A Work Commenced November 12 2022
Product: Svbony SV202 8 x 42 ED
Country of Manufacture: Hong Kong
Chassis: Textured rubber armoured Magnesium alloy
Exit Pupil: 5.25mm
Field of View: 131m@1000m(7.5 angular degrees)
Eye Relief: 17.5mm
Dioptre Compensation: +/- 3
Close Focus: 2m advertised, 2.27m measured
Coatings: Fully broadband multicoated, dielectric and phase coatings on BAK4 roof prisms
ED Glass: Yes
Waterproof: Yes IPX7 rating
Nitrogen Purged: Yes
Weight: 720g advertised, 720g measured
Dimensions: 15 x 11.5 cm
Accessories: Padded soft case, logoed neoprene neck strap, ocular and objective covers, microfibre lens cleaning cloth, instruction manual
Warranty: 1 year
The old Latin proverb, Omne trium perfectum, came to mind as I finally got a chance to look though the new Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED. After discovering the many virtues of both the compact 8 x 32 and full-size 10 x 42 from the same series, and communicating my findings with the general community, a great many people have benefited from using these binoculars and reported on their amazing optics and ergonomics. Despite receiving attacks from online trolls and a few individuals who hate me and my work for no cause, they got egg on their wicked faces as interest in these binoculars went viral(preamble 3 is only one of several threads available to peruse online). More and more favourable reports kept coming out, making these instruments go from strength to strength across the world, where they have shattered once and for all the myth that excellent binoculars can only be had by shelling out large sums of money.
I’m delighted to say that those days are well and truly behind us now!
As soon as the new 8 x 42 had been launched, I immediately received a barrage of emails requesting a review. After thinking about it a little while, I decided to act on these requests – it just seemed to be the right thing to do. The instrument was not yet available on Amazon, the online retailer that I had bought the SV 202 8 x 32 and 10 x 42 ED models from, so I went to Svbony’s Website and ordered it directly from them. My order was placed on October 20 and the instrument arrived safely on the afternoon of November 1. I paid $179.99 US to secure my order but had to pay an additional 20 per cent import tariff in order for the binocular to clear customs, so about £200 all in.
First Impressions & Ergonomics
Just like the previous two models, the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED arrived in the same neat little box. Inside, the same black soft padded case housed the instrument, with the rain guard and tethered objective lens covers attached. The box also contained a padded neoprene logoed neck strap, a lens cleaning microfibre cloth and multi-language instruction manual and warranty information.
The instrument was immaculately presented with its durable magnesium alloy chassis overlaid with a tough non-oxidising rubber armouring, and presenting the same ridges at the side of the barrels as the other models for excellent gripping in all weathers. Inspecting the innards of the binocular from the objective end, I was relieved to find that everything looked immaculate, with no signs of streaks on the optics, dust or other debris inside. The knife-edge baffles looked nicely machined and the inside painted a dull matt black to optimise contrast.
Examining the focus wheel, I was delighted to see that it was silky smooth and backlash free, taking 1.5 turns anticlockwise to go from one extreme of its focus travel to infinity and a little bit beyond. Tension is excellent – just as good as on the 10 x 42 ED and not quite as tight as on the 8 x 32 ED model(which niggled me a little).
The twist-up eyecups are also excellent. Fashioned from machined metal overlaid with soft rubber, they have three positions to accommodate the vast majority of users, including those who wear eyeglasses. They lock into each position with a reassuring ‘click’ and remain very rigidly in place. Indeed, from memory, they appear to be very similar to those found on the excellent Nikon Monarch HG binocular series. The eye relief is more than sufficient to view the entire field with glasses on, as my tests showed.
The right-eye dioptre adjustment ring is located under the eyepiece. It has excellent texture and tension to enable the user to quickly and accurately find his/her desired setting. Unlike the majority of binoculars in this price range, the plus and minus settings are easy to see and a white dot makes it easy for you to remember your preferred setting. Once adjusted, it remains rigidly in place for hassle free observing.
The single bridge is fairly short, allowing the user to wrap his/her fingers around the front of the barrels securely to ensure supremely comfortable handling.
The broadband anti-reflection coatings have a beautiful purple hue in broad daylight. They appear very evenly applied and appear to almost disappear when viewed from oblique angles. The 42mm objective lenses are nicely recessed, affording good protection from stray light, dust and rain. The ocular lenses are large and easy to centre one’s eyes in.
Overall, and in keeping with my comments on the 8 x 32 and 10 x 42 models, the fit and finish on the Svbony SV202 8 x 42 ED is excellent. And just like its siblings, it looks and feels like a real class act, being quite lightweight(720g) and a particular joy to handle. These binoculars were clearly built with longevity in mind, and all I can say is that there is nothing in the design of these instruments that gives me any grounds for doubt.
In my experiences testing dozens of models in this aperture class over the years, I’ve encountered many that look the part only to discover that their optics were, let’s just say, underwhelming. I’m delighted to report that the optics of the SV 202 8 x 42 ED did not disappoint! To give the reader an honest and thorough idea of how good this binocular is, I took the liberty to test it alongside two other instruments in the same aperture class: the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 retailing at just over £200 and the more expensive GPO Passion ED 8 x 42 costing £404.
First examining the image of an intensely bright beam of white light directed into the instruments from across a darkened indoor setting, the results from the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED were really excellent! It stubbornly refused to show up any internal reflections, unlike the Hawke Endurance ED, which showed up some prominent ones in comparison. Nor was there any diffused light around the light source in the Svbony unlike the Hawke which was easy to see in comparison. Clearly, the Svbony has noticeably superior coatings and baffles to stubbornly block off these annoying optical artefacts. Now, when I compared the Svbony to the GPO Passion ED 8 x 42, the results were a lot closer but I must report that the Svbony also showed slightly better resistance to internal reflections than the GPO. Indeed, predictably enough, I obtained the same results when I turned the instruments on a bright full Moon and a sodium streetlamp after dark. Internal reflections and diffused light were quite obvious in the Hawke and much better in the GPO but I was still able to make out some weak internal reflections in the GPO binocular in comparison to the Svbony, which showed none in comparison. These are excellent results, and quite in keeping with the two other SV202 models I purchased and tested in my past evaluations(see Preamble 1 & 2 above).
Next, taking a look at the exit pupils aimed at a bright, artificial light source, I was delighted to see that the large exit pupils on the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED were perfectly round, with little in the way of light bleeds in their vicinity as the photos below show;
So how are the views through the Svbony SV202 8 x 42ED? In a word: excellent! The image is very bright and razor sharp across the vast majority of the field. The binocular shows lovely micro-contrast details. Images snap to focus with absolutely no ambiguity. You’re either in focus or out of focus. No fiddling required! Contrast and colour rendering are also excellent. Glare is very well supressed but not quite as good as the best binoculars I’ve sampled in the £800 + range. On a CN thread I initiated on the SV202 8 x 32 ED I made the comment that Svbony were better off making the field of view a little smaller to reduce the severity of the field curvature seen near the field stops. I believe Svbony has listened and actively addressed the problem. The view is wide(7.5 angular degrees) but not overly so. This makes the sweetspot proportionately larger in the 8 x 42 than either the 8 x 32 or the 10 x 42 models previously assessed. How big? I’d estimate that its razor sharp over at least 70 per cent of the field, with mild field curvature and some barrel distortion creeping in as one approaches the field stops. But make no mistake about it, even at the field stops, the images of stars I assessed(discussed below) were tighter than I remember on the two earlier models I field tested.
Comparing the views through the similarly-priced Hawke Endurance ED, the difference was obvious; the Svbony was noticeably sharper, had better contrast and with better control of both general field glare and veiling glare. Colour correction was maybe a shade better in the Hawke though, but I’ve noted that some of the sharpest binoculars I’ve tested over the last four years have had some secondary spectrum bleed. Having said that, there is only the merest trace of it within the sweet spot but as one moves to the outer field, lateral colour can often be picked up when viewing tree branches against a uniformly lit grey background sky; a harsh test for any binocular, however well made.
I got even more excited when I tested the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED against the GPO Passion ED 8 x 42. This time, I canvassed the opinions of a few students to compare and contrast the views in both good and poor ambient light conditions, having already made my mind up on the matter. The results were again unanimous: they all agreed with me that the Svbony served up sharper images though they noted that the field of view of the GPO was noticeably wider( 8.1 angular degrees). But they could see, as I did, that the edge of field performance was noticeably better in the Sybony – a consequence of its more conservative sized field of view. These are truly excellent results and fully in keeping with the title of this review: the Extraordinary Svbony!
Notes from the Field
The majority of my most rigorous testing of the Svbony SV 202 ED 8 x 42 took place under a starry sky, where optical issues are easier to assess. Defocusing the bright, first-magnitude star, Capella, by rotating the dioptre ring to the end of its travel, I could see that collimation was fine. The focused star image from the left barrel was well inside the defocused anulus appearing in the right barrel. Stars remained tiny pinpoints of light across about 70-75 per cent of the field, with the last 25 per cent or so revealing some field curvature and a minor amount of astigmatism right at the field stops.
I was easily able to measure the size of the field of view in the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED. Noting that the stars Betelgeuse and Bellatrix in northern Orion are precisely 7 degrees 33’ apart, I was just unable to fit both into the same field. That’s very much in keeping with the 7 degree 30’ stated in the specifications. Good job Sybony!
Examining a bright waxing gibbous Moon in late October skies threw up a marble-white orb, peppered by grey lava seas and excellent crater detail across the southern highlands. Chromatic aberration was completely absent from the lunar limb within the large sweet spot, but did throw up some as the Moon was moved out towards the field stops. I noted some moderate drop off in illumination of the Moon at the field edges but nothing to take issue with, where only very slight refocusing was needed to bring it sharply into focus.
Back to daylight testing again now. Close focus was measured to be 2.27 metres, a little longer than advertised. I noticed some barrel(negative distortion) looking at an off axis drain pipe. On the many very dull, overcast days we experienced throughout October, the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED threw up superlative images. Colours in autumn leaves really popped, with no contrast-robbing glare to reduce the intensity of the views. Greens, browns and red colours seem to be enhanced under these conditions. Near dusk, these colours really become enhanced! Imaging fallen leaves at close quarters(within a few metres) really shows off the exceptional sharpness of this binocular. I attribute this to unusually good correction of spherical aberration. Indeed, to my eye, better spherical aberration correction is more desirable than a slightly softer but better colour corrected image, as was manifested in the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 tested alongside it. I detected no blackouts while panning large swathes of hillside with the Svbony 8 x 42 ED, unlike I encountered with the GPO Passion ED 8 x 42. I attribute this to simpler eyepiece design in the former. I’ve found blackouts to be a significant issue in many wide-angle 8 x 42s, with more aggressive field flattening strongly correlating with the frequency of blackouts encountered.
Under bright sunny conditions, the Svbony does throw up more in the way of glare, especially in the direction of the Sun, but although I’m especially partial to this kind of defect, it was never bothersome. Indeed, comparing my notes of observations conducted using a well-heeled Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42, I observed similar levels of glare under the same conditions. In another low light test, I compared and contrasted the images garnered by the GPO Passion ED and the Svbony. Observing at dusk and far into deep twilight, looking into the deeply shaded undergrowth of shrubs some 20 metres in the distance, I was unable to see any significant brightness differences between the instruments. That’s good news considering the former has a light transmission of the order of 90 per cent. Whatever the precise light transmission of the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED, it’s likely to be impressively high.
Conclusions & Recommendations
They say good things come in threes. That’s certainly turned out to be a true adage in my experience with these SV 202 compact and mid-sized ED binoculars from Svbony. Furthermore, of the three I’ve tested and reported on, this new SV 202 8 x 42 ED has got to be my favourite. It’s an awesome binocular, especially considering its very modest pricing. It will make an excellent birding binocular, for example, where the finest optics are required to pick off the minutest details in your avian targets. It’s also a fine star gazing binocular with its great near edge-to-edge sharpness. It will do well in any situation; bright sunlight, or at dusk and dawn, so will also be useful as a hunting glass. I’m confident that the performance of this instrument will match or exceed pretty much any instrument currently on the market under £500, and will give £1K instruments a frightening run for their money. Any room for improvement? Yes. A few extra layers of antireflection coatings applied to the elements in the optical train will cut down the already minimal levels of glare to levels seen on binoculars in the £800 price range. Adding a hydrophobic coating on the outer lenses wouldn’t go amiss either, especially if you intend to use it in cold and wet environments. Other than that, I’d say leave well alone!
Very highly favoured!
Dr Neil English will publish a new book dedicated to binoculars: Choosing & Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, due out in late 2023.