The Best Binoculars
July 15, 2006 9:02 AM   Subscribe

What are the best binoculars I can buy for my money?
posted by rare_g to Science & Nature (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your question's pretty open-ended, but I think for wildlife viewing Swarovski binoculars are some of the best money can buy. Be prepared to spend at least $1000 on a pair.
posted by driveler at 9:18 AM on July 15, 2006

Depends on what you want to do, and how much you want to spend - I own this pair and have been VERY pleased - I use them for terrestrial viewing and binocular astronomy, and you can't beat the price.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:14 AM on July 15, 2006

Are you saying you want the best value, or that you simply want "the best?"
posted by Good Brain at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. Just a general inquiry.... best value and "the best" are both good answers.
posted by rare_g at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2006

I don't know anything about binoculars, but I hear that Better View Desired is the quintessential reviews site for them.

From Cool Tools:

Perhaps the best review site I've seen. This guy reviews birding binoculars. He tests them all, very thoroughly, in the field, over time, and he measures each one against his published "standard" pair -- the model to beat so to speak. You get detailed and useful reviews, and a very clear nod towards the binoculars he thinks are the best in several categories. He is as close to that ideal reviewer: an extremely informed friend who has seen them all and can tell you which one to get.
posted by Could it be, El Guapo ... at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2006

The ones with widely spread lenses on the image capture end, like the ones deadmessenger links to, give a better 3D effect that can be very vivid. The ones with close together lenses are less immersive, more like a telescope.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:20 AM on July 15, 2006

Nikon E-series for my money. Roof prism binoculars perform equally to porro prism designs but cost far less money. If the Nikon E is too dear, Swift makes some great binoculars for not too much money. A Better View Desired is perhaps the ultimate binocular review site. It should have the detailed info for your specific needs.
posted by caddis at 11:37 AM on July 15, 2006

I sold binoculars for a year in a high end optics shop.

Leica Ultravid or Duovid.

Fantastic service as well. Folks came in with WW II era binoculars and Leica would fix them. No charge.
posted by mmdei at 12:33 PM on July 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you want high magnification without a tripod or other mount, the Canon IS (Image Stabilizer) series is really quite something.
posted by trevyn at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2006

I didn't see anyone mention the Russian military surplus binocs. They went up to, like, 35x100, I think (bring a tripod), and while they vary in quality, I've seen reviews suggesting the best ones are *very* good.
posted by baylink at 2:03 PM on July 15, 2006

Zeiss -- forget the Swar.'s for the money -- Zeiss is best for hand held.
posted by orlin at 2:45 PM on July 15, 2006

One word - Leica.
posted by vronsky at 9:17 PM on July 15, 2006

before you bend to the will of the ziess/leica/swarovski optic elite, please go to a store that sells the Canon Image Stabilizing line of binoculars and demo a pair. Just give 'em a shot.

My biggest problem with binoculars is shaky hands, and with IS in place it is freakin' crazy what you can see. This summer I watched a Cooper's Hawk dismember a Blue Jay, and I could see it's eyeball looking up at me periodically while it chowed down. The optics are also really impressive on these. I have the 10x30s, and they cost me between $300 and $400 as I recall.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:39 PM on July 15, 2006

The Canons are fantastic too. My dad owns them and they are fantastic. But the poster asked for the best. Nothing beats the image quality of the leica, but I would definitely buy the canons. Probably a better value.
posted by vronsky at 11:10 PM on July 15, 2006

The best price/optics out there are the Konica-Minolta WPXL.
posted by mmdei at 12:11 AM on July 16, 2006

I had a small pair of leica trinovids stolen out of my luggage at an airport. It still pisses me off that I was so stupid not to put them in my carry-on.

And I had heard that about leica service too mmdei, nice to hear it confirmed.
posted by vronsky at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2006

Just to be clear, my comment above about Nikon E series and Swifts goes to best value. The E series hang with Leicas, Zeiss, and Swarovskis, but at about half the price because they are roof prisms. I have a pair of the Es that perform exceptionally well and have lasted me now fifteen years. Still, for a cost no object pair I would probably get top of the line Leicas, although these Zeiss Victorys look pretty choice. They probably only minimally edge out the Nikon's glass, but are perhaps more rugged and have an excellent feel to them. When you use them a lot, these little things matter.
posted by caddis at 1:46 PM on July 16, 2006

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