Category Archives: Nature Watching

Horizon 4×30 compact Budget roof Prism Binoculars


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Great Budget Binoculars

Great Budget Binoculars

Now this is a bit of a departure, budget roof prism binos. As a rule I don’t like cheap roofs and especially not cheap compacts. So when I was asked to take this pair for a spin I was fully expecting something truely awful. Guess what? They are not realy roof prism at all.  Not great and not anything to get too excited about, but not bad at all. The secret of their success is the relatively low magnification and the large objective lens. Which is full coated and of reasonable quality. I was going to say good quality but the fact that these are a 20 quid pair of bins is holding me back!  To give you a little background the case and mechanics is pretty much what you would expect but Horizon have up graded the optics to create a little gem. I’ve seen plenty of very cheap roof prism compacts and they look a lot like these. The difference is the bright sharp image that you get when you take these out into the field.

The people at Horizon have made a very cheap yet impressive pair of bins. They are aimed at the younger birdwatching beginner. Whithout £200 to spend on a reasonable kit. I usually recommend budget Porro prism glasses to start out with. I think for many new nature watchers these low cost little budget binosmight be a better bet. Light. rugged and easy to use, they also seem to be capable of standing up to a fair bit of wear and tear. That would explain the 10 year guarantee. The long eye relief and quick focus make these ideal for young and old.

Here’s the spec. –

Power x Obj. 4×30
Size Class Compact
Focus System Center
Prism System N/A
Prism Class – Not Specified
Lens Coating FC
FOV, ft.@1000yds. / m@1000m-650/217
Close Focus, ft./m- 20/6
Exit Pupil, mm 7.5
Eye Relief 15
Weight, oz./g 7.5/215

As far as the glass is concerned I compared them with a £100 pair of roofs and they look about the same. So I’d say they perform as well as BAK-7. The lens coating was good in bright sun light as well as lower light conditions. I found that the 4x mag was a little on the “light” side. That said I was still able to see all I wanted to and surprisingly sharp and clear. These are not multi-coated and without diopter adjustment, but for the money they are very,very good. I wouldn’t want to get them too wet or rely on them in changable climates. They didn’t give me any indication of a problem, but again the price is telling.

For general birdwatching, younger users and those that can’t run to several hundred pounds these are good. No in fact these are great. with the 10 year guarantee and pretty decent optics I think you could do worse, a lot worse.

In conclusion well worth £20 even 50 or 60. You get a soft case, lens cloth and neck strap for that too! I’m going to keep this pair. I’ll think of a competition and give them to a lucky reader at some point. I’m glad I had a chance to try these, they are not in the same class as the others on this page but deserve a spot here.

Free Birdwatching for Beginners ebook


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Free ebook worth £9.99

Free ebook worth £9.99

You can pick up a copy of the Free Birdwatching for Brginners ebook (worth £9.99) at UK Binocular Reviews. It’s over 50 pages of useful tips and information to help you get the most out of your hobbie. There is no need to fill out any optin form and no one wants your email address. Just download the free pdf and your done.

We’ll try to bring you a new freebie every month. Again no newsletter to sign up to and you don’t have to give your email address, unless you want to.  Hopefully we can put a video series together over the next few week and also start up something over at blog talk radio. Watch this space more news coming your way soon.

Bushnell 8 x 42 excursion Roofs in Camo – Review


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Bushnell Mossy Oak Camo

Bushnell Mossy Oak Camo

Just picked up a pair of Bushnell Excursion WTP PC3 in Mossy Oak. well first impressions, they look great! The are nice to handle and feel well built. At first glance the optics look very good, as you would expect from BAK-4 FMC glass. Now in the interest of fairness I have to admit this isn’t my favorite brand and I have tried a pair of Legends, I managed to break those! That said I am going to look at these with an open mind and so far I’m quite impressed. I also have a pair of Nikon Monarchs, same spec and the same finish (Almost) I’ve left the Nikons in the box. I’ll save those for another day.

The Bushnell’s look very good, feel very good and in good light give a nice clear crisp image. They focus easily and look pin sharp to my eyes. Before I take them off into the wilderness and hopefully discover something rare and wonderful, here is what they claim:  If you’re looking to get the best from your time outdoors, take along a set of our Bushnell Excursion 8x42mm binoculars and you’ll have more time to take in the details. The fully- multi coated lenses on these Bushnell Excursion 8x42mm stretch low light performance to new heights. Premium BaK-4 prisms with PC3 Phase coating ensure images have superb sharpness and colour fidelity. That’s what Bushnell say and here is the spec.

  • Wide Field of View
  • PC-3 phase coating for colour fidelity and clarity of image
  • BaK-4 roof prisms
  • Fully multi-coated optics
  • 100% Waterproof / Fogproof construction
  • Large centre-focus knob for precise focusing – even whenwearing gloves

I’m taking them to a nearby creek, it’ll be damp and boggy as well as a generally tough environment. I’ll have my trusty old horizon roof swith me too. The’ve been in the said creek at least once already. They were hanging around my neck at the time.  Although I’ll be more careful this time. I’ll have an opportunity to spot some quite rare woodland birds so I really want these binos to be good.

The good news is these low cost little binoculars performed better that I expected. I didn’t see any spotted flycatchers or willow tits but the optical quality is very good. Nice wide field of view and as bright and sharp as anything I’ve looked through, for a good while. They focused down to a couple of meters (to my surprise) and were quick to refocus on a distant object. It was pretty damp and boggy, even though it was a warm day. No problems with fogging. I didn’t go for the full immersion test, luckily. as the light began to fade the image was still bright and clear. On the whole a very well rounded bit of kit.

The only gripe I have is that I broke the neck strap retaining clip on one side. It was my fault and something I can do to any binoculars. I think if you do buy a pair of these you might want to treat them with a bit more care, than I do anyway. The other point to make is not to put them down in mossy grass, especially under an oak tree. If you do you may never find them again! the camo is that good. It’s by the real tree people and very effective.

So on the whole great binos, well designed and constructed (appart from the strap retainer, maybe). They look and handle like a much more expensive pair. The optics are really very, very good. Would I buy them? ask me again in a  week. I’ll take the Nikons for a spin first.

If your looking for a good all round pair of binoculars for bird watching or nature spotting, these are ideal. They look very good too. You can pick these up for about £160 which for the spec and performance is pretty good. Just one more thing, my old bashed up Horizons are just as good, (maybe better) not as pretty though. Mind you at about £90 I won’t complain.

For my money good roof prism binos are the way to go for bird watching. They tend to be lighter, smaller and easier to focus. But they have to be good ones. If you want to spend £30 go for Porro prisms, at that price level the roofs will be awful and the porros will be ok, maybe even good.

Review of Zeiss 7 x 42 Roofs


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Zeiss Roof Prism Binoculars

Zeiss Roof Prism Binoculars

I’ve had a pair of 7x42s for twelve years. They have been used almost daily for birding, hunting(in all kinds of lousy conditions),and on our sailboat(in lousy weather). Three years ago the focusing wheel got sticky so I sent them back to Alexandria, Va. for cleaning. They came back regreased and have performed flawlessly. My wife has had a pair of 10x40s for eight years. They haven’t been used quite as hard, but nevertheless have performed wonderfully. The 10s are better for stationary targets. The 7s are better for following movement, because they have a wider field of view, and are better in acquiring the target again because of the wider view. The 7s are of course brighter than the 10s(lower magnification and larger objective lens), and with the wider field are hands down my favorite. The rubber armoring on both models absorb some shock and provide a tough non-skid surface that is helpful onboard the boat or when laying on an otherwise slippery surface. I’ve handled lots of binos and to me Zeiss is the worth the price. The price? Around £1,500

Reveiw of 10 x 42 SDT Roof Prism Binoculars


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SDT Premium Roofs

SDT Premium Roofs

I recently purchased Nikon Monarch 10×42 realtree camo binoculars for my son (Xmas) – and liked them so much that I decided I needed a pair. Unfortunately, I’m too tight to buy Nikons for myself! Then I happened to see these (SDT-1042P) on sale.

I looked through two samples – the display unit, and the one I ended up buying, and they both seemed identical in fit, finish, and optical quality. That doesn’t always happen, and I’ve known people who had to exchange expensive big-name optics with a flaw before getting a second set that were fine. At least I know that they made more than one good unit of these.

My son was along for the in-store try-out and was impressed with the overall quality of these, but thought the Nikon Monarchs were slightly brighter. I say maybe, but for sure not much. Both of us liked the sharpness of these. There was a helpful eye chart and resolution block high on a wall at the back of the store, and I couldn’t see any difference on it between the Nikons and the SDT’s. My son, with better eyes, THOUGHT the Nikons MIGHT be a little sharper – but wasn’t sure.

I like the right eyepeice ocular adjustment on these, which has distinct clicks. I always have trouble getting the two eyes’ focus in sync and think the clicks help with that. They also make it less likely that adjustment will get moved accidently during use. Many binoculars have this ring either too tight to adjust easily or so loose that it gets nudged in handling. The clicks move the focus enough to notice a slight difference, but not so much that you’d think you’d skipped past the sweet spot. For old geezers such as myself this makes more difference, since I can’t remember my last glasses before bifocals. We can’t make up much difference with our eyes’ limited focusing ability, like those under 40 can do. Similarly, I depend more on the main focus knob than younger users, who can scan a hillside without refocusing much for changing distance, using their young and responsive eye lenses for unconscious minor adjustments. I’m nervously twiddling the knob to stay in focus around every rock and bush.

My son thought the focus was too “quick” at first, liking the slower focus movement of the Nikons. I wouldn’t want it any faster, but I liked it. If focus is too slow, you’ll jostle the binoculars as you make large movements of the focus knob. These have the tight responsive feel of a sports car steering. A slight rotation shifts focus enough for the bifocal crowd to follow shifting terrain, and speeds aquisition of focus when shifting abuptly from near to far viewing (or the reverse). These focus very close and OVER-FOCUS well beyond infinity (much more than several pairs of Nikon Monarchs we examined). This can be helpfull for the nearsighted who may want to use the binoculars occasionly without their glasses. A near-sighted person without much astigatism can do fine using binoculars without glasses, and that can be handy on occasion, but ONLY IF the binoculars have enough focus range to correct for the near-sightedness at long range. These do for anyone short of “coke-bottle” lenses. BTW, these have enough eye relief to work fine with glasses, and eyepieces that rotate out in steps to allow naked-eye use without smudging the lenses with your eyelashs.

I looked at a couple of license plates under late-afternoon lighting. The plates at 210 yards were easily read. Those at 305 yards (about 20 degrees out of face-on, and a poor contrast white-on-blue) were a challange – as I looked, without re-focusing, a couple of digits would sharpen enough to read, then swim out of focus. I’ve seen this before testing spotting scopes. Under these circumstances my son could probably read the plates. Conclusion: these binoculars aren’t the limiting factor most of the time for me – it’s my eyes!

Finally, I looked very briefly through serveral other brands in the store. A much cheaper Alpen (or Alpine?) was obviously inferior optically. A Bushnell of slightly higher price was closer in optical quality, but overall less attractive. Nikon Monarchs had some minor features I liked (e.g. attached objective covers), and were PERHAPS a little brighter (and much more expensive). Similarly, a quick look through a Burris and another premium brand (Leica?, I can’t recall), showed no obvious optical superiority. Returning to focus adjustment again – at least one of the inexpensive competitors had what I consider an inexcusable fault – focus back-lash. When you reverse focus direction the knob turns a bit before the focus starts shifting. This makes focusing VERY slow and difficult. The “fast” SDT focus had no noticable back-lash. Conclusion: these are at the point of diminishing returns – you can pay a LOT, LOT more, for barely noticeable optical improvements and minor build, styling or convenience differences. Someone with better eyes or in very challanging lighting conditions might see more differences. I didn’t. The Price? Around £350.

8 x 30 Waterproof Roof Prism review

Horizon WP8 x 30 Roofs

Horizon WP8 x 30 Roofs

This binocular is better than advertised! The photo of the binocular makes it look possibly like plastic. It is not. It is a rubber armor-coated deep black. It is compact and elegant. It is under six inches long and under 5 inches wide. The statistics state the minimum focusing distance is 30 feet. It is not –mine focused down to only 15 feet –crystal clear! What a pleasant surprise! The binocular case is perfect for this binocular. Unlike many other binocular cases this one allows you to simply drop the binoculars straight in without having to fold the binoculars closed. I can use my binoculars with or without eyeglasses. I tested this for both ways. It is better suited for someone without eyeglasses, but can be confidently lent to your friends or spouse with eyeglasses. They can see adequately, but I would not recommend it as primary binocular if you must wear eyeglasses. It is small and light enough to lend to a younger person to view. This is a very versatile pair of binoculars! I chose the 10X30 size for a day at the beach, seaside, riverside or whatever water-related activity. The 10X feature is better suited to view distant ships or lighthouses. If you want a wider angle for viewing sporting events, or a play, I recommend try the 8X Floatmaster. I plopped the binoculars in a bucket of water to test its ability to float. I really hesitated doing this ! I never submerged a pair of binoculars in my life. I was delighted to find that it floats! No, it did not leak. It did not float like the image on the website. The large lenses pointed up vertically. This is important to know. When I take it to the river or ocean I shall wrap bright yellow tape around the end so I can ACTUALLY SEE the binoculars if they go into the water. I suspect trying to spot black binoculars in the ocean or river may not be easy. All in all, I highly recommend these binoculars, either the 8X or 10X may just be the only pair of binoculars you may ever need in any weather!  The Price? From £100 to £250


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Optical Zoom is online!

Welcome to Optical Zoom, the home of UK binocular reveiws and news. We’ll be looking at and testing some new and some well known binoculars. There are customer reviews too, as well as news and updates from the manufacturers.


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