I am looking to buy a decent pair of binoculars. My cousin, who is a hardcore birdwatcher, recommends Zeiss or Leica...but both seem a bit out of my price range. I don't think I want to spend more than $500, but could be convinced to, if the additional money was worth it.
I intend to use them on backpacking trips, local hiking, and possibly out on the water (whales and dolphins, etc.). I would prefer them to be relatively light weight, but not necessarily the tiny compact ones.
My cousin took me birdwatching (not something I thought I would enjoy) and let me use his $2000 binoculars. I was absolutely amazed. The binoculars (and my cousin's knowledge of the birds) made the day rather enjoyable. I don't think I'll ever really be into birdwatching, but would love a decent pair of binoculars.
I guess I'm asking if anyone knows of any good off brands (new and upcoming companies?), or has experience with something like the Nikon Monarch series, or similar. Or, can you convince me that it is worth the money to buy Zeiss or Leica??
Thanks for any advice!!