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Six 5X, 6X, and 7X reverse porros compared (1 Viewer)

As I mentioned in my Say Hello post, I'm not a birder; I got into binoculars in December 2022 after learning that my 12-year-old stepgrandson was a birder. I bought a Bausch and Lomb Custom Compact 7x26 for him. But one thing led to another, and I acquired a total of 18 reverse porroprism models. Why only reverse porros? So I won't spend even more money trying roof prisms and conventional porros.
With three or four exceptions, each model promised to be a contender for best of breed among reverse porros that shared its magnification and field of view. For example, three models had a high apparent field of view (an AFOV of 60 degrees or more): Bushnell 7x25, Bushnell 8x30, and Bausch and Lomb 9x25. They can't compete against the other models for resolution and contrast, and I judged them accordingly.
I was going to wait until I had ample time to write up my findings with ample photographs and a detailed table comparing their specs and my category ratings (ease of view, ease of focusing, resolution, and so on). But I work full-time and didn't want to delay sharing my impressions. I look forward to adding the photos and table later.
Without further ado, here are my impressions of the 5X, 6X, and 7X models. I'll cover the 8X to 9X models in a separate thread. The prices I paid include 6 percent Maryland sales tax.

5X, 6x, and 7X reverse porroprism binoculars
  • 5x21 Sightron Safari ($89 shipped new on U.S. eBay). Designed in Japan, made in China. Also sold as the Hinode A5; a better version, the 5x21 Hinode A5+ with better blackening and ED glass, was briefly made and impossible to find. With a 55° AFOV, the Sightron provided a nice, relaxing view. But more than that, it provided unexpectedly satisfying resolution, contrast, and ergonomics. I would have kept it as my take-everywhere pants-pocket binoc, but my 35-year-old daughter and her husband claimed it as one of two binoculars I said they could keep for their travels. Now I'm glad they chose the Sightron because I discovered that I prefer old-style fold-down rubber eyecups to twist-up plastic eyecups. All the same, I highly recommend the Sightron/Hinode, available in black, red, or white from Sightron and in white or brown from Hinode.
  • 6x21 Hinode 6x21 S1 ($125 slightly used on U.S. eBay). Designed in Japan, made in China. as small as the 5x21 Sightron and a tad lighter. A variant is sold as the Vixen M6-21. Hinode specializes in low-power optics (1.8X to 6X), and for the S1 was the company's flagship compact binocular until it was succeeded by the 5x21 A5+. I'm impressed by its resolution and ease of focus. Compared to a 6x25 Custom Compact, it's not quite as bright; and eye placement is more finicky. But it's a snap to focus. And unlike the Custom Compact, the Hinode 6x21 fits in a pocket. In fact, it lives in my front pants pocket, in a zip-type sandwich bag. If I had to do it over, I'd get the Vixen, which unlike the Hinode is still made and includes a built-in tripod mount.
Before I get to the Custom Compacts, I will note that on three of them I replaced the eyecups with OMAX AER232 eyecups to make them easier to use.
  • 6x25 Bushnell Custom Compact, generation 3--side strap lugs (three used specimens, from $50 shipped to $80 shipped on U.S. eBay). Designed in the USA, made in Japan. A relaxing view, superb ergonomics, ample eye relief, and breathtaking resolution--there's nothing not to like about the final version of the venerable 6x25 Custom Compact. I take that back: It can't focus closer than 13 feet because unlike the 7x26 gen. 3, its optics were not redesigned for close focus. So the 6x25 is not suitable for butterfly watching, watching stuff indoors, or watching birds on your porch from your kitchen window. Despite its lack of close focus, the gen. 3 6x25 did benefit from better-placed strap lugs and, I think, a better multicoating. The colors seemed true enough to me. I prefer the 6x25 Custom compact to its 7x26 stablemate, even in that model's fully multicoated Bausch and Lomb incarnation. But I'll probably give away my two remaining specimens; I have my pocketable Hinode for 6x, letting me step up to 8X, 8.5X, or 9X for my "serious" model.
  • 7x25 Bushnell Ensign 9.3-Degree ($24 shipped, used, U.S. eBay). The more-common 7x25 Ensign has a lackluster reputation. But someone on this forum reported that the 9.3-degree version was much better. All I can say is, the 7.x-degree version must be dreadful. I found this wide-angle Ensign lacking in brightness, contrast, ease of focusing, and close focus--23 feet! To its credit, this Ensign had decent depth of field and respectable resolution for a compact with a 66-degree AFOV. But those virtues could not make up for its shortcomings.
  • 7x26 Bushnell Custom Compact, generation 3--side strap lugs (two used specimens, $63 and $114 shipped from U.S. eBay). Designed (originally) in the USA, made in Japan; I suspect the close-focus optics of the gen. 3 were designed in Japan. I found these Bushnells to be as good as their Bausch and Lomb successor in every respect. Just not as good as the Bushnell 6x25. I think the 6x25 resolves better for its magnification; any detail that I could make out with the 7x26, I could make out with the 6x25. Not only that, but the 7x26's focusing is rather finicky. Yes, it snaps in to focus, but it snaps out just as quickly and depth of field is rather shallow.The $63 specimen is a beater model that I keep in my car; the right ocular can jump out of its slot if you're not careful. On the $114 specimen, one lug snapped off as I tried to lift the shortened neckstrap over my head. So it lives in our kitchen, ready to grab to watch a bird on our porch or a deer in our backyard. If anyone has a gen. 3 and a gen. 2, please let us know whether the switch to a closer-focus optical scheme led to any optical compromises. Maybe that's why I found the depth of field too shallow.
  • 7x26 Bausch and Lomb Custom Compact Audubon ($139 shipped, barely used, U.S. eBay). To my eyes, the Bausch and Lomb was no better than the 7x26 Bushnell Custom Compact.
There you have it. Of the six models, one--the Bushnell 6x25 Custom Compact--fills me with joy when I hold it or gaze through it. Two others--the 5x21 Sightron/Hinode and the 6x21 Hinode/Vixen--come in solid second place. I can recommend any of the three
MarylandUSA, thanks for sharing your observations. Many members here recommend the Pentax 6.5x21 Papilio II reverse porro. They offer great close views of plants, insects, etc. And they're also good for birding. I have a pair and really enjoy them.
MarylandUSA, thanks for sharing your observations. Many members here recommend the Pentax 6.5x21 Papilio II reverse porro. They offer great close views of plants, insects, etc. And they're also good for birding. I have a pair and really enjoy them.
I've read nothing but good things about the Papilio II. But I wouldn't benefit from its ultraclose focus, so I prefer to hold out for an exit pupil of 3.5 or larger in exchange for the lower magnification.
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