Good birding binoculars for under $200?

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Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:10 pm

What's good? What's not? I'm ready to buy a decent pair but don't want to spend a fortune. I did a quick search and saw that the Nikon 8x42 Prostaff 7 was inexpensive at $135 and had mostly favorable comments. Opinions? I definitely want something lightweight and easy to adjust.
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby MikeW » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:12 pm

Tina,
There are a couple of things to consider when purchasing optics whether for birding or something else. If they are going to be used in low light conditions, like for birding one other wildlife viewing at dawn and dusk, then two things to consider is the lens coatings and the exit pupil rating.

Think of the exit pupil rating as the aperture like in your camera lens. On a pair of bino's it is calculated by dividing the size of the objective lens by the magnification power. In the case of the 8x42's you mention it would be 5.25. The human eye is about 7 and anything over about 4 to 4.5 is considered pretty good for low light viewing. So from this perspective those should work pretty good.

Now, as for the lens coatings...they use a lot of marketing speak here and it helps to know what is actually meant by what they say. You will see terms like 'coated', 'multi-coated', 'fully-coated' and ' fully multi-coated' to describe the coatings on the glass. Simply put, the coatings help to keep the glass from reflecting unwanted light that keeps the image from being sharp. 'Coated' means that at least one lens (usually the front objective lens) is coated. 'Multi-coated' means that at least 1 lens surface has multiple coatings applied. 'Fully-coated' means that all lens surfaces (inside and outside of both front and back lenses) have at leas 1 coat and 'fully multi-coated' means that all lens surfaces have multiple coats. All that to say that the more coatings they have (fully multi-coated vs. coated) the better they will be. However that is also where some of the cost factors in.

My suggestion is to get the best coatings you can on a pair that has at least a 4 exit pupil rating while staying within whatever budget you have to spend.

Hope this is helpful,
Mike
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Sat Apr 12, 2014 9:12 pm

Mike, this is VERY helpful! I'll make note of this as I shop around. Thanks!
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby Danaduck » Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:18 am

I saw where Cornell just did a rating and they put the best under $200 pair as the Celestron Nature DX 8 X 42 which can be found for $139.

http://www.celestron.com/browse-shop/sp ... binoculars
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:13 am

You sold me, Danaduck! I like the army green color too. I see that for $10 more I could get the 10x42. This makes the exit pupil rating lower at 4.2. I thought the higher the better? Mike, am I confused on this?

ETA: I did a google search of the 8x42 vs. 10x42, and I see that the 8's are generally better for birding. I'm going with the 8s!
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby Danaduck » Sun Apr 13, 2014 1:18 pm

Good choice on going with the 8 X 42 which most of us use. The advantage of the 10 over the 8 maginification is very slight while the loss of light is a pretty big loss. The 10 X 50 usually cost only $10 or $20 more but the weight add on is pretty large and the more weight you have to hand hold to look through can quickly become a pain.
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:05 pm

They're on order! Can't wait for them to arrive. Thanks both for your advice.
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Tue Apr 22, 2014 9:14 pm

Got my Celestron 8x42 binocs yesterday and they are perfect! Thanks for the advice and recommendation.
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby Russ Emmons » Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:41 am

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.?

Russ Emmons
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Re: Good birding binoculars for under $200?

Postby TinaTC » Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:01 pm

I got them right from the Celestron website. I checked Amazon too hoping for the free shipping, but they didn't have them in stock. Celestron's shipping was reasonable though, and quick. So far I've only used them in the back yard. They'll get a real test at my next birding class in a week.
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