Archive for the 'Gear' Category

3 votes, average: 2.33 out of 53 votes, average: 2.33 out of 53 votes, average: 2.33 out of 53 votes, average: 2.33 out of 53 votes, average: 2.33 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 2.33 out of 5)
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Published by idahoelk on 27 Jul 2009

Bowhunting Excuses!!

I have hunted many years both with a Rifle and a bow but 20 years ago I put my rifles away and went exclusively to archery and since that time I have heard and read as well as used several excuses to blame failure on!!!!!! But it seems they all had the same result Operator Error!!! I also try to keep up as most of you do on all the new inovations in the archery business to up the odds so to speak but again it still comes down to ME!!!!!! I have heard so many complaints about broadheads not leaving good bloodtrails on well placed shots, there are a few occasions where it just happens but for the most part I have come to find out that the broadheads were not sharpened after the purchase. All I hear is that I took my practive head off and put a new one right out of the package on!!!!!!  I for one will not place my once in a lifetime shot in the hands of chance, dont be lazy it does not take that long to touch them up and make sure they are at there best!!!!

    This is not a chance to take shots at anyone or any product I just wanted to post this to help some of my fellow archers in a problem I have heard about for many years. I have worked in the archery retail business and can tell you first hand that the broadheads are not as sharp as they could be right out of the packagesome in fact I was able to press them very firmly to my skin and drag the blade without cutting myself!!!! Keep that in mind!!!!

   I have also witnessed fellow archers shooting practice shots in camp and an hour later hunt with the same heads without touching them up! The broadhead must be sharp my friends its all about getting the animal to bleed out as fast as possible so the animal does not suffer and also so we can recover them, I am no saint when it comes to this I learned my lesson years ago but some seem to be blocked from this concept. If you want to up the antie in your favor keep them razor sharp my friends and you will enjoy this sport even more.

  Sorry for the rampage but I just gone through listening to another lost animal story that was blamed on the broadhead that person chose….. He too never sharpened his heads “it said on the package caution very sharp” lol

I wish you all the best this year on your hunts.

Always
Idahoelk

0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5 (0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5)
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Published by Jason Balazs on 10 Dec 2008

Martin Hatfield Takedown Review

Hi everyone. I just finished the review of the Hatfield Takedown. You can read it here —-> http://www.outdoorproductreview.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=61:martin-hatfield-takedown-recurve&catid=25:archery&Itemid=43

1 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 5 (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
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Published by Jason Balazs on 01 Nov 2008

2008 Bow Review: Martin Firecat Pro X

Field Evaluation 2008 Firecat Pro-x

4 votes, average: 4.00 out of 54 votes, average: 4.00 out of 54 votes, average: 4.00 out of 54 votes, average: 4.00 out of 54 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Published by marcusjb on 28 Sep 2008

Garmin’s Rino Series Radio/GPS

          Garmin’s Rino Series Radio/GPS

If you’re in the market for a GPS and you regularly use radios to communicate with your hunting buddies, you should take a close look at the Rino series by Garmin. I have used several different models over the course of several years and have found them to be useful, reliable tools. In this post we’ll take just a quick look at these products.

There are many different Rino models to choose from with varying options and price ranges. Admittedly they are not cheap, but by combining a radio and a GPS into one unit they have created a number of unique features that you won’t find anywhere else. Obviously one benefit of having a two in one unit is less to carry. Another great benefit is being able to send your location and that of waypoints to other Rinos. They can then see your location on their GPS and navigate to you or you to them. With some of the models you can even send text messages. I am unaware of any other product that is able to do this.

The Rino comes in five different models. The 110, 120, and 130 models are very similar in appearance and only vary slightly in features from one another. The higher priced of these models have such additional features as weather radio, electronic compass, and increased internal memory (for topo map storage). They vary in price from about $150 to $340. The 520HCx and 530HCx are a step up from the aforementioned models and feature such things as color screen, rechargeable long-lasting battery, 12 channel high-sensitivity GPS receiver, and longer range radio. They retail for $400 to $450, although if you do some careful research on the internet you can often find lower prices on all these models.

I have had experience with several of these models and have owned a 120 for about five years now. Here are some of my observations. My 120 has been used a lot, dropped many times, and has given me very little trouble. The unit is user friendly and the screen is of good quality. Garmin has topo maps available on CD-ROM to install on all the Rino models and I have found it to be very handy to have them when hunting and hiking. The road and trail detail is quite good. The GPS has probably saved me from getting lost several times now. The location sending feature is also great when out hunting with friends; it makes it a cinch for them to find you and your downed elk! The Rino 120 runs on three AA batteries and battery life is about a day and a half. On the downside for the 120, I live and hunt in mountainous terrain with heavy forests and both of these limit the radio somewhat. The GPS can also cause some frustrations when in heavy timber as it loses satellite contact frequently.

The HCx models are a different story, however. Deep forests and even basement walls are no match for their GPS receivers. These also have increased radio range. The other day while elk hunting, we were on top of a ridge and were able to contact a friend on a mountaintop over 20 miles away. The batteries on the HCx will generally last for several days, and you can purchase an accessory battery pack to use AA batteries as well. The only downside to the HCx models is the price. They are also slightly larger than the 120 variety.

If you’ve been looking at the Rino series, I hope this helps you make an informed decision. Garmin also has free software updates for all these models on their website. Overall, I have been very pleased in my experience with the Garmin Rino.

 

 

3 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 3.33 out of 5)
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Published by WayBeau on 27 Sep 2008

Taking Stock

Let’s face it, everyone has been effected by the current economic “crisis” in one way or another.  But how have hunters been effected?  In the past, I have been the kind of guy who would go out and “restock” before each and every season.  Now, when I say each and every season, I mean EACH and EVERY season.  Dove, waterfowl, deer, turkey, squirrel.  It didn’t matter if I could use the same shot shells for dove and squirrels, or if the camo that I wore duck hunting the timber would be just as effective hunting deer on the mountain.  For some reason I always needed different gear for every season and critter.  As a result I ended up with a lot of “stuff” that I probably didn’t really need.  When I got married, not too long ago, my wife asked me a question that would put a lot of things in perspective, “What do you need all of that stuff for?”  Well, I tried to answer but simply couldn’t find a response that made sense to me, let alone a woman who has most definitely never set foot deep in the woods (well maybe when she was younger and crazier, and definitely not for the reason of hunting or being close to nature).  As a result, I took stock of what I had in my hunting closet (yes, she actually lets me have a WHOLE closet for my hunting stuff).

From that day forward, a lot of my gear hasn’t seen the light of day.  I came to realize that the things that I “had to have” weren’t really making me a better hunter.  So I simply didn’t take anything out to the woods that wouldn’t really help me, or I thought wouldn’t help me, in my goal of bagging whatever animal I was after.  The recent economic troubles our country is facing have made me take even a further look at what I’ve got.  Actually, it’s a little more than just what I’ve got, it’s how can what I have make someone else’s hunt better.  I had to ask myself whether there was anything in my closet that I didn’t use, that someone else possibly could.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to make myself look like some sort of saint here.  I love my “stuff” and the last thing that I ever thought I’d find myself doing would be giving it away.  But that’s exactly what happened.  If I didn’t use it, or it didn’t have any kind of sentimental value it was out the door to the local outdoor store where they would find someone that could use it.

When I started going through my closet and cleaning out the things that I no longer used or needed I found that my closet was truly just a drawer.  Everything I needed and used would all fit neatly into a drawer.  The other thing that I found was that making due with the bare essentials makes one come up with new ways of doing things.  So instead of spending money on a new ground blind, that blown down pine tree became my new best friend.  Within a matter of about a hour there was a freshly built ground blind that looked more natural than anything you can buy in the store.  The scent elimination products that everyone seems to crave, once again that pine tree and a bunch of fresh acorns did the trick. The thing that is truly the most amazing part of it all is the level of gratification that you can get out of doing things this way and saving your money (which I’m sure our spouses appreciate as well).

And if you’re having a hard time getting through the process of taking stock and cleaning out, ask yourself this one simple question, “What did our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers all do without this stuff?”  They simply hunted. . . .and probably were a lot better at it.

5 votes, average: 3.80 out of 55 votes, average: 3.80 out of 55 votes, average: 3.80 out of 55 votes, average: 3.80 out of 55 votes, average: 3.80 out of 5 (5 votes, average: 3.80 out of 5)
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Published by Big Shot on 26 Sep 2008

Tools of the Trade

Here I sit, having payed WAY too much to get 5 different bows tuned and ready to shoot. I ask myself, why in the world does it cost that much, and the answer, you pay for ignorance. Not theirs, but ours. Ignorance of how to do it. Ignorance of what all you would need to do it. And in the end, ignorance of the fact that you NEED to know how to do it. What would happen if one day I was on a hunt, and first thing in the day I snap a d-loop or drop my bow and knock my rest out of alignment? My day would be ruined, quite frankly my whole hunting trip could be ruined.

So I add up the money I spent on getting the work done for me and realize that I could have bought all the equipment it would take to just do it all myself. Of course, it wouldn’t be done by now (about a month after the fact), because there’s that ignorance thing I mentioned before. Can’t be that hard though, right?!? So, let the journey begin.

  • Bow press in the mail… check
  • Basic set of allen wrenches… check
  • A few bow specific tools (I’ll get into the details later)… check
  • Places to go to for information… check
  • Basic mechanical knowledge… check
  • Someone to go to when I inevitably mess it all up… not without giving away another arm!!

So, what does it take to set up shop? Not as much as you would think, but there are some must haves. First and foremost among them is a space to work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like you need a large dedicated shop, or even a dedicated corner for that matter. Your space can be as simple as your coffee table or kitchen table. A big word of advice though, get a small folding table to use instead. Nothing will hinder relations with your significant other faster than ruining said coffee or kitchen table!!! It doesn’t need to be big, just somewhere to lay out your bow and tools. If you do have to set up on the furniture, lay out an old towel for a work surface, it will keep your bow from getting scratched as well. Now that you have a work area, on to the tools.

Bow Press
There are lots of options here. You can go portable with something like the Bowmaster, or get a full blown shop style setup with the Apple Press and stand. There are tons of options in prices ranging from ~$40 all the way into the thousands. The most important thing is to make sure it will work for your bow. Some presses will not work for split limb bows without an adapter that you will have to buy. Some will not press parallel limb bows without being modified. The difference here is in the way the limbs flex on a parallel vs. non-parallel bow. Parallel limbs flex vertically when the bow is drawn due to the fact that they are essentially in a horizontal plane. Non-parallel limbs will flex somewhere between vertical and horizontal, roughly at an angle towards the nock of the string. Due to this difference, if you try and press a parallel limb on a press not designed for it, it will not press fully and could damage the bow. Same applies to the non-parallel limb on a parallel press.

Presses are used for many things. Anytime you need to modify anything attached to the string, you will need to press it so that you can separate the strands of the string to get the accessories in between them. You need it to adjust cam timing (the rotation of the cams) or change draw length mods. Also for when it comes time to change out aging strings and cables, or repair damaged ones. You shouldn’t need it that often, but when you do need it there is no substitute.
Examples….

Bow Vise
A simple device for holding your bow. It can be pretty hard to work on a bow unless you have a third arm!! That’s where the vise comes in. A simple one will hold your bow in one position allowing you to work on your bow. A better one will allow you to rotate the bow in many directions once it is mounted. This will allow you to get the bow in just the right position for the work you need to do.
Example….

Allen Wrenches
or hex keys, whatever you want to call them. You know what these things are. You will need multiple sizes. A decent standard set from any hardware store will do. I have never run across any metric, yet. It couldn’t hurt, though, to have a set of those just in case.

Screwdrivers
You won’t need them all that often, but you will need them. Have a simple set of common and philips on hand.

Levels
Not your daddy’s variety. A string level, and an arrow level.

These will help you in setting up your rest. Place the string level, where else…. on the string!!! Use it to make sure your bow is level vertically (up and down for those that always get them mixed up) when in the vise. Now you place the arrow level on the arrow and adjust your rest until your arrow is perfectly horizontal.

Nock Set Pliers and Brass Nocks
Brass nocks are useful for many things. You can use them to attach your drop away rest cord to your cable. Place them above and below a kisser button to secure it in place. And of course even use them to mark your nock point.

Nock set pliers, obviously, are for attaching those little brass guys. A good pair will also have a lever to pry them off with.

Draw Length Arrow

Basically a long, unfletched arrow with markings toward the end. These markings are distance measurements that allow for checking draw length. It can be used for Three functions. First, draw it back with a recurve bow, or compound with no draw stop, and you can find your draw length (someone needs to help you here to make sure your form is right, otherwise you won’t get the correct draw length). Second, Draw it in your set up compound bow to check the draw length it is set at. Lastly, draw it in the same bow and use it to determine the arrow length that will be safe to use with your setup.  Although not necessary, it can come in handy.

Draw Weight Scale
Many different varieties are available. Simple ones like this that are hand held…

All the way up to digital versions, or ones that are mounted to the ceiling. They are handy if you want to know the exact weight you have your bow set to. However, not all that necessary. Example… Lets say your bow maxes out at 60#, and the company says you can adjust the draw weight by 2# per full turn of the limb bolts. Then you know that if you back the bolts out 3 turns each, then you just roughly set your bow to 54#. I don’t think it is all that important to know that it might actually be 53.2#, or 55#. If you know within a pound I would say your are good. Just get those numbers from your bows manufacturer.

D-Loop Pliers
Last thing you want while our hunting, or anytime for that matter, is for your bow to fail. If you don’t tighten your d-loop tight enough it is a sure fire failure point waiting to happen. The easiest way to tighten it is with a pair of d-loop pliers. These are specially made pliers designed to fit around a d-loop. Then when you squeeze the handle, instead of the two pieces closing tightly together, they spread. The formed head holds the knot ends in place while stretching out the loop and tightening the knots.
Example….

Serving Tool
While I’m sure serving can and has been installed without one of these, I can’t imagine doing it. A simple tool of either metal of plastic designed to hold tension on your serving thread while you wrap your string. You place your spool of thread in the tool, and use a wing nut to get the tension you desire. Then, once you have started the serving, you simply spin the tool around the string until the serving is the length you want, and then wrap in the end of the thread.

Well, that pretty well covers the most common tools you will need and see when it comes to setting up and maintaining your bow. I tried to be as comprehensive as I could, but there are quite a few gadgets out there, and I aim to cover all I can. Those will have to wait for another day however, so stay tuned for more. I’m going high tech in the next installment.  Look for part two covering lasers and more.

6 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 56 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5 (6 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)
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Published by Klyph on 18 Sep 2008

Hand Climber Seat Strap – A MUST have

I used a Summit Viper for the last few years and loved it as a climbing stand… the only issue I had with it was its large frame when carrying it through the woods, and the amount of space it took up in my vehicle. So with much hesitation I traded it for a hand climber that folds completely flat and took care of my “issues” with the summit.

The Problem that quickly revealed itself was that the hand climber stand is much more difficult to use, especially with winter clothing, as I found out late season last year. As I climbed my first tree, I wondered why I ever got rid of my summit and spent most of my time contemplating listing my new stand on AT Classifieds as soon as I got home. Fortunately all wasn’t lost as I was able to harvest a nice doe and my thoughts quickly became focused on the “rush” of the hunt. That was my last tag of the year and my equipment was put away and I didn’t think much about my new issue until a few months ago.

I noticed the new Lone Wolf Hand Climbers now come with a strap that you use to sit on as you climb. (Link given for visual purposes: http://www.lonewolfstands.com/shoppingcart/Products/Hand-Climber-SitStrap__LWHCS.aspx ) I quickly ran to my tangled mess of old safety harnesses and created my own seat strap. (Disclaimer: Use at you own risk) 

I took it to the back yard and fell back in Love with my hand climber!

I now have the best of both worlds… A light, compact stand, that can also be used effortlessly as a sit and climb style stand.

If you are a penny pincher like my self, I am sure you can find some strapping around the house to use… but I would recommend for safety purposes to go out and purchase a seat strap if you don’t have on on your hand climber. It is worth it!

16 votes, average: 3.69 out of 516 votes, average: 3.69 out of 516 votes, average: 3.69 out of 516 votes, average: 3.69 out of 516 votes, average: 3.69 out of 5 (16 votes, average: 3.69 out of 5)
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Published by tim9910 on 10 Sep 2008

New products that you should give a try

Lets face it, our sport is a virtual spawning bed for new gizmos and gadgets.  Some of them prove helpful, some we never hear about, and some are just plain ridiculous.  Everyone is trying to cash in on this ever growing market, mostly thanks to the big name hunters on Sunday morning television.  They endorse a product, they show footage of the product being used in the field (and they would never use editing to slip it in after the hunt!) and amazingly get a record book animal within kicking distance and make a perfect shot on the unsuspecting critter.  Oh how I wish it really worked like this, not that I haven’t had those “perfect scenarios”, albeit not on the caliber of game on t.v. . But that’s life outside the $5K a day ranches, where trophy bucks are 10 pointers that have somehow survived weekend warriors for 3 or 4 years.  Even a heavy 8 pointer at 2.5 years is perfectly welcome on my living room wall.

The first product I want to tell you about is from Illusion Game Call Systems.  They’re new grunt call, the first offering from this company of highly regarded waterfowl and newer turkey calls is aptly named The Extinguisher.  I think a better name for this during the rut would be the fire starter, and then I can use the extinguisher call sign for the 340 grains of sleep aid I prescribe to the critter of choice!  Seriously though, this call works well.  This will be the second season it has been on the market and I can’t wait to put it to use again.  The benefits of this call are multiple, some of my favorites being the mod slide that can change from a fawn in distress to a deep buck grunt with just one finger.  The tone of the call is the main attraction for me, even though it is a plastic tube and call it retains a warmer tone than that of cheaper and honestly dated designs.  I had great success with this call  last year in October using the fawn bleat and attracting curious does, and also in pre-rut through the rut on cruising bucks and blind calling.  I have a lot of confidence in this call which is not something I had experienced previously, as I used to be a shut up and sit still hunter.  Hopefully the popularity will grow and they will be available in the big name stores soon but they are popping up in pro shops around the country at a steady rate. They are also a big sponsor of Archery Talk, which is how I cam to find out about them.  If you haven’t heard of them or were curious about the effectiveness, I recommend giving them a try.  If you need a world class deer to be taken with one to convince you, I believe the biggest last season was somewhere in the ballpark of 207 inches.  You can find out more at www.theextinguisher.com

Used with presumed permission from Illusion Systems

Used with presumed permission from Illusion Systems

The other product I wanted to tell you about is one for all archers, not just hunters.  While there are many offerings of string suppressors on the market, the Bow Rattler from Falcon Products USA, is by far the upper class version in my opinion.  These close tolerance machined adjustable suppressors make such a difference in bow handling and quietness that not having one is a rather ridiculous proposition.  I have one on each of my bows, including my 07 Hoyt which came with a factory version.  Replacing it made a noticeable difference in the recoil and silence of the bow, and lets face it how many products do we buy that actually show immediate positive results.  They offer one for virtually any bow on the market, including front mount versions for those lacking the mounting holes on string side of the riser.  If your bow doesn’t have one on it, or your not completely happy with what you have, you should definitely give them a try.  I wouldn’t own a bow without one now that I have, and I am confident that you will feel the same.  And they are also a sponsor of AT like the previous offering I mentioned.  You can find out more at www.bowrattler.com.

Used with presumed permission

Used with presumed permission

Everyone has their favorite products for archery, and these are mine as of late.  I don’t want to force feed anything to anyone, I just wish to spread the word about these new and outstanding products.  I am also a huge fan of Archery Talk, and I believe in supporting the sponsors that help keep the forums running.  Either one of these products are top notch and I hope you give them a try.  I did and I haven’t regretted it one bit.  That’s more than I can say about some of the gadgets I’ve tried in the past!

12 votes, average: 3.83 out of 512 votes, average: 3.83 out of 512 votes, average: 3.83 out of 512 votes, average: 3.83 out of 512 votes, average: 3.83 out of 5 (12 votes, average: 3.83 out of 5)
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Published by Klyph on 05 Sep 2008

The Wolf Pack, by Lone Wolf – Review

As an archery hunter who hunts many locations that require me to take my stand both into and out of the woods each hunt, I have been searching for the best way to minimize and consolidate my hunting gear. For the last few years I have altered many packs so that they can be attached to my climber tree stand while entering and leaving the woods. Until now, I have found many different variations in packs and other companies that make variations of straps that are used to make carrying my stand a little more comfortable than using the “free” or manufactures straps, but until know I have not found a combination of the two.

Setup:

My first impression of The Wolf Pack wasn’t all that great. There are straps everywhere and it initially looked way more complicated than I would think that it should. But, once I got my hands on it, my opinion changed.

After taking The Wolf Pack out of the packaging I found that there are six (6) detachable straps that attach directly to the tree-stand (Lone Wolf calls them: “receiving straps”). Lone Wolf hits a home-run by lining the buckles with a neoprene cover to help quiet the “click” as the buckles are attached. I attached two (2) straps at the top, middle, and bottom of my stand. I found that the top and bottom straps worked best about 8 inches apart, while the middle straps are best spread as wide as possible. 

Receiver Strap Placement

Receiver Strap Placement

Once the receiving straps are attached to the stand it is now ready to connect it to the pack. Connect all six (6) recieving straps to the six (6) male buckles located on the pack. I initially thought that I would want the bottom straps as tight as possible so that the stand would be as high on my back as possible… Boy was i WRONG. I found that by keeping the stand as low as possible on my back, the weight of the stand is taken off of my shoulders and is much more comfortable to carry. So in other words, keep all the straps loose as possible until you get the unit on your back… it’s much easier to tighten up the straps once the unit is on your back than to loosen them. After taking the pack on and off a few times, making adjustments here and there, I found that the pack does hold my stand comfortably.

At the Tree:

The Wolf Pack, with all it pockets, straps and elastic, makes it easy to stay quiet. For me, there is plenty of space for all the essentials (range-finder, scents, bow rope,  toilet paper, grunt tubes, other calls, gloves, and other misc. items) while making them truly all accessible without routing through a big pack.

Pack loaded with gear

Pack loaded with gear

There is a built in carry handle at the top of the pack that makes it easy to attach to your bow rope and pull it up to the stand once you are at your desired height. There are two (2) straps that are used to attach the pack to the tree and all the “inside” pockets (while wearing the pack) are now right in arms reach now that it is attached to the tree. The back of the pack also acts as a padded back rest for your stand and removes all noise from any bark that would have other wise been right against your clothing.

Over all thoughts:

I found that overall this pack meets almost all my expectations. It was easy to use (once setup) and it kept all my gear quiet while keeping it easy to get to when needed. I really like the padded back rest, which is a bonus to me since I hadn’t thought it was all that necessary.

I do have some concerns (as I haven’t hunted with the pack yet, maybe they will all work them selves out) but, once you get all your gear in the pockets and strap it to your body, there is not much air movement. So, it might not be the best option in the early hunting season when temps around here can be in the 80’s. I use a HSS and when putting both on, it gets hot fast… So when using the pack, you may want to carry the HSS into the woods, rather than wear it. To bad they didn’t make the pack a safety system also… I better patent that right away.

Overall, I am glad I spent the 99.00 for this product and would recommend it to friends.

6 votes, average: 4.17 out of 56 votes, average: 4.17 out of 56 votes, average: 4.17 out of 56 votes, average: 4.17 out of 56 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5 (6 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5)
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Published by supernova on 02 Jun 2008

All About Optics

The information contained in this article was obtained from Vortex Optics’ brochure with the same title.

How do binoculars work?

All binoculars, regardless of their size and shape, function in the same, straightforward way:

  1. Light comes to and moves through the objective lenses.
  2. Light then travels through prisms (which correct the image orientation in all directions; up-down, left-right).
  3. Finally, light moves through the eyepieces (which magnify the images) and then on to the user’s eyes.

What determines image quality?

  1. Optical glass – The quality of optical glass that is used in binoculars will make a difference in how bright, sharp and colorful the view will be. Quality binoculars use dense optical glass that is painstakingly designed, shaped and polished to eliminate flaws. The more sophisticated the glass and techniques employed in its design, the better the images.
  2. Anti-reflection coatings – Binocular lenses are coated with anti-reflection coatings to eliminate internal reflections and light scatterings, reduce glare and produce sharper images with more detail. The type of coatings and the number of coatings applied to the binocular lenses matter tremendously to how brilliant and crisp the view will be.
  3. Exit pupil – The exit pupil is the beam of light that exits each eyepiece of the binocular and enters the users’ eyes. The larger the exit pupil, the brighter and more superior the image will appear, especially under low light conditions (when comparing optics of similar quality). The exit pupil is measured in millimeters, and is calculated by dividing the objective lens by the magnification. An 8×42 binocular, for example, has a 5.25mm exit pupil (42/8=5.25).

Binocular Design

Though they may look different on the outside, on the inside binoculars can only be designed in a few ways:

Galilean design: Used almost exclusively in opera glasses, the Galilean design is very primitive and uses only lenses (no prisms).

Porro prism design: Named after their Italian optical designer, Porro prism binoculars are characterized by the objective lenses being spaced wider apart than the eyepieces. The design is reversed in compact binoculars, with the eyepieces spaced wider than objectives.

Roof Prism design: Named for the “roof-like” appearance of the prisms, the more modern roof prism design features a more complicated design, resulting in the objectives and eyepieces being position in a slim, straight line.

What do the numbers mean?

When you look at a pair of binoculars, you’ll notice a few numbers printed on the binoculars, such as 8×42 (read as 8 by 42), or 12×50. What do these numbers mean? What do they refer to?

  1. Magnification – With a pair of 8×42 binoculars, as in our example, the first number, 8(often expressed as 8x), refers to the magnification the binoculars provide, or how many times larger an object will appear. Binoculars vary in magnification from 4x up to 12x and even higher, but 8x and 10x are most common.

Higher magnification is not necessarily better. As magnification increase, users may have troubling holding the binoculars steady, causing the image to become blurry. An increase in magnification will also generally cause a decrease in image brightness and clarity. 7x .8x magnification is considered adequate for woodland settings, while 10x is preferred for viewing at greater distances.

  1. Objective lens size: The second number in our example binocular 42, refers to the diameter of the objective lens (the lens farthest from your eye) in millimeters. Objective lenses vary in size from 15mm to 50mm and beyond.

The size of the objective lens determines how much light the binoculars can receive and hence how bright and clear the resulting images can be. The size of the objective lens also affects how large or small a pair of binoculars will be. Let your needs and desires help you decide what size objective lenses are right for you. If you use your binoculars only during the brightest times of day or in well-lit areas, then smaller objective lenses (say, under 25mm) will do just fine. If, however, you want the brightest possible image and will be using your binoculars during near-dark conditions (such as at dawn, dusk, or in heavy forest cover), you’ll want to choose larger objective lenses, from 35mm to 56mm.

The greatest factor in determining the weight of a binocular is its objective lens size; the larger the lenses, the heavier the binoculars will be. Again, let your desires dictate what weight is comfortable for you. Compact binoculars can weight between a few ounces to under a pound, while modern full-size binoculars will weight from twenty ounces to around two pounds.

  1. Field of view: Another important number to know is the field of view. The field of view is the widest dimension from left to right that you can see when looking through the binoculars. This specification is usually measured either in linear feet at a distance of 1000 yards, or in angular degrees.

A wider field of view is desirable for many reasons, including but not limited to: following fast moving action, and when scanning in denser backgrounds (grasslands, woodlands, etc.) Note that when magnification is increased, the field of view narrows (sometimes considerably).

Other useful specifications

The following specifications and definitions will aid in your understanding of how binoculars can function best fro you and provide you with the maximum benefit out in the field.

Eye relief: The term eye relief refers to the furthest distance behind the binoculars’ eyepieces at which the whole field of view can be attained, and is measured in millimeters.

The eye relief measurement is of great importance to those that must wear eyeglasses/sunglasses while looking through binoculars, but is also important to anyone planning to use binoculars for long stretches of time.

Binoculars with long eye relief will satisfy the above considerations and will have an eye relief measurement of at least 15mm.

Close focus

The minimum distance to which a pair of binoculars can be focused is called its close focus. Some users desire binoculars that will focus down to 10 feet or less.

Weatherproofing

Binoculars that effectively keep out the elements will inevitably last much longer and keep you satisfied.

Waterproof/fogproof binoculars are sealed with O-rings at all open points to inhibit moisture, dust and debris. The inside of the binoculars is then purged of its atmosphere, which is replaced with an inert gas that has no moisture content. This process, called purging, ensures that the binoculars will not fog internally from high humidity or altitude changes. Nitrogen is the most common gas used when purging optics. A more unique gas, Argon is utilized in select optics to provide a higher level of anti-fogging protection that is maintained over a longer time period.

Warranty

A manufacturer’s included warranty ought to be considered a feature of the binoculars, especially if you plan to get a lot of use out of tem in the outdoors where anything can and usually does happen.

Most manufacturer’s offer a warranty limited only to initial defects, which do not protect you if anything accidental happens in the general course of using your optics.

More progressive warranties, such as the Vortex VIP warranty, keeps your covered in literally any situation, regardless of what happened or who is at fault. The VIP warranty is an unconditional, unlimited warranty that offers the ultimate in customer service and protection.

Spotting scopes

How do spotting scopes work?

A spotting scopes functions essentially the same way a binocular does:

1. Light is gathered and moves through the objective lens of the scope.

2. Light moves through the prisms (which correct the image orientation in all directions; up-down, left-right)

3. Light moves through the eyepiece(which magnifies the image) and then on to the user’s eye.

Spotting scope specifications

Spotting scopes are essentially small telescopes designed primarily for land viewing at longer distances. A spotting score features greater magnifications and a larger objective lens than those offered with binoculars, and as such requires a tripod to be use effectively.

Spotting scopes are generally offered in two sizes, relating to the size of their objective lens; 60mm and 90mm.

60mm scopes are fairly portable and compact, and will offer good image quality for a generally lower price.

80mm scopes will be much brighter than a 60mm scope but will also generally be heavier and potentially bulkier. An 80mm scope will deliver very good image quality at up to 60x magnification.

Spotting scopes are often made available in two body styles, a straight-through design (where the eyepiece is in-line with the objective lens) and an angled design (where the eyepiece is set at a 45-degree angle). One design is not better than the other, but each design does offer some distinct advantages.

Straight-through design advantages:

-Works well with a car winder mount

-Provides natural line-of-sight

Angle design advantages:

Allows for lower mounting height; improves stability, enables for smaller, lighter tripod

-More comfortable for extended times of viewing

As with binoculars, there are other specifications (such as eye relief, weatherproofing, warranty, etc.) that you may want to think about. Eyeglass wearers should look for scopes with at least 15mm of eye relief. Your spotting scope should be fully waterproof and fogproof. As with binoculars, a scope should carry a progressive warrantee. All Vortex spotting scopes are fully waterproof, fogproof and carry the Vortex VIP unconditional unlimited warranty that will offer more piece of mind when out in the field.

What determines image quality?

Most spotting scopes use a Porro prism design that offers a rich three-dimensional view with good image quality. Similar to binoculars, spotting scope image quality is derived from the types of optical glass and optical coatings that are employed in its design. The better the glass and optical coatings, the better the image quality.

Some spotting scopes are offered in two different versions of glass; a “standard” version, and a “high-grade” version. The standard versions employ regular optical glass in their design and generally offer good to very good image quality. The high-grade versions make use of more exotic (and more expensive) glass types that deliver heightened resolution and color. Consider the high-grade versions (if available) if you desire the best possible image in all lighting conditions.

In-Depth, technical instructions on the design, function, and features of binoculars and spotting scopes.

Advanced Optical Design

Binocular and spotting scope optical design is comprised essentially of three components:

  1. Objective lenses
  2. Prisms
  3. Ocular lenses

  1. Objective Lenses:

The Objective lens has one job, to gather light and transmit it to the user’s eyes. In order to gather more light, an objective lens must be made larger. Transmitting more light (which is just a fancy way of saying “delivering” more of the light to the user’s eye) can be achieved by using a higher density optical glass that is carefully cut and polished (and also by applying anti-reflective coatings, which are discussed later). With the relatively small objective lenses in binoculars, high-quality images can be obtained using standard optical glass. Vortex incorporates a XD high-density glass in select binocular models for the absolute highest quality images. In spotting scopes, with their very large objective lenses, Vortex uses the exotic ED glass to achieve the highest possible image resolution, contrast, and color fidelity.

These remarkable ED / XD glass types reduce or eliminate the inherent problems of chromatic aberrations. Chromatic aberrations are the result of a physical reality of color; different colors move at slightly different wavelengths, which means they will have slightly different focal lengths when they pass through optical glass. Chromatic aberrations diminish the resolution and the color fidelity of normal binoculars and spotting scopes. They show up as green and/or purplish ghost images, and are especially apparent under low light conditions.

  1. Prisms

The prisms in a binoculars or spotting scope have two jobs:

-They revert the image, which otherwise be presented to the user upside-down and backwards.

-They shorten binocular length (light bounces in the prisms; its path is shorter through the whole of the binocular than it would be without them)

Porro prism or roof prism?

Porro prism have rich depth and wide field of view and usually employ large prism. However, Porro aren’t very rugged and many people feel they handle poorly. Porros are generally heavier than roof prisms due to the prism size and the use of larger prism housings (the housings are larger due to the bigger prisms, but also from the optical design of the binoculars).

Roof prism can achieve image quality similar to porro prisms, but it costs more (and involves phase correction coatings, discussed later). Also, most roof prism generally can’t replicate the 3-D feel of good quality Porros. However, roof prisms are generally more popular because of their ruggedness and superior handling (more streamlined and lighter weight).

What determines prism quality?

The density of prism glass is important in determining its ability to deliver high-quality images. Also important is the care taken in grinding and polishing the prisms. There are two kinds of glass used to make Porro prisms, boro-silicate (more commonly known as BK-7) and barium-crown (know as BaK-4) glass. BK-7 glass is of inferior quality to BaK-4 glass, and is commonly used in the less expensive binoculars.

The type of glass used in roof prisms is of less consequence than with Porro prism. Roof prisms involve more complicated engineering and have stricter tolerances on their design – these factors have a greater determination on quality. Many manufacturers

Use BaK-4 glass in their roof prism, but some manufacturers don’t release any information on the prism glass type used – it’s a trade secret.

Determining prism glass type:

BK-7 glass prism transmit a distinctive light beam shape, seen when you see the exit pupil of a binocular or scope at a distance of about 8 inches from your eye. BK-7 prisms lose some light as it passes through the prisms.

BaK-7 prisms (or other exotic prism types) transmit more of the light through the prisms, and hence feature exit pupils with a clearly defined circle.


Phase correction?

Many modern room prism binoculars advertise “phase-corrected roof prisms” but what are those? This special kind of coating corrects for an inherent flaw in all roof prism designs.

After light passes through the objective lenses, it is reflected off the mirrored surfaces of the roof prism and split into two out-of-phase beams of light. Light reflected from one roof surface is ½ of a wavelength different from the light hitting the other roof surface. This is sometimes referred to as “out of phase” or “phase shift” Although the light waves are subsequently forces back together when they reach the viewer’s eye, there is a slight reduction in image resolution and contrast.

The phase correction coating, which is applied to the mirrored surfaces of the prism, forces the light beams back into phase, thus improving a roof prism’s resolution and contrast. The coating also enhances color fidelity.

  1. Ocular lenses

The ocular lenses magnify the images that the objective lenses have transmitted. Ocular lens designs incorporate between three-to-six different lenses, but overall quality is determined mostly by the care in manufacturing and polishing of the glass and also the quality and quantity of anti-reflective coatings employed.

Many of the important optical specifications (such as field of view, eye relief, etc.) are determined primarily by the design of the ocular lenses.

Advanced image quality elements

Exit pupil

The shaft of light that meets your eye when you use a binocular or scope is its exit pupil. The exit pupil is seen by holding the binocular or spotting scope a short distance from your face.

The exit pupil should appear as a clear circle surrounded by a uniformly dark background. Exit pupil is calculated by dividing the objective lens by the magnification and is measured in millimeters. An 8×42 binocular will have an exit pupil of 5.25mm.

Why does exit pupil matter? The human eye pupil (which is controlled by the muscles of the iris) can change in size from roughly 2-8mm in diameter, depending on the lighting situations. The eye pupil dilates to about 2-3mm in regular lighting conditions, dilates out to about 4-5mm in lower light situations, further dilates to 7-8mm in near-dark conditions. A binocular will appear brightest when its exit pupil is equal to or larger than your eye pupils. This is most important when viewing in low-light conditions.


Optical Coatings

When you look at the lenses of a binocular or spotting scope, you’ll notice tints in the glass that are usually purplish/greenish in color. What you are seeing are the anti-reflective coatings that have been put on the lenses. These coatings serve to reduce light reflection and scattering at the air-to-glass surface. When light strikes uncoated glass, a percentage of it (4-5%) is reflected back from the surface, and with 10-16 air-to-glass surfaces in a pair of standard binoculars or a spotting scope, almost 50% of the light passing through uncoated optics would be lost! By applying just one layer of anti-reflection coating, loss due to reflection can be reduced 2-3%, and by applying multiple layers of coatings, light loss can be reduced to a mere .5% per surface.

Optical coatings are made from certain metallic compounds (including the compound magnesium fluoride) that are vaporized and applied to the optical glass in very thin layers (measured in microns; millionths of a meters) inside a vacuum chamber. The quality and quantity of optical coatings maters a great deal in determining how bright and sharp a binocular or spotting scope will be. There are some standardized terms concerning the level of coatings applied to binoculars and scopes. With optical coatings, more is better! With more coatings comes increase resolution, contrast, color fidelity, and increased light transmission.

-fully coated optics – All air-to-glass surfaces are coated with a anti-reflective coating film. Many modestly priced binoculars offer fully coated optics and have good but not great image quality

-multi-coated optics: One or more surfaces are coated with multiple anti-reflective coating films. Image quality with multi-coated optics can be quite good, except perhaps in lower light settings.

-fully multi-coated optics – All air-to-glass surfaces are coated with multiple anti-reflective coating films. Fully multi-coated optics offer the highest image quality.

Important optical terms:

Resolution: The ability of a binocular/spotting scope to separate and distinguish thin lines with clarity. Resolution is essentially the same as image sharpness.

Resolution test: A chart on paper containing a series of sets of lines at progressively smaller spacing and used to ascertain the limiting number of lines per millimeter that a binocular or spotting scope is capable of resolving clearly.

Contrast – The ability to distinguish differences in brightness between light and dark areas of an image. Because we see much of the color spectrum, contrast also refers to the ability to distinguish differences in dimensions of hue, saturation, and brightness or lightness. Optics with superior contrast transmit colors that appear very dense and saturated.

Transmission – The percentage of light that passes through the binocular or spotting scope and reaches the user’s eyes. With expensive optics (those that have more and better optical coatings, better optical designs, and better glass) the light transmission will be higher than it will be higher than it will be in more modestly priced optics. There is currently no universal industry standard for measuring and comparing light transmission.

Chromatic aberrations: Because different colors move at slightly different wavelengths, they will come to focus at slightly different lengths when they pass through optical glass. The resulting false colorations (seen most often as purplish and greenish ghost images) diminishes resolution and color fidelity. Chromatic aberrations will be negligible with binoculars and scopes that use better optical coatings and/or higher quality glass.

Astigmatism – The lenses used in a binocular or spotting scope usually have a curved shape, and thus all light rays passing through will not converge on the same focal plane. If this physical reality isn’t remedied in the overall optical design, a binocular or spotting scope will provide images where either the center image or the edge image is in focus, but not both (without refocusing) Astigmatism cannot be eliminated completely, but it can be kept to a minimum. Users will want to avoid binoculars or spotting scopes that exhibit too much astigmatism, as it cuts into the image quality.

Distortion: The disability of a binocular or spotting scope to deliver an image that is a true-to scale reproduction of an object. There are principally two types of distortion to be concerned with; barrel distortion (where images bow outward and look bulged), and pincushion distortion (where images bend inward). In both cases, the distortion is due to a poor or compromised optical design and any binocular or scope that exhibits distortion should be passed up.

Alignment and collimation: In binocular or spotting scope, the optical components must, for the best performance, be situated as they were initially designed. Poor or rough handling of the equipment can cause any or all of the components to become misaligned, resulting in diminished performance.

In a binocular, the optical components (primarily the prisms) in both barrels must be pointing in the exact same direction, known as collimation. Viewing through binoculars that aren’t perfectly collimated (whether they became miscollimated through poor construction or mishandling) can cause great eye strain and fatigue. Porro prism binoculars are much more susceptible to collimation issue than roof prisms. You can test a binocular for collimation by looking through them at a horizontal line (a door frame at about 15-20 feet works very well) and then slowly and carefully pulling the binocular away from your face so that you can start to see where the two exit pupils intersect. The horizontal lines in each exit pupil should match up correctly. If they do not, they are out of collimation and need repair.


How to use binoculars properly

Adjusting for your interpupillary distance.

In order to see one singular image, you must adjust the two barrels of the binocular to your interpupillary distance (the distance from left pupil to right) To do this, turn the barrels of the binocular on their central hinge until you see one singular field of view with no disturbing shadows.

Using the eyecups.

The eyecups on a binocular or spotting scope aid in maintaining proper eye relief for the user (which allows for the most comfortable and widest view) There are essentially two types of eyecup design: A flexible rubber design and a retractable design which is usually lightly rubber armored.

If you wear eyeglasses/sunglasses, rest the eyecups of the binocular/scope right up against your glasses. Since your glasses sit away from your eye, they generally provide the proper distance for seeing the full field of view comfortably. The rubber eyecup must be folded down to be able to rest on your glasses. The retractable eyecup will stay flush with the eyepiece to accommodate glasses. If the rubber eyecups aren’t folded down or the retractable eyecups are twisted out, it will appear as if you are looking through a tunnel.

If you don’t wear eyeglasses/sunglasses, you will rely on the eyecups to provide the proper distance for seeing the full field of view. The rubber eyecup stays “as is” and it fits right around your eyes, while the retractable eyecup must be twisted or pulled out fully in order to see the full field of view. If the rubber eyecup is folder down or if the retractable eyecups aren’t retracted out you will note disturbing black “crescents” in your field of view.

Many retractable eyecups offer multiple positions or “stops” With these eyecups, experiment to see which position is most comfortable for you.

Using the diopter/Focusing your binoculars.

Most binoculars feature a center focus wheel and also an adjustment ring (either on the right eyepiece or integrated into the center focus wheel) known as the diopter. The diopter adjusts fro differences between your individual eyes (many people have one eye that is “stronger” than the other). The procedure for attaining proper focal balance using the center focus wheel and the diopter is:

  1. With your right eye close (or with your hand over the right objective lens), focus your left eye on an object approximately 20 yards away with the center focus wheel unit it is in sharp focus.
  2. Now adjust for your right eye. To do this, close your left eye (or, again, place your hand over the left objective lens) and focus your right eye on the same object 20 yards away. Focus using the diopter until the object is sharply focused. Not: Some diopters have a locking feature that you’ll need to unlock before moving the diopter ring.
  3. The binoculars are no set for your eyes. Make a note of your diopter setting if you are sharing your binoculars with someone else.

What to disregard and why:

There are a number of specifications and product “features” that are often confusing or misleading which should just be ignored or avoided.

Specifications to ignore:

Twilight factor: This specification gives a measure of viewing efficiency in low lighting. The bigger the number, the more efficient (shaper) the binoculars is in low light. Twilight factor is calculated by taking the square root of the power times the objective lens diameter, so the value is usually between 12 and 25. Twilight factor is a dubious specification because it says nothing about actual optical coatings or glass quality, nor does it take into account the light transmission of the binocular.

Relative brightness: This specification is a measure of overall image brightness, and is calculated by squaring the exit pupil of the binocular. Relative brightness is misleading in that there are different binoculars that can have the same values. A 7×35 binocular and a 10×50 binocular will both have a relative brightness value of 25, but the 10×50 gather much more light than the 7×35 and will often present a bright image. It also doesn’t take into account different light transmissions.

“Features” to avoid:

Focus-free binoculars: Binoculars that offer an “instant-focus”, “permanent-focus” or “focus-free” feature are advertised in many department stores. The main reason to avoid this type of binocular is that optical quality is very poor as a result of its focus-free design. Focus-free binoculars are also often difficult to use it you wear glasses.

Ruby coated lenses: Often advertised in sporting goods stores and department stores, these are seen as bright reddish-orange coatings on the objective lenses of several binocular models. Ruby-coated lenses reflect most red out of the optical system. This skews all colors to the cool end of the spectrum and takes away from the overall brightness of the binocular.

So why use these binoculars? Shortening the color spectrum increases contrast and resolution somewhat. However, better glass and better coatings are capable of excellent contrast and resolution without giving up color and brightness.


Trade-offs

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the perfect binocular or spotting scope. In the design phase there are many inherent trade-offs that have to be made.

-The main trade off that you have to make involves objective lens size. The larger the objective lenses, the brighter and sharper the binocular/scope, thus the more useful it is, especially under low-light conditions. The larger the objective lens, however, the heavier and bulkier the binocular/scope will be, and unless you plan to hire a porter, remember that you have to carry it!

-Higher quality optical glass is by design heavier, so when it is employed the binocular/scope will weight more. Vortex incorporates lighter housing materials to offset the weight of the glass components rather than not using the heavier glass.

-There are a number of trade-offs with binoculars and scopes regarding higher magnification. With higher magnification binoculars, comes a diminished field of view, a shallower depth of field, and more chance of image shakiness. With higher magnification spotting scopes comes diminished optical quality with magnified heat waves and atmosphere dust and debris

-There are trade-offs inherent to some of the optical specifications as well. There is an inverse relationship between eye relief and field of view and close focus and depth of field. The greater the eye relief, the narrower the field of view (the wider the field of view the shorter the eye relief) Similarly, a binocular with an extreme close focus distance will generally have a shallow depth of field. More expensive scope eyepiece designs can offer good compromises and give the user very good (but not great) specifications.

The final word

For many people, this guide may only be the beginning of the journey into learning about binoculars and spotting scopes. There is a lot more information available; you need only to look for it.

 

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