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Best Mid-level Back Country Binoculars

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/21/2011 at 18:08
Sam16 View Drop Down
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I have been quietly following along on the binocular reviews and opinions here.  Thank you to those who have spent time doing this.  I don't have the option of checking out many binoculars in person.  But of those that I have had the chance to take a look at, the expensive Leicas were really amazing and comfortable to look through for me, for whatever that's worth.
 
I am looking to get a pair of $300-$600 binoculars though, that I will keep for a long time and use for light weight back country hunting with and without a tripod, and likely without a spotting scope for the most part.  Overall it would seem that 10x magnification is best for me for this use and less than 27 ounces for the binoculars alone.  They will of course be used in poor light at times.  Not sure whether argon is better than nitrogen purging because they will be used in rainy, humid weather??  Also, not sure whether the more forward attachment point on the Talons and Zen Rays would lead to poor stability on an ultra light weight tripod??
 
From what I've gleaned here, I think I have narrowed my search down to:  Kruger Caldera, Vortex Viper HD, Vortex Talon HD, and Zen ED2.  Anyone have any suggestions for me?  Thanks.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/21/2011 at 19:36
Bitterroot Bulls View Drop Down
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That is a good list of options.  Backpack hunting is my favorite style of hunting, and I often use my binoculars on a tripod.  I have used the Zens of the tripod without any problems.  In fact, it puts the eyecups a little further from the tripod head, giving your face a little more room.  I used the Vortex tripod adapter, and it bends back a little under the binocular.  Still not really balanced, but not really a problem either.

Another thing to consider is that if you choose the Vortex models or the Zen Ray you can use a Vortex doubler and turn your 10x into a lightweight 20x spotter.

The models you have listed all have similar optical performance (although the Viper is a little tighter on field of view).  All are produced overseas for good American companies.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/21/2011 at 22:42
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I had another look at the Viper HD series today, along with another look at the Talon HD too. If it was me doing the backpack hunting, I would take a real serious look at the Viper HD 8x32.  To me the Viper 32mm is the class of the new Viper lineup.  I like the 32mm because the fov is not restricted like the 8x42 is.  The Viper HD is an improvement over the original Viper in that the edge performance is MUCH improved.  The whole fov is mostly sweet spot.  The 8x32 is plenty wide, nice and compact in the bargain.  The Caldera would be the choice of my current glass (at your price level) for backpack duty.  This is because of the quite compact nature of the Caldera design.  While it is not a lot lighter than the ZEN or the Talon, it is enough shorter that the binocular takes up a lot smaller "footprint" in the size it occupies in the harness or strap you are carrying it on.  In a days worth of "over hill and dale" this adds up at the end of the day.  I have said this before and I will repeat it.  It is pretty obvious the ZEN ED 2 and the Talon HD are the same thing.  The exception is that the Talon has either a slightly larger housing, or it uses thicker armor.  I can reach around my ZEN ED 2 10x43 and touch my thumb and middle finger around the barrel of the ZEN ED.  I can't with the Talon.  They would be the last on my backpack duty because of size.  That said, I have packed the ZEN ED 2 many miles and it works fine.  The Talon would be more of the same.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/22/2011 at 13:40
Sam16 View Drop Down
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Thank you guys very much.  Great info.  I was actually looking at that Vortex regular binoculars tripod adapter,  or "Uni-daptor" along with their High Country Tripod for a light, affordable, compact tripod system option. 
 
The 8x32's sound like great binoculars, but for me when scanning across the canyon 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 miles and trying to spot animals going in and out of the shadows the 8's previously have not seemed to be enough while FOV doesn't seem to be an issue in that case.  And on the other hand, the 10's have enough FOV for me to pick up/identify specific animals moving through the timber at 100 yds that I can't find in the rifle scope or with the naked eye while bow hunting. 
 
So what I'm gathering is that it looks like the Kruger Caldera 10x42's might be the best choice for me if I'm not going to use a doubler, and the Zen 10x43's might be best if I might be using a doubler like the Vortex doubler. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/22/2011 at 14:37
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Originally posted by Sam16 Sam16 wrote:

Thank you guys very much.  Great info.  I was actually looking at that Vortex regular binoculars tripod adapter,  or "Uni-daptor" along with their High Country Tripod for a light, affordable, compact tripod system option. 
 
The 8x32's sound like great binoculars, but for me when scanning across the canyon 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 miles and trying to spot animals going in and out of the shadows the 8's previously have not seemed to be enough while FOV doesn't seem to be an issue in that case.  And on the other hand, the 10's have enough FOV for me to pick up/identify specific animals moving through the timber at 100 yds that I can't find in the rifle scope or with the naked eye while bow hunting. 
 
So what I'm gathering is that it looks like the Kruger Caldera 10x42's might be the best choice for me if I'm not going to use a doubler, and the Zen 10x43's might be best if I might be using a doubler like the Vortex doubler. 


I think you have it figured out.  I also prefer 10x42ish bins for glassing the way you are describing.  I don't know if the kruger's eyecup design would work with the Vortex doubler, but the Zens will.  I have the Vortex High Country tripod setup as well, and it works OK.  Some of the lighter Slik tripods will be almost as light, and a little steadier.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/23/2011 at 13:49
Sam16 View Drop Down
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Thanks Matt.  I will definitely check out the Slik tripods also then.  (I'm guessing that I will be shocked by how much more I can see out in the field with either the 8x's or 10x's Zen's compared to my old 10x Bushnell Legends.)

-Mike
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: May/23/2011 at 17:04
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10x Zens, a tripod, and patience are going to show you a lot, I think. Keep us updated!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/05/2011 at 23:03
Sam16 View Drop Down
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Okay, I got the 10x Zen's last week and have gotten two chances now out in the woods to try them out.  The Slik Mini II tripod is not here yet.
 
First, the customer service was great from Zen in getting the binoculars to me, etc.
 
What I like:  The color and central view clarity seems very good to me (I'm no expert but I like to see what I can when out in the mountains).  Weight and size is good (fits well in my Badlands Bino Carrier).  Focusing and depth of focus is quite good to me.
 
What I don't like:  The big thing is that in many backgrounds approximately 1/5 of the periphery is somewhat cloudy/gray (a halo), and in light backgrounds (e.g. the horizon) this takes on a little bit of a rainbow appearance.  This was really annoying initially and I hope that I can get used to it.  I think that I would rather have a narrower field of view which didn't have so much distortion at the periphery?  At first I thought maybe it was my contacts, but I can notice the same appearance with my glasses on or with the naked eye (maybe not quite to the same level of severity as when I wore my contacts but I will have to evaluate this more).  Maybe I'm just being to picky?  I've never purchased a pair binoculars with this increased level of quality previously, but have never really noticed this problem either (as stated before Bushnell Legends are the nicest binoculars that I have used extensively previously).  Is this normal for these binoculars?...should I expect this as part of the compromise to get that level of central clarity and field of view at this price or could I have gotten a slightly defective pair?
 
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/05/2011 at 23:46
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Were they ED1's or ED2s?

The ED1's showed some strange halo-like glare around the field (in the "black" outside the image "circle").

This issue was addressed and remedied in the ED2.  Some never noticed it in the ED1 due to facial structure.

I had both models (still have the ED2), and don't see any halo glare at all in the ED2.  I definitely noticed it in the ED1.  If this glare is in the image "circle" then it is likely a defect, as I don't notice anything but some field curvature and pincushion distortion around the edge of the FOV in mine.

Zen Ray should take care of you.  I would suggest emailing them with the issue first.


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