I have seen various "which binoculars?" type threads here, and thought that this may help someone who has recently been in the same position as me.
I have recently been on the hunt for a new pair of binoculars. I currently use a pair of quite well regarded Japanese made ones, but was in a shop recently and whilst my mother was choosing a pair for herself, asked to look through a a pair of high end, expensive bins. Wow! Now I wish I hadnít! So the hunt began to find a pair for me to upgrade.
I researched the web, went on birdwatching websites and even bought some birdwatching magazines. I trawled through lots of old posts on here. I asked advice of everyone I knew, and tried to borrow theirs for a bit. And I went to shops and tried a few. The shambolic results of my findings are listed below, I hope they may be of use to someone.
- Try them. This has become my golden rule. I would no longer buy them unseen, unless it was a model that I had previously tried and liked. And even then, there are small differences between examples of the same bins. So if at all possible, buy the actual pair that you have tried and liked. Recommendations are all well and good, but everyone has a unique shaped face and different sized hands, which can make a world of difference.
- Try them on a dull winter day. All bins look good in good bright conditions. Twilight sorts the wheat from the chaff. In an ideal world, buy in the depths of winter, and try them as late as possible in the day to get a true idea of light transmission.
- Donít be blinded by brands. Some of the lesser known names are made in the same place as the better known brands, and no doubt use the same components. Some of them offer excellent guarantees too. Minox seem highly regarded here, I havenít yet had the oppurtunity to try a pair so I canít comment. (If anyone in W Yorks has a pair I could look through Iíd be grateful!)
- Be aware of the law of diminishing returns. 1k bins are not twice as good as £500 bins. They may only be 10% better optically. Evaluate what you really need from them, and choose accordingly. Try them, alongside each other, in line with rule 1 and 2 if possible.
- Try to stretch yourself and buy quality, fewer times. Quality bins hold a decent proportion of second hand value, if you ever decide to upgrade. A decent pair should hold you in good stead for many years to come.
There are some birdwatching places which overlook bird reserves, and sell optics. They are great places to get your hands on a few pairs and try them out. I took a flask of tea and spent 3 hours in one! Ideal for actually looking at animals and birds, and not just distance views. Thoroughly recommended.
I actually found that there was less difference than I thought between my current model, and the expensive German and Austrian makes I was trying out, than I imagined there would be. However, this was in good light, I think dusk may tell a different story. The expensive ones were clearly better made and nicer to handle, with a better field of view. I did struggle for example, to tell the difference optically between the new Swaros and the current Zeiss. I canít see where thew extra money goes. But thatís just me and my eyes. You may well be different.
I am by no means an optics expert, and am new to stalking, but have been involved in country pursuits for quite some time. A decent set of bins enhances your pleasure no end, a simple walk with the dog takes on a different dimension. I hope you find what you are looking for.