Optics [Updated Jan-2019]

  ➛ ➛ From our list of Stuff we have and use [and do...] in the right sidebar ➛ ➛   

This is part of a series describing some of our common items we use onboard.

We refer to these often not only for our own use, but also when asked specific questions about systems on Denali Rose, and when participating in discussions on various forums.

We aren't implying our choices are the best or only way to go; they just happen to be the decisions we made...



We travel with 5 pair binoculars: each of us has our own 7 x 50 Steiners [with integrated compass]; we share one Fujinon 12 x 32 image stabilized pair; and a couple of our older 7 x 50 manual focus models for guests who don't bring their own...

Our primary day-to-day choice is the Steiner Navigator Pro C 7x50 [not 7 x 30...] binoculars with lighted compass [and range/size reticule.] We each have our own pair. One is the West Marine branded version, the other Steiner; they are identical except for the labeling. 

We love them, and each pair has a built-in compass so we can provide magnetic coordinates when asked "...where away?"  
For example: 
Orcas at 2 o-clock, a ways out... OR... Orcas @ 231°M; Range ~300 yards...
Waterproof. Submersion rated. Fog proof. Durable. Factory support [including refurbishing] available. [No models are ever obsoleted from factory refurbishment.] 

They are well balanced: Even the Admiral [who admits to having less upper body strength and stamina than I do...] has no issue using her pair for long periods of time. 

These are the mid range model at about half the price of the next model up: the Steiner Commander- which are half again the cost of the Steiner Commander Global model... [See how this works?]

The 7 x 50s are excellent in low light [long after we can no longer see objects with our naked eyes... The 7 x 30s would not have this same light gathering capability; hence why we bought the 7 x 50s.]  

Why not 10 x 50s?  We find we cannot hold binoculars above 7 power steady enough on the boat to keep things in focus— unless they have electronic image stabilization... [more below...]

The lighted [night vision preserving] compass is well dampened and accurate [at least our pair always agree- even if the binocular users don't...] However, one major difference between the Commander Global model and the other Steiner models is the digital compass on the Commander Global is world usable: the Navigator Pro compasses are regionalized and require factory swap-out if one travels around the globe*. 

Here is the link to the Steiner model comparison chart.
A point worth noting: Using the [infinite focus] Steiners at sea, you never have to wonder if you missed something because your manual depth of focus was not set properly... You will clearly see anything in view when scanning the horizon. We feel this is an important safety feature.

The trade-off for this infinite focus with our Steiner 7x50s is they won't focus closer than ~20 meters, so we use the designated Fujinons or one of the 'guest' binoculars [with manual focus] when inspecting the rig from the deck or other close quartered objects.

RE: Purchasing Steiner binoculars in the US: we did business with this company which sells discounted Steiner binos that are factory refurbished, factory sealed, and open box [demo] units- all with factory warranties. 

They were good to work with, and we wouldn't hesitate to do so again.

Otherwise, there is always Amazon...

We also have a pair of image stabilizing electronic binoculars. Wow. How did we ever get along without a pair of these?  When everything is moving and you need to be able to focus on a distant object [e.g., buoy number, boat or ship name, floating object, etc.] these make a difference.

We decided upon the Fujinon Techno Stabi JR 12 x 32 binos [3rd party review] This model was a very worthwhile feature/pricepoint compromise for us at the time we acquired them. [Jan-2018] The price was excellent [US$400] and they were among the few that were actually rated water and fog proof... The next Fujinon model is 14 x 40, and it was tempting. However, at more than twice the price of the 12 x 32 model, not justifiable for our current needs.

The Fujinons have a pushbutton to enable stabiliation- and it shuts off automatically a minute after you finish using stabilization. You can also hold the button in to put stabilization into turbo mode [my term...] when things are really bouncy. [The impression is as though you are experiencing live slow motion...] You can also use them without stabilization. 

We also looked at some of the higher power Cannon models [primarily for use on land; e.g., birding, wildlife viewing, etc.] They are beautiful pieces of equipment, but we found the optics a bit fussier [i.e., you had to hold them very still for the stabilization to work well...] We also found if you panned quickly, the stabilization would 'over run' what you were tracking, then return back after a small delay. [Vertigo anyone?] That didn't happen with the Fujinons...  And with the substationally higher price and lack of waterproof rating, we set them aside... for now...

Accessories and Expendables:

  • We prefer a shaped flotation collar/neck strap [i.e., curved vs. straight made of bright color neoprene] for comfort and retrievability from the water... [Make sure the collar has enough buoyancy to float the binos you have...]
  • The compass lights on our Steiner Navigator binoculars use CR1225 batteries. [They last several years for us...]


From Steiner's FAQs
In order to get an accurate compass-heading reading from a compass, the magnetic needle in the compass must be able to move freely inside the compass capsule. The needle must be balanced to make sure it can move freely, without touching and dragging along the top or bottom of the capsule; while consistently and precisely point to a compass-heading. 
The compass industry has divided the earth into 5 zones. Your compass is pre-set for the magnetic field in the northern hemisphere (Zone 2). If you sail too far outside of the pre-set zone, the compass needle might stick or not work at all. Many trans-oceanic sailors will take 2 or 3 binoculars with different zones. [Or spend the money on a pair of Steiner Commander Global binoculars...] 
Changing compass modules is not a DIY project. You can send your binoculars to our Service Center if you need a different compass zone.

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