Have You Driven A Ford Lately?
Location: Michigan, USA
I have spent some time with the 15-80 Steiners that are being sold on the Samplelist here for under $500, http://www.samplelist.com/default.aspx?display_num=10&mf g_selection=16&prod_type=2&hide_sold=false . I used them over two different weeks on the shores of Lake Superior off Whitefish Point.
The reason I bought them is that I wanted binoculars for long distance viewing of ships passing and the spectacular moon rises we get. My spotting scopes are to cumbersome and my Zeiss 7x42 did not have the magnification I needed.
First impressions were that these binoculars are huge compared to the several pairs I have. The bulk fooled me because they are by no means too heavy to use for extended periods. The bulk actually works to the advantage of these glasses because it makes them easy to stabilize without a tripod or some other support. Based on hand holding some spotters and other small high magnification binoculars I have used I thought a 15x was pushing it. I was very surprised by the stability I could maintain by holding the glasses at the objective ends. This worked when standing and when sitting with my arms rested was really amazing.
I have been using my Zeiss 7x42 binoculars for twenty five years and they are my go to glasses. I was using them instead of the spotters I have because of the total lack of eye strain from extended periods of use. What I found with the Steiner Senator was that a more than 2x increase in magnification makes a big difference in what you can see at distances involving miles instead of yards. I was able to see ships at ten miles good enough to discern the exhaust stack markings. This makes life very easy since I am a http://www.boatnerd.com/ junkie. At closer ranges under five miles I could see the anchor chains, deck hands, masts and the framing in the pilot house windows. This just can't be done with 7x no matter the glass quality, more on this in a moment.
Moon gazing was simply outstanding. Not only was I able to see craters on the moon, I even saw shadows being cast into the valleys off of Clavius. That is simply outstanding from a hand held glass. It is no substitute for the fifteen inch Celestron but there is no set up time. Smaller craters to the south of Clavious were easily seen and the definition on the jagged peaks was very good.
I also did some celestial gazing and when compared to the telescope, it can't compare. It was interesting to note that Orions belt just fit into the FOV for you mathematicians out there. Also, due to the clean air over Lake Superior we can sometimes pick up satellites passing over due to the sun over the dark western horizon. It was really cool to see these pass from visible to dark when the angle of sun light projection was passed. You can definitely tell that these are metal objects traveling at very high speed.
Regarding the contrast and resolution the Senator is not nearly as good as the T coated Zeiss. When looking at objects less that several hundred yards the Zeiss has a crispness that the Senator is lacking. I see a sharpness in Zeiss, when looking at migrating birds for instance, that the Steiner does not have. We had one windy day where the eagles were loving life just floating in the air. The Steiners brought them in so that you could see their eyes big as daylight. The Zeiss, though only 7x, let you see the intensity these magnificent birds have in their eyes.
The 15x80 has plenty of exit pupil to allow use during any hour of the day. They let me see some guys walking on the deck of an ore boat that was at least five miles away well after dark. There was rail lighting on this boat but my Zeiss didn?t let me see the guy.
The Senators have individual focus eyepieces that I have used on Military Marine Steiners before. Once dialed in they were fairly easy to use. I am not as quick with them as my Zeiss which are center focus. The box says that once focused you are good for all ranges. This is not true for my eyes. Certainly, if focused for an object at a few hundred yards and moving to a few miles is no problem. Focusing on a bird at seventy five yards and moving to a ship way out is.
I had seen the Senators talked about before and thought that these might be a good choice for boat and moon watching. I asked ILya Koshkin what he thought about them and he just happened to have a pair. He offered me the use of them with no strings attached. Needless to say I own these glasses now and appreciate ILya?s generosity in this matter. If any of you see him listing optics in the for sale forums here you will be dealing with a straight up guy and gentlemen. I feel confident in saying this on our hosts website because ILya tests many optics that he gets from SWFA, far too many for him to keep. He then sells some of them after testing. I happened to be the beneficiary of this. No matter, I will still continue to buy from SWFA.
Overall I am very happy with these binoculars. Anyone looking for a pair of glasses for long range viewing should be very happy.
Edited by tahqua - November/27/2007 at 12:25