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Trevanion

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Right, so I'm a nosy barsteward and I like to look around out the Velux windows with my binoculars once in a while to see what's going on in the valley, even more so during this lockdown. Just bird watching, innit :wink:

I'm using a fairly standard 10x50 pair which are very good but I wouldn't mind being able to see just a bit further so I wondered if any of you fellas had any input on what might be a decent upgrade. I was looking at a pair of Celestron 20x50 "Upclose" or maybe a pair of Nikon 16x50 "Aculon" Binoculars but I really don't know what to look for in these kinds of things, I only know how to look through them.
 

sunnybob

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The higher the magnification, the worse the "flutter" from hand holding. You might want to think of a swivel rest for clear view, or go the whole hog and get an image stabilised set.
 

Droogs

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I've always preferred a proper spotting scope on a small tripod like the Praktica Hydan 20-60x60 good value usually under £85
 

thick_mike

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Yes, 10x magnification is usually the upper limit for hand held binoculars. Beyond that you really need some sort of tripod. For decent optics most people go for a spotting telescope anywhere up to 60x magnification. The lower the second number, the dimmer the image, so 60x80 will usually be dimmer than 60x100.
 

Rorschach

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Spotting scope and tripod, even a cheapo Aldi one is quite good.
 

Marineboy

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I would strongly advise trying a telescope before buying. I go out birding regularly with my binoculars (8x32) and I have tried telescopes but I just can’t get on with the single eye view and the lack of ‘depth’ and 3D effect. Have a look at this company: https://www.at-infocus.co.uk/. They have several branches in various locations and have regular demonstration events where you can try new and used bins and scopes. Of course in the present situation these are probably not happening.
 

Blackswanwood

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It’s worth taking a look at birdforum.net for reviews or even signing up as a member and posting the same question. I did when I bought a pair and ended up sticking at 10x magnification for general birdwatching. You’ll probably find it’s like asking for advice on the best sharpening method on here :x
 

Sideways

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In exactly the opposite direction that you are looking for, I like bright, lightweight binoculars with minimal shake.
I have two pairs of 6x by 30mm glasses. The Steiners are tough and reliable and live in the car. Leupolds are sharper and easier to focus and kept by the window for watching birds and squirrels in the back garden.

Thick-Mike pointed out one of the key points: more magnification means a less bright image. Divide the diameter of the big lens by the magnification and you get a number that represents (simplistically) how bright the glasses are and also how carefully they need to be aligned with your pupils in use.
30mm / 6 = 5mm
5 is a decent all round number,
7 is luxury,
2 or 3 is a pain to use and not good in bad light, that's why 10x25mm travel binoculars are horrid.
So 16x magnification really wants massive, expensive 80mm+ objectives. Military surplus observation binoculars maybe :)

Do this math and you realise spotting scopes are all fairly dim and a bit fussy to use but they do give the big magnifications.
 

NikNak

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Trevanion":23xjz121 said:
Just bird watching, innit :wink:
bet you get to see some Great **** from your vantage point :wink:

Seriously though.... its a shame about this darned virus thingy at the moment otherwise i'd say go along to one of the events organised by London Camera Exchange (they're all on hold...) as thats exactly what we did this time last year. Off on holiday to Alaska to do a glacier cruise then a land tour into the heart of Alaska. Our 'trusty' Praktica 10x25 bins were ok, but we decided if we're going that far to get some decent ones. Having read reviews, i like you, quite fancied the Nikons but the Monarchs. Read that there was a demonstration day at a local bird wildlife haven so we went along. There were reps there from all the big and small companies, with dozens and dozens of bins and scopes you could try without being hassled. We took our Prakticas to use as a 'base' point. Dont just buy brand X (Nikon or whoever...) because the reviews are good/bad, you NEED to try as many as you can as our eyes are all different. Like i said i was favouring the Nikons without even holding a pair :shock: . But after trying them i was quite disappointed. At one point i had 3 pairs of different makes/models around my neck, kept swapping over while i re-looked (is that even a word) at the same object(s) in the near/distant views. What did we buy.? Hawke Frontier HD 10x42, who before that day i'd never heard of. If you bought on the day there was 10% off. On the day I seem to recall they were about £10-15 more than the Nikons, but sooooo worth it. The difference between our old Prakticas and the new Hawkes are like night and day. Like going from normal tv to 4k 3D tv. Seriously bright and clear image. And no i dont work for them :lol: :lol:


Nick

oh....p.s. i even tried a pair of Zeiss at 10x's the price of the Hawkes :shock: and be blowed if i could see 10x's the difference. But i did blag a Zeiss lens cloth in a little bag tho :wink:
 

Phil Pascoe

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I have a 45 y.o. pair Swift 8.5 x 44 Audubons. I spoke to a chap who repaired binoculars professionally who told they were as well made as Zeiss, if not better. I haven't used them in 20 years.
 

AJB Temple

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You get what you pay for with binoculars and glass / prism technology has come a long way. The top ones will achieve over 90% light transmission, sharpness better than the human eye can resolve, and edge to edge sharpness continuity (the latter being expensive especially).

This article is very illuminating 8) https://www.birdwatching.com/optics/201 ... eview.html

From practical experience of trying to photograph flying birds, it requires considerable practice to "spot" what you are trying to see with a long lens or a high power telescope. Most people reckon that about 12x is the maximum for birding as fatigue sets in quickly. For magnifications higher than this whether with a telescope or binoculars, a tripod is pretty much essential in my experience. at high magnification you pay an enormous premium to get high levels of light transmission. I think the circa 70% real world efficiency and almost complete lack of edge to edge sharpness in some of the reasonably priced gear, makes them unattractive.
 

Phil Pascoe

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My Swifts were designed for bird watching - 8.5x was thought optimum. They have a tripod socket.

MY elderly neighbour 45 years ago had pair of Bausch & Lomb 16 x 80s he bought in the '50s - he paid the same for them as his small car (at the time). Awesome things. :shock:
 

AJB Temple

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Something to at least try, when you get out of lockdown, is a pair of Leica 10+ 15 x 50.

These do 10 times for things like bird watching and in the same bins you can switch to 15 times. They are a premium product at about £2k ish, but they do give you a very clear idea of what happens in optics as the magnification goes up.

Nikon and others do zoom binoculars that go from 10 to around 22 x and these are far cheaper than the premium products like Zeiss and Leica. 22 times will bring the **** almost close enough to touch. You can also get extreme magnification up to over 100x for a couple of hundred quid, but for serious use they are dark and hopeless.

The sailing fraternity quite like high power bins, but I always struggled to hold them still. I think they are mostly used for spotting sunbathers on far off boats.
 

Eric The Viking

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I got my wife her second set of Pentax bins (9x28) recently. The first ones were a "pocket" pair, 9x15, I think (the label came off years ago) and are about 37 years old (bought as a birthday present for her when we were courting), and all the rubber covering had come off in sticky lumps... but the optics themselves are just fine. Both pairs are "roof prism" type (look like straight tubes).

Why Pentax? Slightly wider field of view, and excellent coatings, so the image is sharper and has less colour fringing and looks more natural. I did go look at a few brands this time too, but Pentax seemed best value for money, if not the absolute best performers (will never now be able to afford Leica, for example, although they are wonderful optically). They are also a convenient size, and work with glasses.

But I've adopted the old pair, which had got filthy lenses (she doesn't believe in cleaning even her own glasses!). So I cleaned them, and the image is now superb. She had a look through them, and is beginning to remember to put the lens caps back on her new pair!

Clean optics matter most against the light, especially if sunlight is actually falling onto the front of the bins themselves. Both eyepieces and objective lenses need to stay as clean as possible for the best results - muck causes internal reflections, which degrades the image significantly.

There's a trade-off between depth-of-field and image brightness. The bigger the objective lenses (the front ones), the brighter, but also the shallower the depth of field of the view - you will need to do more focusing. The more magnification there is, the less depth-of-field also (another trade-off).

And of course, the bigger the lenses, the more expensive they are to make.
 
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