Thursday, June 01, 2006

Papilio Binoculars Review

I'll admit it. My heart doesn't lie solely in the avian world. In the late spring and into the fall, my eyes are also peeled for butterflies, dragonflies, and any other creatures that might appear. My birding binoculars only have a close focus of 6 feet at best, not the ideal distance to see the details on these critters. A loop is nice for close-up views of flowers and things that don't run away at the sight of humans, but not ideal for butterflies and dragonflies. After doing some research, I came across Pentax's Papilio series of binoculars. These compact binoculars are designed specifically for butterflying - hence the name which is Latin for "butterfly". They come in two sizes: 8.5x21 and 6.5x21 (the 8.5 and 6.5 being the magnification). The Papilios are built with a special mechanism that allows you to get extremely close focus while looking through both eyes. The Pentax site lists the close focus at 1.6 feet. In my experience, I've been able to see things at around 16 inches from the exit pupil. At around 10 oz. the Papilios are also very lightweight and can easily be carried along with your regular birding binoculars or a camera or even thrown in a pocket. The 8.5's retail for about $150 and the 6.5's are around $130. With a little searching (AKA a visit to the "rainforest"), you can find them for much less.

After reading some online reviews, I decided to purchase the 6.5's due to their wider field of view - 393 feet at 1000 yards vs. 315 feet for the 8.5's. I thought this would make it easier to find bugs when at the closest focusing ranges. My experience so far has been great. I've observed many wildflowers that were off the trail in order to count their petals or get a closer look at their leaves. I've also seen stunning details on butterflies and dragonflies while trying to identify them from afar. At times I wish I had the 8.5's so I could just carry these around and not have my birding binoculars, but the weight hasn't bothered me and I think the field of view makes up for it. If you're used to the crystal clear image in your high-priced binoculars, you may not be happy with what you see through the Papilios. The image may not be as sharp, but these binoculars also don't cost as much as a down payment on a house. One more thing worth mentioning is that these are not waterproof. I look at this as a very minor inconvenience for two reasons. First, they fit in my pocket if it rains. Second, dragonflies and butterflies aren't usually out in the rain, so I wouldn't bring them out if it was raining.

If you're into bugs as much as birds and you want to get a closer look at their world, these bins may suit you well.

That tape measure reads about 15.5"

1 comment:

MojoMan said...

It never even occurred to me that there were binoculars just for butterflies. Thanks!