Thursday, February 09, 2006

SHOT Show 2

Oh. My. Goodness. SHOT Show is quite the spectacle. On the first day of the 28th annual trade show for shooters and hunters, I managed to visit only 14 of the more than 20 optics booths amid the bonanza of booths in the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Fortunately, I wasn’t alone during today’s scavenger hunt for the booths and their new binoculars. Cynthia Fox—a very fun Wild Bird Center owner from Chapel Hill, N.C.—provided laughter, commentary and tips about surviving the show. Thank you, Clay Taylor, for recommending that Cynthia and I join forces for the day.

She and I met at the Minox booth, where we learned of the new HG series. HG stands for High Grade, and the series features a distance scale on the focus wheel and includes two models—8.5x43 and 10x43—suitable for birders.

At the Brunton booth, Cynthia and I saw the new head lamps, perhaps of interest to owlers? Jason Kintzler told us that a 7.5x43 Epoch will appear on the market in April. (Click on the images for larger versions.)

I also was intrigued by the camouflage Epochs and Eternas, this being the first time that camo bins have crossed my path. Will birders embrace this attempt to make bins less obtrusive in the field?

The camo color scheme appeared at the Bushnell booth, too, on the new Excursion, available in 8x32, 10x32, 8x42 and 10x42 models. Bushnell also introduced a 2.5x doubler for its Elite line.

At the Leupold & Stevens booth, Cynthia and I saw the new Golden Ring 8x32 and 10x32 and the Yosemite 6x30 (which appears in the March/April issue’s Gear, Gadgets & Goods department). Hilary Cosper told us that more models soon will feature the red and natural colored exteriors that appear on the Yosemite and that an 80mm spotting scope is on its way.

The camo binoculars appeared again at the Burris booth on the Fullfield II 8x-42 and 10x-42 models. I also was intrigued by the 8x42 Landmark II with its molded barrels; typically I see just thumb grooves on the undersides of the barrels. The finger grooves on the outer sides didn’t feel “forced,” as Cynthia says.

Nikon introduced a handful of optics on Thursday, including the Monarch ATB (All Terrain Binocular) in 8x36 and 10x36 models. Mike Freiberg said the 8x36 Monarch really appeals to him. The new optics include the ProStaff waterproof spotting scope in 65mm and 82mm straight and angled models as well as the ED50 Fieldscope, a 50mm spotting scope.

At the Swarovski booth, Cynthia and I learned that all spotting scopes now come with a digiscoping CD-ROM. Clay Taylor said hunters respond well to the idea of digiscoping. Nice to hear.

Mum’s the word about a binocular being developed by Steiner, said Jennifer Paladino. Available in the fall, the new model is an extension of a current line.

The Vortex Razor debuted at this year’s show, and birders can find it in April. The 8x42 and 10x42 models feature interchangeable flared eyecups (shown on the right). Joe Hamilton also pointed out a kit that includes a Stokes 8x21 bin and a Stokes book for beginning birders, suitable for gifts and children.

At the Kowa booth, Josh Lazenby told us April will bring another binocular for birders: the Genesis 44. It will come in 8x and 10x models with a magnesium frame, a fact that particularly appealed to Cynthia.

That visit concluded our discovery of new and upcoming binoculars... as well as our ability to absorb more information after a very long day. Thanks again to Cynthia and everyone who told us about their latest developments.


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