Thursday, 28 May 2015

Magnify-cent Views . . . .

I just got a pair of these Pentax Papilio (latin for butterfly) close-focussing compact binoculars for viewing the macro world of invertebrates (dragonflies in particular) and I'm absolutely blown away by them.

I took them out with me yesterday for the first time and though it was a difficult day for getting really close views of the damselflies, I was able to study a few from about 3-foot away, identifying them easily without having to take a photo and study in the camera, and see every hair and marking on their hard outer casing in greater detail than I thought possible. I even watched one cleaning its face, and it was a revelation.

Pentax claim a minimum focussing range of .5 of a metre, I measured it and it is actually .4 (a 10cm bonus). I bought the 6.5x as opposed to the 8.5x as some reviewers complained of dimness of image in the 8.5 version. I have a couple of pairs of pocket binoculars already and know this is often the case, as the bigger the ratio of zoom to lens diameter, the more light gets in and the brighter the image, which is why I use 8x42 birdwatching bins (ratio 5.25) as opposed to 10x42s (ratio 4.2) so sacrifice image size for quality, which is especially good in low-light situations.
I can't speak for the 8.5x Papilios (ratio 2.47) but the image quality of the 6.5x (at a mere 3.23) is excellent, no complaints whatsoever.

Something else which puts me off the pocket binoculars is there is often a doubling of image causing a strain in the eye which gets uncomfortable after a while, the Papilios are specially built to prevent that, and the single image even at the closest focussing distance is perfect.

Another plus point about these optics is that although their selling point is the 'macro' function, they are incredibly versatile so birdwatching at distance also provides great views, like I discovered yesterday, switching from studying insects from 2ft away to red kites over the distant valley was just a case of a quick spin of the focus wheel. And an excellent image at distance so I didn't even need to take my birding bins out with me.
The 6.5x zoom stated actually refers to the image size at distance, the close-focus image is around 8x (on the 8.5x version the close-focus image is around 10x).

Back in Macro-land I watched a green-veined white butterfly probing flower heads with it's straw-like probiscus and could see the individual scales of its wings. On a 14-spot ladybird no bigger than 5mm I could see every detail, even a tiny yellow mite attached to its leg. I've been watching the ants in the garden go about their business of excavation, found one of their 'landfill sites' and watched them dump the husks of a variety of invertebrate prey and dismembered parts of their fallen colleagues. I could count the eyes on a zebra-spider on the kitchen window.
Small beetles you would otherwise hardly notice become intricate living things, the macro world is fascinating, and it's all around.

As you can probably tell I'm in my element at the moment, and can't wait for a proper look at some damsels; the bigger dragonflies will look amazing :-)

The Papilio binoculars measure only about 4 x 4.5 inches, and are superb for the price. The 8.5x retail at around £140, the 6.5x are around £110 though I picked up a bargain 'as new' pair from ebay for £75. Though I only recently discovered these myself, they have been on the market for a few years, and now there is a Papilio II version with coated lenses for even better imaging. These are just under £200 but I know what I want for xmas now ;-)

Summing up, I can't recommend these highly enough for anyone interested in dragonflies, butterflies, moth-trappers, or even handy for photographers already weighed down with bulky equipment. They are compact, versatile, offer a quality image and come in a belt-attaching case, 'nuff said. But don't just take my word for it, read some reviews yourself.
It's opened up a whole new world for me, I'm itching to get out and use them again.

Rating : Wow!


  1. Nice Dragon site Alan, i'll lionk your site on my blog mate :-)

    1. Cheers Warren, and I'll do likewise. Excellent photos from your excursion with John today, look forward to seeing more.

  2. Just spotted your BIN REVIEW. Interesting. My bins are pretty good at focusing reasonably closely & i use them most of the time when i'm Dragon hunting. I'll bear them in mind when i've got some spare dosh. Or i might buy your old ones when you moved on to the Mk II at Xmas !!!!

    1. Aye John, my birding bins focus down to about 5ft but honestly there's no comparison with these. I have a great interest in arthropods as a whole and the back garden is becoming a whole new world to explore in greater detail (which is just as well as I don't get out much) Cheers :-)