From experience, the words tight budget and optics dont really go well together.
I spent many years buying cheap bino's only to have them break and worse of all, seriously lack in the light gathering and optical quality departments. I remember i was sat in a high seat and my guide was glassing the field saying it was full of deer. i was looking and couldnt see a thing. He passed me his Swarovski 8.5 x 42 binos and there they were. The following week i ordered a pair and have never looked back.
Have a look at the opticron bins, I have a set of 10X50, and find them very good, maybe not in the same league as swaro but I cant really tell the differance with my eyes when I looked at the side by side..
The 8x42 might be better suited to woodland stalking.
Russ, I can only concur with what's already been said. There is no substitute for quality optics. I persevered for a while with a pair of Eshenbachs which while fine for day to day use for looking at boats in harbours etc. simply weren't up to the task of stalking in low light. I now use a pair of Swaro 7x42 SLCs.
I have had Meopta scopes in the past and found them to provide excellent performance for the money. Now that their binos are becoming available over here you might like to consider those as a lower priced alternative although I think you'll still be around the £500 bracket and you may prefer to save for a bit longer and pay the extra couple of hundred or so and get the Swaros or similar.
Whilst the lads are saying budget and good scopes dont go hand in hand, they do have a point but I got a pair of bushnell trophies of ebay last year for £75 new and they are a great set, there are a few who have commented on how clear they are, and 1 lad even said they were as good as his leupolds. Look around and through as many sets as you can then make your decision! People are often precious regarding their kit and everybody will tell you theirs is the best! I did listen once went out bought a swaro scope and hated it, I know have a meopta on my rifle and well! it still shoots great. At the end of the day you are using them and nobody else so if your happy thats all that counts.
Heres a suggestion for you. Look at Brian Foxes site he has binoculars on it, I know the Fox scopes are top class for the money infact Im going to get 1 for myself so it may just be the same for the glasses!
All comes down to money at the end of the day, I have Swarovski EL 10x42's, worth their money in gold, but gold is alot cheaper.....Better waiting an other couple of months to get a better pair after saving a bit longer than having to buy a second set in a year 'cos your first arn't that good. Don't rush into buying, just for the sake of buying, shop around, there is always a bargain somewhere if you look hard enough.
i use leupold wind river 8x42
but i agree with tartinjock as i should of waited and saved a bit more money for a set of swarovski's as my scopes out perform my binos at last light , but you hav to go with your budget at times and starting off is never cheap
always try before you buy if you can even if it is a mates set ,
but like nutty i do recommend meopta for a scope (30mm tube ) as i find them as good as any and very reasonably priced,
You only need one set of binoculars in your life, so always try and get the best that there is. In the long run you will not regret it.
Zeiss, Swarovski or Leica they are not cheap, but will last you forever.
Budget wise anything under the above, although try and make sure above all else that they have nitrogen proofed barrels, so they do not fog up inside. You will find that cheaper models will not have this, and once they have fogged up inside you may as well throw them away.
Zeiss 7x42 BGAT Classics - the older straight tube - lovely balance and fantastic optics and light in weight so you happily take them with you. They don't make them any more, but occasionally you find the second hand.
in order of preference spend your money on
Binoculars - get the best you can afford - Swarovski, Zeiss, Leica or Doctor - allow you to find your beast.
Scope - go for fixed 6x42by any of the above or Meopta if on a budget - any number of good second hand ones on the market.
Allows you to aim the shot.
Most rifles off the shelf should be accurate enough to put a round in the boiler room. There are any number of cheap 2nd hand Parker Hales, CZs Remingtons etc in .243 or .270 - not sexy calibres but do the job - on most gun dealers shelves.
Like you i wanted a decent set of binos but couldn't afford the swaro, etc price tag.
I chatted with alot of people and eventually decided upon Pentax DCF SP Binoculars. I got a few mates with the more expensive name brands to evaluate them for me who concluded that there wasn't much in it. I bought the 8x43's from amazon for approx £320
I looked at all the top German brands, and I brought a set of Minox's HGs they are as good as anything but RRP over in the UK is still £600 they are as good as ELs but lighter and more compact.
I brought mine from the US (e-bay) for £310. I had £1,200 in the slush fund for a pair of binoculars so when I brought them price had no bearing.
Scince then my brother and a mate have both sold there Ziess Bino's and brought a pair of Minox's, another member of my stalking syndicate has also brought a pair after using mine and got rid of his Karhles.
Hi Russ, I had the chance to compare a lot of makes at one time. I agree that the top 4 or 5 are very good but pretty expensive for some folk. I finally settled on a pair of Minox 7x42. Value for money these are excellent, well worth a look. One thing Russ, try to get a few to try in a failing light situation, I was amazed at the performance differential between makes. I watched a log in a corner of a field about 300 yards away as night fell, switching between makes, the last binos to pick it out were the Minox, hence my choice. Cheers.