November 30th, 2005, 08:07 PM
I'm frustrated with my current binoculars and looking to upgrade, but I'd also like a rangefinder while already frustrated by feeling like I'm needing a wheelbarrow to cart everything to the stand. Without spending $1,000; how good are the binocular / range finder combination units and what would be your recommendation?
November 30th, 2005, 08:30 PM
My feeling on these units (even the expensive Leica's, Swarovski's, etc) are DON'T. Its simple to me... why would you by something that will last a lifetime (the binoculars) and incorporate something into them that will be obsolete within the next few years (the range-finder). Electronics technology is advancing by leaps and bounds and I promise the range finders in these units will be dinosaurs within the next 5 years.
Just my $.02
November 30th, 2005, 10:52 PM
I sold my rangefinder a couple of years ago to get the wind river combo's and I am so glad I did. Its lighter than my bino's and the glass ain't that bad. Now I bought mine on ebay ($450) but even at the retail price they would be worth it to me. The convenience is the main reason I bought them. I have a pair of Nikon Monarch's and the glass quality is comparable. I've never tried the other RFB's so I don't know how the wind river's compare with the bushnell's and so forth. I went with the wind river model because its lighter and its a fixed focus so its just like looking through an 8x rangefinder. I wouldn't trade it!
November 30th, 2005, 11:06 PM
I got tired of toting rangefinder and binos, so I bought the Wind River. For me and the hunting I do (mostly out west), the $700 was well worth it.
Will post my write up below. (Apologies in advance if the website deletes all the paragraph marks.)
Gear Report: Wind River RB 800 Laser Rangefinder Ė Binocular
Iím a big believer in rangefinders. When bowhunting, for any shot past 20-25 yards an error of more than a few yards can mean a miss or óeven worseó a bad hit. When rifle hunting across canyons or other deceptive terrain, it helps oneís confidence to know exactly how much to hold over. Equally as important, theyíre great for improving your estimating skills in the off-season.
For the last six years Iíve owned two different Bushnell rangefinders. They were fine for determining distances, but the cheapo 4X monocular left a lot to be desired, especially during the dim first and last hour of the day when hunting is best. Because carrying binoculars and a rangefinder around my neck was clumsy, noisy, and heavy, I usually ended up toting just the rangefinder. (Anyone want a good price on nearly new binos?) Until recently, your only option for quality optics in a rangefinder was the Leica Geovid, a $3,000 unit that weighed a hefty three pounds. Bushnell came out with a $600 rangefinder/bino about two years ago, but it was bulky, heavy (34 oz.), and the lenses were etched with distracting graphics, so I waited for something better. When Wind River, a subsidiary of trusted optics manufacturer Leupold, introduced the 8x32RB 800, I soon ordered one from Cabelaís.
Unlike magazine reviews on this unit, which were little more than glorified press releases, this report is based on four different hunts (javelina, wild boar, caribou, and elk) over the last year. Letís start with the positives.
PROS: Itís light; only 23 oz. sans strap.
Itís claimed to be waterproof, and although I didnít leave it in a stream overnight, it functioned fine through several days of cold rain in Wyoming.
My eyes arenít good enough to pass judgment on the optical quality, but an eagle-eyed friend of mine gave them a thumbs up.
Unlike my Bushnells, the reticle actually points to the same spot as the laser.
It reads accurately to within one yard (the Bushnells always indicated one yard short of actual). It works reliably at over 600 yards, although Iíve occasionally obtained readings at almost 1,000 yards.
The rubber armor prevents game-spooking noise when it touches shirt buttons, game calls, or knapsack buckles.
The neoprene strap is one of the best Iíve ever seen; wide, soft, and very comfortable.
The readout shuts off after ten seconds, thereby increasing battery life. A battery life warning flashes when juice is low. (Iíd prefer a gauge that indicates charge across the entire range from new to empty, but an idiot light is better than nothing.) The buttons are fairly easy to push, even with gloves on.
Each eyecup is individually focused, and detents keep them in locked in place. (No more constantly fiddling with focus.)
NEUTRAL: The red LED readout is easier to read in low light than the black LCD of my Bushnells, but harder to see mid-day. (I think itís a good trade-off.)
It operates on one SF123A 3-volt lithium battery (same as used in Surefire flashlights), which isnít available at every 7-11 store, but it lasts quite a while.
Iíd prefer 8x40s for slightly better low light visibility, but the 8x32 configuration of this unit worked pretty well.
It comes with a nice hard case, but it wonít close over the rangefinder with the strap attached, so why did Leupold even bother?
The cost is $700, but that was worth it to me to have a single unit with good glass and rangefinding capability. For another $100 you can get a built-in electronic compass, but I saw no need for it when I already had a much cheaper, non-battery dependent compass in my pocket.
CONS: No lens caps! Whose brilliant idea was that? After all, they must cost the princely sum of maybe five cents apiece! Whatís the point of having a waterproof unit if you canít keep rain off the lens? (Iíll need to get some scrap plastic make a one-piece unit that slides down the straps and covers both eyecups like Pentax and other brands. It wonít look pretty, but itíll work.) For the cost of the useless hard case Leupold couldíve afforded a whole pile of decent lens caps.
Once the unit shuts off, you have to wait several seconds before taking another reading. (This probably wonít affect you during a hunt, but you need to allow for it when walking around practicing your estimating skills.)
Even with the eyecups fully extended, the top of my nose would sometimes brush against the bottom of the unit. Once I was absolutely sure I was going to keep the unit (Cabelaís has a great return policy) I used a half-round file to shave away a little material. This worked fine for me, whose schnoz is slightly larger than average, but you may be out of luck if your last name is Onassis or Durante.
Occasionally the yards/meter button will get pushed accidentally, but observing the readout will tip you off to this. (This also happened on my Bushnells, and one time even resulted in me making a low hit. Fortunately I still recovered the deer.) Jingoistic side comment: This is Amurica, dammit! We use good olí yards here; we donít need no stinking meters!
After about eight months, I noticed that the batteries didnít seem to last long. On my September elk trip, I had to change the batteries almost weekly, even though I hadnít used it much. On my January hog hunt (one year after purchase), I was putting in a new battery on a daily basis. On my February bison hunt, it failed me completely at the worst possible time (right before the shot). I returned it to Leupold, and a week later they sent me a brand new one.
CONCLUSION: The Wind River RB 800 isnít perfect, but for me it has been well worth the money. A treestand hunter who already owns a rangefinder and binos probably wonít need one, but it works great for still hunting in open country. If I lost mine today, Iíd buy another one tomorrow, which is something I canít say about some of my other outdoor gear.