Pros: Inexpensive, short close focus range, lightweight, average size, fully-coated optics, good image resolution and clarity
Cons: BK-7 porro prisms
About six months ago, I purchased my first house. A couple of the major selling points of the house were a nice sized back yard and mature trees with lots of shade. After only a few weeks, I found myself wishing that I had a decent pair of binoculars to watch the wide variety of birds that populate the area during the summer months. There is also a rare albino squirrel that frequently hangs out in my back yard. So I did some research, and finally decided on the Bushnell NatureView 8x40 Birder Binoculars.
Out of the Box...
I ordered these binoculars from Amazon.com. I have had good luck with Amazon, I often get free shipping, and products usually arrive quickly. In this case, their price was the lowest that I could find.
My first impression was that these were nice looking conservatively styled binoculars. They are approximately six inches tall and six inches wide, making them large enough to feel comfortable in two hands. These binoculars weigh in at a mere 18.3 ounces. With a weight of just over one pound, I have no difficulty holding these binoculars steady for reasonable periods of time. The color is black and the body appears to be made mainly of plastic, which helps explain the light weight. While the body seems fairly sturdy, I do not think they would survive too many falls from more than a few feet above the ground. Also included in the box are lens covers, a lens cleaning cloth, a neck strap, and a black nylon carrying case.
...And into the Back Yard
These binoculars feel very light in my hands, and have good overall ergonomic design that makes them comfortable to hold. I have spent several hours watching various small birds and squirrels. Images are very clear and bright. The NatureView series binoculars have fully coated optics to provide better images in low-light situations. Focusing is done via a center focus knob. The center focus knob allows for very precise focusing, but it takes a few seconds to focus. The focus knob has a good amount of texture to make focusing easier.
The 8X magnification is powerful enough to get a better view of the neighborhood wildlife, however I do often wish that they were a bit more powerful. Because these binoculars were designed with Birders in mind, they have a close focus range of 14 feet. This is really useful when you want a better look at something nearby, such as a butterfly. The close focus range and magnification are a bit of a trade-off: usually more powerful binoculars have a longer close focus range.
As implied by the 8x40 in the title, these binoculars have 40mm diameter objective lenses. Larger objective lenses allow more light to enter the binoculars. More light entering the binoculars means greater potential resolution. The 40mm lenses on these binoculars are a good compromise, since they are large enough to let in sufficient light, but not so large that I need to use steroids to hold the binoculars up for more than a few seconds.
The NatureView series use porro prisms, which are an older design and less expensive type of prism. Most high-end birding binoculars use roof prisms. While the porro prisms are a cheaper alternative, they still provide good performance. These binoculars also use BK-7 glass for the prisms. Higher quality binoculars feature a high-density glass called BAK-4. Again, this is a price compromise.
Other Important Features
The NatureView 8x40 Birders have eyecups that fold down for people that wear glasses. There is also a diopter ring on the right eyepiece that allows you to adjust to your necessary correction if you want to use the binoculars without your glasses. The eye relief is 12mm, which is slightly better than average. Eye relief is very important if you wear glasses. Average eye relief is about 9-13mm. Binoculars specifically designed for use with eyeglasses often have eye relief of 14mm or more. So these binoculars would cause slightly less eye strain than average, but if you wear glasses and plan on using binoculars a lot you might want to research more specialized models.
If you are a serious bird watcher or naturalist, you are probably going to want to check out higher-end binoculars. However, these binoculars are a good choice for people who just want to look at distant objects occasionally. They are lightweight, average size, and provide a nice clear image with good resolution. The biggest advantage of these binoculars lies in their price. Since they qualified for free shipping, I paid a total of only $34.99! Considering the price, I think the price/performance ration is quite good. I would recommend the Bushnell NatureView 8x40 Birder to anyone who wants a decent set of binoculars for a very reasonable price.