Customer Review

51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Optical and Mechanical Design for the Money, May 30, 2010
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This review is from: Pentax 6.5x21mm Papilio Binoculars (Electronics)
Good quality, medium power, compact binoculars have been disappearing from the market over the last 10 yrs, so I was eager to try out the Pentax 6.5 X 21 Papillo binoculars. The first number refers to the magnification; the second number refers to the diameter of the objective lens in mm. The classic reference standard for binoculars is 7 X 50 submarine commander's glasses. Although manufacturers push "higher power is better", 7 times magnification is about the highest usable power with a hand-held pair of binoculars. Above that, the image is noticeable shaky, unless the binoculars are outfitted with image stabilization, or you use a tripod or other stand. A 50 mm objective gives great light-gathering ability if you view objects in dim light, but results in large, bulky, heavy units. A ~20 mm objective provides a good compromise between light-gathering ability and compactness. Note that for a fixed objective lens diameter, the image grows dimmer as the magnification increases. Not an issue in bright sun, but a factor to consider if you use binoculars to view concert performances or go on nature trips in the woods. Another good reason to opt for lower magnifications.

An unusual feature of this unit is the close-focus ability. Note that some reviews give the impression that it's practically a stereomicroscope ("focusses within inches!"); but this is not an accurate characterization. The manufacturer states 1.6 ft, which I verified (~19 inches from the front bumper). The coated optics are of good quality with flat uniform field, no noticeable color fringes, and no noticeable internal reflections. The two objective lenses are recessed into the body and covered with a flat window, which makes the unit easy to clean. The eyepieces have long eye relief (~distance between the eyepiece and your eye; in general, the longer, the better), suitable for use with eyeglasses. The retractable eyecups are one of the best designs I've come across. Typically a rollup rubber eyecup is used. If you don't wear glasses, you unroll the eyecup to full length to keep stray light from getting into your eyes. If you wear glasses, you roll the eyecup down so you can get your eye closer to the eyepiece. What usually happens is that the rubber cracks easily as it is rolled and unrolled (especially since the material is attacked by sweat and skin oil). In this unit, the eyecups are helically mounted. You adjust the extension by twisting it: there are three click stop positions. The eyecups are rubber coated to minimize scratching of eyeglasses. The right eyepiece has a diopter adjustment (in case your left eye and right eye have unequal vision, with or without eyeglasses).

Mechanically, the design is excellent. Bulkier than other compact designs, but that's a design tradeoff needed to accommodate the close focus range. Light weight and low cost are achieved with an all plastic body. Almost the entire body is coated with rubber, including a rubber bumper in the front of the unit. The rubber has just the right texture to provide a sure grip, even with sweaty hands. It doesn't feel too "goopy". The eyepieces swivel to adjust interpupillary distance (distance between your eyes). The center focus is smooth. The shape is unusual and takes some practice getting the right grip. But it works well. You cradle it in both hands. It provides a steady grip while allowing easy interpupillary adjustment and focussing. It has a tripod socket. Pentax sells an optional tripod adapter, a short pedestal to allow the body to clear the tripod platform. If you use a ball-and-socket head, the adapter is not needed. The socket is a standard 1/4-20 thread. Note that it is a plastic thread, so it is not very robust. With the 6.5 magnification, though, a tripod is not needed unless you are viewing for long times and your hands get tired.

Minor carps. [[SEE CORRECTION BELOW ON STRAP REMOVAL PROCEDURE. It comes with a neckstrap, but be sure you really want to use it. Instead of the typical spring clips that allow you to take the strap on/off, the ends of this strap have heads that snap into mating slots in the body. Once you snap them in, you can't pull them out.]] The unit comes with a dual cover for the eyepieces. The cover falls off easily and is easy to lose, but there is a loop so you can tie it onto the neckstrap. There is no cover for the objective lens. This combo (eyepiece cover/no objective cover) seems to be common these days, but I don't understand why you would leave the objective lenses unprotected. The unit comes with a vinyl pouch. There is no separate neckstrap, but there are slots if you want to attach the pouch to a belt.

For the money, this unit is a good value and I'll give it 5 stars relative to its price point. Of course it won't match the optical quality of a $1500 Zeiss or Leitz, and don't expect to pass this down to your grandkids. Amazon price right now is a good deal, but the touted list price of ~$250 is well over the official list price on the Pentax website (~$130).

[[EDIT 8/14/2010. Ignore the remarks on strap removal. See comments below. I've left the remarks in the original review so new readers will know what the issue was. Thanks, Ray, for bringing this to my attention.]]
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Comments

Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 13, 2010 9:43:07 AM PDT
Ray Sullivan says:
Look carefully at the connector slots for the neckstrap. Indeed the ends of the strap snap into the connection but the connector is in 2 parts and is spring loaded (on my purchase) so to remove the strap you simply press on the front part and slide the male connector out of the groove! These binoculars are spectacular in every way! I mounted mine on my tripod with and watched the hummingbirds just outside the bay window of our dinette. Crystal clear optics! VERY smooth focus ring. I've also placed my Coolpix 880 camera lens up against one of the eye pieces and captured a nice shot of a hummingbird sitting on the feeder ring. Several sources for these beauties including the "Big E". Your review is quite good and should be very helpful for those who specifically seek a lens for viewing 1.5 ft and beyond.

Posted on Aug 13, 2010 9:44:05 AM PDT
Ray Sullivan says:
Look carefully at the connector slots for the neckstrap. Indeed the ends of the strap snap into the connection but the connector is in 2 parts and is spring loaded (on my purchase) so to remove the strap you simply press on the front part and slide the male connector out of the groove! These binoculars are spectacular in every way! I mounted mine on my tripod with and watched the hummingbirds just outside the bay window of our dinette. Crystal clear optics! VERY smooth focus ring. I've also placed my Coolpix 880 camera lens up against one of the eye pieces and captured a nice shot of a hummingbird sitting on the feeder ring. Several sources for these beauties including the "Big E". Your review is quite good and should be very helpful for those who specifically seek a lens for viewing 1.5 ft and beyond.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2010 4:50:18 AM PDT
smgsmc says:
Hi Ray! You're right about the strap removal. I've had straps in which the male connector was spring loaded. You push down on it to slide it out. After reading your comment, I double checked, and the front part of the groove connector is spring loaded, just as you said. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 14, 2010 6:03:24 AM PDT
Ray Sullivan says:
Glad you got that figured out as these binocs are so fantastic I wanted those who were on the fence to find no negatives to dissuade them from the purchase. For the price, you just can't beat the quality and features! Disclaimer: I do not work for Pentax or any subsidiary. I have no direct investments in Pentax nor am I related by blood or marriage to any founders or directors of Pentax corporation nor do I sell Pentax products. I just love these glasses!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2010 5:14:35 AM PDT
Bill King says:
HI, ray.

I am backpacker who have been using for 10 years or so a Pentax 8x21 which weigh a hair under 8 ounces. Every ounce matters in a pack, moreover I mainly use them for astronomy (stargazing) on the trail at night (the light is darker in the countryside and the heavens open up compared to the city lights).

Anyway, for astronomy the lighter the less it shakes. The less is shakes the more stars you can see. A smaller power is therefore showing more stars (less shake) and a lighter instrument (less shake) shows more stars.

So, if you have a good kitchen scale or something like that, I wonder if you could weigh your Pentax binocs. If they are under 11 ounces I am surely going to buy a pair (and sell my 8x21 which are a UCX compact, 8 ounces, not a porror prism).

thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2010 2:40:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 3, 2010 2:44:27 PM PDT
smgsmc says:
Weighed on a precision scale:

Binoculars by themselves: 295 gm (10.4 oz)

Binoculars + straps + eyepiece covers + pouch = 365 gm (12.9 oz)

This is for the 6.5X. The 8.5X is probably about the same.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2010 2:42:03 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Nov 3, 2010 2:44:51 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2010 1:38:56 PM PDT
Ray Sullivan says:
Bill,
Here are the wts per my digital scale:
6.5 x 21 Binocs W/ case W/ neck strap and W/ lens cover 13.2 oz
...W/O case but W/ neck strap and lens cover 11.5 oz
...W/O case and W/O neck strap but W/ lens cover 10.9 oz

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2014 9:28:25 AM PDT
Bill King says:
Actually I use them in the pack for stargazing mostly. 6x is probably way better than 8x because the image would be much steadier so you see more at 6x than 8x, unless you have them on a tripod. Thanks for the weight report.
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