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Recommendations, Info/Advice for Binoculars/Spotting Scopes

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Re: spotting scopes

Unread post by Peregrine Falcon » Thu Aug 12, 2010 8:59 pm

Hi MorganQ and welcome to the forum.
I am a serious birdwatcher/nature watcher and own 2 scopes.
You have to go and try out all the available scopes you can afford,how much are you
prepared to pay?
Choosing a scope is a very personal thing,you might think one scope is brilliant and another person will not like it at all.
Try them all out and pay as much as you can afford for the scope you feel most comfortable with.
Unfortunately for you and fortunate for the dealer you will probably find yourself drawn to the more expensive end of the market.
Take your time in choosing and if buying second-hand try and look at the one you're interested in elsewhere,a dealer in optics perhaps.
Have you tried looking up scope reviews in birdwatching magazines?
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Re: spotting scopes

Unread post by MorganQ » Fri Aug 13, 2010 12:42 am

We are going into town tomorrow to check them out,
I don't really have a price in mind, I just want something to start me off so don't want to spend too much, but as you know when you start to look you tend to get carried away!

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Spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by tdullmaier » Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:13 am

Hi Everyone,
Which do you all think would be better for viewing wildlife in Kruger on a self-drive with hopefully some walks or the longer wilderness walk as well, a spotting scope or image stabilizing binoculars?
Can you use a spotting scope without some kind of mount while walking? (I'm obviously not very familiar with these options and actually only recently heard of spotting scopes.)
I don't really want to buy both.
Or can I just skip bringing either?

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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by Dabchick » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:28 am

Hi tdullmaier! Welcome to the forums! :D

A good pair of binoculars is a must.
It does not have to be "with image stabiliser", unless you really have trouble keeping them still, or if it has a very high magnification (e.g. 16x or 20x magnification).
For these binoculars as well as spotting scopes you really need a tripod of some kind to keep it still while you're viewing game / birds etc. - not ideal while on a "bush walk".

Do you have a basic pair of binoculars?
E.g. 8x40 / 10x50 porroprism binoculars or 8x42 / 10 x 52 roof prism binoculars?
These still remain the best for general game viewing as well as bird watching.
The ones with magnifications higher than this have lower image clarity etc, simply because if they were to increase the lens size to properly match the magnification the binocs would become too big, heavy and unwieldy.

If you don't have a basic pair of binoculars, these are good value-for-money options:
Nikon Action 8x40 (porro prism)- About R800 to R1000
Nikon Action 10x50 (porro prism) - About R1000 to R1200
Nikon Monarch 8x42 (roof prism) - About R3500
Nikon Monarch 10x52 (roof prism) - About R4500
or similar Pentax models for only slightly more.

The porro prism binoculars are older technology and easier to make, which is why they are cheaper.
They are also slightly heavier than roof prism binoculars, but their image clarity is as good as or arguably even better than roof prism binoculars since they have a better depth of field.
Therefore do not automatically assume that you must buy the more expensive roof prism models.
The roof prism models are more waterproof though.

A lot of people here will tell you you must go for a Leica or Swarovski.
If you have R20,000+ to blow on a pair of binoculars, go ahead.
Otherwise the options listed above good enough.

Don't go too cheap though.
I've had a cheap 10x50 Bushnell Falcon before.
Now a Nikon Action 8x40.
Even with the lower magnification, I can see much better with the Nikon than I ever could with the Bushnell simply because the lenses are so much clearer and better.

If you do have a basic pair of binoculars and are only looking for something with more magnification, I can tell you that I've tried a pair of Pentax 16x50.
The field of view is very small so it is difficult to find what you're looking for.
Secondly the focus is so extremely fine that it is almost impossible to focus on the subject you're looking at. More useful for getting extra detail on a small bird in the medium distance, than looking at larger subjects that are far away...
Thus, if choosing between a pair of binoculars with high magnification or a spotting scope, I would recommend that you go for the spotting scope.

However, for self drive as well as walking activities, binoculars are definitely better.
You can only really use a spotting scope at "getting out" places such as some bridges, hides, picnic spots and in camp.

Hope this helps :D

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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by DuQues » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:04 am

I have recently been looking via the net for new bins, and it seems the Bushnell 8x42 NatureView should be added to the above list.

A spotting scope can, as Dabchick says, be unhandy in the car, and on walks?
The Field of view is very narrow, so a little movement and you have lost the bird.
Which, if you are in a car with someone is likely to happen.
For that same reason I would not take it on walks, but rather have some light binoculars.
Better yet, a camera with say a 100-400 lens on it, but then you are talking different prices.
But you will be needing that anyway.
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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by Brummie » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:07 am

Just a couple of thoughts that will probably muddy the water :?

Quite a few people use a monopod when walking as a steady support for long focus camcorders , bins etc., as it can be used as a hand grip when 'collapsed' or extended (as intended).
(I wished I had had one when I was trying to record (at max zoom) a hen harrier on Wicken fen - but that's not SanParks.... )

A spotting scope with a digital camera adapter can be a super-duper tele lens.
But IMO it isn't really a replacement for 'proper' camera kit, just an added extra.

If I was dripping in cash I'd go for the scope and bins :D
But I'm not :( so my choice would be a set of 10x50 or 12x50 bins (the best quality you can afford)
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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by Klystron » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:54 am

Welcome to the Forum.

We (Elsa & I) have a Spotting Scope that has a zoom feature which makes it much easier to find a distant object but we find that most of the time our binoculars are better and the scope often spends days wrapped in the back of the car.

I have no experience with the IS version of the binoculars but do have an IS lens on my camera and the improvement of quick shots that do not have much time to stabilize the camera would lead me to believe that IS binoculars would be great.

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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by Elsa » Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:35 pm

I love my spotting scope and what Klystron failed to say was, they are fantastic at hides or in camps where you can sit them on a table or ledge, much more magnification than our binocs. :D
but they have to be stabilized, no question of that.

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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by Peregrine Falcon » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:53 pm

As a serious birder I always carry my scope attached to a tripod.
But do frequently use it in the car without the tripod by part closing the window and resting it in the gap.
With the tripod it is invaluable in camp and at view points, bridges and picnic spots and is certainly popular with other visitors when you can show them very close up views!
A view with the scope is a bonus, always use your bins first.
Binoculars are a matter of choice and wallet.
Always pay as much as you can afford for the ones that suit you best (weight, feel, etc)
A poor life this, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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Re: spotting scope vs. image stabilizing binoculars

Unread post by tdullmaier » Fri Apr 15, 2011 9:09 pm

Hi all,

I'm not sure if you all will see this but thought I should let you know I ordered binoculars based on your input so thanks. Here they are:

Brunton Echo ELO 10x56 Waterproof Binoculars, Roof Prism

Model: 81200658

Item Condition: Factory New

Bud's Item Number: 411538269

Price: $99.99 *
*Cash discount price

Factory New

The buyers at have been able to come through again for us to offer this unheard of pricing on quality optics. Closeout pricing on newly manufactured products. Quantities are limited so don't let this great deal pass you by!

MSRP: $397.38

Echo™ ELO is among our largest binoculars with an “Extra Large Objective.” This powerhouse of a binocular brings in ample light for clear images with excellent light transmission. Offered in 10 and 15 power, the Echo ELO is one of the largest roof prism binoculars we make.


BaK-4 prism glass
Full multi-coating
Twist-up eye relief system
Nitrogen filled
Aluminum frame w/ ergonomic body armor
Tripod/monopod compatible
Limited lifetime warranty


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Re: Tips please - for complete novice - Day Visits to Kruger

Unread post by rondavi » Mon May 16, 2011 11:48 am

Many thanks to both Dabchick and Virtual Ranger - really very helpful responses. Reassuring to know that you both seem to think I have a reasonable outline plan; I will certainly heed your advice on specifics and refine it accordingly.

Two further questions if I may - prompted by your comment about binoculars. I have dug out my old binoculars, which I bought years ago and which have had very little use. I think they were quite modestly priced, but seem to be of reasonable quality - they are marked as 7x - 15x 35 and have a little zoom lever to move from one magnification to the other. If, as you suggest, we should really have two pairs, then one of us will have to settle for these, even though they are a little bulky for travelling, because I don't think I can justify buying two new pairs. Before I set about buying another pair, however, do you have any strong views regarding model and magnification. There is a weight consideration here, because we don't want to end up lugging around a lot of heavy equipment - I can imagine that it would really detract from the enjoyment.

On a related topic, I am wondering how we are going to see anything on the Night Drive. If any kind of lighting is used, it must surely scare the wildlife away, so is some form of night vision equipment required?? if so can you please point me in the right direction (and here, 'right' means not ludicrously expensive military-spec. equipment!

Thanks again for your help.

Best regards

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Re: Tips please - for complete novice - Day Visits to Kruger

Unread post by Dabchick » Mon May 16, 2011 12:50 pm

re: binoculars. Two pairs are not a necessity. It's a "nice-to-have".
And seeing as to how you do have weight restrictions to take into consideration, and are not spending that much time in the game parks, one pair might suffice.
However it is possible that one person misses out on a sighting because the animal in question disappears into the bush while the other person is still trying to get a good look with the single pair of binoculars.

If you do decide to buy a second pair of binoculars, then Nikon, Pentax and Bushnell have some good (not too expensive) models.
Optimal magnification are 8x or 10x e.g. 8x40 or 10x50 (porro prims models) or 8x42 or 10x52 (roof prism models).
However, I've also used a Pentax 8x32 which were very clear.
The smaller 8x32 is also much lighter and smaller than the 8x40 or 10x50.

However, it is important to take the "Exit pupil" size into consideration when you decide to go for a smaller pair of binoculars.
Especially if the user have to wear glasses.
An "Exit pupil" of about 5 is ideal, and 4 is also very good. 8x40 and 10x50 binoculars have an Exit pupil of 5 (50/10 = 5 and 40/8 = 5).
The 8x32 Pentax mentioned above had an Exit pupil of 4 (32/8 = 4) and was therefore still easy to use. However, some of the smallest and lightest binoculars are 8x25 or even 8x21which means an Exit pupil of 3.1 and 2.6 respectively.
Someone who wears glasses will have a lot of trouble to see clearly through these kinds of binoculars.
For the same reason I would use your current pair only at about 7x or 8x magnification - maybe up to 9x, but more than that will make it difficult to see clearly and to find the object you are trying to look at.

Roof prism models are generally slightly lighter than the older-technology porro prism models, but they are also twice (or more) the price.
I personally also prefer the view through a porro prism model.

You can also buy binoculars at the KNP shops, but they are more expensive there.

Re: night drives.
Do take your binoculars with on the night drives.
I'm always surprised when my companions and I are the only ones on the night drives with binoculars.
It seems that most people think its not going to help on a night drive to have binoculars, but when the spotlight is on, you can see through the binoculars.
On one night drive from Satara in December 2009, everybody were able to see that there was "some kind of cat" stalking a young impala.
My friend and I were the only ones who could ID it as caracal - because we had our binoculars with us!

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Recommendations for binoculars

Unread post by bustergirl » Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:33 am

Hello all -
We will be traveling to Kruger in late September.
In preparation, I need to get a decent pair of binoculars that won't set us back too much $$.
Any recommendations for brands and models?
We are Americans so brands available in the USA would be best.

We aren't super into bird watching but want to be best prepared to see the animals and some birds.

Thank you very much!

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Re: Recommendations for binoculars

Unread post by Tom124 » Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:40 am

Hi bustergirl, welcome to the forums :D
One can get really bogged down in all sorts of technical mumbo-jumbo when it comes to selecting binoculars, but I like to keep it simple.
For general game viewing I still use an Oregon LE WP pair by Opticron.
They're reasonably light, you get a good view of game even from a long distance and they are very sturdy (perfect for romping around the bush :lol: ).

Living in the UK, I'm not sure if you can get these in the US - but in this day and age one can buy from all over the world!

Hope this helps, if you need more technical info then I'm sure an expert will post soon.
Back from beautiful Botswana - a long time to wait, but KNP and KTP planned for 2016!

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Re: Recommendations for binoculars

Unread post by Rooies » Sun Aug 05, 2012 6:54 am

You have got some good brands in the USA.
For $100,00 you could buy a decent pair.
For general viewing, buy yourself a 10X50.
Do not buy a lightweight pair, for example, a 10X25.
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