A Work Commenced October 9 2022
Product: Eschenbach Optik Club 8 x 20
Country of Manufacture: Unknown
Exit Pupil: 2.5mm
Field of View: 119m@1000m(6.8 angular degrees)
Eye relief: 16mm
Coatings: Fully multicoated, phase correction coating on BAK4 roof prisms
Close Focus: 1.6m advertised, 3.0m measured
ED glass: No
Nitrogen Purged: Yes
Tripod Mountable: No
Weight: 220g advertised, 220g measured
Accessories: High quality leather storage pouch, lens cleaning cloth, lanyard, eyepiece and objective lens caps, instruction manual
Warranty: 5 years
Price UK: £149.00
Eschenbach Optik, based in Nuremberg, Germany, is not a name that crossed my radar in my tour of the binocular market. But while reading an online birding forum, I came across some comments and a few pictures of an intriguing pocket binocular marketed by Eschenbach; the Club 8 x 20. It looked rather stylish, somewhat resembling the gorgeous little Leica pocket glasses discussed in some of my earlier reviews. Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to order one up for closer inspection and testing. What to expect? An opto-mechanical gem or muton dressed as lamb?
I was surprised to learn that Eschenbach Optik was founded over a century ago, in 1913 to be precise, and is a manufacturer and distributor of optical instruments, but is perhaps best known for the manufacture of spectacle frames. Currently they have a work force of nearly 300 people and have a business volume worth about 70 million Euro annually. Eschenbach, I discovered, also sell a comprehensive range of binoculars – most likely imports – in all the popular sizes.
When the binocular arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the packaging. I received a lovely sliding hard case. A rather fetching leather pouch with the Eschenbach brand name on the front houses the little Club 8 x 20. The package also included a neck strap, a bright blue lens cleaning cloth, instruction manual and presentation card summarizing the features of the instrument in a number of languages. I was surprised to see that the binocular came with both ocular and objective lens caps, something you don’t encounter too often on many of the higher end pocket glasses in my experience.
The Club is certainly a cute looking instrument; weighing just 220g, it has a double hinge design with a large central bridge. The silver-coloured focus wheel is located at the far end of the bridge, while the dioptre adjustment is accessed by a small wheel built into the eye piece end of the bridge.
I was happy to see some plus and minus markings on it to give the user some basic information about which way to turn it in order to get to your desired setting quickly.
The barrels are lightly armoured with a finely textured leatherette substrate that gives the instrument quite a retro look, reminiscent of that seen on the Leica Ultravid BL pocket glasses, with delicate contouring of the ocular and objective ends of the binocular.
The chassis appears to be made entirely from nicely machined aluminium. The tiny Club 8 x 20 measures only 10cm long and folds down to a width of just over 6cm, so comfortably fitting in the palm of your hand.
I absolutely love the twist up eye cups on the Eschenbach Club 8 x 20. They are beautifully engineered and remind me very much of those found on the Swarovski’s newest wonder glass, the CL Curio 7 x 21( and the CL pockets as far as I remember). They glide effortlessly and hold their positions very well.
Eye relief is good, but not outstanding. I was able to see the entire field wearing eyeglasses but some will find it fairly tight. The objectives lenses are nicely recessed – surely a good thing – to cut down on intrusions from rain, dust and peripheral light. The anti-reflection coatings on the lenses are smooth and evenly applied giving a green or purple tint depending on the viewing angle.
The aluminium focus wheel on the Club 8 x 20 is nicely textured for good gripping even while wearing gloves. It moves smoothly in both directions without any slippage or free play.
I wasn’t able to find where the instrument was made, although the underside of the bridge displays the main optical specifications. If I’m guessing, it was probably made in China. The instrument is waterproof, and nitrogen purged, making it more useable in wet weather than the Leica Trinovid BCA models, for example, which are only ‘splashproof’, at least in theory.
Moving on to optics, the instrument arrived perfectly collimated. The BAK4 roof prisms are phase coated and possibly silvered or aluminised. I say ‘possibly’ because the information is not available anywhere in the instruction manual or on their website. I did note that their higher priced Trophy F 8 x 25 ED model has dielectric coatings though, so having a lower reflectivity metal coating seems like a good bet.
Performing my torch test, I picked up some internal reflections and diffused light around a bright light source. The Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25 tested in the same way had much more subdued reflections, no diffused light, but had a more prominent diffraction spike. Judging by what I had seen before, I would say that these results with the Eschenbach Club 8 x 20 were more in keeping with pocket binoculars offered at around the £100 mark, rather than the £149 I paid for it.
Taking a look at the exit pupils, I was relieved to see that both presented as round, with little in the way of light leaks around them. Good job!
The daylight images served up by the Eschenbach Club 8 x 20 are quite good. The sweet spot is located in the central 50 per cent of the field, with field curvature creeping in and increasing steadily as one looks towards the field stops. Contrast and sharpness are good and glare is kept under very good control for a pocket binocular. I was quite surprised to measure the close focus on my sample of the Eschenbach Club 8 x 20 to be 3 metres and not the 1.6m advertised on their website. Comparing it in side-by-side tests with the Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25, which has the same 6.8 degree field of view, I was immediately able to see that it was noticeably brighter, a little sharper over a larger field area and had better contrast than the Club 8 x 20. I also detected a slight yellow tint to the Club compared with the more neutral colours served up by the Zeiss. Colour fringing is well controlled in the Eschenbach within the sweet spot but does begin to show on higher contrast targets as they are examined near the field stops. Again, the little Zeiss did better in this regard. Curiously, while displaying the same field of view, I came away with the strong impression that the Zeiss glass was wider.
It was only after I looked at a waxing gibbous Moon on the evening of October 8, that I could begin to offer an explanation for my daytime perceptions. Comparing the Zeiss with the Club 8 x 20, I noticed that the sweet spot was considerably larger in the former, with the Moon remaining acceptably sharp nearly all the way across the field. The Eschenbach Club pocket glass threw up a good image of the Moon in the central 50 per cent of the field, but quickly became blurred as it was placed outside its sweet spot. I confirmed that the predominant aberration was field curvature, since I was easily able to focus it out as the Moon’s silvery orb was brought near to the edge of the field. So I think that my perceptions of the Zeiss having a wider field lies entirely with the fact that it just has a much larger area of its field inside which objects look very sharp. I got broadly similar results when I looked at the bright star, Capella. The image remained pinpoint sharp in the inner 50 cent of the field but as I moved it outside this area, the image of yellow Capella started to show the effects of defocus owing to field curvature. In the outer 15 per cent of the field, the star had bloated to an unpleasant defocused disk.
The Club also threw up a few stronger internal reflections on the Moon than the Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25. Indeed, despite the Zeiss showing a strong diffraction spike when turned to a bright streetlamp, it wasn’t all that prominent on the bright full Moon observed on the evening of October 9.
In conclusion, the little Eschenbach Club 8 x 20 has lots of nice, elegant ergonomic features usually reserved for higher-end pocket binoculars, such as excellent eyecups, a smooth focusing wheel and a well-made dioptre system, not to mention the high-quality leather storage pouch it comes in. It’s a true pocket binocular with its folding hinges. Optically though, it behaves more like models I’ve tested costing about £100, which is probably adequate for lots of people, but for those who believe they are getting something that rivals a Leica or a Swarovski, you might be a little underwhelmed.
Neil English has cultivated a fondness for pocket binoculars. If you like his work, why not buy one of his books on telescopes and the history of astronomy?