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Binocular Buying Rules of Engagement — an opinion (1 Viewer)

WJC

Well-known member
200820

What is the best magnification?

When I was 12, my folks couldn’t afford a bike for me. I was given a beat-up red scooter that was already old when I was born. I could ride it, but I certainly couldn’t keep up with my friends with bicycles. Then, early in this century, bicycles were passe with the same age group. They had to have “Razor Scooters.”

In the ‘70s and 80s, bicycles had to have “Speeder” tires that were ever so thin. If guitar strings could be inflated, they would have been popular as bike tires. Today, I have seen several bicycles around town that have tires 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter. What was once considered a chore to pedal, now became popular. Was the chore gone ... or was it all between the ears of a few and those they could influence?

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, huge telescopes ruled the roost and everybody who was anybody had to have one. Then, as that market started getting saturated, companies started telling people THAT phase was also passe, and started selling 3- and 4-inch telescopes with all manner of added bells and whistle. For YEARS we were taught, “There is no substitute for Aperture.” And this was true until some creative marketers found that amateur astronomers were ready to have something DIFFERENT and expensive to talk about.

Early in this century, young ladies who would have died should they have to wear glasses weighing more than a few postage stamps. Then, all that changed when the movers and shakers decided it was stylish to wear horn-rimmed glasses ... the thicker, the better. Is a pattern forming, here? Our daughter didn’t need glasses. Yet, she insisted on having some—plano/plano—so she could fit in with her friends.

The same is true with binoculars. Recently a fellow told me that he could never afford an “Alpha” binocular, that he was stuck with his dad’s, “heavy old 8.5x44 Swift Audubon.” Until I got my REFURB Nikon 8x32 SE—which wasn’t even a refurb—the Audubon was my first choice for birding. And I know many here would agree with that choice.

The alpha designation is somewhat descriptive—at least for an individual—or a group willing to have others make up their minds for them—as in the examples, above. Overall, however, it is as descriptive as the ubiquitous “vintage,” which is almost always used incorrectly.

What is the best magnification?
What is the best field of view?
Which is best: Porro or roof prism?
Which is more important, optics or ergonomics?
Etc, etc, etc.

Until observers find a way to be homogenized, there cannot be a correct answer.

Buy something—anything—and use it until YOU see a reason to change. Listen to all comers. But remember:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought with accepting it.” — Aristotle

Keep in mind that there are many well-meaning people on binocular forums who are willing to spend YOUR money to buy what THEY would like to have. If you have deep pockets, this is not so bad. If you have to live like most of us. Well ....

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

Just a thought, :cat:

Bill
 
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etudiant

Registered User
Supporter
200820

What is the best magnification?

When I was 12, my folks couldn’t afford a bike for me. I was given a beat-up red scooter that was already old when I was born. I could ride it, but I certainly couldn’t keep up with my friends with bicycles. Then, early in this century, bicycles were passe with the same age group. They had to have “Razor Scooters.”

In the ‘70s and 80s, bicycles had to have “Speeder” tires that were ever so thin. If guitar strings could be inflated, they would have been popular as bike tires. Today, I have seen several bicycles around town that have tires 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter. What was once considered a chore to pedal, now became popular. Was the chore gone ... or was it all between the ears of a few and those they could influence?

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, huge telescopes ruled the roost and everybody who was anybody had to have one. Then, as that market started getting saturated, companies started telling people THAT phase was also passe, and started selling 3- and 4-inch telescopes with all manner of added bells and whistle. For YEARS we were taught, “There is no substitute for Aperture.” And this was true until some creative marketers found that amateur astronomers were ready to have something DIFFERENT and expensive to talk about.

Early in this century, young ladies who would have died should they have to wear glasses weighing more than a few postage stamps. Then, all that changed when the movers and shakers decided it was stylish to wear horn-rimmed glasses ... the thicker, the better. Is a pattern forming, here? Our daughter didn’t need glasses. Yet, she insisted on having some—plano/plano—so she could fit in with her friends.

The same is true with binoculars. Recently a fellow told me that he could never afford an “Alpha” binocular, that he was stuck with his dad’s, “heavy old 8.5x44 Swift Audubon.” Until I got my REFURB Nikon 8x32 SE—which wasn’t even a refurb—the Audubon was my first choice for birding. And I know many here would agree with that choice.

The alpha designation is somewhat descriptive—at least for an individual—or a group willing to have others make up their minds for them—as in the examples, above. Overall, however, it is as descriptive as the ubiquitous “vintage,” which is almost always used incorrectly.

What is the best magnification?
What is the best field of view?
Which is best: Porro or roof prism?
Which is more important, optics or ergonomics?
Etc, etc, etc.

Until observers find a way to be homogenized, there cannot be a correct answer.

Buy something—anything—and use it until YOU see a reason to change. Listen to all comers. But remember:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought with accepting it.” — Aristotle

Keep in mind that there are many well-meaning people on binocular forums who are willing to spend YOUR money to buy what THEY would like to have. If you have deep pockets, this is not so bad. If you have to live like most of us. Well ....

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

Just a thought, :cat:

Bill

Styles change, sometimes for good reason. Anyone trying to push a bike across some of New York's cratered streets would be crazy to use a narrow rim. Tires three to five inches across act to smoothen what's left of the road.

But I hear you about those Swift Audubons....
 

StephenHampshire

Well-known member
United Kingdom
200820

What is the best magnification?

When I was 12, my folks couldn’t afford a bike for me. I was given a beat-up red scooter that was already old when I was born. I could ride it, but I certainly couldn’t keep up with my friends with bicycles. Then, early in this century, bicycles were passe with the same age group. They had to have “Razor Scooters.”

In the ‘70s and 80s, bicycles had to have “Speeder” tires that were ever so thin. If guitar strings could be inflated, they would have been popular as bike tires. Today, I have seen several bicycles around town that have tires 3.5 to 4 inches in diameter. What was once considered a chore to pedal, now became popular. Was the chore gone ... or was it all between the ears of a few and those they could influence?

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, huge telescopes ruled the roost and everybody who was anybody had to have one. Then, as that market started getting saturated, companies started telling people THAT phase was also passe, and started selling 3- and 4-inch telescopes with all manner of added bells and whistle. For YEARS we were taught, “There is no substitute for Aperture.” And this was true until some creative marketers found that amateur astronomers were ready to have something DIFFERENT and expensive to talk about.

Early in this century, young ladies who would have died should they have to wear glasses weighing more than a few postage stamps. Then, all that changed when the movers and shakers decided it was stylish to wear horn-rimmed glasses ... the thicker, the better. Is a pattern forming, here? Our daughter didn’t need glasses. Yet, she insisted on having some—plano/plano—so she could fit in with her friends.

The same is true with binoculars. Recently a fellow told me that he could never afford an “Alpha” binocular, that he was stuck with his dad’s, “heavy old 8.5x44 Swift Audubon.” Until I got my REFURB Nikon 8x32 SE—which wasn’t even a refurb—the Audubon was my first choice for birding. And I know many here would agree with that choice.

The alpha designation is somewhat descriptive—at least for an individual—or a group willing to have others make up their minds for them—as in the examples, above. Overall, however, it is as descriptive as the ubiquitous “vintage,” which is almost always used incorrectly.

What is the best magnification?
What is the best field of view?
Which is best: Porro or roof prism?
Which is more important, optics or ergonomics?
Etc, etc, etc.

Until observers find a way to be homogenized, there cannot be a correct answer.

Buy something—anything—and use it until YOU see a reason to change. Listen to all comers. But remember:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought with accepting it.” — Aristotle

Keep in mind that there are many well-meaning people on binocular forums who are willing to spend YOUR money to buy what THEY would like to have. If you have deep pockets, this is not so bad. If you have to live like most of us. Well ....

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” — Mark Twain

Just a thought, :cat:

Bill

I've been pondering all day about a post regarding my jouney to discover what is important to me with binoculars and, blow me down with a feather, youve gazumped me! Only difference is, you actually know what you are talking about!
 

WJC

Well-known member
I've been pondering all day about a post regarding my jouney to discover what is important to me with binoculars and, blow me down with a feather, youve gazumped me! Only difference is, you actually know what you are talking about!

Thank you; that's kind. :cat:

BC
 

42za

Well-known member
Bill , a very true and accurate observation.

I get as much satisfaction when I use my old Japanese made Porro 7 x 35 wide angle as I do when using my more expensive binoculars.



Cheers.
 

StephenHampshire

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I have fairly recently started my journey into bino land...for my 18th birthday (in 1979!) I was given a pair of Optolyth Alpin 8x40, and I used these for years for casual observation. I once left them on a beach for 4 hours (by mistake) and they were still there when I remembered them and came back for them. Othe binos were a pair of Zeiss Jenaoptem 8x 30 (stolen when my car was broken into in the 1980's) and more various cheapo compact binos. A few years back I started to consider some more modern binoculars, staring again with compact roofs, including an Opticron Traifinder T3 10x 25.
I now have quite a collection including an Opticron Discovery 8x32, a Tom Locke 8x42, a Hilkinson Falmouth 8x45 porro, a nice little Minox BF 8X25, all on the cheap side of course, but there is a point to all of this:- although experienced in photographic optics, from film to digital, DSLR's prlenty of lenses of differing focal lengths and apertures, the world of binos has been a voyage of discover for me, from the desirability of phase correction coatings to the"twilight factor" to rolling ball. I will at some stage move up to higher level binoculars, but having a range of instruments has been useful to me in seeing what factors I need to consider. Currently I am finding that my old eyes really like a bright image, that I prefer a wide FoV provided that edge distortion/softness is not too great, that I can see rolling ball but not much, that I am not particularly sensitive to Chromatic aberrations, that I like the 3d effect of porros, that I find 7 or 8 x magnification right for me for general use....
I would consider myself a "Wildlifer" rather than a birder, ID of birds in extreme conditions not so important to me as say the ability to look at bees and butterflys close to. I also like a bit of skywatching and might need a binocular just for that.
A good example on my walk yesterday, climbed over a stile into a field and had a good view of a Southern Hawker, a hare and a red kite all at the same time.
The photographer in me also apprecciates the "feel" of the equipment and that is an area the various binos have fallen down in. Current opportunitys to get hands on with binoculars are obviously limited, but previously I have handled a bit of higher spec glass and would definitely like to go up market when circumstances permit.
This forum has been really useful in getting me thinking about what is important to me, and what combination of binoculars might suit.

In photo land we have LBA (lens buying addiction) and I have to admmit to having 30+ zooms and prime lenses for my Full frame and APS-C cameras, not to mention a couple of non-ILC's- is the equivalent here BBA?:t:
 

paddy7

Well-known member
Fashions change, technology marches on, boundaries are pushed ever further out, the forefront of the discipline expands and of course, so does price - in binoculars and optics as much as with everything else.
For many birders who will spend hours, days and years with their optics round their necks, there are other elements, however. These things are personal - i always feel a relationship is built with your binoculars - has anyone else found themselves talking to their bins about a previous shared experience, or should i get a check-up?
When i think of binoculars i've tried in the past that have appealed to me instantly, there is a strange brew - some alphas, some cheapies - but all have 'fitted me'. Physiology changes from individual to individual, as do likes and dislikes.
Having the confidence to say 'this is what i like' is one of the keys to jumping off the perfection-chasing bandwagon.
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Good post Bill.
I'm a little surprised (not really) at the willingness of some on this site to eagerly plunk down for the latest S, Z, or L not doubting what they'll actually gain from them. They are the latest, and maybe the greatest, but will you see more stuff? Or the stuff you see, any better?

One thing that $3k bins have in common with $100. bins is that they are held with one's hands. That, without image stabilization anyway, is (to varying degrees) the great equalizer.

I'll wager that a $400 bin on a Finnstick will readily out perform one of the super bins.
Most people, I think, can't even be bothered learning a proper grip to improve steadiness. Whenever I, or anyone else, brings up the Thumbs Up Grip as an example, it's usually crickets.
 
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Kammerdiner

Well-known member
Yeah, tell me what I want to see.

By the way, Aristotle was a moron. Try reading him, as I did forty years ago. Nobody cares about google quotes.
 

WJC

Well-known member
Bill , a very true and accurate observation.

I get as much satisfaction when I use my old Japanese made Porro 7 x 35 wide angle as I do when using my more expensive binoculars.



Cheers.

I still have—and use—my 7x35 Jason Statesman from the late 50s- early 60s.

In 1964, the world’s most popular bass guitar player was asked in an interview what kind of strings he used. His answer: “Long shiny ones.”

McCartney was into MUSIC ... not INSTRUMENT WORSHIP. The same concept is true in binoculars. Some people are into the view and some are into bragging rights. Having owned 28 Rickenbackers, 4 Ric 4003 basses, a ’62, ’64, and ’67 Hofner 500/1 bass, and 60 more classics, I think I am qualified to fall on that sword. Yet, I didn’t earn enough money with ALL OF THEM to pay for any ONE SETUP! Stupid is as stupid does. What’s your goal? Sometimes it takes a while to figure things out; sometimes we never do. At 69 and with small hands, I wish I had one of my ¾ size and light weight Hofners back. :cat:

Bill
 

WJC

Well-known member
Yeah, tell me what I want to see.

By the way, Aristotle was a moron. Try reading him, as I did forty years ago. Nobody cares about google quotes.

Hi Mark,

You said: “By the way, Aristotle was a moron.”

I must respect your right to think that way. However, my quotes come from an early forties book on The Teachings of the Great Philosophers that I have worn to shreds. I wore it out because it was NOT required reading! I just wanted to know.

I hope you will admit—at least—that he was a talented “moron.” Elsewise how could he have earned the sobriquets of “the father of science” and “the world’s greatest philosopher”?

Also, you said: “Nobody cares about google quotes.”

I don’t think it fair to say “nobody” unless you are “everybody.” I would not deny being long-winded. But I have always admired those who can be so profound with such susinctificatiousnessosicity [sic].

Philosopher George Santayana said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

The quotes I offer, are submitted as part of my reason for coming to these forums, for which I take so much good-natured heat from my more erudite friends. And even a broken clock is right twice in 24 hours. Even now, I can see the appropriateness of quotes from Aristotle, Emerson, Churchill, Nietzche, and others. Instead, I will offer you: “As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!”—an Irish blessing :cat:

Bill
 

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mooreorless

Well-known member
Bill I have one of the Nikon 8x30 individual focus Non Phase-coated binoculars and I have not used it in a while. The other day I was on my back porch looking with my Swaro 8x30 SLC and decided to get the old Nikon 8x30 N-P-coated out and was sort of surprised it was decent to use, but would be sort of pain if you had focus a lot.>>> the picture on the left of the 2 binoculars
 

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Kammerdiner

Well-known member
That's cool Bill. My edition of Aristotle runs to 1487 pages and trust me, you don't want to put yourself through that! ;)

Mark
 

tenex

reality-based
The same is true with binoculars.
I don't see where you were going with this... pointless cyclical fads in binos? We'd be back to Porros by now.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought with accepting it.” — Aristotle
Actually that's "without accepting it." A fine observation... although something quite different seems to be passing for education lately.

I certainly agree that people need to try binos for themselves and make their own choices. Which presumably means having the confidence to do so.

These things are personal - i always feel a relationship is built with your binoculars - has anyone else found themselves talking to their bins about a previous shared experience, or should i get a check-up?
I don't actually talk to binos (might be too busy talking to self) but definitely bond with them through experience in this way, so I'm with you there.
.
 
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Alexis Powell

Natural history enthusiast
United States
Styles change, often driven by marketing, but very little changes for those concerned with function/performance, so their buying habits can be more restrained/conservative. Big apertures still rule for most astro applications, so they are still used in preference to little refractors by those who have the means to transport them and who know how to properly tweak a reflector for best performance. Skinny bike tires were never a good idea for streets with grooves and potholes. They only had their day in the history of bicycling in the USA because recreational riders used equipment intended for or emulating that used in professional bike racing. Practical riders have always used wider tires. Ultra fat tires are, however, a fad. They are best reserved for riding along places like riverside trails with deep sand or in the snow (which are, indeed, the contexts of origin of the Surly Pugsley--I used to ride those trails in the Twin Cities, MN, where the Pugsley originated). As for eyeglasses, aviator style or similar frames and lenses are still the best for most purposes.

--AP
 
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WJC

Well-known member
I don't see where you were going with this... pointless cyclical fads in binos? We'd be back to Porros by now.


Actually that's "without accepting it." A fine observation... although something quite different seems to be passing for education lately.

I certainly agree that people need to try binos for themselves and make their own choices. Which presumably means having the confidence to do so.


I don't actually talk to binos (might be too busy talking to self) but definitely bond with them through experience in this way, so I'm with you there.
.

Thanks for the correction on the quote. But, using Porro prism binos would NOT be a step back. It would merely be a step ... different and less expensive. Attached are two exploded binoculars. One has 172 parts. The other is one I worked on in 1991. It has 29 parts.

Which appears to be the most rugged? Which had the MOST plastic parts to break? Which would be easiest to find parts for? The Porro is 84-years old and still serving. What do you think the roof will look like in 20? Complexity says nothing about value, suitability, or longevity.:cat:
 

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Kammerdiner

Well-known member
Thanks for the correction on the quote. But, using Porro prism binos would NOT be a step back. It would merely be a step ... different and less expensive. :cat:

Couldn't agree more. Biggest bino mistake I made was selling a Nikon 8x32 SE. Sure it was a little fussy, but OMG, line it up and just watch the serenity.
 

WJC

Well-known member
That's cool Bill. My edition of Aristotle runs to 1487 pages and trust me, you don't want to put yourself through that! ;)

Mark

Hi Mark;

In case you think I will disagree with you there, please have a look at a snippet from my last book.

“A history buff may own several robust volumes and, for the writer wanting to thoroughly cover a topic before moving on to others or set himself up as an expert on that topic, writing an all-inclusive digest may be just the ticket. Within the next few pages, however, I hope to share reasons for my love of small books, tightly packed works allowing the reader to get to the heart of a subject quickly and start using what they have learned.” :cat:

Cheers,

Bill
 
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CMB

Well-known member
...using Porro prism binos would NOT be a step back. It would merely be a step ... different and less expensive...

Yes!

Back in the day when everyone was abandoning porros and moving to roofs, I was trying upgrade my alpha brand compact bins and move to a nice quality set of full sized bins. I didn't need an alpha level full sized bin, but I wanted a nice quality bin with decent optics. Talk about horrible timing.

There were a lot of "affordable" roofs with optics that were, to be frank, lousy. The only porros I could find were a set of Swift Audubons. In hindsight I wish I bought the Swifts instead of the (at the time) highly rated mid priced roofs I did buy, but the Swifts didn't fit me as well.

The other day I was looking at Orion Optics house branded "UltraView 8x42 Wide-Angle" porros. Pretty nice specs: 22mm eye relief, 430 ft FOV, 12 ft close focus, 1.7 lbs. The only real limitation is the minimum IPD of 59mm. They are not waterproof.

Price: $120, for 430 ft FOV and 22mm eye relief.

I have not tried a pair of these so can't verify the specs.

But if this can be done with a $120 import porro, then imagine the combination of specs, optical quality, price, and reliability that could be enjoyed today if some of the big companies were to commit again to bringing out a line of well designed porros.
 
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