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Steiner Optics (why so bad?)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 16:25
chavo View Drop Down
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Why is it that Steiner optics never get a good review?  Thay have been around for a long time and have binos in all price ranges.  The new Perigrine xp 10x44 seems to be a great choice on paper.  What are they doing wrong?

Edited by chavo
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chavo,

I made reference to the Cornell Lab binocular reviews in your other thread. Regarding your question about the Steiner Peregrine, they came in #11 out of 14 binoculars tested in the $500-$1000 price range.

Also, the Steiner Merlin placed #26 out of 27 binoculars tested in the $200-$500 price range.

If you want to read more about this for yourself you can go to
www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/LivingBird/winter2005/Age _Binos.html

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Well, I certainly can't speak for anyone else and I have not looked through every possible rendition of Steiner optics but generally speaking, here are my primary issues with Steiner:

 

  • In their porro prism lines they only offer Individual Focusing mechanisms (they call it their Sports Focus,) which I hate. I've used IF binoculars in the past and find them cumbersome and uncomfortable.

 

  • Some of Steiner's models (the Predator line comes first to mind) are very task-specific in their design, making them difficult choices for anyone who doesn't have money to spend on optics for every specific purpose. Most people want do-it-all built into their optics. A roof prism Predator will run you at least $700.  That's alot of $$$ to put down on a binocular that has been intentionally designed to be inappropriate for all but one single purpose.

 

  • While they may offer good quality optics, I've never handled any Steiner that exibited anything like a "Wow factor."  Steiner seems to put together products that are good, but not great. Edge clarity has always been lacking, color fidelity is never quite natural, chromatic abberation is not controlled especially well, etc.  This is particularly true when they are compared to other binoculars in their same price class that do qualify as great and that do give that desired "Wow factor."

Consider for a moment that the Steiner Peregrines retail for between $850 and $1500 (depending on magnification and model.)  That put's them squarely in competition with high-end offerings from Kahles, Minox, Bushnell, Leupold, Pentax, Nikon, and even (if you care for them) some of the "mid-level" offerings of Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski.  That's some mighty prestigeous company to be keeping and they just don't quite cut it.

 

If Steiner would price these binoculars more appropriately (to the $400-600 range,) you would see them get better reviews because they probably are at least good enough to compare favorably with the mid-class binoculars in this price range. Similar adjustments in pricing for their other models would in turn, likely result in similarly better reviews for them as well. In this respect they are not unlike another overly-optimistic optics manufacturer, Brunton.  They too make good glass but, it's all priced way beyond the limits of reason.



Edited by lucznik
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I have to agree.  I've never been a fan of Steiner either, but I have to admit, the new Peregrine "XP" (their new, open bridge design model with the gel thumb and grip pads in the rubber armor, not to be confused with the regular Peregrine) looked pretty good to me when I compared it to other bins in a store recently.  Of course, this was inside a store, so it wasn't really a great comparison.  I wonder if the Cornell Labs review was with the Peregrine or the Peregrine XP?  Don't know if there's an optical difference between the two or if the difference is only aesthetics & ergonomics.

 

A buddy of mine has one of their IF porros and he loves it.  I, however, found it to be way too cumbersome and I'm not at all impressed with its resolution and color rendition.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 18:59
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I have to agree with what Lucznik said.  To me they have never been overly impressive or as he put it the "wow" factor is not there. They tend to be expensive for the class that they are in, I think if they lowered their prices a bit and competed against a mid-grade market you would see them get better reviews.

 

At the high end of their stuff running with the likes of leica, Swaro, Zeiss, Kahles, Minox and high end Nikon is a pretty stiff compition and you better be able to run right with them for the price they demand.

 

The pair I looked through for an extended period ( couple days) I can't recall the model but they cost around $700 if they would have been a $450-500 pair I would have thought they were pretty good. At around $700 give me the Pentax SP, Kahles, or Minox. 

 

Plus as mentioned above the Predator model is very lens coated specific for hunting. While I love to hunt I also go to ball games, air shows, fleet weeks and other events that would pretty much render the Predator as useless, just too specific of a binocular.

 

I will say this and give credit where it is due, they do seem to be built very stout and tuff for a binocular.

 

AC



Edited by Acenturian
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 19:01
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chavo, first off welcome to the OT forum, I own a pair of the Peregrine 8x42's and I really like them alot. Lots of people have personal preference's and other's have preconceived notions based on past performances. Biggest "flaw" I usually run into regarding Steiner optics is folks having had a bad experience with a $200 8x30 Military/Marine porro prism's that they kept under the seat of a pick-up truck uncased. Therefore, based on this scientific experience, all future Steiner products are garbage. Maybe that's a bit strong, but, I can tell you that many, if not all, have never even looked through the bino's you are inquiring about (they were just released in Nov.) yet are ready and willing to offer a through opinion based on info they collected or at best the Sportsman Warehouse inside acid test. I am not referring to anyone here, so relax guys. I will add, if you haven't already guessed, I am a fan of Steiner bino's. I know, you are shocked by this. My satisfaction is based on over 20 yrs. of owning and using their bino's and dealing with their customer service. Steiner is probably the industry leader in durability and waterproofing standards. I chose the Peregrine because it produced a very bright/sharp image brighter than any other $1000 bino I looked through), has great color rendition, is very comfortable in my hand's and is light in weight.I will say that if you are looking for value, you won't find it in any German made and produced bino. That's just economics. Good example of this is the Minox HG which has been compared to Leica's Trinovid for example. Minox designs the bino in Germany and  sends the bulk of the component's to Japan for assembly. Result, is a bino that is very close if not equal to the Trinovid for $500 less.

 

    Regarding the reviews, such as Cornell Lab, the have been criticized in the past for the way they conducted their tests to their sponsorship by Swarovski and Zeiss. Their World Series of Birding team is an example of the Swarovski sponsorship. Another flaw in their testing came from their reviewers comparing bino's from inside their observatory (through 1" plate glass). You can search some of the birding forum's and find folks that have compared the Steiner Peregrine (non-XP's) to Leica's Trinovid, giving the edge to the Peregrine. Any review as such should be taken with a grain of salt and used as a base line comparison.

 

     Bottom line is when you get to this level of binocular, "reviews" are subjective.



Edited by Roy Finn
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 19:29
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Roy,

One inch plate glass!? I would not think that it would be "possible" to test ANY binocular, fairly, with such a handicap.

It is always a good laugh to be appraised of what goes on behind-the-scenes.

Live and Learn.....
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 20:08
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Perhaps it was not a true 1 inch depth, but you get the gist. I don't know who it was that stated this, but it was stated right here in fact. It could have been one of the more astute members such as, koshkin, lucznik or ranburr, but I am uncertain as to which one it was. If you search "google" for birding-cornell, I believe they actually have a pic of the observatory in question. Seems kinda stupid to evaluate bino's, especially one's costing $1500+ through "plate glass". When someone question this, they (Cornell that is) responded that the bulk of the testing was done outdoors. Of course this was after they were questioned about this revelation. Everybody has some form of bias or brand preference including me. My preference is based on many years of satisfied use, however.

 

I have to correct myself here. It was not an observatory, it was a second story lunchroom.

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/LivingBird/winter2 005/Age_Binos.html

 

 



Edited by Roy Finn
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/11/2007 at 22:33
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Roy,

The really funny part, about what you shared, struck very close to home for me.

I was in a Big 5 Sporting Goods Store and was looking thru some inexpensive binoculars, and couldn't figure out "why" the image seemed to be out-of-focus, on the first two binoculars that I was interested in. The entire viewing image seemed softly diffused. It reminded me of a "soft-focus-filter" that was sold years ago, for 35mm camera lenses, to make portraits of females more flattering.

The "obvious" finally struck home when the third binocular also demonstrated the very same problem as the first two. I was looking outside, from inside the store, thru a plate glass window. Once I went outdoors the problem immediately vanished.

Live and learn....

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/12/2007 at 00:46
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I don't have any real experince at all of steiners, but I do have of individual focus.

 

And when it comes to individual focus I am really wondering if you that blames the IF to be cumbersome and slow if you really have used it?

 

I would never ever spend any money on a binocular to be used unless it's a IF binocular.

ITs much fast and much simplyer as you only adjust the binocular ONCE and then never again.

 

Regardless of the huntingdistance I am looking at my binoculars are always correct adjusted.

In my opinion the centerfocus is just for birders (that looks on very close distances) and for older people whos eyes not can refocus easaly.

 

I am always using Zeiss 6x30, Swarovski 7x42, Zeiss 7,50 and zeiss 8x60 and all are IF.

But i do own a number of centerfocus binoculars and I have tried mostly modern high tech centerfocus civilian binoculars, but as teh Steiner not is market very well in sweden i never come across it.

 

Regards Håkan

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/12/2007 at 06:00
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My experiences and opinions tend to mirror Lucznik's and AC's on this one and for the very reasons they listed.

 

One more I would add to the list is their eyecup design. On a majority of their models that I have looked at they use that flared design and many with the old fashioned rubber eyecups. Neither works well for me compared to current offerings from every other company.

 

I tend to agree with Roy on the Cornell review as well. Though it can be a useful resource their testing was far from scientific. In addition to the "looking through glass" issue they also only had, I believe, 5 individuals that actually looked through every bin though many others were involved including some very young children. Though that may be helpful in some regards I think it can also be looked as detrimental in others.



Edited by FrankD
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/12/2007 at 10:17
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Originally posted by www.technika.nu www.technika.nu wrote:

...when it comes to individual focus I am really wondering if you that blames the IF to be cumbersome and slow if you really have used it?

 

Yes, I have.

 

My uncle owns a 10x40 Leupold binocular with the IF mechanism and I have spent significant amounts of time handling/examining them. The optics are very good but the IF mechanism drives me crazy.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/12/2007 at 16:42
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I believe the info about them looking through a glass window may be related to the 2nd photo and caption at the attached link:

 

http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Publications/LivingBird/winter2 005/Age_Binos.html

 

To be fair, I based my conclusions about Steiner's optics on the various military/marine bins and the 7X IF porro my buddy has.  I haven't looked through their high-end stuff outside of stores, but again, I thought their new Peregrine XP 8X44 compared very favorably with other top roofs in similar price range, as best I could tell inside the store.  It certainly felt good to my hands, and I liked its overall features.



Edited by RifleDude
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/13/2007 at 10:31
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Luznic

 

Then I simply think you not have tried the right stuff.

Leupold is clearly inferor otically to all european brands i have looked through so far.

So i would suggest you try to borrow a pair of Zeiss 7x50 B marine for a short time and use them, they are in my opinion some of the best glass that can be had for money (they usally costs around 350-450 USD second hand)

 

I am never ever readjusting my binoculars and use them on one setting always.

So there is no reason a centerfocus can be faster as i don't have to make and movements at all.

Within a very short time, maybe a few tenth of a second my eyes are focusing through the binocular at distances from 10-15 yards and up to infinity at 7 and 8X binoculars.

 

Regards Technika

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/13/2007 at 12:29
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Originally posted by www.technika.nu www.technika.nu wrote:

Leupold is clearly inferor otically to all european brands i have looked through so far.

 

You clearly (pun intended) have missed the point of my previous explanation.  It was not the quality of the optics that I found objectionable but rather, the IF focusing mechanism itself.  Trying a Zeiss - even if it has better optics (which I'll happily concede for the sake of the discussion) - is not going to remedy this problem.  It would just make me want that same Zeiss binocular though, made with a Center Focus mechanism.

 

By the way, I might point out here that although my uncle has never replaced his IF binocular (mostly because he is very frugal and won't spend the money,) it never fails that when we hunt together he will comment that he wishes it had a CF mechanism like mine.

 

Originally posted by www.technika.nu www.technika.nu wrote:

I am never ever readjusting my binoculars and use them on one setting always.

So there is no reason a centerfocus can be faster as i don't have to make and movements at all.

 

Again you have misunderstood me. I do not look at the CF focusing mechanism as a liability but rather, a benefit.  It is true that with an IF mechanism (at least one of high quality) you can set the focus to your eyes and as long as you have good, young, healthy eyes, you will be able to keep things in focus at a wide range of distances. However, there are limits to this ability and when you want to switch between looking very close and very far, the IF mechanism still must be readjusted.  This is a cumbersome process as it requires adjustments for each optical barrel individually (hence the name Individual Focus mechanism.)

 

You also adjust CF binoculars to your individual eyes but, this only has to be done one time. Once set, the binocular is "true" for your eyes forever, barring changes in your eyesight. A simple turn of the focusing wheel is all that is necessary to go from looking at things at the closest point the binocular is capable of handling to the farthest point and vice versa.  When dealing with these extremes, the CF focus is faster.

 

Going a step further; the fact that you are "never ever readjusting [your] binoculars" (another point I'll happily concede for the sake of the conversation) is not a benefit at all but rather, a liability. Although I live and hunt in the "wide open expances of the American West," I often find myself still-hunting through deep canyons that are heavily forested with pine, fir, scrub oak, aspen, etc. I use my binocular to scan the area around me in search of my prey.  With the CF mechanism I can selectively pull into focus items at varying distances through the brush.  A noted outdoor writer John Barsness [and Roy, no E jokes please!] explains this principle very well in his book Optics for the Hunter.  In the chapter "Glassing" (pg. 192), he elucidates that:

"One feature of binoculars that's rarely mentioned is their ability to seperate layers of branches and leaves... [which] derives, of course, from the limited depth of field of any hunting binocular at close range...

This is why the few woods hunters who really use binoculars often prefer center-focus, rather than individual focus, which works perfectly well for any other sort of hunting. With center-focus you can slowly work your way through the nearby brush, often finding a deer in a "wall" of hard focus."

I have found this principle to be exactly true. 



Edited by lucznik
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/15/2007 at 11:09
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Quote I have found this principle to be exactly true. 

 

Hmm, those are some interesting comments. It would perfectly explain why you prefer 10x to other magnificatons. The shallower depth of field would allow you to key in on a specific distance with the focus thus making it easier for you to pick out an object specifically at that distance.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/15/2007 at 19:50
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FrankD,

 

I hadn't thought of it in those terms but, that  does make some pretty good sense.

 

I don't know that it completely explains my preference for 10x but, I don't doubt it has a significant influence.

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First of all, i would not call Steiner binoculars bad. They are very good workhorses. Second, i agree that they are not as good as the top line models, likely because they invest in sturdiness more than in optics. Their center focus roof prism binoculars generally have too much color fringing and too narow a field of view for a birder like me. Some of them are also slightly color biased, with green and brown tones sticking out too much. Their individual focus models, well, why would i even look at them?  
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/29/2007 at 18:46
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It has been a while since I have logged into the optics forum.  It is interesting to see all the viewpoints and we all

need to remember "opinions' which are represented here.

My experience is from the hunting viewpoint, and I own several binoculars including Kahles 8x42, and a new addition

last summer the Steiner Nighthunter XP 10x50's.  I have also used my brothers Swarovski's, and of the brands just

mentioned the Swarov's do have the "WOW" factor.

I do love my Kahles 8x42's and these are very good for all around.  I have been very impressed with the Steiner's

Nighthunter's, for their light gathering ability, as they are brighter than the highly regarded Kahles.

The individual focus has its advantages, in just being able to pick them up and look at whatever you desire, without

the focusing effort of the center focus.  For sharp focusing ability however, they may be rated in the middle.  But when I'm looking out up to a 1/2 mile out, at dusk, trying to judge the size of that big Bucks antlers, the Steiner I've just mentioned works very well.

I like my Steiners, and for many of you who have not tried any IF binoculars, don't be too quick too criticize!

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/29/2007 at 19:07
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Originally posted by NDhunter NDhunter wrote:

It has been a while since I have logged into the optics forum.  It is interesting to see all the viewpoints and we all

need to remember "opinions' which are represented here.

My experience is from the hunting viewpoint, and I own several binoculars including Kahles 8x42, and a new addition

last summer the Steiner Nighthunter XP 10x50's.  I have also used my brothers Swarovski's, and of the brands just

mentioned the Swarov's do have the "WOW" factor.

I do love my Kahles 8x42's and these are very good for all around.  I have been very impressed with the Steiner's

Nighthunter's, for their light gathering ability, as they are brighter than the highly regarded Kahles.

The individual focus has its advantages, in just being able to pick them up and look at whatever you desire, without

the focusing effort of the center focus.  For sharp focusing ability however, they may be rated in the middle.  But when I'm looking out up to a 1/2 mile out, at dusk, trying to judge the size of that big Bucks antlers, the Steiner I've just mentioned works very well.

I like my Steiners, and for many of you who have not tried any IF binoculars, don't be too quick too criticize!

 

Your observations of Steiner's focus system mirrors mine. For a hunter who is scanning with his (or her) bino's, the "Sports Focus" system works very well. For absolute detail, however, the center focus models will be a better choice.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/30/2007 at 20:30
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The only Steiners I like are the 8x30 Safari or Military/Marine. I think they are a good balance of performance and price. I
like their weight (18oz), not too heavy but enough to feel stable.

I would say they are just about perfect for a beat around all-purpose binocular that won't hurt the wallet if you had to
replace them.

I don't like any of the Predator models. They have wierd lens coating that makes looking at boats, water, people,
buildings, etc, not fun! Tree'd background is OK which I guess is why they are good only for huntng.

Also, they tiny compacts 8x22 or 8x20, I forget the size, these make my eyes hurt. I wouldn't recommend them if they were
free.

Smitty
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I've got the 8x32 Predators that I bought on close out a couple of years ago for about $400. They've been a great binocular for hunting. I use my binos as lucznik pointed out, focusing back and forth in the vegetation and seeing what pops out. This is where center focus and the predator coating really come into their own.  It doesn't hurt that these things are built like a tank either, as I've dropped them a few times. For me, they're keepers until I can afford some Swaros or Leicas

Edited by tdbob
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