Thanks, these posts have been very helpful. We are in southeast TX as of now and it looks like there will be a Bass Proshop close to our route in a few days. So I will swing in and look at their stock.
I just stopped at a local BPS on the way home from Mississippi, and while they had lots of binoculars, they didn't have what I was looking for (this time, a rugged ultra-compact). What impressed me most about their optics department was the extent to which they made their house brands easy to buy, name brands all out of reach behind glass.
I wear glasses with a strong complex prescription and can't use binoculars without them, so I needed something with long eye relief. This is very important to those of us that must wear eye glasses. I ended up with a pair of Pentax PCF WP II 10x50 that I am very pleased with. They have a 20mm eye relief with twist up eye cups, fully multicoated, nitrogen filled and waterproof, and are known to be sharp across 90% of the field of view. When I bought them they were a little over $200 and worth every penny.
* This post was
edited 01/22/13 04:12pm by PUCampin *
2007 Expedition EL 4x4 Tow pkg
1981 Palomino Pony, the PopUp (Sold)
2006 Pioneer 180CK (No more PUcampin!)
As most have said, it is all about the optics. Quality does not come cheap. I have a pair of Nikon 7X50s. The only feature I wish it had is a compass. When pointing something out to somebody it is so much easier to say "Here, it is on compass heading such & such".
Boat: 32' 1996 Albin 32+2, single Cummins 315hp
40+ night per year overnighter
I'll throw in since I just bought a new pair. I decided on 10x42 roof prism format and looked at six pair side by side. Be aware that (AFAIK, and confirmed by the salesman) there are none made in the USA if that is a consideration.
Leupold makes binocs for Redfield, but in China like the rest. If you can tell a big difference in glass quality between the models I tried in the $150-300 price range, you're a better judge than I am. All namebrand, All seemed high quality, i.e., clear glass, distortion free, coated and waterproof, rubber armored. I could have been happy with any of them and spent a good 45 mins checking them all over. In the end, I bought the Redfields for their very fast focus ratio, positive eyecup deployment, smooth operation, large rubber knurled focus knob, and clip on objective lense covers (like a camera lense cover with the push in tabs that engage the inner threads of the tube, not just junky rubber). My criteria involved being able to manipulate them easily in cold weather with gloves on. Your criteria may differ. The strap is fairly wide and somewhat stretchy, which I thought wouldn't hold up long, but have changed my mind after using them for a season of hunting. These binocs maintain their velvety smoothe operation even in cold weather down into the teens.
So far, I'm very pleased with them after many years with lesser quality units. Time will tell if I'll need their lifetime warranty, but as of now it doesn't appear so. Glad I bought them. They gather light beautifully and are very sharp even out to 300+ yards. Color me satified (for a change!).
Oh, and PS: I had the salesman withhold the price until I made up my mind. That just makes it all the better that they were the lower price pair.
"It`s not important that you know all the answers, it`s only important to know where to get all the answers" Arone Kleamyck
"...An unarmed man can only flee from evil, and evil is not overcome by fleeing from it." Col. Jeff Cooper
Sunset Creek 298 BH
I would try and find a Cabelas, Basspro, or Sportsmans Warehouse and try them in the store before buying; Nikon, Leupold or Alpen make great optics in your price range, you get what you pay for.
Most of the top binocular companies make versions for marine use and for hunting use and for other specific uses. An optimum hunting binocular is going to be different than one used for boating or birding or general sightseeing. A Basspro or Cabelas is going to have only the manufacturers hunting models. I have a 10x28 pair that are lightweight for general use and I keep in the glove box, a 7x50 for boating where the platform is moving and higher magnification would be a problem, and a 10x43 for wildlife viewing where I want the 10x magnification and the extra light gathing ability of the 43.
If I was going to try to do it all with only one pair it would be a 8x42 like the Vanguard Endeavor ED binoculars for which there is currently a $50 rebate that takes the price down to $280 plus shipping at B&H.
$300 is the top end of the very bottom tier of binoculars with the top tier selling for over $2,000. In between are some Nikon and Pentax and other brands that are the high value models that have excellent optics and more affordable prices. A good pair will last you the rest of your life and a number of manufacturers provide lifetime warranties for their binoculars.
At places like B&H you can check the weights of the various models so you will not be surprised at the weight when you receive them at your door.
The 4x are small and lightweight, fit in a pocket. The 8 & 10 are more useful, but larger and heavier. The 12x are the largest and heaviest, awkward to carry. The 12 may be too powerful. It is difficult to keep steady enough with hands alone. At that magnification even your heartbeat causes a 'jump' while viewing. I often must steady it against a stationary object. For serious birding we use a spotting scope on a tripod, but it is difficult to carry and takes a few moments to set up and focus.
Log off and go camping!