Wildlife watching binoculars

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Riven

Full Member
Dec 23, 2006
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Nottinghamshire
I am looking for a new pair of binoculars for wildlife watching etc and would like opinions on which are good value for money. 8x40 with good clarity, robust and not too heavy are my criteria. Oh and no more than £200, I'm not Richard Branson.
So any suggestions would be helpful.
Riven.
 
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Wander

Nomad
Jan 6, 2017
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525
Here There & Everywhere
I'd suggest the Hawke ED 8x42.
The Endurance version is on your price point but the Sapphire is over it a bit.
Hawke are one of those optics that punch above their weight. Admittedly, they are no Leica, Zeiss, or Swarovski, but they perform above their price range and would give a pair of bins twice their cost a run for their money.
As ever, try before you buy.

You may be able to get a second hand Leica/Zeiss/Swarovski at that price. Have a look in your local camera shop - there must be loads in Nottingham.
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
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Mid Wales
Again, a little above your new price range but good second hand ones are available, I recommend the Nikon Monarch (mine are Monarch 5). They are brilliantly clear and, important for me, focus down to about 2m for observing insects and dragonflies etc. They're a mid-range binocular, I can't justify the thousands that some optics cost but they perform well.

Having said that, I was using a £150 pair of Vikings from RSPB and they were more than adequate for birdwatching etc. RSPB shops usually stock quite a range that you can try - from cheap to eye watering.
 
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Nomad64

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Nov 21, 2015
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Again, a little above your new price range but good second hand ones are available, I recommend the Nikon Monarch (mine are Monarch 5). They are brilliantly clear and, important for me, focus down to about 2m for observing insects and dragonflies etc. They're a mid-range binocular, I can't justify the thousands that some optics cost but they perform well.

Having said that, I was using a £150 pair of Vikings from RSPB and they were more than adequate for birdwatching etc. RSPB shops usually stock quite a range that you can try - from cheap to eye watering.
+1 for the Nikon Monarch 8x42. Can’t remember how much I paid but have served me well despite being used and abused in fairly extreme conditions and comfortable to use for hours at a time.:)
 

lou1661

Full Member
Jul 18, 2004
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Hampshire
Another vote for the Hawke ED. I went with the 8x32 as I found the 42's more bulky and more likely to be left at home or in the car.

Louis
 

mikehill

Full Member
Nov 25, 2014
661
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Wigan
If you don’t need them for twilight viewing 8x32 are plenty good enough and much more convenient to carry. Hawke or Opticron in that price range
 
Sep 16, 2013
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Rochester, Kent
I use Viking Vistron 8x42 and have found them to be excellent quality with very sharp focus. They should be well within your budget. Good advice above about visiting your local RSPB shop (normally at the larger RSPB reserves) as you can try before your buy.

The Nikon Monarchs are also a good shout though.
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Bright light or low light (dawn & dusk?) Distances? I've been using 7x50 Pentax for decades. Great in pre-dawn light.
8 x 42 ought to suit most daytime purposes.
 
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MartiniDave

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Aug 29, 2003
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Cambridgeshire
I use Opticron Countryman in 10 x 42, they are very good and I would by them again. My wife has a pair of Nikon 8x, the small format roof prism model that sells for about £120, I can't recall the model, we've both been really impressed with their light weight and clarity. I'll find the model and add it to this post later - if I remember.

Dave

OK - I've had a look, my wife's are Nikon Travelite EX 8x25. To be honest I thought the objective lens es were bigger, based on the performance.
 
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HillBill

Bushcrafter through and through
Oct 1, 2008
8,113
58
W. Yorkshire
I use Nikon Monarch 7's 8 x32, brilliant binos, though a bit above your budget. The Nikon prostaffs are in your price range though. I cant vouch for the prostaff Bino's but I have a prostaff scope on an air rifle and it is excellent.
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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If it's your desire to gain an overview of the range of manufactured binoculars,
it's to your advantage to make price comparisons in anybody's currency.
Takes the guess-work out of the equation.

Google B&H Photo ( New York) an look at 1,220 different binoculars on offer.
Of course, that filters out all the mono's, spotting scopes and opera units.

I bought a Nikon Prostaff 82mm spotting scope ( 20X - 60X) from them. Great customer service.
It was the top in it's class in the annual Field & Stream "Best of the Best" Gear List.
Most of my guests don't live in the mountains so it's nice to go game spotting and
show them Mountain Goats and Mountain Sheep.
 
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Riven

Full Member
Dec 23, 2006
368
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Nottinghamshire
Thanks for your suggestions so far guys, it seems there is a lot of choice. Funny you should mention Pentax Robson as I have had a pair of 8x21s for over 20 years and they are both compact and clear vision and its these I want to supplement with something a little larger.
Oh and for me these are a lifelong purchase so want to get it right.
Cheers, Riven.
 
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Wander

Nomad
Jan 6, 2017
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Riven, what kind of terrain do you expect to use them in?
Forgive me if I'm about to say stuff you already know.
Personally, I just don't get the point of 8x bins. Yeah, I know they give you a wider filed of view but I'm not convinced (based on personal experience) they really give you the zoom to make a good identification of really 'see' the details of the animal. Watching the birds on the feeders in the back garden? Yeah, sure. But as a decent wildlife spotter, given the ranges you will mostly be at? No. Most birdwatchers use them as a quick ID tool so they can get the scope on it for a much better view.
In the woods? Yeah, OK, an 8x optic is probably all you need because the things you will be looking at will be closer (though a large objective lens is what you'll need to get a better image in lower light conditions - the 42mm you are looking at will be fine).
But what if you are in open terrain - the coast, or an open field, etc? You may be looking at stuff from quite a distance. An 8x will not be up to it. Instead of a small brown dot what you'll see is a slightly larger brown dot.
A 12x is what you'll need there.

So what I would recommend is splitting the difference. If a one-size-fits-all set of bins is what you are looking for (assuming such a thing exists) then I'd go for a 10x42.
The 10x will still give you a wide enough field that you can find what you are looking for but also give you a slightly better reach at range. The 42mm lens will let in enough light in darker conditions.
Here's the rub I've always had with a 42mm lens - it's too big and heavy to have in a belt pouch which means you'll have to keep it around your neck. At which point, why not just have a 50mm lens anyway?
That's why, personally, I have two set of bins - a 10x26mm lens for carrying on the belt for 'opportunity spots' when out for a walk and a 12x50mm lens when going out purposefully to spot stuff. Actually, I have a 10x42mm lens as well but never use it because...well, because as I said above.

Again, apologies if you've had bins before and are happy with an 8x, I just want to save you some money before you spent a lot of cash. As said before, have a try of some before buying - and have a look at some 10x bins as well, even if it's just to discount them. Me? I find 8x very disappointing because they promise you a good view but never really get quite close enough.
 
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Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Unless you buy Image Stabilization, any mag above 8X is increasingly hard to hold steady.
I still try to lay my Pentax 7x50 on a log, etc, for a stable view.
I have used 12X x 50mm Canon with IS and it is an amazing development. The IS really does work.
I'd rather spend that kind of money on the down payment on a new truck.

The Nikon 20X - 60X has a practical top of 40X. The 82mm objective is a miracle in bad light.
But, it weighs a ton and a tripod is a must. It has it's own "finder" scope alonside the main barrel!
 

Wander

Nomad
Jan 6, 2017
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Here There & Everywhere
Unless you buy Image Stabilization, any mag above 8X is increasingly hard to hold steady.
Really?
I must say that I have no trouble holding a 12x steady on the subject except at the most closest of targets.
And a 10x really doesn't present any problem at all.
Erm, well, I suppose if one does find it hard to hold the binoculars steady then, yes - higher magnifications probably are best avoided.
But I must say I have never had problems holding a 10x on subject.
Knowing how to hold a pair of binoculars may be part of the trick or if one does have a slight shake in the hands then it could be an issue.
 

Robson Valley

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Nov 24, 2014
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Fact, sir. They pump at your heart rate and your eyes can compensate to some degree.
Increasingly difficult to hold steady, unsupported. Hold on a star.
My targets are commonly 1-3 miles away and above me.
Even with my bare old eyes, I can tell in a moment if there's anybody up there to look at.

With the Pentax 7x50, you can discriminate between goat and sheep and that's about all.
With the Nikon scope, you can count legs.
Wolves a mile away will recognize your presence then ignore you as they pronk for mice and voles.
Meanwhile, bears are crapping in people's front yards at the south end of the village this morning.
Scared off the resident deer for a while, I think.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,367
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Canada
I had a look through a pair of Zeiss Victory 8x42 SF the other day. Not suggesting you buy them, like. They are 3500 dollars here. But, expletives aside, they are remarkably good ... With them, to a certain extent, t doesn't much matter what your subject is. It is a bit like listening to high end audio, where the act of listening itself is quite reward enough, doesn't matter what exactly you are listening to ::) The Victories kind of put you in amongst the action. Very sensual.
 
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mikehill

Full Member
Nov 25, 2014
661
139
Wigan
I had that when I bought a pair of Leica 8 x 50 ... mesmerising. I found myself glued to them for hours at a time