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Twitching Tools

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Twitching Tools

Postby oldclaypaws » Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:33 pm

I'm in the market for a new optical device for observing our feathered friends and wondered what others use. I'm looking for good quality, the right magnification and portability.

Leaning towards a pair of 8 x 42 Binoculars, maybe Barr & Stroud Sierra's @ £79, which seem to come highly rated, or maybe one of their higher spec models with better glass. A spotting scope might be bulky and too high powered, 8 or 10 x 56 Bins might be versatile and also of use in my other hobby, astronomy. I have a pair of Fujinon 16 x 70's for that (don't ask the price), but they are too heavy and high powered for twitching. Also thought a 10 x 50 Monocular is an interesting option, as they are less bulky and I have a rather lazy right eye.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby SimonFisher » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:17 pm

We've Nikon 10x42 HGL L DCF and Leica Ultravid 8x42 binoculars between us. Both excellent. We also have a Nikon ED82-A fieldscope with 25-70mm zoom eyepiece. I'd agree that the scope can sometimes be too bulky and give too much magnification for general use, but when the need arises, it really does come into its own.

Unless things have changed since we bought our binoculars in 2005/2006 paying £900-£1000 a pair, and you can now get the same quality of optic for less than £100 (which I doubt), if that's your budget, don't even pickup the likes of what we use - the difference is immense and you probably don't want to know what you're not going to get. We upgraded from ~£100 binoculars and were astounded at the difference.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby oldclaypaws » Sat Jul 05, 2014 10:30 pm

I don't think I'll be splashing out for Swarovski's, although if theres an appreciable difference between better low price and midrange, I might go to lower end ED glass;, I've found 8 x 56mm ED Barr and Strouds on offer at £148 (normally about £220), which seems a lot of bang and versatile glasses for the buck; good low light bins for stargazing without needing a tripod, but maybe a tad bulky for twitching. Their 8 x 42 ED's @ £199 are also compared in optical quality to other makes twice the price, and without the extra bulk of 8 x 56's. Nice macro facility too for those butterflies- they focus down to 6 ft. As manufacturers B & S seem good value and decent quality, which is why they are popular and often 'best budget bins' in reviews, where budget class is defined as £100-£300. Strangely Tasco 10-50 x 25 power zooms At £19.99 don't seem to get a mention, even though they show images of distant galaxies in their ads. :lol:

The Fujinons I've got are just about the best astro & observation bins in their class and are something like £800 new, so I was a bit chuffed to get a used pair on Ebay for £170, flipping heavy though at nearly 6 lbs. I often sit on a deck chain staring at the milky way with them (you see thousands of stars in one field), it really takes the breath away and makes you feel very very small and insignificant, we have very good skies here with minimal light pollution. I've a 300mm computer guided Telescope with some top Tele Vue eyepieces- its able to see all the nebulas, galaxys and globular clusters. A Polish pal saw the moon through it and said "Wow! I am coming in for landing!". I replied "Yes, and if you look on the left you can see the Apollo landing site with the footprints, and they show their space boots were made in Poland". He looked again, almost believing me.

As a certain Akita chewed the eyecups off one budget pair of bins I had, I think I'd feel nervous with anything top notch, apart from the fact the same amount as a pair of Leicas would buy my Stihl 880 chainsaw. Having not worked for several weeks with the wound, I'm not feeling flushed with cash either, so cost is a big factor.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby davetb » Mon Jul 07, 2014 4:25 pm

Don't binoculars need two hands to use.... :lol:
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby oldclaypaws » Mon Jul 07, 2014 5:49 pm

Yes, two functioning hands is always a bonus. I'm just about able to lift something the weight of medium bins now thanks, but recovering tediously slowly. My physio was certainly right when she said its gonna be a long haul. If there are any strangulations in town this week, I've a great alibi. :lol:

Have occupied myself by reading just about every binocular review ever written. One of the problems with the internet is now that Amazon, Fleabay and web-based suppliers have taken over optical sales and the likes of Dixons and Jessops have closed, its not so easy to find an actual highstreet shop with a good display of bins to compare. Maplins list 70 odd bins on their website, but the local store has 2. :( Their are two possible retailers in Exeter, one a camera chain and the other a gunshop, but another (firstlightoptics) that sells the ones I was leaning towards emailed me to say they are in effect a warehouse with no facility for potential purchasers to look at the actual bins; you're supposed to make up your mind by reading reviews and looking at other retailers stock, then just pay for them and take your chances. A bit useless really. Call me old fashioned but I like to see the merchandise before I get out the plastic, especially if its something that merits close inspection to see if it 'fits'. I told them if I can't try them, I won't be buying.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby SimonFisher » Mon Jul 07, 2014 8:55 pm

oldclaypaws wrote:... you're supposed to make up your mind by reading reviews and looking at other retailers stock, then just pay for them and take your chances. A bit useless really. Call me old fashioned but I like to see the merchandise before I get out the plastic, especially if its something that merits close inspection to see if it 'fits'.

You don't have to "take your chances". If you buy online or otherwise away from a trader's premises, the Consumer Contracts Regulations (formerly the Distance Selling Regulations) give you the right to inspect the goods after delivery, cancel the order (return the goods and receive a refund) if you do not wish to retain them for any reason.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby oldclaypaws » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:42 pm

Quite so Simon, however when one likes to compare and isn't sure of the benefits of spending an extra £50, or even the optical quality of a different objective, an element of 'feel' is a good idea pre-ordering or you could end up sending back half a dozen before finding the right one.

For what its worth, I have compact budget bins (8x25) and top end observation bins (16x70). Most of the birding sites and guides lean towards 8 x 42's as a good general 'nature bin', which is midway between what I've already got. I'd like something with a close focus of circa 6ft in order to see insects, and preferably a decent field of view, armoured, good warranty, good optics, 8/10 quality, but not breaking the bank. Budget is (don't laugh) maybe £150-200 max. I believe there are a few; 'Vortex', 'Hawke' and lower end Minnox which might do the trick, but have seen through none of them yet.

Off to hospital tomorrow to be poked again which just happens to be near a camera shop with a few bins to play with. Usefully, there's also a dedicated twitchers shop overlooking a lake within range which sounds a nice place to visit and very user friendly. http://www.lakesideoptics.co.uk/?Cat=Home.

Vortex get some good write-ups and have a lifetime warranty, even if you drop them. These sound pretty good for what I want; (available for £148 on Amazon). Most decent bin outlets carry and rate them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXy4gHj-2Ts
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby SimonFisher » Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:42 am

oldclaypaws wrote:Vortex get some good write-ups and have a lifetime warranty, even if you drop them

That does look to be a very good warranty.

oldclaypaws wrote:As a certain Akita chewed the eyecups off one budget pair of bins I had, I think I'd feel nervous with anything top notch

From my reading of it, covered by the warranty if it happens again with a pair of Vortex ones!
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby oldclaypaws » Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:32 pm

Looked through a couple of pairs of 8x 42's this morning and was also able to compare them to my old compacts which I had with me.

I hadn't realised how horrible my old Dixons compacts are, foggy, large areas out of focus, utter rubbish and well overdue for replacing.

A pair of Hawke Nature Treks @ £115 were a huge improvement, although I think I want a bit better- they weren't pin sharp, but the clarity and contrast were a vast improvement on the compacts.

Hawke Sapphire ED's @ £330 were very nice indeed, nicer build quality, were pretty sharp, but beyond my budget. The focus down to about 7 feet was good for insects and bugs.

The outlet near the lake have confirmed they have Vortex Diamondbacks in stock and reckon they are the best in that price bracket and better than many twice the price. They reckon the difference between them and the £300 Hawk Sapphires is 'very marginal, you'll hardly tell the difference'. I'm welcome to go up there and spend as long as I want sitting by the lake and looking at the (feathered) birds through various bins.

The vortex warranty is pretty remarkable and customer feedback on their site shows its honoured, they have quite a following.
Last edited by oldclaypaws on Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Twitching Tools

Postby smojo » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:16 pm

I bought some Helios Mistral WP4 8x32 bins a while ago. Didn't want to spend a lot, just wanted fairly decent pair. Tried various other makes costing two and three times as much as these which weren't as good. They cost me about £75.
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