Monday, October 21, 2013

My Regular-sized Binoculars


I've been done with my old pair of binoculars for quite some time. They are fine, I guess, but they aren't. Here, I wrote about that!

I've been wanting to get new binoculars for quite some time now, but haven't been able to afford it. My standard line to people was "once my kids stop needing things, then I'll get new binoculars" which allowed me to have some folksy charm while deflecting the fact that my old binoculars were barely usable. Funny thing, though, is that my kids haven't stopped needing things (god, they never stop with the 'needing'), yet here I am now with this:

Happiness in my know what I mean!

I had no choice! As a member of the Cape May Bird Observatory I get pretty good prices on their binoculars to begin with, but they have a short time sale on Nikon Monarchs ($50 off every model), which gives me no pause to go and buy some.

I was going to the area for family reasons anyway, so I headed down to the store with my oldest son to check out some binoculars. I have already done all my research online ahead of time (many times over the year have I researched binoculars...dreaming), so I knew which ones were already in my range. That said, the Monarch sale meant that those were going to be my options today.

Nikon Monarchs have a solid reputation overall, and about half of all binocular purchasers at CMBO come away with them. It isn't hard to see why. They are reasonably priced (non-birders would probably not agree with that) and good. As someone on a birding budget (the budget being 'don't spend anything'), I needed value and Monarchs are value all over.

Going in I did not want to be 'that guy' who buys the most commonly bought binoculars. Sure, the Monarch 5 8x42 were what everyone seems to get, but everyone is different and I had survived off of crappy bins for so long, I was sure I could survive with the Monarch 3. Also I was used to 10x from my old pair.

So going in I was sure I would be getting the Monarch 3 10x42.

I get there and try out the Monarch 3 8x42. Nice! Wow, such an improvement over my old pair. So solid so clear so amazing. I was happy. I then pick up the Monarch 5 8x32.


There was no going back. They were lighter, brighter and a little clearer than the Monarch 3. Compared to my old pair, the Monarch 3 was amazing, yet it could not compete with the Monarch 5. Damn, that was a $70 swing in price, but I could tell that I wouldn't really be happy with the Monarch 3. A little heavier and not quite as good, I would eventually grow to be grumpy with them without realizing it. The Monarch 5 just felt right to me. They felt like my binoculars when the Monarch 3 just felt like good binoculars.

But those were the 8x42 ones, my eyes were really set on the 10x42. I've been used to the 10x from my older pair for years, and deep down I had it in my mind that I was a different birder than most people. I could sacrifice some brightness and clarity for a little more magnifying power. It would be worth it to me, and I would have a little advantage because that. Right?

Well, I tried the 10x and the 8x. I quickly put down the Monarch 3 version, and kept alternating the Monarch 5 8x and 10x to look out at the pond nearby. I was lucky to able to focus on actual birds (some Double-crested Cormorants), so it was like I was actually birding! After adjusting the focus (damn differing prescription between eyes!), I quickly realized that one of them was obviously a better fit for me. The most commonly sold binoculars they had.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42.

The 10x42 had more magnification, but were a little darker and just weren't quite as crisp. They say that higher magnification isn't worth it if you can't see as well, and it was true; I actually saw the details of the distant cormorants better with the lower power binoculars.

I also quickly checked out the Monarch 7 10x42. They were out of the 8x42, but that was fine because I wasn't ready to spend the difference between the 5 and 7 and, anyway, the difference in the 10x was minimal. It also didn't matter because I had already knew that the Monarch 5 8x42 just felt right for me. I can't explain it, but it was just perfectly comfortable in a way that the others did not.

This was good because I wasn't going to buy a pair of binoculars that I didn't love 100%. I was fully prepared to love some of the other brands that weren't on sale, even if it meant walking away empty handed and waiting to save for them. That didn't happen and I am glad.

I've taken them out birding a few times since I bought them on Saturday, including immediately afterwards when I walked with my oldest son down to Cape May Point. We looked at the kinglets (both types) and Yellow-rumped Warblers that were everywhere, as well as some ducks before it started to rain. I didn't get any new birds, but the binoculars made me happier than seeing the should-have-been-there Eurasian Widgeon.

So, yeah, I guess I'm a cliche in the types of binoculars I chose. Afterwards I sent out an email to Paul telling him what I got and asking if I got the exact same ones as him. He replied that yep, we have the same binoculars.

And he also saw a Gallinule.


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