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UL binoculars
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Sean Passanisi
(passanis) - MLife
UL binoculars on 01/03/2014 10:09:06 MST Print View

Hello. I found this old thread on UL binoculars. Any new tech in this area? Would love to find a good lightweight pair without breaking the bank. Dare I say the "Tarptent" of binoculars?

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Bins on 01/03/2014 11:51:21 MST Print View

What will you be using them for? Will you be using them a lot? Do they need to be waterproof?

You can find adequate compacts starting around $100. But if optical quality really matters, you can go well over $1000. What's your price range?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Binos on 01/03/2014 12:07:46 MST Print View

Echoing what Scott has already said, it's almost like asking "what vehicle should I buy?" without knowing where you would be driving it and under what conditions.

I have a few pair of pocket sized binoculars but I don't take them backpacking as I don't feel that they perform well enough to justify the weight. They're great for zoos and whatnot. I have a larger pair of 10x50 binos which do perform acceptably but I only take them hunting due to weight.

For how I use them, Steiner is the gold standard (for me). They are expensive but you can spend a lot more.

I think Nikon makes great optics for the money. I own a pair of their 10x50s so I can't speak for the smaller ones.

Optics are one of those things that you have to test drive to see what works best for you. I think your best bet is to stop by your local Cabelas or equivalent and try some out.

Edited by IDBLOOM on 01/03/2014 12:08:22 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: UL binoculars on 01/03/2014 12:13:48 MST Print View

We use Nikon Travelite binoculars. With optics there is a big difference between cheap and slightly expensive models like the Travelites. The next real step up in quality is many times the cost and I don't think it is worth it unless you are doing some sort of field work and use them all day.

As it is, they are in the car more than our bacpacks. A good quality monocular will give you a good view of an animal or distant point. Binoculars are better for 3-D orientation, like piloting a boat or serparating the overlapping ridges when navigating a trail. All in all, they slide over to the luxury side of the gear list.

I once had this Tasco 8x20 monocular. It has been long since discontinued, even vintage, but perfect as an UL optic design.
Tasco #516 8x20 monocular

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Half a binocular on 01/03/2014 12:48:33 MST Print View

I got a Minox 8x16 monocular off of STP at a great price and for the first time, found a monocular that was worth carrying. Nothing like Swarovski EL 10x42 Binoculars (or even a decent set of compact Nikons), but they weren't $2,500 nor weigh 28 ounces.

3.6 ounces. I liked them enough that I eventually bought four and gave them to friends and family.Minox binoculars

I'm not sure if they have the best prices, but Eagle Optics havs good prices, and LOTS of choices on their website.

It would be nice if someone did titanium binocs, lens shapes that minimized weight, etc.

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Binocular options on 01/03/2014 13:36:36 MST Print View

Leica Ultravid 8x20 BR's are extremely good and weigh about 230 g, but they are expensive. If you don't want to spend that much, the Alpen Wings ED Compact Binoculars in 8x20mm or 10x25mm are quite good. They weigh around 200 g also.

If you want a mid-size binocular which is almost as useable as a full-size binocular,
the Pentax 9x28 DCF LV is a good choice (380 g).

Of full-size binoculars, Nikon Monarchs are some of the lightest. A Nikon Monarch 12x42mm weighs around 690 g.

People who are not optics connoisseurs would probably have trouble discerning the difference in optical quality between the best-in-class $200 binoculars and $2,000 binoculars.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Tasco Monocular on 01/03/2014 13:40:16 MST Print View

My family had several of these for day hikes, the zoo, etc. I think there was a higher end model like Bushnell or Bausch & Lomb. That said, there is a knock-off of the Tasco Dale put up above on eBay for $8 shipped. Might be worth a looksy.

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Re: Binocular options on 01/03/2014 13:47:39 MST Print View

The Zeiss Conquest Compact 8x20 T and 8x25 are comparable to the Leica's in quality and price ($500).

Zeiss also makes a range of monoculars, some of which are under 25 g (1 ounce).

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Binos on 01/03/2014 13:50:01 MST Print View

I know nothing about binoculars, but a quick search shows Olympus has some [Olympus Tracker 10x25 Porro Prism Compact & Lightweight Binocular is one] that weigh less than 10 oz. No idea on how good they are, but they seem to get good reviews on Amazon.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
UL binoculars on 01/03/2014 13:56:06 MST Print View

If you can head down to the nearest store with a decent range.
In the end is what you see that matters.
Usually at the same price point Porro prism (offset) are better than roof prism (the straight type) because they are less expensive to make.
BY the way, good glass (high density) is heavy so for LW you need to compromise in optical quality.

BTW, having sold well over 1000 and bought much more than that I can tell you that most people don't like using monoculars. In my case it is because I don't find them comfortable to hold and hard to point at a moving subject, birds in particular.
However the few that do like them really do.

Edited by Franco on 01/03/2014 14:47:16 MST.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: Binos and Monoculars on 01/03/2014 13:56:32 MST Print View

There are some great compacts out there, but they are fairly to egregiously expensive. The Vortex Solo 8x36 monocular is compact, inexpensive, and has surprisingly good glass. The rangefinding reticle version is handy.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: re: Binos and Monoculars on 01/03/2014 14:13:03 MST Print View

I'd recommend looking for a pair of the legendary Nikon Venturer II. Killer optics and a bargain for what they go for. Compact and a bit under 9 oz IIRC.

And they look cool as hell.

Paul Hatfield
(clear_blue_skies) - F
Re: Re: re: Binos and Monoculars on 01/03/2014 14:28:56 MST Print View

> I'd recommend looking for a pair of the legendary Nikon Venturer II

I think those replaced by the Nikon Premier LX. Anyway at that price point (~$500), the compact Leica's are a better choice. At ~$150, the Alpen Wings ED 8x20's are a decent low-priced substitute.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Venturer II on 01/03/2014 15:17:53 MST Print View

I was meaning a pair of the old ones for $25-50 used. IMO spending a lot (>$200) on compacts isn't a great idea. I'm sure the Leicas are nice but for half the price you can get a killer pair of full size (but still compact) Zen Rays that will be a lot better in use. A bit apples and oranges, I know, but the compromise in performance on compacts isn't worth the leica price IMO unless cost isn't an issue.

I'd recommend checking out some birding/hunting/optics forums for more recommendations.

Desert Dweller

Locale: Wild Wild West
Binoculars on 01/03/2014 15:51:55 MST Print View

I use the Nikon Trailblazer, it's under 10 oz and waterproof, $129.00. 10 x 25, 6.5 WF. I bought them because my bird watching binocs were just too darn big and heavy and this Nikon model fits my eye measurements better. Love em.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
General suggestions on 01/03/2014 15:59:11 MST Print View

In the low cost category, I hear good things about the Nikon Travelites.

In the expensive category, I have a pair of Zeiss Conquest Compacts that I adore. They've survived 2 thru-hikes and are still in great shape.

If you plan to use your bins regularly, I would not bother with monoculars--bins provide a much more satisfying viewing experience.

Think about getting waterproof (or at least water resistant) bins. If your bins aren't sealed, the temperature changes that you'll go through while backpacking could result in condensation inside the optics--not good!

Look for bins that are "fully multi-coated." This means that the lenses and mirrors are coated to reduce diffraction and ensure a sharp image. This is available even in some low-cost bins.

And finally don't be wowed by high magnification. 7 or 8 power is all you need. Image sharpness is much, much more important than magnifying power.

Sean Passanisi
(passanis) - MLife
Re: General suggestions on 01/03/2014 17:17:02 MST Print View

Thanks for all of the feedback. I plan to use the binoculars (or perhaps monoculars, though I'll heed the cautions) for wildlife viewing, $150 sounds like a lot, so the $500 models are out of my range for now. For this type of thing, I'd rather have a starter pair and upgrade later.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: UL binoculars on 01/03/2014 17:33:52 MST Print View

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Re: UL binoculars on 01/03/2014 18:39:51 MST Print View

@Scott: Say bin one more time!

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Bins, not bin on 01/03/2014 21:02:00 MST Print View

Birders call them bins. If you want to waste your breath on all those extra syllables, feel free.