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#132673 - 04/25/10 03:52 PM Binos for the Backcountry
blively Offline
newbie

Registered: 03/19/07
Posts: 5
Loc: Nebraska
Hello all!

I am looking to purchase a pair of binoculars that will serve me well both at home and in the backcountry (meaning they are lightweight enough to warrant their presence in my pack). I’ve done some research on-line but would like to know if there are any backpackers/birders out there who have an opinion.

My top two choices are the Swift Eaglet 7x36 (20.6 oz) and the Nikon Monarch 8x42 (21.7 oz.). Both have multi-layered coated prisms and lenses, are waterproof, and fog proof. I’ve read some good reviews about both of them on “birding” websites. However, I’d like to know what a backpacker thinks and if anyone has other suggestions. Or…perhaps I’m the only backpacker out there who takes my birding seriously enough to spend this kind of money (approx. $300) and carry the extra weight? smile

Thanks!

BLively

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#132695 - 04/25/10 11:08 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: blively]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
Well...I like my binoculars too, but I don't usually use them for birding. I'm an astronomy nut (I've built about ten telescopes) and so my usage is going to be different than yours. I don't believe in taking expensive or heavy binoculars backpacking. I have a pair of cheapies (Tasco 10x30) that I bought for under $15 at Big 5 one day. I bet I tried about six pairs before I found one that had reasonable focus and resolution near the edge of the field. And they only weight about 9 ounces.

Both of the pairs you suggest are quality optics...I'd go for the larger objective lenses, just because they gather more light...

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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#132706 - 04/26/10 09:57 AM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: balzaccom]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
Quote:
I'm an astronomy nut (I've built about ten telescopes) and so my usage is going to be different than yours.


No kidding...me too! I've hauled my Fujinon SMT 10x70's up mountains and forewent all kinds of stuff to get 'em in my pack. ATM here too....refractors and reflectors, more than I want to remember!

Back on subject....I have two backpacking options of choice. Little Nikon Travelite 9x25's have served me well. I have astigmatism in both eyes and the little exit pupil suits me.
Option 2...1/2 of a binocular..ie, monocular, but with poro-prisms. A 7x35 pair bought at a garage sale yielded one good side. I band sawed off the good side and ended up with a very good monocular.

I wouldn't bother with an objective lens smaller than 25mm... though small, you loose contrast in all but bright sun.
You can pack a monocular with a big objective for the same weight as a pair of binoculars of smaller objective, and be able to enjoy the night skies.
Why bother carrying something if the view/performance is bad....ain't worth the weight.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#132718 - 04/26/10 12:40 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Dryer]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
Especially if one eye is usually much better than the other!

(I'm a lefty, myself!)
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#132719 - 04/26/10 12:49 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: balzaccom]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
Quote:
Especially if one eye is usually much better than the other!


Yup! Same here. In fact, I'm one of the few that still prefer ortho's to plossls/Naglers...don't need glasses with ortho's. In fact, try refitting some old binos with tele ep's and see how much you like them. wink
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paul, texas KD5IVP

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#132797 - 04/27/10 06:27 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Dryer]
Jeff Offline
member

Registered: 03/06/09
Posts: 41
Loc: Nevada
I bought a pair of Vixen Foresta 8x32 binoculars. This is the smallest
size that I thought would be useful for astronomy. They weigh about
16 oz. I would take them on a shorter trip of under a week when my
total weight isn't that much of an issue.
_________________________
Jeff MyBackpackTrips

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#132850 - 04/28/10 12:43 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: blively]
kbennett Offline
member

Registered: 10/27/03
Posts: 820
Loc: north carolina
Originally Posted By blively
Or…perhaps I’m the only backpacker out there who takes my birding seriously enough to spend this kind of money (approx. $300) and carry the extra weight? smile




Nope, my lovely wife carries her Leica 8x32's when we hike in migration.

The Swift Eaglets are very nice binoculars, especially for that price. Others you might check out are the Eagle Optics Ranger house brand, which at $310 in the 8x32 size are a great value -- fully multicoated, phase coated BaK-4 prisms, etc. -- all features you would have paid over $1000 for ten years ago.

Ranger 8x32

The Nikon Monarch 8x36 have similar features and are even less expensive. They get good reviews.

Monarch 8x36

Both of these are around 20 ounces, which isn't too bad. The Rangers have a much wider field of view at 393 feet -- noticeably better in my opinion than the Nikons, but then they are an extra $80.

Happy birding!
_________________________
--Ken B

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#132936 - 04/29/10 03:15 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: kbennett]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Many moons ago, I worked in a camera store. The best binoculars we had were Leitz Trinovids. They were expensive, even back then. It appears that the Leica name is now shared by 3 companies and the binoculars are sold under the Leica name. They have a bunch of different models.

A quick look at eBay shows there are hundreds of high end binocs for sale there.

I just carry a cheap pair of 8x20 Bushnells I got at Big 5.
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Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#132937 - 04/29/10 03:36 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: TomD]
Ambersdad Offline
member

Registered: 03/16/10
Posts: 27
Loc: Norman OK
I have a pair of Nikon Action 7 x 35 that are fairly small in size.

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#132942 - 04/29/10 05:58 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: TomD]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
Quote:
It appears that the Leica name is now shared by 3 companies and the binoculars are sold under the Leica name


You never know who makes who's optics any more. My Fujinons are the best I've ever used and I can't find them anywhere but mail order. I've also got some old K-Mart (40 years old!) 7x35's that are fully-multi coated and hold up against anything. I like to stick with poro-prisms and do a star test prior to purchase. If they pass a star test, they'll be great, no matter the brand stamped on them. So, test your binocs at night...that will tell you what you are buying.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#132971 - 04/29/10 11:43 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Dryer]
Tango61 Offline
member

Registered: 12/27/05
Posts: 931
Loc: East Texas Piney Woods
Okay, I'll ask. What's the star test? Out here in the boonies, I can probably use it.

It would be even better if I could turn off the blasted guard light at night if I wanted to. It ruins the night sky.


Edited by Tango61 (04/29/10 11:44 PM)
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If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you can't. Either way, you're right.

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#132976 - 04/30/10 12:27 AM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Tango61]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1718
Loc: Napa, CA
Star Test:

Take your binoculars out at night, and focus them on a bright star. Put them slightly out of focus, and you should see diffraction rings forming in a very concentric pattern around the star. It's a very good way for an expert to analyze optics quickly.

It doesn't work very well with binoculars, because you generally need higher power to see the true diffraction rings. But the test still gives you an idea of optical quality.
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#132984 - 04/30/10 05:01 AM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: balzaccom]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
To measure the "brightness" on a bino you divide the size of the front element (IE 36mm) by the magnification ((7x) that gives you the exit pupil, or the size of the circle of light that will hit your eye. So the Nikon and the Swift are about the same in that respect. (5.1 and 5.2 mm)
Considering that, the 7x at the slightly lower magnification might be easier to use (less "shake")
Since with binos what you see is what you get, ideally you should test one against the other.
Leica still assemble their own binos as they have done for decades. I think it is all done now in the Portuguese factory.
Trinovid is no more, the new designation is Ultravid (new coating)
(I visited the production line within the Minox factory ,in Germany,when they owned that brand)
Franco

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#132987 - 04/30/10 08:37 AM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: balzaccom]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3569
Loc: Texas
Quote:
It doesn't work very well with binoculars, because you generally need higher power to see the true diffraction rings. But the test still gives you an idea of optical quality.


All true. Also find a medium brightness star and move slightly from both sides of focus. Look for "coma", or 'teardrop' shaped stars, not good, but common in even expensive binos. Look for "color", purpleish slightly is normal, color correction is important and that's where coatings help. Move the star across the entire field of the eyepiece and see what happens at the edges. Then, close each eye and see if the star jumps around to test "collimation", or how the two systems are lined up. Look for "haze", in focus...the big tell all....haze tells you if your optics are plastic, which many cheaper binos are. You want crisp, pinpoint, stars in focus, an nice concentric diffraction patters out of focus.

Coatings are:
"Coated" means only the two lenses touching air are coated.
"Multi-Coated" means inside and outside air contact surfaces and prisms are coated.
"Fully Multi-Coated" means all optical surfaces including doublet contact points (which are cemented) are coated..the "best" rating.

Brand is not so important as performance. Exit pupil size is important however for us old guys, anything bigger than 5mm is pointless. Kids see like cats and 7mm looks like a porthole to them.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#133089 - 05/01/10 08:42 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Dryer]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
May I say that if you are going someplace for the sake of "seeing it", by all means take good binos. (If yer going to photograph it, take a good camera) But if "extended optical capability" is all you need consider a mono. They're lighter, smaller, and of course not as nice. Sometimes I like to carry a mono infrared telescope. Watching the animals around camp is fun and looking at the night sky even with a 3.5 power lens is awesome when it has 35,000x light amplification.
Jim
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#133240 - 05/05/10 12:22 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Jimshaw]
taM Offline
member

Registered: 01/31/10
Posts: 112
Loc: Nashville, TN
I own a pair of the Nikon Monarchs and love, love, LOVE them. Great binos for the price. I have no basis for comparison vs the swifts though, as I've never handled a pair of those. The 8x magnification is not too much (shaking) but any more than 8 would be I think. The 10 power models are too much magnification to be used without some sort of rest.

You can't go wrong with the Nikon Monarch ATB line.
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Light, Cheap, Durable...
pick two

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#136679 - 07/23/10 08:01 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: taM]
Kyle Nguyen Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/08/10
Posts: 4
Loc: San Jose, CA
Recently I've got a pair of Leupold Gold HD at Cabala's. Looking through this binos will bring everything to life. I purchased this binos for general use, but just happened to look at a bird when camping. Man! now I know why people love bird watching. This is a high end binos that could be compared with Swarovski or Steiner and other brands, but thanks to Leupold it's only cost half of the price from other brands. You might want to take a look at this Leupold binos.


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#136791 - 07/26/10 10:03 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Kyle Nguyen]
Kent W Offline
member

Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
I love Leupold, from my rifle scopes to rangefinder for coyote hunting. Awsome optics!

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#137307 - 08/06/10 03:59 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Dryer]
GDeadphans Offline
member

Registered: 12/26/08
Posts: 382
Loc: Maine/New Jersey
What about monoculars? I have an old pair of binoculars which, really, are mediocre at best. Been thinking about purchasing a new pair, or forget the bino part and going mono. Seems to me that it would cut the weight and still have good power.
_________________________
"To me, hammocking is relaxing, laying, swaying. A steady slow morphine drip without the risk of renal failure." - Dale Gribbel

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#137504 - 08/10/10 08:31 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: GDeadphans]
Kent W Offline
member

Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
You are correct. My Range finder is a Leupold and essentially a monocular with digital range finder. Many hikers carry monoculars to save weight.

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#137645 - 08/14/10 08:04 PM Re: Binos for the Backcountry [Re: Kent W]
Franco Offline
member

Registered: 04/05/04
Posts: 997
Loc: Australia
Till recently I have been very unenthusiastic about monoculars. I have sold many types and own a Zeiss 8x20 , none have worked for me.
Recently a mate was looking for a small bino for his kayakking trip and doing the City rounds I found a 10x42 monocular (branded Gerber, a local brand, but most likely this one
http://www.telescope.com/control/binoculars/waterproof-binoculars/orion-10x42-waterproof-monocular)
Oddly that was in the shop I used to work for...
The larger front element (42mm) and the large exit pupil seem to work for me. I will test that again when my mate comes back but it looked pretty good for the weight. About 10 oz.
Franco

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