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Binocular Weight, a Triviality? (1 Viewer)

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Perhaps many of our discussions on Birdforum are trivial, but I am nevertheless surprised by constant requests for lighter weight binoculars.

Optical and mechanical construction imposes demands, which can only be circumvented by compromise. In a recent thread on "Cloudy Nights" a binocular repairer posted photos of the plastic components in the focussing mechanism of a well-respected mid-level manufacturer. A female thread had even been cut directly into one of these plastic parts!
Many binoculars of substandard weight achieve this through the use of plastic or underdimensioned prisms, which cause vignetting and compromise viewing comfort.

On a recent thread Henry Link posted this comment: The Easy View. Few I think would dispute or reject these requirements and, while not suggesting that everyone use an 8x56, I cannot understand the willingness to accept the optical compromises of a premium 8x32 or even worse, a 10x32 just to save some weight and with only a small price saving on the 42 mm version. It's significant that Zeiss FL, Swarovski EL, Zeiss SF and Swarovski NL were all introduced as 42 mm models and that the 32 mm versions followed the demand (who's to blame the manufacturers?) for less weight.

In some countries of the world it's common for women, or even children, to carry heavy weights on their heads for considerable distances. The neck muscles of Formula One drivers are subjected to alternating longitudinal and transverse loads exceeding 20 kg. In this context a binocular weight saving of 200 g fades into absurdity.

It must be over fifteen years since I read the advice on Birdforum to shorten the carrying strap so that it just passes over your head. This way the binocular doesn't swing about and with a suitably contoured strap even an 8x56 can be comfortably carried for long periods.

John
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
In some countries of the world it's common for women, or even children, to carry heavy weights on their heads for considerable distances. The neck muscles of Formula One drivers are subjected to alternating longitudinal and transverse loads exceeding 20 kg. In this context a binocular weight saving of 200 g fades into absurdity.
Since I don't fit into either of those categories, I was delighted to swap an 840 gm 10X42 for a 600 gm 8X32.

The "optical compromises" to which Henry alludes have so far not appeared.

I'm sure they can be measured, but for me, they remain unseen. (or unnoticed)

And I do keep my strap as short as reasonably possible. (contemplating a harness, but still not sure it won't be more bother than it's worth)
 
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Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
No! All other things being equal the lighter the better. I would happily pay extra for lighter. Where are the carbon fibre binoculars?
 

dries1

Member
No! All other things being equal the lighter the better. I would happily pay extra for lighter. Where are the carbon fibre binoculars?
How much $$ are you willing to spend. I have and use the FL 8X42, a nice light glass for me, but many did not like it because of the composite construction.
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Since I don't fit into either of those categories, I was delighted to swap an 840 gm 10X42 for a 600 gm 8X32.

The "optical compromises" to which Henry alludes have so far not appeared.

I'm sure they can be measured, but for me, they remain unseen. (or unnoticed)
Well, at least that didn't involve a further reduction in exit pupil.
Have you actually tried anything with a 6 mm or 7 mm exit pupil? There are many reports here on BF where first users experienced a 7x42 as a revelation.
Despite age and a likely reduction in pupil dilation, my 8x33 and 10x42 have fallen from favour.

John
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
Well, at least that didn't involve a further reduction in exit pupil.
Have you actually tried anything with a 6 mm or 7 mm exit pupil? There are many reports here on BF where first users experienced a 7x42 as a revelation.
Despite age and a likely reduction in pupil dilation, my 8x33 and 10x42 have fallen from favour.

John
Yes, I have in the past owned (inexpensive) 7X50s and currently have Fujinon 10X70 on my shelf.

I haven't used the Fujinon for a while.
 

Hermann

Well-known member
Perhaps many of our discussions on Birdforum are trivial, but I am nevertheless surprised by constant requests for lighter weight binoculars.
I'm not given that most premium binoculars got heavier and heavier over the past 10-15 years.
Optical and mechanical construction imposes demands, which can only be circumvented by compromise.
Binoculars that are less complex by not aiming at extreme edge sharpness or very close focus wouldn't be as heavy as the current crop of premium binoculars.
In a recent thread on "Cloudy Nights" a binocular repairer posted photos of the plastic components in the focussing mechanism of a well-respected mid-level manufacturer. A female thread had even been cut directly into one of these plastic parts!
Many binoculars of substandard weight achieve this through the use of plastic or underdimensioned prisms, which cause vignetting and compromise viewing comfort.
Agreed. However, there are plenty of examples of premium binoculars that had (or have?) their fair share of problems with their focusers. And these weren't exactly lightweight binoculars.
On a recent thread Henry Link posted this comment: The Easy View. Few I think would dispute or reject these requirements and, while not suggesting that everyone use an 8x56, I cannot understand the willingness to accept the optical compromises of a premium 8x32 or even worse, a 10x32 just to save some weight and with only a small price saving on the 42 mm version.
That's your point of view. Mine is quite different even though I prefer large exit pupils myself. However, there are plenty of situations where a light 8x32 or 10x30/32 is a far better compromise than, say, an 8x56 or even a 7x42. For instance on long hikes in the mountains.
It's significant that Zeiss FL, Swarovski EL, Zeiss SF and Swarovski NL were all introduced as 42 mm models and that the 32 mm versions followed the demand (who's to blame the manufacturers?) for less weight.
Why is that significant? Most users prefer full-size binoculars. That's why the manufacturers focused on getting them onto the market first. They aren't inherently "superior" to an 8x32 although I have to admit a 10x30/32 is a borderline case due to its small exit pupil.
In some countries of the world it's common for women, or even children, to carry heavy weights on their heads for considerable distances. The neck muscles of Formula One drivers are subjected to alternating longitudinal and transverse loads exceeding 20 kg. In this context a binocular weight saving of 200 g fades into absurdity.
I'm neither a woman nor a child carrying heavy weights on my head. I'm also not a Formula One driver. I do, however, prefer lighter binoculars whenever possible. Is that "absurd"?

Hermann
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Why is that significant? Most users prefer full-size binoculars. That's why the manufacturers focused on getting them onto the market first. They aren't inherently "superior" to an 8x32 although I have to admit a 10x30/32 is a borderline case due to its small exit pupil.

I'm neither a woman nor a child carrying heavy weights on my head. I'm also not a Formula One driver. I do, however, prefer lighter binoculars whenever possible. Is that "absurd"?
Perhaps the majority still prefer full-size binoculars and FLs, SFs, ELs and NLs were first marketed as 42s, but the delay in offering the 32 mm versions is an indication that Zeiss and Swarovski were responding to customer demand and a perceived need for a lighter binocular. As soon as the 42s came out, Birdforum members started clamouring for Noctivid, SF and NL 32s.

Formula One drivers are admittedly extremely fit athletes but it seems absurd for birders to quibble about 1% of the load. This is the mentality that brought us heated steering wheels! Comfort is the overriding priority. Two hundred grammes here or there is also insignificant compared to 3-5 kg of scope and tripod.

John
 
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jring

Well-known member
Hi,

it has to be said, that 3-5kg of scope kit and 400-800g of binoculars are not quite comparable as the scope kit stands on its own when being used and (at least in my case) is carried backpack style in some tripod carrier... while the bins either hang dangling around your neck (on a hopefully not too uncomfortable strap) or are being held up in front of your eyes...

For me, 500-600g or thereabouts of bins is quite tolerable for a few hours, I don't really care whether those come in 8x32 or 8x42 (or 7x42 or 10x42, the latter for special occasions).
The point is that with 8x32 models you have lots of options in that weight range while the choice of light 8x42 is a bit more limited... and those that manage to get there might have some of the shortcuts taken on the path there - as shown in the CN thread.

PS: let's keep things civil, this (like so many questions here) is a matter of taste... it's quite ok to agree to disagree on those...

Joachim
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Perhaps what is "absurd" is your unwarranted assumption that everyone drags 3.5kg of scope and tripod around in addition to binoculars.
You appear to have comprehensional difficulties. Or was that a deliberate misinterpretation? I did not assume that in any way, but knowing that Hermann is a frequent scope user it was a mere comparison. Btw, I wrote 3 to 5 kg. Hermann favours a lightweight setup. Mine is usually 4,5 kg. For some applications though, a scope is indispensible.
 
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A2GG

Beth
Supporter
United States
Weight is important to me. I went from 42 to 30mm and cut down about 10 ounces. It makes a big difference for me.
I don't have the type of shoulder pain I had with the 42mm after outings. However, I do often miss the Ultravid Plus for the bigger exit pupil and the wonderful distinct Leica view.
I thought about purchasing it again, but had to remind myself why I got rid of it in the first place. I'd like to someday go back to Leica if they can offer a 8x32 that will work for me. The Uvid 8x32 has too short eye relief, the Trinovid HD 8x32 is a bit too heavy for 32mm and has a relatively narrow FOV (especially compared to what I have now). I'm not too interested in the retrovid 7x35 for various reasons.

I hope someday Leica makes a Trinovid 8x32 that will be lighter or a Noctivid 8x32 that will not be too heavy. I think a new Trinovid HD will be many years away and I may never be able to afford the Nvid. So, I'm "stuck" with the Nikon HG 8x30. It's not a bad binocular to be stuck with at all. I've been enjoying it quite a bit; It has a lot of good qualities.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
PS: let's keep things civil, this (like so many questions here) is a matter of taste... it's quite ok to agree to disagree on those...

Kind of difficult to do when the OP is not really stating an opinion as such, but describing the alternate view as "absurd" and the concerns "insignificant" while making patronizing comparisons analogizing people who prefer lighter binoculars as being nit-picky, spoiled whiners, i.e. "the mentality that brought us heated steering wheels".

It's not a discussion of taste seeking constructive dialogue, but a condescending rant.

This thread is absurd.
 

Patudo

Well-known member
I use, and enjoy, my large porros (12x50B and 10x50 - and have also used the 10x56 SLC) quite a bit, and love the good things about them - but I can say for sure that for some situations, binocular size and weight is definitely not trivial to me. The more you have to point your binoculars upwards, the greater the advantage of a lighter binocular. There is also - for me anyway - a pleasure in using something compact and lightweight, that is so light and effortless in your hands that after using heavy binoculars it almost feels as though it's not there. It's almost comparable to when you have a great binocular that seems to disappear before your eyes when you look through it and makes you feel you are looking directly at the target with no glass in between. That's part of the reason why the Leitz Trinovids have always been desired, and why x30/32 class binoculars (6x in the old days before coatings and 8x afterwards) have always been popular.

I'd like to share a note from my birding diary, from June last year watching peregrines, which might help express how my thoughts about binocular size and weight were formed:

1554. Great sequence of flying culminating in a catch high over the river. At last I was able to follow one of these high ranging flights all the way from the beginning to the end.

After realizing he had left his perch I had a quick scan around. Nothing over the south bank area. Looked over the north bank and found him, low down (at that point) NW of the power station, slowly going up in circles. He went roughly southwards, gaining height all the while so that after he passed over the power station he was very high indeed. He went over to the south bank/south apartment blocks, but probably further out than the blocks themselves, staying very high - although the grey cloud today, that looked low but in reality was probably at least a few thousand feet high, might have restricted his altitude a bit - for on previous occasions he had looked smaller in the 10x50 than the image I was now seeing in the 8x42. He circled over the south bank for quite a while, then moved upwind, across the river. As he did I was very tempted to check the time, but resisted the temptation, as he was high up and small, not easy to track, and there was something about his flight that suggested it'd be unwise to take that risk. Over the river he went into some steep downward descents, pulling up each time. No idea whether he was after quarry, or …

He then began moving westwards, I thought he would just keep going and disappear into the distance as he had done before, but he turned and then came back over the river. He was now flying faster, and then he began stooping. He was heading towards the north bank and as he came down a black shape going in the other direction briefly passed through my field of view, but focused on him as I was, I couldn't tell whether it was another peregrine or a pigeon. He made a turn over the north bank, still quite high, requiring some concentration to follow now as he had descended into a dark grey patch of sky. Adding powerful wingbeats to the momentum of his stoop, he shot back across the river southwards, now going downwind. High over the river, just a little to the south of my position, he came up to a pigeon, overhauling it as though it was standing still. He achieved complete surprise and caught it cleanly.

Now taking the pigeon to the power station. Time now: 1612.

Really pleased to have followed one of these flights all the way to its end - something I had dearly wished to do, for losing birds up into the sky had been getting a bit frustrating. He must have seen the pigeon as he was high over the river, probably quite some distance before the pigeon actually flew over the river. He had then dived towards the north bank, in other words in a completely different direction to his final approach, to build speed and get into position. A marvellous hunt, the timing and the speed of the final approach, everything was almost perfectly executed.

I could not help but think that none of my other binoculars would have worked as well today. As he was high over the south bank I found myself thinking that the charm of the old optics, on this particular day anyway, was outweighed by the brutal efficiency of the 8x42 FL. The light weight that allowed me to hold it up for nearly 20 minutes, the brightness that helped keep him in view against at times very grey skies, the steadiness of the 5mm exit pupil, the sharpness... I don't think this package could have been beaten by anything else I had. Today was a day when the alpha really proved its worth.
 

chill6x6

Well-known member
So I'll admit that a larger objective binocular is USUALLY optically superior. Probably more user-friendly too. BUT....

How many here are actual avid birders? Seriously....

I may put my binocular on at my HOUSE before I even leave...if not then I do at my first birding stop and then it doesn't come off until I'm done at my LAST birding stop or when I get home. Birds are many times seen while on the road and some good ones too. So driving with a binocular in a harness, using with one hand on the binocular at times one hand on the steering wheel. Getting in and out at birding stops. Holding your binoculars straight up for quite a while many times! Maybe I even had to hustle to get to where the birds are. Carrying a Sony RX-10 III on one shoulder, a Meopta S-1 on the other, and a binocular strapped to my chest.

Yes sir, weight matters....
 
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Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I am pretty sure that nobody says to the bino brands, 'I want the lightest bino possible and I don't care what compromises you need to make to the optics or to long-term reliability, just make it lighter!' When folks mention they would prefer binos to be lighter, I am sure they mean the binos should be as opticially good as the heavy models and last at least as long. Choosing inappropriate but lighter materials isn't the option that anybody ticks so if this happens it is surely due to poor decision making by the manufacturer.

Surely there are components that are suitable applications for plastics? Maybe the cradle that carries the focusing lens with metal bushes as bearings to take the sliding motion and not wear out, and of course thinner armour is a way to save weight.

Carbon fibre binos are sometimes wished for on here but drilling and machining laminates using rotary cutting tools or waterjetting are specialist skills and equipment which are not acquired overnight and which, during developing these skills, will likely result in many costly de-laminated and scrapped bino tubes. This rate of scrap would likely not reduce to the same level as machined aluminium or magnesium.

The easiest way for a nature observer to save weight is to simply choose a 32 instead of a 42.

Lee
 

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