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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Magnification of handheld binoculars (2 Viewers)

Which magnification do you prefer in handheld binoculars?

  • 6x

    Votes: 8 7.4%
  • 7x

    Votes: 40 37.0%
  • 8x/8.5x

    Votes: 69 63.9%
  • 10x

    Votes: 32 29.6%
  • 12x

    Votes: 3 2.8%
  • 12x

    Votes: 1 0.9%
  • 15x

    Votes: 4 3.7%
  • Other

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    108

Hermann

Well-known member
One of the questions frequently asked on this forum is which magnification works best in handheld binoculars. 30 years or ago so the answer would have been obvious - 10x was the most often used magnification by far. Later many people started using lower power binoculars, especially when more people started carrying a scope at all times. In addition people noted the detrimental effects of handshake at high magnifications and some other advantages of low power binoculars, such as a larger exit pupil at a given objective size and a larger depth of field. So quite a few people switched to 8x binoculars. At the same time the demand binoculars with even lower power such as 7x binoculars dropped so that many manufacturers (such as Swarovski and Zeiss) stopped making them.

Today the situation seems more confusing than ever. There are stabilized binoculars that allow the use of high magnifications without loss any loss of detail due to handshake. In addition, I've got a feeling an increasing number people don't carry scopes anymore on a regular basis. They carry cameras in addition to their binoculars, and a scope (+tripod) adds even more weight to their gear. This may explain the increasing interest in higher power binoculars, such as the Swarovski 12x42 NL Pure.

I thought it may be interesting to do a poll on this question. I want to focus on binoculars without stabilization here, since the number of users of stabilized binoculars seems rather low for a variety of reasons. Feel free to post your reasons for your choice (or choices) and whether you also use a scope (or scopes).

Please note I won't take an active part in any ensuing discussion for a while so as not to influence the results of the poll.

Hermann
 
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Stevenkelby

Well-known member
Australia
I started with 10,went to 12, then 15, ignorantly thinking I was going to see more.

I love my image stabilised binoculars, but even the very smallest, Nikon 10x25 STB10X25BL, is a bit much for edc.

10x is great for peaceful views on a tripod or parallelogram. But purely handheld, my search is over. Between 6.5x and 7x is the best for me.
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Moin,

The question "and whether you also use a scope (or scopes)" should have gone into the poll answers.

Like "8x and no scope" and "8x and scope" as separate tick boxes.

Your introductory text is quite good, but I fear the poll results will be too vague as the two potential clusters of answers will be indistinguishable in the accumulated answer count.

Regards,

Henning
 

Hauksen

Forum member
Not to be argumentative, but I believe whether or not you have/use a scope is irrelevant to the original question.

(just my opinion)
Hi,

as Hermann wrote above,

"Later many people started using lower power binoculars, especially when more people started carrying a scope at all times.",

it would have been logical to set up the poll to test for this correlation.

I know it certainly influences how I think about binoculars. They're tools that have to fit in with the rest of the workshop, in my opinion.

Regards,

Henning
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Hmmm, this is a tough (and interesting) one.

Maybe on the line of what Hauksen is saying and Hermann pointed in the OP, the fact of carrying a scope can easily change your vote. For example, I’m a regular scope user, and 8x+scope is a very common combination. However, I’ve been enjoying stabilised 12x over the last months, and I use them almost on a daily basis, although I might leave them at home if I’m carrying a scope (I guess many forum members could relate to this regarding their 10x or 12x… but just guessing here).

However, since the original question is "Which magnification do you prefer in handheld binoculars?”, I’m afraid there is no simple answer for many (and I guess that’s the reason Hermann very wisely allowed multiple votes), since many forum members enjoy using more than one pair of binoculars (the same way many people have different shoes for different purposes or even just for the sake of it).

Personally, I’ve never quite well grasped 10x, to my eyes they give very little more than 8x. I guess I wanted 10x to show what 12x (or more) show. So I tend to use 8x the most, but for mere reasons of availability: most lightweight quality x32 binoculars are 8x, and my most used binoculars have always been x32/30. So in my case it’s more a matter of what's there to choose in x32 than which my favourite magnification is. If there was a 7x32 Traveller HD, Conquest HD, or a 7x32 EL SV, 7x30 HG, Ultravid, Razor, etc., I’d probably use a 7x32 as my main pair, because 7x is the magnification I enjoy the most, the combination of steady view and enhanced depth of field is just perfect. As Blue72 says, "the serenity of 7x binoculars are unbeatable". I liked that!

So, for me:
What’s your "go-to"?
8x
What’s your favourite?
7x

What do you use the most?
8x, 12x IS, 7x. In this order (although the two first positions have been reversed over the last months).
 

jafritten

Well-known member
I prefer 7x over 8x because of the greater depth of focus. I don't usually notice the difference in magnification between 7x and 8x, so 15% greater magnification is not a relevant factor for me. Moreover, a 7x has a larger exit pupil when the objective size is the same. Does jitter play a role here? Not really. I'd rather put the intensity of jitter down to ergonomics and balance and weight. I also like 10x binoculars because of their strong magnification and their large AFOV. A 10x must be well balanced, though, to be enjoyable because jitter does play a role as the magnification increases. Interestingly, body shake is a much more critical issue for me than hand shake.

So, I ticked 7x and 10x and I never carry a spotter.
 

Hermann

Well-known member
The question "and whether you also use a scope (or scopes)" should have gone into the poll answers.

Like "8x and no scope" and "8x and scope" as separate tick boxes.

Your introductory text is quite good, but I fear the poll results will be too vague as the two potential clusters of answers will be indistinguishable in the accumulated answer count.
Moin Henning, you may well be right. I thought about including a distinction between "scope" and "no scope", however, I thought it might make things to complicated. One of the problems is there are also some people (possibly an increasing number) who use cameras with long lenses (like the Nikon P1000) as a substitute for a scope. They make the ID later at home at the computer. That would have introduced another category.

But you're probably right, including a distinction between "scope" and "no scope" would have made things clearer. I myself sometimes (but not always) use a higher power binocular when I don't carry a scope. A friend of mine uses 8x when carrying a scope, and 12x when he doesn't.

Hermann
 

qwerty5

Well-known member
United States
I bought a 10x 3 1/2 years ago as a beginner because I thought bigger was better. I am still using it and have no desire for a lower power binocular. The image shake is not horrible, and while a larger field of view would be nice, I don't have a hard time following warblers. I find that it's hard to see details on birds in the canopy even with my 10x, so I have no desire for a lower magnification, larger FOV notwithstanding.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
I bought a 10x 3 1/2 years ago as a beginner because I thought bigger was better. I am still using it and have no desire for a lower power binocular. The image shake is not horrible, and while a larger field of view would be nice, I don't have a hard time following warblers. I find that it's hard to see details on birds in the canopy even with my 10x, so I have no desire for a lower magnification, larger FOV notwithstanding.
I also bit on 10X (42) for my first "really good" binoculars, and stuck with it for my second pair.

I used the second pair until inevitably advancing age made the weight more significant.

At that point I switched to 8X (32) in order to have a larger (than 10X32) exit pupil, and I am delighted with the new glass.

I fail to see the economy in purchasing two (or a series of) $900 glasses instead of one $1800 glass which will inevitable be "better" whatever that word may mean to the individual.
 

dorubird

Well-known member
Romania
I'm a "10x" guy from 42mm up.
I'm a "8x" or "7x" guy from 32mm down.

But if I had put myself in the situation to have only one pair of binoculars, it would be a 10x42 one. My most used handheld binoculars is a 10x42 which, in my opinion, is the most versatile format (not too big/ not too small, not too much power/not too anemic power...right in the middle). A even balanced format with a large AFOV...We, the "10x lovers", we know that we are a minority among bird watchers :)
 
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Blue72

Well-known member
If that poll represented folks world wide, 7X glass would be manufactured in higher numbers, however it is not, ergo the limited field (sample size) of the poll.

agreed, but this represents optics enthusiasts who more then likely tried various magnifications. The enthusiast community often has an Impact on future products. As amateurs look for their reviews before purchasing.

you see this with various industries. with that said hopefully we will see a rebound of 7x
 

jafritten

Well-known member
If that poll represented folks world wide, 7X glass would be manufactured in higher numbers, however it is not, ergo the limited field (sample size) of the poll.
True - this poll represents connoisseurs :)

My theory is that casual buyers go for higher magnifications because magnification is the very reason why many people buy binoculars. In an online world in which customer advice is outsourced to the would-be buyers, less savvy or discerning buyers are taken in by greater numbers. Why buy a 7x if you can have a 16x for the same price? The presumption here is that a great many people buy their binoculars online for whatever reason.

If would-be buyers go to a good shop and take sound advice, they'll probably end up buying an 8x because it is arguably the best compromise.

If I had to live with one pair of binoculars for the rest of my life, I would be hard pressed to make a decision. I might, in fact, decide in favour of an 8x. Having the luxury to have two pairs, the decision is easy: a 7x and a 10x.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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