Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: If you are looking for a Christmas present for your favorite sailor, or just to gift to give to your boat: Fujinon TSX1440 binoculars are awesome. They are good for ALMOST everything. Need to scan the horizon for flocks of birds to lead you to feeding tuna? Pick out that buoy against a busy background when entering a harbor? See what kind of fish they are catching on that other boat? How about what lure they caught it on? They make great birdwatching binoculars, and are even great for stargazing—even from the deck of the boat at sea. They are a great navigation and safety tool, and provide hours of entertainment as well.
Normally, the highest magnification considered useful on a small boat is 7X. Higher power binoculars are not usually much benefit on a boat–especially a small boat. The problem is that high magnification amplifies the movements of the boat–and your hands–and the image jumps around so much it is completely useless. Technology has come to the rescue with stabilized lenses. These systems use electronics to measure the movements of the binoculars, and then moves the lenses and prisms to compensate. A good pair works like magic.
If you are looking for a pair of stabilized binoculars to use on a boat, the key specification to look for is the “vibration correction range.” Many stabilized binoculars have correction ranges less than 1.5 degrees. These are really only useful for correcting hand-shake while standing on land. Great for a birdwatcher looking to use a more powerful pair of binoculars without a tripod, but not close to good enough for use on a wave-tossed boat. Three degrees is the minimum useful on the deck of a boat, and more is better. The Fujinon TSX1440 has the widest range that I know of on the recreational market of +/- 6 degrees. There is also the Fujinon TS1440 at a slightly lower price that offers +/- 5 degrees of stabilization. There are other, cheaper, stabilized Fujinons available, but the requirement they use disposable CR2 mercury batteries that are difficult to find overseas took them off our list.
Like most optical equipment, the manufactures have pretty tight control over the distribution chain, and finding a discount below the “standard” price is rare.
It is hard to describe how well this stabilization system works. When you push the button turning on the stabilization, the binoculars buzz for a second, and then suddenly the image snaps into place. It feels perfectly natural. Even in the lumpiest Gulf Stream chop you can hold these spot on the target and have a crystal clear view. Panning is smooth and natural. The optical engineers at Fuji did an AWESOME job.
The Fujinon TSX1440 takes four AA batteries. We use rechargeable Eneloop batteries from Panasonic, and they work great. It simplifies life a lot to be able to use batteries that we share with all the other things on the boat. We haven’t timed it for ourselves, but the official specification on rechargeable batteries is 22 hours of operation. That’s exceptional.
Did I mention the TSX1440 binoculars float? And are waterproof? The case and strap they come with are good. Not spectacular, but totally serviceable. If I expected to use these as birding binoculars, or for horizon scans for feeding birds I’d get a chest harness like this:
The ergonomics are a bit different than other binoculars, so they do take a bit of getting used to. For the first couple of days we had them, we kept holding them upside-down. The focus knob is also in a different place than other binoculars. Nothing with either of these is wrong, they are just different than you might be used to and will take some adjustment.
The eyepieces adjust for the distance between your eyes easily. My eyes are rather far apart, and these are quite comfortable.
If you wear glasses (as I do), you twist the eye cups and they collapse to bring your eyes closer to the lenses. Simple, and easy. You get good, full image, visibility with glasses. If you do not wear glasses, the eye cups are excellent at limiting stray light, and setting you up at the right distance from the lens for the optimum view.
There are a couple of things that are intrinsic to the higher power binocular that take some getting used to. The field of view is quite narrow (210 feet at 1000 yards) so sometimes getting the image centered on the object of interest takes a bit of searching. Depth of field at the higher magnification is a lot narrower, so you do spend a bit of time focusing the image to bring it as sharp as possible. At night, the image is not nearly as bright as we see through our Steiner Commander 7x50s. This is the most important thing that makes them our “second” pair of binoculars, and not our first.
One odd thing: There are two separate buttons. One for “power on” and a separate button to engage the stabilization mechanism. Why this should be is a mystery to me. The binoculars only do ONE thing! Why would you need two buttons?
Another minor annoyance is the lens cover. On the eye side, the design is great. The cover is attached to the strap, and is usable no matter what the distance between the eyepieces, an excellent design. On the objective side, the lens cover looks like an afterthought. It works, but… it’s not attached in any way, and will be easy to lose. Just not a design that matches the overall quality of the unit.
These do not replace a good pair of traditional 7×50 marine binoculars, but they do compliment them nicely. The wider field of view, and the much better night time performance of the 7x50s make them the choice for a boat that only has a single pair. In the time we have had them, the Fujinons have become a favorite on Harmonie. Although they are expensive, this is definitely a category of products you DO get what you pay for.
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