I'm heading to Scotland in May and will be doing some hiking and boating and it occurred to me that having binoculars would be fun and helpful. Does anyone have any ideas or recommendations? Preferably nothing too heavy. Thanks!
Mardee, I think how much you want to spend might be the most significant factor. Lots of small binocs made for birding. But I can suggest that REI.com has a large variety at different price points, and their website lets you set weight criteria to sort them out. And often have sales.
I have a pair of Nikons in the $150 range, but I picked them for weight/price and name recognition - no knowledge of relative quality. I note that Rick sells a pair here on this site.
I did Scotland with binoculars about 11 years ago. Things change. But, here are some tips. Stay with a focus of about 7x or 8x. Once you get to 10x, it’s hard to keep a steady hand and stable image (need a tripod). It’s also harder to the sight the object due to a narrower viewing range.
Try to stay light and water resistant. Here’s an example: Barska or Bushnell 8 x 21. The 21 is the size of the second lens at the end of the binocular tube. The bigger the number, the wider and much heavier the binoculars. Stay cheaper, in case of loss or damage. All binoculars tend to add quite a bit of weight.
Hope this helps.
Hi Mardee. There are several posts about binocular recommendations when I searched, but a lot are rather old, and binoculars change. Here is one from a few weeks ago. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/beyond-europe/binocular-recommendations-for-nile-cruise
I recently saw something that intrigued me, a monocular. Think Pirate ship captain peering through his scope. I always feel like I don't get binoculars adjusted correctly and I was/am considering this option.
I used to use binoculars.com. But, I think it was taken over by opticsplanet.com. There are some decent Bushnell choices for under $50. Barska is there as well. You can use filters to narrow the range of products.
At opticsplanet.com, you can get Bushnell H2O at 8x25 for about $45. These are pretty decent without spending a lot of money. You can either buy these or use this as a base for comparison. Don’t get anything larger than a 25 (second lens) for traveling though. Too much weight.
REI? Several great 8x units but you did not state a top end for the budget. You probably do not need waterproof and the differences between prism systems can get complicated and confusing. I have some little 8x25 Nikons that were $100 four or five years ago. I wish I had gotten the 10x but that’s just me. My main use is interiors like art galleries, museums, cathedrals. I can lean against a wall or pillar and scrutinize paintings, architectural details, and stained glass, at leisure, from a comfortable distance. Cheap optics are bad optics. Small objectives <25mm are only good outdoors. Large exit pupils and eye relief numbers are nice if you wear glasses. If you’re planning to wear them for hours at a time while hiking,, get a wide strap.
Stan, thanks, I will check REI. And yes, I can now see how budget does matter.
Carol, I immediately had an imagine of Captain Jack Sparrow with the spyglass to his eye. 🤣
Sun-Baked, thank you so much for all that information! I had no idea about what to look for so this is very helpful!
Maria, thanks for the link! I should have done a search first but just sort of got a bee in my bonnet and went with it. :)
bogiesan, I had no idea what binoculars even cost, lol! But yes, I can definitely see that budget makes a difference. Thanks for the REI link - that will be helpful!
Thank you all - this has all been helpful and will make my search so much easier!
I checked out Amazon.com. Once you have figured out what you want - comparison shop at Amazon.com. Some prices are better and some worse than opticsplanet.com.
Opticsplanet.com - compact binoculars. There are a couple of Nikons and Leupold BX-1 Rogue on sale now. The Nikons are quite lightweight. If you wear glasses - get the one with an eye relief of 14 or greater. These are more than the Bushnell H2O. But, better quality. Don’t be afraid of the Bushnell ones, though. I have used both Barska and Bushnell. Look for “compact binoculars” at opticsplanet.com to narrow down your choices to a sane level.
Thanks so much, Sun-Baked! I had no clue there was so much to buying binoculars and I really appreciate all your advice!
ONe more note: opticsworld.com is a great resource and they have dozens of brands/models you won't find at Cabela's or REI such as Tasco, Bushnell, Celestron, Carson, Pentax, Leupold, and a few others. They all offer some inexpensive tools with reasonably accurate optics. You can spend $30-100 and get a good lightweight set. Such low prices make travel binos nearly disposable; you won't be crushed if they get lost. You don't need a fancy case but captive lens caps and a wide strap are tremendously convenient. The prices at REI are about the same for the units in stock at both shops, so the convenience of being able to demo might be worth 10-20% and your dividend at REI might level out the difference.
Post later to let us know how the unit you chose worked out for you.
I was internet surfing. I learned that the cheaper line of Nikons are made in China with Chinese parts. Now, I question whether the cheaper Nikons are better than the Bushnell and are worth the price difference. I assumed the cheaper Nikons were better quality than the Bushnells. Then, I read a few reviews.
Personally, I would just get the newer model of Bushnell H2O 8x25 from Amazon for about $38 - $40. I have an older version of these, but made the mistake of getting 10x magnification. Good, no muss - no fuss binoculars for the price.
If you have money to spend - the sky is the limit for quality and costs.
Thanks, again! I will definitely post and let you all know what I found. I might go out looking around in the area, too - Duluth has a number of sporting goods stores and it would be nice to try some out and get a feel for how they work. I will also be heading down to the Twin Cities in early April so I might stop at REI there.
I don't mind spending a bit more, although I'd like to keep it under $75-100. I was thinking that it would be nice to have a good pair here at the house. We live on 10 acres of mostly forested land outside of Duluth and there's always wildlife around.
I think your plan to hold them in your hands is a good one. When I was buying my 2nd pair of binocs after I got in to birding I was shocked at how different the various models/brands felt to hold. I don't really think of myself as having small hands for a woman but some were clearly too big for me. Of course if you go with compact ones that will probably not be an issue.
Don't get any bells and whistles like "zoom". Just get a regular focus.
I like my old compact Nikon Sportstar's which are 8x25 BUT I really like the newest pair I've got which are Zeiss 10x25 (got at Costco but well above your price point). I don't have any problem holding them steady for longer periods of time but the barrels are smaller than my Leupold 10x40's. I'd encourage you to look at some 10x because if they have a smaller barrel steadiness may not be a problem for you.
Practice with them after you get them. Look at something in your back yard or a park. Then without moving your head or your focus, bring the binoculars up to your eyes to sight the same thing. Make sure you keep your elbows in. Many novices wing their arms out which is tiring instead of keeping their arms tucked right in next to their ribs for stability.
By the way, the more you use your binoculars the more you'll use them, lol. I use mine all the time on European trips. I always have them with me in museums and churches as well as outside experience!
I have a pair of Kowa YF that work well for me. My eyes are close together (57 PD) and these were one of the few that got the lenses close enough together that they were true binoculars for me. The optics are very good for the price point and they are relatively compact and comfortable to use. Highly recommended.
Shopping for optics in person is a great option, not many have the luxury so buy on price and reviews. How do they feel? Does the focus wheel or knob work for you? Easy to unfold, adjust for inter-optical distance, store the caps? Do you like how the diopter adjusts? Does the diopter adjustment hold? Comfortable with glasses? Easy to hold in place for five minutes? How’s the image? You need to test high contrast and specular highlights for color fringing, fuzziness, and halos.
Differences between German, Swiss, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese optics can be huge but so can the critical optical performance between two highly regarded German brands or even two models from the same maker.
Mardee, I'll just throw in that you can often find good, name brand binocs for very little at garage sales and especially estate sales. We go to these often, and I notice a lot of them.
Pam, thanks for that wealth of information! And especially for the information on how to hold it and so on. I see I have a lot to learn.
Shelly, thanks - I will check those out.
bogiesan, I definitely think I will need to look at some in person. If I can't find anything here, I will look while I'm in Minneapolis next month. I don't leave for Scotland till May so I've got a bit of time.
Stan, right now we have 4 feet of snow on the ground and no one is having any garage sales (sigh). I did check FB Marketplace, but nothing really looked good there.
Mardee, though it will talk from a bird watching perspective, Cornell has a lot of information on binoculars. Here is a hand out, but also check their YouTube. https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/GetStartedUsingBinoculars.pdf That is how I learned to use binocs and the best take away was to spot with your eye, and then move the binocs to your eyes, that way you don't lose that fox, or marmot, or roe deer you spied.
Thanks, Maria - that's similar to what Pam was saying above. I will definitely have to practice that!
If you are an REI member, their spring sale starts March 17, 20% off any regular priced item. I love REI!
Oh my gosh, that's right! We just got the notice in the mail and I totally forgot! Thanks for the reminder.
I have a vintage set of Zeiss 8x20B, made in West Germany about 35 years ago. Excellent optics and folds down almost to the size of a pack of cigarettes. Brand new, it was almost the price of a return ticket to Honolulu.
"And especially for the information on how to hold it and so on. I see I have a lot to learn."
It just helps to practice enough that you can cue yourself for comfortable less-tiring viewing! Wings in, shoulders down, lol!
@funpig - I'll bet they are wonderful! I was shocked at the optics in this MUCH less expensive pair of Zeiss. Noticeably better than the Leupold or Nikon but not quite as good as some really expensive Swarovskis.
Suggest you look at a Zeiss Terra ED 8x25. I bought a pair for our safari in Tanzania last year and found them a good replacement for my larger pair of binoculars. The quality is excellent and they are much more compact and easy to pack compared to my old binoculars. Purchased from B&H Photo a couple of years ago. We go on safaris in Africa frequently and I tired of the big bionoculars along with my cameras.