Brief binocular self-tests at the BirdExperience

In addition to the unique East Austrian landscape and the program of the 1st Pannonian BirdExperience 2010, the possibility to look through and self-test different binoculars and telescopes outdoor was a really unique opportunity in the part of Europe. This time I was happy by the few visitors as didn’t feel the push effect to move to the next optics before I could really try it.

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The most popular brands exhibited their superior collection of optical gear which is in line of the slogan of the fair: ‘Birding beyond borders – all you need for birding‘. My main target was to try some top quality binoculars to support making the final decision for my coming binocular purchase. I also wanted to see competitors in the spotting scope market but that question was not as crucial this time as I have committed myself to one of the very best product in the market.

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What was new on this bird fair? Nikon displayed the new EDG spotting scopes. It looked to be a very nice piece of optics but I was shocked when I lifted the smaller EDG 65mm model. That was almost 2 kgs (68.74 oz). Compared to the much lighter Swarovski ATM 65 HD the weight difference is almost 700 grams. I could not try the big scope as it was set for digiscoping. Unfortunately there was any EDG binocular presented. I was hoping to try the Nikon’s flagship product.

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There was a really fresh, unofficial announcement on the next generation of Swarovski SLC binocular which is not in production yet but visitors could already try and test it. It is pictured on the first image on the left. I was looking through of it and the image quality really impressed me. The crystal clear view and the balanced handling makes this optics a good mid priced option. I had no time to deeply check all its feature but overall it was really nice.

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One really big surprise was the feel and image quality I saw through the KOWA top line binoculars. KOWA is a relatively new entrant to this top segment but they did a very good job. I must say that those optics has a place on the top class. They are produced by the same lens technology as used for the highly recognised KOWA Prominar scopes. The edge to edge sharpness, the apparently no chromatic aberration, the perfect and one of the smoothest mechanics of all and the nice feel made it a strong candidate for my planned purchase. The only negative could be the weight of the 10×42 model as having 965 grams (34.03 oz) but that is compensated by its price.

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The Leica desk was impressive and elegant with the red dots everywhere. I tried the Ultravid 10×42 HD and that really impressed me. The image quality was really nice but the close focus wasn’t compared to the other brands. Other negatives for the Leica is the price. Exhibition price was 2,000 € and street price is just a bit over it.
I also picked up the top Minox binocular, the APO HG 10×43 BR. I almost could not see any difference between this and the Leica Ultravid 10×42. As the ‘Leica Man’ said the lack of the red dot on it is a big difference…

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Zeiss presented a nice portfolio. I have been waiting for a long time to try those products as I heard mixed comments on the Victory T* FL binoculars. Optically they were really good. The edge sharpness wasn’t that nice as discussed in several forums. The rolling ball effect was visible however it didn’t disturb me much. 

I wish I could have a more detailed and systematic testing opportunity. All in all I learned a lot and I am much closer to the final decision than a week ago. The price difference is another question which I am analysing carefully as that should never be avoided.

I hope I will see most of the exhibitors on our Wild Geese Festival to be held in my town this November. We might then organise a test session under real challenging winter conditions.

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