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Monthly Archives: October 2007

31 Oct

How does a binocular nut celebrate Halloween? That’s easy. Tonight, I’ll be out under the stars with a definite eye toward the comet. Appropriately, the image of Comet 17P/Holmes is rather ghostly in my Nikon 10×70 Astroluxe binocular. I didn’t see it last night due to clouds, but with luck I will have clear skies, a moon and a comet to toast, tonight. For sure, time to pull out the binocular, warm up some hot chocolate and gaze skyward. I would build a sacred bonfire in the tradition of the ancient Celts, but that would violate my apartment lease. My …

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30 Oct

I’ve been asked why giant binoculars are so prone to collimation problems. First, let me say that misaligned binocular prisms and the resultant loss of image quality or, in worst case examples, double images, are rarely an issue with high grade astronomy binoculars. You are much more likely to have alignment (collimation) issues with inexpensive giant binoculars. Why? Less expensive binoculars have lighter weight housings, which tend to flex under the load of big objectives. This flexing eventually works the prisms loose. Inexpensive giant binoculars also cut corners when it comes to securing the prisms in the housings. Sure, some …

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29 Oct

Getting a portable astronomy observatory is easy, if you select the right equipment. In fact, if you choose an astronomy binocular, you can carry your astronomy observatory on your shoulder. I often carry my Nikon 10×70 Astroluxe over my shoulder and then add another small shoulder bag with my Pocket Sky Atlas, red flashlight, small notebook and a pencil. Even with the weight of the Nikon, I can easily walk the few blocks it takes to reach a small city park and the trip is well worth it in terms of getting a better site. Remember, though, if you opt …

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25 Oct

We all know that personal preference is a big factor when choosing a binocular. These are the things that transcend binocular specifications and, sometimes, they can be the most unlikely of features. When it comes to astronomy binoculars, for instance, I simply must have a model with leatherette covering. Why? Not because of any superiority of leatherette over rubber armoring. Far from it – rubber armoring makes much more sense than leatherette as a binocular covering. It’s just that the smell of leatherette fondly reminds me of my very first binocular, which I used for both birding and astronomy. The …

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24 Oct

Performance or portability? When it comes to binoculars, that is often the question. Over the years, my choice in binoculars (at least for daytime use) has tended to the portability side when answering that question. To compensate, somewhat, for the loss of performance by going with a smaller objective, I have opted to spend the bucks and get high grade compact binoculars. Compact binoculars, even premium compact binoculars, though, are still not quite as easy to use as full-size binoculars, but after forty plus years as a binocular user, this is hardly an issue for me, now. Compact binoculars do …

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23 Oct

Each season of the year for a birder has its charm and appeal. Even though winter may the season of the lowest species counts, it is still one of my favorite birding seasons. For one thing, the leaves are gone and most birds are conspicuous and easier to observe with a binocular. For another, winter storms often bring special rare birding surprises – you never know what might turn up at your feeder or the local park. Lastly, birds tend to concentrate their activity to the warmer hours of the day. This means you and the birds can get up …

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22 Oct

The weather was unseasonably warm this weekend in the Chicago area and the birds were taking advantage of it. Still seeing some warblers and, of course lots of sparrows and kinglets along the bike trails. In other words, I’m not racking up the miles on the bike, but I am having a blast with the birds. Been using a Zeiss Victory Compact 8×20 and it’s as if this compact binocular was made for a birder on a bike. It’s amazingly light, and one of the easiest compact binoculars, yet, as far as using it one-handed. Optics, of course, are excellent …

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18 Oct

I’ve always been a big fan of compact binoculars. No, a compact binocular will never replace a full-size or even a mid-size binocular when it comes to performance, but compact binoculars are such sweethearts when it comes to portability. Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to own and use every premium grade compact on the market and I have yet to find one that scores number one in every optical category or every mechanical category.

One I must mention, though, that stands heads and shoulders above the rest when it comes to handling qualities (ergonomics) is the Zeiss …

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17 Oct

Just how good a binocular do you need for birding? Wish I had a simple answer, but when in doubt, “buy the best your budget can stand” may be cliche’, but it is still good advice. On the other hand, even an inexpensive binocular is enough to get a beginner started and it is a huge mistake not to go birding because you can’t afford an expensive binocular. The idea is to go, right now, and get in on the fun. The good news is that there are very useable birding binoculars in every price range. As a former birding …

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16 Oct

Usually when I want to see a Woodcock and add this species of bird to my year list, I just head to a local marsh known to attract this bird during migration and scan with my binocular at twilight, though I seldom need the binocular – the flight of the Woodcock is unmistakable both in its display and the sound it makes. This is the classic way of seeing this secretive species for a birder and the ambience of the location is a big part of the thrill. What is not a classic way of seeing a Woodcock happened to …

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