[Tweeters] Binocular Advice

Marc Hoffman tweeters at dartfrogmedia.com
Sat Sep 16 18:22:08 PDT 2006

When we shopped for binoculars about five years ago, I did lots of 
research online. We didn't have a lot to spend: our budget was around 
$200. But we ended up with some 8.5 x 40 ( I think!) Swift Ultralites 
that we've been extremely pleased with. We got them locally for only 
a bit more than online retailers were charging. They were light, 
clear and bright, and have worked flawlessly. And if we lose them (as 
we've come close to doing several times), it's not a financial catastrophe.

I think the selection process is pretty much cut-and-dry. Here's what 
we considered, aside from cost:

The power (the "8.5" in 8.5 x 40) will determine both magnification 
and field of view. Higher powers show a smaller area and thus are 
harder to sight through and more affected by jiggle. So 10 power is 
probably out unless you have a very steady hand and are adept at sighting.

The objective lens size (the "40" in 8x40) will determine the amount 
of light collected. Compact models with smaller objective lenses 
gather less light. I found the difference between 35 and 40 to be dramatic.

Optical quality will determine clarity, how much light passes through 
the lenses, and chromatic aberration (such as purple fringing around 
backlit subjects). All other things being equal, this is what extra 
bucks should buy.

Eye relief affects comfort for eyeglass wearers. Even if you don't 
wear glasses, you may want to sell these someday, or your 
eyeglass-wearing friends may want to borrow them.

Comfort of grip and ease of adjustment counts for a lot. Some binocs 
are just too stiff in the focusing aparatus.

Ruggedness and weatherproofing adds to cost and usually to weight as well.

Overall weight can determine if you'll be fatigued after ten minutes 
of watching a bird atop a tall tree, and whether you'll even be 
inclined to bring the binocs along in situations where you don't 
necessarily expect to see anything.

Warranty is self-explanatory. Of course, a long warranty on a set of 
binoculars that don't work well is of dubious value.

We didn't care about snob appeal, but I suppose that can be a factor too :)

Good luck and have fun shopping.

Marc Hoffman
Kirkland, WA
mailto:tweeters at dartfrogmedia.com
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