An Open Letter to Oberwerk Regarding the SE 8 x 32 ED.

The venerable Oberwerk SE 8 x 32 ED.


Regarding the Obserwerk SE 8 x 32 ED

SN: 232161

Sunday September 10 2023

Dear Mr. Busarow,

After reviewing and continuing to use the 8 x 32 SE for a further seven months, I am more impressed than ever with this instrument. I’m not at all surprised that it has garnered more than 10,000 views on Birdforum alone, and an even greater number of visits on my website.  As detailed in my original review, I showcased many terrific features of this instrument which I will summarise as follows:

  1. Exceptional blackening around the eyepieces with near perfect exit pupils
  2. Complete lack of any internal reflections or diffraction spikes when directed at a bright artificial light source
  3. Exceptional colour correction from the small 32mm objectives
  4. Exceptional glare suppression
  5. Sensibly perfect images within its very large sweet spot
  6. Excellent edge-of-field performance despite its lack of field flattening optics
  7. Superb handling in all weather conditions
  8. Exceptionally well protected objective lenses
A Reminder: left exit pupil of the Oberwerk SE 8 x 32 ED.

I’ve already commented that its sharpness and colour correction are superior to the highly rated Nikon E II 8 x 30, but its optical and ergonomic excellence has also been noted by a number of other experienced observers including the Irish birder, ‘Sancho,’ who compared it to his Zeiss TFL 8 x 32 and, based on subsequent field testing, now uses it as his ‘favourite all-round’ birding instrument.  I would like to remind you of his posts here:

My Oberwerk SE 8×32 arrived today. I haven’t had much chance to “test” it, and in any case a birding bino needs to be tested over a few weeks while actually birding. Also, I am non-technical, so anything I say is “amateur user” opinion only, applying only to my eyes. I agree wholeheartedly with everything Dipperdapper says in the excellent review. Total cost to my door (in Ireland) was 368 euro, inclusive of 68 euro customs charges, plus postage. Communication and tracking details from Kevin in Oberwerk was excellent. At first, I was dismayed when I lifted the box…it felt heavy. But when I removed the packaging, and held the binos in my hand, they didn’t actually feel that heavy because the ergos and balance are excellent. Not unlike my Nikon SE 10×42, but about 50g heavier. The Oberwerk certainly is a tough, tank-like bino, feels very solid and durable. I like the longer objective barrels because I can get two fingers around them, as with the SE 10×42, and I find this helps further with stability. The objectives are deeply recessed, another feature I like because I presume they are more protected from stray light or damage. The focus wheel is stiffer than I would like, but I reckon this is the price you pay for a waterproof porro, like the Habicht 8×30. Although it is a wide wheel (see OPs photos), I find it a little difficult to get my fingers to it, and prefer the position of the FW on the Nikon 10×42. (OTOH, the diopter adjuster is on the right ocular, where the Binocular God intended….easy to adjust, but also firm enough to stay put). In any case the focusser has no play and turns smoothly. Eyecups twist in and out and have four positions. The bino came with a strap for the case, plus two straps for the bino…a lighter “stretchy” neoprene one for comfort, or a tougher fabric-type one. Try as I might, I could induce no CA, even looking against bare tree branches against a bright, high-cloud Irish February sky. In this it was the equal of my Zeiss TFL 8×32, which is excellent. The FOV (8.2 degrees) is similar, and to be honest it was sharp across most of the field, to the extent that to find any softness at all, I almost have to stick my eyeball into the bino and search sideways! In other words, the field-flattener question is a non-issue. I tried to induce flare/glare, and couldn’t manage that either, even while looking as close to the lightly-clouded sun as was possible without endangering my eyesight. I have no idea how to “measure” light transmission, but it seems plenty bright, not quite as bright as my TFL 8×32 but that’s unsurprising. I’m going to stick my neck out a bit here and say that I think the sharpness/constrast/pop (I don’t know how to separate these “concepts”) might be a little ahead of the TFL. However, this may be just because of today’s conditions, or I may be suffering from “new-bino enthusiasm”….it needs a bit more study out in the field, in different lighting conditions. The warranty is two years, but it feels like a bino that will be used by my as yet non-existent grandchildren. An interesting feature is that in the plain black box (thank you Oberwerk, no expensive fancy boxes!), there is a card headed “Quality Checklist”, with Date, Sale, SN etc., and all the features ticked off (under the headings Appearance, Mechanical, Alignment/Collimation, Resolution) and initialled “KGB” (whom I presume is Kevin rather than the defunct Soviet body). I’ll take these out and about over the next few weeks, and play with them a bit more, but I think they are a pretty stunning binocular at any price, and for 368 euro delivered a no-brainer, unless you favour roofs and very light binos.

Source: Birdforum link post #17

Furthermore, Sancho followed up with this post some months later:

Hi just reporting back on the Oberwerk SE 8×32, after four months of use. You know how it is, you never “really” know until you’ve used binos in the field in various conditions. I have to say these have become my favourite “all-rounder, grab n’go” binoculars, and my closet contains original SEs and some big European badges. I thought early on there was a bit of “play” in the focus, but there isn’t, it just focusses at different speeds as you turn the dial (if that makes sense). It is the best bino I have at suppressing CA and stray light, and the image has the punch and contrast that reminds me of my old (sadly sold) Nikon EDG 8×42. I love the stereopsis (3D?) effect of porros, so that’s a plus for me. I’m sorry I don’t have the technical vocabulary for talking about optics; I just love these and am thinking of buying the Oberwerk SE 10×42 to complement them.

Source: Birdforum link post #117

Another experienced observer, ‘Paultricounty,’ also offered his opinion on the 8 x 32 SE:

“These are bright and sharp binoculars. I’m going to get in trouble here with some Nikon guys, but they are brighter and at least as sharp as the Nikon SE’s. They’re more neutral in color than the Nikons and has a much wider field of view. There is no field flattener like the Nikons , so they’re not sharp to the edge. It’s a very usable FOV with fall off starting at around 75% , but no mushy edges like the Kowa BDII 6.5 and 8x and some other MIC bins. Contrast is as good as the Nikon and I couldn’t see the slightest amount of CA, clearly superior to the Nikon in that area.”

Source: Birdforum link post #83

Swiss binocular enthusiast Pinac, had this to say about the same instrument on the Oberwerk website:

I ordered one online at Oberwerk in Dayton OH on a Thu midday, Oberwerk dispatched the same day, and I got the SE at my home in Switzerland after 3 business days – not bad (for Oberwerk customer service and UPS)! I had been forewarned by the various reviewers that the SE is quite big and heavy for a 8×32 – it is indeed, but build quality and finish are excellent, and ergonomics are superb, the bino fits snugly into my hands, a joy to use. The immediate impression is that for a 250 $ bino, the optics are really good.

My sample actually magnifies 8.2 x. The measured RFOV and AFOV values are a bit narrower than specified by Oberwerk, but still very nice.

Plenty of eye relief; spectacle wearers should be fine.

Nice extra travel of the focus wheel of ca. 5 dpt beyond the infinity position.

Given that the number of available good 8×30 / 8×32 porro binos is continually shrinking, this is a very welcome additon to the binoculars market, not only for porro enthusiasts.

Source: Oberwerk Website Review# 2

And yet another review from a gentleman named Noah Lawes, who compared it to his Leica BN 8 x 42:

I’m extremely impressed with the 8×32 SE. It provides a beautiful, sharp, sparkling view. It compares favorably with my Leica BN 8×42, and it’s even better in some ways, including CA control, ergonomics, and handheld stability (especially when using the “hat trick” resting the bill of a cap on the prism housings. I’m working on a longer review which I plan to post on one of the forums, but for now, suffice it to say that I think this is a great binocular in absolute terms, and it’s just amazing that you can get it for $250.

Source: Oberwerk Website Review#4

It was also very favourably reviewed by the experienced Italian binocular enthusiast, Piergiovanni Salimbeni, who stated that its performance was similar to roof prism models costing €1K. Be sure also to check out the extensive video footage he captured through the instrument on his accompanying YouTube presentation.

Having said all that, I must report one additional observation regarding the instrument’s field of view. It was after comparing it to the Oberwerk Sport ED 8 x 42 that I noted its smaller field of view in comparison. Indeed, I conducted a star drift measurement and found its field of view to be 7.48 angular degrees, which is actually the same as the Nikon SE 8 x 32. Curiously, this was also noted by CNer Rustler 46 in this link.

I fixed the problem I had with the wandering dioptre, simply by securing my preferred position with a drop of Loctite superglue – problem solved!

No more dioptre wandering!

Finally, I suggest a few improvements to the instrument:

  1. Reduce the overall weight of the chassis by housing the optics in a polycarbonate body. Better still, a magnesium alloy chassis would offer greater ruggedness and a reduced overall weight. These days, magnesium alloy is not confined to high-end models but is now being offered even on budget-priced instruments.
  2. The focus wheel could be tuned better. Some owners have complained that there is some slack in the focuser, while others have noted its overly stiff tension. Improving this important ergonomic feature will greatly improve its enjoyability.

Please don’t be discouraged concerning the undeserved attacks Oberwerk has endured regarding its Chinese manufacture. Is not China a sovereign nation, just like all the other nations under the sun? Does it not have people? I note that most of the negativity came from folk who never experienced the instrument first-hand. Indeed, I suspect from the sheer volume of views that many of these dissenters actually ended up secretly purchasing the instrument lol!

In summary, it’s no exaggeration that the Oberwerk SE 8 x 32 is destined to become one of the great 32mm binoculars of our time. It’s all the more remarkable that you were able to bring it to market at such an attractive price point, which resonates well with my key objective to provide the reader with genuine bargains in today’s market in order to grow this wonderful hobby worldwide.

I wish you continued success with this amazing product!


Neil English PhD.

Author of the new book, Choosing & Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders & Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will soon be published by Springer Nature.

De Fideli.

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