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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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!
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?
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.
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.