View Full Version : Optics Upgrade

02-26-2006, 08:41 AM
The tax man was very nice to me this year and I am going to try a major optics overhaul. In my future are a new spotting scope, binocular, and digital camera.

The spotting scope will be a rubber armored Leica 62mm APO Televid with a zoom eyepiece. I know that this scope can be used for digiscoping with SLR cameras but am unsure if it can be coupled with the smaller and lighter point and shoot cameras that I would prefer to carry. Does anyone here have any experience with this and would you care to enlighten me?

I will also be obtaining a new binocular. I would prefer to lug the weight of the Leica 8x32 Ultravid but would also prefer the low light capabilities at dusk and dawn of the 42mm version. Please share your opinions and preferences given the compromises of each.

I am an addicted sheep hunter but those are rare opportunities. Most of the use these will see will be elk hunting in the Sangre de Cristo mountains of southern CO. Hunting is typically of the spot and stalk variety where elk are located from some distance and put to bed then ambushed when they get up for either breakfast or supper. I also am nearing a Ranching for Wildlife tag for mule deer and probably will not wait the needed number of years to get that tag twice so anticipate more frequent deer hunting in my future as well. Antelope are also on the table but they are typically a 5+ preference point hunt and regularly found in the alfalfa and grain fields of local farmers. For reference I am attaching a couple of pictures of my typical country.




03-01-2006, 06:59 AM
If Uncle Sugar was that good to you, I'd go with the Ultravid 7x42s. They would be magificent dim-light performers, and the large (6mm) exit pupil would make long-term daylight glassing a pleasure.

Years ago I developed a formula for evaluating optics performance in dim light, which was published in Safari magazine. Dim light optics performance was also a board topic a while back; in it, I explained the formula. If you search the Hunting Forum for "Dim Light Optics," you should find it.

Dick Blust, Jr.
Rock Springs, Wyoming

03-01-2006, 06:33 PM

Thanks for the response. I remember reading that now but had forgotten it. I am curious though how you came up with 7mm as I have always been told and believed 6mm was the max a mature human eye could open to and use in near total darkness. I'm wondering if there is anyway I personally could have my pupil measured before buying. If I can use 6mm at dusk I would consider the 7x42, but I would still rather cary the lighter glass. I'm tired of compromises, where is that holy grail?


03-01-2006, 07:34 PM

I am no expert sheep hunter by any means. But I did help a friend in 2004 sheep hunting, and found them almost impossible to see when in the shade. I found the Nikon 8x40, and Pentax 10x40 to be essentially equivalent out to one mile. If you have definition, both worked well.

At the quality level you are looking at, I would get the 8x32. That's my opinion. High optical quality covers a lot of problems.

I used to own a set of 8x32 Swarovskis, before some scumbag stole them. I never needed anything brighter.

These binos would cover you for 98% of time in the mountains. The other 2%, yes, the other would be better.

Good luck. I am happy to hear you have had a prosperous year, and hope this is one of many to come.

03-01-2006, 08:35 PM

The human pupil is capable of 7mm in extreme darkness - that is why virtually every navy in the world adopted a 7x50 (exit pupil 7.14) binocular well before the era of radar, when a ship's survival could depend on lookouts in crow's nests. That being said, it's a sad fact that 7mm of dilation isn't happening any more those of us no longer in our twenties. That's why a 7x42 is pretty close to ideal, including the fact that a 7x42 is going to be lighter than a 7x50 or 8x56. The other nice thing is the near-elimination of eyestrain over long periods of glassing: your pupil has that nice, big 6mm exit pupil to wallow around in and is not forcing itself to center on a smaller exit pupil, which is primary cause of strain. For an all-around, do-everything hunting binocular - especially for dimlight and long glassing sessions - for my money a quality 7x42 approaches grail standards.


03-01-2006, 10:00 PM
So if you are 50 what is the max. dilation? do you need even 6mm?

Ed T
03-02-2006, 06:23 AM
I am considering a pair of Minox 6.5 x 32 binocs. Anyone have any experience with these?

Ed T

03-02-2006, 07:50 AM
Uncle Sam was indeed good to you but since you earned that money you deserve it. I recently bought 8X42s anything less didn't seem quite bright enough at low light when looking for things like antler points. Maybe just my old eyes but that is what I found and was willing to go the little extra weight. Have fun shopping!

03-02-2006, 10:55 AM
9.3 x 62:

According to the optometrists I've consulted over the years, it varies from individual to indiviudal. In any event, even if your eyes won't dilate to 6mm, the large exit pupil makes a big difference in avoiding eyestrain while glassing over long intervals.


03-02-2006, 11:35 AM
9.3x62 and others. Just to expand a little on Dblust's comments, imagine watching that ***y neighbor of yours sunbathing through a 1" knothole in the fence or through a 24" opening. If you scoot your eye up real close to the fence, you can see plenty through the knothole, but wouldn't it be much nicer to sit back in the lawn chair with a micro brew and enjoy the show? With the glasses, having an exit pupil larger than your eye's means your head position isn't as critical, your eyes can be more relaxed, etc. It just makes glassing so much more enjoyable.
FWIW, I'm going passed 10 years with my Swarovski 7x42's and have been very pleased with them. I grew up on my dad's WWII Japanese navy 8x56's and gained an early appreciation for the large exit pupil. The 7x42's are a bit on the large size for backcountry endeavors, but I'll trim weight elsewhere, thanks.

03-02-2006, 01:01 PM
thanks for the info. I have been using an IOR 7x42 for several years, it seems comparable to the German poro prisms for less $, anyone else using these? if you get a chance to compare it it can be a good buy.

03-02-2006, 03:50 PM
dblust is correct, not that any of you doubted his info. I am an optometrist and as we age our pupils dilate less fully. 6mm would be about max for the 50's. It is the comfort that cant be duplicated with a small exit pupil. When I look through my 7x42 swarovskis I get that wow factor, like your whole head is in the binocular and your eyes can look all over without any change in image quality. That and the edge to edge clarity make fo some comfortable and effective glassing. Bryan Martin a well known sheep and big game guide likes 7's and 8's he says in the wind they are so much easier to hold still. I tried 7x42 swar, and leicas and choose the swar, it seems the light transmission of certain brown and tawny red colors was better and I could pick out game better with the swar. Dean

03-02-2006, 04:00 PM
Also in spotting scopes consider getting a fixed 20x to 30x. on a good quality 60mm to 80mm objective. I have a B&L elite 80mm ED glass scope with their 30x eyepiece and love its image quality and how easy it is to look through. On an above timberline mule deer hunt this fall I ran into a guy on the mountain with a swar. 65mm variable mag scope and I asked if I could look through it when I did it was clear that the field of view brightness and ease of viewing were all better with the fixed power B&L. I attribute this somewhat to the 80mm objective, but mostly to the 30x fixed eyepiece. I know how this scope performed with the variable,[good] just like the leica77 I compared it to but with the 30x it rocks!! Dean

Ed T
03-02-2006, 04:31 PM

I believe the difference was more in the 80 mm vs the 65 mm than fixed vs variable. I know I wouldn't give up my Zeiss 85 mm 20 x 60 for any amount of money if I couldn't get another. I don't use it on 60x very often but when I do the detail is remarkable.

That said, for actual carrying, a Leupold Gold Ring 25 x 50 is hard to beat.

Ed T

03-02-2006, 06:53 PM
Ed T , I have the 20-60 variable and the 30x fixed eyepiece for the same 80mm ed scope. The 30x fixed is so much better than the variable set at 30x you have to see it to believe it. This is the point I was trying to get across. I competly agree that an 80mm objective has a significant advantage over a 65mm objective. Dean

03-03-2006, 01:12 PM
Bushnell Elite 20-60x80mm for sale at a very good price on the Garage Sale board. New in Box.

03-04-2006, 09:20 AM
My understanding on the ED glass that this is a usefull upgrade, anyone switched from a regular to an ED model of the same brand as in the new 12-40x60 Leupold? I have had fixed and variable spotting scopes of all powers,but I do not hunt in warm weather, with a fixed 30 is mirage a problem?

03-04-2006, 10:54 AM

Many thanks to all who have added their insight here. In the past I have pretty much exclusively used a spotting scope so the whole binoucular thing will be new to me and even though it is added weight I will probably opt for the larger version strictly to add better low light capability. I have in the past considered a compact binocular for the times I want to look at something specific while moving from one spotting location to another. At the moment I think that I will try to keep the binocular I am buying ready at a moments notice. The obvious solution to me was to use the handwarmer pocket of my kifaru packs but it is typically full already. I don't think my neck would appreciate a traditional bino strap so will probably add a bino harness. Pros, cons and recomendations please.


I have a 12-40x60 leupold now(non ED model). I tend to start struggling with mirage during warmer temperatures at as little as 20-25x. A coworker has an 80mm swaro with a zoom eyepiece and although it does a significantly better job the mirage still causes problems in warm weather with that scope(it is non ED). I can not comment on differences with a fixed eyepiece vs variable or compare ED vs non ED. The scope I am getting is the APO version but it won't be an apples to apples comparison as I will be upgrading in standard optical perfomance significantly. For any interested I will soon have that leupold spotter for sale but not quite yet as I have not ordered or received my new leica.


03-04-2006, 01:19 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by dblust:

for my money a quality 7x42 approaches grail standards.

</div></div>Since 7x42 is given such high ratings - and probably rightly so I decided to see what was out there in this range. Guess what? 7x42 isn't common and no manufacturer currently makes more than one offering. Here's the list from lightest to heaviest:

Eschenbach 7x42B Trophy
Barska Deep Sea
Zeiss Victory 7x42 T* FL
Canon 7x42 AWP
Leica Ultravid 7x42 BR
Minox BD 7x42 BR asph
Bushnell Discover 7x42
Meade Montana 7x42
Fujinon 7x42CD
Swarovski SLCnew 7x42B

The Zeiss has gotten incredible reviews along with the Swarovski but for $1000+ they should! The Leica and Minox also look to be very good. The Bushnell, Meade and Fujinon are probably the price leaders here (haven't checked all the prices yet). The Barska doesn't look that great and I couldn't find much on the Eschenbach.

Hope this is helpful for anyone looking for a 7x42. If you need links let me know and conversly if anyone knows of another 7x42 let me know. I'd love to have the Zeiss but that's a lot of money. I'll see if one of the others could do the job and come in a bit more reasonably priced.

03-04-2006, 01:34 PM
After my last post I decided to go ahead and look up prices on the 7x42's I had listed. Here goes from cheapest to most expensive (rounded to nearest $5)

Barska Deep Sea $60.00
Canon 7x42 AWP $180.00
Meade Montana 7x42 $220.00
Bushnell Discover 7x42 $380.00
Minox BD 7x42 BR asph $480.00
Fujinon 7x42CD $550.00
Eschenbach $950.00
Leica Ultravid 7x42 BR $1,100.00
Swarovski SLCnew 7x42B $1,220.00
Zeiss Victory 7x42 T* FL $1,240.00

I figure anything from the Minox on up is probably very good glass. Below that I don't know. Anybody have experience with any of these binoculars?

03-04-2006, 04:20 PM
The 7x42 is a great example of how a superior design can be supplanted in the market place by an inferior design ( as far as hunting glasses go). Joe hunting public wants binos in the 8-10 power range and they want them compact and that's what the mfgs. give them. Anyone who actually spends long hours glassing soon figures out that 9-10 power binos are shakey as heck and that much power with small objective lenses is pretty much worthless. 9 power is gone for all intents and purposes and the market is flooded with 10 power binos that blow for general viewing. 8 power is good but to achieve the exit pupil of a 7x42 you have to go to a 50 mm objective lens and a substantially heavier and bulkier glass. 7x42's rule!!

03-04-2006, 05:01 PM
9.3x62 Mirage hasnt been a problem, but I havent hunted in many places that had much mirage. Just as I was writing that last sentence I remembered on that oryx hunt I just got back from we did have problems. The 15x56 binos my friend had were ideal for that hunt. Two years of hunting with the fixed 30x in the above timberline CO. mountains sept. and oct it hasnt been an issue. Dean

03-04-2006, 05:16 PM
The Leica Ultravid 7x42 is, to my eyes, the most amazing and nearly "perfect" bin on the planet. No, I don't own one as I prefer mid-sized bins. I hunted for a long time with a 7x30 Swaro and never needed more magnification in a bin. I've found generally if I need more than 7x I need a lot more than 8 or 10x and pull out the spotter. I sold the 7x30's, went to a Leica 8x32 for a few years, became dissatisfied, and came back to a pair of 8x30 Swaro's... I just wish they were 7x30's! 7x roof prisims use less glass elements than 8x or 10x so there's a plus in light transmission there, plus the 7x's exit pupil is larger than, particularly, the 10x allowing for easy-on-the-eyes prolonged viewing.

03-06-2006, 09:03 PM
The IOR I mentioned are 7x40 weigh 32 oz. and list at $475, anyone who can access these should (I was going to say a blindfold test) compare these to German whatevers if you are looking in this size range. IOR is still not well known, some bargains can be had on ebay on these. Their other product of interest is the 4x32 scope at $279 list again I would compare to the few quality 4x left on the market.

03-15-2006, 06:51 PM
Just purchased a pair of Leica Ultravid 7x42 BR Green. Excellent binoc's!!! Very clear, even and stable.
Was leaning toward a compact binocular but because of this thread decided to go full size.
Thank you all for the great info esp. Mr. Blust.


03-16-2006, 02:38 AM
Does anyone have an opinion on the Swarovski Optik CTS-85?

03-16-2006, 07:19 AM
Appreciated your lists but where did you find the Leica Ultravids 7 X 42 for $1,100.00? The cheapest I can find is $1595.00

03-16-2006, 08:50 AM

Double checked on the Leica's and I found a price of $1099 at Focus Camera. (http://focuscamera.com/sc/froogle-lead-1.asp?id=964599301&amp;rf=froogle&amp;dfdate=03_14_2006&amp;si d=959864476) What I hadn't noticed was that these were factory reconditioned. I imagine they still carry a full Leica warranty.

While we're on bino's, has anyone used the Minox's?

03-16-2006, 08:51 AM
I searched but couldn't find the Lecia's for under $1545.00.


03-16-2006, 10:19 AM
Thanks for the info. May give them a try

03-16-2006, 12:39 PM
Looking for optics,try these websites for models and pricing. I've never used them, but they were recommended from others that have in the past.



Best Regards

03-16-2006, 12:42 PM
I don't know alot about optics but what are guys using for spotting miles away? What about scopes on say 50cal. rifles? Its great to be able to hit something a couple miles away but what the heck do you use to see it if most stuff is too powerful to be usable?


03-16-2006, 05:02 PM
The new toys are here and everything I had expected optically. I got mine from Doug at Camera Land in NY (212) 753-5128. He is very highly recomended with service near that provided by Kifaru. I got the certified pre-owned stuff. Leica offers a 10 year US passport warranty on the pre-ownned vs a lifetime US passport on brand new. One of the questions I asked Doug before buying was what happens if I need service after the Leica warranty has expired and he said send it to him and he will take care of it.

A few days after playing with my televid the front ring on the eyepiece slipped. Doug is shipping me a replacement and I am sending the origional back to him. He is going to deal with Leica for me. As he says the only difference between us and them is us. The "us" at cameraland has impressed me.

On a bit of a tangent, I am having cases made to cary/protect my new toys while on my Kifaru packs, but being several miles from a decent fabric store is presenting difficulties in obtaining cordura for the seamstress to use. I am wondering if I can buy a small amount of the cloth my packs are made of from Kifaru to complete this project?