Binoculars

Discussion in 'Gear Talk' started by JKA, Apr 6, 2019.

  1. JKA

    JKA Paddler

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    Hi folks,

    I'm looking into (excuse the pun) getting a pair of binoculars, and wondered what people here are using.

    I'm not a great birdwatcher (I once identified an albatross as a seagull) so don't need huge magnification, they must be waterproof, and they need to be compact.

    Regarding price, I don't want junk but also don't have a blank cheque.

    Keen to hear of any suggestions.

    Cheers

    John
     
  2. designer

    designer Paddler

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    John, if these will be used "at sea", I've noticed that many marine binoculars have a larger light gathering lens then "regular" for example, instead of 7 x 35, they might be 7 x 50 (7 is the power, 35mm and 50mm is the large lens in front of the binoculars). Also high power (anything above 8) is hard to focus/steady, especially when bouncing around in a kayak.

    If you have a birding group near by, they may be a source for a good used pair - but remember your waterproof criteria.

    I have taken binoculars with me (So I could read No Tresspassing signs at a distance?) but they never had much use. Unless there was someone along to stabilize my boat while I looked through them - and while getting them out and putting them away - they would mostly be used on land to check out ... birds.

    Because more and more binoculars come waterproof, maybe a used pair from a birdwatching group will give you quality at an affordable price.
     
  3. Kayak Jim

    Kayak Jim Paddler

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    I've got an earlier version of these and they're decent. Seem a good balance of size, ruggedness and price. Like designer, I take them on trips but often they get little use. Wearing glasses, binocs are always a bit cumbersome for me. They have come in handy when I want to check out the waves "out there".

    https://www.mec.ca/en/product/5043-288/UP-8x25-WP-Binoculars

    [​IMG]
     
  4. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Much depends on how you use them: on versus off the water; birdwatching versus shoreline examination; and/or searching for distant navaids, boats, campsites, and people in the water.

    Mine were used almost exclusively on the water, birding, and navaid/campsite searching.

    I've owned a couple pairs of 8 x 23 waterproof binoculars, one by Nikon and the other by Canon. Both did the job and held up well, with the Canon binocs perhaps having somewhat better optics. Small objective lens diameter units will perform well in daylight, which made these good for picking out navaids and other important shoreside features, but marginal for use near dusk. OTOH, if your main use is from shore for birdwatching, larger, bulkier binocs will be worth the weight penalty and you might get by with less expensive nonwaterproof binocs.

    Unlike others, I found these smaller binocs pretty good for identifying waterfowl in daylight. And 8 power magnification was not too jumpy. But, the key was removing my glasses and getting my eyeballs as far into the cups as possible to increase the field of vision. I have never been able to use binocs effectively while wearing glasses because the exit pupil cone from the binocs is usually so small that it dances on and off the pupils of my eyes. In addition, peripheral glare is a real problem if the eyecups cannot seal around your eyes, as when wearing glasses.

    Finally, smaller binocs allow you wear them around your neck, where you can quickly get them into play. Underdecks or in a dry bag, you will miss birds and stationary features which are only briefly visible. On your neck, there is some chance of losing them, but a small float strung on the strap, in high visibility yellow, will give you a fighting chance at retrieval if you drop them or capsize.
     
  5. JKA

    JKA Paddler

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    Dave, that's a great point that I hadn't thought of. I'm at the point that my arms are too short, and bifocal sunglasses have been brilliant, but I've never tried using optics with glasses. I'd better give that a go.

    Thanks for the suggestions, I expect my main use would be birdwatching onshore, but I want waterproofing as nothing stays dry while paddling.

    Cheers

    John
     
  6. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Sounds like your distance vision is roughly 20/20 both eyes without corrective lenses, yes? If so, smaller binocs should work well. OTOH, if you are nearsighted, with one eye moreso than the other, you will definitely want to carefully check for adequate left/right compensation. I believe most binocs have at least 2 or 3 diopters either way. Before cataract surgery / lens replacement, I was very nearsighted, about 200/400 without corrective lenses. That is a huge difference, and I have never had a problem with any binocs..

    I expect you will be very impressed how much better binoculars work for you sans glasses.
     
  7. alexsidles

    alexsidles Paddler

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    For both general birdwatching and kayak-specific birdwatching, I recommend the Nikon Monarch 5. In the US, it retails for $280 USD. I don't know about international availability and pricing.

    The Monarch 5 consistently ranks among the highest rated mid-price birding binoculars in surveys by Audubon and Cornell. You can get better binoculars, and you can get cheaper binoculars, but you can't get better, cheaper binoculars.

    In 2013, the Monarch 5 was updated to include extra-low dispersion glass, one of the first binocular models in its price range to offer ED glass. I have the pre-ED glass version, while my wife has the ED glass, and there is a noticeable increase in brightness, vividness, and clarity. Thanks to the adjustable eye cups, you shouldn't have any problems using it with glasses.

    The Monarch 5 is available in 8x42 and 10x42. I chose an 8, reasoning that higher magnification is less usable from a kayak, due to the motion of the boat. A 10 would also have a narrower field of view and less brightness, costs about $20 more, and is slightly heavier. 8 is the "standard" magnification that a plurality birders use, although anything between 7 and 10 is within the norm. There are a few situations, such as shorebird viewing, for example, where I would like more magnification, but in most situations, I am happy with my choice of an 8. I will buy an 8 or an 8.5 over a 10 if I ever upgrade to a really high-end binocular.

    Alex
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2019
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  8. Steve E

    Steve E New Member

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  9. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    This is interesting. Internal compass and rangefinder as part of the package.
     
  10. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    My 'sailboat binocs' -Fujinon 7x50s - have the compass and rangefinder scale with a pushbutton light. I found it really handy for piloting.
    That monocular looks good, and I trust George Gronseth and the KayakAcademy folks when they recommend gear.
     
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  11. designer

    designer Paddler

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    John, I have a pair like that (purchased back when I made a living) and I lent them to a birder friend. She thought they were dorky (and large), but I pointed out that not only could she see birds, she could tell her fellow birders what degree (magnetic) direction to look. The guy birders thought they were cool.

    The Fujinon is a little big for "in the boat" but I like that monocular.

    If it's a short description, how do you use the rangefinder scale? Or would a YouTube explanation be clearer?
     
  12. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Confession time: I used the compass quite a bit but only used the rangefinder once? Out of curiosity, not necessity, IIRC. (working my way through Dutton's).
    And that is lost in the fog of time.....
    I also used the sextant to look at lighthouses a few times and figured out the range from the tables (or trig? - again I forget).
    GPS has ruined many an enthusiastic navigation student!! :)
     
  13. designer

    designer Paddler

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    I had a sextant once, back when I owned a boat (not sure who "owned" who). I thought it was so cool to learn where I was by the sun - until I understood one needs the thick reference book to translate the degree above horizon and time into lat/log. They never showed that in movies. I do regret that I never learned to "shoot the stars".

    These days that reference book can be an App on your smart phone - but if you are going electronic, might as well use GPS.

    I recall that rangefinder scale required quite a bit of preparation to be useful - like (on the land) you needed to work with an item of known height and distance and see where it fit on the vertical scale, and then get closer or further away and reference it to the scale again. Then, once on the water, you needed to know how tall the item was you were looking at and maybe do some trigonometry. Definitely not a "point-n-read" for distance.

    I was hoping I was wrong about the scale; but if you've only used it once, all that pre-knowledge requirement could be the reason.