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Old 12-28-2015, 12:02 PM   #1
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Inexpensive & durable binoculars- ideas?

I recently asked about weather radios and you all came through with flying colors. Next up- binoculars. I'd like to find an inexpensive, but durable, pair of binoculars that my kids (12 and 3) and I can use. The 12 year old is rough enough, but throw the 3 year old in there and well...

I'm hoping to spend somewhere less than $50. We basically are looking for something to use when hiking and/or at national parks. For instance, we were recently in San Diego at La Jolla Cove and it would have been nice to be able to see the sea lions more up-close. Or at Arches National Park and saw an arch in the distance.

I don't know the first thing about binoculars. What do I need to know when researching?
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Old 12-28-2015, 12:24 PM   #2
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i would look at craigs list or go to they have used ones
shop goodwill always has them just watch the shipping cost
the higher the numbers the more power full a 10 x 50 would be a good set
if your looking for something more power full look for a spotting scope, if you shop around you can find a fairly good one cheep, menards has some before Christmas,
for about $35
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Old 12-28-2015, 12:35 PM   #3
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Since there for your young kids, I would look at a lower power pair binoculars.
10x50 can be shaky. 7x35 would be more enjoyable for young ones.
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Old 12-28-2015, 12:36 PM   #4
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I would have to disagree with Muddyrode on the 10x50, especially for use by kids. With more magnification it will be more difficult to find and focus on what you want to see. I think 8x42 would be be better. Easier to use and probably lighter.
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Old 12-28-2015, 12:58 PM   #5
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I went Ollie's and purchased two pairs of binoculars for the lake, $19.99 each. I didn't want to leave my good one sitting out to be stolen. They are pretty good for the price and I don't care if they're broken or walk off.
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Old 12-28-2015, 01:04 PM   #6
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On the other side, if someone is looking really good ones......
I have some Canon image stabilization binoculars. They are amazing for birding, animal watching, or anything else in motion.

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Old 12-28-2015, 01:33 PM   #7
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Almost every large store will have the $10.00 models available in the sporting goods section. They are usually 8x 25 or even 35. Small, compact and simple for kids to learn.
Get yourself a pair of binos that are around 200-300 dollars, and enjoy them. Keep them away from the kids. I have a pair of Leupolds and love them. Clear and crisp.
You can spend up to 1500 (Or more) getting a pair of Zwarovskis, but please...
Before I start this next paragraph, let me express a caveat: NEVER allow children to use binoculars unassisted or unsupervised. A single short glance at the sun with any image magnifier can cause permanent eye damage. Be aware of the location of the sun, especially if looking at birds, planes trees, mountains or any direction pointing up.
What is important to the kids' enjoyment is proper training. Holding, them, looking through them, can be a challenge for even adults who don't understand what they are looking at/through. Finding the object you are looking for is difficult without a few tricks of the trade.
First, look at the unit. Poro Prism is superior in manufacture. That means the barrels of each side will be straight though, rather that elbowed half-way down. That's all you need to know for now on that.
Next Exit pupil". That is important. What that is, is the size of the light spot as you look at the binos held up in front of you. A larger "exit Pupil" means it is easier to look through, simple as that. It is a function of the size of the lenses in combination with their spacing, and magnification. Don't agonize over this however, any size can be used just takes some learning.
Next actually showing a kid how to use them with minimal frustration: Explain that when they just put them up, to their face they will either see a large black nothing, or a bubble that seems to float around in front of their eye. The key is to hold the binos so that the bubble blooms into a full picture, and so that they don't have to chase around trying to get it just right.
Proper holding is essential to accomplish this. Smaller hands need a smaller set of binos. Hold each barrel in the hands with the index fingers loosely held to adjust the center focus as needed. Hold the knuckles of the thumbs at either side of the eye socket on the outside edge (essentially the front edge of your temples. This marries the hands to the face, and puts the binos in exactly the right place.
Now, practice that several times. with a large wall in front of them. That way they aren't searching for a target, they just are working on getting the exit pupil to fill the eye, and to be clearly focused on the wall. A wall with ads on it is perfect for this.
After working on that, it is time to try finding something like a car that is perhaps 100 yards away.
Here's how I do it:
find the object with the naked eye, and fix your vision on that object. Don't look down at your binos. Keep looking at the object. You should be in a steady position, as if you already had the binos in place. Steadily raise the binos to your face, and right in place in front of your eyes, locking your thumb knuckles to your temples. Done correctly, you should already be looking at the object through the binos on the first try. Keep trying with a large object like a car or truck or distant house. Then work on smaller objects, until you can do it every time.
What do the numbers mean? First number is the power of magnification (4, 6, 8 or 10 power. It means an object is magnified that many times. 8 power is perfect for birding, 10 power is better if you can hold it still. It is frustrating to hold a high power binocular steady but a lower power unit will give you less detail).
The second number is how many millimeters it is across the objective lens. the lens away from your face, or the larger lens is the objective lens. A larger objective is heavier, but steps up the brightness of the image. An inexpensive 8X30 would be ideal for the kids, once they learn how to use it. As they get better, they will want some serious units, and you can spend far more and still use the same number of mag and objective lens size.

If you wear glasses roll down the cups on the occular lenses (the ones you put up to your eyes). If you have a difficult time with that, or if light is shining in from the side, remove your glasses and adjust first one then then both sides. That takes some doing, and I will explain it later if need be.
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Old 12-28-2015, 05:20 PM   #8
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Nikon makes great midrange binoculars, 8x40 or a little more powerful 10x50 are commonly available. First number is the power, second the diameter of the optic. Larger the diameter the better light gathering ability. I have 10x50's had them for years.
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Old 12-28-2015, 05:31 PM   #9
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Old 12-28-2015, 06:26 PM   #10
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optics planet . com. cheap, not half bad stuff...
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Old 12-28-2015, 11:20 PM   #11
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Bushnell makes a permafocus. In focus up close and long range. Use with kids when hunting. Around $40 to $50.

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Old 12-29-2015, 06:51 AM   #12
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I think I’d spend just a bit more than $50 and get a slightly better pair of binoculars. My suggestion is the Celestron Cypress 10 X 50 which can be found for less than $100 and is pretty rugged. They are a bit heavy at 2.2 pounds but you, your wife, and your 12 year old will be glad you went with them. These are great for general purpose viewing of scenery, wildlife, and birds in state and national parks. They’re great for spying on neighbors too.

For your 3 year old I would buy a dedicated binocular like the Bushnell 8 X 21 powerview that can be found for less than $15. If these binoculars are dropped and ruined you’re not out a lot of money.
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Old 12-29-2015, 07:01 AM   #13
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There's a lot to choose from at Brookstone. Take a look here:


When you get to that page, change the drop down from "Best Sellers" to "Price-Low to High"

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Old 12-29-2015, 02:03 PM   #14
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In the $50 range, go to Bushnell or Tasco... They have binoculars that can easily last a 3 yr old... and I'd go 10 x 40 for a good start.
However these are throw away type binoculars...
There have been advancements over the last 10 yrs in binoculars... but anything inexpensive is not the best in quality.
If you want something that will be good and last, look at Nikon Monarchs or Vortex.... anything of good or better quality will be $450 up... good stuff and lifetime guarantee in most cases...
Swarovski and Ziess, are the top of the heap... $2000 and up... but this is extremely good glass and there is nothing better.
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Old 12-29-2015, 02:55 PM   #15
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As an Audubon outdoor educator, I agree with many of the suggestions offered. One thing I always tell people is to handle the binocular first - what feels good in my hands, might not feel good in another persons.
For adult and young adult, am 8x42 glass would be best, in the approx $200 price point. Look for fog-proof and waterproof models.
For your 3yr-old, look for a 6x glass, and make sure the distance between the eyepieces is short enough to allow binocular views.
Also, one response said to look for "porro prism" models 'cause the tubes are straight - he meant to look for a "roof prism" model.
Keep in mind that the better viewing experience a young person can have, i.e. using a better binocular, the more likely he/she will want to use the binoc.
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Old 12-30-2015, 05:21 PM   #16
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I think BirderLarry's response is most helpful. The really cheap binoculars can be hazy and because they aren't well sealed, might eventually fog bad enough they become useless. In the better brands, chromatic aberration is well managed too, so color fringing will be less noticeable. If you have time, I too suggest you save up and buy a name brand pair that's weather resistant and maybe even nitrogen filled. (Fwiw, I think ruby colored coatings may be pretty much for show.) Reviews at B&H, Amazon, etc. can also be good sources of info. Walmart has some good prices on their lower price optics - that might be a good place to start, mainly because they've got a good return policy. If the binoculars feel good in your hands and you like 'em, they'll work fine for even the young ones, while you're checking out which of the better quality models you'll be more happy with.
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Old 12-30-2015, 06:57 PM   #17
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Thanks everyone. This gives me a lot to digest.
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