Adventures with a “Go Anywhere” Binocular.

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Preamble 1

Preamble 2

A Work Commenced June 17 2021

 

The old Scottish adage, “what’s for you will not go by you,” is especially appropriate in consideration of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 binocular. After three years of buying-in, testing, and either selling-on or gifting to friends & family,  all manner of binoculars from the pocket, compact and mid-size classes, I hope to provide a comprehensive overview of why I’ve settled on this remarkable instrument, and the many adventures I have thus far enjoyed with it after just a few months of use.

Make no mistake about it: the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 is arguably the finest binocular I have had the pleasure of looking through. Featuring state-of-the-art European optics from one of the premium binocular manufacturers, this little pocket binocular has been my constant companion on my daily walks through green fields, forests, hills and river paths, and has shown me extraordinary sights. It even served as the inspiration behind my first published feature article in a leading birding magazine that hits the shelves next Spring.

My choosing of this small, yet ruggedly built instrument was based on two principal requirements; uncompromising optics and ultra-low weight. I discovered that as I increased my daily walking excursions from a a few miles to several miles, and often across difficult terrain, weight became a supremely important consideration. Even slightly larger instruments, such as the versatile 8 x 32 models couldn’t quite cut it when having to carry such an instrument ’round my neck for a couple of hours or longer each day. The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 tips the scales at only 243g and so represents one of the lightest premium binoculars currently available. When scaling down from the 8 x 32 Trinovid HD I had the pleasure of owning, I was able to reduce the carrying weight by a factor of about 2.7 – an instantly noticeable change. The dual-hinge design of this binocular also means that I can take it anywhere – literally! Folding down to 9 x 6.5cm at its smallest, it’s a true pocket-sized instrument that never gets in the way, whether in active service or not.

Though they are physically small when fully deployed with the eyecups extended, they are, ergonomically speaking, very easy and intuitive to use. Although I had some reservations about how they would fit in my hands, my apprehensions proved largely baseless. The instrument feels very comfortable in my medium-sized hands and the large, central focus wheel means they are very easy to operate in field use.

The small, 20mm triplet objectives and the aspherical elements built into the eyepieces of this binocular deliver stunning optical performance with particularly wonderful correction of spherical aberration. Images snap to focus with absolutely none of the ambiguity you get with lesser instruments The state-of-the-art phase and broad-band anti-reflection coatings applied to the complex assembly of lenses and prisms in the Leica Ultravid render images of the highest contrast with exceptional control of glare. Chromatic aberration is, to all intents and purposes, non-existent. This is especially remarkable since the instrument does not employ extra-low dispersion(ED) glass elements in the optical train. Only in the most challenging observing conditions, can one detect a trace of secondary spectrum – and only at the extreme edge of the field when observing very high contrast targets. Indeed, it has less false colour than the optically excellent Trinovid HD, which does feature ED glass. The instrument therefore provides a powerful reminder that superlative optical performance can be achieved without using fancy modern glass types. But you really have to experience the images first-hand to become a believer!

The field is reassuringly flat, with only very mild field curvature and pincushion distortion seen at the field stops. The images are very bright for such a small instrument. Indeed the highly regarded optics evaluator active on Bird Forum, Gijs van Ginkel, has measured the light transmission of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 as exceeding 90 per cent  and reaching 95 per cent over red visible wavelengths. This is achieved via the advanced coating technology employed in these instruments but it’s exceptional transmission figures may also be augmented via the prisms used; Uppendahl rather than the more ubiquitous, Schmidt-Pechan variety. The Uppendahl is a cemented triplet prism structure, which eliminates two of the four reflections used in the Schmidt-Pechan configuration, helping to increase light transmission by a few per cent. Uppendahls were more widely used in the early days of roof prism optics, when anti-reflection coatings were considerably inferior to today’s treatments, but still confer a small advantage in the case of this small, ultra-portable binocular.

I contacted Gijs directly, enquiring about his recollections concerning this small Ultravid binocular. He kindly responded as follows:

Dear Neil,

I tested this binocular about 15 years ago, the test is published on the WEB-site of House of Outdoor. Apart from the excellent housing design and ideal handling comfort for such a tiny binocular, it is also an optical jewel. Light transmission is exceptionally high for this type of binocular and that is an important factor that contributes to its bright image. Furthermore, the optical system is very well designed as a basis for the beautiful image quality. The exit pupil of 2.5 mm “fills” in many circumstances the size of your eye pupil, so no light is “wasted” and your visual system is optimally “fed” so to speak.

 

Gijs

 

Gijs’ response set my mind racing, as I’d been thinking about why so many of the better quality small exit pupil binoculars(and boy have I tested more of these than you could shake a proverbial stick at lol!) serve up such delightful images. The answer came to me serendipitously a while back while searching for my eye glasses across a large living room. I realised that I was squinting my eyes to see the glasses more clearly. Specifically, squinting is a very natural way near-sighted individuals, such as yours truly, resort to in order to see objects in the distance better. Indeed, as I subsequently discovered, opticians have long-since described this optical trick as the pinhole effect. By restricting the aperture of the exit pupil(see the diagram below), image sharpness, contrast and astigmatism are all reduced.

Schematic showing the phenomenon called the pinhole effect.

The phenomenon even gave rise to specialised (pinhole)eyeglasses still in use today. You can try this at home by cutting out some holes in a cardboard substrate and peering at some object placed in the distance. By blocking off the peripheral rays that contribute most to the aberrations inherent to the human eye, the blur circle is greatly reduced, glare is minimised and image sharpness as well as contrast improves. Thus, in coupling a state-of-the-art-binocular with the best part of your cornea-lens, you are, in effect, achieving the best possible images a binocular can deliver!

The joy of knowing things!

And yet, there is still more to know!

Restricting the size of the exit pupil pays other dividends. For one thing, the depth of focus of the human eye is increased by stopping down the pupil diameter. I have noticed this in a few of the better pocket glasses I have tested in the past. But the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 has very impressive focus depth. Indeed, it easily exceeds my Series 5 8 x 42 Barr & Stroud, and is better than my wife’s 8 x 25 Opticron pocket glass. Indeed, the 8 x 20 Ultravid has slightly better focus depth than the Pentax Papilio II 6.5 x 21! The latter result was very surprising, since its reverse Porro prism design and lower magnification(6.5x) both ensure that its focus depth would be large. That it was exceeded by the 8 x 20 Ultravid was a revelation!

A large depth of focus is a very desirable attribute, as it reduces the amount of focusing one needs to perform while observing wildlife on the move, or just enjoying a rural vista, thereby increasing the instrument’s versatility.

The field of view of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 is 6.5 angular degrees or 113m@1000m. While this is an impressively large field as pocket binoculars go, it is significantly smaller than the 7-8 angular degree fields usually seen in mid- or full size instruments. But as an observer who enjoys studying objects in detail, I find having smaller, better-corrected fields to be more desirable than one that offers super-wide vistas. Sure, a large field of view is beneficial for scanning and birding, but it can also be a distraction if one wants to concentrate on an interesting feature.

The small exit pupil (or eye box) of the Leica Ultravid is often cited as being difficult to square on with one’s eyes. I would agree that it does present more of a challenge than say an 8 x 32 or 8 x 42, but with just a little practice that challenge is all but eliminated. Truth be told, these small binoculars are actually very easy to use and very comfortable to look through. Practice is the key. There are no blackouts and no eye fatigue, even after many hours of continued use in the field, thanks to the instrument’s very precise factory collimation.

The instrument was designed to be used and not treated as an ornament. It is ruggedly built, with excellent handling. I carry it high on my chest to keep the amplitude of its oscillations small, thereby minimising the effects of accidental bumping off tree branches, sandbanks or rocks while on the move. Although it is advertised to be water resistant to a depth of 5 metres, I have my doubts that this is really true. It’s tiny size means it can go everywhere with me. I store it inside a small clamshell case, which zips closed, with the eyecups extended(see the image above), together with a small sachet of silica gel desiccant. Unlike the padded pouch that accompanies the instrument, the clamshell case is smaller and affords greater protection from the elements when not in use. There is no dithering about whether one should take it on vacation or not either. I’ve seen countless reports from nature enthusiasts who are reluctant to take their expensive binocular on a holiday for fear that it might be stolen or broken, and instead buy up a less expensive instrument for such trips. Personally, I don’t understand that mentality; you buy a premium instrument for the views as well as the ergonomics, right?. Why compromise?

I suspect the real reason is another justification to hoard equipment; something I’m just not into. Choose your poison, and live with that poison!

So, there you have it! These are just some of the reasons I have settled on the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 as my only daytime binocular. I’ve even used it for some limited astronomical excursions too, as I’ll explore later.

The Buzzard Field

The Buzzard Field.

It’s been a very cold Spring, not just in the UK, but in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Even today, on the Summer Solstice, temperatures in parts of Britain(13.2C) were actually lower than on the last Winter Solstice(13.5C). Of course, that’s not been discussed much on the main stream media because it doesn’t fit their climate alarmism narrative, but it’s certainly true.

Over the last few months I’ve been expanding my range of local patches to observe many species of bird. One of those patches is a field about half a mile away from my home as the Crow flies, where I have been watching a mating pair of Buzzards which patrol the skies round about. The Buzzard field, as I have come to call it, is a magical place, and as the days slowly brightened throughout the Spring and the air warmed, an abundance of fresh grass has grown up, fed by regular rain and grazed upon by dairy cows. The edges of the field has long grass that is a joy to wade through, maskless and happy,  though one must be careful to cover up well as it’s all too easy to get bitten by ticks and horseflies( locally known as clegs). Wild flowers – butter cups, several varieties of daisy, red and pink campion  -explode in a riot of colour, bringing back memories from my youth when I loved to explore the fields of standing grain on my uncle’s farm in South Tipperary, Ireland.

A pair of Buzzards noisily watching the goings on as I walk through their territory.

The Buzzard nest is located on some tall pine trees that border the field, but I often observe them perched in the branches of old oaks that follow the course of the Endrick river, on the lookout for prey. They are quite territorial raptors. Once they lay eyes on me as I walk through the field,  they often take to flight, soaring high overhead and becoming quite vocal. Their haunting shrieks fill the air and I get the distinct sense that I am unwelcome, but they are far too majestic to just ignore. To get the best views, I often lie still on my back on the grass and use my 8 x 20 to get as close as I can to them as they soar on the updrafts on sunny afternoons. I have enjoyed amazing views of these birds of prey, their wonderful, variegated plumage sharply focused in the binocular. But it also pays to remember that since a Buzzard’s eye sight is 8-10 times better than a typical human, they can probably see me as good or better than I can see them! Sometimes they come close enough for me to make out their amazing eyes, talons and strong, hooked beaks. The sexes are easy to distinguish, with the female being larger than the male.

The view from the tree trunk rest.

My ultimate destination takes me a few hundred yards southward from their nesting site, to a trunk of a fallen tree by the water. Here, I can sit for many minutes on end, catching some Sun and scanning the river for Sand Martins. But more often than not the 8 x 20s pick up a few noisy Oyster Catchers that patrol the stony terrain in and along the river. They are comical birds, avian Pinnochios lol, with their long, orange beaks, darting about in search of fresh river tukka.  And when they take to flight with their amusingly short wings, they never cease to put a smile on my face. How can something so ridiculous looking ever take to the air lol? But boy can they fly!

Culcreuch Pond

Culcreuch Pond, looking East.

My next local patch – Culcreuch Pond – is located about half a mile’s walk from my home. The walk itself is very pleasant, passing through a wooded area, some open fields full of young lambs and the majestic Fintry Hills off to the east beyond Culcreuch Castle. From mid-May to mid-June the air is laced with pollen and airborne seeds. Everywhere I turn my 8 x 20 I can see myriad particles suspended on sunbeams – countless terra-bytes of genetic information stored inside exquisitely designed structures far in advance of any human technology. If they find their way to the right plants, shrubs and trees, they’ll fertilise the next generation of green and bloom.

The photo above is the view from my favourite spot, but is much more challenging to get to during high Summer, when lush vegetation makes the already narrow path more difficult to negotiate. Having a small binocular is a great advantage here, as I’ve lost count of the number of knocks, scratches and dents my larger binoculars have had to endure moving through the brush. On calm days, the pond is very still and large parts of the surface water are covered in a scum of pollen, which serves as an important food source for many other forms of life. For much of the year, my staple glassing targets here include Mallard, Mute Swans, Waterhen, Grey Heron and even the odd Cormorant, but during the warm and bright days of Summer, magnificent Swallows frequent the place. I like to sit quietly at the water’s edge, studying the extraordinary aerobatic displays of these seasonal visitors to our shores, moving with breath-taking agility and screeching as they course through the air in search of flying insects.

On rainy days, I move to the shelter of a tree which keeps the binocular lenses dry and clear. But it’s often during these inclement hours that I’ve witnessed the most awe-inspiring stunts from the Swallows, which very often confine their flights much closer to the surface. The razor sharp optics of the 8 x 20 is ideal for studying this behaviour and on many occasions I have seen the Swallows come all the way down to the surface of the pond, moving with breakneck speed to tuck into the swarms of insects that hatch there. My guess is that low pressure systems prevent the insects from soaring very high on such days, and the Swallows respond by flying near the surface where they are more likely to catch their next meal.

The hills which soar above the valley beyond the pond also present marvellous glassing opportunities. Throughout April and May, Gorse bushes paint the hills in a vibrant yellow colour, and in other parts, large swathes of bluebells can be seen glinting in weak Spring sunshine, but by the time June arrives, Hawthorn trees that dot the landscape are adorned with beautiful white flowers that greatly brighten the hills for weeks on end. After that, dark browns and tan once again become the normative hues. And every now and then, I’ve captured great views of paragliders taking advantage of fair weather days,  as they launch themselves off the summit and slowly glide their way down to the open fields below. Very cool!  Brave souls!

A Walk through the Woods

The Mill Lade.

Forests and wooded areas are a godsend on hot Summer days, providing welcome shade from the ferocity of the Sun. For much of the year, the woods of the Mill Lade – yet another local patch of mine – provide excellent spots for birding, particularly from late Autumn to mid-Spring, as the deciduous trees have not yet put forth their leaves, so providing much better opportunities to spot your feathered friends across greater distances. But it also provides much more light to glass your targets. The walk through the woods of the Mill Lade extends for over a mile and carries the rambler up over the Denny Road on the south side of the village of Fintry, to a lovely arched bridge  over the River Endrick. Follow the road upwards towards the Carron Dam and you gain magnificent views of the valley below, but if you decide to re-join the main road, you can also enjoy a pleasant walk back into the village, past the old Kirk and the open fields of Bogside Farm, where you’re free to enjoy magnificent views of the Fintry Hills beyond.

The woods are fed by a number of small streams that lie below the main forest pathway, and I often stop and watch to see if wild birds will come there and water up. Little Wrens are the most common visitors to these watering holes, but every now and then, I get a real surprise like a Greater Spotted Woodpecker which descends from the trees for a cool drink. Your eyes are as important a tool as binoculars in this terrain, as you’re constantly on the look out for sudden movement, either across your line of sight or in your peripheral vision. Blackbird, Chaffinch, Robin, Tree Creepers and Nuthatches are most commonly glassed here, but I’ve also enjoyed magnificent views of  Song Thrush singing their little lungs out in the late evening.

While the forest floor is much more in shade during high Summer, where one might naturally choose a larger instrument which gathers more light, I have conducted a series of tests comparing the views through a number of high-quality mid-sized binoculars with my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR. And what I discovered genuinely surprised me. Despite the larger instruments delivering noticeably brighter images in these shady environments, the little Ultravid still produces sharper views with more detail than the larger glasses. You see, I have become very accustomed to using the little Leica glass with its 2.5mm exit pupil, so much so that when I bring even a good quality 42mm instrument to my eyes under such conditions, I immediately notice quite a bit of ambiguity creeping in as I try to obtain the sharpest image with a larger exit pupil. Try as I may, they never quite serve up images in the same league as the 8 x 20. In particular, I’ve noticed myself chasing micro-focus constantly to coax the best views out of larger glasses, but with the 8 x 20 there is no such searching necessary. It  just snaps to focus on whatever object I train it on.  And the more I confine myself to the small Leica glass, the more pronounced those differences become.

Bigger is not always better you know!

But here again, there is a rational basis for these findings, as I explored in the beginning of this blog. The human eye resolves the best details in the 2-3mm exit pupil aperture class, so it ‘s hardly surprising I find the images through the optically excellent 8 x 20 so much more compelling than with larger glasses. And here’s another report exploring exit pupil size and resolving power which also comports with these findings. Only when the light fades in the very late evening do I see the obvious advantages of larger binoculars with their greater light gathering power. After all, you do need enough light to see details. Of course, just as I discovered in my explorations with the astronomical telescope, I have come to notice and appreciate things that few if any other folk have bothered to notice. Just like the world of telescopes, some folk never really progress in the hobby, even after decades of ‘looking’ or just ‘looking the part’.

‘Experience’ and ‘insight’ can mean entirely different things!

The View from on High

Panoramic view from just below the summit of Dunmore. The village of Fintry is seen in the centre, while the Fintry Hills beyond rise up 1,000 feet or so above the valley floor.

Dunmore, the hill which rises some 900 feet above the village of Fintry, is yet another of my ‘local patches.’ The route involves following a meandering dust road beyond the old ochre quarry, following a burn upwards toward an open field which gets you to the path to the summit. The climb is not especially challenging, but there are some steep parts that can be a bit tricky to negotiate, especially in winter and on wet days. It’s during these ascents that a small, lightweight binocular really comes into its own. I’ve climbed  Dunmore with all sorts of equipment in the past, mostly cameras, rucksacks and even the occasional spyglass, but more recently, with binoculars. Specifically, I’ve had 42mm, 32mm, as well as a number of 25-30mm class instruments accompany me on the climb over the last few years, but nothing comes close to the comfort level and the optical rewards I have reaped by taking the little 8 x 20 along with me. It’s just so small and light that it never gets in the way. Even with instruments in the 350 to 500g weight class, I feel their heft round my neck far more acutely than with the 240g Leica wonder glass. During any such ascent, the strap can chafe the skin on your neck causing rash or even blistering to occur, but the low weight of the 8 x 20 as well its high quality, woven fabric carrying strap, eliminates all such discomfort.

During the Summer months, the path upwards towards the summit is graced by rich swathes of bracken, and while the climb itself gets the heart racing and raises a sweat, you’re rewarded by magnificent views of the valley below, as well as a cool, refreshing breeze even on the hottest days. The 8 x 20 provides the icing on the cake by serving up crystal clear views of the village below and the Fintry Hills right across the valley to the east. But in the last few years, Dunmore has also become the home to a mating pair of Peregrine Falcons that nest in some of its most inaccessible crags. These wonderful raptors hover in mid-flight, intently scanning the fields below in search of prey, and at this time of year, there is no shortage of fresh game – field mice, moles, rabbit, adders and bats, to name but a few.

Stone dykes erected in previous generations provide excellent areas to scan for interesting avian species.

Old stone dykes crisscross the hill-scape. These provide great places to scan with the 8 x 20, as sometimes they turn up interesting birds; Turtledoves and the odd, glorious Yellowhammer. But Dunmore is also a place where one can just escape from the human world,  at least for a while, to offer up a prayer to the Living God in gratitude for such small mercies; to pay homage to His illustrious, verdant creation………………. while I still can.

The River Walk

River Endrick

It’s always best to spend a penny before taking leave of the house for a walk by the river – yet another one of my local patches. The sound of running water, or even the sight of it flowing over rocks is enough to strongly stimulate the urge to urinate. I believe psychologists call this the power of suggestion lol.

The Endrick River itself meanders some 20 miles through the valley from its source in the Fintry Hills all the way to Loch Lomond. After prolonged bouts of heavy rain, the river swells in size and depth, fed by cascades of water that drain from higher altitudes. During warm July days, the air above the river teems with swarming insects that live out their entire lives in just a few days. Brown trout sprats gorge on them in the evening and the feasting continues well into the wee small hours of the morning, as any fly fisherman will tell you. These young fish are in turn preyed upon by river Lampreys that do not migrate to the sea, as other eels do, but spend their entire adult life in the fresh waters of the Endrick and Loch Lomond. And where there are eels, you’ll also find Otter, though I’ve yet to see one here. Some local naturalists inform me that they are best observed at dawn and dusk, times I do not generally glass, so no real surprises there.

Many kinds of birds frequent the river. There’s always a few Mallard around and sometimes you get a glimpse of mating pairs of Gooseander moving up and down stream. The females always look anxious to me. The ruddy feathers in the back of their neck stick out comically as they move past you. Mind you, one can never get too close to these birds. Come within 20 yards of them and they take to flight. The same is true of Grey Herron which fish these waters.

It was earlier this year that I first caught sight of Dippers feeding in the river. Indeed they are the subject of my first birding feature article, so I’m sworn to secrecy about those just now.  Arguably the most common birds on the Endrick are the Pied and Yellow Wagtail that flit among the shallower, rocky parts of the river in search of insects. Sand Martins make their nests in the raised clay-rich bank,  away from the main village, but I’ve also noticed many Wrens which seem to like living near the water. I’ve seen countless examples over the weeks and months, skulking about in the holes and shaded crevices along the river bank. I’m pretty sure some have even nested there.

The glorious light of July makes glassing the surface of the river a supreme joy; the cadence of the water as it flows over and around the rocks fascinates me. If you look closely at it with the 8 x 20, you’ll soon realise that every moment is different, a new swirl, new bubbles and foamy organic froths, one moment coalescing and breaking up in the next. Fixing my gaze on one spot on the river, flower blossoms, leaves, twigs and the odd deceased insect flow by on the water, making every field of view new and exciting. Nature is in constant flux, never ceasing or stopping to take its breath.

Visiting Local Lochs

Loch Venachar, Stirlingshire, with Ben Venue in the background.

Here in rural Central Scotland, we’re blessed with many freshwater lochs that dot the landscape, providing excellent places to take a cool dip or to engage in a number of water sports. My boys have taken up paddle boarding and enjoy nothing better than  taking off across the smaller lochs in search of adventure. Even though Loch Lomond is one of the most popular destinations for many outdoor enthusiasts across the Central Belt, it tends to get a bit too crowded during the hotter days of July, and so we tend to visit less populated lochs a little further away. One destination we have tried out a few times is the Lake of Menteith (yes it’s a lake, the only lake in Scotland), which is actually closer to us as the crow flies, but it’s not ideal (the Lake is about 700 acres in area) as smaller waterways are more prone to algal blooms which can irritate the skin.

Port of Mentieth Kirk and fishery centre where you can hire a boat to do a spot of fly fishing.

But no matter where we go, there’s never a shortage of interesting people. On one afternoon, we were joined by a young lassie who launched a rather sophisticated drone over the lake. My eldest boy, Oscar, happened to be out in the middle of the lake when she captured this aerial shot of him on his paddle board. Cool or what?

My boy paddle boarding on the Lake of Mentieth. Aerial drone shot.

Larger lochs, on the other hand, such as Loch Venachar, are far better suited to such activities and the boys have thoroughly enjoyed their many trips there. Venachar is only a mile wide at its widest extent and so the boys can never get too far out of sight, especially when their dad is glassing them with his little 8 x 20!

My younger son, Douglas, taking off across Loch Venachar.

My wife and I usually enjoy walks along the shore or even the odd paddle in our bare feet. There are many glassing opportunities at these places. Sometimes, you get sight of some geese flying low over the loch. Black headed and Common Gull are regular attendants, as well as Pied Wagtails which fly low along the stony shoreline in search of insects. And if there’s no avian subjects about, I just enjoy glassing the hills around the Loch, especially if the long distance visibility is good. The little Leica is just dandy for moving along the shores, especially on the hottest afternoons, when carrying anything larger becomes a real pain.

The little Leica Ultravid 8 x 20; a fine companion on bright sunny days.

We’re making the very most of these warm and bright Summer days of freedom, especially for our sons, who need space to grow up happy, confident and healthy. But sadly these happy days will not last forever. The autocratic powers that be will find more reasons to lock us up again, if not for Covid 19 ‘scariants’ the masktards salivate over, then for climate ’emergency’ lockdowns the global Marxists are now rumoured to be plotting. I don’t trust the government or the lies peddled by the main stream media, and I’ve accepted that life will never be the same again. But all the while, the signs are off the charts that God is starting to wrap things up anyway. Given the escalation of human wickedness now in the world, I can’t say I blame Him. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

A Visit to the Seaside

Overlooking Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, August 1 2021.

At the end of July, we hooked up with my brother’s family, who have settled in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Their home is a renovated late-18th century building only 6 miles as the crow flies from the Irish Sea. As you can imagine, there are many wonderful birding opportunities running all along the coastline, loved and often visited by keen twitchers and other wild life enthusiasts. Usually I take a telescope with me to take advantage of the clear, dark skies available here, but this year I decided to bring three binoculars along; my trusty 8 x 20 for extensive daytime glassing, a 10 x 42 for stargazing, and a curious little 8 x 32 ED binocular for further testing.

There’s a lovely cliff walk connecting the seaside villages of Goodwick and Fishguard, where we enjoyed magnificent views of the calm sea below, with many people engaging in all sorts of water sports – old fashioned sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding and jet skiing, to name but a few. The rocky shoreline is home to many delightful sea birds and on Sunday, August 1, I used my 8 x 20 to glean some exquisite views of several species of Sea Gull of all ages, Oyster Catchers and other waders, and even the odd Cormorant. In addition, some of the wooded areas around the villages are home to magnificent but decidedly raucous Raven that eke out a living here.

The Carp Pond.

There is a small pond on my brother’s residence that is stocked with Carp and a few other coarse fish species. This time of year, beautiful Lilies decorate the water’s edge with their large colourful flowers. And there is no shortage of wonderful flying insects like Dragon flies, Pond Skaters, Water Striders and Boatmen that attract fish and bird alike, which I can enjoy with the wonderful close focussing distance of the 8 x 20, which enables me to get as close as 1.8 metres. The 8 x 20 is particularly comfortable for glassing insects in close proximity because its dual hinge design allows me to decrease the inter-pupillary distance better than most mid-sized binoculars  which affords very comfortable close-up viewing.

In the coming days, I wish to increase my tally of wading bird species logged up on visits to more open beaches along the south Wales coastline.

 

To be continued…………………..

 

 

De Fideli.

Spectrum.

Take a Closer Look.

If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.                                                   

                                                                                                            John 8:31-32

 

 

In this blog, I’ll be exploring subjects of general interest/concern to me and wider society in this age of mass information, deception and rapid moral decline:

 

The Dark Side of Transgender Medicine

 

How the Media Manipulates Truth

 

Cogito Ergo Sum

 

The Secular Case Against Homosexuality

 

Our Fragile Home

 

The Anti-Social Network

 

A Form of Child Abuse

 

Cool stuff you never hear in Church

 

The Rise of Homeschooling

 

James Clerk Maxwell: a Great Life Lived

 

Reasonable Faith: An Interview with Professor Alvin Plantinga

 

Doubting Dodgy Science

 

Evaluating World Views

 

Depraved Minds

 

The Beauty of the Creation

 

The Preciousness of Free Speech

 

Walking your Way to Good Health

 

Did the Eye Really Evolve?

 

Unholy Alliance: when Dodgy Science Merges with Theology

 

The Truth about UFOs

 

The Rise of Neo-Paganism

 

From Spiritual Shipwreck to Salvation

 

The Rise in Euthanasia Killings

 

The Greatest Story Ever Told

 

Holocaust Survivor

 

Coming Soon to a Town Near You: The Rise of Bestiality

 

The Death of Naturalism

 

Anything Goes

 

From Gaypo to Paedo

 

When Scientists Lose the Plot

 

The Sixth Mass Extinction Event in Our Midst

 

‘Depth Charging’ the Values of the Ancient World

 

The Truth about the Fossil Record

 

AI

 

The Language Instinct

 

Not the Same God

 

Greening the Deserts

 

Moving the Herds

 

Evolutionary Atheist gets his Facts Wrong…..Again

 

Distinguished MIT Nuclear Physicist Refutes Scientism

 

Pursuing Truth

 

The Dangers of Yoga

 

Pseudoastronomy

 

Get thee right up thyself! : The New Transhumanist Religion

 

The Biblical Origin of Human Rights and why it’s a Problem for Atheists

 

A Closer Look at the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 

Winds of Change: Prestigious Science Journal Concedes Design

 

A Distinguished Chemist Speaks the Truth

 

The Scourge of Pornography

 

Eye

 

Bart Ehrman Debunked

 

An Evil Generation Seeks After a Sign

 

Magnetic Pole Shift

 

Decimation of Global Insect Populations

 

The Spiritual Suicide of a Once Christian Nation

 

Mass Animal Deaths Worldwide

 

Not Going Anywhere

 

UN Report: World’s Food Supply under ‘Severe Threat’ from Loss of Biodiversity

 

False gods of the New Age

 

From Abortion to Infanticide in the “Land of the Free”

 

Sports Personalities Speak Out Over Transgender Athletes

 

Magonus Sucatus Patricius

 

Celebrating a Killing

 

Human “Out of Africa” Theory Debunked

 

The Other Side of the Rainbow

 

Vintage James Tour: How to Cook Up a Proto-Turkey

 

Big Brother Watching

 

Follow the Evidence: The Problem of Orphan Genes

 

Follow the Evidence: The Genius of Birds

 

The Butterfly Enigma

 

Man’s Best Friend

 

Darwinian Evolution On Trial Among Biologists

 

New Fossil Finds Thwart Human Evolutionary Predictions

 

Global Persecution of Christians

 

 Ratio Christi

 

Questions About the Qur’an

 

Engaging with Islam

 

Calling Evil Good

 

Parousia

 

Tall Tales From Yale: Giving up Darwin.

 

More on the Proto-Turkey:  Dr. Tour Responds to Cheap Shots from the Pond Scum Merchants

 

Good Riddance: Despicable British TV Show Axed after Death of Participant

 

There’s Heehaw Out There…ken.

 

The Fastest Growing Insanity the World has Ever Seen

 

Pharmakeia

 

Darwinism & Racism: Natural Bed Fellows

 

The Modern Root of Anti-Semitism

 

Jesus & Archaeology

 

A Victory for Common Sense: Transgender Weightlifter Stripped of his Medals

 

The US Equality Act: A Plea for Caution

 

Reunited: Music & the Human Spirit

 

Gladys Wilson

 

1st Century Christian Insight: The Didache

 

The Clothes Maketh the Man

 

Why Some Books were Left Out of the Bible

 

Why the Human Mind is not Material

 

What God Thinks of Scientific Atheism

 

For the Love of the Creator

 

An Essential Component of a Modern Education

 

Peace Cross

 

Earth: “Presidential Suite” of the Universe

 

How to Really Stand Out in a Crowd

 

Straight from a NASA Scientist: Jewel Planet

 

The Singularity

 

No Life Without Super Intelligence

 

Darwinism as a Cargo Cult

 

Body Plan Development Raises New Headaches for Evolutionists

 

Membrane Biochemistry Stymies Evolutionary Origin of Complex Cells

 

Science Speaks: Common Abortafacients Harmful to Both Mother & Child

 

Biblical Ignoramus Twists the Words of Christ

 

Apologia Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

 

Attention Parents: American Psycho Association Promoting Polyamory to Pre-Teens as ‘Ethical.’

 

The Only Rainbow God Recognises

 

Calling Time Out on Evolutionists’ Failure to Explain The Cambrian Explosion

 

7 Reasons to Reject Replacement Theology

 

Psychiatric Diagnoses are ‘Scientifically Meaningless’ Study Shows

 

Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God

 

Universalism Debunked

 

The Prosperity Gospel Debunked

 

New Science Reveals First Cellular Life to be “Amazingly Complex”

 

New Law Firms Being Established to Counter the Rise in Christian Persecution

 

Playing the Numbers 32:23 Game

 

Multiple Lines of Scientific Evidence Converge on 3rd Century BC Age of the Famous Isaiah 53 Scroll.

 

Meet the Gestapo

 

Exposed: Theologians Deceived by Darwinian Ideology

 

New Insights into the Shroud of Turin

 

What we Know and Do Not Know About the Human Genome

 

Debunking Da Vinci Code Tosh

 

Sorry: No Such Thing as “Gay” Penguins

 

Genetic Entropy

 

Dunderheid Alexa

 

The Extinction of Reason

 

A Biblical Perspective on Diet

 

Revelation: Number of Transgender People Seeking Sex Reversals Skyrockets

 

Psychologist Debunks Pseudoscientific Explanations for Human Love & Compassion

 

The Dismantling of the Feminine

 

Disturbing Trends in the Roman Catholic Church

 

N = 402

 

The Nazareth Inscription

 

A Christian Response to Halloween

 

Seeking Methuselah

 

Beware the Enneagram

 

No Safe Spaces!

 

Pale Blue Dot

 

Encyclopedia Galactica

 

Phillip E. Johnson: A Tribute

 

The Darwinian Response to Human Life: Let the Baby Die!

 

The Best Explanation for Beauty

 

What is Feminism?

 

Insects & Light Pollution

 

Candy-Ass Christianity

 

Antiobiotic Resistance in a Post-Darwinian World

 

Adam & Eve: Redux

 

Joyce Meyer

 

Michael Behe Says No to Theistic Evolution

 

New Atheism: An Autopsy

 

Serenading an Old Girl.

 

“Progressive” Christianity as a Political Cult.

 

The Church of Satan, Sweden

 

A Rational, Christian Response to Humanism

 

More Depravity: the Sexualisation of Children

 

Shameful Humanity:  Murder of the Unborn Now the Biggest Worldwide Killer.

 

Origin Stories

 

Privileged Planet

 

Brokeness

 

Sorry Sam Smith, You’re Still a ‘He.’

 

Nature Genetics: How ‘Evolutionary Thinking’ led Biologists Astray about Pseudogenes.

 

A Kingdom Divided Against Itself: Why Evolutionary Psychology is Bunk

 

Of Melting Glaciers and Darwinism

 

First US President Addresses 47th March For Life, as theSecular Media Duck for Cover

 

Wolves Among the Sheepfolds

 

The New Science of Separate, Distinct Creations

 

That Sacred Space

 

Faith of the Fatherless

 

More Tales of Darwinian Thuggery

 

Keeping your Children Strong in the Faith

 

Former Editor of Nature Waves Bye Bye to the RNA World

 

At Scientific American: Physicist Pours Cold Water on Scientism

 

A Biblical Perspective on Alcohol Consumption

 

High Priest of a Pseudoscience Rears His Ugly Head Again

 

Another Step into the Human Immorality Sewer: Normalizing Throuples & Sologamy

 

Symptom of a Depraved Society: Scientists Now Fighting to Affirm a Basic Fact of Life: Sex is Binary

 

Speaking the Truth in Love: Where the LGBTQ Community is Ultimately Headed

 

The Power of Biblical Prophecy: The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

 

Origin of Life Debate: James Tour versus Lee Cronin.

 

7 Rock Solid Scientific Arguments for the God of the Bible

 

SETI@Home Shuts Down

 

An Existential Crisis in Neuroscience

 

AI Hype and the End of Moore’s Law

 

Discerning Fact from Spin/Fiction in Cosmos 3.0

 

Polly’s No Statistician!

 

Why All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men Cannot Put Humpty Together.

 

COVID-19

 

The James 5:16 Phenomenon; the Healing Power of Prayer

 

Heart of Darkness: Organ Harvesting of Chinese Prisoners

 

Confessions of a (yet another) Darwinian Sceptic

 

Selflessness

 

Darwinism as a Mentally Retarding Virus

 

Who is the God of the Bible?

 

Legendary Biologist Claims Atheism has Nothing to do with Science

 

Why Nature Should Never be Worshipped

 

What ‘Evolutionary Theory’ is Really Good at Explaining: Cancer.

 

Avoiding the Most Deadly Virus of All

 

The Prince of Peace Versus the Prophet of Islam

 

Coronavirus Outbreak Spurs Record Bible Sales

 

More Tales of Woe for Darwinian Junk Science: No Such Thing as Pseudogenes

 

Earth Fine-Tuned for Space Exploration

 

Pious Frauds

 

The CCP Virus

 

By the Rivers of Babylon

 

Abiogenesis & the Tooth Fairy

 

A Whale of an Evolution Tale

 

New UN Report: COVID-19 will Produce Famines of ‘Biblical Proportions’

 

American Schism

 

An Interview with Dr. Frank Turek

 

The S-Blob

 

Neanderthal DNA & the Leviticus 18:23 Question

 

Debunking Scientific Materialism through Mathematics

 

Incompetent Experts & Bad Government

 

Intelligent Design Now Thriving in Europe

 

Cosmic Fine-Tuning: an Interview with Christian Cosmologist, Dr. Luke Barnes.

 

Ivy League Philosopher Dismisses Evolutionary Psychology as  Pseudoscience

 

Preterism Debunked

 

Ravi Zacharias(1946-2020) RIP

 

Ten Things you Need to Know about Scientism

 

Why Humans have Souls

 

Freeman Dyson: God is a Mathematician

 

J.K. Rowling Takes a Stand Against Militant LGBT Activists

 

Humans Together

 

Talking about Racism

 

Lest We Forget: William Wilberforce

 

Update on the Long Term Evolution Experiment(LTEE): Sickening News for Evolutionists

 

An Interview with Mathematician William Dembski

 

Fatherless America

 

A Technical Look at Fine-Tuning in Biological Systems

 

David Pawson(1930-2020) Remembered

 

The Colour of Christian Art

 

Date Setters

 

Punctuated Equilibrium Debunked by Researchers

 

Harari’s Fictions

 

For the Attention of Greta Thunberg

 

Why We Should Cancel Darwin

 

No Ordinary Star

 

Darwin, Africa & Genocide 

 

What Everyone Should Know About the BLM Movement

 

The Principles that Made America Great:

Part I

Part II

 

The Artifact Hypothesis Debunked

 

Why the Multiverse is Bunk

 

Why Christians Should Support Israel’s Claim to the West Bank

 

Earth’s Deep Water Cycle Fine-Tuned for Life

 

When Darwinism is Applied to Politics

 

Science Update on COVID-19

 

COVID-19: The Economic Fallout

 

Whale Evolution Further Debunked Part 1

Part 2

 

New ENCODE Results Unveil Still MORE FUNCTIONS in So-Called Junk DNA.

 

Concerning Energy

 

The Politicisation of Hydroxy Chloroquine

 

The Wonders of the Human Mind Part 1

Part II

Part III

 

God Among Sages

 

Trapped by Language: Why Biologists Can’t Avoid Teleological Verbiage

 

A Little Lower than the Angels

 

Heretic Pope Affirms Transgender Depravity

 

Latest on Orphan Genes Affirms Creationism

 

For Math Challenged Woketards: Two Plus Two Really Equals Four

 

A Critical Review of Josh Swamidass’ Book, The Genealogical Adam and Eve

 

Angels & Demons

 

Worrying Developments in the American Workplace

 

The Decadence of Gender Ideology

 

Electric Mud

 

 Strictly Come Dancing Turns Gaypo

 

The Philadelphia Statement

 

Graceland Vandalised by BLM Thugs

 

Update on Recent Desperate Attempts to Find a Naturalistic Origin of Life

 

More Bad News for Pond Scum Merchants: No Sign of ETI in New Mega-Survey

 

Netflix Promotes Paedophilia

 

Open for Business

 

Cultural Marxism

 

A Lost Generation

 

World Class Paleontologist Debunks Ancestors to Cambrian Animals

 

Empire of the Beast

 

Religion of Green

 

How Christians Should Respond to Environmental Issues

 

Breakthrough: Intelligent Design Theory Now Being Published in Mainstream Science Journals

 

Woke Pope

 

The Great Barrington Declaration

 

The Astonishing Hypothesis

 

Facebook n’ That

 

Auschwitz Rising

 

Jesus was No Socialist!

 

Facebook Removes Ex-Gay Testimonies

 

Responding to Richard Dawkins & The Old Testament

 

The Perils of Favouritism & the New “Woke” Gospel

 

British NHS Defends Giving Sex Change Hormones to 10 Year-Olds

 

American Pastors Organising to Fight Back Against “Tyrannical” Democrat Shutdowns

 

The Rule of Six

 

The Left’s Communist Manifesto for America

 

The Origin of the Lockdown Mentality

 

The Developing Beast System : Apostate Pope Attends One World Religion Event

 

Victory for Common Sense: UK Equalities Minister Blasts BLM & Critical Race Theory

 

Update on Masks

 

No Phosphine Found In the Venus’ Atmosphere Follow-Up Study Shows

and

A New Call for the Retraction of the Original Paper After Another Analysis of the Data

and

Another Negative Report

and

Yet Another Rebuttal

 

First Eukaryotic Cells were Already Complex

 

When Scientists Make Truth Claims Outside Science

 

Warning to Masktards: A Distinguished Neurologist Speaks

 

Davos Great Reset

 

Did China Fund The Phony Joe Biden Campaign?

 

The Great American Coup

 

Democrat-Run Oregon Decriminalises Crystal Meth, Heroin and Cocaine Use, as its  Cities Burn.

 

Why Origin of Life Researchers Must Embrace Intelligent Design

 

Should Christians Ever Employ Civil Disobedience?

 

Are Bacteria Really Evolving?

 

Catholics Discuss their Apostate Pope

 

Marxism Appropriated to the 2020 US Election

 

Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed Develops Moderna Vaccine with 95% Efficacy

 

Veteran Military Chaplin Fired from US Air Force for Holding Biblical Views on Sexual Morality

 

Schooling Masktards: Multiple Studies Show Masks are Ineffective and Possibly Harmful

 

An Amusing Take on the Utah “Monolith”

 

From the USA: A Major Victory Over LGBTQ Tyranny

 

Sidney Powell’s Kraken

 

Treasure Trove of Rock Paintings Dating Back 12,500 Years Discovered in Remote parts of Colombian Rain Forests

 

Sick Morality: As Countless Unborn Humans Are Murdered, Activists Push for “Personhood” Rights for Elephants

 

Galapagos Finch “Evolution” Debunked

 

USA Faces Tsunami of Evictions in 2021

 

After Weighing the Evidence, Medic Ditches Theistic Evolution for Intelligence

 

Some Effects of Transgenderism

 

Leaked: Biden Administration Urged to Persecute American Conservative Christians

 

Advanced Computer Models on Earth’s Long-term Habitability Continue to Affirm its Extreme Rarity/ Uniqueness

 

Raven Intelligence Raises More Problems for Evolutionists

 

I’ll Own What I Choose to Own and my Happiness is none of your Damn Business……Comrade!

 

Another Defeat for Darwinian Junk Science: the Thymus is Not a Vestigial Organ

 

Argentinian Socialist Government  Legalises Abortion

 

Morons in da House

 

Requiem for the American Republic

 

A Catholic Priest Comments on the Consequences of the 2020 US Election

 

Warring Against the Beast

 

Darwinian Time Trees Don’t Work, New Analysis Suggests

 

Battle for the Soul: Surviving a Chinese Communist Re-Education Camp

 

The New American State Religion- Wokeness

 

Conservatives: You Gotta Get Your Kids out of Illinois Public Schools

 

New Geochemical Research Findings Affirm the Genesis Creation Account

 

An Interview with Dr. John Sanford

 

Illinois Christian High School Student Faces Disciplinary Hearing after Refusing to Take a Class on Deviant Sexual Behaviour

 

Did the American People Really Vote this Guy in?

 

The Curious Case of Ivermectin

 

Mormons

 

Burn it Down!

 

New Zealand: where Capitalism Triumphed over Socialism

 

Hitting Woke Big Tech & the Fake News Media where it Hurts

 

More Bull from the Masktard King

 

The Devout Catholic

 

Yet Another Putative Human Evolutionary Ancestor Debunked 

 

Marxist Pope Francis Pushes Great Reset

 

Revisionist View of Homosexuality Debunked

 

Poisoning of the Youth: A look at Amerika’s New, Ultra-Woke School Curriculum

 

From Newsweek: Transgender Man Warns Others About the Dire Health Consequences of Her Actions

 

The Wonders of Honey

 

Curbing Wokeness & Cancel Culture: UK to Introduce Legislation which will Fine Universities that Limit Free Speech

 

It Happened on Your Watch: How the Rise of Evil is Destroying American Cities

 

 

Great Reset Creep’s Plan to Destroy the American Agricultural Industry

 

Lessons for the USA: Venezuela’s Experiment with Socialism Falters as it Embraces Privatisation

 

New Insights into ‘Super’ Earths Suggest they’re Uninhabitable

 

Insane Biden Administration Destroying Girl’s Sports

 

Amazon Quietly Removes Book Criticizing Transgender Ideology

 

WokaCola

 

Just Like You!

 

Dozens of House Democrats Requesting Biden to Relinquish Sole Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons

 

What the Equality Act Means for Ordinary US Citizens

 

Great Reset Creeps Suffer a Propaganda Crash

 

Why Darwinian Junk Science Remains Popular with the Pagan Masses

 

Levity

 

Another Evolutionary Icon Bites the Dust: Beta Globin Pseudogene Shows Functionality

 

Are Electric Vehicles Really the Future?

 

Prehistoric Cave Art & The Imago Dei

 

Vatican Clarifies its Position on Same Sex Relationships – Declares them “Sinful”

 

Where Cancel Culture Naturally Leads

 

Self-Evident Truths

 

New York Columbia University’s Woke Graduation

 

Long-term Study from 10,000 Generations of Yeast Cells Reveals Devolution not Evolution

 

What the Green New Deal is Really All About

 

Avi Loeb’s Oumuamua Alien Hypothesis Debunked

 

What Everyone Needs to Know About the Proposed Vaccine Passports

 

America: Land of the Insane

 

Son of the Devout Catholic

 

Mars & Nestle Join the Woke Brigade

 

Why People Who Have Had Covid-19 Needn’t Get the Vaccine

 

Attention Parents: What the Sexually Depraved are Now Teaching Your Children 

 

What Next? Incest?

 

Ten Reasons why Birds are Not Living Dinosaurs

 

An Open Letter to John Kerry

 

Covidian Masktard Evolution

 

Debunking More Pseudoscience: New MIT Study Shows Social Distancing Rules Are Completely Pointless

 

From a Leading UK Journalist: Biden is Smashing America’s Moral Compass

 

You What? Even the Spineless CNN Calls out Biden as a Masktard

 

Obama Administration Scientist Admits “Climate Emergency” is Bunk

 

Richard Dawkins’ Desperate Claims about the Origin of the Bacterial Flagellum Now Disproven

 

Fighting the Marxists: US States Begin to Ban the Teaching of Critical Race Theory in Schools 

 

Sickos: Have a Very Happy Woke Birthing Person Day!

 

Woke British Universities Could Face Fines for Suppressing Free Speech/De-platforming Guest Speakers

 

Journey out of Mormonism

 

Fighting Back: Concerned Ohio Parents Take a Stand Against the Teaching of Marxist Critical Race Theory in Public Schools

 

Marxist Ideologies Infiltrating the US Military

 

Darwin’s Tree of Life Finally Gets the Chop

 

Imago Dei

 

Covid 19: What We Now Know

 

Evidence for the Biblical Exodus

 

Gaps Everywhere in the History of Life!

 

For the Memory of Shang Di

 

From Prager: How to Re-Take A Nation from the Marxist ‘Democrats’

 

The Transgender Contagion Corrupting the Youth of the World

 

Nickelodeon Ratings Crash Amid LGBTQ Push

 

News from Canada: Campaign for Sexual Immorality Extended From a Month to a Season

 

Who did Allah Love in Eternity?

 

Critical Race Theory: A Crash Course

 

Pushing Back: Australian Parliament Bans the Teaching of Critical Race Theory in the School Curriculum

 

Long Awaited Pentagon UFO Report: A Big Fat Nothing Burger

 

Landmark Study on Heme Biosynthesis and Storage Raises Major Headaches for Evolutionists- Spectacularly Confirms Intelligent Design

 

Culture Wars: France Tells US  ” Keep your Wicked Wokeism to Yourself!”

 

Biden Regime Spying on Prominent Conservative TV Personality

 

Welcome to the New Cult of ‘Safetyism’ 

 

Wokecabulary

 

Allan Sandage: An Astronomer’s Journey to Faith

 

Climate Models: Worse than Nothing?

 

Trump Goes After the Big Tech Bottom Feeders

 

From Trans to Frankenstein

 

More Bad News for Evolutionists: Landmark Study Shows Endogenous Retroviral (ERVs) Play an Essential Role in the Immune System

 

US Military Goes Woke

 

While America Leans Ever Closer to Communism, Cuban People Take to the Streets to Condemn it

 

What the Darwinist and Transgender Lobby Share in Common

 

 Sex Mania-Induced Societal Psychosis

 

What Next? Climate Lockdowns?

 

Inspired by Crystal Meth?

 

Inflation

 

Trump Discusses  Arizona Audit Findings and the Biden Regime’s Disastrous Record in Government

 

About Kamala

 

The Covid-19 Files: The Curious Case of Sweden

 

US Presidential Election Audit Updates

Georgia: Exhibit A

Arizona: Exhibit B

 

An ID Prediction Concerning CRISPR Gene Editing

 

7 Lies your Kids Pick Up in the Secular World and How to Correct Them

 

The Link Between the Political Left and Paedophilia

 

Evolution of Daphnia Debunked

Book Review: Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries that Bring the Bible to Life.

 

Chock full of archaeological facts that uphold the Biblical narrative.

Title: Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries that Bring the Bible to Life

Author: Titus Kennedy Ph D.

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7915-3

Number of Pages: 254

Price: £13.99(UK) Paperback

 

 

In this review blog, I’ll be exploring a sample of the huge body of archaeological evidence that affirms the historicity of the Biblical narrative, brought to us by the American field archaeologist, Dr Titus Kennedy.

 

Tune in soon for the full review………………………………..

 

 

De Fideli

 

Product Review: SvBony SV202 8 x 32 ED Binocular.

The Svbony 8 x 32 ED binocular.

A Work Commenced July 20 2021

 

 

Product: SvBony SV202 8 x 32 ED

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 136m@1000m (7.87 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 15.6mm

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.98m measured.

Chassis Material: Rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, dielectric coated Bak-4 prisms, phase correction coating.

Dioptre Range: +/- 3 Dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

ED Glass: Yes

Weight: 510g(measured)

Warranty: 1 year International Manufacturer Warranty

H/W:14.8/12.3cm

Accessories: Soft padded carry bag, padded neck strap, lens cleaning cloth, rubber ocular and objective lens covers (tethered), multi-language user manual

Retail Price: £99.99(Amazon UK)

 

Make no mistake about it; we live in a golden age for buying binoculars. Never before has the consumer had so much choice available, thanks to incredible advances in optical technology which has given many other individuals access to very decent optics for a small financial outlay. In recent years, new coating technologies have greatly increased light transmission and image sharpness, to such an extent that even the budget models now available can and do outperform premium models offered only a few decades ago. In addition, the incorporation of extra low dispersion(ED) glass is now common even in inexpensive models, which, if executed properly, promises to cut chromatic aberration and increase image contrast still more.

As I’ve commented elsewhere, the 8 x 32 format is the new 8 x 42, as evidenced by the offering of the former by both mass market and premium binocular manufacturers alike. This is in no doubt attributed to their lower mass, improved ergonomics and very efficient light transmission, as well as their perfect suitability during bright daylight but also well into low light situations encountered at the earlier stages of dusk and dawn.  Apart from the use of premium pocket glasses – my personal favourite format – the 8 x 32 format has always interested me, owing to its compactness and smaller exit pupil (4mm), which uses the best part of your eye to analyse the binocular image.

While many entry-level ED models are priced in the £250 to £300 range, I became very intrigued by a less well known manufacturer, SvBony, a Hong Kong-based optics firm that has recently marketed a compact and mid-size model – an 8 x 32 and 10 x 42 –  chock full of advanced features. But what really piqued my interest was that Amazon UK were offering the 8 x 32 ED model for just £99.99, inclusive of delivery! As you can see from the specifications above, the SvBony 8 x 32 ED has a number of advanced optical features that I simply wouldn’t expect in a model at this price point, but having another binocular available – the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32(retail price £146 UK) – that also possesses many of the same features – I was able to conduct an in-depth study of how the SvBony ED binocular compared with it.

Ergonomics Comparison

The SvBony 8 x 32 ED(right) and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32(left).

No doubt you’ve heard that possessing a magnesium alloy frame is a feature only common to upper-tier binocular models, I would like to take this opportunity to put this urban myth to bed, once and for all. Since both the SvBony and the Celestron Trailseeker models feature a magnesium body in this low price category, having this design feature is no longer the preserve of the best models but is now commonly available even in much more economically priced products.

The Celestron Trailseeker has a large plastic focuser that becomes very hard to move in Winter owing to the solidification of the grease used in its gearing. But in warm weather, it becomes much easier to turn. In contrast, the lower priced SvBony 8 x 32 ED has a much higher quality metal focus wheel, which is much smoother and easier to turn. Taking just one and a half revolutions to go from one extreme of its focus travel to the other, I would describe it as slow to progressive in speed, so not especially suited to either birding or hunting – more of a general purpose instrument than anything else.

Turning now to the dioptre ring located under the right ocular in both models, the SvBony’s metal dioptre ring is better designed than the plastic one found on the Trailseeker. Looking at a close up of the SvBony dioptre, you can see that the markings are easier to make out, helping the user achieve his or her optimum position better. And just like the Trailseeker, the SvBony dioptre ring is stiff and thus will not get nudged out of position so easily during field use.

The lower-priced SvBony model has a higher quality dioptre ring compared with the Celestron Trailseeker.

Looking next at the quality of the eyecups, I was delighted to see that the SvBony had good, high qualit,y rubber-over-metal twist up cups, pretty much identical in quality to those found on the more expensive Trailseeker. What is more, they stay rigidly locked in place when fully extended. Yet again, that the SvBony possessed such high quality eye cups was a pleasant surprise to me, as I was not expecting anything as good as that on a compact binocular costing less than £100.

The matt black armouring on the Svbony is a little bit more grippy than the Trailseeker and the ribbing at the side of the former reminds me very much of the armouring found on the Zeiss Terra ED models I’ve sampled.

The ribbed side armouring on the SvBony 8 x 32 ED is very reminiscent of that found on Terra ED models.

The objectives on both the SvBony and the Trailseeker are equally well recessed to protect the glass from dust, rain and peripheral light. The anti-reflective coatings look to be completely different though, with the Trailseeker having a standard greenish reflection in bright daylight, as opposed to the more subdued purple hues seen on the SvBony.

The objective lenses on both models are nicely recessed but appear to have entirely different anti-reflection coatings applied. The SvBony model is at the top.

Overall, the SvBony 8 x 32 ED feels slightly lighter and more comfortable to use than the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32, which is a bit more ‘clunky’ in comparison, at least in my medium sized hands. That, together with the noticeably better focus wheel and dioptre ring on the former means that, from a purely ergonomic perspective, the lower-priced SvBony is the clear winner.

Optical Comparisons

Good ergonomics, of course, count for nothing if the optics are not up to scratch, so how well would the £99.99 SvBony 8 x 32 ED fare in comparison to the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32? Having reviewed the Trailseeker some time ago, I was quite impressed with how well it handled a beam of intense white light directed into it from my iphone. That’s because the same model is fully broadband multi-coated and has super-high reflectivity dielectric coatings applied to its Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms. I’ve seen similar results on dozens of high quality binoculars and so I expected the SvBony to yield good results too, if indeed it has those same coatings.

My efforts confirmed that the SvBony also passes this test with flying colours! Specifically, the image was devoid of any significant internal reflections and with no diffused light around the beam, which often betrays the use of lower quality optical components introduced into the optical train. What is more, while the Trailseeker did show a weak diffraction spike, the SvBony had none. Indeed, I would place the SvBony slightly ahead of the Trailseeker, based solely on the flashlight test. So far so very good!

But the good news only continued when I performed a daylight comparison test of both the SvBony ED 8 x 32 and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32 . While both models have effectively the same field of view(7.87 degrees), I felt that the SvBony provided a slightly sharper image than the Celestron, with better contrast and improved control over veiling glare. Both instruments have a large sweet spot but edge of field performance was a little soft in both models, as was the degree of field curvature seen. Chromatic aberration, although quite low in the Trailseeker, was better handled in the SvBony under the same conditions. Whatever ED glass elements are present in the SvBony, it seemed to be doing its job well. Depth of focus in the SvBony 8 x 32ED  is also good; a real plus if you’re a prospective birder. Close focus is just under two metres(1.98m measured).

Another way to ascertain whether similar coating technologies were applied to both the SvBony and the Celestron Trailseeker, is to perform a low light test by comparing the brightness of the image in both instruments at dusk. On paper, I expected both to behave rather similarly, and that is exactly the result I achieved. Both 32mm models produced a more or less equally bright image, with perhaps the nod going to the SvBony! As I have shown in many other comparisons, the ED element may have conferred a slight advantage to the SvBony in these challenging conditions but as expected, it was marginal if anything.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Note Added in Proof: If you go back and listen to the optics trade review of the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 linked to above, the presenter informs us that GPO did not use ED glass in their largest 56mm models, citing their reasons in relation to the lack of chromatic aberration seen in low light environments. If ED glass really had a significant low light advantage, don’t you think they’d mention it or go ahead and use it? And why do so many binocular reviewers(in published magazines too) I have come across still perpetuate this myth?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Examining the 4mm diameter exit pupils on the SvBony showed nice, round pupils with no signs of truncation. There was also a nice periphery of blackness immediately around both pupils,  which contributes to the high contrast images I detected during my daylight tests.

Exit pupil of the left barrel of the SvBony 8 x 32 ED.

And the right eye.

Concluding Comments

The SvBony 8 x 32 ED  was a very eye-opening and pleasant experience. In terms of both optical and mechanical properties, it proved superior to the Celestron Trailseeker. Indeed, I would put the SvBony more on par with the new Celestron Trailseeker ED, though I’ve not actually tested this model. The very few realistic reviews I’ve seen of the SvBony  8 x 32 ED claim that it performs like models double or triple the price; a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with.  And at a retail price of less than £100, there is very little in this binocular that I can find fault with.

 

Very highly recommended!

 

Neil English is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy and likes seeking out bargains in both the telescope and binocular market. 

Post Scriptum: I performed a measurement of the field size of the SvBony 8 x 32 ED just after local midnight, July 22. Turning to the Plough (Big Dipper) asterism high in the northwest, I was just unable to fit Phecda and Merak into the field of view of the binocular. These are separated by 754′ or 7.9 angular degrees, so I’m confident that the stated field size(7.87o) for this binocular is fairly accurate. 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Carson VP 10 x 42.

 

The Carson VP 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 12 2021

 

                                                             

Product: Carson VP 10 x 42

Country of Origin: China

Field of View: 110m@1000m(6.3 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 15mm

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Close Focus: 1.92m(measured)

Chassis Material: Rubber over Polycarbonate 

Coatings: Fully Broadband multi-coated, phase correction applied to Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms

Dioptre Range: +/- 5 dioptres in click stops

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes(no depth or time specified)

ED Glass; No

Weight: 692g (measured)

Warranty: Standard No fault 

H/W: 14.6/14.0cm

Accessories: Carry case, padded logoed neck strap, lens cleaning strap, tethered ocular and objective covers, instruction manual.

Retail Price: £121.19

 

A few weeks back, I received a curious email from a UK-based gentleman(who prefers to remain anonymous) who came across my website and my many binocular reviews. He alerted me to a Carson branded binocular, the VP 10 x 42, which was on sale at a very low price on amazon. He informed me that he was very impressed with both the optics and mechanical features of this binocular and wondered if I would test it.

At the price offered, I could hardly refuse. Indeed, it seemed anomalously low priced compared with the other models in the series, as the link above shows. Anyway, I took a punt on the 10 x 42 and ordered it up from amazon. In less than 24 hours, the instrument was delivered by courier and so I began to sort through the package to see what was what.

Ergonomics

Boy was I surprised by what I uncovered! The instrument was double boxed and came well packed inside a soft padded case with all of the usual accessories.  When I removed the binocular from its plastic packaging, I was immediately struck by the simple, elegant design of the instrument. Finished in a matt black housing, the Carson VP had a very nicely finished black rubber armouring.

The Carson VP 10 x 42 has many excellent mechanical features that I have never seen on such a low cost binocular.

As I moved my way around the binocular I came across pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. For one thing, I have a real hang up about eyecups. If they rotate too loosely or slip from their extended positions, it’s enough to break a deal for me. What I discovered were very high quality rubber-over-metal cups that click firmly in place. These were quality eyecups that usually are only offered on models costing at least twice the price of this unit.

Next I examined the dioptre ring located under the right eye cup and here again, I was shocked by what I discovered. This was not your usual rotating dioptre ring. As I began to rotate it, I could hear it click into regularly spaced grooves. And though not lockable, the dioptre remained rigidly in place, so very little chance of it accidently moving out of place. This click stop dioptre is an ingeniously simple engineering solution that has eluded many binocular manufacturers. I was a bit anxious at first that the discrete click stops may not settle in a position that suited my right eye but those fears were quickly put to bed as I made the fine adjustment by observing a target in the distance.

The ingeniously designed click stop dioptre setting located under the right ocular.

The focus wheel also impressed me. It’s covered in a textured rubber and moves very smoothly in either direction, taking about one and half revolutions to go from one extreme of its travel to the other. I would describe it as on the slow side, so better suited to hunters than birders.

The interior looked immaculately clean and dust free. The objective lenses have very nice anti-reflection coatings and are deeply recessed to minimise interference from dust, rain and peripheral stray light.

The Carson VP 10 x 42 has nice antireflection coatings applied to the deeply recessed objectives.

The instrument feels very solid in the hand and is not overly heavy; I measured its weight to be just under 700g(692g actually) making it one of the lighter weight models with this specification. The single hinge design proved to be reassuringly rigid, holding its position well even when taken out of its case several times. It can also be tripod mounted by unscrewing the VP logoed stalk at the end of the bridge. Some folk claim that having a metal chassis is superior to a polycarbonate substrate but I still have no evidence to substantiate that claim either way. A well looked after polycarbonate chassis will last just as long as any metal alloy in my opinion.

The ocular end of the VP 10 x 42 showing some details on the focus wheel.

All in all, I was literally amazed at the solid build quality of the instrument but then again, I remembered that in this price range, something usually gives. So how would the optics fare? To my continued astonishment, the binocular delivered the readies and more!

Optical Assessment

As usual, I began with my flashlight test. Simply put, I direct a very bright beam of white light through the binocular from across a room and examine the image visually. The test showed a few minor internal reflections and no diffraction spikes, but it did show up evidence of some diffused light probably indicative of one or more lesser quality components used in the fabrication of the instrument. I got the same result when I turned the binocular on a bright sodium lamp at night: very little internal reflections, no diffraction spikes but some evidence of an ‘aura’ of scattered light round about the lamp. Certainly not the best I’ve seen but not too shabby nonetheless.

Daylight tests really surprised me. The 15mm eye relief is tight but it has the effect of immersing you in the image more than with instruments possessing longer eye relief. What I saw was a bright, sharp image with excellent contrast. Colour rendition was accurate and natural to the eye. There is some veiling glare when pointed at a strongly backlit target but I had seen this kind of performance on binoculars costing up to £300 or more. Depth of focus was also very good, especially when you factor in the 10x magnification. As I’ve reported many times before, ED glass has very little impact on low power binoculars, despite what manufacturers claim or the shills who help sell them. Indeed, as I have communicated in other blogs, some of the best optics I have ever garnered came from binoculars using tried and trusted crown & flint glass, and this Carson VP 10 x 42 was showing that in spades. When examining high contrast objects, chromatic aberration was not seen in the centre of the image but did show some off axis; all normal behaviour even in instruments costing many times more.

Most of the generous 6.3 degree field was sharp with a little peripheral softness. And just as I’ve reported on many other binocular reviews using Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms, distortion is more noticeable vertically than longitudinally. Close focus on this binocular greatly surprised me; I measured it at just 1.92 metres; an excellent result for a binocular of this specification and therefore eminently useable for watching insects  and flowers etc up close.

All things considered, and acknowledging that I’ve no dog in this race as I consider carrying a binocular of this size for hours on end to being akin to wearing a big brick round my neck all day,  I’m confident that the optical quality of this Carson VP 10 x 42 unit is going to be very similar to a Diamondback HD, Nikon Monarch 5 or Viking Kestrel ED 10 x 42, all of which cost about twice as much as the Carson. I would encourage those interested in acquiring a good 10 x 42 roof prism binocular to consider the Carson initially, as it may save you a lot of money in the long run. Amazon has a good 30-day returns policy, so if you’re not fully satisfied by its low price, you can always get a full refund and move on!

Can’t say better than that can I?

 

Ad Astra

Great for low resolution, white light solar work, or casual deep sky observing.

The 10 x 42 is an excellent format for pursuing many astronomical projects. Let’s start with our nearest and dearest star, the Sun. By attaching homemade white light solar filters to the front objectives, the 10 x 42 makes a neat way to monitor the Sun for sunspots. In my own experiences 8x doesn’t quite cut it but 10x does…..just! The Carson delivers an extremely crisp and sharp image of the solar photosphere allowing one to clearly see larger sunspots. For example, on the afternoon of July 14 2021, I was able to detect a single, small spot on the eastern hemisphere of the Sun, which I was able to confirm with my regular solar instrument, the Pentax PCF 20 x 60. That said, you’ll have to tripod mount it to get a good, steady view!

Further afield, on a number of twilit July nights, I enjoyed taking the Carson 10 x 42 for a spin under the stars, mounted on a monopod. Centring bright stars like Vega, Deneb and Altair, I was able to show that this binocular produces crisp, sharp and colour-accurate renditions of these luminaries which compromise the Summer Triangle in the Northern hemisphere. Furthermore, the distortion at the edge of the field was minimal when I moved those stars to a location near the field stop. 10x was also enough to see Albireo as duplicitous with a steady hand and I also enjoyed the lovely colour contrast binocular double O1 & 2 Cygni  for a few brief minutes. This will make a cracking instrument for studying the dark skies of Autumn and Winter.

Overall Conclusions

No doubt you’ll be familiar with the saying, “a fool and his money are soon parted.”  That expression came swimming into my mind many times as I put this amazing binocular through its paces in daylight and night-time tests. When I see instruments of the same specification retailing for a few grand, I have to admit to rolling my eyes and wondering why some suckers spend so much cash on one instrument, especially when you have instruments like this wonderful Carson available. The mechanical and optical quality of the Carson VP 10 x 42 will astonish you if you’re willing to keep an open mind.

And I’ll publicly eat my sock if you’re not impressed!

Anything I didn’t like about this package? Well yes, the case. It’s too small, especially when you try to seal it with the padded neck strap attached to the binocular. And the strap itself was too long but is easily remedied by cutting off a bit. Very minor negatives I’d say!

Verdict: Amazing bang for buck! Get one while stocks last!

Ps. The author would like to extend his heartfelt thanks to the gentleman who tipped him off about this binocular! You’ve restored his faith in humanity lol!!

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, with several hundred published articles and seven books under his belt, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25.

 

The Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25 package.

A Work Commenced July 8 2021

 

 

Product: Zeiss Terra ED 10 x 25 (TL Edition)

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 97m@1000m/ 5.4 angular degrees

Eye relief: 16mm

Close focus: 1.9m

Exit Pupil: 2.5mm

Chassis material: fibre glass reinforced polyamide

Coatings: Zeiss T*, lotutec, hydrophobic coatings on outer lenses

Dioptre range: +/- 3 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes to 1m( unspecified time)

ED Glass: Yes (Schott ED)

Weight: 310g

Dimensions: H/W 11.1 x 11.5 cm

Warranty: 2 years

Retail Price: £300 UK

Supplied with: soft storage pouch, carrying strap, lens cleaning cloth, multiple language instruction sheet

 

In a previous review blog, I bought in and tested a Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25 pocket glass. There I reported its excellent performance and very good value for money given its Japanese optics and congratulated the company for bringing to market such a wonderful product that would would allow many ordinary people on a strict budget to sample real optical quality. But it was also a time of transition, as all of the other Terra models had shifted production to China and some controversy arose as to where the more recent Terra pocket models were being manufactured, and some folk began to chime in stating that their Terra pocket glasses were now being made in China.

In this communication, I wish to discuss a brand new Terra pocket glass with a 10 x 25 specification, clearly marked as made in China on the box and on the underside of the chassis. The ‘ED’ in the name is replaced by ‘TL’ which I am led to believe is short for ‘Travel.’ That said, the ED specification was clearly stated on the outside of the box. I’ve already covered much of the background to this product in the 8 x 25 review. Here I wish to give the reader my opinions on its optical performance and whether or not I think it is worth the fairly substantial price tag.

First Impressions

As you can see from the picture above, the newly presented Terra ED 10 x 25 is not the same as what I received with the 8 x 25 model. The box is a lot smaller and of much lower quality than the lovely, large hardboard box I received in the Japanese made 8 x 25 model. Also missing was the arresting alpine vista on the inside of the presentation box. All in all, it was poorly fabricated in comparison. Gone too was the good quality hard clamshell case with magnetic locking latch. Instead, I received a flimsy soft pouch which offers no protection of the binocular apart from keeping some dust out. Ho hum. The carry strap and lens cleaning cloth were the same however, which is something.

The design of the chassis looks identical to the 8 x 25 and feels good in the hand, but I was surprised to see quite a bit of dust on the objective lenses, not like the immaculate presentation of the 8 x 25. That was quite surprising, as I had come to expect better from Zeiss. But what shocked me most was the optics.

Optical Assessment

I began with my usual iphone torch test, a simple but very discriminating exercise that reveals internal reflections, diffraction spikes and diffused areas indicative of how homogeneous the optical glass was. It involves directing a very bright beam of light into the binocular and studying the resulting image visually. I’m relieved to say that it did pass this test with flying colours. Consulting my old notes I made on the 8 x 25, the 10 x 25 offered up pretty much the same high quality results, namely, a clean image with a couple of very subdued internal reflections, no areas of diffused light and a weak diffraction spike. So far so good.

After adjusting the dioptre setting for my eyesight, which is accessed at the end of the bridge, I took it outside in bright daylight to gain a first impression of its optical performance. Like the 8 x 25, the 10x model offered up a bright image(it has an advertised light transmission of 88 per cent)  but it was a lot more difficult to focus well  owing to a very stiff central focus wheel. Maybe I had been spoiled by the buttery smooth focuser on my beloved Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. Whatever it was, I was not impressed by its resistance to turning.  I do not recall having an issue like this with the 8 x 25, as my notes reminded me.

The Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25(left) in comparison to the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR( right).

The image itself was good but not great. Much of the quality of the 8 x 25 was there, bright and quite sharp across much of the 5.4 degree field. Contrast was very good and it was quite resistant to glare when I pointed it near a brightly backlit tree. But I was shocked to see that the image had a lot of chromatic aberration, both in the centre and especially off axis. Indeed, it had more chromatic aberration than I had ever encountered in a binocular of this specification – and I’ve tested quite a few models in this regard. My target was a Conker tree in full Summer foliage backlit by a uniformly bright overcast sky and my eyes were drawn to the blue fringing of the leaves which was very strong off axis but also present more weakly at the centre of the image.

In comparison, the little Leica 8x 20 Ultravid showed none, or rather the merest trace at the extreme edges of the field, and only if I deliberately looked hard for it. Truth be told, I was left totally underwhelmed as I had expected much more from the Schott ED element at the heart of this £300 Zeiss designed binocular. What is especially ironic is that the Leica Ultravid 8x 20 doesn’t have an ED element yet delivered a much higher quality image in this regard. I don’t think it was an optical flaw as the image was otherwise quite sharp to the eye. In a previous correspondence, I noted that the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32, which also has an ED objective element, also showed some chromatic aberration in similar tests but nowhere near as much as this 10 x 25 Terra pocket.

In another test on a telephone pole located some 30 yards away and also backlit by a bright overcast sky, I compared and contrasted the images of the 10 x 25 Terra with my Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42. Again the result was the same. The non ED 8 x 42 showed far less chromatic aberration at the edges of the pole compared with the 10 x 25 Terra, and while lateral colour increased as I moved the pole to the edge of the field in both binoculars, it was far more pronounced in the smaller 10 x 25 Zeiss glass.

The Barr & Stroud 8 x 42 non ED( left) and the Zeiss Terra 10 x 25 ED (right).

These tests showed me that having an ED glass element is no guarantee of better colour correction, as both my 8 x 42 and 8 x 20 clearly showed.

I also bought in the 10 x 25 Zeiss to test image stability compared with my 8 x 20 Leica Ultravid. Again, I got on far better with the latter glass. The 10x magnification in a small frame made getting a steady image very challenging in comparison to the much more stable image of the little Leica glass.  That test convinced me that I will be sticking with 8 x 20 format for the foreseeable future.

Conclusions

The experience with the Chinese made Zeiss Terra ED 10 x 25 was not at all what I expected. It was much inferior to the views of my original Japanese made  8 x 25. The focus wheel was far too stiff and the colour correction was just not acceptable. I returned the instrument to the seller and received a full refund in return. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Not recommended for its considerable retail price!

 

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli

Product Review: Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP.

The Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP package.

A Work Commenced July 7 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Ricoh-Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP 

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 87m@1000m( 5 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 20mm

Close Focus: 5.5m

Exit Pupil: 5mm

Focuser: Central, lockable

Chassis Material: Aluminium with rubberised overcoat

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated throughout

Dioptre Range: +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (JIS Class 6)

ED Glass: No

Weight: 1060g

Dimensions: 18 x 18 cm

Retail Price: £170UK

Supplied with: Soft carry case, logoed carry strap, plastic objective and ocular covers, multi-language instruction sheet.

 

Pentax is a company long synonymous with good optical quality. Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed a few models manufactured by this company, ranging from the very small(6.5x 21) to the very large(20x 60). In particular, I’ve included an earlier incarnation of the  20 x 60 SP model in my own personal arsenal of binoculars, where it’s employed in deep sky observation and regular white light solar observing. So, I was excited to see how its smaller sibling, the 10x 50 SP WP, would shape up in field tests.

First Impressions

I purchased the binocular with my own money and it set me back £170, inclusive of delivery charges. The binocular arrived double boxed, including the instrument itself, packed inside its soft case, together with plastic end caps for both the ocular and objective lenses, a logoed padded next strap and instruction sheet containing information concerning the warranty. The plastic caps that protect the optics of the 10 x 50 SP looked identical to those that accompanied my 20 x 60, and together with the woefully inadequate soft case, represent the weakest links in the entire package. The caps are loosely fitting and invariably fall off  when the binocular is picked up. As for the case, it does very little to protect the binocular from serious knocks so should really be upgraded to either a padded soft case or better still, an aluminium hard case to protect your investment.

The Pentax 10x 50 SP WP is an extremely rugged and well made binocular, built for the great outdoors.

Ergonomics

Thankfully, my initial impressions of the binocular itself were far more favourable. When I unpacked it, I was immediately struck by its rugged build quality. The binocular weighs in at a hefty 1kg and is covered with a thick layer of synthetic rubber identical to that found on my 20 x 60 . Like its bigger brother, it has a lockable focuser; simply push the wheel forward and it disengages with the internal gearing, preventing the wheel from being moved. Although not an essential feature by any means, I can see where it would come in useful if one observes targets at a fixed distance from the user or when observing the night sky, where all the subjects are located more or less at infinity.

The central focus wheel is very easy to grip and is lockable simply by pushing it forward.

The twist up eyecups are very well made and very comfortable to use. There are three positions; fully down, intermediate and fully extended. Eye relief is a very generous 20mm. Usually, I observe with the eye cups fully extended but I actually found the view to be most comfortable and immersive at the intermediate position without wearing eye glasses.

The very solid twist up eye cups are comfortable to use and have three positions. Eye relief is generous allowing those who wear glasses to fully engage with the entire field.

The ‘WP’ part of its name, I assume, refers to ‘Water Proof,’ with a specified JIS class 6 rating. The instrument is purged with dry nitrogen gas to prevent internal fogging and is O-ring sealed. The dioptre ring is located under the right ocular lens and is negotiated by moving an easy to access lever which can be adjusted clockwise or anti-clockwise. It is reasonably stiff to the touch so should hold its position well. The underside of the 10x 50 SP WP has two large thumb indents for easier hand holding. I found that my thumbs naturally rested in them while holding the binocular up to my eyes.

The focus wheel is very stiff; a strict no-no for birding or any activity that requires rapid focus changes. But for stargazing or for stationary targets located in the distance, it works just fine.

You’ll find two large thumb rests on the underbelly of the binocular for more secure gripping.

Optics

The proof of the pudding, of course, lies in the eating, and this is where this well-made classic Porro prism binocular really shines. The SP series underwent an upgrade from the first generation models, with better multi-layer anti-reflection coatings being applied throughout the optical train. Allbinos tested this model out and measured a light transmission value of about 85%, which is very good indeed considering the modest price tag on this binocular, as well as the fact that some of the world’s best Porro prism binos achieve about 95% or so.

Not for the Birds

Inspecting the innards of the instrument in broad daylight showed it to be clean and dust free. Setting up my iphone torch to its highest setting in my back garden at dusk and placing it a comfortable distance away revealed a few minor internal reflections and no diffraction spikes or diffused areas; another good result indicating that all was well with the instrument in keeping bright light sources under control. Placing the beam just outside the field of view showed very little ghosting so this will be a good binocular to observe bright objects in the night sky such as the full Moon and stars located near it. It will also garner excellent views of cityscapes at night. Close focus was measured to be about 5.3 metres – a little better than advertised but nothing to write home about. The coatings on the ocular and objective lenses seem to be very evenly applied. In addition, the objective lenses are very deeply recessed which helps protect the optics from the vagaries of the British climate and also cuts down on stray light.

Very evenly applied multi-layer anti-reflection coatings applied to the objectives help transmit a decent amount of light through the optical train.

In broad daylight, the view through the Pentax 10x 50 SP WP is very impressive, with great contrast, good colour rendition and good control of glare. Depth of focus is not bad either. Colour correction is excellent, even off axis, where one can detect a small amount of lateral colour. Field curvature is very gentle but does show a fairly minimal amount of pincushion distortion near the field stops. Even though the field of view is fairly narrow at 5 angular degrees, it didn’t feel overly restrictive to my eyes. At 1kg weight and delivering a 10x optical boost, these are not binoculars that one could handhold for long but it’s certainly possible to scan the landscape and night sky for a few minutes before some fatigue sets in. These are however, perfect for use on a lightweight monopod or tripod for ultra stable viewing.

Further testing at dusk showed excellent control of internal reflections and clean, crisp images garnered from a bright sodium street lamp. Placing the lamp just outside the field of view showed up no significant off-axis flares. Placing the binocular on a light weight monopod and turning them on the night sky also served up excellent results. Centring the bright Summer luminary, Vega, in the binocular field and focusing in showed a pinpoint sharp image with no secondary spectrum and with no diffraction spikes. Better still, moving the star to the edge of the field induced only a little distortion and some lateral colour(purple fringing), indicating that the aspherical optical element built into the eyepieces of the Pentax SP binocular were doing their jobs well. And while the skies were far too bright to provide a more in-depth study, with strong Summer twilight upon us here in central Scotland,  I compared and contrasted the view through the Pentax 10 x 50 and my trusty Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 mounted on a second monopod. Turning my attention to the well placed Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula revealed a cleanly resolved view in both instruments, but with fainter stars showing up better in the Pentax, albeit in a smaller true field.

Conclusions & Recommendations

In recent years, thanks to great advances in technology, there has been a steady movement within the amateur community towards roof prism designs over older, Porro prism binoculars. But after spending a few weeks testing out this affordable model from Pentax, I was genuinely surprised and delighted by its optical performance. Indeed, you’d have to fork much more money for a roof prism binocular with the same specifications as this Pentax to get the same optical quality. The only real advantage of the roof prism incarnations at 10 x 50 are their lower mass(but not by much) and slightly smaller frames. Having sampled a few inexpensive and mid-priced 10 x 50 roof prism binoculars in the past, I can say hand on heart, that they did not deliver the light transmission values anywhere near those attained by this classic, affordable 10 x 50. Indeed, I would strongly recommend readers to look more closely at tried and trusted Porro prism designs in aperture classes of 50mm or above over the roof prism varieties, especially now that they come with full waterproofing.

Qui bono?

Amateur astronomers looking for quality deep sky views on dark, clear nights, and casual daytime viewers with permanently set-up tripods or monopods surveying targets set in the distance. Remember that five degrees is still plenty good enough for the vast majority of deep sky observing! These would work very well in holiday cottages set by a lake or overlooking a picturesque valley floor. And although they can be handheld for short excursions, they do benefit greatly from mounting.

Very highly recommended!

 

 

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42.

 

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 1 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 

Country of Manufacture: Myanmar

Field of View: 114m@1000m(6.5 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 19mm

IPD Range: 58-74mm

Close Focus: 1.45m

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Chassis Material: Pebbled rubberised Armor over Magnesium Alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, silvered, phase corrected Schmidt-Pechan 

Dioptre Range: Lockable +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purging: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

ED Glass: Yes(Hoya)

Weight: 770g

Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Retail Price: £280(UK), $300(US)

Supplied Accessories: padded neckstrap, zip-closed padded case, lens cleaning cloth, tethered rubber eyepiece and objective caps, warranty card, instruction manual.

 

 

Vanguard is an international optics company founded in 1986 with over 1,000 employees worldwide. As well as binoculars and telescopes, they have also marketed high quality accessories for the sports optics industry. With a manufacturing and design headquarters in Myanmar, they offer an extensive range of binoculars from entry-level to upper mid-priced models. In this review, I’ll be discussing my experiences with an Endeavour ED II 10 x 42 binocular. This is a second generation ED binocular, bridging their simpler ED and more sophisticated ED IV models. Vanguard state that the ED glass elements used in their objectives are sourced from Hoya(Japan), but are assembled entirely in Myanmar, before being distributed to stores across the world.

I purchased the binocular with my own funds for £280 delivered to my door. The instrument arrived double boxed and came in a very attractive white storage box containing the binocular, a very nicely designed zipped closed logoed carry case, a padded neck strap, rubber ocular and objective lens covers, which can be tethered to the binocular, a lens cleaning cloth and an instruction sheet in many languages.

Ergonomics

The Vanguard ED II 10 x 42 is an impressive looking instrument, sporting a high quality Magnesium alloy open hinge design, with a black pebbled rubber overcoat that has a texture more akin to bonded leather than the usual rubber-looking substrate offerings on most other models I’ve sampled. Weighing it at 770g, it is quite hefty as 10 x 42 binoculars go, but still nowhere near the 850g weight of some of ultra premium models now on the market.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 is a solidly made instrument with an eye catching colour scheme.

The instrument feels very solid and secure in the hand. On its underside, two thumb indents suggest a place for you to properly hand old and balance the binocular. The instrument states “made in Myanmar” and has a serial number to help identify the batch and date of production.

The underside of the binocular has well positioned thumb rests. Note its country of origin and serial number.

The objective lenses have immaculately applied anti-reflection coatings and are very deeply recessed to cut down on stray light, dust and rain.

The fully multi-coated objectives are very deeply recessed.

The binocular has a number of notable features compared with many mid-priced instruments that I have tested in the past. For one thing, the right eye dioptre is lockable. You simply push the ring up, rotate it to your desired position and then push it down to lock. It works quite well but I did notice a bit of play in it. The ring itself wobbles when a bit of force is applied and to be honest, I would have been perfectly happy with a regular non-lockable dioptre ring if it offers a bit more rigidity.. The ED IV models from Vanguard offer a better solution in this regard.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10x 42 has a lockable dioptre ring located under the right ocular. Push it up, rotate the ring to your desired position and then lock it in place by pushing it back down.

The central focus wheel is covered in a highly texturised rubber for excellent grip. Rotation is exceptionally smooth, taking just over one revolution of the wheel to go from one extreme of focus to the other. It is also remarkably fast, taking just three quarters of a revolution to sharply focus on the vast majority of objects. This makes it especially useful for birding, where rapid focus changes can be important, but I found it to be, well, a little too fast. You can easily overshoot the focus wheel if you’re not used to it, so this could be a bit off-putting for some users.  Personally, I would have been happier with a slightly slower focus but having said that, it’s all about getting used to the binocular; so, in and of itself, a super-fast focuser is certainly not a deal breaker.

The metal over rubber eyecups twist up and have two intermediate positions. Once fully extended, they hold their positions very securely.

The twist-up eye cups are metal-over-rubber and have two intermediate positions. Fully extended, they hold their positions very well indeed. The generous eye relief of 19mm makes it very comfortable to use with glasses(tested by yours truly), where the entire field can be reliably imaged. Another nice touch about these eye cups is that they can be unscrewed when they wear down or break. Vanguard will be happy to send you replacement cups should you run into a spot of difficulty. The binocular can also be mounted to a tripod or monopod for ultra stable viewing. Simply unscrew the V-logoed screw on the front of the bridge and you’re in business.

Optical Evaluation

Conducting the flashlight test on the Vanguard showed a good clean image; internal reflections were very minimal with no discernible diffused light indicative of good, homogeneous glass through the optical train. It did show a rather prominent diffraction spike though that was also observed at night when I turned the instrument on a bright sodium street light.

Conducting further daylight tests revealed a very sharp image with lots of contrast and excellent control of glare. Indeed, the Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 showed better control of veiling glare than my Barr & Stroud  8 x 42 Series 5 control binocular.

The view is impressively wide for a 10 x 42 instrument – 6.5 angular degrees. What’s more, the Vanguard enjoys a very large sweet spot. Indeed, it’s edge of field correction is excellent, especially considering its modest retail price. There is very mild  pincushion distortion near the field stops . Colours are naturally presented and chromatic aberration is pretty much non existent. Indeed I could only detect a trace of lateral colour at the edge of the field. All in all, the optics in this binocular are well above average, a fact that I was able to confirm by borrowing a first generation Swarovski EL Range 10 x 42 from a fellow villager. To my eyes, the views were very comparable in bright sunny conditions with the Vanguard having a slightly wider field of view.

Only when the light began to fade late in the evening did I begin to notice the Swarovski beginning to pull ahead. At dusk, near local midnight here in Scotland, the greater light transmission of the EL Range was very obvious, with tree branches located at a distance of 50 yards or so away being more easily seen than with the Vanguard. This is consistent with an allbinos review conducted on the Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42, which revealed a light transmission of only 80 per cent. Another low light test using my Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 also showed a significantly brighter image than the Vanguard but this could well be attributed to its larger exit pupil (5.25mm versus 4.2mm) kicking in during these low light conditions.

Notes from the Field

The close focus on the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is very noteworthy  in that it focuses down to about 1.5 metres. I could sharply focus my walking shoes, which is more than I can say for many other 10 x 42s I have had the pleasure of using. Depth of focus is fairly shallow though – an expected result given its 10x magnification and roof prism design. Focusing is super fast on this unit, but I was slightly anxious about turning the focus wheel near the end of its travel. A tyro could easily turn the wheel too far and so damage the focuser. The lockable dioptre ring worked well in all situations. It remains tightly in place, so no worries there.

Because of the super fast focus wheel, I deemed it expedient to set the dioptre setting while the binocular was stably mounted on a tripod. After all, you need a stable view in order to achieve optimal image sharpness in both barrels.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II’s super fast focuser necessitates a stable platform to adjust the right eye dioptre.

The open bridge design of the Vanguard makes it very easy to handle, even with one hand. You can wrap your fingers round the barrels of the binocular which allows the user to get a slightly more stable view at 10x. The padded neck strap accompanying the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is of good quality but is a bit too long for my liking. Indeed, I often thought about attaching another shorter strap while making my tests.

I do love the padded case supplied with the Vanguard. With its eye-catching colour logo, padded interior and its ability to be zipped closed, I think it’s one of the most thoughtfully designed binocular cases I’ve personally encountered. A very nice touch!

The very thoughtfully designed padded case supplied with the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is of very high quality and fits the instrument perfectly.

Conclusions

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 offers a lot of bang for the buck. Optically, it serves up very nice images indeed and will hold its own against instruments costing far more. Indeed, my main take home point about this instrument is that as one invests in more expensive models, it is mainly the mechanical and not the optical properties of such an instrument that one is buying into. More expensive binoculars will have greater light transmission(of the order of 90 per cent) but those advantages can really only be seen at dawn or dusk. But if you do all of your glassing in broad daylight, that light transmission advantage will be of little importance to you. So, something to bear in mind.

I also get the impression that Vanguard care about their customer service and one can email an employee of the company – see the link provided above to start with – if you encounter any problems with your binocular. If you’re in the market for a sensibly priced instrument in this aperture class that will live up to the rigours of life in the great outdoors, then I would strongly recommend it. You’re not likely to get much more for an investment under £300 UK.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Neil English has been looking through optical devices for over 40 years and doesn’t take any prisoners. If you like his work, why not buy one of his seven published books or make a small donation to his website so that he can continue to provide real world reviews of interesting instruments for the savvy outdoor enthusiast.

 

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28.

 

The Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28 compact binocular package.

June 25 2021

 

 

Product: Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 101m@1000m(6.2 angular degrees)

Eye relief: 18mm (advertised), but a lot less in practice.

IPD Range: 55-72mm

Close focus: 1.83m advertised 1.75m measured

Exit Pupil:3.5mm

Chassis Material: Rubber Armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully multi-coated, dielectric coatings on prisms, phase correction coating, Armotek hydrophobic coatings on outer lenses.

Dioptre range: +/- 4  dioptres

Gas purging: Yes Argon

Waterproof: Yes (unspecified depth and time)

ED Glass: Unknown

Weight: 398g

Dimensions: W/H 11.7/11.4cm

Warranty: VIP Unlimited Lifetime

Supplied With: padded carry case & strap, lens cloth, instruction manual, logoed padded binocular strap, rubberised ocular and objective tethers

Retail Price: £135 UK/$170US

 

Vortex Optics is a US-based company specialising in sports optics for the hunting, birding and the outdoor enthusiast. They have brought to market an extensive range of binoculars from entry-level right up to low-end premium, manufactured in China or Japan. Arguably their best-selling series is the Diamondback range of roof prism binoculars. Over the last 15 years or so, Vortex has upgraded and modified the design of these binoculars, where they are widely considered to offer the best performance to cost ratio on the market. This review will be looking at the newest, third-generation of the Diamondback – the so-called Diamondback HD series, which first hit the market in 2019.

I purchased the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 with my own money and the opinions I offer are entirely unbiased, unlike a lot of fake reviews of said products all over the internet.

First Impressions

The instrument arrived in a single box, containing the binoculars wrapped inside a plastic bag and securely placed inside a black padded case. I received a neck strap, lens cleaning cloth, rubber ocular and objective tethers, and a strap for attaching to the carry case. The full-colour instruction manual offers all the basic information you need to adjust the binocular to get the best use out of it.

As I removed the binocular from its case and assessed its fit and feel, I was quite impressed. This was a solidly made binocular with a tough army green rubber armouring, ribbed at the sides for a more solid grip. The little Diamondback has good quality metal-over-soft rubber twist-up eyecups and a large, silky smooth central focus wheel. The dioptre ring located under the right ocular is a bit hard to access, as it’s very resistant to movement; a good thing I suppose as one normally doesn’t want this to move easily while out in the field. Only by twisting up the eyepieces could I negotiate moving it to my preferred dioptre setting.

The external features of the Diamondback HD 8 x 28. Note the thin dipotre ring under the right eyepiece. It’s hard to access with medium and large hands and is best adjusted by first pulling out the eye cup.

The objectives are quite deeply recessed for a small binocular(4mm) which helps protect the lenses from dust, rain and peripheral light. Inspecting the inside of the instrument showed that everything was clean and dust free. The ant-reflection coatings applied to both the objective and ocular lenses appear to be very smoothly applied and give a faint greenish purple tint in broad daylight.

The twist-up eyecups have three settings and once they click into place, hold their positions rigidly. The focus wheel is covered in a textured rubber which makes gripping and rotating it very easy. Moving from close focus – measured at 1.75m – to infinity involves two full rotations of the wheel, and I was pleased to see that there was very little play or backlash throughout its motion, either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The high quality twist up eyecups lock rigidly in place.

Ergonomically, the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 feels solid in the hand and is small and light enough to carry along on extended trips.

The Diamondback HD is weatherproof, O-ring sealed and purged with dry argon gas. In most other binoculars built for the great outdoors, dry nitrogen is used to replace the air inside. I suppose argon, having a larger relative atomic mass than molecular nitrogen, might diffuse out more slowly than the latter, but whether this has any real advantages in practice is debatable.

Size comparison between the Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28 (left) and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32 (right).

Optical Evaluation

With the advertised full-featured coatings used in the manufacture of this binocular, I was expecting a good result from my smartphone flash light test. Directing an intense beam of light into the binocular and looking through the eyepieces, I was pleased to see a very clean image, with very well suppressed internal reflections and with little in the way of diffraction spikes evident. Neither was there any diffused light showing that the glass was very homogenous and free of major artefacts. This would be a good performer looking at artificial lights at night or casual moongazing, as my subsequent tests indeed confirmed.

But while I was using it in the field, I uncovered a significant issue with the Diamondback HD 8 x 28. When I fully extended the eye cups and locked them into place, I was very surprised to experience pretty severe blackouts and it was very challenging to see the field stops. Indeed, instead of normal well-defined edges to the field, I was seeing a ‘ring of fire’ around the edges which I found quite distracting. I quickly realised that the eye relief was just too short for me to obtain a stable binocular image with no blackouts. I had seen this before but in a far less extreme way while using a Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32 binocular, which has multiple twist-up positions. If I had inadvertently not pulled these eye cups fully out, I got more blackouts and these would alert me to the problem. So the same issue must have been happening in the Diamondback HD binocular, only it was much more severe.. Only by pulling my eyes away from the eyecups could I obtain a reasonably stable field  but I have to admit that I found this to be quite annoying.

More’s the pity as otherwise the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 served up a very bright, high-contrast image rich in detail and with a large sweet spot. Depth of focus in this instrument is good too. Colours were very vivid and realistic and it even exhibited well-above-average control of glare. Edge sharpness was also very good with only slight colour fringing seen on high contrast objects beginning about 70 per cent out from the centre.  I have no idea what the term ‘HD’ means – ‘High Density’ perhaps, or ‘High Definition’ even? And if HD indicated the use of some low dispersion objective element, why not just call it ED in line with most other models?  All I can say is that the image was of impressively high quality but somewhat off putting by the positioning of the eyecups.

When I tested the unit under a clear twilit June sky at night, star fields were impressively presented with bright luminaries like Vega, Arcturus and Deneb focusing down to sharp pinpoints and remaining tightly focused nearly all the way to the field stops. Again, this result was better than expected but I suspect that it is due to the rather small field served up by this binocular. Simply put, by restricting the field of view,  binocular designers can mask more severe distortion and field curvature that would show up in a larger field. Views of a low-hanging, waxing gibbous Moon were also very good! The bright, silvery orb was clean and sharp and showed no secondary spectrum on axis, but did show up some minor lateral colour as the Moon was moved to the edge of the field.

Final Thoughts

Does the Diamondback HD 8x 28 have a general design flaw or did I just get a lemon? Maybees aye, maybees naw!

In light of the many positive reviews of larger Diamondback HD binoculars made by experienced glassers, I am reluctant to write-off this series based on my less than favourable experience of this 8 x 28 model. With their modest cost, above-average optical performance and great ergonomics, I can see why these Diamondbacks enjoy a loyal fan base. Those who wear eye glasses, unlike me, will probably fare OK with these binoculars though. As for me, I returned the instrument and received a full refund, so no permanent harm done.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Dr. Neil English has written over 300 articles for various astronomy, religious and birdwatching magazines over the last 25 years, and is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy. His magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, continues to go from strength to strength among serious astronomy historians.

 

De Fideli.

 

 

The Wonder that is Israel.

 

Raising of the Ink Flag, marking the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Image credit Wiki Commons.

Originally Posted April 24 2019.

Updated May 23 2021

 

On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands.

Ezekiel 20:6

Any unbiased reading of the Bible will soon reveal that the Creator of the Universe has had a long and enduring relationship with the Jews. This people group were the first humans to forge a relationship with God, where He made Himself known to them and guided their founding of a nation in a relatively tiny strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Biblical narrative accurately portrays much of the history of the ancient Jewish nation and modern archaeological research is unveiling more and more details that affirm the historicity of their story, despite militant opposition from secular academics, who have been proven wrong time and time again.

Mlp of Israel and Judah in the 9th century BC. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Originally the land promised to the Jews by God actually stretched from the Nile to the Euphrates:

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,  And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

Genesis 15:18-21

 

We also read the same thing in the opening passages of Joshua:

Cross the Jordan River. Lead these people into the land that I am ready to hand over to them .I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert  in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 

Joshua 1:2-4

 

Because of their unfaithfulness to their God, the former glory of the kingdom established by David and his son, Solomon, was gradually but inexorably wrenched from them because of their reluctance to follow Torah, as well as their eagerness to seek out and worship the false gods of the surrounding nations and the inter-marriage of their nobles with the nobility of foreign cultures(and against God’s wishes). As a result, ancient Israel and Judah suffered many waves of conquests by foreign imperial powers including Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the various waves of Islamic invasions over the centuries and millennia. Israel ceased to be a free nation about 2,600 years ago being occupied by foreign powers throughout much of this time.

The Mereneptah Stele, dating to the 13th century BC, has the earliest known reference to Israel as a nation inscribed on it. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

For much of its history, the Jewish people have suffered terrible persecutions under various powers, culminating with the attempt of the evil Nazi regime to exterminate them from the face of the Earth. Still, despite these perils, they have bucked all the odds to maintain their culture and religion; indeed they are the only truly ancient people that exist through modern times. After World War II, the United Nations created a homeland for the remaining Jews, which culminated in the declaration of independence of the modern state of Israel on May 14 1948. The declaration was immediately condemned by all the surrounding Arab nations and was immediately attacked, leading to the Arab-Israeli War (1948-9). No superpowers came to the aid of the young nation but miraculously, the Israeli’s won. Less than twenty years later, Israel was once again attacked by a coalition of Arab nations including Syria, Jordan and Egypt in June 1967. Though attacked on three different fronts and greatly outnumbered in terms of troops, tanks and aircraft, the conflict lasted just six days, with Israel, miraculously, emerging victorious. Thus, Israel had to work hard from the outset to establish its borders, rapidly developing an excellent military machine that staved off aggressive behaviour by its surrounding enemies, and which remains so to this day.

In the 73 years since its founding days, the story of Israel has been one of astonishing prosperity, so much so that many Bible believing Christians accept it as a clear and unambiguous miracle in our times. Furthermore, it is clear that while the majority of contemporary Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Lord would not make a complete end of them, but established them again for the sake of a minority who have(or will) come to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Furthermore, the Bible foretells that this tiny little nation will play an important role in converting many unbelievers to the true God during the Great Tribulation period, otherwise known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Most denominational Christians however, have been taught the false doctrine of replacement theology, which assumes that the modern Church has taken the place of Israel, and as a result, know very little about how Israel will play a central role in God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of many people. This was essentially my thinking for most of my life, as I continued in my walk with the Catholic Church, being largely ignorant of Biblical knowledge. We had no Bible in our home(my neighbours had none either), and no Sunday Schools when I was growing up. Indeed, I saved up some pocket money to buy a children’s Bible in my youth and only purchased my first ‘real’ Bible:- an old King James Version:- as a graduate student during my time at the University of Dundee in the mid-1990s. But this is equally true of many Protestant denominations, which teach nothing at all concerning the true role of Israel in God’s redemptive plan for humankind. Only when I began to read the Bible for myself, as a non-denominational Christian, that I rejected the notion of replacement theology.

With the Lord, there is the Church and then there’s Israel; they are not one and the same.

With Israel, it’s personal.

Consider the particular interest our Lord has expressed in the land of Israel;

For the land you are going in to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you came. There you planted your seed and watered it by foot, like a vegetable garden.  But the land you are crossing over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, drinking from the rain of the heavens it drinks in water.  It is a land that Adonai your God cares for—the eyes of Adonai your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year up to the end of the year.

Deuteronomy 11:10-12

The prophet Ezekiel writes:

 

Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: Not for your sa ke do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you desecrated among the nations to which you came.

Ezekiel 36:22

So what’s it all about then? In a phrase, the execution of Absolute power!

Israel is God’s land; He gave it to the Jews.

The prophet Jeremiah writes:

Thus says the Lord, “If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’”

Jeremiah 33: 25-26

In other words, the Lord would sooner abolish the laws of nature than renege on His promises to Israel.

In Ezekiel 37, God states explicitly that His covenant with Israel is for all time:

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.

Ezekiel 37:26

So let’s take a closer look at the remarkable rise of Israel in the modern psyche. As a nation state, Israel is tiny,  with a land area of just 21,000 square kilometres, smaller than Wales(or the US state of New Jersey)  and ranking about 150th out of the 200 or so nations on Earth. It’s population is currently 9 million, of which 75 per cent identify as Jew. But with antisemitism on the rise worldwide it is estimated that as much as half the entire global population of Jews will be living in Israel by 2030.  The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Israel is $410.5 billion, ranking it as the 31st richest nation in the world. Its per capita annual income is even more impressive though, at $42,000 per annum, making its citizens the 25th richest nation in the world; on par with the average UK dweller. Israel is also home to more millionaires per capita than any other country in the world, with over 7,200 millionaires with collective assets of approximately $45 billion. What is more, Israel’s economic wealth far exceeds that of all the surrounding (Muslim and non-democratic) nations. The life expectancy of the average Israeli is 82 years, where it poles as the 8th longest among the other nations of the world. Israel’s age demographic though is astonishing and contrary to every other developed nation currently in existence. 25 per cent of the population are under the age of 14 and 40 per cent are aged 25 years and younger. Only 11 per cent of the Israeli population is aged 65 years and older!

This very youthful population is also highly educated; 45 per cent of Israeli’s hold a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent; higher per capita than any other nation on Earth. Their official language is Hebrew, for centuries considered an all but dead language, but thanks to the efforts of Jewish linguists, is now widely spoken and thriving. Curiously, though Israel is one of the most technologically advanced nations currently in existence, her citizens are taught little or nothing about Darwinian evolution in public schools, which dovetails with the ideology’s current fall from grace as a proper science of origins. And yet, Israel is a shining light in the emerging biotechnological and agricultural industries, both of which require an excellent knowledge of the life sciences.

Because of more or less incessant terrorist threats from foreign regimes, Israel has one of the best trained professional armies in the world. The so-called Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has about 150,000 full-time members and over 400,000 reserves. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18 are obliged to undergo two years and eight months of military service for men and two years for women, although many seek exemptions on religious, psychological and physical grounds. This rise in military power also comports with the Biblical narrative, which describes the desolate land of Israel being revived from a “valley of dry bones”(see Ezekiel 37):

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:10

Despite more than half of the land being desert and only 20 per cent being arable, Israel is a world leader in irrigation technology. In addition, it’s de-salination technology is now being exported to other nations (the US state of California, for example, is now steeply committed to using these technologies). The north of the country receives a plentiful supply of rain but the south is much more arid, with the result that water transport and use is carefully regulated. The statistics are impressive; agriculture’s share of total water use fell from more than 70% in 1980 to 57% by 2005, and is projected to drop to just 52% by 2025, according to a recent report. Many nations around the world have benefitted greatly from Israel’s lead in this regard. Indeed this small nation has become the fruit basket of Europe and the Middle East, growing and exporting over 40 different types of fruit. Indeed, 95 per cent of all Israel’s food is homegrown, supplemented by imports of meat, grains, coffee, cocoa and sugar. Israel also produces most of the flowers sold in Europe(especially during the winter months), with an industry estimated to be worth $60 million. These flowers are almost exclusively grown on 214 hectares of land.

A Lemon grove in the Galilee. Image credit: David Shankbone.

Just as the Bible informs us, Israel has truly become “a land of milk and honey.” Specially bred, disease-resistant cows produce the highest amounts of milk per animal in the world, with an average of 10,208 kilograms of dairy in 2009, according to data published in 2011 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, outperforming cows in the US (9,331 kg  per cow), Japan (7,497), the European Union (6,139) and Australia (5,601). Honey production in Israel is prodigious, with more than 100,000 apiaries scattered across the country and exported to many other nations around the world. And despite the alarming decline in bee numbers in almost every other country, Israel’s bee populations have not endured such decimation, thanks to the implementation of a number of ingenious management strategies. Indeed, the Israeli department of agriculture estimate that the value of their bees as vehicles of pollination is worth more than 30 times the value of the honey they produce! In 1948, only about 400,000 acres of land in Israel could be tilled. Today it stands at over a million acres, with productivity increasing by a factor of 16 per unit of water used. And instead of growing strains of wheat that are waist high, as is the case in most other nations, Israeli farmers cultivate new varieties that only grow to knee height and so require far less water to bring them to maturity.

In the spheres of technology, Israel ranks as the 8th most powerful nation in the world. Outside of Silicon Valley, California, Silicon Wadi on the coastal plains just outside Tel Aviv  has the highest number(over 3,000 as of 2019) of IT start-up companies in the world. The first anti-virus software was formulated here, as was the first voicemail technology, and all manner of memory sticks that we use in our everyday lives. Motorola, Microsoft, Celebrite and Intel all have major investments here. The oil industry is booming at an unprecedented rate in Israel with valuable, high-grade crude oil and natural gas reserves found in the Negev, the Golan Heights and most recently off shore in the Leviathan and Tamar fields. Analysts suggest that the energy reserves in these newly discovered sites could power the nation for another 300 years! What’s more, it is expected that Israel will become a major supplier of petrochemicals to the European nations by building under-sea pipelines across the Mediterranean.

In recent years, geologists have assessed Israel’s mineral wealth. In particular the rapidly evaporating Dead Sea has an estimated $5 trillion of minerals salts including, calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium chlorides, bromides and iodides, phosphates and other resources. Even the mud dredged up from the Dead Sea floor has important medicinal properties that many people will pay for. Moreover, an extremely rare mineral, Carmeltazite, hitherto thought to form only in outer space was recently found in Israel, which, owing to its rarity, is potentially more valuable than diamond.

By most anyone’s standards, the story of the re-birth of Israel is a remarkable phenomenon. Look how much they have achieved in only one human generation! But all of this was foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel, most likely dated to 7th century BC:

Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”

Ezekiel 36:33-36

And yet, the Biblical narrative also suggests that this new-found prosperity will attract the eyes of power-hungry nations surrounding it, like a proverbial moth to a brightly lit lamp:

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.”

‘Thus says the Lord God, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the centre of the world.’ Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’

Ezekiel 38:8-13

The Bible also asserts that Israel is the centre of the world as God sees things:

Thus says the Lord God, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the centre of the nations, with lands around her.

Ezekiel 5:5

And when we look at Israel’s geographic location, it indeed lies at the hub of three continents; Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Bible also confidently predicts that Israel will always attract trouble makers and that eventually all the nations will be gathered against her under the auspices of the Anti-Christ:

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

Zechariah 12:3

The Book of Jeremiah also makes it clear that when the Jews come back in the land after being scattered among the nations, they will do so without the ark of the covenant:

Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.

Jeremiah 3:16

And what do we see today? Israel back in the land without the ark! This was quite simply unthinkable at the time it was written, since it was indispensable to their worship.

What is more, the ancient nation of Israel was divided up into two kingdoms- the northern territory of Israel, and the southern territory of Judah, in the reign of king Jeroboam I,  and remained so. But the prophet Jeremiah informs us that when the people come back in the land in the latter days, there would no longer be such an administrative division:

In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

Jeremiah 3:18

What is the ‘northern land’ referred to in this verse of Scripture?

It could well be Russia, as some 1.2 million Israeli citizens originated there.

Isn’t the Bible remarkable for its accuracy? Surely, we are living in the times of fulfilled prophecy!

Already, we can see this gradual build-up (a Biblical “hook in the jaw”) with the hatred expressed by the politicians of many countries toward Israel as well as pervasive antisemitism(an irrational hatred of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is both trans-generational and global in reach). Sadly, one of Israel’s greatest enemies is the United Nations(UN). For example, Syria bombs its civilians with chlorine gas, China tortures dissidents, Venezuela restricts access to food, and Burma is engaged in the ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority. Yet despite these atrocities, the UN Human Rights Council trains the bulk of its diatribe on, you’ve guessed it, Israel!

At the time of writing, 31 UN members don’t recognise the state of Israel. Additionally, the nations of Bolivia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Qatar and Venezuela have suspended ties to Israel. Most of these nations do not want the state of Israel to exist. There are also several countries, most notably Egypt, that recognise the state but almost always vote against it. That is how far-reaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become!

The UN has chosen to oppose Israel at nearly every turn because of the influence and encouragement of all of these member states. On the UN security council, Israel has the support of the U.S’s power of veto and is therefore safe from most harmful resolutions, but in the general assembly the anti-Israel countries almost always win out. The most recent example of this was the decision to condemn the United States for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital even though they have every right to claim it as their own. That resolution overwhelmingly passed. But if the UN were nicer to Israel, every Muslim majority country in the world (except Albania and a few others) would withdraw from the organisation and thus would lose all of its influence over the Muslim world. There would be no more peacekeepers in Syria and Iraq, no nuclear weapons inspectors in Iran, etc. To my mind, the UN has strategically chosen to alienate Israel, over dozens of others. As a result, most Israelis are rightly suspicious of the UN to the extent that it’s somewhat of a mystery why they haven’t yet severed all ties with the organisation.

The so-called ‘Palestinian conflict stems from the claim that Palestinians are a valid ethnic group of people who occupied the land along with the Jews. But this claim is a complete lie, as anyone who has studied classical history can attest. Not once is the term ‘Palestine’ referred to in the Bible. Indeed, it actually derives from about 135 AD, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigning from 117-138 AD), who in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, laid waste Jerusalem and ostracised the Jews from the city, re-naming it, Aelia Capitolina after himself(Publius Aelius Hadrianus). Moreover, Hadrian re-named the province, Syria Palaestina, in a derogatory reference to Israel’s ancient and wicked enemies, the Philistines( originating from Greek stock).

Yet it is important to remember that both the UN and the state of Israel were both founded on very similar principles: the exercise of democracy, liberty, national self-determination, as well as freedom from persecution and the respect for basic human rights. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of countries that oppose Israel respect none of these principles, as their actions so clearly demonstrate. Moreover, most of them don’t even care for an independent Palestine either. They just view Israel as a convenient scapegoat. It is tragically ironic that the UN, an organisation that has done so much good for the world, is siding with tyrannical regimes rather than a nation that clearly shares its own values!

This is especially prescient in light of what was witnessed by the world when Israel was condemned by most of the international community who accused them of genocide in the 11-day long war with the terrorist organisation, Hamas, which took place in May 2021. Despite the fact that Hamas initiated the conflict by firing rockets – a few thousand in all – into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The corrupt mainstream media fanned the flames of antisemitism by siding with the Palestinian terrorists, resulting in mass protests and wicked violence against Jews all over the world. Some of the participants in these protests included Biblically illiterate(read clueless), ‘nominal’ Christians. Furthermore, such events are prophesised to escalate as we get closer and closer to the triumphant return of Christ to the Earth.

Sunset on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Image credit; Andrew Shiva.

The Bible also tells us that the people of Israel will not be uprooted again:

I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
 I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

Amos 9: 14-15

All of those prophecies have now been fulfilled.

Israel, a vibrant, liberal democracy, is here to stay no matter what evil intentions the goat nations plot against her. This is in spite of the majority of their people’s stubborn unbelief in the true Messiah they had rejected 2,000 years ago. That said, the Messianic Jewish population (who accept Yeshua as their Lord and Saviour) has increased ten-fold to ~30,000 in just a decade! Truth be told, Israel is actually one of the most secular nations on Earth, with Tel Aviv having risen to notoriety in recent years as the gay capital of Europe/Middle East. The Bible addresses the spiritual blindness of Israel in both the Old and New Testaments;

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

                                                                                                                John 12:36-41

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the Bible tells us that He will once again set foot on it at His second coming, where He will fight against those nations wishing to destroy Israel:

Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Zechariah 14:3-4

So, we’re living in exciting times; times that most unbelievers are completely oblivious to; but that too was foretold. Israel is indeed the timepiece for understanding the climactic events in world history.

So keep watching Israel, the Biblical ‘fig tree’ and pray for the peace of Jerusalem(Psalm 122:6), as we are instructed to.

 

Neil English is the author of a large historical work; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.