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A New Optic: Binocular

April 11, 2018

 

There has been a delay in redesigning and updating my web pages. In part, this hiatus was prompted by my recent surgical intervention. My doctor’s inserted a stent in my anterior descending coronary artery in a portion of the vein known as the “widow maker.” Physically, the operation was minor. It did not require general anesthesia, and so it was an outpatient procedure. Nonetheless, it was upsetting, and I have been depressed. The good news is that I am up and about and doing things I love to do.

 

Before my treatment, I had visited the Fred Hall show and meet JD Ponciano who owns Sports Optics Northwest. His booth at the Long Beach Convention center featured high-end optics: binoculars, spotting scopes, and rifle scopes. His expertise in outdoor optics is extensive, and he has a practical knowledge of technical specifications and how these translate into optical performance. I was impressed by him and ended up with a Leica 10x42 Trinovid HD binocular. Talk about a change in plans! I had gone to the fishing show to buy a new reel and walked away with a new binocular. 

 

But my meeting JD prompted me to think about the importance of direct contact for learning about new products and for making wise purchasing decisions. One might think selecting a binocular would be an easy task—especially for one who knows microscopes, telescopes, and digital imaging. However, this is not the case. While I am up on optical theory and the importance of correcting for spherical and chromatic aberration, translating this information to binoculars is not as straightforward as one might think. 

 

A case in point is chromatic aberration. It is pretty hard to spot this defect in a modern binocular. Modern, inexpensive binoculars are very well corrected. When I look at a "typical" object with minute details, I cannot see the color fringes. If however, if I look up at thin black electrical wires against a blue sky, I can easily discern the problem. If you try this, you will see a fringe of orange running the length of a dark line. The blue sky serves as a background providing color enhancement for spotting the small fraction of red wavelengths failing to be focused at the line's edge.  You will not see this defect when using the modern binoculars of Leica, Zeiss, or Swarovski.  

 

You pick up practical skills like this when talking to a seller who knows his product. More importantly, he knows the justification for fitting the right binocular to your budget and your needs. For example, he may recommend that you buy a light-weight roof prism binocular over a less expensive Porro prism binocular if you are a hiker, camper, or hunter who needs to walk long distances and you need to keep the weight at a minimum. On the other hand, if you are using binoculars to view sporting events and will not be traveling far from the car, he may recommend the Porro prism binoculars over the roof prism. These binoculars are larger and heavier, but It turns out their design is optically simpler and less expensive to manufacture.  Regarding image sharpness the two binoculars are comparable.   

 

JD convinced me that I should consider upgrading my Leitz 7x35B Trinovid—this binocular is at least 40 years old, and was made before the company had changed its name to Leica. It has excellent optical quality; for decades this binocular served my needs. When I talked to JD, I learned of the recent advances made in binocular design. The newer Leitz Trinovid has a crisper image, and it shows higher contrast than my older binoculars. It was subtle: after all, I was perfectly happy with my older binoculars for decades. But JD was able to explain and demonstrate the improvements, and I ended up with a pair of Leica 10x42 HD Trinovids.

 

Some of the advanced features of these binoculars are not mechanical. These binoculars can be submerged in water (Leica claims up to 13 feet)  without water intrusion.  While my older Trinovids were robust, I did not use them when it was raining. The new binocular has its interior filled with dry nitrogen gas so that the internal face of the lenses does not have water condensation in high humidity.   

 

A significant improvement in these binocular is their close focusing ability. These binoculars focus 1/3 closer than my older binoculars allowing me to get a close-up view of lizards, insects, and small animals. In a way, they can serve as a long-range magnifier. At their closest focus, they provide a view equivalent to placing one's eye 6 inches away from the subject. 

 

So this is my recent tale on my latest optical purchase and my rationale for upgrading my long distance optics. For those of you who visit or live in Bend Oregon, I recommend you visit JD's store:

 

JD Ponciano

(541) 797-3559

SportOpticsNorthwest.com

605 NE Savannah Dr., Suite 4

Bend, OR 9770

 

Call before you visit. JD is busy and he may be at a trade show or helping out another customer. But if you like optics like I do, the visit will prove to be worthwhile. 

 

 

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