At work today a fellow rocket engineer asked me if I had a magnifier. I usually have some sort of lens in my office. He wanted to inspect some instrumentation hardware on which he suspected a fault. I said sure, reached into my briefcase, and handed him my Pentax Papilio binoculars. He thought I was joking, but not for long. He found these to be perfect for his task.
Is Pentax subsidizing their new Papilio binoculars? It defies the laws of opto-economics that such a precision instrument, with so much new mechanical and optical technology, can be sold at a street price of $110 (which is what I got mine for from Adorama). The sharpness and contrast are superb, starting at infinity and holding detail all the way in, closer and closer. Optically, at least in the central two-thirds of the field where all one's attention is focused, I can detect little difference between the Papilios and my current birding binoculars, Pentax 8x43 DCF SP phase-coated roofs. The Papilios focus on a close-up world inaccessible by any other binoculars. Touted as butterfly binoculars, I maintain that they are much more than that. I spent the first day with them gazing into the inside of flowers. In the process I discovered insects too small to have been detected by the naked eye. I crouched down and spent five minutes looking at a column of ants. Each ant seemed like it was an individual, with a personality. It's not only the detail, it is seeing this detail stereoscopically which is so totally mesmerizing.
Mechanically, the Papilios are without fault; in fact, they raise the bar considerably to any future competitors. The rubberized exterior is tactile and protective. The focusing wheel moves smoothly with no backlash. The twist-out eyecups have secure detents so they will not move from the selected position accidentally. The 15mm of eye relief is just sufficient to allow full-field viewing with my eyeglasses on, but the view is slightly better with eyeglasses off, so I appreciate the ease with which the switchover can be effected. The body of the binoculars has a socket on each side, for attaching (or detaching) the neckstrap with a simple bush of a button. This socket arrangement is ingenious; no more fumbling trying to thread a strap through a body lug.
When using these binoculars in the close-up realm, the view is enhanced by using them on a tripod. Pentax makes this easy -- there is a tripod socket built right into the bottom. For 6x or 8x binoculars, this must be another first. I find the perfect tripod is a Velbon Ultra Maxi, with a small ball head. With this as my outfit I can set up, crouch down (or stand up) and have a rock-steady gaze on a flower or insect.
Of the two Papilios, I own the 6.5x21, which I selected for its larger exit pupil than the 8.5x21. Serial number is 100681. I infer there are at least 680 other owners who are as happy as I am with these, the best binoculars you will ever buy.
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