Product Review: Two Economically Priced Monoculars from Barr & Stroud.

The Barr & Stroud Sprite Plus 15 x 50 (top) and Sprite Midi 8 x 42(bottom).

A Work Commenced December 10 2021

 

Product Names: Barr & Stroud Sprite Midi 8 x 42/ Plus 15 x 50

Country of Manufacture: China

Eye Relief: 5.25mm(8×42)/ 3.33mm(15×50)

Field of View: 129m@1000m(8 x 42)/ 66m@1000m(15 x 50)

Eye Relief: 17.5mm(8 x 42)/ 11mm(15 x 50)

Coatings: Fully Multicoated, silvered and phase corrected Bak4 prisms(8 x 42 Midi non phase coated)

Chassis Material: Rubber Armoured Polycarbonate

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Close Focus: 3m(8 x 42)/2.5m(15×50) advertised, 2.9 and 2.2 m measured, respectively

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Weight: 339g(8 x 42)/ 448g(15 x 50)

Dimensions: 139x80x55mm(8 x 42)/165X80X62mm(15 x 50)

Accessories: Soft padded carry case, lens cleaning cloth, carry strap, warranty card & instruction sheet, tethered rubber objective and ocular caps

Warranty: 10 Years

Retail Price(UK): £59.95(8x 42)/ £74.95(15 x 50)

 

In several previous reviews, I’ve showcased a few binoculars made by Barr & Stroud. As I explained before, I cut my first binocular teeth with a modern roof prism binocular by Barr & Stroud just over three years ago, and have always been impressed by their excellent bang for buck. Unlike so many other instruments in the same price range, which showed mis-collimated barrels, too much field curvature, chromatic aberration and sub-standard ergonomics, Barr & Stroud products punched well above their weight in terms both of the quality of the optics they presented and the rugged no-nonsense chassis in which those optics were housed. In this review, I’ll be discussing the optical and ergonomic features of two nifty monoculars from the same company; the Sprite Midi 8 x 42, and the higher power Sprite Plus 15 x 50. But before we get to those details, let’s take some time to go over the reasons why a monocular might suit an individual more than a binocular.

A monocular is, quite simply, half a binocular. Thus, it uses one eye rather than two. Some people have natural deficiencies in one eye, such as severe astigmatism for example, that results in their inability to properly adjust the dioptre setting on a regular binocular leading to a blurred image. Others have one eye damaged in some way and so can’t avail of the natural advantages of using both eyes. Some folk like to use monoculars because they are smaller and lighter than the equivalent binocular and this may prove to be very important if space and weight constraints are very tight. Monoculars are now available in many sizes and magnifications. Low power monoculars have magnification ranges similar to that found in modern compact and full-sized binoculars, but higher powered units function more like mini-spotting scopes, enabling the user to lock in on small targets beyond the range of binoculars or seeing details quite invisible to conventional, hand-held binoculars. Yet another advantage of a monocular is cost; it’s just cheaper to use a monocular than a binocular of the same aperture.

What does one lose in going from a binocular to a monocular? Well, a few things actually. Depth perception for one thing, as our eyes were designed in such a way that they both create the sensation of focus depth, allowing us to gain a sense of the 3-dimensional shape of objects and how far away they are. Many observers enjoy up to a 40 per cent gain in contrast using binoculars compared with the same sized monocular. The reasons for this are not entirely understood but suffice it to say that using two eyes increases the signal to noise  ratio in the electrical impulses that are created in viewing an object. Many observers also report that monoculars are harder to hold steady than binoculars of the same aperture. Despite these drawbacks, most of the main binocular manufacturers also produce monoculars, and Barr & Stroud is no exception.

                                First Impressions & Ergonomics

Both the Barr & Stroud monoculars have a polycarbonate chassis overlaid by a grippy, green rubber armouring. The polycarbonate body cuts down on weight and is perfectly adequate for most observing schedules. Both instruments fit very easily in the palm of your hand. They are both very lightweight; the 8 x 42mm weighing at 350g and the 15 x 50mm just 100g more. In this capacity, both the Sprite Midi 8x 42 and Plus are no heavier than the average compact binocular. Both instruments come with a rubberised rain guard and a tethered objective cover, which means you’ll never lose it in the field.

Both Barr & Stroud Monoculars have a permanently tethered objective cover.

In a previous blog, I commented on my great fondness for the quality of the focusers on a number of Barr & Stroud binoculars. And these binoculars are no exception. Both instruments have silky smooth focus wheels, which are large and easy to negotiate with just one finger.  They do however have slightly different textures; I found that I preferred the less expensive Midi Sprite focus wheel over the larger 15 x 50 Sprite Plus. It was just slightly easier to grip and engage with throughout its travel.

The focus wheel on both Barr & Stroud monoculars are of high quality but I liked the extra grip afforded by the less expensive Midi model.

Both monoculars are equipped with pull-up eyecups that lock rigidly in place. The smaller 8 x 42 Sprite Midi has very generous eye relief. I was easily able to observe the full field with my eye glasses on. The larger Sprite Plus however, has considerably less eye relief, but if push came to shove, I was just able to engage with the full field but it was certainly challenging!

Both monoculars have well made twist up eyecups that lock rigidly in place.

Both Barr & Stroud monoculars come with a screw thread which enables you to mate it to a tripod or monopod for extra visual stability.

Both monoculars can be easily mated to a tripod or monopod.

Both monoculars come with a padded case and a carry strap that you can easily affix to the instrument.

Each monocular is supplied with a padded carry case and strap to carry it from place to place.

Optics

Both Barr & Stroud monoculars feature fully multicoated optics and BaK4 Schmidt Pechan roof prisms. The less expansive Sprite Midi 8x 42 is not phase coated however, unlike the higher power 15 x 50 Sprite Plus. The Sprite Midi 8 x 42 appears to have the same specifications as the 8 x 42 Sahara binocular with a field of view of 129m@1000m or 7.35 angular degrees but has a noticeably longer close focus at 2.59m(as opposed to just 1.98m for the Sahara binocular). Intriguingly, the Sprite Plus 15 x 50 monocular has a significantly better close focus of just 2.2 metres, which is also considerably less than the 2.5m advertised.

The higher power Spite Plus 15 x 50 has phase coated roof prisms unlike the smaller Sprite Midi.

Looking at the exit pupil of both monoculars showed a significantly better result for the larger Sprite Plus 15 x 50. Although both presented with nice round pupils, the 8 x 42 Midi had more stray light close to the pupil, as the images below show.

The exit pupil presented in the Sprite Midi 8 x 42.

The exit pupil presented by the Sprite Plus 15 x 50.

These results were also somewhat reproduced in my tests for internal reflections, by directing a bright beam of my IPhone 7 torch into the monoculars from across a room and inspecting the images visually. The Midi 8 x 42 did show significantly more internal reflections and diffused light around the beam than the larger 15 x 50 Plus unit. That said, these stray light artefacts were not terribly injurious to the image and both gave passable results when directed at a sodium street light after dark, and also on a bright Moon.

The daylight images served up by the 8 x 42 Midi monocular are bright and sharp. Contrast is good and chromatic aberration is very well controlled, with only the outer part of the field showing a trace. The 8 x 42 has a large sweet spot covering perhaps 60 per cent of the field but beyond that astigmatism and pincushion distortion increase gradually towards the field stop. I was also able to confirm these findings under the stars.

I judged the larger Sprite Plus 15 x 50 to be better optically than the smaller 8 x 42. Despite its higher power, the images it served up had higher contrast than the latter, a consequence I suppose of its phase corrected roof prisms. The field of view was flatter and better corrected in the 15 x 50 too. Star testing showed that most of its 3.78 degree true field was very well corrected, with only the outer 15 per cent showing significant distortion. Chromatic aberration was more conspicuous but never to an unacceptable degree. High contrast objects against a bright over cast sky background does show some but that’s just par for the course and most folk can easily ignore it and just get on with observing.

I found the 15 x 50 unit more versatile than the 8 x 42. With its substantial magnification, I enjoyed employing it as a mini spotting scope, either mounted on a monopod or simply by finding a suitable branch or fence post to rest it on. If you’re observing from a car, a small beanbag also works wonders stabilising the view. The 15x is just right for bridging the gap between a standard binocular view and a larger spotting scope. For example, I was able to make out nice, high-resolution details on a Grey Heron that were quite invisible in 8x and 10x binoculars. The 15 x 50 is a nifty instrument for studying the phases of the Moon; all the way from slender crescent to full on full Moon. Crater fields and maria show up sharply and in very high contrast; a true refractor image. The Plus proved to be a rather good, low-power, rich field telescope too, delivering up very impressive views of larger deep sky objects such as the Pleiades, the Beehive Cluster, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Double Cluster.  Views of the Sword Handle of Orion also proved very compelling through the Spite Plus.

In addition to its higher magnification, the better close focus on the Sprite Plus 15 x 50 made it a rather good, long distance microscope, affording crystal clear views of leaf litter, bark, rock formations, fungi and tree branches. Indeed, if coupled to a digi-scoping adapter, it works well as an ultraportable telephoto lens.

In summary, both the Sprite Midi 8 x 42 and Plus 15 x 50 represent excellent value for money. They are well made, small, lightweight, easy to use, weather resistant and serve up very decent optics for their modest price tags.  If your outdoor activities are in need of a magnification boost, give one of these monoculars a try. You won’t be left second guessing!

 

 

Neil English is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy, including Choosing and Using a Refracting Telescope.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: GPO Passion HD 10 x 42.

GPO Passion HD 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced November 29 2021

Preamble 1

Preamble 2

Preamble 3

Preamble 4

 

Product: GPO Passion HD 10 x 42

Country of Manufacture: Japan

Field of View: 112m @1000m (6.4 angular degrees) advertised, 6.24 degrees measured

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Eye Relief: 17mm

Chassis: Rubber armoured magnesium alloy, machined aluminium eyecups(removable)

Close Focus: 2m(advertised), 1.9m measured

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 4(integrated central locking dioptre)

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (5m unknown time)

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, phase and dielectric coatings, PASSIONdrop™ hydrophobic coating

ED Glass: Yes (Two Elements)

Light Transmission: 92%

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Weight: 840g(advertised)848g measured

Dimensions: H/W 15.6/13cm

Accessories: cleaning cloth, hard case, neoprene neck strap, hard case strap, objective covers, ocular covers

Warranty: 10 years

Price (UK): £877.99

 

Introduction

In the Summer of 2021, I hooked up with a fellow binocular enthusiast, Slim Loghmari, who was following my work and became very interested in my review blogs on various instruments. He took the time to test some of the models I showcased, but he also had a number of excellent binoculars from the newly established company, German Precision Optics(GPO), to compare these models to. It soon became apparent that Slim was a very experienced binocular user, with plenty of first-hand knowledge of models from all price categories. But there was one model that stood out from the crowd for him; the GPO Passion HD 10 x 42. He waxed lyrical about this instrument and told me in no uncertain terms that his Passion HD had phenomenal optics and ergonomics that left all of his other 10 x 42s in the dust. He shared his detailed recollections of this instrument with me, including some high quality 4K video footage(see Preamble 1 above) showcasing its many qualities, as well as performing tests that I had asked him to do on various aspects of its optics and ergonomics. Over the weeks and months, I began vicariously ‘reviewing’ his 10 x 42 Passion HD. Meanwhile, I conducted my own extensive research on GPO behind the scenes. Founded in 2015 by ex-CEO and Head of Development of Carl Zeiss Sport Optics, Richard Schmidt (who spearheaded the development of Zeiss’ current line of Terra, Conquest and Victory SF binoculars), he recruited a world class team of chief executives, scientists and optical engineers from Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski, Meopta and other companies, to bring to market products offering top-drawer optical performance at much more reasonable prices to the consumer. All their products are designed at their headquarters at Inning am Ammersee, in the suburbs of Munich, Germany. Their entry level binoculars – the Passion ED – are assembled in China while their flagship HD series is manufactured in Japan. Once assembled, they are shipped back to Munich,  where extensive in-house inspection and quality control takes place, before being dispatched to retailers or individual customers across Europe and North America. GPO now manufacture and sell high-end binoculars, rifle scopes and range finders for the growing sports optics industry.

Reading the opinions of other binocular enthusiasts indicated that GPO binoculars were offering great bang for buck but there was still a degree of buying inertia from people who were reluctant to take the plunge, owing to the fact that they were a relatively new and unknown company. Indeed, all the reports I had read about GPO products were invariably very good to excellent, and had also learned that they had won various awards for their products both in Europe and North America(see Preamble 3). I was fairly confident that the flagship line of binoculars, the Passion HD, was very special indeed. And since Slim trusted my judgement in the past, I figured that it was only fitting that I also trust his judgement regarding the GPO binocular. So, I decided to pull the trigger and order up my own unit for testing. Now, £877.99 is a significant amount of money for almost anyone, but after critically testing the instrument over several weeks, I believe it was indeed justified!

The package arrived double-boxed, with the instrument beautifully presented inside a very thoughtfully styled presentation box as shown above. The binocular was very snugly placed inside a high quality foam frame, with a separate compartment for the custom- designed hard shell case. My immediate impression was “wow!” The care and attention to the presentation of this binocular was second to none: very reminiscent of what I had previously experienced with some high-end Zeiss instruments I encountered in the past! Opening up the choice quality case, I found all the accessories accompanying the binocular, including high-quality ocular and objective covers, a GPO-branded lens cleaning cloth, a very comprehensive instruction manual in several languages, a padded, logoed neck strap and carry strap for the case, and a warranty card. Everything about the package was a quality experience and it was clear to me that GPO had gone to great lengths to make this initial encounter with their product as special as possible. It certainly worked its charm on yours truly!

A Walk Around the Instrument

The GPO Passion HD 10x 42 is a beautiful looking instrument.

Prizing(it took some effort I can tell you!) the immaculately packed instrument from the cut-out foam,  I was instantly taken by its fit and finish. While their less expensive Passion ED lines come in a variety of colours, I was relieved to see that GPO went with a traditional charcoal black chassis for these instruments. I’m just not a fan of garish, migraine-inducing colours like the burnt orange offered by new Swarovski models, for example, and not especially taken by two-tone colour schemes either.

In the hand, the instrument feels extremely solid and well made. The chassis is fashioned from a tough but lightweight magnesium alloy, overlaid by rugged and beautifully textured black rubber armouring.  The company’s attractive logo of an Eagle with an outstretched wing is prominently displayed on the narrow bridge of the instrument. The unique serial number – 22100731- is engraved under the back of the left ocular.

The unique serial number on the GPO Passion HD.

Unlike a few models I’ve tested from companies like Nikon, which are armoured in a rather cheap, easily frayed synthetic rubber substrate, this GPO Passion HD was much more professionally finished, with no obvious weak areas that would start to come away all too quickly after a few months of sustained field use. The armouring has two textures: smooth along the top and bottom, but more grainy and textured at the sides and the near under belly, facilitating steadier gripping in the hands. What’s really cool about this body armouring is that it does not seem to aggressively attract dust and grime- at least so far as I can make out.

The underside of the GPO Passion HD 10x 42. Note the thumb indents just under the eyepieces.

Examining the over-sized focus wheel, I was delighted to see that it was silky smooth and extremely easy to move with just one finger.

The Passion HD focus wheel is oversized, silky smooth and exceptionally responsive.

The beautifully machined, twist up aluminium  eyecups are a real work of art! Fit & finish wise:nothing like them on the market! Overlaid by soft rubber, they are very comfortable when pressed against my eyes. The long, slender barrels were very easy and intuitive to get my hands around,  and on the underside my thumbs naturally settled into the two indents for a sturdy grip. Overall, I got the immediate impression that this instrument exuded quality: it had a fit and feel that is – in this size class at least – quite simply in a different league to anything I’ve had the pleasure of owning and using in the past. Without question, this is an alpha binocular build, just like Slim had been crowing on about for weeks on end.

Ergonomics
The Passion HD 10 x 42 has a substantial (848g) weight to it and feels very solid and robust in my medium sized hands. It has a small, single bridge connecting both barrels. It is noteworthy that some of the leaders in the binocular industry have abandoned the open bridge design in favour of its single hinge counterpart. Just look at the design of Swarovski’s new NL Pure line to see what I mean.

The twist-up eyecups are made from machined aluminium and are quite unlike any I had seen before. They are extremely tough and have one intermediate position between fully extended and fully retracted, with absolutely no wiggle room.  Soft rubber envelopes the cups and are very comfortable to press your eyes against, even after hours of glassing. These oculars have plenty of eye relief too: I was easily able to image the entire field with my varifocals on with no issues. I would rate these eyecups as one of the very best I’ve seen and used: certainly in a different league to anything made by Nikon and Zeiss, for example.

The central focusing wheel is oversized compared with many other binoculars I’ve used but its exceptional quality is in evidence from the second you lay your fingers on it. Running through just 1.5 revolutions from one extreme of travel to the other, its movements are silky smooth and completely backlash free. Only tiny adjustments are needed to bring an object into focus from several tens of yards distant to only a few yards distant, making it especially appealing to birders who often demand the best focusers on the market to sate their demanding schedules.

I found the focus wheel on the Passion HD to be very similar to that found on the Nikon Monarch HG line, with similar levels of tension and smoothness. When considering the dioptre adjustment however, the GPO Passion HD leaves many of its competitors in the starting blocks. To operate it, you simply pull out the focus wheel and adjust the image in the right barrel until it’s as crystal clear as its left ocular. Once completed, you pop it back in and voila, you’re off to the races!

Dioptre compensation is achieved by pulling out the focus wheel and dialling in your preferred setting before pushing it back in to lock.

Compare this to the more cheaply designed locking right eye dioptre on the Monarch HG or Vanguard ED II, for example, and you’ll quickly come to appreciate the sheer sophistication of the Passion HD line, which will never pop loose by accident or budge from its position once it’s set.  In this capacity, the GPO dioptre is right up there with the best engineering designs used by Leica, Zeiss and Swarovski. Very well done GPO!
Looking now at the objectives, they are deeply recessed to minimise stray light, and the encroach of rain and dust. I’m especially impressed by the truly excellent baffling of the objective lenses which really helps mitigate the most damaging effects of stray and intensely bright light sources, minimising glare. But it takes more than good baffling do this well: the layers of coatings applied to each lens and prism surface also plays a crucial role here, as we shall see shortly. The eyecups are larger than on most other binoculars I’ve handled. They measure about 42mm in diameter compared with 37mm in many other models. This makes positioning your eyes that little bit easier in practice, and affords greater comfort for eye glass wearers.

The secret of excellent glare suppression is great baffling and great coatings.

Another important ergonomic feature is the hydrophobic coatings applied to the outer lenses of the instrument. GPO’s proprietary PASSIONdrop coating quickly disperses condensation that invariably occurs when glassing in cold or damp conditions. In a side by side test using a control binocular without these hydrophobic coatings, I was  quite taken by the much shorter times needed to disperse a fogged-over ocular lens on the GPO. Typically, such fogging can take a few minutes to dissipate without such coatings, in contrast to just a few seconds in the case of the Passion HD binocular. I carried such tests out at both room temperature and also outside, where the mercury hovered at or below zero for about an hour. Breathing on the ocular lenses only took a few seconds to clear. Playing the waiting game when this happens during field use can make all the difference between enjoying your subject or missing it entirely.

GPO’s proprietary PassionDrop hydrophobic coatings disperse condensation in seconds. The picture above is a comparison between the GPO Passion HD ocular lens (left) 20 seconds after fogging up a non coated control bino(right) at the same time. The condensation still remains on the latter.

The accessories accompanying the instrument are also of very high quality. The rain guard fits over the eyecups really snugly. The objective cover is very reminiscent of those employed by Zeiss on their flagship Victory SF range. Instead of rubber rings that fit over the barrels, the GPO Passion HDs come with a single cap connecting both objectives by a rubber bridge. You push them into the objectives, where they tightly seal off the encroach of dust, water and other debris.  GPO even included a spare one just in case the other gets lost. Neat!

Very Zeissesque!

A hefty binocular like the GPO Passion HD requires a high-quality padded neoprene neck strap to get the best use out of it, and that’s exactly what one receives in the package. Such a high quality strap helps to lighten the load especially when walking with the instrument over long journeys.

A very high quality neoprene neck strap lightens the load.

Finally, a few words of praise for the accompanying carry case. In a word: Awesome!

But to elaborate, it’s an attractive, green canvass hard shell case, which can be zip-closed. The carrying strap for the case is also padded. You have plenty of room to store the binocular with its strap inside and even has an additional pouch to carry a cleaning cloth(also supplied by GPO) or sachet of desiccant. It rates up there with some of the best cases I’ve had the pleasure of using .

The package comes with a beautifully made, zip-closed hard clamshell case.

Optical Assessment

Now, shall we get down to business?

My first test involved seeing how well the binocular handled a very bright light source. So I turned my IPhone torch on to its highest setting and looked through the binocular to see if I could detect internal reflections, diffraction spikes and diffused light. Such tests showed the GPO Passion HD produced a flawless result: there were no annoying internal reflections, no diffraction spikes and little in the way of diffused light around the intensely bright beam. That’s an excellent result, right up there with my control binocular, which also displays impeccable results in similar tests.
My next test was to check collimation. I did this in two ways. In the first test, I centred a telephone wire located about 60 yards in the distance in the binocular field and slowly pulled my eyes backward away from the eyecups until the images no longer appeared single but in duplicate. The lines stayed perfectly collinear in both barrels. In another test, carried out at night, I centred the bright star Capella, and focused it as tightly as possible. Then I unlocked the dioptre, moving it to the end of its natural travel until the right barrel image was completely de-focused. Looking through the binocular with both eyes showed the focused star right in the centre of the defocused ring. These tests showed that the barrels of the GPO Passion HD were perfectly aligned.
Next, examining the eye pupils when a bright light source was passed through them displayed excellent results! The pupils were perfectly round with no evidence of truncation, and no light leaks around them as shown in the images below. My notes show that these very clean pupils were considerably better than the Nikon Monarch HG I tested in a similar battery of tests.

Left exit pupil.

….and the right exit pupil

Visual Impressions
From the moment I first looked through the GPO Passion HD I was stunned by its amazing sharpness, contrast and lack of glare. Arriving in the late afternoon with the light fading fast, it was a race against time to attach the neck strap and venture out. But even in these less than optimal lighting conditions, the Passion HD threw up stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The sweet spot appeared enormous, indeed it remained impressively sharp right up to the field stops. Field curvature and pincushion distortion are unusually mild, with only slight warping of a vertical telephone pole observed at the field edge. Truly impressive!
Colours really popped in this high-performance glass, especially greens, reds and browns. Micro-contrast details were abundantly in evidence when I imaged some remaining autumn leaves against a bright blue sky. The level of detail I recorded was simply breath taking! I could make out the intricate veins in the leaves and the variegated hues of the secondary pigments now on full display. Taking it off to a favourite birding haunt, the Passion HD effortlessly picked off tiny birds hopping about in bushes some 70 yards distant. The ultra-precise focussing afforded by this binocular made it child’s play to distinguish Blue Tits, Tree Creepers and Goldfinches from this range. Lesser instruments fail miserably in similar tests, as my experiences had found.
The GPO HD 10 x 42 is a glare suppression beast.
Indeed even after trying several difficult back-lit targets, I really struggled to make out any at all! Veiling glare is almost completely eliminated in this instrument. Looking up at the topmost boughs of a conifer tree with a bright overcast sky in the background usually shows an arc of washed out milky light that robs the image of contrast, showing up at the bottom of the field of view. Try as I did to bring it out, I simply couldn’t to any significant degree. I’ve had it as close as 5 degrees away from the Sun and the details still pop! These results were way above what I had come to expect from a binocular in this price class. Indeed, glare can be a significant issue even with the very best binoculars on the market: check out this link for more on this!
Even under dull, overcast conditions the images served up by the GPO Passion HD are bright and full of contrast. This binocular has very high light transmission. I attribute this to excellent baffling, as well the application of state-of-the art multilayer coatings to the prisms and lenses but also to the rather unusual nature of the objective design, which utilises two ED elements as part of a cemented triplet configuration. This is an old school solution to boost light transmission by minimising the number of reflective surfaces the light has to pass through. GPO claim an overall light transmission of 92 per cent for this optic and when you look through them it’s not easy to dismiss!
The boosted light transmission becomes readily apparent in low light conditions, such as on cold, dull winter days, and at dusk and dawn. My tests show the GPO Passion HD really accentuates greens and browns as the light fades. The images remain tack sharp and full of intricate detail well after sunset.
In another test, I compared a very good 8 x 42 ED with the 10 x 42 Passion HD. Though the light transmission of the former is less than the latter, it does have the perceived advantage of having a larger exit pupil(5.25 as opposed to 4.2mm). Comparing both binoculars as the light rapidly faded after sunset in late November, showed that the 10 x 42 produced equally bright images for most of the time, but I could still make out finer details than with the 8 x 42ED even as the last vestiges of light disappeared from the landscape. These tests convinced me that this would be a fine binocular to use at dawn or dusk, for hunting or general surveillance.
The thorny issue of chromatic aberration always comes up in any detailed binocular discussion. My tests show that there is vanishingly low secondary spectrum in the centre of the field, but can be coaxed out of very high contrast targets as the object is moved off axis. I did not find this lateral colour to be distracting in any way. And for the record, all binoculars will show some if you search for it. Check out the video footage in Preamble 1 above to see if you can detect any!
In yet another test, I aimed the binocular at a bright, waxing gibbous Moon. The view was razor sharp and devoid of any false colours on axis. Moving the Moon to the edge of the field does show a little lateral colour; all normal behaviour for any top-tier binocular with these specifications.
My reading of the literature uncovered some discrepancies in the size of the field of view offered up by the Passion HD. Some claimed it was as small as 6.0 degrees while the specifications on the GPO website listed it at 6.4 degrees. Faced with these discrepancies, I decided to perform the most accurate test I could think of to resolve this. Venturing out after midnight, I chose the star Mintaka, which has a declination very close to the celestial equator and well positioned at the time very close to the meridian. I centred it in the field of the binocular and timed how long it would take for it to drift across the field from the centre to the field stop. The result I got was 12 minutes 26.45 seconds. Doubling this value for the entire field gives 24 minutes 52.9 seconds. Plugging these numbers into the astronomical formula yielded a true field of 6.237 angular degrees. I suppose I should have done this a few more times and taken the arithmetic mean, but the uncertainties are small, and I do have a life to live lol.

The set up used to measure the field of view of the GPO Passion HD 10 x 42 binocular.

The stars are also a great way to measure how much distortion there is at the edge of the field. Conducting such tests produced brilliant results. Stars remained beautiful pinpoints across the vast majority of the field, only showing slight distortion at the field stop. That’s an excellent result, agreeing well with my daylight tests and affirming my conviction that the Passion HD is an outstanding binocular for stargazing.
In another test, I moved the Pleiades asterism and the Moon from the centre to the edge of the field, looking to see if there was a drop off in illumination. I was delighted to see that there was very little loss of brightness on either target, indicating that the binocular field is quite flat and evenly illuminated. You’re going to have an absolute ball using this instrument under the starry heaven!
In summary the optical performance of the Passion HD is truly world class, right up there with the best instruments manufactured by Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski, but without the hefty price tag.

Notes from the Field

Engage your passion with the GPO Passion HD

The GPO Passion HD 10 x42 has an excellent close focus. I measured it at only 1.9m,so slightly less than the advertised 2 metres. This greatly increases its versatility in field use, as it enables the user to view close up objects in exquisite detail. You wouldn’t normally associate a 10 x42 with a great butterfly binocular but that’s exactly what it can do if necessary.

Depth of focus is very impressive in this instrument. At infinity I measured its close focus at about 55 yards. But only slight tweaks of the ultra responsive focus wheel brings you much closer still.

The GPO Passion HD is very comfortable to operate, even while wearing thick gloves.

The GPO Passion HD is very easy to use with thick gloves during cold winter days. Smaller instruments, in contrast, are much more challenging to negotiate with gloves on. It’s just one of the many advantages of using a larger sized binocular.

I’m especially glad that GPO did not resort to any “electrickery,”  to borrow a phrase from Catweazle, in going for an overly complex eyepiece design for the Passion HD series, as it is entirely without issues like blackouts and the rolling ball effect you get while panning binoculars with built-in field flatteners.

This instrument really comes into its own when scanning landscapes, as the views are so comfortable and immersive. It’s almost as if you are really sitting in the image. Views of the night sky are spectacular. Pinpoint stars from edge to edge. Because it’s a little on the heavy side, I resorted to using a monopod to get the steadiest views but lengthy spells hand holding the instrument are also eminently possible.

I’ve enjoyed some stunning views with this instrument on dull winter afternoons, when I used it to identify a new bird at one of my local patches: a colourful but somewhat noisy Jay, hiding out among the trees. Though I could not get closer than about 80 yards, I was still able to resolve its beautiful plumage: beige, black, blue and white. The extra reach of the 10x glass really came into its own, as an 8x would have come up a bit short on this occasion.  For me, it’s magical moments like this that really help you bond with a binocular.

Conclusions & Recommendations

A Binocular for all Seasons.

There is little about the GPO Passion HD 10 x 42 that I could fault. Indeed, I cannot recommend this instrument highly enough. Ergonomically and optically it just ticks all the boxes, and will delight anyone who uses it. Its robustness will undoubtedly  guarantee many hassle free years in the field, and the excellent European 10-year warranty will also put your mind at ease in the unlikely event that you hit a snag with it.

Be sure also to check out what this professional ornithologist has stated about the same instrument!

Very highly favoured!

 

 

 

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. His magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, highlights four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Sir Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli.

Further Thoughts on the Svbony SV 202 10 x 42 ED.

The Svbony 10 x 42 ED on a forest walk.

A Work Commenced September 19 2021

 

In a recent review blog I put the Svbony SV 202 10 x 42 ED binocular through its paces. In that blog I explained why I thought it offered exceptional ergonomic and optical performance for the very modest price I paid for it. Here I wish to offer further evidence concerning its optical quality and notes concerning my continued use of this instrument in the field.

I set up my IPhone 7 to take some images I shot through the SVbony 10 x 42 ED while tripod mounted. The IPhone 7 was set on a three second timer to avoid vibrations being introduced into the images and all images are a composite of 10 photo bursts. The reader will note that none of the images presented have been modified in any way; they’re all raw images taken straight from the phone. All distances were measured using a laser range finder shown below:

The laser range finder used to measure the distances quoted in the pictures.

In the image below, a tree trunk at a distance of 23.1 yards is imaged through the binocular:

Unprocessed image of a tree trunk located some 23.1 yards distant from the binocular.

Note the sharpness of the tree trunk from the top of the field to near the bottom. Closer inspection shows some distortion at the field edges, but I hope you can see just how much of the field is tack sharp, with very nice contrast and natural colour fidelity.

The venerable Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR(left) pictured next to the Svbony 10 x 42 ED.

In the next set of images, I compared the depth of focus of the Svbony 10 x 42 ED with my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. In both images, the tip of the post in the foreground of the image (seen at the bottom) is located at a distance of 32.3 yards.  In addition, for both images, the IPhone 7 camera was focused on the middle fence located at a distance of 43.8 yards, while the park bench seen in the background is located at a distance of 97.7 yards.

First up, the Svbony 10 x 42 ED image:

Image shot through the Svbony 10 x 42 ED. True field 6.16 angular degrees.

Now here is the same scene as shot through the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20(also tripod mounted):

Image captured through the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. True field 6.5 angular degrees

The reader will note the greater depth of focus and edge-of-field sharpness of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. The Svbony 10 x 42 ED shows some distortion at the edges of the field in the background, but not in the foreground.

Now, if one compares the sharpness of the first image featuring the tree trunk at 23.1 yards with the sharpness of the tip of the post seen in the foreground(32.1 yards) of the Svbony 10 x 42 ED park scene image, one can see that the foreground post is sharper than that of the background. This suggests that over closer ranges of focus, the Svbony has a better corrected field. Only when the focus is shifted to longer distances and extended out to infinity, can one see the greater edge-of-field distortion of the Svbony 10 x 42 ED image.

This is good news for birders or those wanting to image sources within a few tens of yards, as the evidence seems to suggest that the sweet spot will be greater than at larger distances.

Note the richer colours in the Svbony 10 x 42 ED compared with the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. This may be attributed to the greater light grasp, as well as the ED glass element in the Svbony as compared with the Leica Ultravid, which has a smaller aperture and does not feature ED glass.

These results demonstrate the very nice optical quality of the Svbony 10 x 42 ED, which features a large sweet spot and excellent centre of field sharpness that is so important to any binocular image.

It must also be noted that the actual views garnered through both binoculars with one’s eyes are far more compelling than the above IPhone 7 images suggest.

Further Notes from the Field

At 10.15pm local time on the night of September 19 2021, I examined the face of a near full Harvest Moon, located low in the south southeast. The image was razor sharp, with beautiful details of the lunar maria and ray craters. Contrast was excellent, with no internal reflections, ghost images or diffused light round about it. A thin sliver of blue and yellow fringes was seen at the south and north lunar edges, respectively, a consequence mainly of atmospheric refraction. No signs of diffraction spikes were seen emanating outward from the lunar orb.

Moving the Moon to the edge of the field revealed some darkening of the maria. This reveals some illumination drop off near the field edge, as mentioned earlier in connection to the Pleiades.

Just after local midnight on September 20, I once again examined the near full Moon as it crossed the meridian, and so at its highest altitude in the sky. Nearly all of the atmospheric refraction had disappeared and the lunar south and north edges were, to all intents and purposes, completely colour free. The view was simply magnificent! This is what I would expect in a high-quality 10x ED model.

The focuser on the Svbony 10 x 42 ED is a real class act.

I’m really enjoying the focus wheel on the Svbony 10 x 42 ED. Although I would class it as slow, it is extremely smooth and backlash free. It’s ideal for looking at slowly moving or stationary targets, which is more suited to 10x than to 8x. Images snap to extremely fine focus with none of the ambiguity I often encounter with binoculars having larger exit pupils.

More Moonwatching!

Right on schedule, as if heralding the onset of the fall, the evening of the autumnal equinox brought with it the first gales of the new season. In the wee small hours of September 22 I enjoyed watching the bright harvest Moon as clouds swept by it at breakneck speed, on the wings of a strong westerly wind off the Atlantic. I’ve never enjoyed looking at the full Moon as much as I do with binoculars, and especially when clouds roll across its surface. The light shows I enjoyed with the Svbony 10 x 42 ED were simply spell binding. The field of view was filled with some of the most amazing colours nature displays, as water droplets interact in various ways with Moonshine. The structure of those cloud formations, as seen in moonlight, is always fascinating and rewarding to watch. More on this here.

What Pictures Reveal

I’ve been thinking some more about what the camera reveals about some of the photos I’ve been capturing with my binoculars. It seems to me that if all the variables are normalised apart from aperture and magnification, one can use those images to determine answers to questions I’ve asked myself in the past. How does aperture and magnification affect resolution, colour saturation and other parameters in daytime glassing? If any one has access to the one or more of the Svbony SV 202 series of ED binoculars, they could objectively answer some of these these questions by comparing the 10 x 42 ED to the 10 x 50 ED, for example, on carefully selected daytime targets.

From some of my preliminary experiments, it seems aperture definitely affects colour saturation and resolution positively. But the unblinking eye of the camera may not accurately reflect perceived image brightness, as I seem to perceive the images through the little Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 and the 10 x 42 Svbony as much more alike in good light. I have noticed however, that colours ‘pop’ that little bit more in the larger glass. Certainly more investigation in this area is warranted.

Identifying the Nature of the Outer Field Aberrations

By examining some of the brighter stars in Aquila at about 12.30 am on September 24, I was able to establish that the off axis aberration is mostly attributed to field curvature. This was ascertained by bringing the stars to the edge of the field and attempting to focus out those aberrations. The result was fairly clear; much of those off axis aberrations could indeed be focused out, making the stars much smaller and almost pinpoint; a clear sign of field curvature.

A Great Astronomical Tool

At about 1:00 am on the morning of September 26, I enjoyed a partially clear sky and a waning gibbous Moon now approaching third quarter. It was well up in the east and I enjoyed razor sharp images of the vast southern crater fields with the 10 x 42, the magnificent ray craters, Tycho and Copernicus, the Apennine Mountains and Mare Imbrium, Nubium and Humorum. The crater fields were marble white against the steely grey of the lunar seas. Moonlight illuminated some of the clouds surrounding it and I watched the stars winking in and out of view as they raced past on a still gusty westerly wind. Imaging clouds moving through the field with the fixed stars so far away behind them gave a haunting sense of perspective. The Svbony is turning out to be a magnificent star gazing binocular, bringing Heaven and Earth together in wonderful harmony.

In the wee small hours of Sunday, October 3 2021, I arose at about 5.30am and took a peek out my back door to see if it was clear. The entire night was very unsettled, with frequent showers rolling in off the Atlantic, but interspersed by some fairly lengthy clear spells. To my delight, it was clear – magnificently so! The Pleaides had already crossed the meridian and was still very high up in the south southwest. Orion wasn’t far behind it and very well placed for observation. So I rushed inside to fetch a warm coat to cover my pyjamas, slipped on my fur-lined boots and fetched my Svbony 10 x 42 ED before venturing outside to observe the heavens. The Svbony showed me a glorious view of the Pleaides – the best I’ve seen this season. Many more stars were coming through as I was peering at it through a much thinner column of air, and though I observe from a Bortle 4 region, it seemed more like Bortle 3 on this exceptionally transparent night. The 10x glass frames this celebrated open cluster beautifully, the sheer brilliance of its constituent hot white and blue- white stars etched into my eyeball. Lovely too are the sparkling jewels which adorn the Hyades. In the Svbony, they reveal a riot of colour and the entire V shaped asterism fits snugly within a single binocular field.

Then I turned to mighty Orion, now near the meridian and enjoyed a magnificent view of the Sword handle, with the Great Nebula dominating the field. Stars remained lovely tight pinpoints of light across most of the field against a sky that appeared unusually dark. Perhaps it was the diminished light from the slumbering city of Glasgow some 25 miles as the crow flies south from here that made them appear so brilliant. Whatever it was, the beauty of the images I was sweeping up with this magnificent instrument almost brought a tear to my eye. I moved up to the brilliant belt stars and drank up the view of a blizzard of myriad faint stars – Collinder 70 – surrounding the trio This very special 10 x 42 binocular showed me one of the best views of this oft overlooked star cluster I’ve enjoyed in years. It reaches significantly deeper than a  8 x 42, the extra bit of magnifying power helping to pull fainter luminaries out of the cosmic dark

Usually, I hit the hay early on Saturday nights for Church on Sunday morning, but I’m now looking for a new Church that teaches proper Biblical Christianity, but haven’t found any one suitable just yet. Watching the glory of God’s celestial creation seemed the next best thing for me to do, and as the minutes raced by I knew I did the right thing, rising early before the sunrise.

Imposing Auriga was very high up, allowing the 10 x 42 to drink up excellent views of the Messier trio spanning its mid-section -M 37,38 and 39 – which stood out beautifully like bioluminescent jelly fish swimming in the shallows. Perseus and Cassiopeia were very near the zenith affording splendid views of the Milky Way coursing through them. Very were placed too was the great Galaxy in Andromeda, M31, and its two satellites, M110 and M32. Looking through such clear and dust free air made M31 stand out far better than it does early in the evening at the beginning of October, its vast lenticular form coming out beautifully in the 10 x 42. The Double Cluster was also a real sight for sore eyes at these lofty heights!

Over in the east, Gemini’s Castor and Pollux heralded the dawn, with both stars easily fitting in the same field. And just a few fields away I picked up the ever lovely M35, that loosely aggregated communion of middle aged suns shining though the darkness.

The Svbony is such a lightweight binocular; it’s ideal for hand-held astronomical observations, and though I could enjoy even better views if I were to place it on a tripod or monopod, there’s something very liberating about just keeping it simple. You, your binocular and your thoughts – nothing more, nothing less.

Enjoying the Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.

My admiration for the Svbony 10 x 42 ED grows day by day. I’m still pinching myself about its exceptional optical performance. As autumn is progressing, we’re getting many unsettled spells, with sunshine and rain showers. These moody autumnal days provide excellent light for a binocular user, and on my walks through woods, fields and along river banks, the 10 x 42 ED is proving itself to be a real champion glass. On one afternoon, I was glassing some bright red Rowan berries drenched in fresh rain and glistening in weak fall sunlight. The crispness of the images this binocular delivers just takes your breath away! I really don’t know how this company has pulled this off, but it is practically indistinguishable from the best binoculars now available on the market. Contrast and colour fidelity are outstanding and the build quality of the instrument leaves nothing to be desired. I want to tell the whole world about this phenomenal optic. I would even encourage those who have a number of top tier binos to take the plunge and acquire this Svbony. They would surely learn a lot!

The eyecups on the Svbony 10 x 42 ED are amongst the best I’ve encountered on any binocular. Period. They click into place with all the reassurance of an alpha glass. Never will it cross your mind to worry about whether they will loosen or fail. They are excellently engineered.

An awesome, lightweight looking glass.

Watching sunlight penetrate golden autumn leaves is a real visual treat with the Svbony, especially when glassing against a cobalt blue sky. Its resolving power is magnificent, showing lovely, intricate details of the veins running through them and the splendid geometries of their edges. I’ve logged several new bird species with the Svbony, including a dusky Dunnock scurrying through forest leaf litter and a maiden sighting of graceful Waxwing, proudly displaying its head crest. The extra reach of the 10x over the 8x is very welcome. Despite having a smaller field of view than its 8x counterpart, 10x is proving far more versatile than I previously envisaged. Its low weight and excellent handling make it a real joy as a prime birding glass.

Some Encouraging Updates

Interest in the Svbony 10 x 42 ED is gaining momentum. Here is an ongoing thread on Cloudynights Binocular Forum discussing my original review of this instrument. You’ll see that there have been some very positive comments from folk who have actually bought the binocular and taken the time to test drive it, but as usual on that forum, there are the naysayers, those who dismiss the instrument out of hand, having never looked through it, because of its low price, not to mention some ridiculous comments about warranty etc that have no relevance to the vast majority of consumers . I would strongly encourage anyone who has experience of the Svbony to please leave some feedback on it. There will always be destructive trolls of course, but it’s easy to see through their lying narratives. It will help to raise awareness of the product so that more people can enjoy it. The optics snobs are also watching it from the sidelines(I have ways of finding out who they are!) waiting for me to trip up. Drawn to conflict, they lurk in the murky shadows, waiting for a boxing match to well up. I give them no oxygen.

Others have as much as accused me of working for Svbony lol! Let me make something patently clear: I have given permission to Svbony to use my review to promote this binocular, and a link to it is now on their website, together with some commentary made by another knowledgeable gentleman who has real experience with binoculars and who, after finding my reviews, purchased the instrument and took the time to capture some video footage on his smartphone. What is more, if you look back on some of the comments on these binoculars in the comments section, you will see my response to Svbony, who contacted me directly via this website. I make no apologies for promoting an excellent product that a lot of prospective buyers can benefit from. I would do the same for any economically priced product that represents excellent value for money. Indeed, as a tester of optical equipment, I have a duty to do so!

One gentleman, going by the name of Pinac on Cloudynights and Canip (Pinac backwards)on Birdforum runs a website dedicated to testing binoculars. He kindly performed a few days testing of the 10 x 42 ED and posted his preliminary comments on his website. You can see those comments here.

Of equal merit, one Spanish purchaser posted a recent review of the 10 x 42 ED on Amazon, dated October 12 2021. Here is the English translation, which is surprisingly rich on details, and which attests to its authenticity. However, I’m not sure what the reviewer was talking about in regard to the colours of the binocular’s anti-reflection coatings:

After the fiasco of the Svbony SV40 10×42 (not ED) with roof prism (€39.99 on Amazon), I bought these Svbony SV202 10×42 ED animated by a dithyrambic review by an amateur with pedigree I read on the internet; for my trust in the brand, from which I have other completely satisfactory products (for example an excellent O-III filter), and because I wanted a decent roof prism binocular (I have several, all with a Porro prism). These are advertised as having magnesium alloy body, Bak-4 glass prisms, low dispersion (ED) glass lenses, phase correcting coating and are nitrogen purged. I found the price very attractive for what they offer.

Just out of the box I was amazed by the build quality, the solidity and robustness, the smoothness of the focus wheel. And also, negatively, the reddish tint of the anti-reflective coating. It has always been said that one should avoid coatings with a reddish tint, preferring bluish, greenish or violet ones. Its weight, just under 700 g, allows you to use them hand-held for quite a long time without getting tired and without a shaking image, which is appreciated.

My unit arrived without collimation problems. By day, I liked the impeccable focus. Unlike the defective Svbony SV40 10×42 (not ED, Bk-7, not nitrogen purged, €39.99 on Amazon) that I received, the diopter corrector works perfectly and allows for very precise focusing with both eyes. The image was very sharp and bright and does not pale at the edges (the prisms are Bak-4). I noticed very little chromatic aberration, barely noticeable, and only off-axis. As with all low- and mid-range binoculars, the image degrades as we move away from the center of the visual field, but in these 10×42 ED’s it’s pretty decent up to, say, 70% of the center. You can’t get more for 150€. By day they passed the exam with a note.

Under the stars they also behaved very well. I tried them in a location in which one could see stars at least of magnitude 5 naked-eye. The SV202 10×42 ED has very little chromatic aberration, even when observing very bright bodies, such as bright stars or Jupiter (all four Galilean satellites were seen perfectly). There are no colour rims or annoying glitter. Internal reflections are very well controlled, better than in some mid-high range (and larger aperture) binoculars. Color rendition is quite natural. Mu-Cefei, for example, showed a nice deep orange, indistinguishable from my high-end 20x80s that I had next to me. They resolved Albireo (beta Cygni), a beautiful double (I see them pale yellow and turquoise blue), without difficulty even hand-held. The 35 arc-seconds separation should not be a problem for 10x, unless the image is not stable.

The 6º field of view is slightly narrower than in other 10x (6.5°) binoculars, except for the stupendous Pentax WP or the Opticron Adventurer. The Persei Double Cluster, quite high in the sky in October, enters comfortably the field of view along with Stock 2, and there is hardly any degradation at the edges of the image, perfect, sharp, spectacular. The focus this 10×42 is wonderful: stars are point-like. With a pair of slightly cheaper 10×50, by focusing the Double Cluster in the center of the field of view you can see how the image of the star loop that starts in the Double Cluster degrades as it moves away from the center. The spiral configuration of the stars in the open cluster M34 (Perseus) could be appreciated.

The Pleiades (M45) offered a spectacular image, with a multitude of stars (up to magnitude 8.6 without problems, with the Pleiades 50º above the horizon). M31 offered an attractive image, with differences in brightness between the galactic center and the spiral arms; with this opening (42 mm) and in visual, the arms are not visible, but the oval loses luminosity towards the edges. I was able to distinguish M32, but not M110, Andromeda’s companions. Although at this time of year the Big Dipper is very low in the sky, I easily located M81 with direct vision. With averted vision “I guessed” M82. I was liking these Svbony SV202 10×42 ED so much that I couldn’t stop!

I saw perfectly Auriga’s three open clusters (M36, M37 and M38) and M35 in Gemini, although, of course, larger openings allow more stars to be resolved. The M2, M15 and M20 globulars, the M11 open cluster and the planetary nebula M27 were easy targets for these superb 10×42. I ended with a general tour of the Milky Way and Orion’s belt and sword areas, still low above the horizon (10º-30º). I observed M42, its spectacular nebulosity, its shape, with subtle intensity gradations… and then I decided to end the test and move on to my 20×80:).

Summing up: a fantastic roof-prism binocular, lightweight, elegant, with more than decent optics for the 150 € they cost. They are versatile, excellent by day and surprisingly good by night. It is clear that anti-reflective coatings and phase correction work optimally. And, to top it off, purged with nitrogen, watertight, so that they do not get tarnish by dew in cold nights. I know not better binoculars, just even comparable, for this price; with roof prism or with Porro prism (always cheaper than models with roof prism of equal optical quality). Without a doubt, the Svbony SV202 10×42 ED are very satisfying binoculars, which will serve both hikers, birders and stargazers. And at an unbeatable price.

 

Dithyrabic? Moi? Never lol!

Source here.

Update: November 28 2021

A rather special little trinket.

The Svbony SV 202 ED thread on Cloudynights forums is going from strength to strength with over 5,500 views. Despite the efforts of a few trolls to derail it, injecting their hatred and ridiculous accusations about this inexpensive binocular that is clearly breaking any previous norms in regard to price to performance ratio, more and more people are chiming in with positive feedback. Some thoughtful folk have also contacted me behind the scenes in PMs to say that they were very happy with their purchase and to personally thank me for the reviews. My pleasure!

I found this post by Chris Charen from New Zealand to be particularly insightful:

Received a pair 3 days ago and on brief usage of them, yes they are remarkable binos for the price. Superior optically to my Terra EDs and my Orion Otter EDs. They display less global CA then my Trinovid HDs and my 12 year old Minox BD 10×58 EDs. Light transmission is excellent, superior to the ‘older’ BN Leica 12×50’s. Field curvature is well controlled with no overt optical aberrations and secondary reflections / ghosting are very well controlled as is lateral CA. There is no play in the focus unit and the eye cups are firm. The Q. an A. and build quality on mine is excellent. I have had over a 100 binos over a decade or so, mostly on sold now and these would be in the top 5, which includes several ‘Alphas’. They are still inferior to my Maven B.2 9×45’s but not by a large margin. The only con is I am still trying to find the best eye cup position to avoid blackouts, but I am sure I will over come this. All this for $160 USD [!!!] landed in New Zealand, remarkable really.

Chris

Yes indeed! Did you get that? He rated his Svbony in the top five from over a hundred models he’s personally used and tested!

While most have received these binoculars in good alignment, another gentleman from Australia reported that his was out of collimation. That said, he still commented on how remarkably good the optics were on the 10 x 42 unit.

I decided to send my Svbony 10 x 42 ED across the pond to rural Massachusetts to my ex-student, Joe Stearn. I couldn’t think of a better person to use it, as he is really enjoying his Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 I gifted him earlier this year. I know that he will perform his own tests on it and use it productively for many years to come! He has also promised to send me his thoughts on it. Watch this space!

I hope to acquire another 10 x 42 ED Sybony in the future, at least for posterity, because it convinced me that a 10 x 42 will fill a very important niche in my own  glassing activities. I thus decided to buy, test and keep another 10 x 42; the GPO Passion HD 10 x 42, a detailed review of which is in the pipeline.

I would encourage anyone who’s interested in getting a great binocular at a phenomenal price to consider the Svbony SV 202 series. Don’t listen to the trolls.

They’re just jealous killjoys lol.

To be continued……………………………..

 

 

De Fideli.

What I’m Reading.

The best-selling book transgender activists tried to ban…

About the Author: Abigail Shrier is a writer for the Wall Street Journal. She holds an A.B. from Columbia College, where she received the Euretta J. Kellett Fellowship; a BPhil. from the University of Oxford; and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Reviews:

 

‘Every parent needs to read this gripping travelogue through Gender Land, a perilous place where large numbers of teenage girls come to grief despite their loving parents’ attempts to rescue them’

Helen Joyce, senior staff writer at The Economist.

 

A thought-provoking examination of a new clinical phenomenon mainly affecting adolescent females that has, at lightning speed, swept across North America and parts of Western Europe and Scandinavia. It is a book that will be of great interest to parents, the general public and mental health clinicians’

Dr Kenneth J. Zucker, adolescent and child psychologist and chair of the DSM-5 Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders

 

‘Accessible, lucid and compelling … a must-read for all those who care about the lot of our girls and women’

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I became aware of this topic in the last six months as I saw this social contagion hit my daughter’s school and grade (9th). I had never thought twice about it, was fully supportive of trans rights and LGBTQ rights, and always considered myself left-leaning and a lifelong liberal.

But I was floored to discover this phenomenon: teenage girls SELF-diagnosing themselves with gender dysphoria and then increasingly and very quickly being given life-altering hormones and even surgery to deal with it. It is absolutely shocking when you delve into the issue. Affirmation is considered the only acceptable option.

What’s even more shocking is how little studied this topic is. Any scientist or academic who wants to study this issue is immediately pilloried online. (Laura Littman is the best example of this.) It is being framed as a civil rights issue, and trans activists are mobilizing to shut down any legitimate debate and questioning over the issue. But is affirmation truly the best (and only) option? We just don’t really know, and the current research suggests how very complicated the issue is.

Finally, Shrier released this book. It is extremely well- researched and she interviewed dozens of people on the issue (including trans activists and other trans people). Sadly though unsurprisingly, she is being pilloried by the woke mob.

Thank you, Ms. Shrier, for writing this critically important book for all parents and I would venture to say all politicians who are increasingly legislating this issue. It is horrifying to think about what our daughters are being taught (I even venture to say indoctrinated). I think this issue needs to be explored fully, fairly, and publicly and not be shut down, shouted down, buried, or ignored. Our teenage daughters’ physical and mental health is on the line, and the stakes could not be higher.

 

G.B. from an amazon review

 

This is an incredibly compassionate and thorough book looking, mainly, at the vast increase in young girls identifying as transgender (and often later detransitioning).

I felt compelled to read this after several women I know who have detransitioned said that it tackled what they had been through sympathetically and with honesty.

For anyone unaware of the current landscape around gender, particularly for adolescents, this is both timely and eye-opening.

For those of us who have been studying these issues for years and are aware of many of the facts laid out here, it’s nonetheless an important read, especially hearing the stories of young people and understanding what a little of what it is like to be an adolescent in the internet age (terrifying, it seems).

There are a lot of one star reviews for this. That isn’t, I believe, because this is a bad book or because it is mistaken. I think it’s getting a lot of negativity because the truth feels dangerous to people who would have you believe that hardly anyone de-transitioners and that being trans is nothing to do with a medical condition and everything to do with identity.

Parents, particularly, will be doing themselves a disservice if they don’t read this book. It might help your child.

Sarah Louise J. Amazon review

 

De Fideli.

 

Product Review: Svbony SV410 9-27 x 56mm ED Mini Spotting Scope.

 

The Svbony SV 410 9-27 x 56mm ED Spotting Scope Package.

 

A Work Commenced October 29 2021

 

 

Product: Svbony SV410  9-27x 56mm HD

Place of Origin: Hong Kong

Magnification Range: 9-27 x zoom

Aperture: 56mm

Objective Focal Length: 189mm

ED Glass: Yes

Field of View: 36-78m@1000m,(2.1- 4.5 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 18mm

Close Focus: 2m(advertised), 2.16m measured

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes IPX5

Dimensions: 19.4 x 6.6 x 11.8cm

Weight: 580g(advertised), 561g measured

Accessories: Rubber objective and ocular caps, protective scope jacket, lens cleaning cloth, carrying strap, Instruction manual.

Warranty: 1 Year(limited) 

Retail Price: £179.99(UK)

Svbony is a relatively new Hong Kong-based optics firm that began supplying amateur astronomers and nature enthusiasts with a wide range of cost-effective but good quality instruments and accessories in 2014. A google search of Svbony products will reveal a large and international fan base of customers who have been pleased with their eyepieces, filters, night vision devices and more recently, the company’s extensive range of astronomical and terrestrial spotting scopes.

My introduction to Svbony came as a result of testing out a trio of high-performance binoculars from their SV 202 range. You can see those reviews here, here and here. What astonished me most about these binoculars was their excellent optical and mechanical performance at prices that were simply unbeatable in today’s market. These experiences collectively whetted my appetite to explore some more of their products, and in this review I will be sharing my thoughts on their newly launched mini-spotting scope that combines weatherproof ruggedness with good optical performance, in an ultra-portable package; enter the SV 410 9-27 x 56mm ED spotter, which first appeared on the market back in April of this year.

The scope was purchased from Amazon UK for a price of £179.99, and arrived a couple of days after ordering. Readers may also purchase the instrument directly from Svbony via this link, which will allow you to purchase the scope more cheaply if you can tolerate a longer shipping time(usually about 8 days)The instrument came well packed inside a long, white box with the blue and yellow Svbony logo, and with all of its accessories neatly packed inside. The little spotting scope was carefully placed inside a snugly fitting black foam bed, carefully cut to match the angled shape of the instrument. The accessories included a comprehensive multi-language instruction manual, a lens cleaning cloth, a nicely machined protective jacket and carry strap. The scope itself came with good quality and tightly-fitting rubber ocular and objective covers.

The Svbony mini spotting scope is very small and easy to carry, almost fitting inside a large pocket.

Ergonomics

Right from the get go, I was very impressed with the build quality of the SV 410 mini spotter. It feels very solid in the hand but only weighs about the same as a typical 8 x 32 binocular. The metal chassis (possibly a magnesium alloy or aluminium) is overlaid by a mild green rubber armouring. The helical focuser, located between the objective and the eyepiece moves nicely with a good deal of friction. There is no facility for fine focusing like on larger spotting scopes, which offer a larger range of magnifications, but in use I found that it was more than adequate to get precise focus since the highest power (27x) is not large enough to necessitate a fine focus knob.

The zoom eyepiece is clearly marked with magnifications from 9x to 27x which you can choose simply by rotating the eyepiece to dial in your preferred power boost.

The silky smooth zoom function on the eyepiece gives the user a range of magnifications from 9x through 27x.

The nicely machined aluminium eyecup is overlaid with soft, black rubber and twists upward to provide the necessary eye relief for non-eye glass wearers. It clicks into place- and you can hear it!– without any play, and holds its position very well. Another good design feature of the eyecup is its continuous motion from fully retracted to extended -that means you can dial in your preferred eye relief. I found, for example, that the eyecups pushed slightly down renders excellent results without glasses.

The nicely machined twist up eyecup on the SV 410 mini spotter.

The instrument is quoted as having an eye relief of 18mm, but I found it was a little shorter than this. I did however test the scope with the eyecup fully retracted with my eye glasses and I was able to see the entire field with no problems but it was fairly tight!

The objective and ocular lens coatings are different from those applied to their SV 202 binoculars, having a mild, greenish tint in broad daylight;

The anti-reflection lens coatings on the Svbony mini spotter are a subdued green.

The green anti-reflection coatings on the eyepiece lens.

Unlike larger spotting scopes, there is no lens hood on the Svbony SV 410 spotter, although the objective is quite deeply recessed. Having a hood would afford greater protection against stray light during use in bright daylight but if push come to shove, one can easily be made from a cardboard or plastic sheath. I guess Svbony decided against having a lens shade to keep the weight down to an absolute minimum.

The underside of the mini spotter has a brass screw socket to enable the user to quickly mate it to a monopod or tripod in field use.

The underside of the mini spotter has a socket to attach it to either a monopod or tripod.

Overall, I was very impressed with the build quality on this nifty little spotting scope from Svbony; so small it fits snugly in the palm of your hand.

I keep the tripod mounting bracket on the underside of the scope for quick release from a tripod or monopod.

Optical Evaluation

My first test looked for stray light and internal reflections when pointed at an extremely bright light source. So on went my IPhone torch set to its brightest setting. After focusing the beam from across a living room, I was able to establish that the unit displayed excellent suppression of internal reflections, but also very little in the way of diffused light and no diffraction spikes. Just like their SV 202 binoculars, this spotting scope was up there with them in terms of controlling bright light sources. I confirmed this after dark by looking at a bright sodium street lamp. All was well, as I expected, with a nice clean image of the lamp with no annoying internal reflections or diffraction spikes. Once again, good job Svbony!

Looking at the exit pupil as the scope was racked through its zoom magnification range showed a nice round light shaft throughout. The images below show the exit pupil at the 9x setting and the 27x setting for reference:

Exit pupil at 9x setting.

Exit pupil at 27x setting

Taking into the consideration the extremely fast focal ratio of this Porro prism spotting scope ( f/3.4), requiring four objective lens(one of which is an ED element) elements in three groups, I knew going in that the total elimination of chromatic aberration would be a tall order. But I was very pleasantly surprised when, after mounting the scope to a lightweight tripod, I racked it through its full range of magnifications, 9x through 27x, focused on a telephone pole set against a uniformly bright overcast sky. I noted that I could obtain a very sharp focus right up to 27x with only a modest amount of chromatic aberration seen around the edges of wires and the pole itself. Furthermore, any secondary spectrum seen was very sensitive to eye placement. I quickly learned to move my eye around to minimise it while observing my targets. In addition, moving off axis shows some lateral chromatic aberration in this scope.

The Svbony SV 410 9-27 x 56mm ED spotter astride a lightweight tripod.

The image is bright and sharp, with excellent contrast. Autumn colours really showed up beautifully using this small spotting scope from the Far East. The eyepiece is not parfocal however, thus requiring a significant amount of refocusing moving from low to high power  The zoom is continuously variable however, from 9x through 27x

The image remained very sharp right out to the field stop, with only very minor field curvature and pincushion distortion; much less severe than the vast majority of binoculars I’ve tested over the last three years!  I took the liberty of capturing some images through the Svbony mini spotting scope using my IPhone and a digi-scoping adapter.  The reader will bear in mind that these images were captured during the most adverse conditions possible with leaden rainclouds, windy gusts and outbreaks of rain. All the images are entirely unprocessed and were taken directly from my IPhone.

First up, an image of some fence posts at just under 44 yards distant. The reader will note the magnification was set to 27x and shows extremely mild field curvature at the edges of the field.

A wooden fence located at a distance of 43.8 yards, captured during very inclement lighting conditions.Next up, an image of a wooden outhouse roof about 20 yards away, showing the brilliant autumn colours coming though in the spotting scope set at 27x:

A rooftop showing greens, reds and browns of autumn.

The image blow shows autumn leaves at 24 yards distance, power of 27x:

Autumn leaves at 27x, distance 24 yards.

The next image is also at 27x and shows a chimney and aerial at about 50 yards distant:

A chimney and aerial at 27x and 50 yards.

In my most severe test conducted, I took a shot of a telephone pole at a distance of 35 yards at 27x, showing some secondary spectrum. The reader will note that the amount seen by the naked eye is much less than the IPhone 7 captures:

A telephone pole and wiring set against a grey, overcast sky. 35 yards distant, 27x.

Finally, I took a picture of a BlueTit at the birdfeeder in my back garden: 15 yards distance, 27x:

A solitary Blue Tit gorging on some nuts at my birdfeeder:  15 yards, power 27x.

Further Notes from the Field

I measured the close focus on the Svbony SV 410 mini spotting scope to be 2.16m or 7 feet, just a little longer than the advertised 2m. That’s an excellent result, closer, in fact, than a raft of other spotting scopes I’ve looked at. The nearest I got was 2.5m for the Opticron MM4 50 ED, and even the closest product to the Svbony – the Celestron Hummingbird 9-27 x 56 ED – has a close focus of nearly 10 feet! That’s great news for those who would like to use their spotting scopes as long range microscope. It’s quite amazing to be able to look at flowers, fungi, rocks, insects, and a host of other things at very close range at powers up to 27x. That, in my opinion, greatly increases its versatility.

Because it’s so small, the little Svbony spotter can be carried in a wide jacket pocket or a rucksack. Stable handholding is eminently possible at a power of 9x, but at higher powers it does benefit from some sort of makeshift support such as a beanbag. I was able to stabilise the image completely by resting the spotter on the branch of a tree while viewing a pair of Mute Swans at one of my local patches, when I could exploit the entire magnification range of the instrument.

For more hassle free results, it pays to mount the spotter on a monopod, and because these are very lightweight and fold up to very convenient sizes, they can be carried about in a rucksack, with no hassle to the rambler.

The little Svbony Spotter mates effortlessly with a lightweight, collapsible monopod.

This would be a good place to compare and contrast some of the specifications of this Svbony mini ED spotting scope to an outwardly similar instrument – the Celestron Hummingbird 9-27 x 56mm ED. As well as having a significantly closer focus than the Hummingbird, it also sports a wider field of view. The Svbony has a field of view range from 2.1 to 4.5 angular degrees, as compared with the Hummingbird at 1.9 to 4.2  degrees. This makes object acquisition that little bit easier with the Svbony The eye relief is also better on the Svbony mini spotter (18mm as opposed to 15mm). Furthermore, the Svbony is about 30g lighter than the Celestron scope. But perhaps the best news of all is that the Celestron Hummingbird ED mini spotter retails for about £299.99. That’s a 66 per cent mark up in price compared with the Svbony! Is the Hummingbird really any better? I have my doubts!

Notes Gleaned from Looking at the Night Sky

Reviewers who only carry out terrestrial observations during daylight hours are prone to miss some important details about their subject instruments. As a case in point, I use my right eye for astronomical viewing through all my telescopes, and this little Svbony was no exception. At 9x I noticed the mild astigmatism in my own eye was showing up in images of bright stars in the spotting scope’s field of view. But when I cranked up the power to 27x, the astigmatism was noticeably less. Viewing with my glasses on effectively eliminated this astigmatism. Had I confined my viewing to daytime targets, I would be none the wiser to this aberration originating from my own eyes.

Star images remained nice and tight nearly all the way to the field stop at all magnifications, just as the photos above reveal. The instrument clearly has a very flat and well corrected field.

The Svbony SV 410 mini ED spotting scope proved to be an excellent instrument for observing the Moon, which I enjoyed doing over a couple of weeks in October. There are no annoying reflections and diffraction spikes in the images it served up. A great amount of detail was gleaned at 27x; craters, maria, valleys and mountains all showed up with beautiful sharpness and contrast. I detected some slight fringing at the lunar limb, but this was also sensitive to eye placement. In comparison to my 20 x 60 Pentax PCF binocular, the Svbony showed slightly less colour fringing on the Moon but was its equal for sharpness and contrast – a very good result indeed, as I rate the latter very highly as a Moon-gazing binocular.

Bright stars like Vega reveal a trace of secondary spectrum at the highest powers as does the bright planet Jupiter, but I was just able to make out two bands straddling the planet’s equator and the four large Galilean satellites were very clearly discerned as tiny stellar-like point sources. I was also delighted to see Saturn’s majestic rings with the little Svbony spotter, and even its largest satellite, Titan.

In the late evening of October 30, I enjoyed a long clear spell with the waning Moon out of the sky. Mounting the spotter on my tripod, I examined a suite of double stars to test the resolving capabilities of this pint-sized scope. My first target was Mizar & Alcor low in the northern sky, where I was able to prize apart the tight companion to Mizar at 27x. Albireo( Beta Cygni) was beautiful and easy at powers above 12x, but most compelling at 27x. The view of the celebrated binocular multiple star system Omicron^1 Cygni was gorgeously presented at 27x, the wonderful colour contrast of its components coming through clearly. The components of Beta Lyrae were also cleanly resolved, and an especially lovely sight at 27x. Perhaps my most challenging split came when I turned the instrument on the orange star Gamma Delphini, now sinking into the west south-westerly sky. Taking that little bit extra care focusing this system at 27x revealed the prize I had been looking for; its fifth magnitude companion being just resolved with a steady gaze. This will make an excellent instrument for observing traditional binocular doubles, allowing you to study them at significantly higher powers than regular binoculars!

The main body of the Pleaides was nicely framed in the 2.1 degree true field of the Svbony SV 410 ED spotting scope at 27x. Many dozens of stars filled the field from edge to edge, including many double and multiple star systems easily discerned at the highest powers available to me. What appeared very odd to me at first, was the orientation of the stars making up this most celebrated herald of autumn. Of course, it presents the view as the eye sees it(only magnified), but being very accustomed to viewing stars through Newtonians and (in a former life), small refractors yielding upright but mirror-reversed images, it took a bit of getting used to in this quirky little spotting scope. Pointing the scope much higher up in the night sky showed me a very nice view of the great Galaxy in Andromeda(M31), together with its fainter companions M32 near the core, and M110 about a degree off to the northwest of the core of M31. The Double Cluster in Perseus, now near the zenith, stood out beautifully at 23x against a jet black hinterland. The Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula was an awesome sight at powers between 15x and 23x. And while sinking quite low into the north-western sky, I enjoyed some very fine views of M13 and M92 in Hercules.

As local midnight approached, I began observing the trio of Messier open clusters in Auriga. At 27x, one can begin to resolve these celebrated clusters into dozens of individual stars.  Later on again, in the wee small hours of Sunday morning, October 31, I went in search of M35, that wonderful, sprawling open cluster in the northern foot of Gemini, and was rewarded by a very compelling sight at powers above 20x, when several dozen of its brightest luminaries began to be resolved in the spotting scope. That weekend night vigil convinced me that a great deal of astronomy can be done with such a tiny scope as this. It’s very easy to find objects at 9x before zooming in for a closer look.

 

Conclusions & Recommendations

My experiences with the Svbony SV 410 9-27 x 56 ED spotting scope have been very pleasing indeed. Its low cost, solid optical performance, ease of handling, outdoor ruggedness and very light weight will appeal to a great many individuals wanting to make a move into the high magnification world of sport optics. And while not a full-sized instrument with its larger aperture and magnification range, this pint-sized scope will fill a niche for many, serving multiple purposes as a rich field travel and spotting telescope, as well as a high-powered long range microscope that you can take with you anywhere.

Highly recommended!

 

 

Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy, including one on refracting telescopes.

 

De Fideli.

Adventures with a “Go Anywhere” Binocular.

nos mari navigaret

 

Preamble 1

Preamble 2

Preamble 3

A Work Commenced June 17 2021

 

The old Scottish adage, “what’s for you will not go by you,” is especially appropriate in consideration of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 binocular. After three years of buying-in, testing, and either selling-on or gifting to friends & family,  all manner of binoculars from the pocket, compact and mid-size classes, I hope to provide a comprehensive overview of why I’ve settled on this remarkable instrument, and the many adventures I have thus far enjoyed with it after just a few months of use.

Make no mistake about it: the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 is arguably the finest binocular I have had the pleasure of looking through. Featuring state-of-the-art European optics from one of the premium binocular manufacturers, this little pocket binocular has been my constant companion on my daily walks through green fields, forests, hills and river paths, and has shown me extraordinary sights. It even served as the inspiration behind my first published feature article in a leading birding magazine that hits the shelves next Spring.

My choosing of this small, yet ruggedly built instrument was based on two principal requirements; uncompromising optics and ultra-low weight. I discovered that as I increased my daily walking excursions from a a few miles to several miles, and often across difficult terrain, weight became a supremely important consideration. Even slightly larger instruments, such as the versatile 8 x 32 models couldn’t quite cut it when having to carry such an instrument ’round my neck for a couple of hours or longer each day. The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 tips the scales at only 243g and so represents one of the lightest premium binoculars currently available. When scaling down from the 8 x 32 Trinovid HD I had the pleasure of owning, I was able to reduce the carrying weight by a factor of about 2.7 – an instantly noticeable change. The dual-hinge design of this binocular also means that I can take it anywhere – literally! Folding down to 9 x 6.5cm at its smallest, it’s a true pocket-sized instrument that never gets in the way, whether in active service or not.

Though they are physically small when fully deployed with the eyecups extended, they are, ergonomically speaking, very easy and intuitive to use. Although I had some reservations about how they would fit in my hands, my apprehensions proved largely baseless. The instrument feels very comfortable in my medium-sized hands and the large, central focus wheel means they are very easy to operate in field use.

The small, 20mm triplet objectives and the aspherical elements built into the eyepieces of this binocular deliver stunning optical performance with particularly wonderful correction of spherical aberration. Images snap to focus with absolutely none of the ambiguity you get with lesser instruments The state-of-the-art phase and broad-band anti-reflection coatings applied to the complex assembly of lenses and prisms in the Leica Ultravid render images of the highest contrast with exceptional control of glare. Chromatic aberration is, to all intents and purposes, non-existent. This is especially remarkable since the instrument does not employ extra-low dispersion(ED) glass elements in the optical train. Only in the most challenging observing conditions, can one detect a trace of secondary spectrum – and only at the extreme edge of the field when observing very high contrast targets. Indeed, it has less false colour than the optically excellent Trinovid HD, which does feature ED glass. The instrument therefore provides a powerful reminder that superlative optical performance can be achieved without using fancy modern glass types. But you really have to experience the images first-hand to become a believer!

The field is reassuringly flat, with only very mild field curvature and pincushion distortion seen at the field stops. The images are very bright for such a small instrument. Indeed the highly regarded optics evaluator active on Bird Forum, Gijs van Ginkel, has measured the light transmission of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 as exceeding 90 per cent  and reaching 95 per cent over red visible wavelengths. This is achieved via the advanced coating technology employed in these instruments but it’s exceptional transmission figures may also be augmented via the prisms used; Uppendahl rather than the more ubiquitous, Schmidt-Pechan variety. The Uppendahl is a cemented triplet prism structure, which eliminates two of the four reflections used in the Schmidt-Pechan configuration, helping to increase light transmission by a few per cent. Uppendahls were more widely used in the early days of roof prism optics, when anti-reflection coatings were considerably inferior to today’s treatments, but still confer a small advantage in the case of this small, ultra-portable binocular.

I contacted Gijs directly, enquiring about his recollections concerning this small Ultravid binocular. He kindly responded as follows:

Dear Neil,

I tested this binocular about 15 years ago, the test is published on the WEB-site of House of Outdoor. Apart from the excellent housing design and ideal handling comfort for such a tiny binocular, it is also an optical jewel. Light transmission is exceptionally high for this type of binocular and that is an important factor that contributes to its bright image. Furthermore, the optical system is very well designed as a basis for the beautiful image quality. The exit pupil of 2.5 mm “fills” in many circumstances the size of your eye pupil, so no light is “wasted” and your visual system is optimally “fed” so to speak.

 

Gijs

 

Gijs’ response set my mind racing, as I’d been thinking about why so many of the better quality small exit pupil binoculars(and boy have I tested more of these than you could shake a proverbial stick at lol!) serve up such delightful images. The answer came to me serendipitously a while back while searching for my eye glasses across a large living room. I realised that I was squinting my eyes to see the glasses more clearly. Specifically, squinting is a very natural way near-sighted individuals, such as yours truly, resort to in order to see objects in the distance better. Indeed, as I subsequently discovered, opticians have long-since described this optical trick as the pinhole effect. By restricting the aperture of the exit pupil(see the diagram below), image sharpness, contrast and astigmatism are all reduced.

Schematic showing the phenomenon called the pinhole effect.

The phenomenon even gave rise to specialised (pinhole)eyeglasses still in use today. You can try this at home by cutting out some holes in a cardboard substrate and peering at some object placed in the distance. By blocking off the peripheral rays that contribute most to the aberrations inherent to the human eye, the blur circle is greatly reduced, glare is minimised and image sharpness as well as contrast improves. Thus, in coupling a state-of-the-art-binocular with the best part of your cornea-lens, you are, in effect, achieving the best possible images a binocular can deliver!

The joy of knowing things!

And yet, there is still more to know!

Restricting the size of the exit pupil pays other dividends. For one thing, the depth of focus of the human eye is increased by stopping down the pupil diameter. I have noticed this in a few of the better pocket glasses I have tested in the past. But the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 has very impressive focus depth. Indeed, it easily exceeds my Series 5 8 x 42 Barr & Stroud, and is better than my wife’s 8 x 25 Opticron pocket glass. Indeed, the 8 x 20 Ultravid has slightly better focus depth than the Pentax Papilio II 6.5 x 21! The latter result was very surprising, since its reverse Porro prism design and lower magnification(6.5x) both ensure that its focus depth would be large. That it was exceeded by the 8 x 20 Ultravid was a revelation!

A large depth of focus is a very desirable attribute, as it reduces the amount of focusing one needs to perform while observing wildlife on the move, or just enjoying a rural vista, thereby increasing the instrument’s versatility.

The field of view of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 is 6.5 angular degrees or 113m@1000m. While this is an impressively large field as pocket binoculars go, it is significantly smaller than the 7-8 angular degree fields usually seen in mid- or full size instruments. But as an observer who enjoys studying objects in detail, I find having smaller, better-corrected fields to be more desirable than one that offers super-wide vistas. Sure, a large field of view is beneficial for scanning and birding, but it can also be a distraction if one wants to concentrate on an interesting feature.

The small exit pupil (or eye box) of the Leica Ultravid is often cited as being difficult to square on with one’s eyes. I would agree that it does present more of a challenge than say an 8 x 32 or 8 x 42, but with just a little practice that challenge is all but eliminated. Truth be told, these small binoculars are actually very easy to use and very comfortable to look through. Practice is the key. There are no blackouts and no eye fatigue, even after many hours of continued use in the field, thanks to the instrument’s very precise factory collimation.

The instrument was designed to be used and not treated as an ornament. It is ruggedly built, with excellent handling. I carry it high on my chest to keep the amplitude of its oscillations small, thereby minimising the effects of accidental bumping off tree branches, sandbanks or rocks while on the move. Although it is advertised to be water resistant to a depth of 5 metres, I have my doubts that this is really true. It’s tiny size means it can go everywhere with me. I store it inside a small clamshell case, which zips closed, with the eyecups extended(see the image above), together with a small sachet of silica gel desiccant. Unlike the padded pouch that accompanies the instrument, the clamshell case is smaller and affords greater protection from the elements when not in use. There is no dithering about whether one should take it on vacation or not either. I’ve seen countless reports from nature enthusiasts who are reluctant to take their expensive binocular on a holiday for fear that it might be stolen or broken, and instead buy up a less expensive instrument for such trips. Personally, I don’t understand that mentality; you buy a premium instrument for the views as well as the ergonomics, right?. Why compromise?

I suspect the real reason is another justification to hoard equipment; something I’m just not into. Choose your poison, and live with that poison!

So, there you have it! These are just some of the reasons I have settled on the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 as my only daytime binocular. I’ve even used it for some limited astronomical excursions too, as I’ll explore later.

The Buzzard Field

The Buzzard Field.

It’s been a very cold Spring, not just in the UK, but in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Even today, on the Summer Solstice, temperatures in parts of Britain(13.2C) were actually lower than on the last Winter Solstice(13.5C). Of course, that’s not been discussed much on the main stream media because it doesn’t fit their climate alarmism narrative, but it’s certainly true.

Over the last few months I’ve been expanding my range of local patches to observe many species of bird. One of those patches is a field about half a mile away from my home as the Crow flies, where I have been watching a mating pair of Buzzards which patrol the skies round about. The Buzzard field, as I have come to call it, is a magical place, and as the days slowly brightened throughout the Spring and the air warmed, an abundance of fresh grass has grown up, fed by regular rain and grazed upon by dairy cows. The edges of the field has long grass that is a joy to wade through, maskless and happy,  though one must be careful to cover up well as it’s all too easy to get bitten by ticks and horseflies( locally known as clegs). Wild flowers – butter cups, several varieties of daisy, red and pink campion  -explode in a riot of colour, bringing back memories from my youth when I loved to explore the fields of standing grain on my uncle’s farm in South Tipperary, Ireland.

A pair of Buzzards noisily watching the goings on as I walk through their territory.

The Buzzard nest is located on some tall pine trees that border the field, but I often observe them perched in the branches of old oaks that follow the course of the Endrick river, on the lookout for prey. They are quite territorial raptors. Once they lay eyes on me as I walk through the field,  they often take to flight, soaring high overhead and becoming quite vocal. Their haunting shrieks fill the air and I get the distinct sense that I am unwelcome, but they are far too majestic to just ignore. To get the best views, I often lie still on my back on the grass and use my 8 x 20 to get as close as I can to them as they soar on the updrafts on sunny afternoons. I have enjoyed amazing views of these birds of prey, their wonderful, variegated plumage sharply focused in the binocular. But it also pays to remember that since a Buzzard’s eye sight is 8-10 times better than a typical human, they can probably see me as good or better than I can see them! Sometimes they come close enough for me to make out their amazing eyes, talons and strong, hooked beaks. The sexes are easy to distinguish, with the female being larger than the male.

The view from the tree trunk rest.

My ultimate destination takes me a few hundred yards southward from their nesting site, to a trunk of a fallen tree by the water. Here, I can sit for many minutes on end, catching some Sun and scanning the river for Sand Martins. But more often than not the 8 x 20s pick up a few noisy Oyster Catchers that patrol the stony terrain in and along the river. They are comical birds, avian Pinnochios lol, with their long, orange beaks, darting about in search of fresh river tukka.  And when they take to flight with their amusingly short wings, they never cease to put a smile on my face. How can something so ridiculous looking ever take to the air lol? But boy can they fly!

Culcreuch Pond

Culcreuch Pond, looking East.

My next local patch – Culcreuch Pond – is located about half a mile’s walk from my home. The walk itself is very pleasant, passing through a wooded area, some open fields full of young lambs and the majestic Fintry Hills off to the east beyond Culcreuch Castle. From mid-May to mid-June the air is laced with pollen and airborne seeds. Everywhere I turn my 8 x 20 I can see myriad particles suspended on sunbeams – countless terra-bytes of genetic information stored inside exquisitely designed structures far in advance of any human technology. If they find their way to the right plants, shrubs and trees, they’ll fertilise the next generation of green & bloom.

The photo above is the view from my favourite spot, but is much more challenging to get to during high Summer, when lush vegetation makes the already narrow path more difficult to negotiate. Having a small binocular is a great advantage here, as I’ve lost count of the number of knocks, scratches and dents my larger binoculars have had to endure moving through the brush. On calm days, the pond is very still and large parts of the surface water are covered in a scum of pollen, which serves as an important food source for many other forms of life. For much of the year, my staple glassing targets here include Mallard, Mute Swans, Waterhen, Grey Heron and even the odd Cormorant, but during the warm and bright days of Summer, magnificent Swallows frequent the place. I like to sit quietly at the water’s edge, studying the extraordinary aerobatic displays of these seasonal visitors to our shores, moving with breath-taking agility and screeching as they course through the air in search of flying insects.

On rainy days, I move to the shelter of a tree which keeps the binocular lenses dry and clear. But it’s often during these inclement hours that I’ve witnessed the most awe-inspiring stunts from the Swallows, which very often confine their flights much closer to the surface. The razor sharp optics of the 8 x 20 is ideal for studying this behaviour and on many occasions I have seen the Swallows come all the way down to the surface of the pond, moving with breakneck speed to tuck into the swarms of insects that hatch there. My guess is that low pressure systems prevent the insects from soaring very high on such days, and the Swallows respond by flying near the surface where they are more likely to catch their next meal.

The hills which soar above the valley beyond the pond also present marvellous glassing opportunities. Throughout April and May, Gorse bushes paint the hills in a vibrant yellow colour, and in other parts, large swathes of bluebells can be seen glinting in weak Spring sunshine, but by the time June arrives, Hawthorn trees that dot the landscape are adorned with beautiful white flowers that greatly brighten the hills for weeks on end. After that, dark browns and tan once again become the normative hues. And every now and then, I’ve captured great views of paragliders taking advantage of fair weather days,  as they launch themselves off the summit and slowly glide their way down to the open fields below. Very cool!  Brave souls!

A Walk through the Woods

The Mill Lade.

Forests and wooded areas are a godsend on hot Summer days, providing welcome shade from the ferocity of the Sun. For much of the year, the woods of the Mill Lade – yet another local patch of mine – provide excellent spots for birding, particularly from late Autumn to mid-Spring, as the deciduous trees have not yet put forth their leaves, so providing much better opportunities to spot your feathered friends across greater distances. But it also provides much more light to glass your targets. The walk through the woods of the Mill Lade extends for over a mile and carries the rambler up over the Denny Road on the south side of the village of Fintry, to a lovely arched bridge  over the River Endrick. Follow the road upwards towards the Carron Dam and you gain magnificent views of the valley below, but if you decide to re-join the main road, you can also enjoy a pleasant walk back into the village, past the old Kirk and the open fields of Bogside Farm, where you’re free to enjoy magnificent views of the Fintry Hills beyond.

The woods are fed by a number of small streams that lie below the main forest pathway, and I often stop and watch to see if wild birds will come there and water up. Little Wrens are the most common visitors to these watering holes, but every now and then, I get a real surprise like a Greater Spotted Woodpecker which descends from the trees for a cool drink. Your eyes are as important a tool as binoculars in this terrain, as you’re constantly on the look out for sudden movement, either across your line of sight or in your peripheral vision. Blackbird, Chaffinch, Robin, Tree Creepers and Nuthatches are most commonly glassed here, but I’ve also enjoyed magnificent views of  Song Thrush singing their little lungs out in the late evening.

While the forest floor is much more in shade during high Summer, where one might naturally choose a larger instrument which gathers more light, I have conducted a series of tests comparing the views through a number of high-quality mid-sized binoculars with my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR. And what I discovered genuinely surprised me. Despite the larger instruments delivering noticeably brighter images in these shady environments, the little Ultravid still produces sharper views with more detail than the larger glasses. You see, I have become very accustomed to using the little Leica glass with its 2.5mm exit pupil, so much so that when I bring even a good quality 42mm instrument to my eyes under such conditions, I immediately notice quite a bit of ambiguity creeping in as I try to obtain the sharpest image with a larger exit pupil. Try as I may, they never quite serve up images in the same league as the 8 x 20. In particular, I’ve noticed myself chasing micro-focus constantly to coax the best views out of larger glasses, but with the 8 x 20 there is no such searching necessary. It just snaps to focus on whatever object I train it on.  And the more I confine myself to the small Leica glass, the more pronounced those differences become.

Bigger is not always better you know!

But here again, there is a rational basis for these findings, as I explored in the beginning of this blog. The human eye resolves the best details in the 2-3mm exit pupil aperture class, so it ‘s hardly surprising I find the images through the optically excellent 8 x 20 so much more compelling than with larger glasses. And here’s another report exploring exit pupil size and resolving power which also comports with these findings. Only when the light fades in the very late evening do I see the obvious advantages of larger binoculars with their greater light gathering power. After all, you do need enough light to see details. Of course, just as I discovered in my explorations with the astronomical telescope, I have come to notice and appreciate things that few if any other folk have bothered to notice. Just like the world of telescopes, some folk never really progress in the hobby, even after decades of ‘looking’ or just ‘looking the part’.

‘Experience’ and ‘insight’ can mean entirely different things!

The View from on High

Panoramic view from just below the summit of Dunmore. The village of Fintry is seen in the centre, while the Fintry Hills beyond rise up 1,000 feet or so above the valley floor.

Dunmore, the hill which rises some 900 feet above the village of Fintry, is yet another of my ‘local patches.’ The route involves following a meandering dust road beyond the old ochre quarry, following a burn upwards toward an open field which gets you to the path to the summit. The climb is not especially challenging, but there are some steep parts that can be a bit tricky to negotiate, especially in winter and on wet days. It’s during these ascents that a small, lightweight binocular really comes into its own. I’ve climbed  Dunmore with all sorts of equipment in the past, mostly cameras, rucksacks and even the occasional spyglass, but more recently, with binoculars. Specifically, I’ve had 42mm, 32mm, as well as a number of 25-30mm class instruments accompany me on the climb over the last few years, but nothing comes close to the comfort level and the optical rewards I have reaped by taking the little 8 x 20 along with me. It’s just so small and light that it never gets in the way. Even with instruments in the 350 to 500g weight class, I feel their heft round my neck far more acutely than with the 240g Leica wonder glass. During any such ascent, the strap can chafe the skin on your neck causing rash or even blistering to occur, but the low weight of the 8 x 20 as well its high quality, woven fabric carrying strap, eliminates all such discomfort.

During the Summer months, the path upwards towards the summit is graced by rich swathes of bracken, and while the climb itself gets the heart racing and raises a sweat, you’re rewarded by magnificent views of the valley below, as well as a cool, refreshing breeze even on the hottest days. The 8 x 20 provides the icing on the cake by serving up crystal clear views of the village below and the Fintry Hills right across the valley to the east. But in the last few years, Dunmore has also become the home to a mating pair of Peregrine Falcons that nest in some of its most inaccessible crags. These wonderful raptors hover in mid-flight, intently scanning the fields below in search of prey, and at this time of year, there is no shortage of fresh game – field mice, moles, rabbit, adders and bats, to name but a few.

Stone dykes erected in previous generations provide excellent areas to scan for interesting avian species.

Old stone dykes crisscross the hill-scape. These provide great places to scan with the 8 x 20, as sometimes they turn up interesting birds; Turtledoves and the odd, glorious Yellowhammer. But Dunmore is also a place where one can just escape from the human world,  at least for a while, to offer up a prayer to the Living God in gratitude for such small mercies; to pay homage to His illustrious, verdant creation………………. while I still can.

The River Walk

River Endrick

It’s always best to spend a penny before taking leave of the house for a walk by the river – yet another one of my local patches. The sound of running water, or even the sight of it flowing over rocks is enough to strongly stimulate the urge to urinate. I believe psychologists call this the power of suggestion lol.

The Endrick River itself meanders some 20 miles through the valley from its source in the Fintry Hills all the way to Loch Lomond. After prolonged bouts of heavy rain, the river swells in size and depth, fed by cascades of water that drain from higher altitudes. During warm July days, the air above the river teems with swarming insects that live out their entire lives in just a few days. Brown trout sprats gorge on them in the evening and the feasting continues well into the wee small hours of the morning, as any fly fisherman will tell you. These young fish are in turn preyed upon by river Lampreys that do not migrate to the sea, as other eels do, but spend their entire adult life in the fresh waters of the Endrick and Loch Lomond. And where there are eels, you’ll also find Otter, though I’ve yet to see one here. Some local naturalists inform me that they are best observed at dawn and dusk, times I do not generally glass, so no real surprises there.

Many kinds of birds frequent the river. There’s always a few Mallard around and sometimes you get a glimpse of mating pairs of Gooseander moving up and down stream. The females always look anxious to me. The ruddy feathers in the back of their neck stick out comically as they move past you. Mind you, one can never get too close to these birds. Come within 20 yards of them and they take to flight. The same is true of Grey Herron which fish these waters.

It was earlier this year that I first caught sight of Dippers feeding in the river. Indeed they are the subject of my first birding feature article, so I’m sworn to secrecy about those just now.  Arguably the most common birds on the Endrick are the Pied and Yellow Wagtail that flit among the shallower, rocky parts of the river in search of insects. Sand Martins make their nests in the raised clay-rich bank,  away from the main village, but I’ve also noticed many Wrens which seem to like living near the water. I’ve seen countless examples over the weeks and months, skulking about in the holes and shaded crevices along the river bank. I’m pretty sure some have even nested there.

The glorious light of July makes glassing the surface of the river a supreme joy; the cadence of the water as it flows over and around the rocks fascinates me. If you look closely at it with the 8 x 20, you’ll soon realise that every moment is different, a new swirl, new bubbles and foamy organic froths, one moment coalescing and breaking up in the next. Fixing my gaze on one spot on the river, flower blossoms, leaves, twigs and the odd deceased insect flow by on the water, making every field of view new and exciting. Nature is in constant flux, never ceasing or stopping to take its breath.

Visiting Local Lochs

Loch Venachar, Stirlingshire, with Ben Venue in the background.

Here in rural Central Scotland, we’re blessed with many freshwater lochs that dot the landscape, providing excellent places to take a cool dip or to engage in a number of water sports. My boys have taken up paddle boarding and enjoy nothing better than  taking off across the smaller lochs in search of adventure. Even though Loch Lomond is one of the most popular destinations for many outdoor enthusiasts across the Central Belt, it tends to get a bit too crowded during the hotter days of July, and so we tend to visit less populated lochs a little further away. One destination we have tried out a few times is the Lake of Menteith (yes it’s a lake, the only lake in Scotland), which is actually closer to us as the crow flies, but it’s not ideal (the Lake is about 700 acres in area) as smaller waterways are more prone to algal blooms, which can irritate the skin.

Port of Mentieth Kirk and fishery centre where you can hire a boat to do a spot of fly fishing.

But no matter where we go, there’s never a shortage of interesting people. On one afternoon, we were joined by a young lassie who launched a rather sophisticated drone over the lake. My eldest boy, Oscar, happened to be out in the middle of the lake when she captured this aerial shot of him on his paddle board. Cool or what?

My boy paddle boarding on the Lake of Menteith. Aerial drone shot.

Larger lochs, on the other hand, such as Loch Venachar, are far better suited to such activities and the boys have thoroughly enjoyed their many trips there. Venachar is only a mile wide at its widest extent and so the boys can never get too far out of sight, especially when their dad is glassing them with his little 8 x 20!

My younger son, Douglas, taking off across Loch Venachar.

My wife and I usually enjoy walks along the shore or even the odd paddle in our bare feet. There are many glassing opportunities at these places. Sometimes, you get sight of some geese flying low over the loch. Black headed and Common Gull are regular attendants, as well as Pied Wagtails which fly low along the stony shoreline in search of insects. And if there’s no avian subjects about, I just enjoy glassing the hills around the Loch, especially if the long distance visibility is good. The little Leica is just dandy for moving along the shores, especially on the hottest afternoons, when carrying anything larger becomes a real pain.

The little Leica Ultravid 8 x 20; a fine companion on bright sunny days.

We’re making the very most of these warm and bright Summer days of freedom, especially for our sons, who need space to grow up happy, confident and healthy. But sadly these happy days will not last forever. The autocratic powers that be will find more reasons to lock us up again, if not for Covid 19 ‘scariants’ the masktards salivate over, then for climate ’emergency’ lockdowns the global Marxist scumbags are now rumoured to be plotting. I don’t trust the government or the lies peddled by the main stream media, and I’ve accepted that life will never be the same again. But all the while, the signs are off the charts that God is starting to wrap things up anyway. Given the escalation of human wickedness now in the world, I can’t say I blame Him. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

A Visit to the Welsh Seaside

Overlooking Fishguard, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, August 1 2021.

At the end of July, we hooked up with my brother’s family, who have settled in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. Their home is a renovated late-18th century building only 6 miles as the crow flies from the Irish Sea. As you can imagine, there are many wonderful birding opportunities running all along the coastline, loved and often visited by keen twitchers and other wild life enthusiasts. Usually I take a telescope with me to take advantage of the clear, dark skies available here, but this year I decided to bring three binoculars along; my trusty 8 x 20 for extensive daytime glassing, a 10 x 42 for stargazing, and a curious little 8 x 32 ED binocular for further testing.

There’s a lovely cliff walk connecting the seaside villages of Goodwick and Fishguard, where we enjoyed magnificent views of the calm sea below, with many people engaging in all sorts of water sports – old fashioned sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding and jet skiing, to name but a few. The rocky shoreline is home to many delightful sea birds and on Sunday, August 1, I used my 8 x 20 to glean some exquisite views of several species of Sea Gull of all ages, Oyster Catchers and other waders, and even the odd Cormorant. In addition, some of the wooded areas around the villages are home to magnificent but decidedly raucous Raven that eke out a living here.

The Carp Pond.

There is a small pond on my brother’s residence that is stocked with Carp and a few other coarse fish species. This time of year, beautiful Lilies decorate the water’s edge with their large colourful flowers. Here, as in Scotland, I’ve managed to observe Swallows picking off insects by swooping right down to the surface of the pond. What amazing creatures they are! Of course, there is no shortage of wonderful insects like Dragon flies, Pond Skaters, Water Striders and Boatmen that attract fish and bird alike, which I can enjoy with the wonderful close focussing distance of the 8 x 20, which enables me to get as close as 1.8 metres. The 8 x 20 is particularly comfortable for glassing insects  and flowers in close proximity because its dual hinge design allows me to decrease the inter-pupillary distance more than most mid-sized binoculars which affords very comfortable close-up viewing. It’s only competitor in this capacity is the venerable Pentax Papilio II 6.5 x 21, with its amazing close focus of just 0.5 metres. In the coming days, I wish to increase my tally of wading bird species logged up on visits to more open beaches along the south Wales coastline.

New Sightings

Monday, August 1 proved to be a warm and sunny day across much of Wales, and our family made the most of the clement Summer weather. A short trip to Freshwater West, near the seaside town of Tenby, allowed the boys to do some paddle boarding, and while my wife soaked up some rays, I took off along the beach to glass for seabirds. Well, it wasn’t long before I caught sight of the largest flock of Oyster Catchers I have ever seen – at least knowingly- and watched as they took to the air, noisily flying off across the bay at breakneck speed. Looking out beyond the shore to some rocky outcrops not too far removed from a group of people enjoying the sun, sea and sand, I discerned the outline of a Cormorant with my 8 x 20. But I wanted to get a closer look, so I inched my way across rocks and piles of seaweed, getting to within about 70 yards of the bird. Its wings outstretched, it was drying them off before heading back into the water. Sensing that it might not be there for much longer, I put my iPhone up to the eyepiece of the 8 x 20, focused as best I could, and took some images of the bird. Later, I was able to identify it as a young Cormorant owing to its dusky(rather than dark) plumage.

A young Cormorant imaged through the 8 x 20 simply by holding my phone camera lens to the ocular.

Within about ten minutes of my capturing images of the juvenile Cormorant did my eye catch hold of a large, white bird flying across the shore, not far out to sea. Unlike regular gulls, this bird possessed very distinctive, black-tipped wings and, as I brought the 8 x 20 to my eyes,  I could clearly make out its yellow cap and long, razor-like bill. It was an adult Gannet; a bird I had never before seen in the flesh. But things were about to get a whole lot more exciting when I saw it make a vertical ascent before turning and diving towards the water with incredible agility. Wow! Luckily I had re-united with my wife at that time, and so we both witnessed the same event! It was only later, when I consulted my RSPB handbook that I learned that Gannets are not usually seen so close to the shore and tend to spend most of their lives far out at sea. To observe one so close to shore was entirely unexpected but what a sight to behold!

The estuary at low tide; Newtown, Pembrokeshire.

Tuesday, August 2 proved to be almost a carbon copy of the day before.  This time, we stayed closer to home by visiting a lovely beach at Newtown,  a few miles along the coast from Fishguard. While my boys and my nephew took to the water, I took off across a golf course, following a Bracken path that led me along the estuary. In the hills overlooking the bay, I glassed yet another Buzzard gliding on the warm afternoon thermals in search of prey. Sea Gulls were seen to be attacking the raptor, or at least trying to scare it away.

With the tide out in the mid-afternoon, I enjoyed magnificent views of Gulls of all ages and varieties; some foraging on the mudflats, some bickering among themselves but many just lying still, soaking up the warm sunshine bathing them. But I was on the lookout for other types of birds – waders to be precise – and a careful scan with the little Ultravid soon showed up new finds. Specifically, I was able to identify three Greenshank, with their long slender legs, slightly upturned bills, sweeping from side to side as they gingerly inched their way through shallow brine pools. Admittedly, they may not have been as exciting as a diving Gannet, but it’s always a thrill to ‘bag’ a new species, as it were; one more variety of God’s flying feathered creatures.

Returning Home to Rain, Lots of Rain

The hot and dry July gave way to a very rainy August, especially here in Scotland. But I see rain as a godsend, making the grass grow for the farm animals and keeping our hills verdant and beautiful. It has also cooled down considerably, which makes walking long distances more pleasant and sleeping more comfortable at night, especially when I see the rest of Europe and North America sweltering in heat waves and fires igniting all across the Northern Hemisphere, and as far north as Siberia. You can keep your 40C + summer temperatures further south. We’re very happy with 20C!

The little Leica travelled well and fulfilled all of my daytime needs. My brother and sister in law were quite taken with its elegant design and exceptional optics. I might even have convinced them to acquire an 8 x 20 for their own use! I also learned a new technique to align the optics perfectly with my eyes. I was reading an account of a chap called Alexis Powell on Birdforum, who described using the little Ultravid much more like you one would use the Zeiss Victory Pocket, with its asymmetrical hinge. Because the Ultravid has well defined hinge stops, I simply extend the left barrel to the end of its travel, hold it up to my left eye, and then swing the right barrel down into position on my right eye, perfectly merging both images together. It is wonderfully accurate and faster than my original method, which involved moving both barrels at the same time. Give it a try!  Works a treat!

Speaking of other top drawer pocket binoculars, I did consider both the Zeiss Victory Pocket and the Swarovski CL Pocket models briefly, since they retail for about the same price as the Leica Ultravids. I decided against the Swarovski based on its considerably greater weight than the Leica, and while the Zeiss enjoys quite a loyal fan base, and undoubtedly has excellent optics with an impressively wide field of view (7.5 degrees for the 8x 25 model at least), I have always felt it looks rather cheap compared with the Leica and have heard more than a few stories of the dioptre ring (located at the end of the bridge) falling off. That will never happen with the Leica, with its locked-in dioptre system – just like the larger Ultravids. In my experience, Leica make the most elegant binoculars money can buy. They have a timeless and understated look to them which I find especially pleasing to look at as well as through. In the end, there’s no accounting for taste!

Classical Elegance.

Stargazing & An Unexpected Sighting of a Red Kite

As August gives way to September, the weather has settled down again and we’re currently enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer, with warm sunny days, although temperatures can fall off a bit at night, especially if it’s clear. I’ve been using the little Leica to test all manner of larger binoculars, especially in regard to ascertaining how well corrected their fields are.  On the last night of August and on into the wee small hours of September 1, I got to see just how beautifully corrected the field of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 really is. Compared with some really sophisticated binoculars, such as the Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30, which has a built-in field flattener, I discovered that the Leica  kept star images much more in check even at the edge of the field than the HG. Actually, it was in a completely different league in this regard to everything else I tested it against that night!

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 has a better corrected field than high end binoculars with built-in field flatteners, such as the excellent Nikon Monarch HG 8x 30(right).

On my walk in the mid-afternoon of September 2, I came by a patch of land on the eastern side of Culcreuch Castle Estate. I cast my gaze out over a hay field, the grass from which had been freshly cut, and noticed some commotion going on in the air above it. Several gulls were flying about, but as I brought the 8 x 20 to my eyes, the corner of my eye detected a flash of colour. Lo and behold, as I re-directed my sight, an adult Red Kite (as I later learned on consulting my RSPB handbook) entered the field of view. It was enormous; larger than a Buzzard, adorned with a reddish brown and white body, somewhat angled wings and a deeply curved, salmon coloured tail. For five swiftly passing minutes, I watched the Red Kite intimidate the Seagulls that had probably gathered there in search of tasty earth worms. After flying in a circle above the field, the Red Kite homed in on a target on the grass below, swooping with extraordinary celerity toward terra firma in order to ambush its prey. Unfortunately, I was unable to ascertain just what exactly it had caught as there was a pronounced bevel in the field, but what a thrill to see this beautiful raptor thriving less than a mile as the crow flies from my front door!

Note to self: three raptor species now logged on my local patches!

Second note to self: Consultation of my notes revealed that this was, in fact,  my fourth raptor logged-  Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk and Red Kite.

 

The road to Culcreuch Castle, September 18 2021.

The Robins Return

Autumn comes early in Scotland. In the far north, changes are afoot as early as the end of July. Here, just north of the Central Belt, the same signs that Summer is coming to an end are well in flux by the end of August. But as Summers go, this year hasn’t been too bad. We’ve had plenty of warm sunny days and plenty of good light to go glassing. One thing has become clear to me though; Summer is probably the worst time to watch birds. It’s not that that there are none around; far from it! The Swallows and the Swifts have stolen the show, but finding smaller, less mobile birds becomes much more challenging owing to the profusion of leaves that decorate the trees. Soon enough, they’ll be much easier to see!

I’ve missed the Robins. They’ve been conspicuously absent from many of my local patches over the last couple of months, but all of a sudden, they’ve re-emerged! I began hearing their tic-tic-tic calls on the airwaves during my strolls through the forest. At first, it was just the odd call here and there, but in the last couple of weeks, not only have their calls become more common, they have reappeared…..everywhere!

Just a few short months ago, Robins were more like fattened, flying cherubs, but now they look completely dishevelled, haggard and worn out, presumably from a busy season rearing chicks.  But they’re a joy to see again. I needn’t venture out of my house to see them either. I leave my little Leica glass by the window, either overlooking my front or back garden, and plenty of them come and oblige me with their charming antics. The youngsters can be a little bit more difficult to spot though, as they’ve not developed their lovely red breasts. Indeed, they look for all the world like miniature Song Thrush, only more brazen and adventurous. And as the days grow colder and shorter, their delightful company will certainly be appreciated.

Astronomical Excursions

Many consider a small glass like the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 a bit too small to be of any lasting use exploring the heavenly creation. But while there is a great deal of truth in this, I have nonetheless used this beautifully designed pocket binocular on the night sky more often than I had anticipated.

The Moon is instantly gratifying at any time, in any place. Following its phases from night to night can be very rewarding in a small glass. The splendid Earthshine of March and April, or peering at a rising Super-Moon late on a delightful May evening. Just imagine chancing upon an extraordinary vantage; that splendid silvery orb framed within an ‘arch’ woven from shrubs and branches, as seen along my particular line of sight!

“Splendid vignette,” I penned in my diary.

The twilight of Summer is rather barren for us sky gazers living this far north of the equator. At this time of year, it never gets truly dark, with only the brightest luminaries visible to the naked eye. But I have cultivated a rather quirky use for the 8 x 20 during these bereft, twilit months. Because of the instrument’s small aperture and exit pupil, it serves to darken the sky, making the stars appear more naturally, as if I were looking at them with a slightly larger glass under darker sky conditions. It works a charm!

And as Summer gives way to Fall, the full glory of the dark night sky returns, and with it, some old friends that have greeted me since my childhood. Late in the night, Cygnus moves into the north-western sky, which is considerably darker than those to my south. Still, the little 20mm objectives shows innumerable Milky Way stars, and those countless suns it cannot resolve present like fine, white smoke, billowing through the dark. The magnificent Pleiads are a fine sight in the wee small hours of a Moonless October morning, when it has risen high in the sky, where atmospheric extinction is least impactful. The 8 x 20 serves up very beautiful images of this celebrated jewel of the northern heavens. What makes the view especially memorable is the pristine stellar pinpoints presented right across the field of the little Leica glass. And though I’ve spent the last few months exploring the potential of much larger binoculars, it is unquestionably true that, millimetre for millimetre, there is nothing to touch this tiny, optical wonder!

By 2.00am local time in the middle of October, bright deep sky targets, such as the Double Cluster, are almost at the zenith, and even with the 8 x 20, this visual treat presents surprisingly well in the Leica glass, as does the Alpha Persei Association and the Great Spiral in Andromeda. I have even enjoyed picking up the ghostly wisps of light from the brighter Messier Objects, such as M35 in Gemini, and all three of the open clusters coursing through the heart of Auriga the Charioteer- M36, 37 and 38.When stuff like this is at its zenith, the little 8 x 20

I have even stayed up until Orion crosses the meridian to see how well the 8 x 20 presents the bonnie bright Belt Stars and the Sword Handle. And though not as instantly gratifying as a larger glass, the pocket Leica still presents a stunningly beautiful image of these Yuletide glories. Lovely too are the colour contrasts of fiery red Betelgeuse and brilliant white Rigel, and what about coruscating Sirius? Surely, all worthy objects to explore, even with a small glass, during the long, dark nights of a Scottish Winter!

The brighter planets too can be rewarding to observe; the brilliant, steady, yellow-white Jupiter is always a delight to glass. With an unwavering hand, you can make out the positions of its four major satellites, and following in the steps of Galileo, it can be rewarding to record their changing positions relative to the Giant Planet. Brilliant red Mars looks angry through the 8 x 20, hellish Venus – blinding-  and the soft yellow light of Old Man Saturn always pleases the eye .But when finally Spring comes ’round again, I always look to viewing large, sprawling communions of suns in the 8 x 20, such as the Beehive Cluster, framed within Praesepe, and the Coma Berenices Cluster, rising later in the night.

Limited only by your imagination.

Truth be told, there is always something of interest within the grasp of the little pocket binocular, and sometimes its tiny, convenient size is all one really wants to observe with!

Horses for Courses

Balloch Castle Country Park, October 25 2021.

The ravishing colours of autumn are now manifesting themselves in their full glory, and when the light is good, even a small glass like the 8 x 20 can be used very profitably to study their intricate details. But as the days rapidly shorten, good ambient lighting conditions can become a major constraining issue that really challenges a glass with objectives only 20mm across.

This became most apparent to me while comparing the 8 x 20 to my very good and less expensive 8 x 42 binocular that accompanied me a few times on a forest walk. With the leaves not yet shed, dull overcast days make glassing with a 20mm much more challenging, to such an extent that it can be difficult to see the finer details of the creation.  When I switched to using the 8 x 42 with its much lager objectives and larger exit pupil, those same targets were considerably brighter and easier to see. Truth be told, no matter how well made a little glass like the Leica Ultravid is, there is simply no beating greater aperture under such challenging lighting conditions. And while in principle I could keep using just the 8 x 20 as a sole daytime binocular, I realise that bigger is sometimes better. My Barr & Stroud 8 x 42 ED makes up for the limitations of the little pocket glass, serving up a considerably brighter image under these low light conditions, and enabling me to see details I struggle to discern with the optically perfect Leica pocket binocular.

There! I tried!

While bigger isn’t always better, it most certainly is sometimes better!

Horses for courses!

Up with the Birdfeeders

Towards the end of October, our family decided to resurrect the birdfeeders in the garden. So out came the assorted nuts and energy-rich fat balls. Within an hour of them going up, they were visited by a riot of Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Robin and Chaffinch. And after a couple of days, they were joined by Nuthatches and even the odd Magpie. The 8 x 20 remains my instrument of choice for kitchen birding, as it’s so small, lightweight and unrivalled in optical excellence to anything else I own.

Speaking of Magpies. I’ve noticed that they are especially loud and conspicuous on these autumn days. They seem to turn up everywhere lol and you invariably hear them before you see them! Just like last year, a few have taken up residence in our Rowan tree to settle down for the night. Ever the clever avian, they work their way into the middle of the tree just before sunset to protect themselves from predators lurking in the night.

A brazen Magpie hunkering down in our Rowan tree just before sunset.

The Mute Swans up at the Pond didn’t fare so well this year. Although they successfully hatched and reared seven beautiful cygnets, all of them succumbed to predators. Please God, they will be more successful next season!

 

To be continued in Part II

 

 

De Fideli.

Ten Things True Christians Should Never Compromise Over In These Last Days.

Person Hands on Holy Bible

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Ephesians 6:10-13

 

  1. Defending the Doctrine of Creation: The Bible makes it very clear that all life on Earth was created by God. The existence of living things is thus part of the general revelation outlined by St. Paul in Romans chapter 1. As we continue to probe the mysteries of life, we discover that it is vastly more complex and more wonderful than we could have ever imagined; an endless regress established by the Living God. An overwhelming body of evidence is now available for any reasonable person to critically appraise, which clearly shows that Darwinian evolution is not only demonstrably false but is, in the broadest sense of the term, an evil ideology. Once you believe that you’re an evolved animal, you start behaving like one and start treating other human beings like animals. Claiming that humans, or any other life forms evolved is not only delusional, it is also blasphemy. I would personally question any clergyman that honours or capitulates to the “monkey religion.” Best to stay well clear of it.
  2. Defending the Rights of the Unborn: Human life begins at conception; that is what modern science has established and what the Bible consistently teaches. Killing a human life in utero, apart from a few exceptional medical circumstances, is murder, plain and simple.
  3. Defending the Traditional Family: Both the Old and New Testaments affirm God’s desire for humans to maintain strong, traditional family units. Contrary to what you may have heard in recent months, there only two genders (the other 98 are aberrations of sick, delusional minds). Sex was created by God to be enjoyed only within marriage and only between a man and a woman. God condemns all homosexual acts, declaring them to be “abominations,” or in some other translations, “detestable acts.” The LGBTQI juggernaut has many characteristics in common with the Nazi movement of the early 1930s; bullying society to accept it as “good” and “normal”, when it is actually neither. And this is not a matter of personal choice – these are God’s morals, not our own. Transgenderism should also be called out for what it is: a mental disorder. The campaign for deviant sex wishes to destroy what God intended for humans. Christians should never succumb to pressure to normalise what God clearly considers evil and/or depraved.
  4. Rejecting Universalism: The notion that all religions lead to God is commonly believed in our era, even by some who profess themselves to be Christian.  But that is not what the Bible teaches. Christ plainly stated that there is only one way to God(John14:6) and that He is “the door(John 10:7).” Christian doctrine divides; it is exclusive and uncompromising. It was intended that way!
  5. Defending the Sanctity of Human Life: The Bible teaches that all humans are made in God’s image and likeness and thus have great intrinsic value. It condemns all kinds of racism and the exploitation of one people group by another(including human trafficking and slavery). Replacement theology, the notion that the Church has replaced Israel, is not only un-Biblical, it also fans the flames of antisemitism that is so prevalent in our societies today.
  6. The Inerrancy of Scripture: Christians should hold the Bible as their gold standard. Its timeless wisdom shows us how to live, what to accept and what to reject. It is not to be taken out of context and twisted to suit a particular agenda. Regular reading of the words of Scripture keeps you focused on what is important and what is not, even if wider society does not follow in the way. Just because society deems something as good, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is right in God’s eyes. We are called to test the spirits to see whether they are or are not from God, and we are required to distance ourselves from any teacher that preaches a false gospel.
  7. The Importance of Bible Prophecy: Many so-called ‘liberal’ Christians pay no attention to Bible prophecy. That is a grave mistake, as about 25 per cent of the Bible deals with prophecy. For example, all of the prophecies concerning Christ’s birth, ministry, triumphal entry into Jerusalem and suffering at the hands of Roman overlords were predicted with 100 per cent accuracy centuries before His birth, and Christ Himself fulfilled a whole string of other prophecies during his missionary years. Ignoring Bible prophecy is like trying to ride a bicycle without wheels. God clearly intends us to know some of the details of the future so that we can watch for the signs of His second coming. Ignoring such prophecies may well catch you off guard.
  8. Man’s Fallen Nature: The Bible teaches that humans were originally created to live harmoniously with God eternally, but after the fall in the Garden of Eden, man’s nature always goes from bad to worse without God being in the driving seat. This is counter to what humanists(their manifesto holds that we evolved and so are nothing more than smart animals) believe. When mankind turns its back on God, the invariable result is moral decay and ever increasing depravity. That’s why we live in a world that is clearly going from bad to worse and that trend is destined to continue until the Sovereign Lord pulls the plug.
  9. The Divinity of Christ The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is the second member of the trinity(Father, Son & Holy Spirit). During His earthly ministry, Jesus demonstrated his equality with God the Father by His absolute submission to God’s will, as well as through His miracles and moral teachings. Liberal scholars want us to unhinge the person of Christ from any divine claim. We must constantly resist any suggestions that Christ was merely a good man or just a good teacher. God gave one third of Himself to humanity in the personage of Jesus Christ. He is to be worshipped and revered for all eternity.
  10. The Importance of Sharing your Faith: Jesus taught us to share our faith and to  pronounce the good news of His coming to the ends of the earth. Recall the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25 (and echoed in Luke 19), where Jesus told of the foolish steward who received a talent from his master, but instead of investing it to make more, buried it in the ground, where it remained until his disapproving master returned. There is no such thing as having a ‘quiet faith.’ We are required to actively share our faith with others when any opportunity presents itself. Don’t bury the talent the Lord has given you. Do something with it! Win souls for Christ!

 

Neil English is the author of a large historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, showcasing how the Christian faith was never a hindrance and was actually instrumental to the development of astronomical science.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: The Svbony SV 202 10 x 50 ED.

The Svbony SV 202 10 x 50 ED package, courtesy of Slim Loghmari.

A Work Commenced October 20 2021

 

Product Name: Svbony SV202 10 x 50 ED

Place of Manufacturer: HongKong

Field of View: 106m@1000m(6.1 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 5mm

Eye Relief: 17mm

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 3

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 2.09m measured

Chassis: Textured rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, dielectric and phase correction coatings applied to BAK-4 Schmidt Pechan roof prisms

ED Glass: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes IPX7(1 metre for 30 minutes)

Weight: 951g (advertised), 914g measured

Dimensions: 16.5 x 14.8 cm

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Accessories: Tethered rubber rain guard & objective covers, lens cleaning cloth, quality logoed padded neck strap, soft padded carry case,  comprehensive instruction sheet.

Retail Price: £157-166(UK)

 

In ancient Hebrew lore, the number 3 is associated with harmony or completeness. How apt this is for the subject of this next review. In previous blogs I showcased two remarkable, low-cost roof prism binoculars marketed by Svbony; the SV202 8 x 32 ED and 10 x 42 ED. Despite desperate attempts to discredit these excellent performing instruments by hateful snobs and trolls, they’re now selling like hot cakes lol. But there is yet one more model in the same SV 202 series which I did not test out: enter the 10 x 50 ED

The SV 202 10 x 50 ED was kindly lent to me by Mr. Slim Loghmari, a keen binocular enthusiast and amateur astronomer hailing from North London. He purchased it directly from Svbony, Hong Kong, taking just over a week to reach him. After reading my review of the 8 x 32 ED, he went ahead and bought in all three models including the 10 x 50 ED and posted some useful video clips of its optical performance. This review will therefore complete my work on all three models from this phenomenal family of low-cost, high-performance binoculars. As you will see, the 10 x 50 ED is every bit as good as the two smaller models and really excels in some areas.

Ergonomics

Slim despatched all of the original packaging to me so you can see that the contents are the same across the series. The package includes the binoculars in a nice padded soft case, nicely fitting, tethered ocular and objective covers, a quality neck strap, lens cleaning cloth and a comprehensive instruction manual in the major languages.

When I first prized the binocular from its case, I was immediately impressed by its excellent build quality; the same quality, in fact, as the two smaller models. The eye cups twist up and rigidly lock in place, with three intermediate positions, the focus wheel was even smoother and easier to turn than the 10 x 42 ED and the instrument felt really solid in my medium-sized hands. Like the smaller 10 x 42 ED, the focuser on the 10 x 50 ED takes about one and three quarters of a turn to go from one extreme of its focus travel to the other.

The Svbony SV 202 10 x 50 ED with eye cups fully deployed.

The dioptre ring moves very smoothly, just like its smaller siblings and stays in place once adjusted to my optimal setting. I immediately noticed the greater weight of the 10 x 50. I measured it at just 914g without the strap and lens covers. That’s actually lower than the quoted weight of 951g and rather good news if you like to handhold binoculars for prolonged periods of time.

The coatings looked identical to those on the smaller models; a deep and beautiful magenta hue as seen in daylight. These anti-reflection coatings  were applied very carefully and evenly, with no sleeks or pits.

The large oculars on the 10x 50 ED with their lovely magenta coatings.

And the objective coatings.

Unlike the two smaller models, which have just enough eye relief to use with eye glasses, the larger 10 x 50 ED has considerably more. Testing these with my own eye glasses confirmed that the entire field can be seen with ease.

The 10 x 50 ED has very comfortable eye relief for eye glass wearers.

The textured rubber armouring affords excellent protection against the elements and makes the binocular very easy to grip and hold steady. And yet it is not overly thick, like some binoculars I’ve tested over the past few years. Again, its texture and finish reminded me very much of the Zeiss Terra ED binos.

In summary, the ergonomics of the 10 x 50 ED are every bit as good as the smaller models, and has a wonderful feel about it from the second you get your hands around the barrels.

Optical Testing:

To be honest, I was expecting great things from this 10 x 50 ED based on what I experienced with the smaller models.

Did Svbony deliver?

Yes, in spades!

Performing my flashlight test on the 10 x 50 ED, showed another excellent, clean result. There was no sign of any significant internal reflections, no annoying diffraction spikes and no sign of inferior optical components causing the light to diffuse around the light source and cut down on contrast. Absolutely brilliant!

Looking at some bright sodium street lights at night showed zero problems with diffraction spikes, glare or internal reflections. ” Will make a great Moon gazing ‘scope.” I remember writing in my notebook. More on that later!

Examining the eye pupils of the 10 x 50 ED showed great results, as you can see from the images presented below. Both pupils looked nice and round, with no annoying light leaks near them. I would rate this result as excellent. Well done Svbony!

Left eye pupil

Right eye pupil

From the moment I brought the instrument to my eyes, I was treated to a wonderful, bright and sharp image, rich in contrast and saturated colours. Like the 10 x 42 ED, the instrument arrived on a rather grotty day, with light rain and leaden clouds presenting the harshest observing conditions for any binocular. I was impressed by the binocular’s control of glare, especially veiling glare – as good as I had seen on the smaller models. Even under these challenging conditions, the vibrant colours of  autumnal leaves were very striking to the eye. The wonderful light gathering power of this 10 x 50 presents a very large sweet spot, making the view especially delightful. Depth of focus was good for a binocular with these specifications and the close focus was astounding – I measured it at only 2.09m – a jolly good result. Indeed, the reader will note that the close focus on the 10 x 50 is significantly shorter than the 10 x 42 model – which came in at 2.8m in comparison. Slim already pointed that out on one of the Cloudynights threads on these binoculars, with even the premium alpha models typically coming in at 3 metres or more! This remarkable value will make the 10 x 50 an excellent choice for those who like using their binos as long distance microscopes to study insects, leaves, rocks and fungi in glorious detail. I’ve personally never heard of anyone using a 10 x 50 to do this kind of work.

Comparing the 10 x 42 ED to the 10 x 50 ED

The venerable Svbony 10 x 42 ED versus the 10x 50 ED(right).

I thought it would be useful to compare and contrast the images through the 10 x 42 and 10 x 50. After going back and forth between the instruments on a dull mid-October  afternoon, I was impressed at how consistent the image quality was. Both have very similar fields of view and both present lovely, big sweet spots. Colours are vibrant, vivid and faithful in both models. I felt the view were a little more immersive in the 10 x 50 though, a consequence I suppose of its more generous eye relief. I also felt that the image appeared slightly larger in the 10 x 50 too. Not by much but enough to notice. I suppose I could accurately determine their magnification by measuring the diameters of the objectives and the exit pupils. Dividing one by the other provides the enlargement.

If I were to be super critical, I would say that the 10 x 42 was a hair sharper than the 10 x 50 but this might easily be attributed to the smaller exit pupil on the 10 x 42, which engages a better corrected part of your eye. I noticed a small but significant increase in brightness moving from the 42mm to the 50mm bino under these dull, ambient conditions, and that larger aperture began to pull ahead as the light faded in the late afternoon. The large ocular lenses on both these models can let in some peripheral light however, but just as I found with my 10 x 42 ED, it helps to press your eyes firmly against the cups to remove it.

What is most apparent though is the weight increase in moving from the 10 x 42 ED to the 10 x 50 ED. An extra 200+ grams doesn’t sound like much of a weight hike on paper, but I felt it was quite significant in prolonged field use, moving about and negotiating fences, bushes and brambles. As a glasser who puts a maximum emphasis on portability, I would choose the 10 x 42 ED for most applications, but your mileage may vary! Indeed, I know Slim prefers the larger model because, as an eye glass wearer, he enjoys more comfortable eye relief which can make all the difference, especially when observing for prolonged periods of time.

Under the Starry Heaven

I received the 10 x 50 ED during a spell where a bright Hunter’s Moon graced the sky, drowning out the light from the faintest stars. Thus I was unable to fully test the binocular as well as I had initially intended. But I was able to confirm some excellent results just by looking at the full Moon of October 20 2021, as a rash of blustery showers moved away inland from off the Atlantic. Comparing the 10 x 50 ED to the smaller 10 x 42 ED model, I immediately noticed how much brighter it was compared with the latter. Indeed, it was almost blindingly bright in the clear and dust free sky, swept clean of particulates. Just like the 42mm model, the larger 50mm served up a beautiful, high contrast image of the lunar regolith, and once again, I came away with the distinct impression that the lunar orb was slightly larger in the 10x 50 than  in the 10 x 42. The image was free of glare and internal reflections, as my preliminary tests showed. Later, as more clouds began to move across the face of the Moon, I enjoyed some awesome light shows with the 10 x 50, with beautiful colours as the refraction of light through raindrops played out their magic, approaching and receding from the Moon. The grey maria really stood out cleanly as did several marble-white ray craters.

I detected a trace more chromatic aberration in the 10 x 50 ED compared with the 10x 42 ED model, a natural consequence of the larger glass gathering more light. But what little I did see was quite sensitive to eye placement. By taking an extra few moments to centre my pupils in the eyecups, I was able to make it all but disappear. Moving the Moon from the centre to the outer part of the field did introduce some lateral colour in both instruments but I judged this to be largely inconsequential in both instruments.  Turning next to the Pleiades, off to the east of the bright Moon, I was able to show at a glance that the 10 x 50 ED was pulling in more light as evidenced by brighter stars and more numerous stars compared with the 10 x 42 ED. Turning to the magnificent Alpha Persei Association very high in the midnight sky, I was once again bowled over by how good and sharp the fields of view presented in both binoculars. Though this stellar association is large and sprawling, filling most of the field of view in these 6-degree field instruments, I was impressed by how well they focused the stars even in the outer part of the fields near the field stops. The cluster was that little bit more impressive in the 10 x 50 ED however, a natural consequence of its greater light gathering power.

Bright white stars like Vega easily show up chromatic aberration in less well-corrected 10x binoculars in these larger formats, but on axis, both these binos delivered very clean, sharp and high contrast images with hardly a trace of false colour. Again, only by  moving the star off axis, did I see some secondary spectrum creeping in. That said, it was only slight and quite non-injurious to the aesthetics of the view, and I admit to liking a bit of the sparkly blue. Some modest bloating of the star did occur near the field stops in both instruments but I consider this edge of field distortion to be quite acceptable for general star gazing. All in all, the 10 x 50 ED will make an awesome stargazing bino, which can be enjoyed for decent long spells just hand held, but you’ll go a whole lot deeper by mounting it on a lightweight tripod or monopod.

Conclusions & Recommendations

I’ve gone on quite a journey with these wonder glasses from Svbony! I’m particularly impressed by the two larger glasses though; they have phenomenal optics that will delight even the most discriminating of observers, especially when you factor in their modest cost. To be frank, they are worth many times more than what Slim and I paid for them. But that’s life; sometimes fortune smiles your way. I give these instruments my highest recommendation. Like I said before, my 10 x 42 ED has sated any desires I once cultivated to acquire an alpha model in this size category from the leading European binocular manufacturers. Let’s just say I’d rather spend my spare cash on other things! Their optical performance leaves little to be desired! Go grab yourself a bargain while you can!

Thanks for reading.

 

Neil.

The author would like to sincerely thank Slim Loghmari for kindly sending the SV202 10 x 50 ED for review. Rest assured, it will be winging its way back to its proud owner in the week ahead.

 

De Fideli. 

Product Review: The Barr & Stroud Series 8 8 x 42.

The Barr & Stroud Series 8 8 x 42 Package.

A Work Commenced October 12 2021

 

Product Name: Barr & Stroud Series 8 8 x 42

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 142m@ 1000m (8.1 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 5.25mm

Eye Relief: 17.5mm

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 3

Close Focus: 1.9m( advertised), 1.89m measured

Chassis: Textured rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, silver and phase correction coatings applied to BAK-4 Schmidt Pechan roof prisms

ED Glass: No

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (1.5 metres for 3 minutes)

Weight: 794g(advertised), 716g measured

Dimensions: 17.5 x 13.0 x 5.2cm

Accessories: Tethered rubber rain guard & objective covers, lens cleaning cloth, quality logoed padded neckstrap, soft padded carry case, warranty card, instruction sheet.

Warranty: 10 years (limited)

Retail Price: £189.95

 

Of all the modern formats used for recreational glassing, the 8 x 42 continues to be a firm favourite. And it’s easy to see why. A magnification of 8x provides a more stable view than 10x, and a 42mm objective diameter affords a solid compromise between smaller and larger glasses that put constraints on low light use and weight, respectively.

And while it is generally true that you get what you pay for, a detailed survey of the mid-priced binocular market can showcase real bargains that punch well above what their modest price tags might suggest. One company that sits firmly in this category is Barr & Stroud. If you look back at my other reviews you’ll no doubt discover that I have an abiding interest in their sports optics products, based solely on my many positive experiences of their optical wares. In this review, I’ll be test driving their new line of Series 8 open bridge roof prism binoculars that promise to deliver good optical quality and ergonomics in a fairly light weight package. What follows here are details of my experiences with the 8 x 42 Series 8, which I purchased with my own funds for the princely sum of £189.95 plus delivery.

First Impressions 

Like all other purchases I’ve made from Barr & Stroud, the Series 8 package arrived in a very attractive box, slightly larger than the Series 5 binoculars I’ve sampled recently. That’s because the Series 8 8 x 42 has a different optical design than the Series 5 binos, and, as a result, the instrument measures a few centimetres longer lengthways. The instrument was carefully packed away inside its soft padded carry case, together with all the accessories which included, a high quality padded neck strap, tethered rubber objective covers and rain guard, a lens cleaning cloth, warranty card and a comprehensive instruction sheet.

The Barr & Stroud Series 8 8 x 42 is a very solidly made instrument, with a very handsome fit and finish.

Ergonomics

The Series 8 has a Magnesium alloy chassis overlaid by a thick, protective rubber armouring, with the sides of the barrels being ribbed for extra grip. The underside of the binocular has two prominent thumb indentations to help the user position the binocular as firmly as possible in the hands.

The underside of the Series 8 has two prominent thumb indents that make handling very natural and easy. Note the prominent ribbed armouring on the body which helps the user maintain a good grip while the binocular is in field use.

The eye cups consist of high quality aluminium with a soft rubber overcoat that are very comfortable to rest your eyes on. They twist up in three stages and firmly lock in place when fully deployed, giving a very generous eye relief of 17.5mm, which renders them especially comfortable to use with eye glasses. I elected to use them without glasses however, so kept them in their fully twisted out position throughout this review.

Note the long eye relief on the Series 8 ocular lenses which twist up using three intermediate positions to suit virtually all users.

The Series 8 was considerably lighter than I expected. Although the official specifications stated that it was nearly 800g, I measured its weight at just 716g; good news if you intend to do a lot of walking with this binocular.

The main advantages of the open bridge design is easier handling, especially if you must use just one hand. The open bridge design allows the user to hold the binocular and turn the focus wheel with one finger compared with the more common single bridge design. Another advantage is much quicker engagement with your subject if you have to grab the instrument suddenly and bring it towards your eyes. This renders them more desirable if you are cycling or hiking with the binocular hanging ’round your neck. However, these advantages are confined mainly to full-sized instruments in the 42mm, 50mm and 56mm size categories. Moreover, the design quickly becomes less manageable in smaller compact models. If you come across a compact with an open bridge design, chances are it’s more for aesthetic reasons than anything else.

The open bridge design on the Series 8 affords real ergonomic advantages over the single bridge design, especially when using one hand.

In the hand, the instrument feels very solid and easy to handle. The focus wheel is a little on the stiff side, but moves very smoothly, with no backlash. I would describe the focuser on this Series 8 as being slow but very precise, taking about 2.25 revolutions to go from one end of its focus travel to the other. That would make the binocular more suited to hunting than birding. The dioptre ring is located under the right ocular, as most instruments in this price class are. It’s quite large and easy to grip though, moving with just the right amount of tension to move it smoothly so that it stays rigidly in place.

Optical Assessment

My first optical test was to check how well the instrument handled a very bright beam of white light. Turning my IPhone torch on to its highest setting, I aimed the binocular into the light from across my living room and examined the image. To be honest, I was expecting the Series 8 to pass with flying colours, based on my previous experience with other high-end products offered by Barr & Stroud. I needn’t have worried. The result was excellent!

Compared with my Series 5 8 x 42 ED control binocular, the Series 8 showed a very clean image under these harsh conditions. There was little or no internal reflections, no annoying diffraction spikes and very little sign of diffused light around the beam. This indicates that the multi-layer coatings applied to the optical surfaces were doing their job suppressing internal reflections, and the lack of diffused light indicated that the glass used in the lenses and prisms of the Series 8 are very homogeneous. Indeed, overall, it was just as good as my excellent Series 5 in all such tests! Examining a bright sodium lamp after dark garnered a very clean image, as expected, with no diffraction spikes and no internal reflections. Collectively, these tests augured well for the Series 8, as my subsequent optical tests during daylight and at night were to reveal.

Examining the exit pupils of the Series 8 showed nice round pupils, with no evidence of truncation, though the right pupil did show a fairly prominent arc near the pupil;

left eye pupil.

….and the right eye pupil.

 

As I initiated my daylight testing I began to think about the reasons the Series 8 was significantly longer than the Series 5 models I had previously reviewed. In particular, I wondered whether there was a difference in focal length in going from the shorter Series 5 binoculars compared with the Series 8 models. I fired off an email to Barr & Stroud’s parent company, Optical Vision Limited (OVL) asking for some information on this. I got an immediate response, stating that they would check with the optical engineers at their production site. A few days later, they sent me this response:

Firstly, the optical system of the Series 8 is different from traditional compact binoculars. It’s actually based on a modified design from an older Swarovski binocular.  It focuses using a positive lens,  unlike the majority of traditional compact binoculars, which focus using a negative lens. That’s why the traditional compact binoculars is shorter than the Series 8 models, but the focal length of both these series is the same; the length of binocular is not to be confused with its focal length. Secondly, this kind of optical system is more suitable for open bridge designs,  with the length of the barrels being longer, so the hand can hold it better. This kind of optical system will also have better light transmittance, as there are only three lenses in the objective housing. compared with more traditional compact binoculars, which have a four-lens objective system.

All very interesting!

So how did it perform?

Very well, as it turned out! The Series 8 delivers a very bright, sharp image with great contrast inside a very large sweet spot. Like all of the more advanced Barr & Stroud binoculars I’ve tested, glare is exceptionally well controlled, including veiling glare. I was able to ascertain the latter by looking up at the topmost boughs of a conifer tree in my back garden under a bright overcast afternoon sky. Veiling glare appears as a bright arc of light at the bottom of the image which, in the worst cases, produces an unsightly milky fog that robs the image of contrast. The Series 8 is right up there with the best binoculars I’ve tested in this regard.

The image has a warm cast that I found very pleasant. Greens, oranges and reds are particularly vibrant in the Series 8. Chromatic aberration is also very well controlled in this binocular. As I’ve discussed in previous reviews, I never judge a binocular on the basis of whether or not it has ED glass. I’ve seen plenty of examples of ED binos which show more chromatic aberration than well made non-ED models. I was only able to detect very minor amounts of secondary spectrum on very high contrast objects and only by actively looking for it. I would say that this binocular has excellent control of false colour and is simply not an issue.

The enormous field of view in the Series 8 is very well corrected across most of the field, just like the Series 5 42 mm models. There is some field curvature and pincushion distortion as one moves from the centre to the edges, but nothing extreme or out of the ordinary.

Turning to low light performance, I tested the Series 8 against the Series 5 after sunset to look for any differences in brightness between the images. Going back and forth between the binoculars on shaded leaf litter under a bush about 30 yards distant, I felt the images were more alike than different, with perhaps the edge going to the Series 8. I wasn’t especially surprised by this result, as one would really need a sizeable(~5 per cent) difference in transmittivity to affirm a noticeable distinction in image brightness here.

The instrument has very generous eye relief, and is very comfortable to use with eye glasses, which showed me the entire field with no problems. Close focus is also very good. The quoted figure is 1.9m and that is pretty much what I measured it to be. This is a binocular you can use as an excellent long range microscope to examine insects, rocks, fungi and other natural curiosities close at hand.

Comparing the ergonomics on the Series 8 to my Series 5  8 x 42 ED, I would say that the Series 8 is just that little bit easier to use. There are just more ways to grip the barrels and the very similar weight to the Series 5 bino means that you won’t easily tire of carrying it about. The logoed neck strap accompanying the instrument is well padded and very comfortable to use.

Tests under the Stars

On the evening of October 14, the skies cleared and I was able to enjoy a waxing gibbous Harvest Moon low down in the south, straddled by Jupiter above it to its left, and Saturn to its right. Talk about a wonderful naked eye vista! The image of the Moon was excellent through the Series 8, with only the merest trace of secondary spectrum seen at the lunar limb. The crater fields were very sharply rendered and the image was entirely free of glare and internal reflections. Turning later to some bright stars visible in the sky like Vega and Altair, I was able to show that the Series 8 was able to maintain excellent sharpness over most of the very large field. Because I was able to refocus the stars down to crisp points near the field stops, it confirmed that the main off-axis aberration was field curvature. Moving the Moon from the centre of the field to the field stops did show a moderate drop off in illumination, again, pretty normal behaviour for a mid-priced binocular like this. I was able to image some very faint stars very near the Moon, providing still more evidence of its excellent control of glare.

Observing some rich star fields, the binocular produced some very fine images of the Alpha Persei Association, with the field filled with innumerable stars of varying glory. The Pleaids were also a real treat even with the Moon in the sky. Their comely blue white light came out beautifully in this 8x wide angle binocular. The generous field of view and well corrected field makes the Series 8 a particularly good instrument for sweeping up myriad Milky Way stars through Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Aquila. This is clearly a binocular that can be used equally well by day and by night, thus affording excellent mileage!

Conclusions and Recommendations

A very well designed, general purpose binocular.

The Series 8 8 x 42 clearly represents great value for money, with optics that closely match its ergonomics. It’s very easy to use and those who are fans of the open bridge design will very quickly take a shine to this instrument. Don’t be put off by its non-ED labelling. This binocular shows just how good traditional crown & flint can be when properly executed. It does exactly what it says on the tin and makes for a very worthy addition to Barr & Stroud’s line of high performance binoculars. I would strongly recommend this to folk looking for a no-nonsense glass for the great outdoors and various astronomical excursions. The 10 year limited warranty offered by Barr & Stroud will also be honoured, as I can personally attest to.

Can’t say fairer than that, can I?

 

Dr Neil English is an astronomer who has recently discovered the joys of studying the wonders of nature using binoculars of all types. His magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy,  recounts the work of four centuries of telescopists, who turned their instruments skyward in search of celestial treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

De Fideli.

Investigating the Potential of a Modified Newtonian Reflector as a Spotting Scope.

Plotina: the author’s modified 130mm f/5 Newtonian reflector, with a Vixen Erecting Adaptor and two simple Plossl eyepieces used in the investigation.

A Work Commenced October 3 2021

 

In this blog, I’ll be demonstrating the potential of a small Newtonian reflector operating in spotting ‘scope mode. This follows on from a previous blog I conducted to find a suitable optical device that would give fully erected and correct left-right orientation, just like a conventional spotting scope.

First, a few words of introduction about the telescope. It’s a 130mm f/5 SkyWatcher Newtonian reflector, so has a focal length of 650mm. Because of its open-tube design, the instrument is surprisingly light; just 3.8 kilos(8.4 pounds) and 4.1 kg (9 pounds) with the mounting bracket attached. It acclimates fully in 30-40 minutes, even when taken from a warm indoors environment to the cold of a Winter’s day. But such thorough cooling is only necessary to coax the highest powers out of the instrument.

The instrument has mirrors treated with state-of-the-art Hilux coatings(applied by Orion Optics, UK), increasing its overall reflectivity to 97 per cent. The primary mirror is the original one supplied by SkyWatcher, while the secondary flat mirror was upgraded with an Orion Optics UK secondary, having a flatter surface and smaller semi-major diameter of 35mm. This provides a small 26.9 per cent central obstruction. This size of central obstruction is significantly smaller than a Maksutov or Schmidt Cassegrain (SCT) of the same aperture. Unlike the popular Maksutov, the 130mm Newtonian(aka Plotina), can deliver a significantly lower magnification. For example, using a 32mm Skywatcher Plossl, it delivers a power of just 20x and using another Plossl of focal length 10mm, the telescope provides an amplification of 65x. I used these two eyepieces to demonstrate the spotting scope potential of the Newtonian, as many conventional spotters provide magnifications in this range(20-65x), corresponding to exit pupils of 4.7 and 2mm, respectively.

The contrast transfer is provided by subtracting the aperture of the secondary from the primary(130-35 = 95mm), thus one can expect a degree of contrast equivalent to a 95mm apochromatic refractor. Its light gathering power and resolution(0.89″) are significantly higher than a 95mm refractor, however. This has been borne out in several years of observations of lunar, planetary, double star and deep sky observing. The reader will find several other blogs I have published on this instrument in the past by clicking on the ‘Telescopes’ link on the home page.

The Erecting Adapter: Purchased for £80, the Vixen erecting adapter is a rather long appendage but delivers an upright image with the correct left-right orientation, just like a conventional spotting ‘scope. The lenses in the adapter are fully multi-coated and truncates the field a little when employing longer focal length eyepieces. You simply insert the desired eyepiece into the adapter, focus the ‘scope, and you’re off to the races!

Plotina, with the erecting adapter attached.

The instrument was used in broad daylight outside on a cool, breezy autumnal day, between heavy rain showers. It was mounted on a simple non motorised alt-azimuth(Vixen Porta II). The instrument is equipped with Bob’s Knobs screws for quick and easy collimation using a Hotech laser collimator. Alignment of the optics takes just a few seconds to get precise alignment of the secondary and primary mirrors. All of the images were taken simply by pointing my Iphone 7 into the eyepiece and taking single images. The pictures presented here are the highest resolution I can load onto this website( ~200-750KB), so are not the highest quality that I can potentially show. All the images are completely unmodified, apart from cropping. All distances quoted were measured with a laser range finder, and all the images were taken on the same breezy afternoon of October 3 2021.

Results:

Image 1: Shows a TV satellite dish at a power of 20x located at distance of 27 yards:

Image 2 shows some autumn leaves at 20x and located at a distance of 18.9 yards

Image 3 shows the branches of a tree at 20x located 43.1 yards from the scope:

Image 4 is the top of a conifer tree located 22.7 yards distant at 20x:

Image 5 shows a hill top located at about 2 km distance at 65x

Image 6 shows an aerial at 65x at a distance of 23.4 yards:

Image 7: Shows some fence posts at 65x at distance of 43.8 yards

Image 8 shows terracotta roof tiling at 65x at a distance of 26.1 yards:

Image 9 shows a tree carving at 65x at a distance of 78.2 yards:

Discussion:

I am very encouraged by the results I obtained this afternoon. Irrespective of the scepticism of arm chair theorists, the images speak for themselves! The instrument provides very nice, high contrast and colour pure renditions of a variety of targets. Chromatic aberration is particularly well controlled, as expected, given that the Newtonian is a truly apochromatic optical system, though some secondary spectrum is introduced by the eyepieces chosen. In addition, higher quality eyepieces will give better off-axis performance, and because those oculars are inter-changeable, a greater range of  magnifications can be explored. Visually, the images are considerably better when examined with the naked eye. The reader will note that these magnifications are somewhat pedestrian for such a large telescope. Visually, much higher magnifications can be utilised profitably. And although the formidable resolving power of the instrument is clearly in evidence, the images could be improved further by employing a higher quality phone camera. What’s more, the images could also be processed lightly to bring out even more details.

The set up, though admittedly bulky by conventional spotting scope standards, could quite easily be erected in the field or, better still, in a hide, where it could be used to gather video footage or still images with the right equipment. Observing from indoors, through a clean window is also a distinct possibility, especially at lower powers. The instrument is not weatherproof however, owing to its open-tube design, so may be prone to dewing up but a small, battery-operated fan would extend its longevity in field use.

I believe this provides a very cost effective way(the entire apparatus set me back just a few hundred pounds) of obtaining high quality images compared with a high-end apochromatic spotter.

Food for thought!

Thanks for reading!

 

Dr Neil English spent most of his adult life testing and observing through telescopes of all varieties and genres. He now enjoys a new lease of life exploring the terrestrial realm during daylight hours.

 

 

De Fideli.