I am considering a pair of compact waterproof binoculars for watching birds and wildlife from the cockpit. Any first hand reccomendations?
I’ve gone thru a # of pairs thru the years and have come to the conclusion that when it comes to optics buy the best you can afford. My current is a pair of Zeiss 10 x 25’s. Had them for about 12 years now. They’ve been backcountry with me everywhere from the Florida Everglades to the Beaufort Sea and are still going strong. Although they’re not advertised as “waterproof” they have been dunked a couple of times with no ill effect. Brightness and sharpness are the best you’ll find. Most remarkable thing about them is how well they perform in low light conditions, found the Zeiss has almost as much light gathering ability as my pair of 7x50 Nikons (also a good brand but just not in the same league).
The drawback is the price, around $400.
For flat water low wind…
... you could use just about anything.
For anything else where you REALLY need waterproof (like sea kaying in the PNW), consider a Brunton Eterna 6X30 Monocular. Higher than 6x gets hard to use in moving boat and it can be nice to have small size/one hand/one eye only for many reasons.
If you’re open to other options,
check this out -
If you really want to see waterfowl and birds, you will need to use more than the 7x of a standard binocular. This beer bottle telescope is 18x, and is remarkable in its optical quality. If fits into a standard can/bottle holder.
It’s not waterproof, so you’d have to protect it when not in use. For the price and quality, it can’t be beat. I have been using it for a year. Only problem with it is that in non-alcohol parks some people may think you have a bottle of beer.
Do a search. Steiners on sale now!
Lots of great optics out there. And price is NOT the determining factor of how well they are made, or perform.
Alot of the prices on the big name brands are simply FLUFF IMO. And most people probably do not need the added features such as built in compass, stabilization, etc… that makes these so expensive anyway.
Do your research, and find out which ones really suit you. You can save yourself ALOT of money if you do. Just make sure whatever you buy is not a demo, or knock-offs. In other words, try to deal with a company that is a dealer for that brand, and also that is reputable. Rely on the most unbiased sources for reviews/tests you can find.
I have had good luck with these
I bought a pair for birding a couple years ago. I bought a pair of zhumells. make sure you get a pair that is appropriate for the use. A pair that is used on a boat for sighting, is not going to work for nature. A good ratio of the power is 1 to 5. My pair is 8X42. These allow me to get the glasses up and on target quickly without transmitting the shakiness that is inherit in high power.
As far as price? You get what you pay for. You want good quality glass and optics. That clarity cost money. Besides, you take care of them they will last you a LONG time. But as TsSplash says, look for the money to go into the optics, not the little doo dads that are stuck all over some models.
This is the pair I recommend.
i also prefer a harness rather than a strap.
You didn’t say how much you want to spend, so I’m throwing in my 2 cents. My binoculars of choice are the Leica 7x42 Ultravids. I’ve had mine for two years now, and at this point in time there’s nothing else I’d replace them with, and I get the opportunity to look through a lot of different ones.
A couple things to consider - a quality 7 power will give you much more clarity and brightness than a cheaper 10 power. I’m a volunteer counter at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they can see more detail with my 7’s than they can see with their cheap-o 10’s. It’s not all in the magnification, folks.
Seven power magnification is easier on the water as well. I used to have 10’s, and they could be implssible to hold steady sometimes.
Stay away from any model that says “ruby-coated objective lenses for high contrast!!!” It’s just a band-aid for poor optical quality, and your image will be correspondingly darker.
There are a number of high caliber optics manufacturers out there, like Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski, Nikon, etc. If money is an object, you just may be better off buying a high-end model with a 20 to 25mm objective lens than a 40 to 50mm model from a lesser manufacturer. You just may be surprised at how well the smaller ones can perform, and you’re not hanging almost 2 pounds of binoculars around your neck.
Hope this helps.
I can highly recommend the Leupold Katmai binoculars. I have the 2004 Katmai Wind River model 8X32. They have received good reviews (see the links below), but maybe most telling is that when my wife, who is a birder, borrowed mine I had to immediately buy her a pair.
Leupold binoculars are a very good quality for a fair price, and in my opinion their performance matches anything except possibly Steiner or Leica. If you have the money, look at them, otherwise I suggest Leupold
Outside Magazine 2004 buyers guide review:
And here’s the link to Leopold’s website for info on their newly released 2006 version of this binocular:
I’ve been using a waterproof Vortex monocular I got from Campmor and have been very happy with it:
gnatcatcher is right on the mark
Look for high quality 7 power (maybe 8), but avoid 10 power for two reasons: 1.) they are less compact, and 2.) they are harder to hold steady because of the increased magnification.
I am a wildlife biologist and high quality optics are essential for my job. Magnification is not the most important factor in selecting good quality optics for viewing wildlife, especially since you will be in a boat and subject to movement caused by wind and waves.
Here is a website with good information to help you get started.
doing my homework
Thanks for the replies. I believe I want 8x42 roof prism, waterproof, multi-coated surfaces, nitrogen charged binoculars that float. Being a photographer, I have a pretty steady hand. While I see these as high as $1500, I have also seen them as low as $100 on ebay when you look at features alone. I am staying away from ebay, but figure if they work, they are almost disposable compared to the high-end Steiners, Leica, Swarwoski, Nikons, etc. B&H has hundreds of them. I am thinking about the $250 to $300 range. I will take my time and avoid buying online until I have had a chance to try them out. Again, thanks for the replys.
For whatever reason I’ve never had good luck using binoculars. I’ve been using an Eterna waterproof monocular for eagle watching on the Hudson. Very compact, fits in one hand, heavy rubber ergonomic body 6x30 power doesn’t make you queasy or capsized when viewing while on water.
See you on the water,
Here is an example
Warning: I am not reccomending these. It is just that this unit seems to meet my desires at about 5 % of the cost… Scary, isn’t it?
Eagle Optics Ranger 6x32
Have em & love em. As was already noted, bobbing in a boat makes higher power glasses worthless, no matter how “steady” you are.
These $350 roof-prism glasses are water & fog-proof, rubber armoured, have extremely long eye relief, and focus down to three feet. This last feature makes for great flower inspection and watching butterflies & dragonflies.
I give them two thumbs up!
Glad you’re doing your homework!
Here’s the scoop on the difference between roof and porro prism binos. The roof prism design requires much tighter manufacturing tolerances and are much more costly to manufacture than the porro prisms. Rule of thumb is that if you want a roof prism bino with the same optical quality as a porro, expect to pay about twice the price. I haven’t looked through the Celestrons that are for sale on ebay for $100, but I’d be VERY wary of them. They might be disposable because you WANT to dispose of them!
Of the items currently on ebay, you could check out the Stokes Broadwing 8x42. Or if you want to go a little less expensive, maybe the Nikon Monarch 8x36 or 8x42.
Whatever you do, if you wear glasses, be certain that whatever you purchase has adequate eye relief, otherwise it will cut down the field of view immensely. I’d go for a minimum of 15mm.
Someone had mentioned Eagle Optics. I’ve found them to have great customer service, and they’ve always been willing to answer my questions. YOu might give them a ring.
Hope this helps.
My grandparents kept a similar item in the windowsill of their northern Wisconsin cabin. It was a pair of empty beer bottles held together with tape, and inscribed with a marker on the tape it read, “Polish Binoculars” …
What I use
Ok these vivtar 7 X 50 binoculars are cheap at only $20. But they are my canoeing and boating binoculars so If they get smashed or dropped in the water it is OK. If a friend who has done something nice for my they make a great cheap gift. I don’t understand they stupidly cheap price because these work as well for me as $150 binoculars that I’d never bring in the canoe.
I’ve looked through some really nice zeiss and steiner binocs and I really think Zeiss is the best by far, but I’d never put a pair of binoculars that expensive in my boat. I can pass these binocs aroung to others while in the water without a worry. If you buy a good set of binoculars you might want to buy an inexpensive set as a loner.