A Work Commenced December 18 2021
Instrument: German Precision Optics(GPO) Passion ED 10 x 32
Country of Manufacture: China
Field of View: 105m@1000m(6.0 angular degrees)
Exit Pupil: 3.2mm
Eye Relief: 15mm
Chassis: Rubber armoured magnesium alloy, machined aluminium eyecups
Close Focus: 2.5m advertised, 1.92m measured
Dioptre Compensation: +/- 2.5
Nitrogen Purged: Yes
Waterproof: Yes(1m un-stated time)
Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, phase and dielectric coatings applied to Schmidt Pechan roof prisms
ED Glass: Yes
Light Transmission: 90%
Tripod Mountable: Yes
Weight: 500g advertised, 509g measured
Dimensions: L/W 11.8/11.8cm
Accessories: cleaning cloth, hard case, neoprene neck strap, hard case strap, objective covers, ocular covers
Warranty: 10 years
In a previous blog, I reviewed the magnificent GPO Passion HD 10 x 42, one of the flagship models from the relatively new firm, German Precision Optics. For the money, I felt it was an excellent bargain, especially when compared to significantly more expensive models from Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski. Gone are the days when you have to shell out several grand to get a world class binocular, and in my opinion, GPO are definitely leading the way in this regard.
But having enjoyed the instrument for a couple of weeks, reality began to bite. As I’ve remarked before, the 42mm format is not my favourite. It has nothing to do with optics or ergonomics. It’s about weight. You see, I’ve come to strongly favour smaller formats. I already own and frequently use a world-class pocket binocular, the Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20, but my experiences with larger binoculars convinced me that an optimum size for me would come from the compact class of binoculars, with apertures in the 30-35mm size class. Such instruments are easier to hold, easier to view through, and have more light gathering power. But I was also on the look out for a 10x instrument, to afford greater reach for my glassing targets, especially birds. While I’ve enjoyed some really high quality 10 x 25 pocket glasses in the past, their smaller objectives let in less light – an important parameter when glassing in shady areas during daylight hours, and especially for discerning subtle colour tones.
Unfortunately, GPO did not offer a smaller model in their flagship HD range, but they did have a 10 x 32 model from their more economical Passion ED line. After doing some research on this model(see the Preamble link above), I decided to pull the trigger and ordered one up for testing; enter the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32.
Costing less than half the price of the larger 10 x 42 HD model, the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 package arrived with all of the same great quality accessories that delighted me in the larger HD binocular: I received the same neck strap, a smaller clamshell case, snugly fitting rain guard and objective lens covers, GPO-branded microfibre lens cleaning cloth, instruction manual and warranty card. It arrived in the same high quality presentation box as the larger HD model, with its unique serial number etched into the underside of the binocular and on the outside of the box. Very neat!
Picking up the binocular and holding it, I was chuffed to see how well it fitted my hands. The narrow, single bridge allowed me to wrap my fingers round the barrels better than any other 30-32mm model I’ve previously handled. And while the instrument has a lovely, solid feel about it, with its sturdy magnesium alloy chassis, I was very reassured by its considerably lower weight; just 500g as opposed to ~ 850g for the larger, HD instrument.
The central hinge is nice and stiff, making it difficult to change the IPD on the fly. I like that. The binocular has a rather oversized central focus wheel, just like the heavier HD model, and I was relieved to see that it moved very easily and smoothly, with just one finger. The professionally machined aluminium eyecups are, in my opinion, even more impressive on the Passion ED model than the HD, rigidly locking into place with one intermediate click stop. The immaculately applied rubber armouring has two textures, just like the HD, a roughly textured side armouring and a silky smooth substrate covering the inside of the barrels.
All in all, very impressive!
The GPO Passion ED shares many of the high quality ergonomic features built into the more expensive HD models. The ocular and objective antireflection coatings are immaculately applied and have a fetching magenta hue when observed in broad daylight. Unlike the HD models however, they do not have the hydrophobic coatings – an acceptable sacrifice, and then some.
The objective lenses are recessed to an extent I’ve not seen before on any other compact model I’ve had the pleasure of using. I measured it at about 9mm! Why so deep? Well, it could be to protect those objectives from the vagaries of the weather; rain, wind, and stray light etc, or maybe partially compensating for the lack of hydrophobic coatings on the glass? Whatever the precise reason, I liked it!
The eyecups are beautifully designed; absolutely world class! They extend upwards with one intermediate position between fully retracted and fully extended, and lock into place rigidly with a reassuring ‘click.’ This is one binocular you can safely store inside its case with the eyecups fully extended for quicker deployment. They ain’t gonna budge!
Eye relief proved perfect for me, as I don’t use eye glasses, but I think the stated value of 15mm might be a bit optimistic, as I was not easily able to observe the full field of view keeping the eyecups down and wearing my varifocals.
Unlike the more expensive HD models which have a centre-locking dioptre adjustment, the Passion ED presents a more cost-effective solution by returning it to under the right ocular lens. While adjusting it, I noted its excellent rigidity, rendering it very resistant to accidentally moving while in the field. I felt it was a very acceptable compromise. Furthermore, the + and – settings are clearly marked, and so it’s very easy to memorise its optimal positioning should the instrument be used by others.
The oversized focus wheel is very easy to access and manoeuvre using one finger. It has a very grippy, texturized rubber overcoat, identical in fact to the more expensive HD models. Taking just over one complete turn to go from one extreme of its travel to the other, I would rate its speed as very fast; a good thing in my opinion, as it will be used primarily for birding, where big changes in focus position are often required following a mobile avian target. Motions are very smooth though, but I did notice a very small bit of play with it; similar in fact to focus wheel on the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32 I used and enjoyed a while back. Here the HD model came out better in my opinion, as I was unable to detect any play whatsoever with the 10 x 42.
I was most highly impressed with the way the binocular felt in my hands though. In truth, I don’t recall enjoying wrapping my medium sized hands around the barrels as much as on any other compact binocular I’ve tested. I reckon that this is attributed to the narrow bridge, which exposes those long, slender barrels. It’s simply a joy to hold, perfectly stable and always a thrill to bring to my eyes!
All in all, the build quality and handling of the Passion ED 10 x 32 are absolutely unrivalled in this moderate price class. GPO has clearly gone well beyond the call of duty in the design and execution of these new, highly-advanced compact binoculars!
The GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 came perfectly collimated. I was able to ascertain this by carefully focusing the binocular on the bright star Capella and then moving the right eye dioptre to the end of its natural travel. The perfectly focused star from the left barrel was found right in the centre of the defocused star diffraction pattern.
The lady reviewing the 10 x 32 in the Preamble to this review stated that the binocular had no issues with internal reflections and stray light and I was able to affirm this in the 10 x 32 I received. The image of an intensely bright beam of light from my IPhone torch was clean and devoid of diffraction spikes.
The exit pupils are nice and round and have little in the way of light leaks immediately around the pupil; a very good result but not quite in the same league as those found on the more expensive Passion HD 10 x 42.
In broad daylight, the images served up by the GPO Passion ED are very impressive! It is bright and very sharp across the entire field, with very little in the way of distortion even at the field stops. Like the Passion HD model, it enjoys a very decisive snap to focus on whatever target I turn it on. The small exit pupil ensures that the best part of your eye does all the imaging. Colours are vivid and natural but to my eye it has a slightly warm tone, with greens and browns coming through very strongly. Contrast is very good but not quite in the same class as the GPO Passion HD 10x 42 I tested it against. Glare suppression was also impressive. Comparing it to my control binocular – a Barr & Stroud Series 5 8x 42 ED – which exhibits excellent control of all types of glare, including veiling glare, the little Passion ED proved to be slightly superior to it. However, it was not quite as good in this capacity as the GPO 10 x 42 HD model, which exhibits the best control of glare that I have personally witnessed in any binocular.
Close focus is considerably better than I had expected. The accompanying user manual claimed 2.5m for this model, but I measured it at only 1.92m!
Colour correction in the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 is very impressive! Pointing the binocular into the branches of a leafless tree against a bright overcast sky, the centre of the image is completely devoid of it, and even off axis, I could only coax the merest trace and only near the field stops. Returning to testing the binocular under the stars, I was able to verify just how well corrected the field of view is. Stars remain nice pinpoints nearly all the way to the edges. I attribute this excellent result to GPO’s optical engineers’ choice of field size. 6 degrees is not large by modern standards so it’s easier to achieve optical excellence using standard eyepiece designs. More on this a little later.
Venturing out on a freezing, misty December night to observe the full Moon, the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 threw up a beautiful image. It was clean and sharp and contrasty. Secondary spectrum was non existent over the vast majority of the field, with only the extreme edges showing some weak lateral colour. Field illumination was also excellent, as with the 10 x 42 HD, with very little in the way of brightness drop off as the bright silvery orb was moved from the centre to the edge of the field. I also judged field distortion to be excellent in these tests too. The Moon remains razor sharp across most of the field, and only shows slight defocus at the field stops. Indeed, it was very comparable to the results I got with my optically excellent Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 in this regard.
These are excellent results, and quite in keeping with the comments made by the lady from Optics Trade, as revealed in the Preamble video linked to at the beginning of the review. Indeed, these results place the GPO Passion ED in the top tier optically. Its colour correction was notably better than the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32, and I felt its sharpness and contrast were perhaps a shade better too. I’m confident that this 10 x 32 ED could hold its own against top-rated compact binoculars up to twice its retail value or more.
Notes from the Field & Concluding Comments
The view through the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 is very stable and immersive. On paper a field of view of 105m@1000m might seem restrictive but in practice you never get that impression. There are no blackouts, rolling ball effects or any other issues common to compact models sporting wider fields of view with field flatteners. This makes panning observations particularly pleasurable with this instrument. To be honest, I suspected that this would have been the case after I had put the Passion HD 10 x 42 through its paces. Indeed I would hazard a guess that both binocular lines – the HD and ED – have substantially similar optical designs. As an experienced glasser, I have no abiding interest in very large fields of view. Indeed, I tend to think of those wide angle binoculars as rather distracting and more suited to beginners than more seasoned observers. I’m interested in vignettes not vistas.
So there you have it! The GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 is, for me, a Goldilocks binocular, serving my purposes perfectly and fitting my hands like a tailor-made glove. It pays to mention that GPO also market a 8 x 32 with a wider field of view, and two 42mm models with powers of 8x and 10x; so something for everyone! Check them out as soon as you can. You’ll not be disappointed!
Dr Neil English has some exciting news to reveal early in the new year. For now, he’d like to wish all his readers a Very Happy Christmas!