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Old 08-10-2012, 10:17   #16
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Re: Binoculars

In my eyes there are really two very different options...

The first is to go cheap. Anything more than 7x50 you can't use because of the motion, so get the cheapest you can find. I have a pair of $15 binos from Big Lots to meet this need.

The second is when you really need a good navigation tool. Expect to spend close to $1,000, or more. Image stabilization is mandatory for higher zoom power, and large high quality lenses help with night and low light capability. But these options cost money, and make the binos heavier.

I have used night vision equipment a lot, and it really can be a life saver, but generally it's best to have a second piece of equipment like a monocule for it. Because it will ruin your night vision in that eye. Of course FLIR cameras are amazing, but can cost as much as a boat, but they really do turn night into day.


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Old 08-10-2012, 10:23   #17
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Re: Binoculars

The West Advisor: Marine Binoculars

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Old 08-10-2012, 14:06   #18
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Re: Binoculars

I just brought a replacement for our 7 X 30 Haminex binoculars. They still worked but had mould growing inside.

I considered Steiners, Fujinon image stabilised and night vision but all are expensive, and, with the exception of the Steiners, fragile.

In the end I saw a pair of Bushnel "H2O"s at our local markets. Coated, nitrogen filled and "waterproof" for $130!

A bit harder to focus quickly than I appreciate, and the interpupilliary distance is tricky to get right, but dropping them overboard isn't going to be a major drama.

They are way better (brighter, clearer with no noticeable distortion and feel solid) than the old ones.

Haven't tried them on the boat yet.
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Old 08-10-2012, 14:36   #19
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Re: Binoculars

I pretty much concur with every post on the thread so far but think a couple of points worth repeating.

1. Magnification power. On a boat even sitting relatively still, anything more than 7 X will be too shaky to be useful.

2. Lens size. My last trip down the ICW we had three different sets of binoculars

- 7X50 Nikon marine binoculars with a bearing compass.
- 40 year old pair of Bushnell 7X35
- West marine compact 7 power but don't remember the lens but about 25-30, much smaller lens than the Bushnells.

The old Bushnells I was told used B&L lenses. Whatever they were I could tell little difference between them and the Nikons. At dusk with very low light the Nikons had a brighter image but the difference between them and the old Bushnells was not huge.

The small West Marines were noticeably dimmer in low light but still very useful. The image was good and the small size was very handy.

3. Stabilization. On that trip we found that trying to read the numbers on buoys or channel markers when the boat was rolling none of the binoculars helped much at all. We could read the numbers with the naked eye almost as soon as we could with the binoculars due to the motion. When I got home I borrowed my wife's 10X30 stabilized and the difference was HUGE. I would say you could read the numbers at almost twice the distance with the Canons. Got them on sale for about $400 and they are worth every penny. I would consider them fairly fragile compared to the rubber armored marine grade binoculars so keep them below or in the case and bring them out only when the situation warranted.

My recommendation, two sets. One cheaper for routine use, maybe keep in the cockpit for quick access and a stabilized set for when you really need it.

Night vision, on the list but very far down for now.
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Old 08-10-2012, 14:52   #20
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Re: Binoculars

The "standard" marine binocular is 7x50 because it has low enough magnification (7x) to be useful on a boat, it gathers significant light (with the 50mm objective), and has great depth of field, so much so that you don't need center focusing. You want them to be waterproof and fogproof, which means that they should be purged either with nitrogen or argon.

I use a pair of Steiner Commander V 7x50 HD binoculars. The HD glass makes a significant difference in their ability to resolve images. They are guaranteed for life. I'm able to set the focus for my eyes so that everything from infinity to about 30 yards is sharp without needing adjustment. Not much use for identifying butterflies up close, but great for reading the number on next channel marker, even at dusk.

I use binoculars for my work, and own several pairs of field glasses in the $1,200-$2,500 range, so I'm pretty spoiled when it comes to optics. While the optical qualities of the Steiner Commander V HDs are not quite up to binoculars such as the top models made by Zeiss or Swarovski, they are all you will need for making passages on small sailboats.
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Old 08-10-2012, 15:24   #21
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Re: Binoculars

I favor 7x50s with onboard compass for general purpose work. Have Steiner Commander-XP with stabilized compass for that purpose. Good at night, too.

The Admiral has a Steiner 7x30 Navigator model with onboard compass, and they work well enough for casual work. Not as good at night, but OK in all other conditions.

More than 7x is hard to hold steady, but I can't always read things like boat names. I'm saving up for a stabilized binoc, around 14x, for that purpose. Haven't picked brand/model.

Lots of technical stuff about lens sizes, human eye pupils in various light conditions, coatings, calculations, etc. left out...

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Old 09-10-2012, 06:18   #22
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Re: Binoculars

It will not be very long until boat names are learned from the AIS/MMSI string, and not trying to read a fancy font at a quarter-mile.

I wonder if every nav aid will eventually self-identify in a similar fashion. I don't mean "this is where I'm supposed to be" but "this is where I am".

Binocs will still be needed, however to discern at dusk the surface water disturbance that reveals the shifting sandbar or unmarked reef or rock shelf you are trying to avoid.

It's interesting how this discussion is reinforcing the idea that you need cheapo rubber ringed binocs for dropping in the cockpit, and (if your sailing activities and/or locale justify it) an "executive" pair that are kept snug and dry below until you need to see a can buoy at midnight under a half-moon!
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Old 09-10-2012, 06:22   #23
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Re: Binoculars


Yeah, I keep my cheap set in the cockpit and don't worry about abuses them. If they get smashed - so be it. My Steiners just cost too much money. I go below and get them when the cheapos don't cut it. After much practice, I know when to get the steiners and not even bother with the cheeps

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Old 09-10-2012, 06:40   #24
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Re: Binoculars

i have a Canon 18 x 50 with stabilizer and it works very well. i can se a lot better and a lot more details(read names ect.....signs, poles, boys, )
i also have a standard marine shop 7 x 50. that i use also.
also have a night vision but never use it, i always forget that i have it.
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Old 09-10-2012, 10:43   #25
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Re: Binoculars

YOU WANT THE COMPASS!!! This can be used as a hand bearing compass. Why do you need it? To determine if the boat that you see in the distance is on a collision course with you. How? If his bearing isn't changing either you are on a collision course or he is moving away from you.
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Old 09-10-2012, 10:59   #26
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Re: Binoculars

Below I keep a pair of huge Nikon Oceanpro 7x50s with compass. Good optics, not terribly expensive ($250 online), and heavy enough to fend off pirates with. Plus you look like the captain of a WWII destroyer when you're using them.

I also have a pair of Leica Trinovid 10x25s, which fold up small enough to fit in a pocket and the optics are so good they work great at dusk, which is unusual in small binoculars.

Won't have cheap, blurry binoculars. Life's too short.
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:21   #27
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Re: Binoculars

7x50 are good night glasses for a lot of reasons.... One that has not been spoken of is the exit pupil of the eyepiece. The cone of light that goes into your eyes has a diameter that is dependent on the configuration of the binocs. 7x50 have a cone (exit pupil) that is about 7 mm in diameter and matches the eyes pupil size in a dark adapted youth. (As we grow older our dark pupil size decreases and we cannot use all the light that a 7x50 delivers).

At night 7x50 give great views but during the day when your pupils are small they are prone to vignetting which is annoying to say the least.

Some binoculars are supplied with lense covers that can be used to "stop down" the objective lense thus turning them into 7x35 which reduces the exit pupils cone and is a better match to the eyes pupil size during the day.

My recommendation is to get a good quality 7x50 for night use and a good quality 7x35 for day use and a cheap 7x35 or 10x50 for all around use (and to loan to those who tend to drop things).

You can read about exit pupil here: Exit pupil - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Or if you really want to overdose take a look at some Astronomy books that cover binoculars. Visual Observation of the Deep Sky comes to mind off hand.

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Old 09-10-2012, 11:46   #28
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Re: Binoculars

Thanks, evm1024... learned something today thanks to you. Now I know why my 7X50's worked so well for so long. Good Post! Phil
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Old 09-10-2012, 11:52   #29
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Re: Binoculars

"Some binoculars are supplied with lense covers that can be used to "stop down" the objective lense thus turning them into 7x35 which reduces the exit pupils cone and is a better match to the eyes pupil size during the day"

so thats why my lens caps are in two pieces!
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Old 04-11-2012, 01:49   #30
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Re: Binoculars

I finally bought a pair of good Binocs after years of making do with cheapies. I have the Steiner Commander XP's and they are outstanding and worth the wait and cost. However, as others have noted you need to try them. I suggest not the expensive brands first because they will put you off the cheaper ones.

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