- I've just finished going through the rigors of buying and testing binoculars. You'd think that it would be so simple - not quite.
What did I know about binoculars? Not much. You look through them and things look bigger - that is unless you are looking through the wrong end. I had to improve upon that - off to Google - what a mess! It's not as easy as finding reviews on some other consumer goods unfortunately. Many of the reviews are "self-serving" as is very evident.
First I learned that power is important. Hey Arnold, can you lend us some muscle here ;-)
When one looks at binoculars one finds numbers such as 7x35, or 7x50, or 8x42, or 10x70 etc.. Good grief! I almost flunked algebra, and it looks as if it's coming back to haunt me...not really. The first number is the amount of magnification of the image that you are looking at through the binoculars. So, in a pair of 8x42 binoculars the magnification is 8 times what you would see without binoculars. What is the last number, 42? That is the size of the big lens. The larger the number, the more light is let in, and the better you can see birds when the light is dim as in the evening.
The standard pair of binoculars is a 7x35. That means: 7x magnification with a 35 mm objective lens. So, if you were to look through a 7x50 pair of binoculars, all other things being equal, you would see a brighter image as the sun comes up or goes down or on a cloudy day than you would with the 7x35 binoculars. It does make a difference, but how much of a difference?
I inherited an older pair of 7x35 Tasco binoculars - made when they were considered to be a good binocular. Yesterday I bought a Fujinon M-22 7x50 pair. The M-22 is made to U.S. Army specifications and bought by both our military and law enforcement agencies for $800/pair. I paid considerably less. Today I took them both outside in the bright light to see if there was any difference. I looked at a tree with the 7x35 pair - nice leaves, some branches, but not much from the interior of the tree. I then looked at the same spot on the tree with the 7x50 pair. The difference was amazing! I immediately spotted 2 birds' nests in the interior of the tree that I had not seen with the 7x35 pair. So, I went back to the 7x35 pair to see if I had simply missed the birds' nests - nope, I "simply" could not distinguish them in the shaded interior of the tree canopy.
I also have (had) a pair of Bushnell 7x35 binoculars. They flunked the birds' nests test too.
As luck would have it I also just bought a pair of Leupold 8x42 (green ring) binoculars. These turned out to be by far the best of the 4 brands. The image is bright, clear, and easy to focus. With an 8x magnification they can still be held by hand without a lot of shake that the 10x binoculars provided. They are relatively lightweight with a roof prism - the others had poro prisms. What does that mean? Well, to simplify matters the poro prism binoculars all have the familiar "jog" in each barrel while the barrels with the roof prisms are straight - no jog. This makes for a more compact and lighter pair of binoculars.
Compact binocular? What about them? A 7x20 would be a compact binocular. Unless you are using them at the opera or a rock concert I'd forget about them - even then I'd take my Leupold 8x42.
Well, that's my first post here. As luck would have it I'm also a falconry apprentice - just passed my state examination, so may be I'll have some neat photos down the road of some hawks, buteos and falcons...