Product Review: Pentax Papilio 8.5 x 21 Binoculars

These close-range binoculars let you get up close and personal

Looking for a pair of binoculars to view the intimate world of bugs and birds?  Does the Pentax Papilio 8.5 x 21 fit the bill?

Question: When is looking though a microscope like looking though a pair of binoculars?  Answer: When you are looking through Papilio 8.5 x 21 binoculars from Pentax (approx. $105). Just like a portable microscope, Pentax Papilio compact, reverse-Porro-prism binoculars are ideal for getting an up close and personal view of the colors and mosaic patterns of butterflies, insects, birds and flowers.

Papilio is the Latin word for butterfly, so it’s no big secret that these super-compact, ultra-lightweight binoculars are perfectly suited for the budding  entomologist, birdwatcher or botanist. They allow you to get as close as possible to butterflies, insects, birds and plants in their natural habitat.


The Pentax Papilio 8.5 x 21 binoculars were designed primarily as butterflying and birding binoculars but their versatility and price point makes them perfect for a wide variety for a variety of other uses.


CLOSE to the Edge

Pentax Papilio binoculars offer fully multi-coated optical elements to minimize the amount of unwanted light reflections for a well-defined subject image. The combination of aspherical optical elements and high-refraction BaK4 glass prisms helps offer a sharp, clear image with minimal distortion, even at the edge.

Close-Focus is Really Close

What makes Papilio binoculars so unique? They are designed with a special internal focusing mechanism that allows for magnifying-glass like, up-close focus. They incorporate design technology that automatically compensates for the misalignment of right and left image fields at close ranges.  Specifically, the enhanced observation capability of the Papilio binoculars is made possible by a Convergent Lens Optical System Engineering (CLOSE) mechanism.  The CLOSE mechanism automatically slides the left and right objective lenses toward the center when the focus is fixed at a short distance.  As a result, the right and left image fields are correctly aligned to facilitate close-range viewing.

Many close-range binoculars on the market have a six and a half foot minimum focusing distance. But with the Papilio binoculars you can get as close as 18 inches (0.5 meters).  Right out of the box we were impressed with how close to subjects we could get.


Zooming in on the Rhododendrons.


Field Test

As I hit the nature trails at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River, NY, I quickly zoomed down to 18 inches with close-focus capability that I hadn’t seen before by any other binoculars in this class and price range.

During my nature walk, I was able to easily spot various species of bluebirds, wrens and other water fowl nesting and foraging for food. The 8.5 x 21 range offers the best of both worlds for the birdwatcher who also studies insects. I was amazed to suddenly see microscopic structures within flowers that were in their spring bloom as well as the tiny insects crawling on them. The trip to the Arboretum was perfect timing for my 13 year old daughter, who was studying the parts of flowers and plants in her science class. She zoomed in on the Rhododendrons and daffodils that were beginning open up as well.

Using the Papilios, I felt no eye discomfort after viewing for long periods of time. That is because the binoculars offer a long 15 millimeter eye relief, which provided great viewing of the entire image field. That option is good news for eyeglass wearers. The eyecups twist out to full extension, and click-stop to fully closed position to lock them in place, preventing accidental collapse in the field.

I found that the Pentax Papilio binoculars focused much closer than any other binocular I have used before. And with the Papilio, you see the object with both eyes at once.  The binoculars feature a small focus wheel on top.  It is raised just high enough above the central housing to still be easily accessible yet not be in the way. As you adjust the wheel to zoom in on your subject, the two objective lenses automatically move closer together. As the focus distance changes, each eye’s line of sight converges with the other, so that both eyes are always looking at the same thing. The end result is that you can achieve a “true binocular view” of the subject you are viewing.

The outer housing of the Papilio features a two-wing design that folds on a central hinge, where the focus wheel is located.  The protective outer housing has a dark rubberized heavy-duty coating that adds for an ergonomic, secure grip, and helps reduce impact damage if you drop them. The only drawbacks are they are not waterproof or fog proof.

The Papilios are very compact at 4.4 inches long by 4.25 inches wide and weigh a mere 10.5 oz. They come with eye lens caps, soft case and strap and also offer a tripod receptacle for more stable observation.




Although the Pentax Papilio 8.5 x 21 binoculars were designed primarily as butterflying and birding binoculars, their versatility and price point makes them perfect for a wide variety of other activities such as sports, concerts, travel and hiking. They are also an ideal binocular for kids and teens looking to explore a new hobby. Papilios can easily be tucked into coat pocket or purse so you can tote them anywhere you go. A pair belongs in every nature lover’s backpack.

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