Close-focusing binoculars: Pentax Papilios (8.5×21)

These unique binoculars focus within 18″, allowing you to enter gloriously magnified worlds of color, form, texture, and even behavior.

Here’s an example: Last summer I saw a colorful moth inside the cup of a mariposa lily. From six feet away the binoculars gave me a great view of the moth’s tiny red and orange wings, which I couldn’t see with my naked eye. When I moved my binoculars to within 18″ of the flower, I could see the moth’s proboscis (“sucking tongue”) probing the tiny hairs on the inside of the petals!

The binoculars focus to infinity, so you can also use them for farther objects, such as birds in nearby trees. As binoculars go, they are quite reasonably priced: $158.24, including tax and shipping. They come with straps and lens caps. I provide a zip tie because it is a better method for attaching lens covers to the strap. I also provide clear instructions for attaching the straps and using the binoculars.

When everyone in a group has a pair of close-focusing binoculars, you can simultaneously see and talk about the same object––a spider lurking on a dew-covered web, the clear scale that lets light in to a lizard’s third eye, or ants tending aphids and harvesting their honeydew (see photo).  You can get optically close to animals (like dragonflies or grasshoppers) that would instantly take off if you tried to see the same detail with a hand lens or your naked eye.

Joyce Gross
Ants tending aphids.   Photo by Joyce Gross

In most circumstances I prefer these binoculars to the hand lenses that botanists use because I don’t have to bend or muddy my knees and my head doesn’t block anyone else’s view. They are light-weight, so I  barely notice them around my neck. For serious birding I also wear a pair of 10×50 binoculars that have more magnification and, thanks to their wider field of vision, let in more light.

Wearing glasses is no problem

As is the case with all binoculars, you can look at objects while wearing your glasses. It’s simple––you just keep the eye cups rotated in. If you don’t wear glasses, gently rotate the eyecups counter clockwise until they are all the way out. Make sure both eyecups are even with each other. If one is out farther than the other it will be harder to see things. Also make sure you are at least 18” from the object you are looking at. For looking at distant objects, you can adjust the lenses to each of your eyes (as you can with all binoculars). Just follow the instructions. 

Try introducing young people to these binoculars

Many people are wondering these days how to get young people away from their digital devices long enough to connect with the natural world. Close-focusing binoculars can sometimes do the trick by making nature irresistibly interesting. I’ve seen adolescents standing in line to use them. 

Cost Breakdown: Binoculars: $154.00   Tax: $11.74   Shipping (flat rate): $10.50    Total: $175.39