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Looking for new mid price range allround birding binoculars (considering Kowa especially) (1 Viewer)

pyrrhula

Member
Austria
I'm looking for new allround binoculars, low-mid price range (below 500€), preferably 8x magnification. I'm mainly birding in forests, grassland/agricultural landscape and sometimes around lakes. Mainly in daylight.

Background: I've been birdwatching for only about a year and when I first started I thought it was a good idea to get 150€ Nikon zoom binoculars (which wasn't a good idea). The flaws they have, mainly because of the zoom (very narrow field of view, dark image, kinda fuzzy image, no adjustable eyecups, etc.), are now bothering me too much and I don't need the zoom anyway since I own a scope now. Just saying this so you know what I'm upgrading from.

Hence I'm looking to get new binoculars. I kinda fell in love with the Kowa BD II 8x32 XD due to their visual appearance as well as the wide field of view and the amazing minimum focus distance. I also took a look at the 8x42 model but I don't see what would be it's advantage apart from the exit pupil which I don't necessarily need - field of view and minimum focus distance is even worse on them than on the 8x32 model. Is there anything wrong with the Kowa BD II 8x32 XD or would it be a good choice for an allround binocular?

Apart from the Kowa binoculars I'm also considering the Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 which have very similar specs to the Kowa 8x32 and a very similar price tag. They are just not as visually appealing to me - but in the end that's not what matters anyway.

What are your thoughts on this? Are the Kowas a good choice or should I go with the Zeiss or would you recommend a different brand or even a different configuration entirely? As I'm a beginner I will be happy about any more informed opinion!

(P.S. Hope this wasn't too long and too messy.)
 
I have the 6.5x32 Kowa BD11WD and love it.
I got the 10x42 Kowa and returned it - headaches with viewing.

So much of binocular choice is one's personal preference.
If at all possible go to a store with a good selection of binoculars and try for yourself before buying,
if you cannot then get one from a dealer with a good return policy.

There are a lot of options but I would suggest an 8x42, or a lighter weight 8x32

edj
 
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Are the Kowas a good choice?

Yes, in my view they are, I use the BD II models 6.5x32 and 8x42 a lot and find them very good value for the money (Terra 8x32, which I also have, is no competition for the Kowas). The Hawke mentioned by Ratal would also be a good choice, among others in that price range.

Canip
 
My sincere advice would be to listen to the above suggestions and using that knowledge find a shop where you can look at and look through the binoculars.
The binoculars need to feel comfortable in your hands and when you look through them.
good luck
 
Another suggestion:

Celestron 8x42 Regal ED FF with a 140/1000m FoV

I like flat field binoculars, after using Canon IS bins for a while. When I go back to any bins with FC, I don't like 'outer field distortion'.

Edit:

The possible shortcomings with the Regals are long eye relief than can result in kidney beans if not wearing glasses and they are not lightweight (flat field lens maybe?)

My top benchmark is the Canon 10x42L ..... So all these value bins suggested are compared against quite a high bar.

If you don't mind some FC, I consider this a real bargain too -

Barr and Stroud Series 5 8x42 ..... with a 142m FoV. An ED version is available, if CA is an issue for you. For me CA is minimal without the ED glass.

And then there are the Svbony SV202s EDs ...... Again good value, with some FC, but nice bright views, ED glass, magnesium body, good product support, etc.
 
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The new Nikon Prostaff might be worth a look. I got the P7 8x30. The field of view is almost as wide as the Kowa. It's a little 'plasticky' and the build quality is much nicer on the Kowas (I got the BD II 6.5x32) but the optics of the P7 are pretty good. Very little color fringing from what I can see.
Reiher im Gebüsch.jpg
That was just q'n'd taken while holding it with my cheapo smartphone.
I took another one where you can see just some slight fringing when you zoom in but I see none when just looking through it.
(edit: one downside to the P7 however - eye relief is too short to use it with glasses)
IMG_20220707_183310.jpg
 
My partner has a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 which she loves.
The cost of these binoculars has risen since she bought hers (she paid £300) but worth looking through to check whether they suit your hands and eyes.
 
I have the 6.5x32 Kowa BD11WD and love it.
I got the 10x42 Kowa and returned it - headaches with viewing.
Thanks for letting me know!

If at all possible go to a store with a good selection of binoculars and try for yourself before buying,
if you cannot then get one from a dealer with a good return policy.
find a shop where you can look at and look through the binoculars.
I would absolutely love to but I can't because they're only selling Swarovski and Leica around here which I cannot afford so I'm not even going to try that stuff out - sadly no chance of trying out a Kowa or something like that anywhere near.

Hawke ED-X 8x42 - But if you are set on the Kowa, they are a great bin.
Thanks for the recommendation, I will have a look at them!

Yes, in my view they are, I use the BD II models 6.5x32 and 8x42 a lot and find them very good value for the money (Terra 8x32, which I also have, is no competition for the Kowas). The Hawke mentioned by Ratal would also be a good choice, among others in that price range.
Good to know, thanks for sharing your opinion on them!

Celestron 8x42 Regal ED FF with a 140/1000m FoV
they are not lightweight (flat field lens maybe?)
Thanks for the recommendation! I think they might indeed be a bit too heavy for me.

I like flat field binoculars, I don't like 'outer field distortion'.
Really can't say if it would bother me too much due to my lack of experience with different binoculars but thanks for bringing it up, it's definitely something to consider. From reviews I have heard that it is indeed present in the Kowas.

Barr and Stroud Series 5 8x42

And then there are the Svbony SV202s EDs
I will check these out too!

The new Nikon Prostaff might be worth a look. I got the P7 8x30. The field of view is almost as wide as the Kowa. It's a little 'plasticky' and the build quality is much nicer on the Kowas (I got the BD II 6.5x32) but the optics of the P7 are pretty good. Very little color fringing from what I can see.
Thanks for the recommendation and for sharing the pictures! From what my untrained eye can see there is indeed hardly any color fringing in the pictures, especially the 2nd one.

My partner has a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 which she loves.
Thanks for letting me know!
 
I suggest just going with the Kowa BD II 8x32 since you’re already attracted to the design and features and seem to be most interested in this model. Don’t drive yourself mad looking at a ton of different binoculars. Go with your instinct. I have a feeling you’ll like it and it will serve you well. Kowa has an excellent reputation.
 
I have a pair of Kowa BD II XD's in 8x42. They are pretty solid and I like them. Build quality is pretty darn good. I really like the eye cups, they are big and soft and rubbery and mine feel very solid. Little to no play in them and they stay placed. I did return my first pair b/c of a hitch in the focus wheel, which in reality wasn't that bad at all but I had a window for free returns and just decided to play it safe. The sweet spot is very sharp in these but there's definitely some edge softness, which is just a fact of life at this price point. CA in the sweet spot is well controlled. Pretty darn bright even at dusk. They are also very light and pretty small in the hand for an 8x42 which is very nice. Nice green rubbery outer shell. Overall I highly recommend them. If you're in the US you should try and order form B&H Photo, they have free returns up to 30 days. Also, they will price match with a lot of places if you just call and ask. I got mine for $50 off b/c they price matched with another retailer after I called and asked.

Here's some pictures of mine.
 

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I'm also considering the Kowa 8x32 & the 6.5x32. I have the Maven B2 9x45, the Maven B3 10x30 & the Vortex Diamondback 12x50. Why so many & considering another? I bird in different situations - 9x45 is my most often used (near alpha-level optics), 12x50 for long distance viewing where FOV is of less concern, 10x30 for when I'm on my bicycle (most viewing is at fairly long distances & they fit in my handlebar pouch). The Kowas would be for situations where I am in relatively tight, dense foliage. etc. & need that exceptionally wide angle. That's a wordy way to say consider how you will be most often using your new glass. Close viewing, birds that move a lot, following birds in flight (especially swallows/swifts!) means big FOV is critical. Long distances (such as Elkhorn Slough where I frequently go) don't have as much need for the wide viewing angles & here higher power (so often overrated) becomes more important.

Consider light levels. If you will use the binos at dawn or dusk consider a larger exit pupil (unless you're old like me & your pupils no longer dilate like a younger person's will). Really good light transmission is really important at all ages in low light conditions.

Weight? Heavier glass doesn't bother me (The 9x45 set is HEAVY.), but it legitimately matters to others, especially those hiking significant distances with their glass, field bag, etc.

I notice you mentioned several 32 mm models. I have medium-large hands & while I can use the compact binos, I actually prefer using the larger glass. If your binos are not comfortable & pleasant to use you will likely use them less. If a 42 mm objective works for you, there are several good choices in your price range. Vortex has recently improved their Viper line & they have very good FOVs. (Is that correct usage?) Good reviews & unbeatable warranty.

One last thought (whew!): Your considered binos are 8x - good! You haven't been seduced by power fever. (Almost) everyone should start with 8x or even lower power. Consider, when you can afford another pair (or like me, buy them before you can afford them), 10x or even 12x as a second pair IF some of your viewing will be at long distance AND you have steady hands.

I hope this helps.

Ed
 
The Kowas are a nice all around bino and I bet you’d be happy with them. In Nikon the equivalent model is the Monarch 7 recently upgraded and now called the M7. The Monarch line is a big step up from the Prostaff line and over here just a little bit more expensive than the Kowa. The 8x42 has a truly immersive and wide field ofview and is very light, 670 grams, for an 8x42. I’ve owned the and the Kowa 8x32 and prefer the Nikons but both were very nice. Also I and others here believe the fov is not as wide as Kowa states. Nikon has also announce a new Monarch M7+ in 8x30 with field flattening. I’m not sure if it’s available yet. I’ve owned the Monarch 7 in 8x30 and it was not very good with glare and also the eyecups were too small and short for me, resulting in blackouts. Finally it’s nice when you find a bino that’s appearance is visually appealing to you but the optical performance and build quality are most important. Good luck!
 
Go with your instinct.
Thank you for the reassurance, after hearing mostly positive opinions on them so far I might just do so...

I have a pair of Kowa BD II XD's in 8x42. They are pretty solid and I like them.
Thank you for the little review and the pictures, really appreciate it!
If you're in the US you should try and order form B&H Photo, they have free returns up to 30 days.
I'm not in the US unfortunately but I will try to find a shop with good return conditions.

That's a wordy way to say consider how you will be most often using your new glass.
As a lot of my birding so far happens in more densely overgrown areas I was considering 8x magnification and a larger field of view, for more open landscapes and lakes I usually take my scope with me and use binoculars mostly for spotting where again a larger fov seems good.
Consider light levels.
My current pair weighs over 800g and I definitely want the new ones to weigh less and be overall more compact. That's why I'm tending to the 32 model but of course I'm paying for that with the smaller exit pupil. However, there's only 100g difference between the Kowa 8x32 and the 42. Hard to decide if weight or light level at dawn and dusk is more important...
I have medium-large hands & while I can use the compact binos, I actually prefer using the larger glass.
I was thinking about this too and was worried that I might not like small binoculars because of my very long fingers but in the end I won't know until I try them. This could also be a reason to rather go for the 42s...
You haven't been seduced by power fever.
Well, I kind of have been with my first pair, which is a zoom ;)
I hope this helps.
Thanks for the advice!

In Nikon the equivalent model is the Monarch 7 recently upgraded and now called the M7.
Thanks for recommending them, I will have a look at them.
Also I and others here believe the fov is not as wide as Kowa states.
Good to know!
Finally it’s nice when you find a bino that’s appearance is visually appealing to you but the optical performance and build quality are most important.
Of course I agree on that!
 
Lots of good options here. I had a similar buget to you and have been very happy with the 7x42 habicht ga's I picked up for £425 second hand. Alpha glass for very little money but MANY compromises. Opticron travellers are pretty good in the price bracket too.
 
You also might want to check out some of opticrons offerings in that price range.
Thanks for recommending!

I had a similar buget to you and have been very happy with the 7x42 habicht ga's I picked up for £425 second hand.
That sounds like a great buy. I think they are more than 1000€ new... I've been looking for a while to find decent offers for used binoculars too but couldn't find anything worth it.
 
Have had bad experience with build quality and QC with Opticron. If you buy a pair make sure it’s from a dealer with a good return policy! Did really like a pair of Natura 8x32s I had though. When they came out with the ED model they were initially made in China and the pair I got was very poor. Now they have moved production back to Japan like the originals but unfortunately dropped the 8x32s from the line up. They 42s are nice but have narrow fovs so I think there are better options like the M7s. Also Kowa is running a great deal on Genesis 8x32s here. Not sure if they are in your area though. A little more money but an incredible value on really nice binos.
 
Warranted 2nd hand?? Far better value. 8x32 Zeiss Conquests 2nd hand are in your budget... and will leave you wanting nothing.
Focalpoint Optics
Ace Optics
Wex
I'm sure they would all post abroad.
 
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