Binnies - Nikon HG are the absolute best but v expensive unless you can do a deal.
Scopes - Kowa 823/824 are the best value for money of all time.
Leica binnies are good optically but the engineering of the focussing wheel with the 'slack' in it make them awful. Many £99.00 binnies have smoother focussing mechanisms.
Swarovski - far too expensive in terms of value for money. The scopes in my opinion for over £1000 are terrible.
Having now upset nearly all the members of this forum one way or another, may I say that each has unique eyes and what may suit one will not suit another so be gentle with me. However, the sloppy focussing wheel of the Leica is nothing to do with eyesight, its just poor engineering.
There is another brand of binnies, sold in WWT shops for £1.99. The spec is 4x16 and although the image leaves a lot to be desired, they must rate as one of the best value for money of all time for binnies. Surely a £600 pair of binnies cannot be 300 times better than the £1.99 ones. (100x better, yes, but not 300x).
What a very good topic , and one that will be very , very informative for others such as myself . To know what other , more experienced people use , can only be of benefit to the less knowledgeable of us . Personally , I use a Kowa 823 scope c/w 20-60 zoom , and a well used pair of swift 8 X 40 bins , both incidentally chosen by virtue of being bargain buys , and not through any prior knowledge .
As a freelance designer, I have to make every penny count. I'd love to spend a coupla grand on really good equipment, but can' t justify that. So, we've got two pairs of Jessop's bins (pocket size) which we got for less than 60 pounds sterling (the pair) and cos I can't aford a Swar or a Leca, just bought the Tasco 15-45x scope which really surprised me with its image quality! Only drawbacks are a very (!) narrow depth of field and light weight (vibration in the wind).
But then again, pencils and paper are a lot cheaper! And that's MY forte!
Well, apart from Photoshop! (and that's even more expesive!)
ps. It's what you get out of birding that counts, not how much you spend!!!!!!
Monkeyman, that is soooooo true!!!!
I just bought a new pair yesterday on my lunch break, the Nikon Sporter I 10x36. It wasn't too expensive, $209.99 (what's that in pounds?). Have any of you birders ever looked through one?
I hope that this spring I'll see some lifer through it.
Oh, by the way, I don't see a key for the pound sign on this Gateway keyboard.
I agree with the sentiments on cost of equipment. I know what I'd like to have but rarely can I afford it.
I have made do with various pairs of binoculars over thirty years of birdwatching and have found my self replacing them every few years. Most had decent optics setting out (or so I thought) but even looking after them very carefully, the image deteriorates or more likely my eyesight !
I picked up a pair of Leica 8x32's secondhand a couple of months back and to be honest the image quality is just so much better, clearer, more defined, greater depth of field, larger viewable image for spectacle wearers ....
I honestly believe that if I had splashed out on a pair several years ago, I would have probably saved money in the long run !
I only got into fairly serious birding this spring. I have been using a pair of Sirius 10x25's which optically seem quite reasonable to me and invested in 3 pairs of 8(GBP) cheapies from 7sayshop.co.uk which I keep in the car and jacket pockets ( its better having a cheap pair with you than none at all! ), but at age 54 with eyes that go with the age a new pair of bins will soon be required.
As a first scope I bought an Opticron MM2 with a 25x eyepiece and a Velbon 444 tripod, both are at the lightest ( probably about 2.5lb the pair) and cheapest end of the market. I wanted to get into digiscoping at sometime so I have treated myself to a new scope this week, Opticron ES80 HD with a 32x HDF eyepiece, its so much better that the MM2. However, its so much heavier and the Velbon 444 is not up to scratch, so need a better tripod!. I have an old digital camera ( 640x480 ) no zoom and now see why a Zoom camera is required!. Photo's without zoom are O.K. upto about 20-30 foot, after that things get a little difficult, so, also a new camera required!. Maybe next Christmas.
And I thought fishing was expensive!.
Maybe I should just sit and vegitate, in the warm and dry watching the birdies on the feeders, with a good book on my lap and a Sherry at my elbow ( or maybe the other way round )!.
Hope the weathers better where you are. Wet, Wet, Wet, flooded and even more wet here!.
Anyway, I hope the fat man in the red suit brought you what you desired.
WE have Bushnell Bins times 2 and a pocket size pair as well. I also have a pair of Nikon bins..(left in a will to me) and Busnell scope...a friend has the new Swar scope and wow .. but the price is here in Canada to be bled for... no way unless we win the lotto.
We have great cameras, good lens, and super accessories.. but that is that... we like what we have and have had them for years now.. it works for our eyes and frankly Lee has the BEST eye sight of any living mortal ,so most times I do not even have to search.. he finds 'em and I point that direction!!!
Expensive does not always mean better... it sometimes just means that person spent more...
I say whatever works is good enough for me...and as long as you derive enjoyment from that which you have.. then it is all a moot point.
For years i used a great pair of 10x50 Pentax, they did the job but i was restricted & living in Sunny Wales waterproof bins is a must, Pentax were not!.
I tried a mates Leica 8x32 and they were good but only trying them for a a few mins you cant really tell.
Before Xmas i got a pair of 8-12x42 Leica and to be very honest here, they are outstanding, used them fist coming upto dusk and looking at a post which was dark on my side looking with the naked eye, with the Duovid's it was like daylight not dusk. the only down side is the weight but this is similar to what i am used to so it just about evens out.
i was told you only get what you pay for and with the Leica this seems to be the case, would i pay the price again...... Yes but only if your really into your birding.
now i am looking for a scope but after reading all the reports on makes, you really have to make up your own mind so i will be looking around all this year for a good pair before i spend any cash.
only advise i can give is speak to people who have them & get first had advise, shops will always tell you "this is best or that is best" make up your own mind then go for it.
Get the best and they should last a lifetime....that's where the money goes, build quality and after sales service!
I've heard amazing stories of how far Swarovski go to keep their customers happy.... givng replacement equipment whilst they send off the sick optics off to Austria, often free of any charge....even if you did something stupid!
How these scopes and binos feel in use is vital, optically they are often similar at the top end.... so weight and comfort over extended periods of use becomes the deciding factor in many cases.
My own opinion is that Swarovski are currently producing the best sporting optics. The EL range of binos (I have 10x42) only have the Nikon HG's as serious competition to my eyes, and the HG's seemed very heavy and bulky to me. I thought the Leica BN's were best for colour though.....so it depends on your priorities (brightness, contrast, colour or sharpness).
Consequently, I prefer the Swarovski 80HD scopes, but this is down to optical quality more than a friendly design (never liked the sharp edges on them, new ATS is more cuddly!). Kowa 823/4 would be my next choice.... great value.
Pentax DCF WP 8x42 - waterproof, phase-corrected, roof prisms.
I love 'em and am still astonished from time to time with the bright, clear image. A friend bought a pair of these, but their eyecups kept sliding back down. He gave them to his wife and bought a pair of Nikon Venturers (8x). These are $1000+ binocs (the Nikons). I had him try my Pentaxes, which do not have the sliding eyecup problem, and he said that if his were like mine (and a return to the seller for a replacement would have accomplished this), he never would have gotten the Nikons. After rebate, he got the Pentaxes for less than $200!!!!!
Backup binocs: Nikon Action series 7x35. Good to keep in the car, and a very wide field of view (good for beginning birders, IMHO).
Scope: Eagle Optics Raven 78mm, w/20-60x zoom eyepiece. I've posted in another forum about this scope, and would only change out the eyepiece for a 30x wide-angle (which hopefully will come out from Eagle Optics).
Tripod: Bogen (Manfrotto) 3021, with Bogen 3130 fluid head. Works like a charm.
I'm pretty pleased with my setup, especially considering my budget (I'm a teacher). I shopped for a long time and read everything I could get my hands on before deciding on binocs or scope.
Peter: If you can get hold of the November issue of Bird Watching, they did a side-by-side comparison of the 4500 and the 995. If you can't get it I can scan it and send you a copy if you like. My digiscoping acquaintance uses the 4500 and he gets some great photos, which he gets developed at Asda, as he doesn't have a computer. The article in BW puts the 995 at the top. I'm still confused as I'm getting quite mixed results with the 995, but as I've stated before, this could be the camera's focus at fault. Unless I'm just expecting too much perfection.
Geoff: I recently upgraded my Manfrotto 190 tripod to the 443 carbon-fibre. I kept the 128RC head though. It's quite a bit lighter and is very stable, although I haven't been out in any strong winds yet. It really does absorb the movement quickly. I tested it in the shop by taking my scope and camera and setting it all up on the tripod. Looking through the camera monitor, I touched the tripod leg and watched how long it took for the image to stabilise. The proof of the pudding is in my recent photos, some of which I've put in the Gallery. These were taken in a packed hide, with people moving and coming in and out. With my other Manfrotto, I had loads of shots from hides that were clearly spoiled due to camera shake - and I thought I'd waited for everyone to stop moving.
Got Photoshop Elements 2 bundled with Photoshop 7. It's still sitting in the box unused, and I expect that's where it will stay, unless there's something on there that Photoshop can't do (which is highly unlikely).