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I've found a nice set of compact binoculars can be a great thing to have along on some rides. I carry them at all times and use them at least once on most rides to check something out at a distance, watch animals, etc.

I have several sets of binoculars from cheap "throw 'em on the floorboard" Bushnells to larger and more expensive sets I use for astronomy. Here's what can share about a set of "riding binoculars" if anybody's interested in acquiring a set.

Binoculars are always a tradeoff of size, performance, magnification and field of view. I've learned to heed the old adage "you get what you pay for" when buying any kind of optics.

Things to look for:

Compact size and a padded carrying case. 8x25 or 10x25 binoculars are about the best choice when it comes to decent performance vs. size. Some come with carrying cases, some don't.

Diopter adjustment and a central focusing adjustment. Since most peoples' eyes are different, this allows you to adjust the binoculars for one eye (usually the right) and from then on the binoculars will be in focus for both eyes even when using the central focuser mechanism. I personally avoid any kind of "quick-focus" or "rocker-type" focuser as they're not as precise or durable as a "wheel-type" focuser you turn to achieve focus.

A wide field of view is the most essential feature to look for. Small, cheap models with a narrow field of view are frustrating to look through. Look for a field of view of at least 60 degrees.

Eye relief (how close your eyes have to be to the eyepieces to see through the binoculars) is a factor with larger binoculars, but I've found that with these compact binoculars, if you wear glasses, you might as well plan on taking them off to view through the binoculars. It's possible to leave your glasses on, but that will greatly reduce your field of view as noted above. I've never come across a pair of binoculars of this size that would allow me to comfortably and effectively view through them with my glasses on. If you don't wear glasses, not a worry.

I think the most important advice is to buy them somewhere you can try them out first. Just picking them up and looking around a store will give you a good idea of whether or not you find the view acceptable. Compare a set of $30 ones to a pair of $100 ones and you'll most likely find a big difference in favor of the more expensive ones. Or, you might not even notice the difference, in which case you'd be perfectly happy with the cheaper ones.

These are the ones I carry: the Nikon Trailblazer 10x25's. They usually go for around $80 but I think they sell some packages that have the padded nylon carry case and some that don't include it. These are about the best I've found as far as size/useability and acceptable performance.

 

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Mine are very similar, being either the made in China Nikon Sportstar (newish and fair quality) or the older Nikon 7 X 20 Made in Japan and excellent.

T
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Mine are very similar, being either the made in China Nikon Sportstar (newish and fair quality) or the older Nikon 7 X 20 Made in Japan and excellent.

T
Hard to beat the old and coveted Japanese-ground lenses. You're lucky to have a pair of those old Nikons. Even the optics from cheap Tasco, JC Penney, Sears, etc. store- branded optical imports from Japan in the 60's and 70's are still considered superb, even by today's standards. They're basically non-existent today except for a few companies that produce high-end instruments.
 

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Oh my. Steiners.
What Erik said.

T
 

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Bringing up an old thread as I'm in the market for a set of small binoculars. The info by the OP is still relevant today and answered most of my questions.

One of the criteria that is important to me is durability. I'm going to either be carrying these in my tank bag or trunk.

Finally, any feedback on current models I should be considering. I'd probably go $50 for the right pair (might push that some for compelling reasons).

I'm thinking in the 8x25 range.

Thanks
 

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Steiner? Did someone say, "Steiner?"



(Please excuse focus/clarity.) 15 X 80; 7 X 50; 6 X 30.

Here they are, stacked; relative sizes obvious:



The two higher-magnification models have lighted compasses; azimuths shown to user.

Here (again with rather horrendous focus) are a couple of lower-priced binoculars; each suitable for the use mentioned in an above post:



The instrument on the right is a Carl Zeiss (Jena) East German 6 X 30; the one on the left a Bushnell Custom Compact 6 X 30. Our moon-walking atronauts carried Bushnell Custom Compacts.

My binocular usage premises: The 15-power model is virtually useless for viewing anything moving, unless a tripod/unipod or other rest is available. The 7 X 50 can handle, to a point, moving tagets and has excellent light-gathering power; good in low light level conditions. The Steiner 6 X 30; a little large, perhaps, for motorcycle packing, but quite steady hand-held (has military angular scale visible in reticule). I think the Carl Zeiss Jena glass has angular mil markings. The Bushnell 6 X 30; if you can find one, BUY IT! Compact, lightweight, reasonably rugged; about all the usable hand-held magnification one can handle effectively.

We Americans think, 'Bigger is always better," even in binocular magnification powers. Ain't necessarily so. At least from Korea up through the Cold War (and maybe even beyond), Army issue binoculars were 6 X 30 (so were the East German glasses, it seems). For Naval use, 7 x 50 was a common magnification and objective diameter preferred. Wouldn't go beyond 8 power (maybe not that far, myself) for motorcycling touring use, but maybe others have grips steadier than mine. Do you want individual, or central focus?

Planalp offers some factors to consider; a wide field of view appears useful; the interface between eyeball and primary lens should be considered, whether eye cups are needed/present, and how do the binoculars work with eyeglass wearers should be considered if such a situation might arise, as appropriate.

My perceptions/subjective judgments only; YMMV!
 

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My sister owns the Zeiss Victory 8x42 binoculars (64-degree Field of View, 18mm Eye Relief) and I've used hers quite a bit on trips to the Moab, Utah area checking out cliff dwellings and petroglyphs that were impossible to get close to. Amazing binoculars, hands-down the best I've ever experienced although I've never used a set of high-end Steiners.

Downside is while most binoculars are nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging, the Victory model might as well be filled with nitroglycerin because, at the price you pay for them, you'll treat them like they are. They're definitely not "bang-arounds" although they are quite robust and armored to the point they would probably take some fairly serious abuse before being damaged internally. While hiking, I refused any offers to "carry them for awhile." I didn't want to be the one that dropped them. I never even felt comfortable letting them hang around my neck by the strap between uses........ They run around $2700.

I would agree with Damocles that 6x is about the optimal magnification for handheld use. 10x would definitely be the max.

R/L, for the application of "tank bag binoculars" you really can't go wrong with a pair of Bushnells in the $50 price range and will probably gain no noticeable advantage by moving up into the $100 price range. FWIW, you can get a pair of Nikon Trailblazer 8x25's for around $65.

And, while I appreciate my sister's Zeiss binocs for what they are, if you grabbed 10 random people off the street and had them alternately look through a pair of those and a pair of $100 Chinese binoculars of the same size, few if any of them would be able to tell which pair was which. However, if you'd been regularly using that pair of $100 Chinese binoculars under different conditions for awhile then were suddenly presented with the Zeiss version, you would definitely appreciate the difference.
 

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Thanks for the input.

I just realized that I left out a probably important piece of info. I wear glasses. So, am I looking for a higher number on eye relief? Or what other spec should I be considering to determine the suitability of use with glasses? Or, is it too much to expect that I'll find a set of binoculars in my price range that will perform well with glasses?

Those Steiners are nice, but above my budget. I'll check out the Bushnell's or Nikons.

Thanks.
 

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Thanks for the input.

I just realized that I left out a probably important piece of info. I wear glasses. So, am I looking for a higher number on eye relief? Or what other spec should I be considering to determine the suitability of use with glasses? Or, is it too much to expect that I'll find a set of binoculars in my price range that will perform well with glasses?

Those Steiners are nice, but above my budget. I'll check out the Bushnell's or Nikons.

Thanks.
The bare minimum eye relief you'd want for use with eyeglasses is 15mm. The higher the number, the better. The Zeiss binoculars mentioned in my post above have 18mm of eye relief and that's about the highest you're going to find. I could get a full field of view out of them with my glasses on with no problems. I believe there might be some around with 20mm but you're never going to find that in the kind of binoculars we're talking about here.

It's hard to say what number is truly adequate because all eyeglasses frames are different. Some place the lenses closer to the wearer's face, some further away, some so far away even 18mm of eye relief isn't going to do you any good. I've never found a pair of "pocket binoculars" I could be happy using without taking my glasses off. They're okay for quick looks, but for extended viewing you feel like you're getting cheated because you're not getting the full view. As opposed to the larger Zeiss binoculars, compact binoculars just have much smaller eyepieces to begin with so that obviously makes things worse.

I'd say in this price range the best you can hope for is 15mm and the only way you're going to know if you'll be happy using them while wearing glasses is to try them out in a store. Fortunately, a lot of outdoors-related stores and box stores carry binoculars in these sizes/price ranges.
 

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Again, I want to thank everyone for taking the time to educate me!

One more question please, and I'll get off the fence and order some binoculars.

I see the 1000 yard field of vision vary dramatically with the same 8x25 lenses.

For example, the Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 FOV @ 1000 yds is 429 ft. The Bushnell H2O 8x25 is 341 ft. That seems like a lot in a similar sized binocular. Anyone have an idea why similar binoculars can have this variance?
 

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Don't mean to be flippant, but . . . the field of view is a function of lens design. The wider the field of view, the greater the demand is for resolution, a labor-intensive qualification, and a price driver-upper. Thus, lower-price binoculars balance to some extent their field of view versus their resolution.

As to eye relief, some binoculars have rubber EYE CUPS that may be folded, moving the eye pieces closer to eyeglass lenses (and eyeballs); a work-around to accommodate limited eye relief dimensions.

Make sense?

Didn't think so!

:)

Parting recommendation: USE your binoculars, around the house and yard, get used to how you locate a target with your naked eye and then focus on it quickly with the binoculars. Who cares if your family and the neighbors think you're weird? Further, get used to STEADYING your binoculars by using your forefingers embracing your skull and/or your thumbs on your cheekbones (depending upon shape and heft of the binoculars).
 

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I went a little above budget and purchased some Nikon Trailblazer 8 x 25 binoculars. They were $70.

They sure beat the budget 10 x 25's Tasco's we have as well as some old (circa mid 1980s) Tasco 10 x 50's. That is all I have to compare them to.

Unfortunately, this endeavor might cost me another $70 for a second pair as my wife really likes them too. She said something to the effect that the Tasco's looked like Sh.. (a Scientific expletive!!!)
 
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