Good Optics (Monocular, small Binoculars)

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Dec 28, 2006
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Hey guys, just got back from a national park. Broke my brunton echo monocular out there. I will of course keep better care of my newer optics, but I came to realize that I wanted something- well- better. I looked at all the spotting scopes, binoculars, and all that, and honestly, don't know where to start.
I'm not a 50 year old who has achieved the apex of my earning potential; while I'm prepared to spend over $100, and maybe much more than that, I certainly can't afford to pay a $100 premium just for a good name.

I watched the bourne identity and it it, Bourne uses a monocular with integral rangefinder, no bigger than a regular one. While I understand that this monocular doesn't exist (if it does, let me know!), and that the Bourne series seriously exaggerates the power of magnification while minimizing the considerable shake, these are what I'd like to get close to if possible.

What I'd need:
-Pocketable
-Good optics (see title)
-Durability (as much as I can get without too much tradeoff)

What I'd like, but not necessary
-Rangefinder
-High magnification, with easy stabilization (collapsible mini-tripod?)
-Zoom
-Not unaffordable

Tell me what my options are, and I'd be extremely grateful! Note that I'm prepared for a good nikon, etc., but most Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss optics haven't convinced me that they truly are worth $500. I'm open to change my mind, but you'll have to work hard.

Thanks again,
Zero
 

UffDa

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Sep 11, 1999
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Beauty and optics are in the eye of the beholder. Take a look at Vortex monoculars. The 8x25 is $50 and the 6x18 is $30. From what I have read, they have very good optics. As with many things, you get what you pay for and usually less.

As far as I can tell, there are very few high end monoculars besides Zeiss. I used to have a 8x20 Zeiss monocular, and to tell the truth, it didn't look that much better then a $10 Bushnell in the center. The Bushnell image fell off on the edges, but unless you are really fussy, it doesn't make that much difference. Of course, if you are going to look through the thing for a solid hour the Zeiss is the way to go.

Personally, I find small binoculars (6x20, 8x20) a waste. They are hard to hold still and are almost worthless in dim light. Leupold makes some smaller 6 and 8x30 binoculars (Katmai) that perform very well, but cost about $300.

You could ask on this forum. You might even get an answer. ;)
http://www.opticstalk.com/
 
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I've heard good things about the Minox 8x25 makroscpop. I've yet to see one in person so cant really tell pocketability! I'm curious to see what suggestions you get.

Someday i'd love a fits in the pocket/ range calculating, autostabilizing, adjustable magnification, night vision/thermal monocular. I'm thinking 30-50 years from now!
 

Esav Benyamin

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Depending on what you want it for, your ideal optic may not exist.

You need to consider quality of materials and manufacture and in optics that ups the price in a hurry.

You need to consider magnification AND forward objective -- the size of the front, light-gathering lens. The number after the x. The calculation I do is forward objective divided by the square of the magnification, for example:

8 x 22 ... 22 / 64 = .34
8 x 35 ... 35 / 64 = .55
8 x 42 ... 42 / 64 = .66

I think of those as 34% and 55% and 66% as bright as naked eye. If you do the same kind of calculations with different magnifications and a 35 mm f.o. you can see how magnification degrades brightness (as it does stability).

6 x 35 = 35 / 36 = .97
8 x 35 = 35 / 64 = .55
10 x 35 = 35 / 100 = .35

Of course you won't actually find many 6 x 35 optics. :)

If you can convince yourself to go for binoculars, 8 x 42 seems to be a popular combination of magnification and brightness and they come in at all price levels. Even Brunton has them.

If you're going for monoculars again, be sure you get one big enough for a good, hand-filling grip. Tiny fits better in a pocket, but it's hard to hold steady.

Do NOT settle for fuzzy images. Ultimately they degrade the experience, sometimes to the point the view through them is useless. I like a monocular for speed. It's a quick grab and aim and focus, which is great for a bird flying by fast overhead. But what's the use if the image isn't pretty clear?
 

UffDa

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It seems that the Minox is about the only high quality monocular on the market below $200.

I was just about to buy a Leupold Katmai 8x32 when I got a killer deal on a Minox 8x32BR. I have owned Zeiss, Leitz and Nikon top of the line binoculars and Minox is right there with the best of them.

Here's an excellent site for optics reviews. Birders are probably the most fussy people about their optics.

http://www.betterviewdesired.com/Compacts-about-pockets-and-wallets.php
 

Esav Benyamin

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Birders are probably the most fussy people about their optics.

Fussy? Sheesh! You know how hard it is to pick out field marks at any distance, in the underbrush, and then out in bright sunshine -- all with the same glasses?

Hunters have it easy. "Look! A deer!" :D
 
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Suggest reading

Binoculars Reviews at ConsumerSearch.com

where they claim to reviewing the reviews -
ie: survey all the available reviews and come to some concensus -
what we would do if we had the resources.

Best all round - Nikon Monarch ATB 8x42

Compact - Pentax Papilio 6.5x21

Budget - Nikon Action 7x35

Good article on Compact binoculars
and their recommendations for Compact Binoculars

I personally like Nikons and the Nikon TraveLite V 8x25 I've seen it as low as $70 shipped.

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Go to a decent shop and try the swaroski,Zeiss and other $$$ optics against the cheaper ones. Just in the store you will see the difference. If you never do this you can keep your wallet safe. I on the other hand will wait till I have the $$$ as I have seen the difference. :eek:


Paul
 
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Alright, good info guys. While I am partial to indestructiblity, I might be convinced to go with porro prisms as opposed to roof prisms- weight, ugliness, whatever doesn't matter- except relatively pocketable size. That's sorta why I was suggesting a monocular, as it's quick to use and it could give me a large objective lens instead of 2 smaller objective lenses. Doesn't have to be sexy, but if I can't sock it away, I might as well go with full size optics.

I realize that everything is a compromise and all that jazz; I'll probably look into acquiring ridiculously large optics, but, just as AR and AK platforms beat pistols, and Fixed beats folding, there's a reason people do buy pistols and folding, and not just because they are cheap or want to buy an inferior platform. Again, I know optics ain't cheap- that's why I'm asking for advice on this- because I'm willing to spend money, just not willing to spend money on a mistake.

Question: I've heard of a pen sized zeiss? optic- about $100- any experiences with such? Again, I'm more in the market for small, not micro optics, but this should be seen as a definite compromise piece- I do carry other things than binoculars and need to have room for them ;)

Any other questions for usage or things I need think about are appreciated. Let's say that I might be prepared to spend up to $300 (but above $180 needs convincing) for a basic binoc/monoc, and more if it has awesome properties- rangefinder w/ good size, etc.

Thanks again for the responses. I know I'm a newb at this stuff, so let me apologize for my lack of knowledge.

Zero

P.S. One last question- megazoom cameras come in footprints that aren't all that big, yet no one complains about optical quality on them (I'm not talking SLRs with telephoto lenses, but megazoom digicams)- is there something I'm missing here? Because some of them seem to have an ok size to mag ratio, and even have shake stabilization. Thanks in advance.
 

Esav Benyamin

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Question: I've heard of a pen sized zeiss? optic- about $100- any experiences with such? Again, I'm more in the market for small, not micro optics, but this should be seen as a definite compromise piece- I do carry other things than binoculars and need to have room for them ;)

Zeiss MiniQuick: I've got one. Not what you're looking for. 5x magnification and too small to hold or focus really conveniently. It has its place as a shirt-pocket spotting scope, like, to see what's on the trail up ahead.
 

UffDa

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Sep 11, 1999
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Zero_Time:

Nothing with glass in it is indestructible. I think you already found that out. The truth is that what you want does not exist. You could buy the most expensive Zeiss, Leica or Swarovski binocular and still break it. I have a Kern 8x30 military binocular that has taken some pretty good hits and is still in collimation. It has individual focus, so if one side goes bad, the other can be used as a monocular. It's fairly heavy though.

Here's a dumb idea. Instead of buying one monocular, why don't you buy two? That way you will have a backup if something happens one of them and you won't have a fortune invested. Maybe buy a good one like the Minox and a cheap one for backup. :confused:

I see a lot of comments here that lead me to believe that the good folks have not actually read your opening post and the replies. Nothing unusual on internet forums.:rolleyes:
 

Esav Benyamin

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Maybe buy a good one like the Minox and a cheap one for backup.

I carry a small pair of binoculars when I go out specifically looking for birds or other wildlife. Other times, I toss a simple monocular in my gear bag or pocket. I don't like to go cheap all the time, but it makes good sense not to drag expesnive equipment around for no real reason.
 
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I carry a small pair of binoculars when I go out specifically looking for birds or other wildlife. Other times, I toss a simple monocular in my gear bag or pocket. I don't like to go cheap all the time, but it makes good sense not to drag expesnive equipment around for no real reason.

If you don't mind me asking, what do you use Esav? (Opinions other august members, especially ones who have read my posts and answered accordingly welcomed as well;)) You've previously shown yourself to be a man of good taste and, given your chronological advantage over me, it gives good food for thought. That minox does look rather tempting I must say, but I am always up for a second opinion.
Zero
 

Esav Benyamin

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I still have my Asahi-Pentax 7 x 50 binoculars from 1968. But I'm not as strong as I was then, so I don't carry them much. :D They are nice at night.

I generally carry my Steiner 8 x 22, not bad for cheap binoculars. I don't carry the MiniQuick, I use a Tasco monocular instead.
 

UffDa

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I also have a Steiner 8x22 Predator. They are OK during the day, but not much good in dim light. I would sell them, but my wife likes them. They are cute. :rolleyes:


I am really impressed by my Minox 8x33 binocular. They also make a small binocular. I haven't seen them, but Minox makes good stuff at reasonable prices. Here's a link. I have seen them offered for $150 shipped.

http://www.minox.com/index.php?id=1633&L=1
 
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BVD is overrated as a review site, IMO. They update infrequently and, most annoying, they don't review binos from companies that don't sponsor the site. :thumbdn:

IMO the best intro for folks wanting to get more familiar with binos is Laura's Optics Guide. Another good overview, although a little outdated too, is this Living Bird article published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which conducts the best annual or biannual reviews of binoculars for birders.

RE the Minox Macroscope -- it's a legit 8x25 with a crisp, bright view almost edge to edge. Its porro design offers far better optics than most other monocular-types, whose poorer components are further compromised by their compact roof prism designs. At 8x25 it is pretty stable in-hand, too. That said, it can't overcome the main limit it shares with all monoculars: that glassing through a single optic strains and tires your eyes more rapidly than through binos. It's fine for spotting, orienting and occasional glassing while backpacking, but it gives me a headache pretty quickly if I try to use it constantly (like at a sporting event, for instance).

I don't get to visit BF as regularly or consistently as I'd like, but I've seen various passaround threads. Since I hardly use the Minox Macro, I'd be happy to circulate it to folks who'd like to just check it out via library-style "short term loan." Is there a link for how to do these passarounds, so someone doesn't just walk off with it? :) If folks might be interested, let me know --

Glen
 

Esav Benyamin

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Wow, that is a generous offer. I wouldn't mind trying it out myself. In fact, I could add my Mini Quick to the same passaround once it gets to me, so the group could see how that works for them also.

I've never participated in a passaround. Is anyone here familiar with them? We might be able to get someone from Wilderness & Survival Skills to help out with that, if not.
 
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I've never participated in a passaround, but playing (responsibly) with high end optics is the best way to understand what I'd like, want, need, etc. I always told myself it would have to be something different to get me into a passaround, and this looks like it! Thanks for the offer, I will have to check back to see if this thing is getting off the ground, and how to make it work!
Zero
 
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