What I’m Reading.

Yet another former Darwinist examines the evidence and finds it woefully lacking.

About the Author:

British University professor Neil Thomas was a committed Darwinist and agnostic—until an investigation of evolutionary theory led him to a startling conclusion: “I had been conned!” As he studied the work of Darwin’s defenders, he found himself encountering tactics eerily similar to the methods of political brainwashing he had studied as a scholar. Thomas felt impelled to write a book as a sort of warning call to humanity: “Beware! You have been fooled!” The result is Taking Leave of Darwin, a wide-ranging history of the evolution debate. Thomas uncovers many formidable Darwin opponents that most people know nothing about, ably distils crucial objections raised early and late against Darwinism, and shows that those objections have been explained away but never effectively answered. Thomas’s deeply personal conclusion? Intelligent design is not only possible but, indeed, is presently the most reasonable explanation for the origin of life’s great diversity of forms.

Neil Thomas is a Reader Emeritus in the University of Durham, England and a longtime member of the British Rationalist Association. He studied Classical Studies and European Languages at the universities of Oxford, Munich and Cardiff before taking up his post in the German section of the School of European Languages and Literatures at Durham University in 1976. There his teaching involved a broad spectrum of specialisms including Germanic philology, medieval literature, the literature and philosophy of the Enlightenment and modern German history and literature. He also taught modules on the propagandist use of the German language used both by the Nazis and by the functionaries of the old German Democratic Republic. He published over 40 articles in a number of refereed journals and a half dozen single-authored books, the last of which were Reading the Nibelungenlied (1995), Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle (2002) and Wirnt von Gravenberg’s ‘Wigalois’. Intertextuality and Interpretation (2005). He also edited a number of volumes including Myth and its Legacy in European Literature (1996) and German Studies at the Millennium (1999). He was the British Brach President of the International Arthurian Society (2002-5) and remains a member of a number of learned societies.

Reviews In:

A brilliantly synoptic, dispassionate overview of the controversies that have swirled around Darwin’s theory of evolutionary transformation over the past 160 years. The more that science has progressed, argues Neil Thomas, the greater the dissonance between Darwinism’s simplistic mechanism and the inscrutable complexities of life it seeks to explain. Thomas’s open-minded interrogation of the implications for our understanding of ourselves and our world is masterly and persuasive.

-James Le Fanu, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Taking Leave of Darwin bristles with righteous indignation. Retired British humanities professor and lifelong rationalist Neil Thomas believed the confident claims for Darwinism. Now he knows better. Writing in elegant, erudite prose, Thomas excoriates those who have robbed people of their right to grapple with our mysterious universe as best they can. I highly recommend the book.

-Michael J. Behe, Lehigh University Professor of Biological Sciences and author of Darwin’s Black Box

Professor Neil Thomas has written a brief, courageous, spirited, and lucid book. It shows the commendable willingness of a committed agnostic intellectual to change his mind about Darwinism, the great contemporary sacred cow, in the face of the large, accumulating body of new evidence against it and also to avail himself of the insights and arguments of intelligent critics of it since the very beginning and across 160 years-including Sedgwick, Mivart, Butler, A.R. Wallace, Agassiz, Max Muller, Kellogg, Dewar, Jacques Barzun, and Gertrude Himmelfarb. His intelligent, non-specialist survey of the contemporary state of the question is enriched by references to the insights of the distinguished philosopher Thomas Nagel and the MD and award-winning science writer James Le Fanu, and by a quite moving rationalist commitment to “follow the argument where it leads,” however unexpected and uncomfortable this loyalty to logic and truth has made him. He provides a gratifying and illuminating case study in intellectual courage.

-M.D. Aeschliman, Professor Emeritus, Boston University, author of The Restoration of Man: C.S. Lewis and the Continuing Case Against Scientism

 

 

De Fideli.

A Message for Covidian Masktards.

The following is a post from a filtration chemist who knows a thing or two about masks/face coverings, and whether they work in controlling the spread of Covid-19

 

“I was trained as a chemist. A large part of my professional career was working in various parts of the filtration industry. I developed a line of mixed esters of cellulose membrane filters. Millipore type filters, that were used to sterilize flu vaccines for Merck Sharp and Dohme as well as other medical products companies. I developed respiratory protection products for Wilson Safety Products used in the mining industry. I worked for Baxter developing medical / IV filters. I have patents on three IV filters I invented. Baxter sold more than 5 million of one of those every year for most of a decade. I know a little bit about filters. 

Surgical  masks were not designed as filters and were not intended to be used as filters. Surgical masks were designed to be used by surgeons standing face down over an operating table holding a patient with an open wound. The surgeon wearing the mask would be able to talk to others in the room without discharging spittle droplets into the patient’s wound. Spittle droplets are large and can cause infection. 

I witnessed a test of surgical masks. Small plaster particles were generated in a room. They were visible as a white dust in the air. A man was properly fitted with a surgical mask and spent a short time in the room. When he came out the mask was removed. A camera was focused on the man’s face. The entire area that had been covered by the mask was coated by the white dust. The camera showed that his nostrils and his mouth had been penetrated by the white dust. The dust particles were measured and found to be around 40 micrometers in diameter. The particles that penetrated the mask were the same diameter. 

Covid-19 virus molecules are about 0.1 micrometers in diameter. That is 400 times smaller than the plaster particles that penetrated the mask. 

Surgical masks will not prevent the wearer from inhaling or exhaling viruses or bacteria. They provide absolutely no protection for either the wearer or anyone nearby. They create a very dangerous false sense of security for everyone. They also force the wearer to re-breath carbon dioxide which will over time reduce the wearers blood oxygen level. That can become very dangerous especially for older people.

This farce is being promoted by sleazy politicians who believe that if they can convince people that they are protecting them or creating a safe environment for them by pushing this mask farce those people will re-elect them. 

All politicians pushing this dangerous mask farce should be voted out of office as soon as possible.”

Source: https://www.zerohedge.com/political/strangely-unscientific-masking-america#comment_stream

 

Below you have access to 31 scientific studies showing masks do next to nothing;

  1. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.18.21257385v1.full-text
  2. https://swprs.org/face-masks-evidence/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29395560/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32590322/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15340662/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26579222/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31159777/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420971/
  9. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.01.20049528v1
  10. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047217v2
  11. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2006372
  12. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2749214
  13. https://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/8/567
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5779801/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19216002/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4420971/
  17. https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/65/11/1934/4068747
  18. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/bio/23/2/23_61/_pdf/-char/en
  19. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01658736
  20. https://www.journalofhospitalinfection.com/article/0195-6701(91)90148-2/pdf90148-2/pdf)
  21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2493952/pdf/annrcse01509-0009.pdf
  22. https://web.archive.org/web/20200717141836/https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/04/commentary-masks-all-covid-19-not-based-sound-data
  23. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25776/rapid-expert-consultation-on-the-effectiveness-of-fabric-masks-for-the-covid-19-pandemic-april-8-2020
  24. https://www.nap.edu/read/25776/chapter/1#6
  25. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article
  26. https://academic.oup.com/annweh/article/54/7/789/202744
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6599448/
  28. https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M20-1342
  29. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00392-020-01704-y
  30. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/jide/journal-of-infectious-diseases-and-epidemiology-jide-6-130.php?jid=jide
  31. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1130147308702355

 

Feel free to send the list to your elected officials.

 

Don’t be an ignorant, brainwashed Masktard!

Sincerely,

 

Neil English PhD.

 

De Fideli.

Two Compact Reverse-Porro Binoculars Compared.

The Nikon Travelite EX 10 x 25(top) and the Vortex Vanquish 10 x 26 (bottom).

 

A work commenced August 19 2021

Preamble

This is going to be a very short review. In my opinion, the reverse Porro-prism binocular reached its zenith in the body of the wonderful Pentax Papilio II 6.5/8.5 x 21, which offers excellent optics in a very cost-effective package. I was mightily impressed with their excellent sharpness, contrast and edge-to-edge clarity, not to mention their exceptional close focus of just 0.5 metres. The Papilio II should be part of the collection of any keen binocular enthusiast!

So I was expecting these very economically priced instruments – the Vortex Vanquish 10 x 26 and the Nikon Travelite Ex 10 x 25 – to yield some good results when I put them through their paces. Alas, this wasn’t to be, as I shall now explain.

To begin with, I borrowed the Nikon Travelite EX 10 x 25 from an ex-student of mine(and graduate in astrophysics from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland), Joe, I recently hooked up with. The instrument is several years old and was actually owned by his mother. The Vortex Vanquish was bought in by yours truly for a comparative test under bright daylight conditions, and later under the stars. Joe accompanied me with the testing and we quickly came to a consensus. As a control, I brought out my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20, with a similar size exit pupil, as a suitable control, with only the magnifications being different (8x versus 10x).

Ergonomically, we both preferred the Nikon Travelite EX, which had a smoother focuser than the Vortex Vanquish. We also felt that the build quality on the Nikon was a wee bit ahead of the Vortex.The pull-up eyecups were pretty solid and easy to extend on the Nikon but we both felt their counterparts on the Vortex were rather stiff and hard to execute.

Our tests showed that both reverse Porro prism binoculars exhibited quite a bit of tunnel vision. With fields of view of 5.0 and 5.6 degrees for the Nikon and Vortex, respectively, both binoculars felt rather uncomfortable with very narrow feeling fields in comparison to the sumptuous comfort of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20, with its 6.5 degree field. This was despite the adequate eye relief (around 15mm for all instruments) available on all three binoculars. Of the two reverse Porros tested, the Nikon Travelite EX was the superior performer, having significantly better contrast than the Vortex Vanquish and better edge-to-edge sharpness, owing to its smaller field and the utilisation of an aspherical ocular design.

Both instruments showed an annoying reflection off one or more optical surfaces, which reduced contrast, but while the Nikon Travelite Ex was OK, the Vortex Vanquish showed an alarming amount of the same reflection, which was very off putting for both Joe and I. The Leica in comparison was in a completely different league, as one might expect; beautifully sharp and contrast rich, with effectively no internal reflections to be seen. The same was true when we tested for veiling glare by looking up into the canopy of some conifer trees against a bright overcast sky. Both reverse Porros showed very high levels of veiling glare but the Vortex was particularly poor in this regard. In effect, most of the field was almost completely washed out and rendered effectively useless!

Star testing close to local midnight showed the clear superiority of the Nikon Travelite Ex, which served up nice pinpoint stars effectively all the way from edge to edge. The aspherical optics were definitely working here. In comparison, the Vortex was OK in this regard but did show significant distortions at the edge of its larger field.

These results are completely at odds with the review conducted by the gentlemen in the link provided in the preamble above. We would not describe either of these binoculars as providing quality views, at least in the way conveyed by that reviewer. And while both instruments retail for about £100 or so, there are far better options available to the discerning consumer.  For example, the Opticron Aspheric 8 and 10 x 25  provide views that are much more enjoyable than either of these incarnations, and, of course, there is the veritable Papilio II instruments to consider in the same price range, though not quite as pocketable as the former.

Hope you found that informative!

 

Thanks for reading!

Neil.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: PRAKTICA Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED.

Praktica Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED binocular package.

 

Preamble

 

Product: Praktica Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED

Country of Manufacture: China

Filed of View: 136m@1000m(7.8 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 17.2mm

Exit Pupil: 5.25mm

Close Focus: 2.5m(advertised), 2.45m measured.

Coatings: Fully Broadband multicoated, phase corrected and dielectrically coated Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms, water repellent coatings on outer lenses

Chassis: Rubber over Magnesium Alloy

Eyecups: Twist up, 2-step, machined metal with rubberised overcoat, detachable

Dioptre range: +/- 5 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (5 minutes at 1m depth)

ED Glass; Yes

Weight: 698g

Dimensions H/W; 14.5/12.6cm

Warranty: 25 years

Accessories: deluxe zip-closed hard case, logoed padded neck-strap, lens caps, lens cleaning cloth

Retail Price: £217-£290(UK), purchased for £216.60(UK)

Praktica is a company that is no stranger to sports optics or photography. Back in the days I dabbled in landscape photography, I used a few well made yet economically priced Praktica camera lenses. Founded in Dresden in 1887, the company has greatly expanded, where today it commands a decent slice of the photographic market and enjoys a loyal, world wide fan base.

The 8 x 42 format is considered by many binocular enthusiasts to be the ideal configuration for all-round use. Popular with birders, hunters and hikers alike, their decent aperture in a relatively light package can also be quite productive for astronomical pursuits. In addition, their relatively large eye box makes them especially comfortable to use by young and old alike. In this review, I test drove one of the higher-end models from the Praktica line of roof prism binoculars – the Marquis FX 8x 42 ED.

First Impressions: The Praktica Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED binocular was purchased with my own money from Amazon, for a competitive price of £216.60. When the package arrived the next day, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found. The binocular and its accessories were carefully packaged inside an eye-fetching box. The hard carry case storing the binocular is one of the nicest I’ve personally encountered, featuring the Praktica logo which could be zip closed. It even came with a small sachet of silica gel desiccant, something that is not encountered too often with binocular purchases. The instrument was carefully stored inside a plastic bag and once I removed the packaging, I was immediately struck by its attractive appearance and feel in the hand.

The Praktica Marquis FX 8x 42 ED binocular is very stylishly finished with a British racing car green rubber armouring over a Magnesium allow chassis.

The package also contained a nice padded neck strap, lens cleaning cloth, a detachable case strap, as well as rubber eyepiece and objective lens covers. The tethered objective lens covers were particularly noteworthy in that they came with a well designed oval shaped cut-out allowing one to see the red ED labelling on the side of the binocular; a cool touch! The single bridge is quite short which enables one to grip the binocular with one hand. It’s nice and stiff, so once you’ve adjusted it for your preferred IPD, it stays in place; another good touch.

The objective rubber covers have a small oval cut-out to enable the attractive red ED labelling to be seen at the side of the instrument.

The Magnesium alloy chassis is covered with a snazzy looking British racing car green rubber armouring, pebbled textured on the sides of the barrels for extra grip. The under side of the instrument has two small thumb indents which aids in stabilising the binocular in your hands. You can also see that the lugs that attach the neck strap are larger than normal, which I found slightly strange, but had no detrimental effects in field use.

The underside of the binocular showing two prominent thumb indents for better handling.

Ergonomics

The large central focus wheel is easy to grip and very smooth to turn. It’s exceptionally fast though, going from one end of its focus travel to the other in just three quarters of a revolution. Turning it clockwise and anti-clockwise revealed no significant bumps or backlash. This kind of focuser is ideally suited to birding where your target can change its distance greatly in a short time. It does however have a bit of a plasticky feel to it, which is fine by me, as even higher-end binoculars I’ve used have similarly finished coverings.

The eyecups are really well designed. They are made from nicely machined metal and covered in soft rubber. They twist up with two intermediate steps, and very rigidly stay in place. I really liked them! That being said, I was expecting them to be detachable either by unscrewing them or pulling them off, but despite a few minute’s investigation, I wasn’t able to confirm that they detach from the binocular, nor did the instructions leave me any the wiser. Indeed there was no mention of it!

Another nice touch is the very deeply recessed objective lenses – probably the deepest I’ve seen, yet the binocular is not overly long. Indeed, it is significantly shorter than  many other 42mm class binoculars I’ve test driven in the past. They feel very solid in the hand and are very easy to hold steady. The right eye dioptre ring has just the right amount of tension and so won’t easily budge after you’ve adjusted it. Overall, I would rate the ergonomics of the Marquis FX as well above average. Top marks in this department.

Optical Assessment

The Praktica Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED has a lot of nice optical features – at least on paper. Fully multi-coated optics, phase and dielectric coatings on the BAK4 Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms and an ED glass objective element to boot. So I was expecting good results in my flashlight test – carried out by directing an intense beam of light through the binocular and examining the image obtained. As a control, I employed my trusty Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42, which exhibits exceptional control of internal reflections and stray light. How did it fare? Good but not as good as I anticipated. Compared with the Barr & Stroud, I saw a few fairly prominent reflections. Later, when I aimed it at a bright sodium lamp, I saw those same reflections, although there was no evidence of diffused light. Overall, I would rate this result as good but not great.

Next I conducted a series of broad daylight optical tests on the Marquis FX. Examining a flowering bush about 50 yards distant, the field of view is nice and wide( 7.8 degrees). Within the central 40 per cent of the field – the sweet spot – the image was excellent; very sharp, contrasty with vivid colours – but outside this sweet spot the image became progressively more blurred as it reached the field stops. Field curvature and pincushion distortion were quite pronounced off axis – more than I’ve seen on a few other 8 x 42s I’ve tested in the same price class. Close focus was a bit disappointing too. Advertised at 2.5 metres, I measured it at 2.45 metres, so significantly longer than the more common value of about 2 metres in many 8 x 42 models on the market today, and considerably worse than the excellent 1.78m close focus on the Series 5.

The Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 (right) used as a control against the Praktica Marquis FX ED ( left). Note the significantly smaller size of the latter.

Comparing the images of the Marquis FX with those served up by my Barr & Stroud Series 5, I noted that, within its sweet spot of the former, it was ever so slightly sharper and the colours more vivid and contrasted. Yet despite having a larger field of view (8.1 angular degrees), the Barr & Stroud delivered much better off axis performance. It was simply better corrected over a larger field size. What is more, despite having the same eye relief (17.2mm), I encountered a slight tunnel effect with the Marquis FX that I did not encounter with the Series 5.

The Barr & Stroud is an exceptional binocular in other ways too. For example, it displays excellent control of glare – particularly veiling glare – often encountered in the open air with a bright sky above or while looking up at treetops against a bright overcast sky. The Marquis FX handled glare quite well, as evidenced by examining a brightly backlit  scene near a setting Sun but get too near that great ball of incandescent plasma and the annoying reflections were all too easy to see. Veiling glare was OK though – good but certainly not the best I’ve seen and it was not as good as the Barr & Stroud Series 5.

Later I conducted some low light testing after the Sun had set and duskier conditions set in. My eldest son, Oscar, assisted me with this test, again comparing the image brightness of various targets in both the Barr & Stroud and Marquis FX. Now here, I was expecting a significant difference between the two instruments since the Marquis FX had dielectric coatings and ED glass which focuses the light that little bit better, while the Barr & Stroud (so far as I know), does not. Well, try as we could to see a difference, starting at sunset and continuing well into twilight, Oscar and I could not see a significant difference in brightness between the two instruments.  The result was very revealing for me, as I’ve always considered the Barr & Stroud to be a fine instrument and well worth its modest( (£159) price tag.

Ad Astra

Testing binoculars on the stars is very good for seeing off-axis aberrations – how fast they set in when moving away from the centre and to what extent the images deform near the field stops. Yet again, the Marquis FX came up short in comparison to my control binocular. Star images in Cygnus were nice and tight and crisp within the central 40 per cent of the field but as one moved outside that sweet spot, I could easily see the effects of field curvature and astigmatism. And while about 60 per cent of the field gave acceptable results, the remaining 40 per cent showed annoying deformations, especially evident on bright stars like Deneb. And while I could ‘focus out’ some of that distortion(from field curvature), some aberrations – mostly astigmatism – remained. In comparison, the Barr & Stroud Series 5 was far better. This very underestimated binocular produced much more impressive results right up to edge of the field! Indeed, the star images only showed slight bloating at the edge, which I’ve always considered remarkable given how much it set me back!

Conclusions

When I first read the specs for the Praktica Marquis FX 8 x 42 ED, as well as reading the rather glowing report on the fatbirder website linked to in the preamble above, I got mildly excited about the prospect of testing this instrument, but my tests are certainly at odds with hers. Yes, the ergonomics of this binocular are in keeping with that review, but the optics certainly don’t match. It’s a great pity as more attention to the eyepiece design in this binocular might have turned out a great binocular – but it just wasn’t to be. So, I was left a bit underwhelmed by the experience. But on the positive side, my admiration for the no-frills Barr & Stroud Series 5 has only grown as a result. Despite the Marquis FX having slightly better optics on axis, overall, the Series 5 was the superior binocular!

Thanks for reading!

 

Dr. Neil English’s magnum opus – Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy – charts the progress of dozens of astronomers over four centuries of telescopic observing. 

 

Post Scriptum: Although the binocular was advertised as having removable eye cups, I could not, in fact, remove them. I rang Praktica UK to ask for further information. The gentlemen I spoke to didn’t seem to know what I was talking about and I had to direct him to their own website to show them the place where they stated this. Then he hung up.

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Carson VP 10 x 42.

 

The Carson VP 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 12 2021

 

                                                             

Product: Carson VP 10 x 42

Country of Origin: China

Field of View: 110m@1000m(6.3 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 15mm

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Close Focus: 1.92m(measured)

Chassis Material: Rubber over Polycarbonate 

Coatings: Fully Broadband multi-coated, phase correction applied to Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms

Dioptre Range: +/- 5 dioptres in click stops

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes(no depth or time specified)

ED Glass; No

Weight: 692g (measured)

Warranty: Standard No fault 

H/W: 14.6/14.0cm

Accessories: Carry case, padded logoed neck strap, lens cleaning strap, tethered ocular and objective covers, instruction manual.

Retail Price: £121.19

 

A few weeks back, I received a curious email from a UK-based gentleman(who prefers to remain anonymous) who came across my website and my many binocular reviews. He alerted me to a Carson branded binocular, the VP 10 x 42, which was on sale at a very low price on amazon. He informed me that he was very impressed with both the optics and mechanical features of this binocular and wondered if I would test it.

At the price offered, I could hardly refuse. Indeed, it seemed anomalously low priced compared with the other models in the series, as the link above shows. Anyway, I took a punt on the 10 x 42 and ordered it up from amazon. In less than 24 hours, the instrument was delivered by courier and so I began to sort through the package to see what was what.

Ergonomics

Boy was I surprised by what I uncovered! The instrument was double boxed and came well packed inside a soft padded case with all of the usual accessories.  When I removed the binocular from its plastic packaging, I was immediately struck by the simple, elegant design of the instrument. Finished in a matt black housing, the Carson VP had a very nicely finished black rubber armouring.

The Carson VP 10 x 42 has many excellent mechanical features that I have never seen on such a low cost binocular.

As I moved my way around the binocular I came across pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. For one thing, I have a real hang up about eyecups. If they rotate too loosely or slip from their extended positions, it’s enough to break a deal for me. What I discovered were very high quality rubber-over-metal cups that click firmly in place. These were quality eyecups that usually are only offered on models costing at least twice the price of this unit.

Next I examined the dioptre ring located under the right eye cup and here again, I was shocked by what I discovered. This was not your usual rotating dioptre ring. As I began to rotate it, I could hear it click into regularly spaced grooves. And though not lockable, the dioptre remained rigidly in place, so very little chance of it accidently moving out of place. This click stop dioptre is an ingeniously simple engineering solution that has eluded many binocular manufacturers. I was a bit anxious at first that the discrete click stops may not settle in a position that suited my right eye but those fears were quickly put to bed as I made the fine adjustment by observing a target in the distance.

The ingeniously designed click stop dioptre setting located under the right ocular.

The focus wheel also impressed me. It’s covered in a textured rubber and moves very smoothly in either direction, taking about one and half revolutions to go from one extreme of its travel to the other. I would describe it as on the slow side, so better suited to hunters than birders.

The interior looked immaculately clean and dust free. The objective lenses have very nice anti-reflection coatings and are deeply recessed to minimise interference from dust, rain and peripheral stray light.

The Carson VP 10 x 42 has nice antireflection coatings applied to the deeply recessed objectives.

The instrument feels very solid in the hand and is not overly heavy; I measured its weight to be just under 700g(692g actually) making it one of the lighter weight models with this specification. The single hinge design proved to be reassuringly rigid, holding its position well even when taken out of its case several times. It can also be tripod mounted by unscrewing the VP logoed stalk at the end of the bridge. Some folk claim that having a metal chassis is superior to a polycarbonate substrate but I still have no evidence to substantiate that claim either way. A well looked after polycarbonate chassis will last just as long as any metal alloy in my opinion.

The ocular end of the VP 10 x 42 showing some details on the focus wheel.

All in all, I was literally amazed at the solid build quality of the instrument but then again, I remembered that in this price range, something usually gives. So how would the optics fare? To my continued astonishment, the binocular delivered the readies and more!

Optical Assessment

As usual, I began with my flashlight test. Simply put, I direct a very bright beam of white light through the binocular from across a room and examine the image visually. The test showed a few minor internal reflections and no diffraction spikes, but it did show up evidence of some diffused light probably indicative of one or more lesser quality components used in the fabrication of the instrument. I got the same result when I turned the binocular on a bright sodium lamp at night: very little internal reflections, no diffraction spikes but some evidence of an ‘aura’ of scattered light round about the lamp. Certainly not the best I’ve seen but not too shabby nonetheless.

Daylight tests really surprised me. The 15mm eye relief is tight but it has the effect of immersing you in the image more than with instruments possessing longer eye relief. What I saw was a bright, sharp image with excellent contrast. Colour rendition was accurate and natural to the eye. There is some veiling glare when pointed at a strongly backlit target but I had seen this kind of performance on binoculars costing up to £300 or more. Depth of focus was also very good, especially when you factor in the 10x magnification. As I’ve reported many times before, ED glass has very little impact on low power binoculars, despite what manufacturers claim or the shills who help sell them. Indeed, as I have communicated in other blogs, some of the best optics I have ever garnered came from binoculars using tried and trusted crown & flint glass, and this Carson VP 10 x 42 was showing that in spades. When examining high contrast objects, chromatic aberration was not seen in the centre of the image but did show some off axis; all normal behaviour even in instruments costing many times more.

Most of the generous 6.3 degree field was sharp with a little peripheral softness. And just as I’ve reported on many other binocular reviews using Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms, distortion is more noticeable vertically than longitudinally. Close focus on this binocular greatly surprised me; I measured it at just 1.92 metres; an excellent result for a binocular of this specification and therefore eminently useable for watching insects  and flowers etc up close.

All things considered, and acknowledging that I’ve no dog in this race as I consider carrying a binocular of this size for hours on end to being akin to wearing a big brick round my neck all day,  I’m confident that the optical quality of this Carson VP 10 x 42 unit is going to be very similar to a Diamondback HD, Nikon Monarch 5 or Viking Kestrel ED 10 x 42, all of which cost about twice as much as the Carson. I would encourage those interested in acquiring a good 10 x 42 roof prism binocular to consider the Carson initially, as it may save you a lot of money in the long run. Amazon has a good 30-day returns policy, so if you’re not fully satisfied by its low price, you can always get a full refund and move on!

Can’t say better than that can I?

 

Ad Astra

Great for low resolution, white light solar work, or casual deep sky observing.

The 10 x 42 is an excellent format for pursuing many astronomical projects. Let’s start with our nearest and dearest star, the Sun. By attaching homemade white light solar filters to the front objectives, the 10 x 42 makes a neat way to monitor the Sun for sunspots. In my own experiences 8x doesn’t quite cut it but 10x does…..just! The Carson delivers an extremely crisp and sharp image of the solar photosphere allowing one to clearly see larger sunspots. For example, on the afternoon of July 14 2021, I was able to detect a single, small spot on the eastern hemisphere of the Sun, which I was able to confirm with my regular solar instrument, the Pentax PCF 20 x 60. That said, you’ll have to tripod mount it to get a good, steady view!

Further afield, on a number of twilit July nights, I enjoyed taking the Carson 10 x 42 for a spin under the stars, mounted on a monopod. Centring bright stars like Vega, Deneb and Altair, I was able to show that this binocular produces crisp, sharp and colour-accurate renditions of these luminaries which compromise the Summer Triangle in the Northern hemisphere. Furthermore, the distortion at the edge of the field was minimal when I moved those stars to a location near the field stop. 10x was also enough to see Albireo as duplicitous with a steady hand and I also enjoyed the lovely colour contrast binocular double O1 & 2 Cygni  for a few brief minutes. This will make a cracking instrument for studying the dark skies of Autumn and Winter.

Overall Conclusions

No doubt you’ll be familiar with the saying, “a fool and his money are soon parted.”  That expression came swimming into my mind many times as I put this amazing binocular through its paces in daylight and night-time tests. When I see instruments of the same specification retailing for a few grand, I have to admit to rolling my eyes and wondering why some suckers spend so much cash on one instrument, especially when you have instruments like this wonderful Carson available. The mechanical and optical quality of the Carson VP 10 x 42 will astonish you if you’re willing to keep an open mind.

And I’ll publicly eat my sock if you’re not impressed!

Anything I didn’t like about this package? Well yes, the case. It’s too small, especially when you try to seal it with the padded neck strap attached to the binocular. And the strap itself was too long but is easily remedied by cutting off a bit. Very minor negatives I’d say!

Verdict: Amazing bang for buck! Get one while stocks last!

Ps. The author would like to extend his heartfelt thanks to the gentleman who tipped him off about this binocular! You’ve restored his faith in humanity lol!!

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, with several hundred published articles and seven books under his belt, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

Post Scriptum:

The Carson VP 10 x 42 enjoying a day at the seaside.

August 8 2021

I brought the Carson VP 10 x 42 with me on a trip to coastal south Wales for a spot of stargazing and sporadic daytime viewing. I even brought it along to the beach on the penultimate day of our vacation, where it served up excellent views in the warm and bright sunshine. I enjoyed a few consecutive nights of crystal clear summer skies with no Moon, during which time I had the pleasure of using this very well made binocular. I got an early-in-season sighting of the Alpha Perseii Association and the the Double Cluster low in the north, and made my way along the rich summer Milky Way. Cygnus was outstanding; myriad stars resolved and many more that were not, the latter appearing like spilled milk against an ink black sky. I enjoyed sumptuous views of the Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula, M13 nearly at the zenith in Hercules and M31 in Andromeda. But the real thrill for me was the view of the fine globular cluster M22, as well as the Lagoon Nebula M8 in northern Sagittarius, which were much better positioned here than at home in central Scotland, owing to their greater altitude and my having better access to the southern horizon.. The colours of bright stars were faithfully reproduced by the 10 x 42 – steely blue-white Vega, lovely orange Arcturus and even a glimpse of yellow Capella becoming more prominent low in the north after midnight. The gorgeous colour contrast double, Albireo was breathtakingly beautiful, as was the easy binocular double O^1 Cygni. The light weight of the Carson proved to be a real pleasure. Its low mass made it easy to hand-hold for extended periods of time, which was a blessing, as I did not bring along a monopod or tripod for this trip. The fine optics and ergonomics of the Carson VP 10 x 42 has made an impression on me and it will therefore remain in my stable as an excellent astronomy binocular.

August 16 2021

I came across another likely clone of the Carson VP 10 x 42 binocular. Check out the Meade Rainforest Pro 10 x 42: same optical specs, same build and same retail price, so likely originating from the same source prior to re-branding;

Meade rainforest Pro 10 x 42.

De Fideli.

Book Review: Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries that Bring the Bible to Life.

 

Chock full of archaeological facts that uphold the Biblical narrative.

Title: Unearthing the Bible: 101 Archaeological Discoveries that Bring the Bible to Life

Author: Titus Kennedy Ph D.

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7915-3

Number of Pages: 254

Price: £13.99(UK) Paperback

 

 

In this review blog, I’ll be exploring a sample of the huge body of archaeological evidence that affirms the historicity of the Biblical narrative, brought to us by the American field archaeologist, Dr Titus Kennedy.

 

Tune in soon for the full review………………………………..

 

 

De Fideli.

 

Product Review: SvBony SV202 8 x 32 ED Binocular.

The Svbony 8 x 32 ED binocular.

A Work Commenced July 20 2021

 

 

Product: SvBony SV202 8 x 32 ED

Place of Manufacture: Hong Kong

Field of View: 136m@1000m (7.87 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 15.6mm

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.98m measured.

Chassis Material: Rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, dielectric coated Bak-4 prisms, phase correction coating.

Dioptre Range: +/- 3 Dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

ED Glass: Yes

Weight: 510g(measured)

Warranty: 1 year International Manufacturer Warranty

H/W:14.8/12.3cm

Accessories: Soft padded carry bag, padded neck strap, lens cleaning cloth, rubber ocular and objective lens covers (tethered), multi-language user manual

Retail Price: £99.99(Amazon UK)

 

Make no mistake about it; we live in a golden age for buying binoculars. Never before has the consumer had so much choice available, thanks to incredible advances in optical technology which has given many other individuals access to very decent optics for a small financial outlay. In recent years, new coating technologies have greatly increased light transmission and image sharpness, to such an extent that even the budget models now available can and do outperform premium models offered only a few decades ago. In addition, the incorporation of extra low dispersion(ED) glass is now common even in inexpensive models, which, if executed properly, promises to cut chromatic aberration and increase image contrast still more.

As I’ve commented elsewhere, the 8 x 32 format is the new 8 x 42, as evidenced by the offering of the former by both mass market and premium binocular manufacturers alike. This is in no doubt attributed to their lower mass, improved ergonomics and very efficient light transmission, as well as their perfect suitability during bright daylight but also well into low light situations encountered at the earlier stages of dusk and dawn.  Apart from the use of premium pocket glasses – my personal favourite format – the 8 x 32 format has always interested me, owing to its compactness and smaller exit pupil (4mm), which uses the best part of your eye to analyse the binocular image.

While many entry-level ED models are priced in the £250 to £300 range, I became very intrigued by a less well known manufacturer, SvBony, a Hong Kong-based optics firm that has recently marketed a compact and mid-size model – an 8 x 32 and 10 x 42 –  chock full of advanced features. But what really piqued my interest was that Amazon UK were offering the 8 x 32 ED model for just £99.99, inclusive of delivery! As you can see from the specifications above, the SvBony 8 x 32 ED has a number of advanced optical features that I simply wouldn’t expect in a model at this price point, but having another binocular available – the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32(retail price £146 UK) – that also possesses many of the same features – I was able to conduct an in-depth study of how the SvBony ED binocular compared with it.

Ergonomics Comparison

The SvBony 8 x 32 ED(right) and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32(left).

No doubt you’ve heard that possessing a magnesium alloy frame is a feature only common to upper-tier binocular models, I would like to take this opportunity to put this urban myth to bed, once and for all. Since both the SvBony and the Celestron Trailseeker models feature a magnesium body in this low price category, having this design feature is no longer the preserve of the best models but is now commonly available even in much more economically priced products.

The Celestron Trailseeker has a large plastic focuser that becomes very hard to move in Winter owing to the solidification of the grease used in its gearing. But in warm weather, it becomes much easier to turn. In contrast, the lower priced SvBony 8 x 32 ED has a much higher quality metal focus wheel, which is much smoother and easier to turn. Taking just one and a half revolutions to go from one extreme of its focus travel to the other, I would describe it as slow to progressive in speed, so not especially suited to either birding or hunting – more of a general purpose instrument than anything else.

Turning now to the dioptre ring located under the right ocular in both models, the SvBony’s metal dioptre ring is better designed than the plastic one found on the Trailseeker. Looking at a close up of the SvBony dioptre, you can see that the markings are easier to make out, helping the user achieve his or her optimum position better. And just like the Trailseeker, the SvBony dioptre ring is stiff and thus will not get nudged out of position so easily during field use.

The lower-priced SvBony model has a higher quality dioptre ring compared with the Celestron Trailseeker.

Looking next at the quality of the eyecups, I was delighted to see that the SvBony had good, high qualit,y rubber-over-metal twist up cups, pretty much identical in quality to those found on the more expensive Trailseeker. What is more, they stay rigidly locked in place when fully extended. Yet again, that the SvBony possessed such high quality eye cups was a pleasant surprise to me, as I was not expecting anything as good as that on a compact binocular costing less than £100.

The matt black armouring on the Svbony is a little bit more grippy than the Trailseeker and the ribbing at the side of the former reminds me very much of the armouring found on the Zeiss Terra ED models I’ve sampled.

The ribbed side armouring on the SvBony 8 x 32 ED is very reminiscent of that found on Terra ED models.

The objectives on both the SvBony and the Trailseeker are equally well recessed to protect the glass from dust, rain and peripheral light. The anti-reflective coatings look to be completely different though, with the Trailseeker having a standard greenish reflection in bright daylight, as opposed to the more subdued purple hues seen on the SvBony.

The objective lenses on both models are nicely recessed but appear to have entirely different anti-reflection coatings applied. The SvBony model is at the top.

Overall, the SvBony 8 x 32 ED feels slightly lighter and more comfortable to use than the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32, which is a bit more ‘clunky’ in comparison, at least in my medium sized hands. That, together with the noticeably better focus wheel and dioptre ring on the former means that, from a purely ergonomic perspective, the lower-priced SvBony is the clear winner.

Optical Comparisons

Good ergonomics, of course, count for nothing if the optics are not up to scratch, so how well would the £99.99 SvBony 8 x 32 ED fare in comparison to the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32? Having reviewed the Trailseeker some time ago, I was quite impressed with how well it handled a beam of intense white light directed into it from my iphone. That’s because the same model is fully broadband multi-coated and has super-high reflectivity dielectric coatings applied to its Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms. I’ve seen similar results on dozens of high quality binoculars and so I expected the SvBony to yield good results too, if indeed it has those same coatings.

My efforts confirmed that the SvBony also passes this test with flying colours! Specifically, the image was devoid of any significant internal reflections and with no diffused light around the beam, which often betrays the use of lower quality optical components introduced into the optical train. What is more, while the Trailseeker did show a weak diffraction spike, the SvBony had none. Indeed, I would place the SvBony slightly ahead of the Trailseeker, based solely on the flashlight test. So far so very good!

But the good news only continued when I performed a daylight comparison test of both the SvBony ED 8 x 32 and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32 . While both models have effectively the same field of view(7.87 degrees), I felt that the SvBony provided a slightly sharper image than the Celestron, with better contrast and improved control over veiling glare. Both instruments have a large sweet spot but edge of field performance was a little soft in both models, as was the degree of field curvature seen. Chromatic aberration, although quite low in the Trailseeker, was better handled in the SvBony under the same conditions. Whatever ED glass elements are present in the SvBony, it seemed to be doing its job well. Depth of focus in the SvBony 8 x 32ED  is also good; a real plus if you’re a prospective birder. Close focus is just under two metres(1.98m measured).

Another way to ascertain whether similar coating technologies were applied to both the SvBony and the Celestron Trailseeker, is to perform a low light test by comparing the brightness of the image in both instruments at dusk. On paper, I expected both to behave rather similarly, and that is exactly the result I achieved. Both 32mm models produced a more or less equally bright image, with perhaps the nod going to the SvBony! As I have shown in many other comparisons, the ED element may have conferred a slight advantage to the SvBony in these challenging conditions but as expected, it was marginal if anything.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Note Added in Proof: If you go back and listen to the optics trade review of the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 linked to above, the presenter informs us that GPO did not use ED glass in their largest 56mm models, citing their reasons in relation to the lack of chromatic aberration seen in low light environments. If ED glass really had a significant low light advantage, don’t you think they’d mention it or go ahead and use it? And why do so many binocular reviewers(in published magazines too) I have come across still perpetuate this myth?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Examining the 4mm diameter exit pupils on the SvBony showed nice, round pupils with no signs of truncation. There was also a nice periphery of blackness immediately around both pupils,  which contributes to the high contrast images I detected during my daylight tests.

Exit pupil of the left barrel of the SvBony 8 x 32 ED.

And the right eye.

Concluding Comments

The SvBony 8 x 32 ED  was a very eye-opening and pleasant experience. In terms of both optical and mechanical properties, it proved superior to the Celestron Trailseeker. Indeed, I would put the SvBony more on par with the new Celestron Trailseeker ED, though I’ve not actually tested this model. The very few realistic reviews I’ve seen of the SvBony  8 x 32 ED claim that it performs like models double or triple the price; a sentiment that I wholeheartedly agree with.  And at a retail price of less than £100, there is very little in this binocular that I can find fault with.

 

Very highly recommended!

 

Neil English is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy and likes seeking out bargains in both the telescope and binocular market. 

Post Scriptum: I performed a measurement of the field size of the SvBony 8 x 32 ED just after local midnight, July 22. Turning to the Plough (Big Dipper) asterism high in the northwest, I was just unable to fit Phecda and Merak into the field of view of the binocular. These are separated by 754′ or 7.9 angular degrees, so I’m confident that the stated field size(7.87o) for this binocular is fairly accurate. 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25.

 

The Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25 package.

A Work Commenced July 8 2021

 

 

Product: Zeiss Terra ED 10 x 25 (TL Edition)

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 97m@1000m/ 5.4 angular degrees

Eye relief: 16mm

Close focus: 1.9m

Exit Pupil: 2.5mm

Chassis material: fibre glass reinforced polyamide

Coatings: Zeiss T*, lotutec, hydrophobic coatings on outer lenses

Dioptre range: +/- 3 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes to 1m( unspecified time)

ED Glass: Yes (Schott ED)

Weight: 310g

Dimensions: H/W 11.1 x 11.5 cm

Warranty: 2 years

Retail Price: £300 UK

Supplied with: soft storage pouch, carrying strap, lens cleaning cloth, multiple language instruction sheet

 

In a previous review blog, I bought in and tested a Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 25 pocket glass. There I reported its excellent performance and very good value for money given its Japanese optics and congratulated the company for bringing to market such a wonderful product that would would allow many ordinary people on a strict budget to sample real optical quality. But it was also a time of transition, as all of the other Terra models had shifted production to China and some controversy arose as to where the more recent Terra pocket models were being manufactured, and some folk began to chime in stating that their Terra pocket glasses were now being made in China.

In this communication, I wish to discuss a brand new Terra pocket glass with a 10 x 25 specification, clearly marked as made in China on the box and on the underside of the chassis. The ‘ED’ in the name is replaced by ‘TL’ which I am led to believe is short for ‘Travel.’ That said, the ED specification was clearly stated on the outside of the box. I’ve already covered much of the background to this product in the 8 x 25 review. Here I wish to give the reader my opinions on its optical performance and whether or not I think it is worth the fairly substantial price tag.

First Impressions

As you can see from the picture above, the newly presented Terra ED 10 x 25 is not the same as what I received with the 8 x 25 model. The box is a lot smaller and of much lower quality than the lovely, large hardboard box I received in the Japanese made 8 x 25 model. Also missing was the arresting alpine vista on the inside of the presentation box. All in all, it was poorly fabricated in comparison. Gone too was the good quality hard clamshell case with magnetic locking latch. Instead, I received a flimsy soft pouch which offers no protection of the binocular apart from keeping some dust out. Ho hum. The carry strap and lens cleaning cloth were the same however, which is something.

The design of the chassis looks identical to the 8 x 25 and feels good in the hand, but I was surprised to see quite a bit of dust on the objective lenses, not like the immaculate presentation of the 8 x 25. That was quite surprising, as I had come to expect better from Zeiss. But what shocked me most was the optics.

Optical Assessment

I began with my usual iphone torch test, a simple but very discriminating exercise that reveals internal reflections, diffraction spikes and diffused areas indicative of how homogeneous the optical glass was. It involves directing a very bright beam of light into the binocular and studying the resulting image visually. I’m relieved to say that it did pass this test with flying colours. Consulting my old notes I made on the 8 x 25, the 10 x 25 offered up pretty much the same high quality results, namely, a clean image with a couple of very subdued internal reflections, no areas of diffused light and a weak diffraction spike. So far so good.

After adjusting the dioptre setting for my eyesight, which is accessed at the end of the bridge, I took it outside in bright daylight to gain a first impression of its optical performance. Like the 8 x 25, the 10x model offered up a bright image(it has an advertised light transmission of 88 per cent)  but it was a lot more difficult to focus well  owing to a very stiff central focus wheel. Maybe I had been spoiled by the buttery smooth focuser on my beloved Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. Whatever it was, I was not impressed by its resistance to turning.  I do not recall having an issue like this with the 8 x 25, as my notes reminded me.

The Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25(left) in comparison to the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR( right).

The image itself was good but not great. Much of the quality of the 8 x 25 was there, bright and quite sharp across much of the 5.4 degree field. Contrast was very good and it was quite resistant to glare when I pointed it near a brightly backlit tree. But I was shocked to see that the image had a lot of chromatic aberration, both in the centre and especially off axis. Indeed, it had more chromatic aberration than I had ever encountered in a binocular of this specification – and I’ve tested quite a few models in this regard. My target was a Conker tree in full Summer foliage backlit by a uniformly bright overcast sky and my eyes were drawn to the blue fringing of the leaves which was very strong off axis but also present more weakly at the centre of the image.

In comparison, the little Leica 8x 20 Ultravid showed none, or rather the merest trace at the extreme edges of the field, and only if I deliberately looked hard for it. Truth be told, I was left totally underwhelmed as I had expected much more from the Schott ED element at the heart of this £300 Zeiss designed binocular. What is especially ironic is that the Leica Ultravid 8x 20 doesn’t have an ED element yet delivered a much higher quality image in this regard. I don’t think it was an optical flaw as the image was otherwise quite sharp to the eye. In a previous correspondence, I noted that the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32, which also has an ED objective element, also showed some chromatic aberration in similar tests but nowhere near as much as this 10 x 25 Terra pocket.

In another test on a telephone pole located some 30 yards away and also backlit by a bright overcast sky, I compared and contrasted the images of the 10 x 25 Terra with my Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42. Again the result was the same. The non ED 8 x 42 showed far less chromatic aberration at the edges of the pole compared with the 10 x 25 Terra, and while lateral colour increased as I moved the pole to the edge of the field in both binoculars, it was far more pronounced in the smaller 10 x 25 Zeiss glass.

The Barr & Stroud 8 x 42 non ED( left) and the Zeiss Terra 10 x 25 ED (right).

These tests showed me that having an ED glass element is no guarantee of better colour correction, as both my 8 x 42 and 8 x 20 clearly showed.

I also bought in the 10 x 25 Zeiss to test image stability compared with my 8 x 20 Leica Ultravid. Again, I got on far better with the latter glass. The 10x magnification in a small frame made getting a steady image very challenging in comparison to the much more stable image of the little Leica glass.  That test convinced me that I will be sticking with 8 x 20 format for the foreseeable future.

Conclusions

The experience with the Chinese made Zeiss Terra ED 10 x 25 was not at all what I expected. It was much inferior to the views of my original Japanese made  8 x 25. The focus wheel was far too stiff and the colour correction was just not acceptable. I returned the instrument to the seller and received a full refund in return. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Not recommended for its considerable retail price!

 

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli

Product Review: Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP.

The Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP package.

A Work Commenced July 7 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Ricoh-Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP 

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 87m@1000m( 5 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 20mm

Close Focus: 5.5m

Exit Pupil: 5mm

Focuser: Central, lockable

Chassis Material: Aluminium with rubberised overcoat

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated throughout

Dioptre Range: +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (JIS Class 6)

ED Glass: No

Weight: 1060g

Dimensions: 18 x 18 cm

Retail Price: £170UK

Supplied with: Soft carry case, logoed carry strap, plastic objective and ocular covers, multi-language instruction sheet.

 

Pentax is a company long synonymous with good optical quality. Over the last few years, I’ve reviewed a few models manufactured by this company, ranging from the very small(6.5x 21) to the very large(20x 60). In particular, I’ve included an earlier incarnation of the  20 x 60 SP model in my own personal arsenal of binoculars, where it’s employed in deep sky observation and regular white light solar observing. So, I was excited to see how its smaller sibling, the 10x 50 SP WP, would shape up in field tests.

First Impressions

I purchased the binocular with my own money and it set me back £170, inclusive of delivery charges. The binocular arrived double boxed, including the instrument itself, packed inside its soft case, together with plastic end caps for both the ocular and objective lenses, a logoed padded next strap and instruction sheet containing information concerning the warranty. The plastic caps that protect the optics of the 10 x 50 SP looked identical to those that accompanied my 20 x 60, and together with the woefully inadequate soft case, represent the weakest links in the entire package. The caps are loosely fitting and invariably fall off  when the binocular is picked up. As for the case, it does very little to protect the binocular from serious knocks so should really be upgraded to either a padded soft case or better still, an aluminium hard case to protect your investment.

The Pentax 10x 50 SP WP is an extremely rugged and well made binocular, built for the great outdoors.

Ergonomics

Thankfully, my initial impressions of the binocular itself were far more favourable. When I unpacked it, I was immediately struck by its rugged build quality. The binocular weighs in at a hefty 1kg and is covered with a thick layer of synthetic rubber identical to that found on my 20 x 60 . Like its bigger brother, it has a lockable focuser; simply push the wheel forward and it disengages with the internal gearing, preventing the wheel from being moved. Although not an essential feature by any means, I can see where it would come in useful if one observes targets at a fixed distance from the user or when observing the night sky, where all the subjects are located more or less at infinity.

The central focus wheel is very easy to grip and is lockable simply by pushing it forward.

The twist up eyecups are very well made and very comfortable to use. There are three positions; fully down, intermediate and fully extended. Eye relief is a very generous 20mm. Usually, I observe with the eye cups fully extended but I actually found the view to be most comfortable and immersive at the intermediate position without wearing eye glasses.

The very solid twist up eye cups are comfortable to use and have three positions. Eye relief is generous allowing those who wear glasses to fully engage with the entire field.

The ‘WP’ part of its name, I assume, refers to ‘Water Proof,’ with a specified JIS class 6 rating. The instrument is purged with dry nitrogen gas to prevent internal fogging and is O-ring sealed. The dioptre ring is located under the right ocular lens and is negotiated by moving an easy to access lever which can be adjusted clockwise or anti-clockwise. It is reasonably stiff to the touch so should hold its position well. The underside of the 10x 50 SP WP has two large thumb indents for easier hand holding. I found that my thumbs naturally rested in them while holding the binocular up to my eyes.

The focus wheel is very stiff; a strict no-no for birding or any activity that requires rapid focus changes. But for stargazing or for stationary targets located in the distance, it works just fine.

You’ll find two large thumb rests on the underbelly of the binocular for more secure gripping.

Optics

The proof of the pudding, of course, lies in the eating, and this is where this well-made classic Porro prism binocular really shines. The SP series underwent an upgrade from the first generation models, with better multi-layer anti-reflection coatings being applied throughout the optical train. Allbinos tested this model out and measured a light transmission value of about 85%, which is very good indeed considering the modest price tag on this binocular, as well as the fact that some of the world’s best Porro prism binos achieve about 95% or so.

Not for the Birds

Inspecting the innards of the instrument in broad daylight showed it to be clean and dust free. Setting up my iphone torch to its highest setting in my back garden at dusk and placing it a comfortable distance away revealed a few minor internal reflections and no diffraction spikes or diffused areas; another good result indicating that all was well with the instrument in keeping bright light sources under control. Placing the beam just outside the field of view showed very little ghosting so this will be a good binocular to observe bright objects in the night sky such as the full Moon and stars located near it. It will also garner excellent views of cityscapes at night. Close focus was measured to be about 5.3 metres – a little better than advertised but nothing to write home about. The coatings on the ocular and objective lenses seem to be very evenly applied. In addition, the objective lenses are very deeply recessed which helps protect the optics from the vagaries of the British climate and also cuts down on stray light.

Very evenly applied multi-layer anti-reflection coatings applied to the objectives help transmit a decent amount of light through the optical train.

In broad daylight, the view through the Pentax 10x 50 SP WP is very impressive, with great contrast, good colour rendition and good control of glare. Depth of focus is not bad either. Colour correction is excellent, even off axis, where one can detect a small amount of lateral colour. Field curvature is very gentle but does show a fairly minimal amount of pincushion distortion near the field stops. Even though the field of view is fairly narrow at 5 angular degrees, it didn’t feel overly restrictive to my eyes. At 1kg weight and delivering a 10x optical boost, these are not binoculars that one could handhold for long but it’s certainly possible to scan the landscape and night sky for a few minutes before some fatigue sets in. These are however, perfect for use on a lightweight monopod or tripod for ultra stable viewing.

Further testing at dusk showed excellent control of internal reflections and clean, crisp images garnered from a bright sodium street lamp. Placing the lamp just outside the field of view showed up no significant off-axis flares. Placing the binocular on a light weight monopod and turning them on the night sky also served up excellent results. Centring the bright Summer luminary, Vega, in the binocular field and focusing in showed a pinpoint sharp image with no secondary spectrum and with no diffraction spikes. Better still, moving the star to the edge of the field induced only a little distortion and some lateral colour(purple fringing), indicating that the aspherical optical element built into the eyepieces of the Pentax SP binocular were doing their jobs well. And while the skies were far too bright to provide a more in-depth study, with strong Summer twilight upon us here in central Scotland,  I compared and contrasted the view through the Pentax 10 x 50 and my trusty Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 mounted on a second monopod. Turning my attention to the well placed Coathanger asterism in Vulpecula revealed a cleanly resolved view in both instruments, but with fainter stars showing up better in the Pentax, albeit in a smaller true field.

Conclusions & Recommendations

In recent years, thanks to great advances in technology, there has been a steady movement within the amateur community towards roof prism designs over older, Porro prism binoculars. But after spending a few weeks testing out this affordable model from Pentax, I was genuinely surprised and delighted by its optical performance. Indeed, you’d have to fork much more money for a roof prism binocular with the same specifications as this Pentax to get the same optical quality. The only real advantage of the roof prism incarnations at 10 x 50 are their lower mass(but not by much) and slightly smaller frames. Having sampled a few inexpensive and mid-priced 10 x 50 roof prism binoculars in the past, I can say hand on heart, that they did not deliver the light transmission values anywhere near those attained by this classic, affordable 10 x 50. Indeed, I would strongly recommend readers to look more closely at tried and trusted Porro prism designs in aperture classes of 50mm or above over the roof prism varieties, especially now that they come with full waterproofing.

Qui bono?

Amateur astronomers looking for quality deep sky views on dark, clear nights, and casual daytime viewers with permanently set-up tripods or monopods surveying targets set in the distance. Remember that five degrees is still plenty good enough for the vast majority of deep sky observing! These would work very well in holiday cottages set by a lake or overlooking a picturesque valley floor. And although they can be handheld for short excursions, they do benefit greatly from mounting.

Very highly recommended!

 

 

 

Dr Neil English has over 40 years experience studying the night sky with all sorts of telescopes, but in the last few years has devoted himself to seeking out bargains for savvy binocular enthusiasts. His highly lauded 650+ page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, summarises four centuries of telescopic observing, from Thomas Harriot to Patrick Moore.

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42.

 

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 1 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 

Country of Manufacture: Myanmar

Field of View: 114m@1000m(6.5 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 19mm

IPD Range: 58-74mm

Close Focus: 1.45m

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Chassis Material: Pebbled rubberised Armor over Magnesium Alloy

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated, silvered, phase corrected Schmidt-Pechan 

Dioptre Range: Lockable +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purging: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

ED Glass: Yes(Hoya)

Weight: 770g

Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Retail Price: £280(UK), $300(US)

Supplied Accessories: padded neckstrap, zip-closed padded case, lens cleaning cloth, tethered rubber eyepiece and objective caps, warranty card, instruction manual.

 

 

Vanguard is an international optics company founded in 1986 with over 1,000 employees worldwide. As well as binoculars and telescopes, they have also marketed high quality accessories for the sports optics industry. With a manufacturing and design headquarters in Myanmar, they offer an extensive range of binoculars from entry-level to upper mid-priced models. In this review, I’ll be discussing my experiences with an Endeavour ED II 10 x 42 binocular. This is a second generation ED binocular, bridging their simpler ED and more sophisticated ED IV models. Vanguard state that the ED glass elements used in their objectives are sourced from Hoya(Japan), but are assembled entirely in Myanmar, before being distributed to stores across the world.

I purchased the binocular with my own funds for £280 delivered to my door. The instrument arrived double boxed and came in a very attractive white storage box containing the binocular, a very nicely designed zipped closed logoed carry case, a padded neck strap, rubber ocular and objective lens covers, which can be tethered to the binocular, a lens cleaning cloth and an instruction sheet in many languages.

Ergonomics

The Vanguard ED II 10 x 42 is an impressive looking instrument, sporting a high quality Magnesium alloy open hinge design, with a black pebbled rubber overcoat that has a texture more akin to bonded leather than the usual rubber-looking substrate offerings on most other models I’ve sampled. Weighing it at 770g, it is quite hefty as 10 x 42 binoculars go, but still nowhere near the 850g weight of some of ultra premium models now on the market.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 is a solidly made instrument with an eye catching colour scheme.

The instrument feels very solid and secure in the hand. On its underside, two thumb indents suggest a place for you to properly hand old and balance the binocular. The instrument states “made in Myanmar” and has a serial number to help identify the batch and date of production.

The underside of the binocular has well positioned thumb rests. Note its country of origin and serial number.

The objective lenses have immaculately applied anti-reflection coatings and are very deeply recessed to cut down on stray light, dust and rain.

The fully multi-coated objectives are very deeply recessed.

The binocular has a number of notable features compared with many mid-priced instruments that I have tested in the past. For one thing, the right eye dioptre is lockable. You simply push the ring up, rotate it to your desired position and then push it down to lock. It works quite well but I did notice a bit of play in it. The ring itself wobbles when a bit of force is applied and to be honest, I would have been perfectly happy with a regular non-lockable dioptre ring if it offers a bit more rigidity.. The ED IV models from Vanguard offer a better solution in this regard.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10x 42 has a lockable dioptre ring located under the right ocular. Push it up, rotate the ring to your desired position and then lock it in place by pushing it back down.

The central focus wheel is covered in a highly texturised rubber for excellent grip. Rotation is exceptionally smooth, taking just over one revolution of the wheel to go from one extreme of focus to the other. It is also remarkably fast, taking just three quarters of a revolution to sharply focus on the vast majority of objects. This makes it especially useful for birding, where rapid focus changes can be important, but I found it to be, well, a little too fast. You can easily overshoot the focus wheel if you’re not used to it, so this could be a bit off-putting for some users.  Personally, I would have been happier with a slightly slower focus but having said that, it’s all about getting used to the binocular; so, in and of itself, a super-fast focuser is certainly not a deal breaker.

The metal over rubber eyecups twist up and have two intermediate positions. Once fully extended, they hold their positions very securely.

The twist-up eye cups are metal-over-rubber and have two intermediate positions. Fully extended, they hold their positions very well indeed. The generous eye relief of 19mm makes it very comfortable to use with glasses(tested by yours truly), where the entire field can be reliably imaged. Another nice touch about these eye cups is that they can be unscrewed when they wear down or break. Vanguard will be happy to send you replacement cups should you run into a spot of difficulty. The binocular can also be mounted to a tripod or monopod for ultra stable viewing. Simply unscrew the V-logoed screw on the front of the bridge and you’re in business.

Optical Evaluation

Conducting the flashlight test on the Vanguard showed a good clean image; internal reflections were very minimal with no discernible diffused light indicative of good, homogeneous glass through the optical train. It did show a rather prominent diffraction spike though that was also observed at night when I turned the instrument on a bright sodium street light.

Conducting further daylight tests revealed a very sharp image with lots of contrast and excellent control of glare. Indeed, the Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 showed better control of veiling glare than my Barr & Stroud  8 x 42 Series 5 control binocular.

The view is impressively wide for a 10 x 42 instrument – 6.5 angular degrees. What’s more, the Vanguard enjoys a very large sweet spot. Indeed, it’s edge of field correction is excellent, especially considering its modest retail price. There is very mild  pincushion distortion near the field stops . Colours are naturally presented and chromatic aberration is pretty much non existent. Indeed I could only detect a trace of lateral colour at the edge of the field. All in all, the optics in this binocular are well above average, a fact that I was able to confirm by borrowing a first generation Swarovski EL Range 10 x 42 from a fellow villager. To my eyes, the views were very comparable in bright sunny conditions with the Vanguard having a slightly wider field of view.

Only when the light began to fade late in the evening did I begin to notice the Swarovski beginning to pull ahead. At dusk, near local midnight here in Scotland, the greater light transmission of the EL Range was very obvious, with tree branches located at a distance of 50 yards or so away being more easily seen than with the Vanguard. This is consistent with an allbinos review conducted on the Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42, which revealed a light transmission of only 80 per cent. Another low light test using my Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 also showed a significantly brighter image than the Vanguard but this could well be attributed to its larger exit pupil (5.25mm versus 4.2mm) kicking in during these low light conditions.

Notes from the Field

The close focus on the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is very noteworthy  in that it focuses down to about 1.5 metres. I could sharply focus my walking shoes, which is more than I can say for many other 10 x 42s I have had the pleasure of using. Depth of focus is fairly shallow though – an expected result given its 10x magnification and roof prism design. Focusing is super fast on this unit, but I was slightly anxious about turning the focus wheel near the end of its travel. A tyro could easily turn the wheel too far and so damage the focuser. The lockable dioptre ring worked well in all situations. It remains tightly in place, so no worries there.

Because of the super fast focus wheel, I deemed it expedient to set the dioptre setting while the binocular was stably mounted on a tripod. After all, you need a stable view in order to achieve optimal image sharpness in both barrels.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II’s super fast focuser necessitates a stable platform to adjust the right eye dioptre.

The open bridge design of the Vanguard makes it very easy to handle, even with one hand. You can wrap your fingers round the barrels of the binocular which allows the user to get a slightly more stable view at 10x. The padded neck strap accompanying the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is of good quality but is a bit too long for my liking. Indeed, I often thought about attaching another shorter strap while making my tests.

I do love the padded case supplied with the Vanguard. With its eye-catching colour logo, padded interior and its ability to be zipped closed, I think it’s one of the most thoughtfully designed binocular cases I’ve personally encountered. A very nice touch!

The very thoughtfully designed padded case supplied with the Vanguard Endeavor ED II is of very high quality and fits the instrument perfectly.

Conclusions

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 offers a lot of bang for the buck. Optically, it serves up very nice images indeed and will hold its own against instruments costing far more. Indeed, my main take home point about this instrument is that as one invests in more expensive models, it is mainly the mechanical and not the optical properties of such an instrument that one is buying into. More expensive binoculars will have greater light transmission(of the order of 90 per cent) but those advantages can really only be seen at dawn or dusk. But if you do all of your glassing in broad daylight, that light transmission advantage will be of little importance to you. So, something to bear in mind.

I also get the impression that Vanguard care about their customer service and one can email an employee of the company – see the link provided above to start with – if you encounter any problems with your binocular. If you’re in the market for a sensibly priced instrument in this aperture class that will live up to the rigours of life in the great outdoors, then I would strongly recommend it. You’re not likely to get much more for an investment under £300 UK.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Neil English has been looking through optical devices for over 40 years and doesn’t take any prisoners. If you like his work, why not buy one of his seven published books or make a small donation to his website so that he can continue to provide real world reviews of interesting instruments for the savvy outdoor enthusiast.

 

 

 

De Fideli.