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Dec 21, 2009
Perth, Scotland
Try a few - it's really the only way to find out what works - and what doesn't. That said, your budget does suggest it may be worth looking at used ones, and makes like Opticron, Barr & Stroud and Nikon are all good. That said, resist any temptation to try a really, really good pair of Swarovski or Zeiss as you will then just lust after one and unless your budget stretches that far (!!) you'll never be satisfied with the others.

In general terms, the higher magnifications are going to be slightly more difficult to use (think "shake") and unless you're going to use a tripod, even x10 may be a bit much. The other key criteria is "eye relief" which is especially relevant if you wear glasses. Exit pupil size is also relevant, and when you combine the two you'll find some bins offer much greater field of view than others. Brightness of the image is also affected by the relationship between the objective and exit pupils - you get some idea of the brightness by dividing the lens size by the magnification so 7x50 will have a brightness factor of 7. 8x30 a brightess of 4 6x18 a brightness of 3.

There's some good advice here which, while aimed more at stargazing, still gives good background.

8x30 or 40 will give a good result overall - contingent of course on eye relief and field of view. Finally, that which works for one person won't necessarily work for someone else, hence the "try and try and try" suggestion. My partner had a pair of top-end Zeiss bins until recently (they were stolen from her, sadly). She loved them - I hated them. I kept getting what is called "black-out", which is where it's really difficult to get a clear picture through both tubes - this is largely because I wear glasses, she uses contact lenses, and I couldn't get the damn things lined up with my eyes properly.

The replacements are likely to be Swaro, and having tried the pair she's considering I found no "black-out". I've got a somewhat more mid-range pair of Swaros which are excellent, but still not as good in that respect. Up to that point, I was more than satisfied with mine - now I'm lusting after the top of the range model.

During the research, I found a pair of Opticrons which were actually better for me than my Swaros - and a bit cheaper - although still outside your budget. I only mention this to support the suggestion that what looks like it will be better on paper may not be the best solution for the individual. I had a pair of compact Pentax (iirc) bins some years ago which I just could not get on with - the person who bought them had no issues at all and loved them. I wish I'd tried them before I bought them!

I've also had a pair of sub £100 bins made by Barska which were nothing but trouble and were replaced twice by the manufacturer due to faults which included the diopter adjustment constantly needing to be reset. They got sold on fairly quickly.

As another poster noted, you really do get what you pay for - - hence the thought of considering second hand ones. That said, I had a pair of Zeiss 8 x 50's many many years ago which I thought were fantastic. When I had to sell them it was a really, really hard decision but when I could afford the Swaros some years later I was amazed at the difference in overall performance. Lens design, and coatings, had improved drastically in the 20 years between the purchases. So maybe be wary about some of the older models available, despite their once having been very good glass.
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Need to contact Admin...
Nov 29, 2003
I guess that 3 months down the line adestu might have already bought something by now!

I've had lots of binos over the years, having now ended up with Zeiss Victory 8x42FLs. They are good but not cheap.

FWIW, my advice for anyone wanting general purpose binos is very simple.
Buy a pair of 8x32 or 8x42 roof prisms with nitrogen-fill, multicoated lenses, and most crucially, phase correction, and try before you buy to check the ergonomics. They will cost about £100 to £150 new, eg Hawke Endurance, Opticron trailfinder and many others.

All roof prism binos have phase error and the phase correction improves the image noticeably. Also, PC is usually only applied to the better models in a range.

ED glass reduces chromatic abberation (the purple fringing on backlit objects) but adds to the cost. Not as important as PC in my view.

The 8x42 is heavier than 8x32 and the brighter image is only of advantage in the first and last half hour of daylight. But this is exactly when wildlife is on the move, so if you are into stalking, birds or nature study the bigger lenses are worth having.

I would always choose 8x over 10x unless you are using a stick for support or have an Olympic marksman skill at holding things steady.

Good alternatives to the 8x42 PC roof prisms are older porro binos which do not need phase correction:

Russian porro binos - good optically, cheap (circa £25 used), robust. Lenses have a yellow cast which improves contrast but some people hate it. Not waterproof.

East German Zeiss Jena 8x30 porro as mentioned in a previous post. The later multi-coated model is brighter than the older ones. Inferior fakes exist - google how to tell the difference. All are quite old now, but are a good buy if well looked after. Circa £50 used. Not Waterproof.

Optolyth Alpin porro. West German, well armoured, more waterproof than the above. Popular with stalkers even now. Circa £100 used.

Two other options:

Canon Image stabilised binos. I was blown away by how well IS works. Quite expensive.

Hensoldt/Zeiss German Army surplus binos. Can be cheap way of getting Zeiss. Some have had a hard life. The older Steiner German Army surplus porros are not very good.

Finally, I would have saved money if I had just bought the Zeiss FLs in the first place, rather than upgrading and upgrading. If you use binos a lot, there is much to be said for buying Zeiss/Leica/Swarovski, even though you are looking at £500 up used, and double that new. Paying out so much money hurts once, but the pleasure in using them is recurring. Often people say 'wow' when they look through them, as the world suddenly becomes so bright and sharp.