Let's talk about binoculars

I used to have a really good pair of binoculars that my father brought home from his tour in Vietnam. Somehow they didn’t make it to our new house in our latest move. So, I’m looking for binoculars.

My use: very diverse. At sports events like football games, zooming in on the huddle to see what the QB is saying or other interesting things, using them in the woods, looking at the moon, concerts, etc. I would like maximum power with good image.

Wirecutter has a nice article on them: The Best Binoculars for Birds, Nature, and the Outdoors in 2021 | Reviews by Wirecutter and they mention that technology has advanced to the point where the quality you can get for a few hundred dollars what used to cost thousands. In fact, their recommended binoculars are only about $200 on Amazon.

However, they stay at 8X because they say 10X is “too shaky” - I think I’d live with that. But they also don’t like binoculars that have zoom in and out capability; they say the optics are too compromised. That surprises me, as I would think one mag level would be an issue. For example, at a concert, you might want to zoom in and see the details of the guitar someone is playing, but then you may want a close but wider view of something on stage.

So - anyone here with experience in current binocular options?

I just bought a Celestron Nature DX 10x32. I don’t find the 10x is a problem with shakiness but I just use it casually when walking in the woods. I suspect that shakiness might be more apparent when trying to look at the moon. As someone with very bad eyesight, the eye relief on these are excellent.

Optics can make a big difference in binoculars if you’re trying to resolve fine details. I mean, I find it quite noticeable. I have a pair of 1992 Zeiss 10x42 binoculars that were kinda the bees knees back in the day, but my wife’s 2017 Leica 10x42 bins that cost… well, let’s not think about that… anyway they are dramatically better. Same magnification, but she sees a bird and can resolve tiny feather details on a bird’s face, whereas I’m struggling to see what color its head even is. Admittedly mine probably aren’t what they once were.

I’d normally say the best thing is to go and try them out, but that might be harder these days. Zoom bins sound like a good idea but it depends how important resolving fine detail is. I’ve never tried any so can’t say how noticeable any comprise in optic quality is, but if you think you’d use that function a lot then certainly consider it. If you’re worried about stablization you can get image stablized bins, I’ve only tried a pair briefly but they’re a luxury, although they’re heavier (and you will notice this after a while!), and you have to worry about batteries. To be honest I don’t find 10x42 to be a problem keeping stable. Just brace the lens cups against your eyes, and if necessary provide an additional point of contact with your thumbs against your cheekbones. Works for me, but I like relatively slim, light bins.

The 10x42 Nikon Monarch that I purchased in 2008 are still absolutely fantastic. Rugged, lightweight, waterproof, and razor sharp image quality. I don’t really have a problem using them stable, either.

I wish I hadn’t lost my receipt. I bought them from a shop in Los Angeles and not online, so it’s an actual paper receipt. My pair is beat up, and the plastic lens covers that are attached have snapped off. Nikon has a lifetime warrantee, so all you have to do is send it in and they’ll clean and fix them up.

I am tempted to get a pair of 12x42s, though. I’m all about resolving power.

Zoom capability will always pay a price, in complexity (easy to break) and image quality.

Look at something like camera lenses. Prime lenses (those that are fixed resolution and can’t zoom) are always vastly superior in image quality and faster (they gather in more light) than zoom lenses. Zooms have to add layers and layers of more glass to accommodate the zoom capability, and every layer adds another middleman between the object and the sensor/your eyeball. It’s easy enough to find cheap, fast prime lenses. You cannot find zooms anywhere as sharp and fast, and those that get even in the ballpark are hideously expensive and heavy.

It’s not worth it.

I have a super compact Zeiss I bought in Austria in 1981, and a Leica normal sized heavy duty (as in, drop them and nothing happens) that I bought in 1987. Both are still perfectly fine, though undoubtedly way behind modern stuff.

I actually just bought a pair of Nikon Prostaff 3s. I think I got 10x 42. Unfortunately they’re waiting to get more in stock and it sounds like things are backed up due to the pandemic so who knows when we’ll get them. I’m very excited.

I think that Nikon are probably the best binos for most consumers. The hardcore and wealthy can buy Zeiss, but the Nikons are like 90%+ as good as a Zeiss for a significant fraction of the price.

Thoughts on these? 10x42 for $164. Same company as their recommended pair (which is discontinued). They have 8x, but it is more expensive ($210) We have a lot of wildlife at our place and I’ve been looking for something better than the old 9x25s we were given years ago.

Good question. Only 6 reviews which seems a little iffy. I know nothing about binoculars but I trust Nikon. The Prostaff 7s are only $198 which is slightly more.

So the Nikon Prostaff 3s were out of stock when I ordered them and they were taking forever to come back into stock and in the meantime I started to wonder if I might be better off getting something slightly better and something more portable. So I decided to get the Nikon Prostaff 7S 10x30 binocs instead. I don’t think I would be using them in low light conditions so I’m hoping that moving from a 42mm objective lens to 30mm won’t be too big of a sacrifice. They cost about $259 CDN plus tax compared to $129 so it was a fairly big jump in price as well. I hope they’re worth it.

Thx for the recommendations. I just bought Nikon 7x50 Action Extreme. The regular price is $220 but now it’s available for $170, nice deal. To my mind, the eyecups easily get damaged despite the rest of the binos being durable, it’s the only disadvantage. I got vision imbalance, but it’s easy to correct using a diopter. Lightweight, waterproof and the image quality is perfect. I hope it doesn’t disappoint me

I think I want my next pair of binoculars to be image stabilized. Anyone have experience with those? What price range should I expect?

I have a pair of the low-end Canon IS - the 10x30. I love them. I use them more for astronomy than birding, but the stabilization works great for both.

You do have to continually hold down the IS button on his model, so I tend to not stare at any one thing for too long - you want to be aware of that.

About to pull the trigger on some binoculars. My goal is highest magnification for mixed use: astronomy, “hunting” (as in finding wildlife and getting as close a view as possible) airshows, etc.

I get paralysis by analysis when I search Wirecutter, “Best binocular” reviews, etc. Everything I find there’s always a better set for more money. I do like the idea of IS.

What would you recommend? Thanks.

Nikon. Top name brand. Rugged as hell. Sharp and clear optics. I have 10x42, but I really want to get 12x42.

Interesting: most models I’m looking at are 10x50, though I’m tempted by higher magnifications. What is the compromise of 42 vs 50?

Minimal. You get a slightly larger and heavier binocular, but most people can’t tell the difference

10x50 binoculars also tend to be a little longer than their 42mm counterparts. However once again, the difference here is fairly minimal (usually under 10mm).

Therefore and as you can see from the photo below the overall difference in size between a 10x42 binocular and a 10x50 one is really not that great. Indeed I would go as far as to say that most users would not guess the difference if you were to swap their binoculars without them knowing.

Good stuff, thanks. I’d been looking at the Athlon Midas G2 10x50 UHD set but part of that is I’m bad about “OK, 10 will be better than 8 mag, 50 is better than 42” etc.

I did get spoiled at one time. I had what I thought was a good set of binoculars when I was in college but then I found the ones my Dad brought back from Vietnam that he used while over here (Air Force) and they were so much “better” - I didn’t know what better meant just I could see things up close and sharp - but somehow in decades of moves those have disappeared. Now I have the bug to get a new set.