Binoculars, walkie-talkie, and lens recommendations

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  1. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Need recommendations. Don't want TOTL, but also don't want crap. High value would be great. Extra consideration given to made to USA (or not made in China) products. Made in Mexico, Canada, EU are fine.

    I need binoculars for birdwatching. Corpus is like bird capital of North America given the migrations that pass here. We're going on the beaches and boonie areas and I've taken up birding and taking photos of birds (current with an ancient Alpha 6000 and crappy 50-210mm with an even crappier 1.7x front "extender"). My son is my spotter. He a repository of all sorts of random knowledge and seems to know all the birds.

    Walkie-talkies for off-roading. Do not need massive range. Want something with good sound fidelity where my wife in one Jeep can communicate with me in the other Jeep. Assuming that where we may be going, cell reception will be non-existent or at best spotty.
     
  2. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    On the Jeep question, the group I typically go with is all ham licensed and we all use handheld ham radios. Ham licensing is not hard and relatively inexpensive, but does take some studying. I use a Yaesu handheld, they are relatively expensive but very reliable. Made in Japan FWIW. Range varies by line of sight, but is usually plenty for a relatively dispersed group.

    I have an FT2DR, though the touch screen may make it more complicated than it needs to be. Very reliable though.

    I think it's more common to use CB, in general, for Jeep groups. Otherwise for unlicensed radios (FRS), unfortunately everything I've ever used is cheap and kind of crap.
     
  3. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Nice thing about that is that you could put any Sony e-mount lens on it, and the lens will still be good when you update to a later APS-C or even a full-frame.

    The a6000 is so light, you won't notice the weight of it on the end of your heavy lens! But don't hold a heavy lens by the a6000 body. The body/mount is not up top that.

    Respect to bird photographers! I stick to photographing things that more-or-less stay in one place.
     
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  4. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    I have a pair of GPO Spectra HD (10x42) that I like to take on hikes. Might be considered 'hi-end' and out of your price range though. I am not a birdwatcher so I'm not sure what magnification would suit that task best. More magnification needs a bigger lens (more weight, bulk) or else light transmission suffers. And the quality of the glass is very important. Buy once, cry once. Regardless, I would guess you also want some sort of tripod (or maybe car-window mount?) to hold the lens steady. Can be hard to do so when you're using a higher magnification unit. You may want to consider some sort of monocular instead. Obvious two quality lens are going to be more expensive than a single. I am clueless on photography so I'm not sure if there's an easy way to use your camera in tandem with it.
     
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  5. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    I'm sorry this isn't more helpful: my father was an avid birder and had a modest collection of binoculars. Below is a list of them, with their used prices in GB pounds, which I had to compile for probate a few years ago.

    I can't vouch for the quality of these binoculars or tell you anything about where they were actually manufactured. But my father was careful in buying gear, did plenty of research, and placed an emphasis on price-to-performance in ways that would appeal to SBAF (he'd have owned the HD 650 if he'd been into headphones). I know that he was fond of the Zeiss binoculars. He mentioned Swarovski having an excellent reputation for the quality of their lenses, and he was quite impressed with the Canon offerings, but that's in part because he had a dim view of Canon's QC when it came to cameras.


    Bushnell 13-2000 8 x 42 (£105)

    Canon Image Stabilizer 14 x 32 IS (£330)
    Canon Image Stabilizer 10 x 30 IS II (£480)

    Hilkinson Dartmouth 10 x 50 (£75)

    Olympus 8 x 25 PCI (£104)
    Olympus 10 x 25 PCI (£134)

    Opticron Oregon Observation 15 x 70 (£90)
    Opticron BGA 7 x 36 (£249)

    Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 SV (£600)
    Swarovski EL 10 x 50 SV (£600)

    Vanguard Endeavour ED II. 8 x 42 (£239)

    Viking MD 6.5 x 32 (£100)

    Zeiss Dialyt 7 x 42 B (£120)
    Zeiss Victory FL 8 x 32 T (£400)
    Zeiss 10 x 40B (£110)
    Zeiss Conquest HD 10 x 32 (£200)
    Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25 (£249)
     
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  6. Friday

    Friday Friend

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    For birding you'd want one of the 8-10x ones, and probably at least 40mm to be sufficiently bright (larger diameter = brighter, but also heavier). 8x42 is usually a good balance between image quality and weight. I've briefly used a few Nikon and Swarvoski models owned by friends which were very bright and had good microcontrast, better on the Swarvoski, but Nikons are probably closer to your budget (think the Nikon I tried was around 500 sgd msrp). Unfortunately I can't remember the exact models as I bird solely with my dslr and telephoto lens so I never looked into getting a binoculars.
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Most of the budget will be going to a new camera lens - probably the 200-600mm. The 210mm kit lens with Fisher Price 1.7x extender isn't cutting it - piss poor contrast and soft - this is is expected. LOL, the ancient Sony A6000 actually did OK considering these were hand-held. I played with the AF on an A7iii - scary good.

    1-DSC00621.jpg

    poor bird lost a leg
    1-DSC00762.jpg

    cropped image - wish I had a 600mm for this one
    1-DSC00581.jpg
     
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  8. Tom R

    Tom R Rando

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    The Nikon Monarch 5 (ATB) 8x42 are good all ‘rounders. Not sure where they are made.

    Walkie talkies for off-roading? Just say no. Get vehicle mounted GMRS radios. Something like the Midland MXT-105. Get a good 6 dB gain antenna. You’ll be 20+ dB ahead of a walkie-scratchy setup and won’t have to mess with batteries, chargers, etc.

    You do need a license, good for 10 years for the family.

    I’m a ham and use both walkie talkies and mobile rigs. Huge difference.
     
  9. perogie

    perogie Facebook Friend

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    I have a pair of Swarovski Swarovision EL's; fantastic binocular. Not a value proposition as its tremendously costly and overkill for what I use it for but its a true alpha level bin. Easily holds it own with TOTL Leica or Zeiss, at least the last time I looked at them which was a few years ago.
     
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  10. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    If you are specifically looking for US made then look at Leupold. They make the more mainstream stuff overseas like everyone, but their higher end stuff is still domestic AFAIR.
     
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  11. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    We had the same binoc question a few years ago at our house... I'd suggest reading the binoc information at Cornell's AllAboutBirds site. They hit all price points, have some nice graphs trying to compare 100+ different pairs on quality/price, field of view & close focus.

    When we picked ours, we used this 2013 review as a resource and have been very happy with our cheap 8x42 Altas Sky King binocs.

    ----------edit---------

    another binoc resource

    ----------edit---------
    Don't write off good 200mm lenses and extenders for bird photos. These pre-pandemic FL birds were shot on a 1.6 crop body with a canon 70-200 f2.8 IS L lens and L series 1.7 extender (544mm f4.0 effective). Total cost for glass was under $2500. An equivalent 600mm/f4 L series lens is over 10k.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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    Last edited: Mar 29, 2021
  12. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    The Sony 50-210 is not a good lens! Neither of the kit lenses of that era are good. I bought the a6000 set. The lenses were wasted money. I didn't know that, for the kind of photography I wanted to know, fast lenses are a necessity: lessons are expensive. Of course, one can get a decent pic with either of the, but the conditions have to be right. The small lens is pocketable; the longer zoom is value for money.

    Courtesy of Tamron, for affordability, I can now do 17-180, with two lenses, at f2.8. But I still love my 1.8 60 and 85, and my 1.4 30: they guarantee me the shutter speeds to get sharp pics. It may seem a short hop to 2.8, but it makes a big difference.

    But this is not birding. The lenses get longer, the price goes through the roof. I'd be happy to have to have taken the pics that @purr1n posted above, but I too would want more.

    Within a couple of years, as well as buying lenses, I'd also bought an a6500, for the IBIS. It really helps my unsteady hands. I think the 200-600 Sony lens comes with OSS stabilisation.

    It may seem crazy to put that $,$$$ lens on an a6000. I don't think so: upgrade the camera when funds are available, perhaps to full-frame. People talk about balance. I don't know, because I've never used lenses of that size, but I'm guessing: there is no balance, because the weight of the a6500 is insignificant. Just grab the lens, the camera comes for almost no weight added. Maybe that doesn't work out in practice.

    Anyway, what does hifi cost if we price it by hours of pleasure? Photography is the same: I've taken over 20,000 photos on my camera. Whilst I'm still at the low end of photography spending, the cost, according to my personal means, is significant, but, considering the use I make of it? No, it is not really expensive.
     
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  13. Bobcat

    Bobcat Friend

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    Well, most of the birds I shoot are metal, but they are at greater distances :).

    These days, cameras are pretty much consumables since they're effectively computers which keep getting replaced by something faster, higher resolution, etc. Lenses, on the other hand, are worth investing in. But there's no sense in spending money on new lenses. Most of the lenses I have I bought used. I highly recommend keh.com. They're a quality company. I've never gotten anything bad from them, they ship fast and for free, and they have no questions asked returns.

    Rob
     
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  14. dasman66

    dasman66 Self proclaimed lazy ass - friend

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    Buy a lens once... the best you can possibly afford, and it will last forever. I started buying Canon L series glass 30 yrs ago, haven't purchased a replacement lens ever, just different focal lengths. I haven't purchased a new lens for my main camera in at least 10, maybe 15 years. In the same timeframe, I've probably had 7-8 different camera bodies.

    The downside to having a good lens collection? It makes switching platforms cost prohibitive. I've thought about moving to Sony multiple times, then I look at my lenses and decide its not even remotely worth it.
     
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  15. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    One hopes so. With manual lenses, yes indeed, unless something gets damaged or broken. With the current generation of super-electronic-automated lenses, I have my doubts. Fingers crossed!

    Yes! I jumped into the Sony E-mount/a6xxx series without much thought. Probably too quickly. But every lens from the second one onwards makes changing harder. OK, so people do do it. But I'm just not keen on the process of selling unwanted kit. Laziness.

    Not that I'm unhappy with Sony. It's what I'm used to now anyway.
     
  16. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Ordered Celestron DX 8x42. Seems a massive value for the money according to the site. They are supposed to arrive today, but I didn't get them yet before I went out with the kids. I like what I see about Celestron. HQ in California. Obviously I would not expect them to make stuff in the USA. Looks like they went bankrupt about 15 years ago, probably from competition subsidized by Red China. Hey, at least they were bought by Taiwanese optics manufacturer Synta who allowed the executive team to remain in the USA.

    Turns out there is a Federal protected wetland area just behind my kids' schools. I didn't see any do not enter signs, so I drove in gingerly, being careful not run over any endangered sea turtles and stuff like that. I traded in the Charger for a Jeep. Too many opportunities in the local area to go off-road.

    PXL_20210403_180327430.jpg

    I'm still sporting the kit 55-210 lens with that x2 front extender. Yes, horrible, but I want to feel that I've earned the right to better gear before I buy better gear. The Alpha 6000 was really showing its limitations today with AF. I also forgot to bring my monopod. The Sony animal eye focus on the Alpha 1 (now trickled down via firmware to the Alpha 9) looks amazing. However, I think I will go for the Sony 200-600 lens E first. After this second trip, I get the sense that this will be the lens that I want which isn't $10,000.

    Laughing Gull with a catch. I thought it was small fish, but after reviewing the images, it turned out to be a shrimp. I'm pretty sure this is a Laughing Gull.
    2-DSC00870.jpg

    I quickly snapped this one as it few overhead and didn't get a good focus. I think it's a Brown Pelican. It's a massive bird.
    2-DSC00877.jpg

    This is a duck with two gulls sitting and three sandpipers in the foreground. They are hanging out in peace and not attacking each other.
    2-DSC00920.jpg

    This is a sandpiper of some sort. There are a zillion different kinds of sandpipers, so no idea which one. I may have to ask locals. These are super cute and very common.
    2-DSC00941.jpg

    Now this was a rare one. This is what makes birding kind of exiting. As we were driving, we noted something different out the window. We backed up and got out. I couldn't get very close to it before it flew off. I guess this why these are more rare. The gulls and sandpipers are used to humans - the gulls will nab food from our fingers. This one didn't like us getting close, however I was able to nab a few shots before it flew away. LOL, this is like real life Pokemon.
    3-DSC00860.jpg

    It's a wading bird, a stilt of some kind, but not sure which. Will have to look it up.

    P.S. Yesterday was the last day of my corporate job. I cannot express what a relief it was to close the lid to my laptop and erase Outlook, Teams, and Slack from my phone. I didn't realize how much I experienced PTSD on a daily basis.
     
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  17. Syzygy

    Syzygy Friend

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    We have enough birds up in DFW I got a 100-400 with a 1.4x extender for my Fuji kit (1.5x crop)

    These were taken handheld through my double-pane windows, because I'd never get out the door and around the corner in time.

    DSCF3857-x.jpg
    DSCF3878-x.jpg
     
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  18. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    It's great that you are getting out there and taking photographs like these.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Building Magnis part time because it's peaceful.

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    Laid out some oranges to top of the fence in our backyard! Yes, they came. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen an oriole before. I need better gear.
    DSC01643.JPG
     
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  20. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    For binoculars or optics in general, the most I can say is "go to the store and look at them in person". Just like audio, 10 seconds of listen > 10 minutes of reading impressions. With that being said, the below are just some points based on my own limited experiences. I can't recommend a specific product as I don't keep up with the binocular market in particular (but do keep up with other types of glass to a degree).

    My current binos are a cheap-ish pair of Vortex Diamondback 10x42 binos that were "good enough" and were on sale when I stumbled into a binocular store ($150ish??). They are by no means end game but binoculars are an occasional convenience for me, not something I use often. I'm also sure there are slightly better products out there for the price, but Vortex has good warranty and was already on sale. I use these for archery more than anything so perfect image quality is not as important to me. If I could justify more budget or used binos more often, the binos I liked the most in the $1k range were a Meopta (value) or a Swarovski (heavier, but good quality + warranty). I cannot justify a $3k+ TOTL binocular, etc.
    ---------------
    - Eye relief and focus (how close or far do your eyes need to be for the image to focus) - Will any users have glasses? If so, longer eye relief may be needed. Keyword "may". I have glasses full time and the 14mm eye relief on my binos is enough for me.

    - When do you do most of your watching and how bright is it? Dawn / dusk will benefit more from a bigger objective (bigger = collect more light). However, glass quality (% transmission, etc.) matters a lot too - crappy 56mm glasses will let in less light with worse image quality than good 32mm glass.
    A bigger objective will typically, but not always, give you a bigger or more forgiving eye box (how much can you move your eye back and forth and still have the image in focus).
    - Conversely, bigger typically = heavier.
    - Longer body = typically easier for optical engineers to "do more" at a lower price point but obviously more inconvenient to carry. There are also some things that small binoculars / housing just doesn't allow image quality-wise regardless or price.

    - Generally want one focal adjustment for both lenses for birding unless you absolutely need a water proof binocular.
    - Adjustable Diopter (adjust glasses prescription) + Tripod compatibility - a nice convenience that should be included in most bino options over $150ish. There are other things like FOV or whatever but it seems like more stuff is in the "close enough" range.

    - Tint - Different mfg have different yellow or blue tints. Doesn't matter to me but bugs the crap out of a few people I've talked to. For example, to my eyes I typically find that Zeiss glass (from glasses lenses to binos to spotting scopes etc) typically has a mild blue tint.
     
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