What do I want in a pair of binoculars for indoor concerts in covered venues?
June 28, 2010 8:29 AM   Subscribe

What do I want in a pair of binoculars for indoor concerts in covered venues?

I have been trending towards 7x magnification with an objective diameter of 50mm. This would gather a lot of light (good for indoor concerts) and also provide a large exit pupil, so I can avoid "losing" a subject on stage. Eye relief might be important for my glasses-wearing concert companions.

Should I care much about lens coatings? Does a roof prism versus a porro prism really matter for this situation? Obviously, price is a factor, and it seems I could spend many hundreds of dollars. Since these are indoor concerts, do I care about waterproof and fogproof, which seems to make a difference of about $55 in the comparable Nikon Action 7x50 binoculars?

These binoculars would not serve any other purpose.
posted by adipocere to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I would be open to spending more money on binoculars with stealthy built-in digital cameras. No flash, pop-up LCD screen, or anything intrusive, obnoxious, or obvious. I do like my concert memorabilia.
posted by adipocere at 8:37 AM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: the 30s and 50s are gonna be some BIG binoculars (hard to handle/transport, might not even be allowed in, distracting to others, get banged into your face, make you look like a tool, etc)my dad used to have some of the small folding kind that more than did the trick for indoor concerts (i.e. good field of view)...and omg, they still make them...the nikon high-class compact 6x15...looks like they have the same apparent field of view as the action ones (maybe a little smaller than the 35s...) ...you really really don't need a big diameter on your binoculars unles you're using them for astronomy, don't worry, there's going to be enough light at any concert. the 6x is gonna have less 'jiggle' than the 7x (better for longer viewing sessions...less headachey), but that's really your call...how cheap are your seats? ;)

coatings are very important, and (for (really cool but long-winded) quantum-mechanical reasons) do a lot to bring more light into the lens. they should be clear with a sort-of purpley sheen (usu. described as 'multicoated') like a camera lens and ABSOLUTELY not metallic red or metallic green or any other such nonsense.

also, a porro prism is just a name for a kind of roof prism...as with any optics, the less faces and surfaces (ie, between lens elements), the better
posted by sexyrobot at 11:28 AM on June 28, 2010

Are you sure you want these for concerts? How big are these concerts? I don't know very much about binoculars or prisms, but at a concert you can likely already see the band members on stage. Having any binoculars at all is just gravy. I went to a very large concert in Ottawa and used binoculars about as good/bad as these to get a better view and I was not left wanting. I understand your desire to have the perfect pair and personally, I always do this much research before buying something, but don't lose sight (ba dum bum) of your objective: to see the performers at a concert. You can do that for very cheap.

As for a stealth camera? A quick google search gives me these, which would be subtle enough not to attract attention from concert security. Maybe these as well?
posted by battlebison at 11:32 AM on June 28, 2010

(oh..and the compacts really will fit in a pocket and have all the swanky smoothness of good-quality optics...ladies will flirt with you)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:36 AM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I definitely want them for concerts, as I go to quite a few. One year I hit thirty concerts. I sometimes like focusing on small details, such as watching where someone puts their hands on their instrument or taking a look at what they're doing with their throat while they sing. This is pretty hard to pull off without binoculars.

So it sounds like I won't need quite as much magnification and objective as I had thought. I do want to keep up a relatively large exit pupil before. My previous spur-of-the-moment binocular purchase left me very disappointed in that regard. I'm having a hard time finding good data on the coatings for specific products, but I do keep seeing lenses that look suspiciously red.

I'm getting the impression that this is an in-store purchase thing rather than shopping online deal.
posted by adipocere at 11:45 AM on June 28, 2010

yeah...high power (magnification) is pretty useless in binoculars...it's impossible to keep still without a tripod. it doesn't sound like exit pupil is as much your problem as field-of-view (if you want to not 'lose' your subject...) and cheaper (ie. spur-of-the-moment binocular purchases) binoculars usually have a smaller field of view...but def. check out the compact nikons...hold them in your hands and you will fall in love with them...

those crazy colored lenses are just for 'show'...to make them look snazzy in the store so you buy them (like a 'glossy' computer monitor...ugh). in a nutshell, the ideal coating on a lens is just a thin layer of plastic that is, in thickness, precisely 1/4 of the wavelength of green light (the part of the visible spectrum where the human eye is the most sensitive)...what happens is this: all surfaces will reflect a percentage of the light that hits them, but it's probablistical, so any photon that's going to reflect off the glass will also reflect off the coating. when that happens, it reflects off of both surfaces simultaneously (sort of...quantum mechanics is weird,remember). the light that goes through the coating, bounces off the glass and back through it is now 1/2 a wavelenth off from (out of phase with) the light bouncing off the coating and they cancel each other out. that makes bouncing off the glass a 'disallowed state' and the light has to go through the lens. neat, right. that's why they call it an 'anti-reflective' coating...it makes the light go through the lens, making for a brighter, clearer image. because it's balanced for where the eye is most sensitive, green, there is still a bit of 'loss' at the ends of the spectrum (but less than with no coating), red and blue, which combine to make for a slightly purple sheen...i've always thought that was a really cool hack...
posted by sexyrobot at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, I was reading up on that. Sounds a bit like the angle of total internal reflection I did with my fiber optics experiments.

So what size of field of view do I want to shoot for?
posted by adipocere at 12:39 PM on June 28, 2010

bigger the better...it's the difference between looking through a small hole and looking through a big one...looks like 40-45 degrees is pretty typical for a good pair...
posted by sexyrobot at 5:56 PM on June 28, 2010

Best answer: Opera glasses (link to a retailer) are designed for this purpose, and the compromise that opera glasses settle on between shakiness and magnification is a magnification of 3x or 4x.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:14 PM on June 28, 2010

Response by poster: I ended up getting a pair of 3x opera glasses and borrowing some ancient 7x35 Sunset binoculars for comparison. The opera glasses are good if I am about thirty feet away from the performer, but if I am further away than that, the Sunsets are still serviceable. I had some compact sunglasses that were cheap and of a much higher magnification, but they were nearly useless.

I will probably pick up a pair of the less-common 4x opera glasses in the future.
posted by adipocere at 2:09 PM on September 9, 2010

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