Recently I decided to buy a new set of binoculars.
I wanted a good set to take with me to Kenya in May. Why? Because, when looking for animals in the Masai Mara, one needs to help your driver/guide to find what you are looking for: a Leopard in a Tree, a Cheetah on top of an ant hill, a Wild Dog lurking in the shadows. Normally, one’s driver/guide knows the area you are in well, but he/she can’t concentrate on driving and spotting wildlife at the same time. Your assistance in spotting wildlife will make a big difference in finding that special photograph.
So, I set about doing extensive research to find a unit that met some basic requirements.
I wanted good viewing quality without spending a fortune. I wanted a unit that had a lifetime guarantee. I wanted to pay well under $500 for the unit.
Thanks to some great fellow photographers at Nature Scapes Net, I got some great advice. One suggestion was especially helpful. It has to do with something called Exit Pupil. Binoculars need to have a EP of at least 5mm, else the unit will not conform to the human eye which apparently needs at least 5mm to be right on. So, a pair of 8X42 binoculars meets the criteria. That is 42mm (the lens size) divided by 8 (the magnification) equals an EP of 5.2mm. Got that?
The problem is that when one starts looking for 8X42 binoculars, nearly all of them are larger than one might want to transport 15,000 miles from Florida where I live to the Masai Mara, where I am going. Grumble.
Yes, you can find lots of inexpensive binoculars that are smaller, weigh a lot less, but in the end what one winds up with is not good viewing, especially in low light. Which is critically important, as the best photographs are most often made early in the morning or late in the day, just before sunset. It is the time that animals are most active, and more importantly, the best light falls during such times.
And gosh knows, there are lots of choices. Many of them excellent. The guys/gals at Nature Scapes Net provided me with 26 separate recommendations. I went blind reading about all the alternatives.
High on the list was the Nikon Monarch 8X42 DCF units. Many of the NSN members ranked them highly.
And the units come with Nikon’s lifetime warranty.
But, having Scottish blood in my veins, I thought the units were priced beyond what I wanted to pay. Especially after I found the Alpen Model 387Sr 8X42 units.
Nikon street cost was around $250 versus the Alpen’s at $132 with free shipping and no sales tax.
So, I read on. What I found out was that Alpen has some very good reviews. One of which pointed out that the CEO of Alpen personally inspects every single unit that is sold by his company before it is offered for sale. I was impressed with that! And, Alpen offers what the call the no-fault lifetime warranty. So, if I drop a pair of the binoculars off a land rover in Kenya and they get crushed by a running Rhino, Alpen will send me a new pair. You gotta love that guarantee. Heck, even Apple won’t do that, not even close.
What does Alpen offer?
- Silver metallic prism coating for superior brightness
- BAK4 optics for clear, bright, high resolution images
- PXA™ phase coating for superior resolution and color fidelity (roof prism models)
- Fully multi-coated optics for maximum brightness
- Waterproof and nitrogen filled
- Long eye relief for full field of view for eyeglass wearers
- Twist lock eye cups
- Stylish ergonomic design
- Rubber armoring for protection and durability
- Soft rubber rain guards (roof prism models) and durable carrying case
- Premium quality neck strap
- Alpen’s No-Fault, No-Problem Lifetime Warranty
So, I ordered a pair from Amazon and two days later open up the box and tried out the unit. WOW!
Incredible brightness, superb details, built like a tank. Heavy and larger than I wanted, but very comfortable when using.
In sum, here are my impressions.
Build Quality – ******* (7 Stars)
View Quality – ******* (7 Stars)
Price – ********* (9 Stars)
Size/Weight – ****** (6 Stars)
Warranty – ********** (10 Stars(
Overall – ******** (Eight Stars)
I highly recommend the Alpen Model 387SR 8×42 Binoculars.
You can buy them here.