Thursday, April 06, 2006

My New Birding Binoculars - WOW!

Be forewarned . . . I just realized that this blog entry has become a billboard. But for good reason that you'll appreciate, especially if you are in the market for new quality binoculars.

Back in February I discovered the binoculars I hoped to own one day. I found them at the Eagle Optics display at the San Diego Bird Festival. I'd been dreaming about getting a really fine pair of binoculars but knew they would cost in the neighborhood of $1,500 or maybe even higher. Prior to attending the Bird Festival I'd shopped a little in my local area. I casually looked at a pair or two of the high-end optics and then immediately lowered my sights to a more affordable price. Not that they wouldn't have been nice to have ... they were just too expensive. Although I found a pair of lower-priced binoculars that would have worked, they weren't much different than what I'd been using. My dream was to improve on that -- although I don't have much to complain about with my old standbys.

Anyway, at the Bird Festival all the great optics were there to compare. And compare, I did. I discovered what really good optics are all about and the clarity and brightness that comes with superior glass and coatings. The advice of "don't sneak a peak through someone's top-of-the-line optics if you intend to be satisfied with your moderately-priced ones" was good . . . but a little late for me 'cause I'd already looked.

I found some $1,600 binoculars that were impressive, to say the least. If not in quality, for sure in dollars. Just kidding ... the quality was superb. Then I did a reality-check. Should I spend so much money ... no, I shouldn't. So I kept wandering around the optics display area and finally got to Eagle Optics. This company represents many (probably all) manufacturers and they've been in business since 1986. It is a company that knows what it's doing -- and they have a great reputation. So I decided to do some comparisons at their booth. And what did I find ... an absolutely great pair of binoculars that gave me the same quality I'd seen in the most expensive glasses I'd just been looking at. But they cost about $700 less! Whew! After taking these binoculars outside to view an Osprey nest at the top of a condemned boat, it didn't take me long to decide these were my dream binoculars. But the price was still on the high side so I needed to think about it. Fortunately, Eagle Optics does most of its business online. So no rush, I could order them when I was ready.

Well, the unexpected happened and I found myself making the decision to buy the binoculars sooner than I'd dreamed. It was a dreary, rainy day when they arrived this week. Wouldn't you know it. But I didn't let the rain stop me -- I set the diopter and took them outside. I wasn't testing their water-proofness (although I could have), but rather I just wanted to see how bright the image was. Now picture this . . . it was dark and gloomy with a very light drizzle at the time. I focused on our backyard birch trees and I could see the raindrops hanging from the branches. But here is the thing -- the raindrops were so bright they glistened like little stars and the whole scene was crisp and beautiful. I couldn't believe the image could be so bright when the sky was so dark. I wish I had taken a picture of it through the binoculars. I guess I could have done that ... like a mini-disigscope. What kind of binoculars did I get? I thought you'd never ask. Here are all the details in case your curiosity is getting the better of you.

Manufacturer - Vortex
Name - Stokes DLS 8 x 42 (10x42 also available). Yep, the Stokes couldn't wait to put their name on these babies. Evidently, they are also their binoculars of choice for their own birding.
Field of View - 383 feet at 1,000 yards
Eye Relief - 18 mm
Close Focus - 4 feet 5 inches. Can you believe it? I can lay in my hammock and have a front row seat watching the hummingbirds at the feeder just above my head. This close focus is also superb for butterfly watching.
Dimenions (HxW) 5.5 x 4.875 inches
- Waterproof/Nitrogen Purged
Vortex VIP Warranty - If my binoculars should ever require service, no matter what the case, Votex will repair or replace the binoculars absolutely FREE. The warranty is even transferable, but it doesn't cover theft, loss or deliberate damage. But that's only fair. It's a great warranty but one that will never by transferred by me. I'm not letting go of these binocs.
Eagle Optics 30-day Guarantee - I have the right to return the binoculars to Eagle Optics within 30 days if I'm not satisfied, less return shipping charges No chance of that! ... but nice to know.

At the risk of sounding like an Eagle Optics employee, here's more: These binoculars have
64-layer premium mirror-coated BaK-4 deviation prisms with the latest generation of phase corrected prism coatings.

The Total Optical Performance System gives you:

Pure silver coated, phase-corrected prisms for the highest image contrast and resolution
.Precisely engineered and enhanced optical tube design to eliminate annoying glare and image ghosting. (Roof prism design . . . pictured above)
High-density prism glass and lens elements
for exceptional image brightness and sharpness. That sure is the truth!
Twilight optimized multi-layered lens element coatings
for optimal low light performance. Guess this why my raindrop image was so bright and clear. Highly polished and precision shaped lens elements and prisms for true flat field performance and minimal spherical distortion.
XHR (eXtremely High Resolution) fully multi-layered coatings
to deliver excellence in resolution and color fidelity. No doubt about that.
Precisely designed optical system
for particularly clear and precise focusing from extremely close range to infinity.
Smooth focus
with just the touch of a finger -- fast enough to stay with warblers hopping as close as 4.5 feet, or swallows flying erratically out to infinity.
Optimum near-to-far focus travel
reacts swiftly in 1.25 revolutions.
Soft, contoured eyecups
can be locked in place when fully extended.
Multiple eye relief settings
are accessed by twisting down the eyecups for wide, unobstructed views with eyeglasses.
Superb depth of field
let you find and follow wildlife more easily.
Click-stop diopter control
is conveniently located adjacent to the right eyepiece for precise adjustments for differences in your eyes.

Okay, okay so I got carried away with all the details. Forgive me. I couldn't help myself -- I'm so excited about these binoculars. In fact, before buying them I decided to do some research to figure out what all the techno-speak stuff was about. I learned enough to really appreciate what these DLS Binoculars offer. Now that I understand what it takes to have a good pair of birding binoculars I put together an easy primer so anyone can understand the basics. This is a primer that beginning birders might find especially useful. The primer will be available soon at Birding Binoculars so check back if you're interested.

The bottom line is that choosinbg binoculars is a very personal decision. With so many binoculars and manufacturers to choose from I'm grateful to have found the perfect ones for me. My suggestion is if you're in the market for quality binoculars check them out -- they may be the absolute end-all, perfect ones for you, too.


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