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What price range gets most for your money? (2 Viewers)

DJM

New member
United States
Hello, I'm new to the forum. I'm a relative novice and bought a pair of Viking Badger bins last year. They've been great in getting me outside and looking but they obviously have there limitations as they only cost £90.

I'm wanting to upgrade but was wondering at what price point is the best value. I'm happy to spend quite a bit more but realise as with most products there can be limited gains despite huge price differences.

What would real world differences be from say a £500 to £1000?

Does anybody have any recommendations within that price range. So far I've looked at GPO Passion and Hawke Frontier in 8x42. Should I consider any others?

Thanks
Whatever price point you decide on, make sure the binocular will work for you. For example, eye relief is an important item to consider for people who wear eyeglasses but is not as important for people who do not wear glasses. Then there is magnification: if most of your birding is done at close range, a 7X or 8X may be a good choice. But if you often observe more distant birds like hawks, waterfowl or shorebirds a 10X may be a better choice. Then you need to consider the size and weight of the binocular. What are you comfortable carrying. Some relatively low cost binoculars can perform reasonably well. I have an 8x42 Nikon Monarch 5 that I purchased for $230 that has good image clarity and the long eye relief (19.5 mm) that I need as an eyeglass wearer. The field of view of the Monarch 5 is a bit narrow at 330 feet but I think there must be an engineering trade off between eye relief and field of view as the binoculars with the larger fields of view tend to have shorter eye relief. This seems to be a particular issue with 10X binoculars. (I’m in the process of researching 10X binoculars as much of my birding involves shorebirds and waterfowl and 8X is just not quite enough magnification. You will likely get better glass as you move up in price. Just make sure that the binocular’s specifications fit your needs. Good luck.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
I think it goes well beyond 'size and weight'.... To me there are a few key things to and ideal birding binocular (these are mine and yours will differ)...But I regard:

  • An easy smooth focus wheel that is not clunky (Many Swaro's don't cut it here). This makes following birds and quickly going from near to far ...easy.
  • Ergonomics....I want to feel good birding. I want the binocular to be something I don't want to put down and this is a very personal attribute, so find what yours is.
  • Depth of Focus.....find a binocular that has much in focus, before and after the bird in question so you get that 3D view
  • Contrast....I am a photographer so for me, contrast is huge. Does your binocular have it?
  • True color....I am not a fan of false color as some optics are too green or yellow.
  • A diopter that is easily adjusted for my eyes are not perfectly in tune throughout the day
Now...I realize that I have my qualifications as to what makes a good binocular, so find yours. Make a list...check it twice and then find the binocular that matches it.
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
Thanks to the experienced oldtimers writing here and on CN over a decade, I wrote out the following 'list' in 2019:

--- --- ---

Considerations when choosing your binoculars


1. Ergonomics:

Are you able to hold it comfortably?
Will you be able to carry it in your environment?
Feel for
  • weight in your hands and on your neck
  • the shape of barrels
  • balance
  • armouring
  • focuser position
Does it fit to your eyes & nose comfortably?
Feel the eyepiece contact, check for sufficient ER & IPD

Build quality:
Are the hinge, the focuser, the dioptre mechanism all easy to adjust? (fast enough)
Are they smooth, light, exact?

--- --- ---

2. Optics:

Do you find the view comfortable?
Look for
  • Low or no visible aberrations
  • Three-dimensionality of image (not a flat poster)
  • Window view (not a tunnel)
  • Close focus comfort on the eyes (parallax effects)
  • Little or no apparent purple fringing (low CA)
  • Veiling glare, minimal over water or near low sun
  • Good microcontrast & colour, especially the middle area
  • Brightness (buy something over £500)
--- --- ---

3. Overview:

Does the instrument seem to vanish in use?
Does it feel easy & natural like looking through a window?
If it feels awkward in your hands, against your face, or if the image displeases, try another.

Binoculars always compromise
  • user wants & needs versus their physical abilities
  • manufacturer designs versus size & weight & cost
--- --- ---


Again, my thanks to all the experts who share.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
Looks good to me...as you came up with a solid list that fits your tastes....Now I am pretty anal when it comes to buying optics (bins, scopes, camera's and lens etc)...and I find myself making a matrix with each category, giving 'weight' to each category based upon how I feel that particular attribute is in relative value, etc... and then go thru that matrix as I look at each optic and coming up with a final score. I might have several pages, plus I have notes I keep in my journal to offer narrative.

Frankly, it drives me nuts, but I love it!...sometimes I think I buy and sell optics just to evaluate / test/ score/ etc... !!!!! jim
 

CharleyBird

Well-known member
It's good to have some scientific approach in all things. You should show us a comparative matrix in relevant threads as they sound useful.
Andy
 

Bluben79

Member
United Kingdom
A bump! Thanks to all of the advice offered on this thread as well as the forum in general. I'm on a steep learning curve having only really started birding in earnest since December but the information on this site has been extremely helpful. I got some Viking ED Pro 10x42 and have been using these for a few weeks on my local Marsh and Estuary walks. I feel that for only my second pair on binoculars they will be great through the winter when walking in open habitats. They were heavily reduced to £196 from £800 when first released to £600 a little while after so I feel that I have a good starting point to reference other binoculars in the future only having basic model prior to this. I'll be looking at some 8x when I'm able to get to visit some retailers.

The ED Pro are a little heavy, around 850g, but I've been on few 4-5 hour walks and with the wintery weather requiring heavy clothing, thick collars, hoods etc. the weight has not been an issue what so ever. I think this could be an issue in the summer just wearing a t-Shirt though. I am in no way qualified to give a review of the ED Pro but they seem bright and sharp and feel well balanced when holding. There do seem to be some issues in tricky lighting situations but I wouldn't feel knowledgeable enough as yet to articulate what I am seeing but for the price I paid I feel I have somewhat achieved the thread title for the time being.
 

Maljunulo

Well-known member
Buy the very best you can afford plus a bit more and use and enjoy them.

Definitely try before buying, or buy somewhere reputable with a good return policy.

Reputable dealers understand that there is no "one size fits all" in binoculars.

Best of luck.
 

Steve Babbs

Well-known member
I have a pair of 'alphas'. I can afford them without sacrificing other things. I also have a pair of Hawke Frontiers EDs. My Zeiss are fantastic but if I were to be in a less fortunate financial position I'd be quite content with the Hawkes. They are amazingly good for the money and I'd rather have them than the 'alphas' of thirty years ago. So I'd go for the around £400 mark. Whether it's worth paying £1000+ more depends on your financial situation but it isn't going to be a huge difference and if I had to make a choice between the Hawkes + a foreign trip or 'alphas' I'd be booking my flights. Or when we can anyway.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
Like Steve Babbs...I can afford a pair of Noctivid and not sacrifice anything either. The Hawks he mentioned are great , as well as the Opticron Travelers. One can find some great bins for under that $500 mark. It does pay to look thru them and decide upon yourself which is best though as all of our eyes differ. I just say though, if you do decide on a $500, ....stick with them w/o trying out an Alpha or you will see issues crop up that you won't find on an Alpha. So bottom line, purchase what you can afford and research what you can afford.
 

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