Ben Ellison takes a bandsaw to a pair of binoculars for a clearer image.

Several years ago I noticed that Weems & Plath had introduced a line of binoculars that seemed to offer good specifications and build quality at reasonable costs. But it took me until last fall’s Annapolis Show discount to take the plunge, and then it took some customization work to get where I hoped to. It’s an interesting story, I think, but to tell it I’ll have to reveal two more personal idiosyncrasies.

Weem & Plath 7x50 Pro Binoculars

Weem & Plath 7x50 Pro Binoculars

First of all, and possibly not a surprise, I’m a bit cheap. And while being careful with my funds has generally served me well over the decades, I could kick myself for the series of “good enough” binoculars I owned before the Weem & Plath 7×50 PRO. I knew from using binoculars on other people’s boats that good quality can mean much better performance (and that Tim Bartlett had carefully explained why in PMY).

I also lack true binocular vision — as do many people, it turns out — so another attraction of the PRO model was independent focus adjustment. That meant I could fairly easily saw them in half and get two high-quality monoculars instead!

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Actually, removing the axel that aligns the Pro’s separate optics and permits a user to adjust them for their particular pupil-to-pupil width was a challenge. It takes an unusual spanner to properly unscrew the well-built retaining mechanism, but two thin machine bolts did the trick as illustrated here.

Then it was relatively easy to cut the now un-needed appendages off the Pro’s magnesium alloy bodies using a bandsaw. And, voilà, I had two monoculars that each weighed less than half the original Pro’s rather hefty 51 ounces.

Weems-and-Plath-7x50-Pro-monoculars-cPanbo-1600x1224

After eight months of use, the Pro binocs/monocs have stood up well, with zero sign of internal fogging. That’s probably because they are tightly sealed and gas filled (and apparently my handiwork did no damage). They are also a pleasure to use every time I put one to my good eye.

In my experience, the 7×50 size really is the right balance for use on a boat, as explained in the Weems & Plath video above. But 7x magnification with a 50mm objective lens are just two optical factors. For instance, the very similar W&P Classic binocs only have a 413-foot field of view at 1,000 yards while the Pro’s 131m FoV at 1,000m (seen above) translates to 430 feet. That may not seem like much, but it counts, as does the Pro’s increased ability to gather light. Note, for instance, what the Gizmo harbor view above looks like…

Weems-and-Plath-7x50-Pro-monocular-view-Camden-cPanbo-1600x1436

…when I pressed my cell phone camera to the Pro monocular eyepiece. There’s even some slightly dirty window glass in the way, but still I think the photo demonstrates the effectiveness of the Pro’s field of view, as well as pleasing and undistorted detail right out to the edges of the 7x magnifying optics.

A question I can’t answer with my vision is whether an easier-to-handle monocular is significantly less effective than binoculars of the same quality. But I’m struck by how many people do not have true binocular vision anyway, usually due to one weak eye. My favorite mate is also binocularly challenged, for instance, and so were two out of the six Woodenboat navigation students who were on Gizmo last week (and whose enthusiasm about my minocs inspired me to finally write this entry).

This Optometrist’s source says that “At least 12% of the population has some type of problem with binocular vision” and I understand that even people with a weak eye that’s now well corrected may not have learned core binocular skills in their early years. Is there a hidden market for marine monoculars?

Customizable Weems & Plath binoculars are available at many marine outlets and on Amazon, where I just noticed the Opticron Marine 3 7×50 Monocular. So you could have a monocular similar to mine without the customization work. But the Opticon’s specifications show the field of view as only 126m at 1,000m (same as the W&P Classic’s 413 feet) and of course, there may be other subtle but visible differences.

So here’s a specific question for readers: If the good folks at Weems & Plath went to all the trouble of building a monocular to their Pro specifications, would you be interested?

This article originally appeared on Ben Ellison's website, PANBO, and is reprinted here with permission.
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