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Reviews > Eye Protection and Binoculars > Binoculars > Bushnell NatureView binoculars > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Bushnell NatureView Binoculars

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - August 16, 2013

Field Report - October 29, 2013

Long-Term Report - January 7, 2014

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 59
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 230 lbs (104 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking experience is a combination of Minnesota where I have lived most of my adult life, and Arizona where I moved to take a new job about four years ago.  I have always been a "comfort-weight" backpacker, never counting grams, but still keeping my pack as light as easily attained.  I have often wished I had a pair of close-focus binoculars with me when hiking to be able to view birds, lizards and butterflies up close and personal.

Initial Report

Product Information

Bushnell NatureView 6x30 Binoculars
Photo courtesy Bushnell

Manufacturer: Bushnell
Model:
NatureView 6x30 mm
Year of manufacture: 2013
MSRP:
US $139.95
Manufacturer website: http://www.bushnell.com/
Color tested:
Tan (the only color available)
Lenses:
Close Focus: 9 ft (2.7 m)
Lens Coating: Fully Multi-Coated
Field of View: 419 ft @ 1000 yds (140 m @ 1000 m)
Bak-4 Porro prisms
Weight: Listed: 17.3 oz (490 g)
Measured: 16.9 oz (479 g) without case or straps
With case and straps: 20.5 (582 g)

The features listed by the manufacturer include:
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Twist-up eyecups to adjust for use with/without glasses
  • Textured center-focus knob
  • Rugged non-slip armor to absorb shock
  • Adjustable for left/right eye strength

Initial Inspection

The binoculars are a nice size for hiking purposes - they are quite compact, yet have a useful 6x magnification.  The plastic housing has a solid yet soft feel to it - they look like they should survive some bumps and bruises.  The workmanship seemed pretty good, though I did notice very slight ridges around the molded tan housing.

The binoculars come with a nice set of lens caps, carrying case and neck straps to attach directly to the housing.  The lens caps fit quite loosely, so they are not intended for use except during storage or in the carrying case.

These are the first binoculars I've used with the twist eyecups.  I do not need glasses for distance vision, but my wife does so this will be handy when trading off between the two of us.

The left/right eye strength adjustment worked well, but I kept expecting a center detent for neutral vision (which I have).  I'll need to be careful for this not to drift/slip to get one eye out of focus.

Trying Them Out

I took them outside on the patio and used them to observe some hummingbirds on a feeder in close proximity, close enough that my standard binoculars cannot focus.  I was happy to discover that I could see the little birds quite clearly, with no difficulty getting them in focus.

When I tried to attach the neck strap I really struggled:

Neckstrap attachment

The strap is just slightly too wide for the slot.  I'm going to wrestle with this later when I really need the straps in the field.

Summary

I am looking forward to get the NatureView binoculars into the backcountry and seeing how they perform under trail conditions.

Things I Like So Far:

  • Nice size and weight for hiking
  • Close focus for wildlife
  • Clear, bright image

Things That Concern Me Upfront:

  • I am missing the detent for the eye strength adjustment
  • Not easy to attach the neck straps

Field Report

Field Conditions

In addition to the following backpacking trips I have used the NatureView binoculars on many occasions around my house for wildlife viewing, and on several day hikes and Jeep trips.

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
August 10-11, 2013
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona
Romero Canyon
12 mi
(19 km)
Sky island canyon
Sunny, hot, 59-102 F
(15-39 C)
2600-5100 ft
(790-1550 m)

September 21-22, 2013 Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Romero Canyon
10.5 mi
(17 km)
Sky island canyon Overnight showers, 60-85 F
(16-29 C)
2600-4770 ft
(790-1450 m)

Romero Canyon

Romero Canyon

We'd had a reasonable summer monsoon in Tucson up to this point, so I thought I'd head up for a night into Romero Canyon to take advantage of the water flow in the streams and falls.  The wildlife was not as plentiful as I had hoped, but I did use the NatureView binoculars to check out a few birds and butterflies.  In the above photo I am getting a look at some rock formations in the morning sun.

It was a pleasure to have a pair of binoculars along with me on a backpacking trip, as I normally avoid the extra weight.  I was able to see so much more detail in the geography, flora and fauna that I normally would have missed.  The NatureView binoculars performed flawlessly - they were easy to focus in the field and provided great images.  They are small enough that they tucked into the front pocket of my pack where they were easily accessible.  I did not use the carrying case - I simply put the lens caps on.  The caps are a bit of a hassle in a backpack, as they do have a tendency to fall off and get lost in the shuffle.

After a trip to Paria Canyon was canceled due to washed-out roads I made the best of the situation with a short return trip to Romero Canyon.  The binoculars were very handy to spot the wildflowers that were in full bloom along the trail.

Local Use

NatureView binoculars in the Tortolita MtnsOften when we have guests at our home I take them on a Jeep trip up into the Tortolita Mountains near my house.  The views are spectacular, but prior to testing the NatureView binoculars I never took any optics along.

I took them with me recently and I really appreciated how much they added to the enjoyment of the venue.  I was able to scan the ridgelines for the pack of wild horses that lives in the range, and used them extensively to pick out the features of the North side of Tucson that is visible from that vantage point, as shown in the photo at right.  It was great that the binoculars were compact and sturdy - I just threw them in the Jeep and off we went.

It had been a few weeks since I had used them, and it took me a half-minute or so to make sure I had the eye strength adjustment set properly to neutral.  It also took me a few seconds to remember to twist up the eye cups.

I have also used the binoculars on numerous occasions to view the wildlife in our backyard.  We feed birds, including many hummingbird feeders, and we get everything from Thrashers to Harris hawks coming to our area.  It was really great to use these binoculars at close range to view the hummingbirds on the feeders, as I like to sit close and see the details of the plumage.  I am trying to learn to identify the various varieties that visit us, and it is nearly impossible to differentiate them with the naked eye, but with the NatureView binoculars I could make out the details of their coloration.

We also have numerous small lizards that scurry across the patio.  The binoculars worked very well to zoom in on them to see what they looked like up close and personal.

Myriad types of butterflies also visit our blooming flowers in the Fall, and the binoculars were great to see the colors of their wings.  Many of the Arizona butterflies are quite small and do not alight for very long, so the optics really helped to be able to see them as more than just a flash of color.

Summary

I have been very happy with my experiences with the Bushnell NatureView binoculars.  They have been reliable, easy to transport and carry, and provide great viewing.  I have really appreciated the short focal length when using them for backyard viewing.

The only thing they are missing is a detent for the eye strength calibration.  I would think many people have them same strength in their right and left eye, and would appreciate being able to find this setting quickly and easily.

Please stop back in about two months to view my final long-term report on the NatureView binoculars.

Long-Term Report

Field Conditions

Date
Location
Trail
Distance

Terrain/ trail type
Weather
Altitude range
November 2, 2013
Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona
Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail
1 mile
(1.6 km)
Mountain foothills
Sunny, shirtsleeve weather
2500 ft
(760 m)
November 16-17, 2013
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona
Samaniego Ridge
7.5 mi
(12 km)
Sky island ridgeline
Sunny, cool, 33-46 F
(1-8 C), very windy
7400-9000 ft
(2260-2740 m)

Dec 14, 2013
Tortolita Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona
Alamo Springs
5 mi (8 km)
Mountain ridgeline
Sunny, 40-50 F (4-10 C)
2800-3800 ft
(850-1160 m)
Dec 15, 2013
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Buster Mountain
4.6 mi
(7.4 km)
Mountain slopes
Sunny, 32-60 F
(0-16 C)
2700-4200 ft
(820-1280 m)
Dec 28-29, 2013
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Sycamore Canyon
10 mi
(16 km)
Mountain canyons
Sunny, 24-60 F
(-4-15 C)
3800-5000 ft
(1160-1520 m)
January 1, 2014
Santa Catalina Mtns, near Tucson, Arizona Sutherland Trail
5.4 miles
(8.7 km)
Mountain foothills
Sunny, 55-65 F
(13-18 C)
2700-3400 ft
(820-1040 m)

Signal Hill Petroglyphs

Looking at petroglyphs This was an unusual application for binoculars: looking at ancient petroglyphs on rocks.  As can be seen by the (blurry) photo at left the petroglyph rocks were not very far away from where I was standing, so the close focal distance was really handy.  My other pair of binoculars would never be able to focus on anything that close.

The binoculars were really helpful for scoping out the details of the petroglyphs, as the National Park Service does not allow visitors to get to close due to risk of someone damaging the ancient symbols.  I also shared the binoculars with the other people in my group, as we had a beautiful view of the Avra valley and Kitt Peak Observatory from the top of the hill.


Samaniego Ridge

Due to the cool Fall weather there wasn't much wildlife to see on this little backpacking trip, but I did use the NatureView binoculars to check out some of the spectacular geology views that this trail provides:

Samniego Peak
Morning sun on Samaniego Peak

Buster Mountain

It isn't often I discover a new trail close to my house, but this one turned up on a local hiker's blog.  I set out on a crisp Sunday morning to do a little exploring.  The NatureView binoculars came in very handy for scouting the route ahead, and also for getting a glimpse of some of the birds along the route.  I wish I had them out and at the ready when some deer bolted from the brush, but unfortunately they were stowed in my pack.  These binoculars are just a little too large and heavy to hike with them strapped around my neck.

Sycamore Canyon

I had never hiked the Sycamore Canyon section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, and I was looking for a trail with not too much elevation gain/loss for a change, so I set out on a Saturday afternoon for an overnight hike.  There were a number of birds along the trail, especially near my campsite which was at Sycamore Reservoir where there was plenty of water.  The binoculars were great for checking out the avian activities.

Sutherland Trail

Along the Sutherland TrailThis was just a New Years Day ramble through the Catalina foothills.  I used the binoculars to scan for the Desert Bighorn sheep which have been recently transplanted to the area as shown in the photo at left.


I didn't see any Bighorn, but the view was great, and I was able to see the details of the Saguaro cacti and the local geography.


Summary

It has been a joy to carry the NatureView Binoculars with me on hikes the last few months.  They have encouraged me to look at things and see details that otherwise would have escaped me.  My only real complaint is fumbling with the lens covers, but I certainly know that nobody seems to have invented yet a way to protect the lenses that are not a hassle.  I intend to continue to bring the binoculars with me on hikes that hold promise of having views or objects that would like to see in more detail than what is possible with the naked eye.


Thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Bushnell for the opportunity to contribute to this test.



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