A Work Commenced December 27 2022
Product: Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35
Country of Manufacture: China
Exit Pupil: 5.00mm
Eye relief: 11.8mm
Field of View: 164m@1000m(9.3 angular degrees)
Coatings: Multilayer coated
Close Focus: 5m advertised, 2.35m measured
ED Glass: No
Nitrogen Purged: No
Tripod Mountable: Yes
Accessories: logoed padded neck strap, plastic rain guard and objective covers, soft padded carry case, instruction manual, warranty card
Dimensions: 11.9 x 18.5cm
Weight: 686g advertised, 684g measured
Warranty: 10 years
Price UK: £104
While it is generally true that you get what you pay for, it’s also true that you can pick up very decent optics for not a lot of money. I was very much reminded of this when I test drove the Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35. This is yet another cost-effective Porro prism binocular from Nikon having a good black rubber armouring, twist-up eye cups and a large central focus wheel. Though it’s not quite as well armoured as Nikon’s more expensive and waterproof Action EX 7 x 35, it is considerably lighter, tipping the scales at just 684g. Indeed, I had no trouble carrying it round my neck for several hours while completing a 10km trek near my home.
The instrument is multicoated ensuring a high light transmission. Indeed, according to tests carried out by allbinos.com, light transmission is close to 80 per cent. Right out of the box, this little Aculon impressed. I had a wee bit of trouble adjusting the dioptre setting as the ring under the right ocular was quite stiff but it eventually yielded. The image is bright and sharp within its sweet spot, which covers the inner 50-60 per cent of the field depending on your degree of accommodation. Contrast is very good too. But what’s most impressive is its huge field of view: 9.3 angular degrees. That’s ideal for surveying landscapes. Eye relief is tight though: that wasn’t a problem for me as I don’t wear glasses while looking through binoculars, but when I did try to engage the view with eye glasses on, I could not see the entire field.
I found that the Aculon had a small amount of glare when the eye cups were fully extended upwards but I was really surprised to discover that I could comfortably access the entire field of view without glasses when they were fully retracted! This will obviously reduce the wear on the eyecups, so extending their functional longevity. But it also had the effect of removing much of the glare I encountered in the open air.
The focus wheel is silky smooth and easy to turn with no backlash or free play. Indeed it felt considerably better than the Action EX 7x 35 I reviewed some time ago. Moreover, of all the different brands of binoculars I’ve tested over the years, Nikon focus wheels have been consistently excellent. The ease with which I could move the focus wheel made this binocular a very enjoyable birding binocular. Indeed, I spent some time watching flocks of Long Tailed Tits flit from tree to tree across the valley. Their mode of flight – in fits and starts – reminded me very much of the way Wagtails navigate during the warmer months of the year. It was so easy to keep up with them, even as they moved off into the distance. The impressive depth of field meant refocusing was an infrequent affair. And that’s got to be a good thing for any birder.
I was impressed by its close focus distance – less than half of the 5m advertised value. The enhanced 3D views through the Nikon Aculon A211 were very memorable, especially when scanning for signs of life inside a densely forested patch near my home. The field curvature actually helps keep closer objects at the bottom part of the field tightly in focus, creating a heightened sense of spatial awareness. This little 7x 35 was a much better fit in my hands than the larger 8 x 42 Aculon I tested prior to acquiring this smaller instrument. Does it have any flaws? Yes. When I turned the binocular on a bright streetlamp after dark I picked up significant internal reflections. It was the same when I glassed a bright, waning gibbous Moon. Bothersome? Yes, a little, but didn’t really detract from the nice, relaxed views I enjoyed during the day. And while the internal reflections detract somewhat from the aesthetic of Moon watching, it’s quite an impressive stargazing binocular. By studying the image of the bright, first magnitude star Rigel, I could see that field curvature and coma are strongly apparent near the field stops but to be honest, there is plenty enough field to thoroughly enjoy the view. Lateral colour was also strong at the edge of the field but nowhere near as bad as what I saw testing the larger 8 x 42 Aculon A211.
I spent 30 minutes enjoying the glories of the Winter sky on Christmas Day. Orion looked magnificent riding high on the meridian, sweeping east into Monoceros where the binocular easily showed the somewhat overlapping NGC 237 and NGC 2244 and even the 8th magnitude M50 to the south was faintly discerned. I also enjoyed sweeping up the three Messier open clusters high overhead in Auriga. The large, expansive field of the little Nikon Aculon 7x 35 made light work of framing all of them inside the same field. I also spent some time in a zero gravity chair sweeping through the wonders of Perseus, Cassiopeia and Cygnus, now sinking low into the northwest sky.
For a binocular that you can acquire for about £100 or less, it’s probably a best buy in my opinion. It does lots of activities well and is great fun to use. If you’re on a tight budget and want decent optical performance in a portable package, go check them out. Indeed, as a firm Porro prism binocular fan, this is such a good bargain that I decided to prepare another ‘Sacrophagus’ for the Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35; a simple water tight Tupperware container with lots of activated silica gel desiccant inside. This will also render them fog proof, as my tests on higher-end Nikon Porros have shown
Dr Neil English is busy writing a book dedicated to binoculars. Choosing & Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will hit the shelves in late 2023.