Binoculars on Safari

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Aug 16th, 2005, 08:48 AM
  #1
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Binoculars on Safari

Can any of recommend the optimal strength for a pair of binoculars to take on safari?

and if you have specific binocular brand recommendations, that would be great too.
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Aug 16th, 2005, 09:27 AM
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Hello,

You will want something with enough magnifying power (represented by the first number in a description of a pair of binos, e.g. 8 or 10) to be able to identify animals and observe their behaviour at a distance, and enough light-gathering power to be useful at dawn and dusk when a lot of animal activity occurs (designated by the size of the objective in mm, e.g. 25 or 40).

I would strongly recommend 10x42 binos if you are serious about your game-viewing. At 10x, I could see things which weren't visible to fellow guests using 8x, and the 42mm objective meant that they could even be used with a spotlight at night. On my last trip, my trusty old pair of 10x42 binos gave up the ghost and I borrowed a pair of 10x25s from my guide. They were excellent binos and were fine for daylight viewing, but the 25mm objective was very frustrating to use once the sun started setting -- I could see an animal in the distance with the naked eye, but the light-gathering ability of the binos was insufficient for me to get a good look at it. I'm definitely buying a new set of 10x42s. I have a set of 8x25s I use for the theatre, but they don't have enough power to use for a safari.

There is a size and weight trade-off in getting a more powerful set of binos -- they will be larger and weigh more.

In terms of brands...it depends on how much you want to spend. If this is your first safari, you may not want to invest in one of the top brands until you're sure you'll be using them enough to justify the investment of $1100+. The Big Three are Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski. I have found that Leicas work much better for me than Swarovski or Zeiss because they fit my face better -- obviously a very individual choice.

The next step down would be a set made by a company like Nikon or Steiner. They cost about $400.

With binos, you really do get what you pay for. If you buy the cheap ones, they will not deliver the optical quality of the better brands. Try them out side by side -- you'll be able to tell the difference.

Cheers,
Julian
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Aug 16th, 2005, 10:24 AM
  #3
bwanamitch
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digitaldiva,

Julian is right that you see much more with a 10x magnification than with 8x, however, there are a lot of people (including myself) who find this magnification too strong - it's too exhausting for your hands to keep the view steady for a longer time.

I personally prefer a 8x56 which has the same weight of a 10x42 but additionally gives you great night vision.

Whatever you decide to buy, I would NOT recommend these high-tech binos with built-in image stabilizer. These devices are too sensitive for a more rougher safari environment, and IMO good binos should also do a good job without batteries.

Mitch
 
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Aug 16th, 2005, 10:51 AM
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As you can see from the previous two posts, from very knowledgeable safari veterans, binoculars are rather like shoes. Feet are different, eyes are different. You'll need to do some homework if you want the best fit, preferably at a good camera shop that carries a range of binoculars. Some people like 8 power, some 10...I know some folks who used 12 power (but only for short periods of time...these are difficult, so beginners should stick to 8 or 10X I think.)

Good binoculars significantly enhance your safari experience, so I'd recommend buying good one...but that is a relative statement. However if you are spending thousands of dollars on a safari, it's silly to start counting pennies when it comes to binoculars. If your safari costs $5000, why not plan to spend at least 5% of that ($250) to ensure that you see and appreciate what is there? that will get you a solid pair of binoculars. (Of course if you have it and think you'll be doing this again, splash out and spend more-- higher prices really do get you better optics, and unlike digital cameras, good binoculars hold their value for years--mine have gone up in value.)

Anyway, at a camera shop, test different pairs...and try to hold and use them for a while. If possible, see if there are any shops that will allow you to buy a couple pair to try at home, outside at different times of day, including after dusk, then return the ones that you don't want. B&H (website, 88# in NYC) does allow returns, so that's how I tested and found the best binoculars for me.
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Aug 16th, 2005, 12:37 PM
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Digital Diva,

All of the previous posters make good sense. Binoculars are very much a matter of personal choice and objective. Very much like cameras. I could carry a digital SLR, which with its large telephoto lenses, weighs a great deal. But weight is very important to me at this point in my travels. I am past 70 now, and every ounce I can forget about forever is a blessing. That is why I now use a very lightweight advanced compact digital camera, the Panasonic FZ 20, instead of, say, a Canon 20D, with a long zoom lens.

The same thing holds true for binoculars. I carried large binoculars for many years -- eight or ten power, with a wide angle field of view giving very bright images. Yet just holding them up to my eyes for long periods, let along hanging on my neck for long periods became a chore.

So for my next safari coming up in December, I will go as lightweight as I can on my binoculars as well. I will have the same magnification as in the old days, but less wide and bright and heavy. And I won't carry them on my neck, either -- they fit in a small pouch on my belt. They may not give me as brilliant an image as my old ones did, but certainly an adequate one.

For your info, they are Nikon's Sportstar 10x25. They weigh only 10 ounces. They cost $75, but are on sale for $52 through August 18 at REI, or via its web site at:

http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...vcat=REI_HP_LD

Phil
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Aug 16th, 2005, 12:50 PM
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Phil
My dad found a fabulous strap thing for his binocs which is kind of double and creates a butterly over his shoulder so all the weight is supported by shoulders and back not neck but they sit in same position on chest which can be very handy...
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Aug 16th, 2005, 01:09 PM
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Kavey,
Thanks for telling me about your father's butterfly straps for carrying and stabilizing his binoculars.
Over the years, I've prefered those neoprene straps for both my cameras and my binoculars -- they seem to lessen the weight. But no more stuff on the neck or shoulders for me. I will keep both my FZ20, and my Nikon binoculars stored in pouches at my hips. And when I am using them, they will be attached to me with small wrist straps so I can't accidentally drop them.

Everyone should find a carrying and support system that fit their needs and physical limitations. I must be comfortable when shooting and scoping -- I need to concentrate on what I am doing, not be thinking about the weight I am carrying, particularly in hot or humid conditions.

The only thing on my shoulders is my vest, and the weight of whatever I might be carrying in its pockets, such as a converter lens. Everything else is at my hips. It works for me.

Phil
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Aug 16th, 2005, 01:12 PM
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I have to agree. I have arthritic hips and so although I'm happy to carry a fairly heavy backpack for short periods (in the airport etc) I wouldn't do so during a bush walk for example. For that I'd take the absolute minimum.

There's no point having equipment at the cost of one's health and enjoyment!
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Aug 16th, 2005, 02:14 PM
  #9
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thanks everyone. yes, i want small and lightweight (like myself, heehee) and not too expensive. after my 13 day safari, i'm travelling on my own in tanzania, zanzibar, maybe pemba and don't want to lug something too heavy around after the safari. i'll head over to REI to try some of these out!
mahalos!
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Aug 16th, 2005, 02:23 PM
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Good luck, Digital Diva. You should be able to find both the 10x25 and 8x25 Nikon binoculars on sale at REI through Thursday, if they are still in your store's stock. The 8's are about six or seven dollars cheaper, and very similar in weight.

Enjoy your safari,

Phil
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Aug 17th, 2005, 01:05 AM
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Just to throw in my two pence here, though I'm not as knowledgable as other posters...

On our first safari we took one (old, heavy) pair of 10x42 (I think) that we borrowed from my dad and one (light, small, new) pair of 8x25 that we bought ourselves.

I hardly used the heavier pair as I just couldn't hold it up for long. But it was the better/ easier of the pair in terms of being able to find and view the animal/ bird.

The lighter pair I hardly used either because the field of vision was too narrow. I'd look up without bins at, say, a tree with a bird in it. I'd memorise the shape of the branch/ leaves there and it's location within the tree. And then I'd lift the 8x25s up and just be unable to relocate the bird! The field of vision was so narrow that I'd end up searching left to right, up and down, right to left and often be completely unable to find it at all! You'd think it would be easy but I found it very hard indeed.

With the 10x42 this was easier because one could see more of the tree within the field of vision so one could more readily recognise the area of the tree required.

The difference between 8 and 10 x magnication was a secondary issue for me compared to the field of vision.

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Aug 17th, 2005, 03:01 AM
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Phil
You've done such a good job selling those Nikons at REI that they are now on backorder on REI.com - unfortunately living in Australia I don't have a real store to go to
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Aug 17th, 2005, 09:25 PM
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Sorry about that, Sarvowinner. That happens a lot with on-line sales. I am spoiled, I guess, by having an REI store fifteen minutes away. A definite advantage. However sometimes too much of an advantage. Once in the door I find it hard to resist the array of must-have items. I find it much easier to turn my back on a web site than to leave an REI store with nothing in hand.

Phil
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