Pentax Papilio

Posted by Jef Spalding   06/25/2006 07:00AM

Pentax Papilio
I discovered quite by accident the 6.5X21Pentax Papilo binocular on the internet while looking for a binocular with a very close focus. Being a biologist by degree, I've always loved the micro world that is was only avaliable with a dissecting stereoscope or a tiny fold out magnifer called a loupe. I couldn't understand why someone hadn't come up with the idea. Nearly all binoculars have a close focus with a minimum of usually 8 ft. or more; missing out on the dynamic near microscopic world of insects and plants.

Also avaliable in 8.5X21, this amazing binocular hase a unique design that allows one to focus on objects as close as 1.6 feet. It is accomplished with two closely spaced 21mm objective lenses that actually turn in toward each other while focusing on nearby objects. With an acronym called CLOSE (Convergent Lens Optical System Engineering), the papilo's have this amazing ability while fine focusing on nearby objects. And with very little field curvature at high powers, they are wonderful birding and wildife binoculars.

Being a man of very low risk for purchasing something new, I reluctantly acquired them over the internet; not being able to find them anywhere locally. I originally wanted the 8.5 power, but since they were sold out, I decided I better take the 6.5's, having a greater relative brightness and exit pupil, as well larger field of view. I ended up paying $111 with postage; the 8.5's were $10 more. They were as much as $40 more from other websites, so I made sure they had a return policy should I not be happy with them.

After waiting 5 days, they finally showed up. I immediately opened them and quickly looked at a yellow bellied woodpecker at the bird feeder. After instinctively equalizing my eye focus with the diopter, the large bird popped sharply into view. Clean and sharp field all the way to the edges, I could see the tiny branching on its feathers and perfect colors at 20 feet distance through the window. The surrounding tree foliage was incredible, I could easily see the serrations on the quaking aspen leaves, easily confirming its identification. I walked outside, and got down in my knees to focus on a patch of clover flowering on my lawn. I could see individual floral parts like I've never seen before. I got comfortable as close as I could at its near focus; and before long, I observed four species of native bees, two I've never seen previously. I also found a tiny bee-fly; its wings twice as long as its body, hovering and sampling nectar with its long coiling proboscis. I watched as the smaller native bees harrassing the bee-fly, much like small birds who dive bomb large hawks and ravens invading their territory. This dynamic microverse all just outside my door; I couldn't wait to start exploring. I soon found irridescent tiger beetles and scavenging ants marching along in a way I only previously imagined. All in amazing color in their live outdoor laboratory. The detail was reminiscent of my college summer field courses in the lab with my dissecting microscope. BUT I was outside laying in the bright sunshine. And much more portable and fun, compared to a lab with a stereoscope.

I haven't been able to use them at night with the stars, but I suspect their small objective diameter will severely limit their resolution. With their 7.5 degree real field of view, they may be useful for learning brighter star fields. But beyond any doubt, they are keepers, and in my opinion, the best mini binocular out there today!

Click here for more about this subject. -Ed.