I paid Rs. 65,000 for mine in April, 2002. It was a slightly used one, but I didn't mind that as a brand new Leica Trinovid was beyond my reach. Before this, I had two binoculars—Bresser "Shark" 7 x 24, and Bresser 7 x 50 "Action"—both received as birthday gifts when I was younger. Sadly, both of these didn't stand my abuse under field conditions for long.
So, I found myself in the market for a pair of binocs again.
For much of my early years as a budding bird watcher—I used no optical aids—for reasons beyond my control. A proof for this is this picture taken on 11 May, 1990 on my first trip to Horton Plains National Park. (I am the sweetest one of the lot.)
This highland trip was led by the bloke in shorts—one Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi—who as this picture
Kelum (ayya) is a celebrated biologist in Sri Lanka now. He has discovered and described countless number of vetebrates new to science from Sri Lanka, and have gone on to author, and co-author papers such as this, this, this, this and this.
By the way, today marks 19 years since my first trip to the Sinharaja rain forest. It was with the school's nature club from 23-25 April, 1990. I will be making a private trip to Sinharaja to celebrate this special anniversary, later this month.
Coming back to binocs, in late February, 2009, I treated myself for a Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42.
Being a top of the range binocs, it came at a big price tag of $1,660.(It was actually $1,825, but I got this special deal thanks to Ben Allen). However, its superior light gathering power—helpful in low-light conditions, increased depth of field and jaw-dropping overall optical quality amply justified the premium price that I paid for this toy.
As a naturalist guide, I often find myself birding in dense and dimly-lit rain forests conditions. I have experienced that the visual clarity of this binoculars is markedly better in dimly-lit conditions compared to my previous model. This was really evident when I trained my new toy on the cryptically-coloured Sri Lanka Scaly Thrush at the Sinharaja rain forest during a recent tour. The light garthering power was just amazing.
In early this month, having arrived early at Haputale to pick up a few bird watchers to start a tour, I found myself birding in their hotel gardens. There, I picked a pair of Tickell's Blue Flycatchers down a ravine. When I focused on one of them, I was simply blown away by the vivid colours that I was seeing. I have seen this bird for many years; however, it has never occured to me before that this bird has such a gorgeous blue patch in the forehead. Perhaps, I may have overlooked this feature before.
According to the specifications, the Swarovski EL binoculars allows a minimum close focusing distance of 8ft, which is ideal for odonatoholics like me. This excellent review says that you can achieve a minimum focus of 7 feet, which I think is probably right although I have never measured it precisely.
If you are an avid bird watcher who is in the market for a pair of binoculars, prefer nothing but the best, and don't mind paying a little more in exchange of quality optical experiences, go for these.
I like this comment mentioned by a reviewer in Amazon:
"Looking through these things is like ingesting some kind of powerful drug. One is transported into a new reality, one in which even mundane objects become endlessly interesting..."
So, what is your binocular?