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Choosing New Binoculars (1 Viewer)

AnalogJ

Active member
Zeiss Warranty

Man, is a company's warranty reflective of the confidence they have in their product?? Their warranty on all of their binoculars is two years. Big deal.

From reading various reviews, I'm not sure that their Terra ED Chinese-made line is worth the dough over some others out there. I'm about to try the Athlon Midas UHD (generation 1), which are on their way to me for ~$200, and the Carson 3D ED, a model from the Amazon Warehouse, with supposedly a cosmetic blemish on the front for ~$160 (and Carson said they'd fully warranty it). Both get very high marks, and higher marks than the Zeiss Terra ED in some circles. We'll see. But the 'open box' Terra ED for $300, given that they don't review better than the above two (although slightly better than the Monarch 5 (and the Monarch 5 would cost me $40 less than the Terra, with a better written warranty - perhaps in practice it may be different) doesn't make the Terra seemingly a great deal.

It's funny that I'm finding better deals currently on 8x42 models than 8x32 ones. The above mentioned Kowa 8x32 bins don't have ED glass, whereas the 2nd generation models do. The 2nd gen models go for about $80 more new (not 'open box').
 

jgraider

Well-known member
I do not have much experience with the binoculars you have mentioned Analogj, but I do have experience with the Midas HD and the Terra HD. IMO, the Athlon runs circles around the Terra, and it's not real close in performance. The Midas is on par with the Vortex Viper HD, easily. Good luck in your search, and I hope you have some fun with it.
 

AnalogJ

Active member
Right now, a couple of 8x32 options to try are Hawke Endurance ED at ~$200, and Carson 3D ED at $255. Notice I'm trying a pair of a blemished 8x42 Carson 3d ED for $158, and the Athlon Midas UHD for $200.
 

AnalogJ

Active member
I just got in a pair of Carson 8x42 3D ED. They get raves, but I can't get them to focus with extreme sharpness. The Granites and Prostaff 7S are sharper and render much finer detail.

As much as I try playing with the diopter, I can't get it to focus razor sharp. I'm wondering if this pair is an anomaly, given its reputation.

And regarding trying 8x32-ish models, options are relatively few with excellent eye relief. Carson offers the 3D ED with 19.5mm. The Zeiss Terra ED and Hawke Endurance ED offer 18mm. Both the Nikon Prostaff 7S and Monarch 7 offer only about 15mm. The Terra ED was recently designed to up the eye relief.

The Granite 8x42 offers 17.5 and it's cutting off a bit of the image. Clearly, at least for me, the more, the better. The Granite 7x33 offer up 15.5mm.

Of the 8x42 ones I currently have, only the two Prostaff and the Carson give me absolutely full view with my glasses.

If I want to try a more compact model such as an 8x32, the question is whether I'll find a good one with sufficient eye relief.
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi,

you shouldn't use the diopter for normal focusing - just for the initial setup... but anyways if you cannot find a distinct point of best focus the pair has a serious problem.

As for why - paid reviews?

Joachim
 

AnalogJ

Active member
Hi,

you shouldn't use the diopter for normal focusing - just for the initial setup... but anyways if you cannot find a distinct point of best focus the pair has a serious problem.

As for why - paid reviews?

Joachim


No, of course I wouldn't use the diopter for focusing. But I had to check and recheck to make sure I was dialed in properly. The fact that my right eye aches when using it for a bit tells me that there's either something wrong with it, or a mismatch with my eyeglasses.
 

dries1

Member
Analogj,

One thing you will realize with the lower cost glass is to get a good sample. Many will be like yours, (faulty diopter and likely out of collimation) they will be sent back to the vendor only to be sold to the next disappointed customer. The key is if you get a good sample, hold onto it, if it is the one you want to keep.

Andy W.
 

NDhunter

Experienced observer
United States
I just got in a pair of Carson 8x42 3D ED. They get raves, but I can't get them to focus with extreme sharpness. The Granites and Prostaff 7S are sharper and render much finer detail.

As much as I try playing with the diopter, I can't get it to focus razor sharp. I'm wondering if this pair is an anomaly, given its reputation.

And regarding trying 8x32-ish models, options are relatively few with excellent eye relief. Carson offers the 3D ED with 19.5mm. The Zeiss Terra ED and Hawke Endurance ED offer 18mm. Both the Nikon Prostaff 7S and Monarch 7 offer only about 15mm. The Terra ED was recently designed to up the eye relief.

The Granite 8x42 offers 17.5 and it's cutting off a bit of the image. Clearly, at least for me, the more, the better. The Granite 7x33 offer up 15.5mm.

Of the 8x42 ones I currently have, only the two Prostaff and the Carson give me absolutely full view with my glasses.

If I want to try a more compact model such as an 8x32, the question is whether I'll find a good one with sufficient eye relief.

It seems you got a bad example, so return it. Whether you want to replace
it or not, it does make you think. ;)

There are lots of binocular models available, and Carson is not mentioned much on Birdforum.:eek!:

Good luck.
Jerry
 

AnalogJ

Active member
The Carson, The Granite (and versus the Trailseeker ED)

So I could either send the Carson 3D ED back or I could get them exchanged through Carson. I talked to someone in their office and she was terrific in supporting me and them. She did say, given my description of the problem, that it likely suffered from columation, probably due to having been dropped. They're essentially out of alignment. That would be covered under their no-fault warranty.

However, trying both the Carson and the Granite 8x42 outside on the cloudy day in Salem, MA today, the Granite just make things pop, with color and contrast that are distinctly more vivid. I really like that quality. The Carson doesn't render that sort of life to the image. They may be sharper from edge to edge and/or have other qualities that make them great or better (and I'll only know if I were to get another sample to try), that quality of a really vivid image is one I wish for. Is that, indeed, a quality that I'm supposed to get with better bins?

And the Celestron Trailseeker ED (distinct from the plain Trailseeker) is supposed to be the model that supplanted the Granite. I don't know if there has been a upgrade in quality. Their retail price is less expensive than the Granite. Any idea if they actually are better? I talked to someone in tech support at Celestron. He wasn't intimately familiar with either model, but he said that the Granite had had the occasional issue with the eye cups, an issue, he said, improved with the Trailseeker ED.

Thus far, we really like the image out of the Granite. We'd want any other 8x42s we try to give us a similar quality or better. Any thoughts on this?? Whichever bins I end up with, I will need good eye relief to be used with eyeglasses.

Thanks all, and be safe.

Jeff

Jeff
 

AnalogJ

Active member
A Followup For Advice

In case anyone is interested and wants to chime in, I have some further thoughts on choosing binoculars given what I have tried thus far. The priorities I am looking for have shifted a bit.

In the end, I'd love to know whether there are any others in the price vicinity that might be worth trying. All we are trying are returnable for a refund.

1) Now that I have viewed binoculars with a wider field of view, I really appreciate that.

I'm waiting to get a new pair of the Carson 3D ED to try, as the first pair I tried had a collimation problem.

Anyway, I have noticed that with all of the 8x42 binoculars I have tried (and one 7x33) that there's an appreciable improvement in the quality, (i.e., brightness, sharpness, contrast, color) of the image as I go up in price. Field of view is not always improved with price, but I read it can be the case. There are some lower priced ones with wider fields of view than some more expensive ones.

In any event, as I bring in new ones to try, the Celestron Granite 8x24 (and 7x33) have stood apart from the rest. Their center focus is razor sharp, while brightness, color, contrast, and general life given to the image is on their own plane. And their field of view, 426' for the 8x42, and 476' for the 7x33 are outstanding. They're not the lightest of the bunch, but they're not bad either. And that they come with a well-designed harness, which does make them much easier to carry over a longer period, makes them a really good value at this point. The Granite 7x33, with an REI coupon, are $178, The 8x42 bins can be had new for $239.

Today, I got in the Monarch 5 and the Athlon Midas. Just a quick view outside, the much narrower field of view is quite noticeable. And they aren't as razor sharp as the Granites. The color, contrast and brightness is good, but not as good as the Granites. The Athlons' sharpness is also not quite as good as the Granites. Their FOV is on par with the Granites. The Athlon's contrast is very good, better than the Monarch 5, but they're not as bright as either the Nikons or the Granites.

Two things are in the Monarch 5's corner - They're lighter than the other two, and the color is more neutral. Both the Midas and the Granite are just a bit on the warm side. A light gray house across the way's color is true through the Monarch. The color is just a wee bit warm through the other two.

I also noticed that the eye lenses on the Monarch are just a bit less wide than those on the Granite and the Midas. That may be the reason that they're just a little more difficult to use with my eyeglasses to find the sweet spot quickly. I'm sure that I would learn to use them if I ended up choosing them. But the MUCH more expensive Monarch 7 has a substantially wider FOV, and I wouldn't be surprised if their eye lenses are larger as well.

So I'd be willing to try other 8x42s up to about $300 or so if you think they'd be better than the Granites. I know that Cameraland NY has the Zeiss Terra ED as open stock for $299, but their return policy is not great. They'll take them back, but I'd end up paying for shipping both ways, plus a possible restocking fee. And I haven't read that they're worth the original $400 asking price anyway. However if there is consensus that I really ought to try them, I'd strongly consider it.

I still have the Carson 3D ED to audition. As I only got the Athlon Midas and the Nikon Monarch 5 today, I have only looked outside in my yard and across a cemetery at gravestones, rooftops, and houses on a rainy day. But I did also look in a darkened area of my house througj the Midas, Monarch 5, and the Granite. The darkened area was clearly brighter through the Granite with colors that popped much more (there's a colorful kite in the corner of the room) than the other two.

Any ideas for others to try, or have I gotten essentially the best of this price range?

Thanks ya'll. Stay safe.

Jeff
 

AnalogJ

Active member
If you appreciate wide FoV - consider the Kowa BDxII 6.5-32. 10 degrees... unreal.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1521081-REG/kowa_bdii_32_6_5xd_6_5x32_bd_ii_xd.html/specs

They have become wildly popular here. A bit more than your price range.

Also, I'd recommend subscribing to LL Bean - they intermittently offer 25% off quite regularly. With the discount, you can get the Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 for 360$. The Monarch 7's are highly regarded.

6.5x is on the lesser side of power than we'd like. The difference between 7x and 8x isn't a TON, but we're wondering whether we'll appreciate the 42mm on the other side. We haven't really stretched them out, so to speak, to see. But I think we're leaning toward the 8x42. And even at that, the Granite provides a 426' FOV! Of course, the 476' of the 7x33 is still crazy good.

Regarding the Monarch 7, I'd be curious about them. I suppose I could bring a pair in to try and return them. The Monarch 5 also gets great press, but the center of the image isn't as sharp as the Granite, and the contrast isn't quite as good either. But it's really the FOV that does them in for me. Yes, the Monarch 7 is considerably better than that regard, but just how much better will they be than the Granite?

By the way, one other weird flaw on the Nikon Monarch 5 are the rainguards (or eye view cover). Unlike the ones for the Prostaff 7s and 3s which are rubber and fit fairly tightly on, the ones that came with the Monarch 5 are harder plastic and don't fit on tightly, in fact they're a bit loose. So they don't hold on at all if you turn the binoculars upside down. Weird.
 
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cottonbase

Well-known member
If you can stretch to the top of your budget, I'd highly recommend Hawke Frontier ED X 8x42.

Excellent optical quality and FOV, very smooth focus and 10 year warranty (possibly lifetime as in the UK). And very comfortable viewing.

Winner of Best Binoculars Review 2019.

BHphoto price is $399.
 

AnalogJ

Active member
Excellent, I'm Sure

If you can stretch to the top of your budget, I'd highly recommend Hawke Frontier ED X 8x42.

Excellent optical quality and FOV, very smooth focus and 10 year warranty (possibly lifetime as in the UK). And very comfortable viewing.

Winner of Best Binoculars Review 2019.

BHphoto price is $399.

I won't be terribly surprised if those Hawkes are fantastic.

But 1), my wife and I finally decided on a budget of under $300 per set of binoculars.

And 2), the Celestron Granites are so good, that they're more than good enough for us.

The Granite 7x33 is wonderfully bright, razor sharp, colorful, and they're light. Their image during most of the light hours we sampled them in is superior to most of the 8x42s we sampled, and that includes the Athlon Midas, the Carson 3D ED, the Wingspan Skyview, and the Nikon Prostaff 3S and 7S. They are sharper, brighter, with better contrast and color, AND they offer 476' of FOV! Add to that their ~19oz of weight, and they're fantastic. And that we got them in a REI deal for $178 (retail $320), it was hard to not choose those for her. She loves their weight, their balance, and the way they fit in her hand.

While the 8x42 Prostaffs were impressively sharp, neither of them had the pop of the image that either Granite had. We also tried the Nikon Monarch 5. Their 20oz weight is impressive. They were also just about as sharp as the Granites with almost the same amount of image pop. Their color was even a hair more neutral. But their 330' FOV couldn't compete with the Granites.

I ended up with a pair of the 8x42 Granite. Their ~4oz of additional weight is certainly felt over the 7x33 Granite or the Monarch 5. But using the included harness makes them comfortable to walk around in, greatly taking the stress off of my neck and redistributing the weight. Furthermore, as clear, colorful and sharp as the Monarch 5 was (better than any of the other non-Granites I mentioned above), both the Granites were sharper in the center of the image, and more vivid. And the 426' FOV is clearly superior for a 8x42, particularly in the price range (Purchased for $239 via the Celestron website).

Are the 8x42 Granite flawless? Well, there's a teeny bit of CA, only really noticeable if you look hard. They are 24.3oz, which is less than some (like the Midas Cronus that come in at 33oz), but more than the Nikons. They have enough eye relief for me to use with my eyeglasses. Interestingly, using them straight without eyeglasses, I have to struggle a bit to get the complete image without the side shadow intrusions (whatever they're called), but it was just a matter of practice to figure out to lean them against the upper bone of my eye socket. The Nikons are perhaps an easier fit for my face, but as I used the Granite more, I was faster with placing it against my eyes.

I'm sure with a greater budget, I could look for something that is really perfect, but the flaws of the Granite are few and easily forgiven, and the strengths so great. Overall, if you take ALL of their strengths, they're significantly better than the other bins I tried, with only the Monarch 5 coming close if you could forgive the narrow FOV. I wish I could afford the Monarch 7 (which offers a much greater FOV), but just doesn't make sense, given our part-time status as birders, and that the Granite models are SO good. And the 7x33 is even better than the 8x42 overall because of its lesser weight and compactness. I would have gone for one if the eye relief were sufficient to be used with my eyeglasses, but they're not. In very low light situations, yes, the 8x42 were slightly better. But given how light the 7x33 is in the hand, and their 476' FOV, and how close they come to the 8x42, they would have been a great choice, too. In the end, that the harness spreads the weight out so that the 8x42 is comfortable to carry, and its overall performance being so superior, I decided that it was too good to pass up at $239.

The Hawkes you mention, on paper, look very impressive. But on paper, the Granite 8x42 measure similarly. And that's not surprising either, with the 8x42 retailing for $349, and some retailers still selling them for that. On paper, as we know, doesn't mean everything, but the Granite as I have experienced them, are truly impressive. That the Granite better the Monarch 5 in image quality should tell you something.

Thanks,

Jeff
 
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AnalogJ

Active member
To add to this, for those who may read this in the future, I just read a Cornell University review of 128 binoculars from several years ago. It rated the Celestron Granite as being in the top 5 of 8x42 bins in the $400-600 range. According to the review, the Granite model used to retail for $440 (at the time of the review). The Nikon Monarch 7 came in at the top at the time, with the Granite coming in just under it. At some point, the retail was reduced to $349. But as I have discovered, the Granite in 2020 (assuming the unit you get is a good one), far outpunches anything else I tried that cost under $300 current speed price.
 

doug.birdwise

New member
I think the little budget bin shuffle you’re engaged in is a good learning experience, but what I’m hearing is you’re not going to be satisfied with a cheap binocular. You’re inching up the ladder on price and I predict you will end up in the $400-500 msrp range when all is said and done.

In terms of diminishing returns, this is my view:

- $150 or less is generally garbage, the only decent options are porros. Only the most casual binocular user should shop here

- when you get to the $200-300 range (where you are now) you start getting to some really decent glass, thanks to cheap chinese ED market saturation. You’ve seen the difference between a mediocre cheap bin like the ProStaff vs the pop you got from the superior glass and coatings of the Granite ED. A lot of good options at this price point like Monarch 5, Carson ED, Vortex Diamondback, and any number of Chinese OEM options. This is where diminishing returns really kicks in for most casual users.

The problem with this price range is they all have some kind of compromise in terms of ergonomics, build quality, and optics that will bug a more serious user. I’ve used a lot of bins in this price range and they are honestly good enough optically for 90% of people but if you are a fairly heavy birder you’ll start to get annoyed at the flaws and mechanical breakdowns over time.

- When you get to the $400-500 range you get to some seriously good glass — Vortex Viper, Vanguard Endeavor ED, Nikon Monarch 7, Zeiss Terra ED, Meopta Meopro HD, Kowa BD XD II. This is the diminishing returns point for all but the most serious birders. There’s a serious step up in overall quality and a noticeable step up in optics. Not the step up that’s immediately obvious comparing them indoors briefly, but one that you can tell after several hours in the field where it’s just easier to get on the bird and snap it into focus and get that killer view, hour after hour, where the cheaper bins start to get fatiguing. You’ve already noticed the little flaws in the <$300 class, and they will just annoy you more over time as you use them in the field.

This level is good enough for 95%+ of birders, basically anyone who is serious enough to want good optics but doesn’t have the budget or desire to have the very best. This is where I think you are headed, and the key will be to find one of these that has the ergonomics you want but on clearance sale for your $300 budget.

$400-500 glass for $300 is very doable if you shop around. CameralandNY has the Zeiss Terra ED 8x42 open box for $299: https://cameralandny.com/shop/zeiss...420d-0138-8203-00163e90e196?variation=2160626

And if you shop used it’s easy to do (Vortex Viper is a good target because of the no hassle unconditional warranty, so used is low risk).

Also, since you’ve mentioned weight a few times and how you dislikes some of the “chunkier” bins, consider a good quality 8x32. The 8x32 Viper HD is a sweet little pair that can be found for $300-350 used for example. CameralandNY has the first gen Kowa BD XD 8x32 on clearance for $279, excellent glass and very compact and light, the only real knock is they don’t have a huge FOV: https://cameralandny.com/shop/kowa-...422b-0134-b5d9-00163e9110c0?variation=1666056

- The next step up is when you approach $1k. At this point you are at near-alpha glass that is good enough for nearly anyone but the most demanding users (90% of whom are in this forum I think). Nikon Monarch HG, Zeiss Conquest HD, Leica Trinovid, Vortex Razor, Meopta Meostar, and some new players like Tract and Maven that play at this level for a few hundred less. The glass at this level is so good most people would have to look really hard and be told what to look for to see the difference between these and the $2000-3000 alphas.

This level is good enough to be lifetime glass for most people. If you can stretch to $500-700 you can get to this level looking at demos, open box, used, clearance sales etc. Considering your affinity for slender, light handling bins, the Vortex Razor HD and Nikon Monarch HG are good targets if you just want to get to the finish line now and be done with it.
I recently decided to get a quality binocular after many years of owning cheap (less than $100) Binoculars with variable power, small objective lens and questionable quality making them difficult to use. I read many reviews and decided to save a few dollars by not buying top of the line binoculars by the top end manufacturers like Zeiss, Swarovski, Leica, etc. I bought the Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binoculars and have been very pleased with them so far. I considered the Vortex Razor UHD version but decided to forego that model due to the increase in price and increase in weight. I took the advice of many users and sites to get the 8x42 model rather than 10x42 and find that holding the 8x42 steady is enough of a challenge to make me happy I did not get the 10x42 model. Only time will tell if I made a good choice but I am happy so far as the image brightness, clarity and eye relief is clearly an upgrade over the low cost versions I have previously owned.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
That's a good choice, the current Razor HD is a proven optic with many years of good reviews, with an awesome warranty from a company that looks to have real staying power. It is very light and slender and compact for a 42mm, with excellent optics, and you'd have to spend a lot more money to get something only slightly better.

Some people like to hate on Vortex, and I do think the original ~$1200 price point of the Razor HD is not a great value, but priced under $1000 they are very competitive with the Conquest HD and other options in that price range, and other than the Nikon Monarch HG are the only really light weight premium 42mm option. And as I noted in the post you quoted, I feel they represent the best value as a used purchase, since the warranty is the same and you can save quite a bit.

The UHD is an odd duck, which I think has little appeal to a birder. The optics are very nice, but they are huge and a bit awkward and have a very slow focus. I would much rather have the cheaper Razor HD for a lot less money. Smaller, lighter, faster, better handling, 95% as good optically.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
You don't say why you wear glasses, but if you have only refractive errors, and minimal astigmatism, you might see what happens without the glasses. You may be surprised.

Also, do not assume that because you are "part-time birders" that you will only use your binoculars for birding.

You might also consider just one pair and sharing. $600 vs $300 will make a difference, and there is always used.

Many of the compromises in less expensive optics are mechanical, so after a hard bump you may end up being told "Sorry, it will cost more to repair these than to buy a new pair." so be sure bumps and drops are covered.

Good luck in your quest.
(My very, very distant immigrant ancestor was from Salem, long before the witch nonsense)
 
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Jessie-66

Germany
Ich spreche und schreibe eigentlich deutsch, i native speak and write german. But can use an online translator for posts in forums with english language. ;-)

I native speak and write german, я говорю и пишу по-немецки. Но может использовать онлайн-переводчик для сообщений на форумах с английским языком. ;-)

Probably also a question of politeness, to make it easier for others to answer. Вероятно, это также вопрос вежливости, чтобы облегчить другим ответы.

Общественный, международный форум также служит для молчаливых читателей, готовых учиться; диалог нежелателен.
A public, international forum also serves silent readers who are willing to learn; dialogues are undesirable.
 
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