Mid-Priced Binoculars Round Up
From Bird Watcher's Digest, November, 2007
by Michael and Diane Porter
If you are a birder with between $300 and $800 to spend on a new binocular, what can you get? This is the question for a birder ready for something beyond entry-level binoculars or discount-store offerings, but who can't afford the close to $2000 that top echelon binoculars cost.
To answer this question we evaluated 56 mid-priced binoculars, from 18 different manufacturers. All have suggested retail prices of at least $300, and all can be found (in the summer of 2007) at street prices under $800.
How we evaluated the binoculars
We numbered and tagged the binoculars and set them up on tables that overlooked an outdoor scene. There were bird feeders, meadow, pond, trees, butterflies and birds—a great variety of natural subjects to observe.
For more controlled, lab-type comparisons, we pinned to a wall an Edmonds Optics Resolution Power test chart that incorporates multiple examples of the standard USAF 1951 Resolution Test Pattern in red, blue, yellow, and black. The chart is large enough to let you see copies of the same test pattern at the center and at the edges of the field of view.
We made a beanbag rest 24 feet in front of the chart so that any two binoculars could be set up side by side and compared under identical distance and lighting conditions. The base was a heavy Gitzo tripod, which stood on a stone floor. The tripod's crank let us raise and lower the beanbag rest to match each tester's height. After aiming and focusing, we could easily move from one binocular to another and compare two perfectly still, steady images.
We invited a team of 13 other Iowa birders to rate the binoculars for optical quality, fit and feel, and other ergonomic details such as the focus knob, eyecups, and diopter adjustment mechanism.
We deliberately omitted price information on the form we asked the testers to fill out while evaluating the binoculars. Our intent was to rank the binoculars according to their quality, without regard to their cost. We also researched warranties, an important issue when investing in a binocular.
In the following pages we cover the optical quality and other characteristics we tested for, the charts, and reviews of binoculars that we noted had particular merit.
This article appears as part of the Midpriced Binoculars Round Up in the November, 2007, issue of Bird Watcher's Digest.
Text and photos copyright 2007 by Michael and Diane Porter.