Mark Harris
10 BEST BINOCULARS - The Independent, 16 May 2005

As chosen by technology expert Mark Harris

Steiner SkyHawk 10x42 £300 --- BEST BUY
These rugged German bins were designed specially for bird-watchers, with waterproof rubber armour that both absorbs noise and guarantees a sure grip, whatever the weather. The focus system uses an oversized wheel for speed and can focus as close as two metres from the lenses. The weight (645g) is low enough for an extended twitching session and the eyecups are shaped to exclude distracting light from the side.
Intro 2020 (01628 674411,

Nikon Fieldscope ED 82mm angled £900
Serious bird- and nature-watchers swear by the brightness and clarity of high power spotting scopes. This one uses Nikon’s famous ED optics for sharp, distortion-free viewing and can take a variety of sights, including a flexible 25-75x zoom eyepiece (£270). It’s also an unbeatable choice for wildlife photographers, as you can attach it to Nikon digital compact cameras and SLRs using simple adaptors (from £20 to £300 depending on your camera).
Nikon (0800 230 220;

Canon 10x42L IS WP £1300 --- BEST LUXURY BUY
Canon has decided to capitalise on its camera lens expertise by using prestigious L-series optics in binoculars for the first time. The ultra-low dispersion, coated glass gives high contrast 10x magnification without a trace of distortion, while a sophisticated gyroscopic image stabilisation system keeps images rock steady, even on moving vehicles or boats. These anti-fog binoculars are fully waterproofed and have rotating, extending eyecups for comfort.
Canon (08705 143 723,

Cobra Optics 3x42 Nemesis night vision monocular £200
As even the biggest, brightest binoculars are useless when the sun goes down, nocturnal nature-lovers should invest in a compact, low-power night vision monocular. (Night vision binoculars need two expensive light intensifiers, so stick with a single lens system). The Nemesis offers 3x magnification, a tough, ergonomic design that works with either eye and a powerful built-in infrared illuminator for use in total darkness. Optional camera and head mount kits are available.
Cobra Optics (01789 264100;

Nikon 7x50 IF WP Compass £400
The lower magnification offered by these marine binoculars creates a brighter, wider field of view, ideal for scanning the horizon from a crow’s nest. When you spy land ahoy, a built-in compass provides an accurate direction fix and a scale helps you judge distance. As befits a nautical instrument, the Nikon is armoured against shocks, waterproof to a depth of two metres and filled with nitrogen gas for reliable, fog-free viewing.
Nikon (0800 230 220;

Bresser Sprint 8x21 Travel monocular £15
Monoculars can be made much lighter and smaller than conventional binoculars, especially when they use a roof prism system, as in this twisty 54g model. It’s small enough to hide behind a credit card and comes with a rubber armour body and multi-coated optics. It’s not as optically sharp or bright as larger models but it’s well worth pocketing for occasional use.
Broadhurst Clarkson & Fuller (01892 616131;

Olympus 10x50 DPS 1 £100 --- BEST BUDGET BUY
Unlike most contemporary gadgets, good binoculars never become obsolete. This classic pair from Olympus doesn’t sport any fancy bells or whistles, just reliable, UV-coated porro prism optics, a large centre-focus dial and tripod mounting for extended viewing. However, the very reasonable price does include a few modern touches (eco-friendly lead-free glass and aspherical lens elements) as well as a neck strap and case.
Olympus (0800 072 0070;

Pentax 10x18 FB-10 £170
Save money on theatre trips by buying cheap seats in the gods and investing in a pair of high quality binoculars instead. This credit card-sized, aluminium alloy pair from Pentax is durable, easy to use and light enough (128g) to hold throughout an entire Ring Cycle. While compact binoculars like this are never as bright as larger units, you can adjust both diopter power and eye separation distance here to suit most users.
Pentax (01753 792731;
Pentax 20x60 PCF WP II £160
If it’s sheer magnification you’re after, check out these monstrous 20x waterproof binoculars. They’re ideal for moon watching or locating needles in distant haystacks, although their chunky 1.3kg weight could be a hiker’s nightmare. Fully coated, aspherical optics keep the vision sharp and there are some neat ergonomic touches such as a mechanical focus lock and one-click diopter adjustment.
Pentax (01753 792731;

Aiptek DB3200 8x42 Digital Camera Binoculars £110
Spot a sun-bathing celeb through a pair of normal binoculars and you’ll get nothing but sceptical looks. With the DB3200, however, you can snap photographic evidence to launch your paparazzi career. Its 8x optics and two megapixel digital snaps are firmly B-list quality, but a 1.5-inch screen and fun video mode make it a great present for amateur photographers and, especially, kids.
Paramount Zone (0870 011 3206;

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