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Pentax Papilio Binocular
Hands-on Review

by Michael and Diane Porter

Pentax Butterfly Binocular

The Butterfly Binocular

See Pentax price info

Why did it take so long for a manufacturer to come up with this binocular? Even if you already own binoculars, you need this one too. Nothing else lets you look at a butterfly or a flower this close.

Closer than just close—if a butterfly lands on your knee, you can actually focus on it through your Papilio. You can see a nearby butterfly as if you were examining it through a magnifying glass. This specialized binocular belongs in every nature lover's pocket.

fritillaryThe Pentax Papilio (which means butterfly in Latin) is a compact, reverse-Porro-prism binocular that doubles as a long-distance microscope. It will focus as close as 18 inches! And it's small and light enough (10 oz.) to fit in a coat pocket or a purse.

A personal favorite

DianeDiane says: The first time I took the Papilio outside, I discovered that I could count the segments on a butterfly's antennae. I could see individual scales on the iridescent wing.

I kept saying, "Oh, wow! Wow! Wow!"

I could look down into a tiny flower and see structures that I'd never noticed before. I could see the grains of pollen that a bee was carrying on her legs. All this without even bending down!

Many binoculars advertise that they focus close. The catch with most ultra-close focusers is that you can't really look through them with both eyes, because when you get to the minimum distance, the area of overlap between what your two eyes see is only a sliver wide.

How the Papilio converges on something so close

These Pentax Papilio binoculars focus much closer than any other binocular we've tried. With other close-focusing binoculars, as you look closer and closer, the area of overlap between what your two eyes see gets smaller and smaller, until it's barely a sliver. But with the Papilio, you can always see the object with both eyes at once. (Isn't that the whole point of binoculars?)

Here's the secret. As you turn the focus wheel to focus on something close, the two objective lenses automatically move closer together. As the focus distance changes, each eye's line of sight converges with the other's, so that both eyes are always looking at the same thing. The result is that you get a true binocular view of the object. What a great innovation!

You can also use the Papilio for long-distance viewing, to watch birds, sports, and scenery as well as butterflies.

All told, we declare the Pentax Papilio (or Butterfly, if you prefer) to be the greatest advance in close-focusing binoculars we've ever seen.

It's a great gift for a person who enjoys observing nature. Something different and special, something she or he doesn't already have. A binocular that is a also long-distance microscope—the Papilio.

Papilio's two versions

Papilios come in two versions, 6.5 power or 8.5 power.

8.5x21 Version

Eastern BluebirdBecause it makes things look 8.5 times as close, the 8.5x21 version of the Papilio is the best of possible worlds for a birdwatcher.

You can watch a bluebird on approach to its nest in the birdhouse, and then swing your Papilio down to get a good look at a butterfly right next to you on a bush.

Most birders prefer at least 8 power for watching birds. So if the owner will use the Papilio primarily for birds, with butterflies and flowers as a secondary interest, we recommend the 8.5x21 model, for its greater magnification.

6.5x21 Version

Wild Prairie RoseThe 6.5x21 has slightly lower magnification. The advantage to this version is a wider field of view (393 feet at 1000 yards for the 6.5x21 model, compared to 315 feet for the 8.5x21 model). That means it's easier to keep a butterfly in view as it flaps around you erratically. So it's a good choice for a person who is primarily interested in butterfies, flowers and closeup viewing.

You can still look at distant scenes when you want. But when you're close to the object, the 6.5 magnification is perfect, and the wider field of view makes it easier to find and follow what you're looking at.

The objective lens for each model is 21mm in diameter, which makes this a small, lightweight binocular. Not a burden to carry. Something you'll always be glad to grab as you're going out the door.

The Papilio is not waterproof. (Well, at this inexpensive price, we wouldn't really have expected waterproofing too.)

How to order

Click on the green button under the version you're interested in, to see the price of each and ordering information.

See Pentax price info See Pentax price info

The beautiful photo of a great spangled fritillary butterfly on a butterfly weed was taken by Joseph Stanski, copyright Morning Star Photo. If you wish to purchase the right to use this photo, please contact Joe Stanski.

The bluebird and prairie rose photos are copyright Michael and Diane Porter, who maintain the Birdwatching Dot Com website.



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Copyright 2013 Michael and Diane Porter.