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    My long distance eyesight is getting worse with age. I would like to invest in a good pair of binoculars for model tracking… must have an accurate built-in compass. Do the members here have any recommendations?

    Dick Ivers

    Norm Furutani

    This is from a thread on HPA. FYI there are several compass equipped binos, but have separate lens focusing rather than center focus.


    Binos and Tripods v.2

    Binoculars – They’re like shoes, one size doesn’t fit all. I borrowed a pair of very expensive Leitz binos and thought these should be great – couldn’t see worth darn. So I went to a telescope/bino specialty store and tried all there different types/brands. A very know legible sales person explained some of the differences. The problem I was having was the distance from the rear lens to my pupil. When he figured out what I needed he selected a pair and like a good shoe, they just fit. They were very comfortable and I felt like I was inside the glasses. So I suggest you try different binos. Using a recommendation from someone else or buying without trying can be less than satisfactory.

    I would say at least 8 power, wide angle. I use a 10X50. 10X is very hard to hand hold, especially for those 9+ min. fly-off flights!

    If you need distance glasses, you need to have binos that work with your glasses on.

    Tripods – I really rec a tripod over a monopod. If you lose the plane, you can sweep the sky by panning left/right, add a few degrees up/down and pan again. Once you acquire the plane, you can take your eyes off it for a moment and it will still be there.

    The problem with tripods is many are not tall enough to be comfortable while standing. They are OK if looking straight and level, but you need to acquire the plane while it is close to you, which means looking up. I prefer to stand, because you maximize the time you can see the plane. I added an extension below the pan head.

    The pan head I adjust so it moves easily but if I release the handle it will stay in the last position. I also use the pan head backwards so the handle is facing forward, otherwise the handle bumps into your throat.

    The bino mount – A standard bino mount is too tall, when you tilt from looking up to looking at the horizon the rear lens height changes a lot. The closer the eye piece is to the tripod pivot the better. You go from stooping to look up to on your tiptoes at the horizon. I minimized this effect by shortening the mount so it just clears the pan head. A cranking elevation post helps.

    In use I leave the binos locked in the last position. This way when the flyer comes back five minutes later saying he lost his plane, you can go to the binos and show him (or yourself) exactly where it landed or was last seen.

    – Norm Furutani

    Good points Norm. I use a pare of Astronomy binocs and a Monopod. It works for me but your last point of leaving the binocs pointing where the plane went is excellent.

    The astronomy binoculars are nice because you get excellent optics at a nice price point. They don’t come with a built in compass though. I like my Orion Mini giant 9×63 due to the large field of vision and the weight isn’t to bad. You will need some support for those long flights though. If I ever need to replace them I would consider the Orion Giant 15×70.

    As Norm said make sure you try out the binocular so that they will work for you.

    What Norm was writing about is called eye relief. If you wear glasses you need a long eye relief eye piece, that is over 17mm focal length. Spotting scopes are same requirement for eye relief. I use LER scope for spotting shots when target shooting. Power is 27x and scope has interchangeable eye pieces. Was expensive (for me) but sold it to management so she could use it for bird watching too. My scope is a Kowa TS 2 , model no longer made but at time was considered top of mid priced scopes. Has 45 deg offset eye piece and is easy & comfortable to use when pointed up, lower tripod height. Have had this scope for about 20 years and has traveled all over the western US.

    Most of the cheaper binos / scopes are around 10 mm focal length eye piece. If glasses user (even sun glasses) you will lose about 40-50 % field of view and are hard to use. Most stores just sell the stuff and don’t know diddle about the technical side. Web sites for binos/ scopes have all the data.



    From experience a magnification over 7 or 8 is hard to hold steady by hand; I use 7 x 50s (almost a night glass, and good for poor light conditions) or an 8 x42. While a pair with a built-in compass sounds useful, be aware that ferrous spectacle frames (even pushed on top of the head) or a walkie-talkie near your mouth may cause errors. I personally prefer to note a downwind landmark or the binoc. compass reading and then set that bearing on a hand held marching compass. That way you don’t even need to remember the bearing, – it’s set by the bezel. Turn 180 degrees and note a landmark upwind on the reciprocal bearing, in other words move yourself till the north end of the compass needle points to the 180 degree or south mark on the bezel, and then note what’s upwind of you. Taking that compass with you when you go off downwind means that you can check you’re on the correct line by referring to either the downwind or the upwind landmark.

    Derek McGuckin

    I replaced my monopod with a tripod. I still use my Orion Mini Giant 9×63. Nice optics at a decent price point. No integrated compass but that’ isn’t a problem because I shoot a bearing with a hand held and take it with me on retrieve. I leave the binocs at the last setting in case I need to get a new bearing. I plan on using a compass app on my iPhone so I can keep a better line. Haven’t worked all that out yet though.

    Mike Schwartz

    Binoculars are only as good as the lens quality. Better binoculars of course cost more then the cheap ones but the lens quality is the most important factor. I use a Nikon 7×50 7.5 WP Binoculars. They are a wide angle lens and it is much easier to find a model in the glide then a more narrow lens. Each lens is fully adjustable. They are expensive costing 500 dollars. It does not have a compass, but a cheap easy fix is to get a small pocket compass from a sporting goods store. The small ones are about the size of a quarter and can be mounted to your binocular using two-sided tape. I use a tri-pod to hold them. I use a video tri-pod rather then a camera tri-pod as they have a pan head feature which allows you to follow the model in flight. The video pan head has a handle which you hold and follow the model. It also will lock the binocular in place when you release the trigger on it. It is a simple one hand operation. I also leave the binoculars locked on to the last viewing position in case you lose track of the model in flight or on the ground. Another viewing aid which I just started using is a pair of sunglasses that fit over my regular prescription glasses. The brand I use is called “Fitovers”. I got them at Cabelas Sporting Goods and they cost 25.00 dollars. They also make a line of glasses that are more expensive but the less expensive ones work very well. You can google them for more info. You can wear them even if you dont wear glasses. They are very lightweight and you can wear them all day long and you dont even now you have them on. They have a polarized lens and are available in various lens colors. I choose the amber lens as this works the best on bright sunny days and overcast conditions. They just elimanate the glare from the sun and the haze. The model just stands out when you are looking at it. Plus at the end of the day your eyes are not tired from looking at the sun and straining your eyes looking for your plane in the haze. They make a large range of frames so it is best to go try some on to see which ones you are comfortable with.

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