Tina I'm glad you posted about this, glad to hear about the Cornell report on binocs. I too am in the market for binocs and don't want to (& can't) afford high end $ ! Several reasons for this I will explain: What Mike W. says here is good info regards the optics. Basic bottom line stuff important when choosing binocs or scopes, and often discussed among birders, nature lovers, hunters etc. There are several more very important other issues to be considered that aren't often brought up and leave me with several questions. One of which is weight as Dana mentions. Also binocs over 10X are usually hard to hold steady for most people. Note most binocs over 10X have a 1/4" threaded hole on the bottom for tripod mounting for this reason.
It has been said by many veteran birders etc. that many/most? of the inexpensive binocs have quality, adequate optics for most uses & that most of the high $ models one is paying for the name and a few other features, plus not much better optics! Other birders have stated that the higher end binocs DO give such a much better, clearer, brighter view it is unbelievable the comparison, so well worth the price. This brings the questions I ask.--I've never owned a top line high priced binoc or really ever tried any out. I don't go to many of the meets etc. where many birders congregate with their binocs, scopes & when I do I'm reluctant to just ask anyone to "try" their binocs. A couple of times buying binocs at a store they've let me take them out the door to have a look over the parking lot to check them out---not really a good test. I will not just buy a high priced pair on the premise that because it is high end it will be fine.
There are a few other reasons I won't buy high priced binocs or scopes. I've found in my experience that the inexpensive ones are all great when brand new. It is after a few years of the type use we give them doing Atlasing, BBS routes, Christmas counts etc. down dusty roads & 2 tracks, sliding down rocky hills through wet brush etc. they get dirty INSIDE! To take apart binocs to clean them takes a professional and not worth the price for inexpensive ones. I tried ONCE to take a pair apart--never again! --they were no good at all after. Also and very important is after extended use I've actually worn out the focus mechanisms. The inexpensive models do have simpler low quality threads & swivels that wear so that fine focusing becomes tough to do due to slippage. Again I wouldn't be sure the high end models mechanisms are THAT much better. Yes the more expensive ones have "better" seals for dirt & moisture--especially "waterproof" models--but do they? I have a pair of "Audubon" brand (8X40) by Vortex that were $170 several years back I got for $150. They were "waterproof". The worst binocs I ever used/had! The "waterproof" seals were so tight when new I couldn't turn the focus easily at all. Now these binocs are so sloppy & worn as to be useless anymore & falling apart--and dirty inside!
Something more important to consider: I've been known to set my binocs on the roof of the car, then start to drive off----pretty scary eh if your binocs are in the $300 to $1000 price range. I've got in the habit now IF I put them down it's ALWAYS on the hood of the car if not on the seat. I have started to drive off with them there even. Consider also down here there's been many break ins in cars at park parking lots, accesses etc. resulting in stolen binocs, scopes, cameras, I-pods etc.
The question then still remains is where about does the price range begin where one can really start getting better quality all around then having to go WAY up on the $ scale? This has often been discussed by birders.
I've always been impressed with Celestron products & prices even tho most birders don't seem to care or know much about them. After what you & Dana have said I think I might just try those also. Where did you get them from.?
'mi ojo es en la cielo' por aves!