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Binoculars vs Rifle scope--low light viewing?

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/03/2010 at 18:31
ceylonc View Drop Down
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Got a few questions regarding low light performance when comparing binoculars vs. riflescopes. First off, I'm pretty much a newbie when it comes to binoculars. I have a lot of time behind the vast majority of medium to upper end riflescopes but have very limited experience looking through any model or market segment when it comes to binocs.
 
Yesterday, I was deer hunting a pretty large field (30 acres give or take) and was using, for the first time, a set of binoculars that ran me about $650. The mag range is 10x50 and they're made by a up & coming, respected optical company (I'll keep the name in model unnamed). The clarity & resolution performance during late afternoon was very good & I was happy wiht the performance they were providing. Then the sun started going down & this is where the view started to decline. I had deer in front of me from 200-275yds and while it was easy to determine with my RIFLE SCOPE (a top end scope 4-5 yrs ago, still very good now) at 8x magnification the available features of the animals at this distance, the binocs where very dark & the animals really resembled dark shadows moreso than individual deer.
 
Is this something common with binoculars? I figured that I should be able to see equally well with the binocs as wiht the scope but the scope was far & away providing the better image.
 
Thanks for the help.
 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/03/2010 at 18:42
Roy Finn View Drop Down
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Scope make, magnification and objective size would be helpful, but I'm guessing that the scope provided a larger exit pupil size than the bino.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/03/2010 at 18:57
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the binoc make: vortex viper 10x 50mm with ranging reticle
scope make: leupold lps 3.5-14x 50mm
 
thanks!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/03/2010 at 19:06
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Roy, you nailed it.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 09:54
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My Meopta 7X42 allows me to see a lot better late than a top quality  3.5 -10X50 riflescope at any power.  In my experience, even cheaper binocs are better in low light than a scope.  Isn't there more at work than just exit pupil?

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 12:22
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That's odd.
 
Given equal quality optics and similar exit pupil, generally a good binocular will provide better low light viewing than a rifle scope, if for no other reason than:
 
1.  You are using both eyes with binoculars, enhancing resolution.
2.  Binoculars are either fully against or very close to your eyes, where the eyecups block out most of the stray light from the side that you unavoidably have with a rifle scope. 
 
I have some good scopes and good binoculars, and I've never seen any scope outperform good binoculars in low light.  Not doubting your observations; my experiences have just been the opposite.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 12:49
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maybe there is a problem with your binos? where they foggy by chance? I have had simalar experience as RifleDude.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 14:31
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The OP stated that the riflescope as set at 8x with a 50mm objective. That's roughly a 6.5mm EP. The bino's are 5mm (yea I know about bino vision), but sometimes it's hard to get around that much difference in EP. The Leupold LPS is a pretty high quality scope as well.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 14:50
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Since binoculars usually have more lens elements than a typical rifle scope, along with a prism system, total light transmission % is often a bit lower, but not by a huge margin.  Despite the advantage binocular vision provides, I could see that working against the binocular, if the scope's EP was larger.  Still, 5mm is a sufficiently large EP, and that combined with the aforementioned advantages binos provide, should have compensated for the smaller EP.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 15:46
Roy Finn View Drop Down
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To tell you the truth I have wondered at what point does bino vision exceed a similar EP value of a riflescope. In other words, a bino is providing twice the amount of information to the brain and using two eyes is better than one, but it's not twice as good if you know what I mean. In the above example, you could say that the bino in question provided 10mm's worth of exit pupil (5mm x 2) but we know that the using two eyes provides more info to process but not twice as much. I think I read somewhere on a University site study that using both eyes would provide somewhere between 20-30% more info compared to one eye assuming good and equal vision in both eyes. I can tell you Ted, that when I use a high quality bino in an 8x42 size, I can see better and obviously more, than I can see with a equal quality scope with a larger EP of say 6 or even 7mm worth of EP. In my experience, a good quality bino with a 5.5-6+ mm EP will beat out a scope every time.

Edited by Roy Finn - January/04/2010 at 15:48
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 16:27
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For the same exit pupil size and same optical quality, you get approximately 20-50% better performance with a binocular.  That varies from person to person as well, but 35% is a good ballpark number for most of us.

The difference in area between 5mm exit pupil and 6.5mm exit pupil is 69%, so it is conceivable that if it is very dark (i.e. your eye pupil has expanded to 6.5mm or more), you would see better with a 8x50 scope.  The distance from the eye to the ocular becomes somewhat less critical as the light gets low, so that may not have been much of a factor.

With all that in mind, under typical hunting conditions, I am a little surprised that the scope outperformed the binocular.

How dark was it?

ILya
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 21:43
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Originally posted by koshkin koshkin wrote:

For the same exit pupil size and same optical quality, you get approximately 20-50% better performance with a binocular.  That varies from person to person as well, but 35% is a good ballpark number for most of us.

The difference in area between 5mm exit pupil and 6.5mm exit pupil is 69%, so it is conceivable that if it is very dark (i.e. your eye pupil has expanded to 6.5mm or more), you would see better with a 8x50 scope.  The distance from the eye to the ocular becomes somewhat less critical as the light gets low, so that may not have been much of a factor.

With all that in mind, under typical hunting conditions, I am a little surprised that the scope outperformed the binocular.

How dark was it?

ILya
First off, thanks so much to those who are trying to help explain what is going on here. I have to admit that I knew this was the best place to ask this question without getting the standard "...you're an idiot, take off the lens caps" type of response! Again, much thanks.
 
As far as how dark was it, the time was about 5:15pm and it was a beautiful, cloudless but very cold day. Perfect for hunting. Sunset here was at 4:59pm. I was shooting out of a one man chair blind at the edge of the field facing northeast. Like I mentioned previously, this is probably a 20 acre field surrounded by hardwoods. Hope this helps a little bit.
 
I had been using the binoculars to view all parts of the field and everything was in focus. During the daytime, I was very pleased with the clarity & resolution exhibited by the Vipers. I didn't do any comparing between the binos vs LPS scope during the day as the deer didn't come in the field until about 5pm. I don't play with my rifle while I'm sitting if there isn't anything in the field I want to shoot. I checked to make sure that I wasn't fogging the lenses while I was trying to view the deer & I had not done anything differently with the binos then than I had the entire day.
 
Again, this seems very strange to me. Perhaps I have an exceptional LPS that I'd be wise to hold on to but I still thought that the Vipers would perform better in low light...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2010 at 22:00
Roy Finn View Drop Down
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Just for the heck of it, next time you get an opportunity, put the scope on 10x and then compare the scope to the bino.
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