But even at a dealer’s location, there are some tests that may help you.
For example, check ease of focus. With the Steiner Commander XP
series once you’ve focused at approximately 50 yards, the set is focused
for you from around 20 yards to infinity. Another test you can do is to
hold the binoculars at arm’s length, with the eyepieces facing you. Look
through them at a light object such as a white wall. You are more likely
to see a true circular image if there is good prism and optical design.
And if you see a band of color perhaps somewhat like a rainbow at the
edge of light-colored objects, this may indicate deficiency in the areas of
sharpness and detail. A knowledgeable dealer should be able to assist
you in making evaluations, particularly if he sells more than one brand.
BEAR WITH ME
There are two additional features that you should consider: an illuminated bearing compass or stabilization. Stabilization has obvious benefits,
is usually achieved electronically, requires batteries, and is impressive to
use. Look at the vertical range of stabilization. If it’s less than plus- or
minus- 5 degrees, you may be disappointed.
The bearing compass allows you to line up your target with a compass reading usually appearing at the bottom of your view. Look for the
type of battery it uses (backlit for night use), the extent to which, if any,
the compass readout at the bottom of your view interferes with your
view, the ease of aligning the compass reading with the target, and the
extent to which the compass is dampened. Too much or too little dampening will make it harder to get a real-time reading on a distant object.
NO PERFECT PAIR
We haven’t found a set that incorporates both of the above features
as the components of the stabilizing equipment, such as electronics,
would interfere with the compass in a bearing finder. Also, com-
mon sense dictates that if an image is stabilized, a bearing finder
compass won’t be able to give a real-time bearing, which could
mean that the bearing is inaccurate with perhaps disastrous
Tom Neale is a BoatU.S. Magazine contributing editor and a key
member of our “Ask The Experts” tech team.
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