The Butterfly Binocular
Review by Michael and Diane Porter
Why did it take so long for a manufacturer to come up with this binocular? No matter how many other binoculars you may have, you need this one too. Nothing else lets you look at a butterfly or a flower this close.
Not just close—it's as if you were holding the butterfly in your hand and looking at it through a magnifying glass. It's really more like a long-distance microscope. It belongs in every nature lover's pocket.
The Pentax Papilio (which means butterfly in Latin) is a compact, reverse-Porro-prism binocular that doubles as a long-distance microscope. It will focus as close as 18 inches! And it's small and light enough (10 oz.) to fit in a coat pocket or a purse.
Diane says: The first time I took the Papilio outside, I discovered that I could see the grains of pollen in the pollen bags on the bees' legs. I was saying , "Oh, wow! Wow! Wow!"
Suddenly I could count the segments on the butterfly's antennae. I could look down into a tiny flower and see structures that I'd never noticed before. All this without even bending down!
Many binoculars advertise that they focus close. The catch with most ultra-close focusers is that you can't really look through them with both eyes, because when you get to the minimum distance, the area of overlap between what your two eyes see is only a sliver wide.
But these Pentax Papilio binoculars focus much closer than any other binocular we've tried, and the great thing is that you can see the object with both eyes at once. The reverse Porro-prism design places the objective lenses close together, which helps a lot with the parallax. And then Pentax took the trouble to design the optics to further insure that you see the same image with both eyes, even when you're looking at the closest possible distance. They did so by making the two barrels move toward each other as you focus closer. What a great innovation!
For long-distance viewing, these are perfectly nice binoculars, so you can use them to watch birds as well as butterflies. All told, we declare the Pentax Papilio (or Butterfly, if you prefer) to be the greatest advance in close-focusing binoculars we've ever seen. If you're looking for a gift for a person who enjoys observing nature, and you want to give something different and special, something she or he probably doesn't already have, this may be just what you're looking for.
The Papilios come in 6.5 power or 8.5 power. For looking at butterflies, flowers, and insect, we prefer the 6.5x21, because it gives a wider field of view. (It's 393 feet at 1000 yards for the 6.5x21 model, compared to 315 feet for the 8.5x21 model. Because you're so close to the object, the magnification at 6.5x is terrific, and the wider field of view means that it's considerably easier to find and follow what you're looking at.
If the owner will use the Papilio primarily for birds, with butterflies and flowers as a secondary interest, we recommend the 8.5x21 model, for its greater magnification.
The objective lens for each is 21mm in diameter. The Papilio is not waterproof. (Well, at this inexpensive price, we wouldn't really have expected waterproofing too.)