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  #1  
Old February 24th, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Default Cheap vs expensive binoculars.

What is the difference between inexpensive (Wall Mart) binoculars and expensive (Neiman Marcus) binoculars.
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Old February 24th, 2008, 03:27 PM
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You get what you pay for. My advice would be to forget about store brands and do some research on binoculars. Alaska is so big, that you really need good binoculars to bring things in close.

I don't know what your budget is, but I would be looking into some Fujinons or Steiners. I like marine binoculars because that is exactly what they are designed for. They are bigger, but they reach out. I use the Fujinon 7 x 50 Polaris models. Look through a pair of these and it is breath taking.
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Old February 24th, 2008, 04:03 PM
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The cheap ones are probably not water or fog proof and that alone can make them useless in Alaska.
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Old February 24th, 2008, 04:34 PM
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Better quality binoculars have better lenses. The image will generally be sharper, brighter, and larger, with higher quality binoculars - although price alone isn't the only indicator of quality.

Some people think that the more expensive ones are a waste of money, and some people wouldn't consider cheap ones. If you can afford a better pair then find a local sporting goods or camera store that carries them and see the difference for yourself.

for our Alaska trip I bought a pair of Canon 10x30 IS (Image Stabilized binoculars). These are relatively expensive, but can be bought at a 25% or higher discount from full retail online. The optics are very good, although not quite as good as other binoculars in the price range, but the Image stabilization feature is incredible. You can see much more clearly when there isn't shake or jitter.
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Old February 24th, 2008, 06:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by derf5585 View Post
What is the difference between inexpensive (Wall Mart) binoculars and expensive (Neiman Marcus) binoculars.
I have learned SO much about binoculars from these boards, having only owned cheapie (and basically useless) pairs in the past. I haven't pulled the trigger on what to buy for our Alaska trip yet, but I'm close, and I'm a LOT more well-informed than I was before I began researching here. Here's a thread to get you started -- http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showt...ght=binoculars

When I was just starting to check this out, I walked into a local sporting goods store (a camera store should do as well) and said "I need to compare binoculars, to see what works for me." They were very helpful, and with the binoculars in hand I could totally SEE what folks mean about eye relief, brightness, field of view, etc. I discovered that 12x is too much for me (I have too much hand-shake) -- 10x is borderline okay -- 8x was really good. I discovered that I much prefer a wider angle. So for me, an 8x42 was super, a 10x50 was just okay, and a 12x50 made me want to yak (from the hand-shaking). I can't afford image stabilization (lord knows I wish I could) so now I have a good idea of what I want.

I also looked at smaller, compact units, and even the Leupold's I checked out just didn't come close to the standard sized ones I tried. I really loved the Nikon models. I may wind up compromising the best quality I found (the Nikon Monarch) for a significant price difference (the Nikon Action Extremes -- which I believe aren't fully multicoated and aren't quite as bright). In any event, I feel like I can make an educated decision I will be very happy with.

Also take the time to educate yourself about stuff like "multicoated" versus "fully multicoated," which I just said -- it makes a difference, and carries a price difference. The same with roof prism and porro -- which has a weight difference in most cases. MOST importantly, get waterproof AND fogproof binoculars, especially for Alaska, where you'll be going from warm indoors to cold/chilly outdoors.

The many experts here will correct me where I'm wrong/misguided -- but those are the biggies I've taken away from several binocular threads here -- and which I could really SEE at my local store.
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Old February 24th, 2008, 06:40 PM
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MichellP, that's an excellent summary.

After many years' experience using binoculars and other optics, I never cease to be amazed by how much thoughts were put in to make an excellent pair of binoculars.

There are many factors that determine the cost of binoculars: mainly the complexity of optic design, quality of glasses and optical coatings. If you are first time binoculars user, try to start with a full size binoculars (36mm and bigger) with power between 7x and 10x. I don't use anything above 10x handheld. Make sure it is waterproof, instead of water-resistance. Coating is important, some cheap binoculars only have anti-reflection coating on the front lens while leaving all internal glasses uncoated. As a result, the image is very dim. The best binoculars will not cut corner for optical coating. Always look for fully multi-coated optics.

I started this thread a while back to explain some of the commonly used terminology and one may want to start from here http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=550923
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  #7  
Old February 24th, 2008, 07:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichellP View Post
I discovered that 12x is too much for me (I have too much hand-shake) -- 10x is borderline okay -- 8x was really good.....I also looked at smaller, compact units, and even the Leupold's I checked out just didn't come close to the standard sized ones I tried.... I really loved the Nikon models....
I agree the 8x are probably best for many without the Image Stabilization. While the higher power is very tempting it gets irritating looking through them a while with everything shake. I love my Canon 10x with the IS, but they are expensive.

The Nikon Monarchs I looked at once seemed awesome I think they were 8x42 or something like that.

I also lucked out and found a fantastic price on eBay for a pair of compact Leica 8x20 binoculars. While the field of vision isn't very wide the quality is fantastic and the small size is great. The best binoculars are the ones you use the most, and having these small ones is nice since they are so easy to carry and so light to hold. I'd love to try some of the other Leica models - but they make the Nikon Monarchs look inexpensive by comparison.
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  #8  
Old February 25th, 2008, 07:39 AM
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The best binoculars (Lecia, Zeiss, Swarovski, and Nikon EDG) are absolutely amazing in terms of their brightness and sharpness...but cost upwards of $1500 a pair. They are a good investment if you enjoy bird and wildlife watching regularly, as they are rugged and, unlike electronics, will never be truly obsolete (my son uses a pair of older Zeiss binoculars he inherited from his Grandfather, and they are still amazingly good). The big advantage of these top brands (for me at least) is that I can use a more compact pair of 8x32 binoculars that will outperform nearly every 10x42 or 10x50 on the market, yet weighs significantly less and is much easier to hold steady (and easier on the neck).

E-bay is a wonderful place to shop for these top-line binoculars, as you can often find remarkable deals on older pairs whenever a new upgrade is introduced (and the upgrades usually only minimally improve the performance of the binoculars).

See also this earlier thread for more detailed discussion of binoculars:

http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=700476

Last edited by whale-watcher; February 25th, 2008 at 07:40 AM.
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  #9  
Old February 25th, 2008, 11:05 AM
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I don't have expensive pairs of binoculars and always use them. Key is to try out several and see what is BEST for you, within your budget.

I think sometimes the trend is to go overboard with the "best" when it's going to be a one time use. Only you can decide what is most important.

A significant point to consider IF you have a priority for marine wildlife, is the necessity of wide angle.
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  #10  
Old February 25th, 2008, 12:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Budget Queen View Post
I think sometimes the trend is to go overboard with the "best" when it's going to be a one time use. Only you can decide what is most important.
Thanks for all the posters information. Especially fully coated optics and waterproffing
I plan to use them after the cruise to lets say watch "nature" around my neighborhood
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Old February 25th, 2008, 03:43 PM
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I think the Nikon monarchs are a great overal choice...well worth the investment. Beyond that, there is relatively little added benefit for the additional cost, and for the average person it is just not worth the expense.

Again, it is always worth checking e-bay just in case someone purchased a pair and then had a case of buyer's remorse!
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Old February 25th, 2008, 07:12 PM
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I prefer to use a small, high quality telescope called a monocular. I can see far away via that with one eye and keep the other eye looking for bears! Weighs much less and fits into a pocket.
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Old February 26th, 2008, 01:47 AM
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DH got himself a good treat with a compact steiner 8.5x26. It got all the features recommded by the several experts above. It is not cheap at $300. I still prefer my fullsize zen-ray summits since it is easier for me to use.
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Old February 26th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PennyAgain View Post
I prefer to use a small, high quality telescope called a monocular. I can see far away via that with one eye and keep the other eye looking for bears! Weighs much less and fits into a pocket.
these are really fun as well...I keep one in my pocket almost all the time, just in case....

I forgot to mention the main advantage of more expensive binoculars, which is better color rendition without color fringing (the slight halo of color you see around a distant object, in particular a back-lit flying bird). This not nearly as critical for marine mammal and scenery observation as it is for birding. One of my hobbies is watching (and identifying) distant migrating hawks and eagles, and in order to properly identify (and determine the age/gender) it is critically important for me to have true color transmission without fringing. The ultra expensive binoculars really make a difference, especially when lighting conditions are poor.

Otherwise, for the average bird and whale watcher, the mid-price models will be more than adequate. The most important thing, as BQ stated...try out as many models as possible so you can see what fits comfortably in your hands (and on your neck), and decide whether you prefer 8x or 10x or even 7x or 12x.
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Old March 1st, 2008, 12:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhmom99 View Post
DH got himself a good treat with a compact steiner 8.5x26. It got all the features recommded by the several experts above. It is not cheap at $300. I still prefer my fullsize zen-ray summits since it is easier for me to use.
I noticed a big difference between my expensive Bushnell Elite2 8x42 ($480) and cheapo compact binoculars I got from ebay for $20. But I didn't see much difference between Elite2 and Summit I have. A better binoculars really gives you stress-free viewing with a better optics. Since I have not personally tried any of those $1000+ binoculars, I cannot say how much better they will be.
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Old March 2nd, 2008, 08:40 PM
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Thanks, this gives me a place to start. We have a number of cheap pairs around, and I can't look at them without getting a headache unless I crunch one eye closed. I'm planning to go to a good camera store and try them out, but now I'll be doing it with a little education beforehand.
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Old March 3rd, 2008, 02:54 AM
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I have had a pair of 7X50 Fujinon Polaris (marine) galsses for about 10 years and we have just bought our son a pair as he is a quartermaster with BC Ferries. Fujinon tends to be a good marine standard but they wouldn't be something that I would want hike with around my neck for a long period of time. West Marine carry them at about the $600 price point.
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Old March 3rd, 2008, 11:13 AM
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Default Bin choice!

I'd condsider the Nikon Monarch 8X42 from a popular online retailer for $245. they are a great affordable option. Even more affordable would be the new XR ones at R.E.I. for $160, now on sale with 20% off. they are a great retailer and will take anything back if you have problems.

the Fujis mentioned are AWESOME! But they are an anchor as well. We have had a pair on the boat for years. But again, they are soooo big and heavy. And costly. I don't like the smaller Fujis as much as the Monarchs. Also, you can try the more affordable DCF Pentax models. These start to get heavy. Remember, the bigger and heavier they are, the less they get used.

Compacts are nice (8X20) but have limitations. Try them out! Zeiss Victory 8X20 is awesome, but also $400.
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Old March 3rd, 2008, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knorrisb07 View Post
I noticed a big difference between my expensive Bushnell Elite2 8x42 ($480) and cheapo compact binoculars I got from ebay for $20. But I didn't see much difference between Elite2 and Summit I have. A better binoculars really gives you stress-free viewing with a better optics. Since I have not personally tried any of those $1000+ binoculars, I cannot say how much better they will be.
Just got a chance to try out the Elite2 this weekend. It is an excellent binos for its price. I would be really interested in seeing how it compares to more expensive European brands.
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Old March 3rd, 2008, 02:15 PM
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Does anyone know anything about the Simmons Captureview Binoculars?

They are supposed to be waterproof, and take digital photos. I just wonder what kind of quality they have.
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