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Customer Review

64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good - but could be better., August 8, 2011
This review is from: Nikon 8220 Trailblazer 8x42 ATB Binoculars (Electronics)
I read a lot of reviews on different brands and models before buying these binos. I read about the caps being loose and ill-fitting - not a problem as I generally store the caps with the retail box - never to be seen again until I intend to sell them. I keep the binos in the soft case and they stay clean. I also read about the diopter eyepiece being a bit stiff. Not a problem I can't handle if the glass is good - and it is.

The only rubs I have with these binos are the strap and diopter adjustment. The diopter is very difficult to turn if they've not been used for some time. I've gotten used to just turning them back and forth a few times before using them. This seems to loosen up the o-ring seal inside that protects the optics from moisture. Fine - I can deal with that. Much better than binos that you gently bump and the diopter is off. Grrr! I hate that even more!

The other rub I mentioned is the strap. Why the hell can't Nikon come up with a better way of attaching the strap to the binos? I have another pair of Nikon binos - 7x35 and they have the same crappy design. Nikon isn't alone in this - Canon must share the same 'strap engineer' to design their straps. Camera straps? Same thing - the cheesy little plastic thingy is supposed to lock the strap and prevent slipping - it doesn't.

OK - on to the optics. The optics are first rate - almost. There is some out of focus on the very edges but mostly I'm using the middle portion of the field of view the soft edge isn't a bother to me. The only times this is noticeable is when I'm viewing the night sky. Stars on the edge are a bit blurry. Other than that these binos excel under the night sky - not as good as my 16x80s but well enough and I can hand-hold these - the 16x80s - no way. They go on a tripod. With an exit pupil of 5.25mm these are about as bright as you are going to get unless you go for 7x50 binos with their 7mm exit pupil. Forget the 'toy' binos' for the night sky. An 8x30 binos net you 3.75mm exit pupils. The smaller the exit pupil the darker the image. Focusing is easy once you get the diopter eyepiece limbered up - see the 'rubs' paragraph above for more. The center focus knob turns easily with one finger - and the turn-down turn-up eye cups work great. No fumbling around when passing between people to share the view - give em a twist and they are adjusted.

A quick word on buying binos - look for BAK4 glass prism - much better quality than the cheaper BAK7 glass prism. How do you tell? hold the binos up in front of you at arms length and point them towards something bright & observe the shape of the exit pupils. The BAK7 pupils will be shaped like a stop sign - STOP there and keep looking - BAK4 binos are round and aren't all that much more expensive and the quality of view is much better. BAK4 glass is maybe a dollar or two more per binos vs the cheaper BAK7. Many first time buyers of binoculars make the same old mistake - buying too high a power such as 10x50s. Any shake you have is amplified by 10. Unless you have very steady hands you'll see more shake than you will detail. A good 7x35 or 8x42 are hard enough to hold steady - those glamorous 12x50s might look appealing but unless you intend to mount them on a tripod forget it. And chances are those 'ruby coated' 12x50 binos hold BAK7 prism glass. A good pair of binos can be something you'll be reaching for for a very long time - maybe the rest of your life. A cheap pair are usually laid aside and forgotten and you never knew what you were missing because you were seduced by those ruby coated 12x50 lenses that held so much promise - and delivered so little. Buying binos looks complicated - it isn't.

The only exception to buying high powered binos used for hand-held viewing is the image stabilized models. Canon makes a very good 8x25 - a 10x30 which I owned for 6-8 years before selling - and a 15x50 which I owned for a few years but found to be way too heavy for anything but short viewing bursts. Putting them on a tripod seemed a ridiculous waste. What was the point? Nikon and some other makers also make image stabilized binos. I'd opt for the Canon 8x25s if I were to buy another set. I'm happy with what I have - I own 7x35 and 8x42 Nikons and a Pro Optic 10x50 I use on a tripod (Adorama brand from the 80s-90s - and the Celestron 16x80s also used on a tripod. The 10x50s are very sharp right to the edges and excel under the night sky. At 10 power they are a bit more than I can hold steady - the stars are doing a 'racetrack' on me. The 16x80s aren't as sharp as the Pro Optic but give some wonderful wide angle views of the Milky Way and Sagittarius and a bit closer.

When you see focus-free binos - RUN - do not walk - away. Think about it - your eyes need to refocus whenever something is a different distance than what you were previously looking at. Same with a camera. Even cheap cell phone cameras have a focusing system. With focus-free binos there is a happy spot where everything is in focus - closer or further than that and everything is a bit out of focus. The 'focus' on focus-free binos is at infinity. I've spent a lot of time watching small birds from 20-30 feet away - focus-free binos rob you of that.

One trick I've found handy for when you want to take a picture of some far off animal and you only have your binos and cell phone is to stick your cell phone camera up to the binos lens and take a picture with that. Not the clearest pic you'll ever take with your cell phone but I bet you the pic taken without the binos can't be blown up enough to look better than the one taken with the binos. Just something to think about next time you think that bird is too far off to get a pic of because all you have is your cell phone and binos. Try it! Be sure to hold the cell phone square to the binos. Just make sure the binos are focused to your eye - the cell phone sees much the same way you do.

One last thing - never clean your optics with your shirt - and NO - not your finger either! Think about this - your lenses have the best coatings the maker could afford to place on your optics and you want to use a dirty gritty shirt on those fragile optics? Go the the drug store and buy some optical cleaner and some optical tissues. The coatings are easy to scratch - they will haze over in a few cleanings using that shirt. I've had my Pro Optics binos for over 20 years and have cleaned the optics ONCE. A bit of dirt won't make much difference in the views and can be cleaned off next time you are home and have the cleaning supplies handy. Smudged up coatings will be on there for ever.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 4, 2011 7:24:36 AM PDT
About your comment: "When you see focus-free binos - RUN - do not walk - away." My own comment: I was a Second Mate aboard ocean going ships before I take my Electrical Engineering course. Now I'm retired from Boeing and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Having said that, I like most of your review and your extra time explaining binoculars especially the BAK4 binos. The Focus-free or the Perma-focus binos were the standard issue for Merchant Mariners when I was working aboard ships. There are three Japanese made Nikon's 7x50 with officer on watch and those were our constant companion while on the bridge (command center of the ships). It's good for viewing distant objects like ships and landmarks, and excellent binos at night. Therefore, people who owns a boat should consider trying a waterproof and fog-proof pair in store, and do not run away from it like what you wrote here.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 4, 2011 8:53:57 AM PDT
Golfer says:
I agree with you. For marine use where most objects would be done at distances of a mile or more the focus free binos would be fine. For any terrestrial viewing where you might want to view something small from a few dozen feet or so focus-free would be of little use. For all round viewing a bino that can be focused is the best choice.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 4:18:03 PM PST
Thanks for the help -- we know nothing about binos and are trying to buy a pair for birding. This review helps.
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