeiss HT 8x42 if you can find one.

Leica NoctiVid 8x42 is another possibility.

Chosun :gh:
Both suggestions are where I'd look with that set of requirements.

Or an earlier Zeiss FL - I've just picked up a set of 7x42FLs. I'm liking them rather a lot right now. We'll see how long that lasts after the aura of a new acquisition fades. But, still, I'm sure I'll enjoy them for a good long time regardless.

If you were willing to look at a smaller format bins, I'd note that my 8x32FLs are the ones I like best, I'd say, of all the binoculars I have in any format. That might be worth thinking on: not (necessarily) the FLs, but smaller-format bins in general.

...Mike
 

edwincjones

Well-known member
perfection in optics is hard to find -- I have decided to go with good enough
(but this decision took years)

edj
 
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Hi all, thank you for your advices!

I have tested the MHG and did notice a little bit of rolling ball (or barrel distorsion? couldn't say), but I think it might be a negligeable amount for me. I almost bought them but the in-store sample was a demo item and was not in the best of conditions. I am considering purchasing online... but I couldnt help but notice that these were clearly not on par with the Leica et al. in term of image quality and edge sharpness (which makes sense given the price..).

I would like to try a UV 7x42 HD+ before taking my decision. I am a quite worried about going down in magnification. I can afford to have only one high end pair!
 

WJC

Well-known member
I have been on a quest for a pair of high end binoculars for birding (8x42 format).

I have tried a few so far: I started with the Swaroski EL 8x32 and 8.5x42. I found, to my despair, that I am very susceptible to the rolling ball effect (I've done abundant reading on this forum on the subject). I could not get used to the swaro EL for a week, so I exchanged them for the SLC - which I returned because the focus know was pretty bad (I recall seeing reviews about this here and there too). I am left a little hesitant. I have tried the Leica Ultravids, but they seemed to have a rather narrow fielf of view. The Zeiss SF seemed to have a good amount of RB too... Am I asking for the moon when I say I want high end with large FOV and no rolling ball?

I'll add I wear glasses (so need good ER). Budget is flexible.

In optics, one size does not fit all. At least in the affordable range. You may have roller ball OR distortion. Take your pick. In the affordable, you can’t have both.

Dear Lord, thank you for letting me be born when I was. Even though I’m old, decrepit, and nearing my expiration date, I avoided going weak in the knees over distortion, chromatic aberration, or field curvature, and although it was around all during the time I was in optics, I very rarely even heard Roller Ball being mentioned.

I guess, today, people just need more boogiemen behind more bushes to give them things to talk about—substantive or not.

“10% of the improvement in binoculars requires 90% of the cost.” — saying among the engineers on the cutting edge of ... optical cutting edges. :cat:

Back in my hole, now.

Bill
 
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In optics, one size does not fit all. At least in the affordable range. You may have roller ball OR distortion. Take your pick. In the affordable, you can’t have both.

Dear Lord, thank you for letting me be born when I was. Even though I’m old, decrepit, and nearing my expiration date, I avoided going weak in the knees over distortion, chromatic aberration, or field curvature, and although it was around all during the time I was in optics, I very rarely even heard Roller Ball being mentioned.

I guess, today, people just need more boogiemen behind more bushes to give them things to talk about—substantive or not.

“10% of the improvement in binoculars requires 90% of the cost.” — saying among the engineers on the cutting edge of ... optical cutting edges. :cat:

Back in my hole, now.

Bill

Unsure what to respond to that, and unsure I understand what you mean. Im quite aware there must be compromises... I am fine with some distorsion as long as its not RB.
 
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WJC

Well-known member
Unsure what to respond to that, and unsure I understand what you mean. Im quite aware there must be compromises... I am fine with some distorsion as long as its not RB.

Pin cushion distortion is the cure for roller ball. The whole post was just to add a bit of practicality into the matter.

1) The birds don't care.
2) So many of the things that bother so many, can't be seen by most human receptors. Talk is cheap; correction costs more.
3) 10% of improvements require 90% of the funding.
4) If you really, really, really want to understand, look a little farther up the food chain than BirdForum or Cloudy Nights.
5) Make up your mind about what you want, then seek it at a brick and mortar store with a lenient return policy.
6) Let opinions (including mine) take you in a direction. But make the decision ALL YOURS. Bino forums are full of those willing to spend YOUR money for what THEY would like to have.

With a 3-inch Gilbert telescope in a paper tube, I saw Venus, Saturn, Mar, and Jupiter. Then I spent two careers in optics. With the better, more expensive telescopes, I saw chromatic aberration, coma, astigmatism, etc. When do you think I was happiest? Just a thought. :cat:

Bill
 
1) True, but who do we really bird for? The birds, or ourselves?
2) Fair, but RB/AMD makes me sick, and I noticed it before even knew there was a word for it, so it not just talk!
3) I get it. Same thing for any tool.
4) I don't know who is "up the food chain". BirdForum and CloudyNights at least are accessible to all.
5) Not everyone has access to that. (re point 4) returning items can be time and money consuming, so im just trying to get it right
6) This is wise!

Yes, if I could go back to when I was 10yr old birding with $50 binos and feeling like nothing could get better, I would. But we all grow up and get worried about how best to spend our hard-earned money. Just trying to get some info here, but thanks for the wise comments.
 

etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
Just my $0.02, but I think you might want want to try the Canon 10x42 ISL.
Optically excellent, waterproof, with the superior performance that stabilization provides. Heavy and bulky too, so no free lunch, but still a good trade imho.
 

PeterPS

MEMBER
Besides the suggestions already made you might also want to have a look at the Vortex Razor UHD 8x42, I am pretty sure they have no RB effect and their optics and ergos are very good.
 

Ries

Well-known member
Meopta Meostar mentioned already? I'm quite fan of their almost-flat-field that is exactly on the brink of almost not giving rolling ball or any other curvature/distortion-effect. I find its optical design exactly in the goldilocks zone. (still sad their 8x32 small eyecups didn't work on my face). For instance Nikon mhg 8x42 still makes me a bit seasick when panning.
 

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