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Big country, big eyes

Printed From: OpticsTalk by SWFA, Inc.
Category: Other Optics
Forum Name: Binoculars
Forum Description: Anything that requires two eyes to look through it
Printed Date: July/22/2018 at 13:44
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 11.10 -

Topic: Big country, big eyes
Posted By: w squared
Subject: Big country, big eyes
Date Posted: February/07/2017 at 10:31
Hello All

I'm an occasional visitor (and VERY infrequent contributor here), but in the past I have found the subject matter expertise and level of civility here to make this forum a first-rate resource on optics. The collective input from the folks here steered me towards saving my money and buying a better spotting scope than I had originally been intending for range use.

I'm now planning on doing some elk hunting in Arizona this fall. My current optics assortment includes a relatively nice set of Carson ED 8X42 binoculars that are great for short range use in SE Texas brush, but definitely not ideal for glassing in arid open country in search of elk. The other half of what I have now is a Vortex Razor HD 20-60X85mm spotter. The glass is wonderful....but given that we will be doing almost all of our hunting our of backpacks in the mountains, I think that the five-pound weight of this scope on it's own is prohibitive.

The general consensus of the experienced open-country hunters that I have asked is that 12X or 15X binos with a 50mm or larger objective lens is a great choice for the sort of hunting that we're doing. (we are not focused on getting a huge trophy buck, and thus won't need a ton of magnification to determine exact size of the rack)

At this point I don't believe that true "alpha" glass is in the budget unless I save until a full year after I go hunting...but the honest truth is that even if I had the cash on hand I would hesitate to spend Swarovski money on an optic that I will only use once or twice each year. I would very much like to get performance that is roughly equivalent to the Razor HD level of clarity (which I know is subjective).

My criteria are these - 50 to 60mm objective lenses, 12X to 20X magnification, and suitable for multi-day backpacking trips (rugged), available somewhere between $500 and $1000. Big points if there's a lifetime warranty that covers clumsiness on my part, especially if it doesn't require sending the binos overseas for repair.

Here are the binos that I have noticed as being in the "ballpark" - please let me know if you have specific input on quality, value for money, or a choice that I have neglected:

Nikon Monarch 5 16X56
Vortex Kaibab HD 15X56
Optolyth 12X50 Alpin Classic (although I do have concerns about lack of waterproofing)
Minox BL 15X56
Kowa 12X56 BD56
Vortex 15X50 Viper HD (I have not owned anything from the Viper line but my nose tells me that it'll fall short of the Razors)
Used Zeiss 15 X 60 binos from EBay (I know this is a bit of a crap shoot)

The other question is that if I take a step up from a $1000 cap, is there a star performer at $1250 or so? Are the Meopta 15x56's  "all that"?

Posted By: supertool73
Date Posted: February/07/2017 at 15:09
I hunt open country in Utah and have for the most part always used 10x binos.  I recently bought a pair of 8x Meopta HDs and like them a lot.  My dad has a 12x Meopta and likes it well enough.  But to me it is noticeably shakier than the 10x versions.  I help alleviate that by my index and middle finger over the brim of my hat when using them.  But overall I prefer my 10x. 

15x would be to much unless you are on a tripod IMO.  Typically we use spotters for long range zooming is after we have spotted game with the bino's.  These days where my dad is getting older often he will just get in a good spot to view with his bino's and spotter then I will stalk.  We use two way radios and he works me towards the game if possible. 

But IMO, a good pair of 10x binos will do most of what you need, even 8x will do the trick.  Then you can use your spotter if you need a closer look. 

Lifetime warranty and excellent customer service don't mean a thing when your gun fails during a zombie attack.

"A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don't own."

Posted By: w squared
Date Posted: February/07/2017 at 15:51
I plan on running a tripod for most of the time spent glassing - I am a big believer in the benefits of a solid mount to render the image stable and allow the human eye to detect motion. I will actually be testing those Carson 8X42's on my (tripod style) shooting sticks this weekend at the range to see if the setup is stable enough to consider as a glassing option. If not, I have an old aluminum Davidson Star D tripod that weighs only two ounces more than a "modern" backpacking tripod that I intend on using. IT will also be getting a workout at the range this weekend underneath my 85mm spotter. If it works with that boat anchor on top of it, then I'm sure it'll handle binos.

Because I live in TX and will be hunting late season in AZ (what is called a limited opportunity hunt) my scouting is limited to Google Earth, and I expect that between 60% and 80% of my hunting time will be spent either glassing or walking uphill to a better spot to glass from.

I am not planning on using a spotting scope all that much for glassing simply because I'm not looking for trophy animals...I simply want to enjoy a week wandering around the mountains with my friend, and if we happen to put something in the freezer while doing it, that's bonus points. Being able to determine species and sex is all the details that is really required for this purpose. My leaning is based on a bit of advice from a guy that grew up hunting in those same AZ units (he runs 15X Fujinons for all of his glassing) and an understanding that stretching my effective glassing range will cut down on the amount of boot leather that I leave behind.

Posted By: supertool73
Date Posted: February/07/2017 at 16:44
Yep, lots of spotting and a little stalking is a great way to hunt for sure.  I spend way more time glassing these days. 

Lifetime warranty and excellent customer service don't mean a thing when your gun fails during a zombie attack.

"A Liberal is a person who will give away everything they don't own."

Posted By: JGRaider
Date Posted: February/07/2017 at 17:07
I primarily hunt the open spaces of West Texas, and I started my search for a good set of big eyes last year, and I still haven't bought any, but I will before next deer season.  

From what I've personally tested in the field, the best I've used are the Swaro SLC HD 15x56.  They are obviously twice what you want to pay.  The Swaro SLCneu version is great, but lags behind noticeably.  The closest thing that I've seen to the SLC's, that is nearest your budget, is the Meopta Meostar 15x56 HD.  They are fantastic, and will likely be the one I buy.  

I've never really been that impressed with Vortex binos personally.  I can always find something as good or better for less $$$.  I own and use a 10x42 Meostar HD, a Meopta S2 spotter (phenomenal piece of equipment), and a few others like Swaro SV 10x50, Tract Toric 8x42, and Leupold GR HD's in 10x42, but I find Meopta stuff to be extremely high quality, fantastic glass, very well built, and a great value. In light of owning some nice optics, I've found that tripod mounted binoculars are a game changer for me and the way I hunt.   

Posted By: Troubador
Date Posted: February/08/2017 at 07:39
Take notice of what JG says, he knows what he is talking about.

I would add to his list Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 which comes with a cool tripod adapter. I reviewed this and Swaro's SLC on Bird Forum and it was a very close call until it came to the price. I haven't tried big objective Meoptas but I have reviewed their 10x42 HD and MeoStar 8x32 and they are great bins. One of most respected optics guys on BF is very fond of the 12x Meopta.

If I was looking at these I would short list Meopta and Zeiss Conquest for their great value.


Posted By: Sparky
Date Posted: February/08/2017 at 12:39
I know you said you didn't want a spotting scope, but have you considered a small spotting scope such as the Vortex 11-33x50 Razor since you are going to use a tripod anyway? I use my Nikon 13-30x50 ED Fieldscope for a similar purpose. And prefer it over binos. - -

Posted By: Klamath
Date Posted: February/08/2017 at 13:43
I haven't got hold of one yet, but the Maven B4 15x56 would be the first place I'd go in your price range.  I'd look at others, but I'd go there FIRST.

"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted". William Bruce Cameron

Posted By: w squared
Date Posted: February/09/2017 at 09:08
Originally posted by Sparky Sparky wrote:

I know you said you didn't want a spotting scope, but have you considered a small spotting scope such as the Vortex 11-33x50 Razor since you are going to use a tripod anyway? I use my Nikon 13-30x50 ED Fieldscope for a similar purpose. And prefer it over binos. - -

I actually have an offer from a friend to borrow his ED50 fieldscope, and I may take him up on it. For breaking out detail in specific spot I think that (or the Vortex) would be the proverbial bee's knees when bivy hunting out of a backpack.

My push towards a (roughly) 15X bino is for the "meat and potatoes" portion of glassing. We will be spending 80% of our hunting time parked just below the crest of ridgelines, glassing grids through optics mounted on tripods. I have spent enough time behind monocular optics on rifles (and on big spotting scopes on rifle ranges) to know that only using one eye is going to have a fatiguing effect that will be cumulative over multiple hours spent on that ridge.

I am seeing lots of votes for the Meopta...and if they are providing 95% of "Alpha" performance at that price point, I can understand why. Likewise with the Mavens. My challenge is that this is a piece of glass that I will use on one trip each year - if I'm lucky. I am having a bit of an issue bringing myself to spend that amount of money on an optic that I will only use on one out-of-state trip each year.

Posted By: Sparky
Date Posted: February/09/2017 at 13:33
Not sure if using both eyes is absolutely going to alleviate eye fatigue. i think glass quality and proper adjustments are going to play into that. I don't experience it with either, but maybe I am lucky. And I have a buddy who's dad gets eye fatigue with his binos.

I have several spotting scopes, but I find that the 50ED is my go to spotting scope even at the range. much easier to deal with vs my Pentax 80ED. Plus from time to time I carry it in my truck and use a window mount. Very convenient.

The Nikon was the best I think at the time I purchased it, but I have looked through the Vortex and that would definitely be my choice now.

Posted By: billyburl2
Date Posted: February/11/2017 at 10:06
W squared, which limited opportunity hunt are you doing? I live in az.

If it is tourist season, why can't we shoot them?

Posted By: w squared
Date Posted: February/13/2017 at 12:50
We are in for 17a/17b/18b/20a/20c, starting November 11th. Of course, everything depends on whether or not a tag materializes....but as two first-time non-residents without any bonus points to rub together, we may not even be eating tag soup this year.

If only one of us gets a tag, we'll still hunt. We've both agreed that we'll happily help with glassing, cooking, and pack muling. If neither of us gets a tag, we'll take a look at one of the over-the-counter options combined with some rabbit, squirrel, and bird hunting - or possibly look at a Colorado hunt. To be honest, the main goal is to spend a week in the mountains, enjoying great views and relatively mild temperatures. Hunting is a bonus....and eating something other than Mountain House is an even bigger bonus!

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