The general thinking is that you’ll pay at least $200 for a decent pair of binoculars for nature observation, and, of course, the price tag can reach into the thousands. So we were curious to see what kind of experience we would have with a new model of Minox binoculars priced at $199.
Weighing 10.4 ounces, the compact BV 10x25 BRW proved to be a good size for our testers, who tend to do most of their nature observation -- particularly birding -- while backpacking or hiking. This model fits into a soft case that measures just 5 inches by about 4.5 inches, so it was easy to find space for then in the lid of a backpack or tuck them into a daypack. While our testers were happy with the size and weight of the binoculars, they were also pleased with the overall performance.
Some birders recommend models with a power magnification of “8” as this allows a wide field of view and provides a bright image in low-light conditions. It’s true that the pair we used with a magnification of “10” offered a smaller field of view than some models we’ve used, but the only time we felt somewhat hindered was when we were trying to follow a fast-moving bird in flight. Once our subject was perched, or flitted about among high tree branches, it was not really difficult to hone in on the animal.
One disadvantage to high magnification is that it’s more difficult to steady an image and keep it from shaking. Our testers reported that this is a bit of an issue with the binoculars they tested, and it took practice and patience to learn to keep still and deal with a slightly trembling image.
It’s generally recommended that binoculars for birding have a “close focus” range of about 10 feet to 15 feet -- meaning you can comfortably focus on an object that is within that range. The BV 10x25 BRW claims to have a focus distance of 4 feet, 11 inches, though, we found that it actually worked well starting just beyond 5 feet. Just a minor note as our testers rarely ran into situations where they were trying to observe something extremely close.
Where the binoculars really excelled was in watching birds and other animals from a distance. Thanks to the high magnification, they allowed our testers to enjoy impressively sharp and clear images while gazing across a wide river to see a great blue heron standing on the bank, or while observing shorebirds far down the beach.
One thing we were concerned about was that the model we tested had an objective lens size of only 25 mm. The larger the objective lens, the more light it gathers, providing a brighter image, and some would argue that 25 mm is on the small side.
Nevertheless, we found that our binoculars transmitted an impressive amount of light, and we were able to easily make out colors and fine details. According to Minox, coatings on the glass surfaces of the binoculars enhance the performance, and we only had trouble seeing things in a dark forest with thick canopy, or at dusk. As it turns out, our testers rarely found themselves watching wildlife in these less-than-ideal situations anyway.
One thing we really liked was that Minox outfitted these binoculars with “long eye relief,” which basically means they allow a person wearing glasses to look through them and see the entire field of view easily. Also, the rubber eyecups twist so they can be positioned at various distances from the viewing glass. Our tester who wore glasses found that he could views things better by positioning the cups close to the glass, while our tester who did not wear glasses would twist the cups to sit farther away.
A seemingly small but important detail is that the binoculars have a central focusing wheel that sits right at the fingertips and moves smoothly, so you can bring a subject into view quickly and without any fumbling.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that these binoculars are built for rugged field conditions, with a body of durable aluminum than is slightly textured for better grip. Our testers dunked them in water to confirm the claim that they are waterproof, and nitrogen gas inside the unit prevented interior surfaces from fogging, even when we used them in high humidity.
Certainly, a more expensive pair of binoculars, or one with smaller magnification and a larger objective lens, can improve performance in certain situations. But the low price of this unit allows people to take their first steps into nature observation with minimal expense, and still get a high-quality product that’s lightweight, compact and durable enough for backcountry travel.
SNEWS® Rating: 4.0 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: $199
For information: www.minox.com