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THE OUTDOORS ALMANAC | FIRST LOOK

Zoom without the bulk

October 11, 2005|Scott Doggett | Times Staff Writer

BRUNTON'S Epoch Zoom binoculars are in a class all their own.

They are the only zoom binoculars on the market that are waterproof, lightweight, built like a tank, feature the best optics available and are no bulkier than a Tom Clancy paperback. Their impressive zoom capability (from eight through 15 power) negates the need for hunters and bird watchers to lug around a spotting scope and tripod.

With these binoculars, it's possible to scan a meadow or tree line for bucks and, when one is seen, zoom in to count the points of its antlers. The included chest straps keep the optics at hand yet off the neck for convenience and comfort.

So far, so good. But here's the bad -- $1,899. That's their price. Add tax and the cost tops two grand, or enough dough to fly to Paris twice.

Moreover, the Zoom doesn't zoom all that much -- from 273 feet at 1,000 yards at 8X to 210 feet at 1,000 yards at 15X. If these numbers leave you scratching your head, think of it this way: When looking through the binoculars at a stand of 200 trees, you'll be able to zoom down to 40 or 50 trees, but you won't be able to zoom down to an individual tree.

But the Zoom wasn't designed for super-power plays. Binoculars that could zoom from a view of 200 trees down to a single tree would be substantially larger and heavier and would be impossible to hold steady.

A note of caution: Even the Zoom requires a fairly steady hand. When hiking, I found it difficult to come to an abrupt stop, with pulse racing, and focus on a bird at 15X.

But once my hand steadied, I could view in sharp focus a bird, a flower or other distant object at 15 power. And I found I could zoom from 8X through 15X and back without having to refocus.

But clearly, at 15X, I was at the edge of my range; I couldn't have held a 20X binocular steady enough to use it. For field use without a tripod, I wouldn't recommend a more powerful binocular.

These are excellent zoom binoculars, with just about the right power, but at a hefty price.

Bottom line: If you don't need to zoom, there are excellent fixed-power binoculars on the market -- among them Brunton's Eterna High Power 15X -- for a third of the Zoom's price.

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