View Full Version : Binoculars

04-11-2021, 12:01 PM
Looking for advice/suggestions on quality compact binoculars to be used while flying

04-11-2021, 06:54 PM
While actually in flight? Or just to have with you after you land?

I used to fly Army observation helicopters. Trying to use even moderately-powerful binoculars in flight was an exercise in frustration, as the slightest "bounce" in the airframe resulted is wild swings in the optics... It was a recipe for intense headaches! The solution (thanks to Uncle Sam's $$$) was a gyro-stabilized monocular that held itself pretty steady even as the helicopter bounced around all over the place. But those were not remotely "compact" and were quite heavy to boot... We used a bungee cord connected to the overhead "helmet hooks" to help support some of the weight. And they required a power supply because the motor that ran the gyro was quite power-hungry!

I've got a pair of Leupold Marksman 10x42 binoculars that are waterproof, reasonably light, reasonably powerful, and work pretty well in low-light conditions. In fairness, I have NOT tried to use them in flight, but have taken them with me on every backcountry flight, just to have them once on the ground. IIRC, I purchased them at Cabelas around Christmas time a few years ago, when they were on sale for about 1/2 price.

I've also have a smaller, lighter pair of Samsung 8x21 binoculars that I used for years, but no longer enjoy using after seeing how much better the Leupolds really are. The 8x21s are "pocket-able" but I never even considered taking them with me anywhere... Nothing wrong them, really - it's just so much easier to acquire the target, and the field of view is so much bigger with the Leupolds that I just don't like using the Samsungs anymore. Plus, I wear glasses, and the Leupolds work well with them, whereas the Samsungs don't allow for that longer eye relief.

04-12-2021, 05:27 AM
I agree with Jim.
If you wish to try a set of stabilized binoculars they are pricey. These work well on a boat: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/206833-USA/Fujinon_7511440_14x40_TS1440_Techno_Stabi_Image.ht ml
55214 I can't imagine being able to fly the airplane while using the stabilized binoculars at the same time. Their field of vision is too small to easily find what you are looking for while bouncing around in an airplane or on a boat. Once you have locked on to your objective they do provide a very good stable picture.

04-12-2021, 05:31 AM
I recently bought a Kowa BD II 32XD binocular. Very happy with it: clear and bright image quality, easy to focus, good construction. Haven’t tried using it while airborne, but it might not suffer the problems that Jim Parker described in his post. Roughly as big as a stack of three slices of bread. Bought it from one of the NYC camera stores.

If the Kowa doesn’t fit your needs you might be able to find other candidates discussed on birding forums. Those folks seem to spend a lot of time investigating binoculars.

04-12-2021, 05:45 AM
Looking for advice/suggestions on quality compact binoculars to be used while flying
fly lower

04-12-2021, 07:56 AM
I've carried different monocular and binocs for decades for use in flight, and for sure there are conditions where they are worthless, other times quite handy. I use them, and I'm not making this up, for reading the fuel prices at various gas stations when I'm flying into a new area and plan on getting some mogas, doing so has saved me enough money to more than pay for the ocular equipment, plus it's fun. I use them more often nowadays to read the contractor's name on their work trailers on a construction site, to see if it's someone I want to hustle up some crane work from, or not. Better be smooth air, and the lower the better, goes without saying. I currently have a small folding pair of binocs, brand unknown, small and light enough to always have onboard.

04-12-2021, 07:57 AM
Hard to beat the high end European glass, Swarovski, Leica, etc., as far as quality, but might be a bit spendy to be bouncing around in the plane. Leupold is very good also, and their lifetime warranty is great. They also have a discount program that you, or someone close to you qualifies for. Law enforcement, military, outfitter/guide, etc... get a pretty healthy discount.

04-12-2021, 08:37 AM
FYI, a passenger trying to use binoculars in flight is a recipe for creating the “Technicolor Yawn”. Unless they have an absolutely cast iron stomach, be careful. And, keep the top button on your shirt buttoned, lest your back need “freshening”.


04-12-2021, 11:34 AM
Have used Canon 10x stabilized bino's quite a bit. Work well for short viewing times.55217

04-12-2021, 07:21 PM
Thank you all, very useful feedback. Finding a target and focusing in a quick moment is my challenge. It's possible that my binocs are not the issue, and I just need more practice. I have tried using my low quality binocs with little success, so I'm contemplating a higher quality pair. In some instances I would like the ability to view something quickly vs. circling and flying lower. Wildlife and windsocks for example. I hate to admit it, but my Chuck Yeager like eye site has diminished.

By the way, I appreciate and enjoy this site immensely. I own and operate a C180 and find the topics of discussion here both useful and entertaining.

Thanks again,

04-12-2021, 08:38 PM
When I was a LEO in FL , I flew nights a lot hunting for bad guys. I used a pair of 7x 30 compact. I would turn the lights about off in the cockpit and fly with one tube and watch the instruments with my other eye. Helped when switching between eyes and focusing. Didn’t work very well trying to use both tubes and going back to the panel.