UK Woke Watch.

                                   

                    An essay first published in Salvo Magazine Vol 59

As America goes, so goes the rest of the world. There’s a great deal of truth to that saying, especially now that we live in an era of 24-7 news, where ideas and movements spread faster than the Covid-19 virus. The rise of Black Lives Matter and Antifa, cultural Marxism and the Woke Revolution has politicized many institutions across the United States and has now reached all the way across the Western world, where it is now influencing liberal democracies like Australia, New Zealand, the nations which comprise the European Union, and here in the UK.

Wokeness is political correctness gone mad. It’s a new secular religion with ‘social justice’ being its new god, and ‘cancel culture’ its military wing. Its despotic power seeks to make western institutions jettison conservative mores and lose faith in their own ideals. The defining characteristics of wokeness are arrogance, ignorance and irrationality in equal measure.

Not long after we saw the horrific pictures on our TV screens of statues being torn down across the USA throughout the summer of 2020, violent protesters in the city of Bristol, UK, toppled a statue of Edward Colston, a prominent 17th century slave trader and dumped it into Bristol Harbor. UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, quickly condemned their actions in a tweet;

“People have a right to protest peacefully & while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police. These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve. Those responsible will be held to account1.”

The events in Bristol triggered the removal of several other statues across the UK including, Robert Milligan, Thomas Guy and Sir Robert Clayton2. Not content with removing the memory of slave traders from our streets, the same mob defaced a statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, Westminster, which had to be boarded up by police2.

                                                   Snowflakes

Our hallowed educational institutions have also become fertile breeding grounds for the woke movement. At Oriel College Oxford, an angry mob called for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, insisting that he was a white supremacist, colonialist and racist. Although Oriel College did agree to remove the statue, the decision was reversed owing to the financial cost of undertaking such a measure4.

But Oxford University represents the tip of the iceberg. Today, some 90 per cent of British Universities have actively banned or cancelled guest speakers because their ‘controversial’ views offend them5. Over the last several years it has become such a problem that the UK government had to enforce new laws prohibiting this vicious cancel culture, with fines of up to £500,000 should they continue to de-platform people6.

Yet the woke movement has penetrated many more of our national institutions in the UK, including the National Trust, the Church of England, the Police, the BBC and the British Army. In the wake of the George Floyd tragedy, the National Trust sped up the publication of a 2018-commissioned study linking many of the grand houses under its wing to slavery and colonialism7. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with learning about our colonial past, but when the National Trust insisted that all volunteers must undergo ‘unconscious bias training,7 it led to some resignations in protest. They also pushed the wearing of LGBTQ+ rainbow badges and lanyards on its employees to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Britain, removing those individuals from interacting with the public who conscientiously objected to wearing them7.

The Church of England seems equally keen to preach the woke gospel. During the Black Lives Matter riots in the USA, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, commissioned a new Church of England guidance8 suggesting that artefacts linked to slavery and colonialism could be removed from churches simply because some people might find them ‘disturbing.’

In August 2021, the UK Police Force unveiled a new fleet of cars adorned with the LGBTQ+ rainbow to ‘fight social injustice.’ The move was received with almost universal scorn, with some commentators calling them ‘Clown Cars’ that will only encourage more criminals onto the streets. Perhaps the most scathing rebuttal came from Harry Miller, a former police officer and founder of the campaign group, Fair Cop. Speaking to the Telegraph, Miller said, “We don’t see the Met with special cars for knife crime, even though the number of stabbings in London is appalling. The problem is that the second you see a rainbow car, you know that it is a police force that has made its mind up about some very contentious issues. You no longer see a police car or a police officer who is there to support everyone, from all political persuasions, without fear or favor. They have literally tied their colours to the mast and painted their cars with their political leanings. They are painting rainbows on their cars when we have figures showing that only seven per cent of violent crime ends in a prosecution. They have moved from policing crime to policing thoughts and speech, because it is easier9.”

The BBC, that long-trusted bastion of journalistic excellence has also gone woke. The corporation produced a video called “Understanding Sexual and Gender identities10,” in which they claimed there were 100 different genders! Thankfully, after a storm of protest, they removed the video from their platform. Now the BBC are conducting a gender census to see which of their employees identify as male, female or non-binary to better address ‘gender-related pay gaps.’ Furthermore, they recently tweeted that they will not tolerate any dissent on transgender issues and are willing to inform the police concerning the most egregious ‘offenders.11‘ Not surprisingly, that also sparked a large public backlash, with people complaining that the corporation was just wasting taxpayers’ money.

Finally, in one of the sickest moves yet enacted on British soil, the thoroughly immoral leftist, devolved nationalist Scottish Government is introducing new legislation allowing children as young as four to undergo gender transition, without parental consent, as well as mandating schools to include transgender literature on the curriculum12. Although the move was almost universally described as ‘risible’ and ‘shocking,’ even by the mainstream press, there is no effective political opposition to the nationalists’ woke agenda to stop them in their tracks.

                                          Rebels Without a Clue

So, just like the USA, Britain faces the same war on wokeness that is tearing society apart at the seams. Seen in a Christian light, God has given them over to a Romans 1 ‘reprobate mind.’ But there are welcome signs that the Brits are fighting back, by launching anti-woke TV channels like GB News, and a small number of determined and influential journalists who refuse to be silenced by the woke mob. Furthermore, the British government has summarily dismissed and banned the teaching of Marxist concepts such as critical race theory, intersectionality and white privilege in UK schools, deeming these ideologies harmful to a multi-cultural British society13. You can hit the BBC where it hurts them simply by switching off. Personally, I wouldn’t trust them even with the weather. But a lot of resistance to this immoral movement is also being fostered in sound parental guidance, as well as through the exercising of the general public’s democratic right to air its concerns to local politicians. Though it’s probably too late to turn the tide, let’s hope more brave individuals will join the dissenting ranks to stave off the worst instances of ‘wokery’ in the UK!

 

Neil English has put down roots in Scotland and is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy. His 650-page magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, explores the history of telescopic astronomy from a Christian perspective.

 

                                                  References

  1. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52954305
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-52977088
  3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-52949014
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-57189928
  5. https://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/nine-10-uk-universities-free-speech-restrict-rankings-joseph-rowntree-cardiff-ediburgh-newcastle-oxford-a7577381.html
  6. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9569835/University-principal-faces-calls-QUIT-allowing-intolerant-cancel-culture.html
  7. https://www.spiked-online.com/2021/05/27/the-woke-drift-of-the-national-trust/
  8. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9565545/Church-artefacts-likely-removed-following-contested-heritage-guidance.html
  9. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/08/22/police-pin-hopes-rainbow-cars-drive-hate-crime/
  10. https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1390071/bbc-news-defund-twitter-gender-identity-video-transgenderism-public-broadcaster-ont
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWSUqxCDYJw
  12. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9888899/Scotland-let-pupils-aged-FOUR-change-gender.html
  13. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/20/teaching-white-privilege-is-a-fact-breaks-the-law-minister-says

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30.

The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 package.

 

A Work Commenced April 2 2022

 

Preamble 1

Preamble 2

Preamble 3

Preamble 4

 

Product: Opticron Savanna 8 x 30

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 3.75mm

Eye Relief: 18mm

Close Focus: 3m advertised, 2.8m measured

Field of View: 131m@1000m(7.5 angular degrees)

Coatings: Fully Broadband Multi-Coated

Chassis Contruction: Rubber armoured aluminium alloy and polycarbonate

Prism Types: Porro BAK4

ED Glass: No

Tripod Mountable: No

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 3

Waterproof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Weight: 491g advertised, 458g measured

Dimensions: LxWxD (cm)/ 11.6×16.0x4.0

Warranty: 10 Years
Accessories: logoed neoprene case with rain guard, logoed neoprene strap and objective lens caps, lens cleaning cloth, instruction & warranty card
Price(UK): £105.49

 

Porro prism binoculars have received quite a bit of bad press in recent years. In surveying some of the literature, I’ve read that they’re heavy and unwieldy, lack water-and fog-proofing, and are more prone to misalignment of the optical elements than their roof prism counterparts. Others seem to have dismissed them purely on aesthetic grounds, citing their ‘ugliness’ as a reason to reject them. How shallow is that? But after extensively testing a thoroughly modern porro prism binocular from Opticron – the Savanna 8 x 30 – I’ve discovered that many of these assumptions are either misleading or totally untrue.

Let’s begin by listing some of the key advantages of porro prism binoculars.

  1. They are much more economical to manufacture to a high standard than roofs.
  2. They have much more forgiving design tolerances than roof prism binoculars.
  3. They offer naturally brighter images, owing to fewer reflections through porro prisms
  4. They offer very wide fields of view with simpler eyepiece designs
  5. They throw up much more pronounced 3D or stereoscopic images than their roof prism counterparts

Having said all that, this new model offered by Opticron promises to dispel many of the traditional reasons why porro prism binoculars have fallen out of favour with birders, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. To see why, read on.

Ergonomic Features

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the feather light weight of the Opticron Savanna 8 x 30. Tipping the scales at just 458g(without the strap), this is actually one of the lighter models on the market. For example, the Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30 comes in at only 8g less!

The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 is well armoured for outdoor use and is very light weight.

The chassis is covered in a nicely textured rubber armouring that feels quite spongy to the touch, protecting the instrument from accidental knocks and bumps.

The central hinge is nice and rigid, keeping my optimal IPD even after taking it out of its tightly fitting soft carry case many times during my tests.

Underside of the Savanna 8 x 30.

The eyecups are strong and are of good quality, and twist up like most roof prism models. This is a departure from the fold-down rubber eyecups I’ve seen on a few other porro prism designs. They click rigidly into place, but there is no provision to set them at an intermediary position. I rather like two stage eyecups like this, as I’ve not found an intermediate detent in any binocular that conveys a more comfortable view. The eye relief is quite generous though. I was able to image the entire field comfortably using eye glasses.

The twist up eyecups lock rigidly into place and are very comfortable to place one’s eyes against.

The focuser is very large and easily accessed. Movement is smooth and firm with very little in the way of play. What’s more, the focuser only rotates through about three quarters of a full revolution in order to go from one end of its focus travel to the other. Close focus was measured to be 2.8m, significantly closer than the advertised 3m. It also focuses a wee bit beyond infinity, useful for snapping edge of field objects into tighter focus.

The ocular field lenses are large( 21mm in diameter), making eye placement easier to achieve and comfortable to place one’s eyes against.

 

The ocular field lenses are large for easy eye placement.

The dioptre compensation ring is located under the right ocular lens. It moves with a nice amount of rigidity.

The external focuser is fashioned from aluminium which affords good tensile strength. Examining the progress of its motions, I was delighted to see there was zero wobble as it was racked in and out of focus. The binocular is advertised as waterproof and fog proof( nitrogen purged), so I assume it’s o ring sealed. This may come as a surprise to roof prism fans, but surveying the market, there are several other porro models that claim the same.

One very welcome feature is the minimum inter-pupillary distance of 50mm, making it eminently suitable for those of us who have smaller faces. These will work brilliantly with kids!

The small 30mm objective lenses are very deeply recessed. This is a very welcome feature, as it protects the objective lenses from rain, dust and stray light. My experiences over the last several years has taught me that models without very deeply recessed objectives display higher levels of glare during field use

In the hands, the Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 feels great. There are plenty of places on its nicely contoured body to wrap your fingers round. Indeed, I’ve not held a more comfortable binocular in quite some time! Overall, this appears to be a very nicely designed porro prism binocular, incorporating many of the great features found in roofs costing substantially more!

Now, let’s talk about optics.

Optical Assessment

The binocular arrived in good collimation, as judged in daylight testing and by examining the bright star Arcturus, defocusing it using the right eye dioptre. By directing a beam of intensely bright light into the binocular objectives, I was able to verify that there was no annoying internal reflections, diffraction spikes and only a very small amount of diffused light around the light source. The result was just as good, in fact, as a top-rated roof prism control binocular I used as a control – the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32. I measured the effective aperture as effectively 30mm by directing a beam of light through the ocular lens and measuring the diameter of the emerging disc of light. There was also no internal reflections when I tuned the binocular on a bright sodium street light after dark.

The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 throws up a very impressive image. The sweet spot covers about 80 per cent of the field, with mild field curvature setting in as the target was moved to the edge of the field. Contrast is excellent too. Comparing it to the less expensive Adventurer T WP 8 x 32 porro prism binocular, the Savanna displayed far less glare. Veiling glare was also far less pronounced in the Savanna too but not quite as well controlled as in the GPO 10 x 32 binocular costing three times its modest price tag. Though the field of view is smaller than in the Adventurer T WP 8 x 32(8.1 degrees), it’s much cleaner, with nicer edges and a clearly defined field stop.

The Opticron Savanna 8x 30(left) is a good step up in performance from the less expensive Adventurer T WP 8x 32( right).

The Savanna 8 x 30 image is very bright and tack sharp within its generously large sweet spot. In careful side-by-side tests with my GPO 10 x 32 Passion ED, I judged the images as equally sharp(or maybe a tad sharper in the Savanna porro) in the middle of the field, but fell short of the roof prism bino from about 50 per cent of the way from the centre to the field stops. In addition, the colour tone of the Savanna 8 x 30 was very neutral in comparison to the warmer colours garnered with the GPO. Chromatic aberration was not seen on axis, and only a trace was detected off axis while looking at denuded branches of trees against a bright, overcast sky. This shows, once again, that a good binocular needn’t employ ED glass to deliver a really good image. Indeed, all of the top porro models now available don’t employ ED glass.

Go figure!

The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 ( right) compares quite well with a high quality roof prism binocular(left).

In yet another test, I ordered up a classic Opticron Dioptron 8 x 32, a vintage Japanese- made instrument dating to the late 1990s. I was amazed to discover how much brighter the Chinese-made Savanna 8 x 30 was in comparison. Sporting a field of view of 8.25 angular degrees, the Dioptron also enjoys a large sweet spot but once outside it, the images of stars rapidly deteriorated as they were moved towards the field stops. In comparison, the 7.5 degree field of the Savanna 8 x 30 kept those same stars under much better control even near the edge of the field. Though the Dioptron is also fully multi-coated, it showed some prominent internal reflections, unlike the Savanna, and daylight images were noticeably yellowed(warm) in comparison to the much more natural colour tones served up by the modern Savanna binocular. Glare was also much better controlled in the Savanna in comparison to the classic Dioptron  8 x 32. Indeed, I judged the less expensive Adventurer T WP 8 x 32 to have similar levels of glare to the Dioptron. What was also surprising to me however, was the finding that the Adventurer T WP delivered a brighter image than the Dioptron in daylight tests.

The Opticron Savanna 8 x 30 delivered a much brighter and more contrasted image than the classic Japanese made Opticron Dioptron 8 x 32(left).

Collectively, these tests convinced me that great advances in coating technology have occurred in the last two decades, with even low cost ‘econo’ binos serving up noticeably brighter and more contrasted images than some of the best porro prism binoculars available from the late 20th century.

The Remarkable Phenomenon of Stereopsis

One of the things that struck me as being very obvious and visually striking in the Opticron Savanna 8 x 30, was its ability to generate wonderful depth perception, or stereopsis, as it’s referred to in the technical literature. Focus the binocular in the middle distance and objects remain razor sharp all the way to infinity. What does that translate to in field use? Less frequent focusing. Looking at some conifer tree trunks lying beyond my back garden, and comparing the view in a few roof prism models, revealed the total superiority of the Savanna porro in conveying three-dimensional, spatial information or contouring of the tree trunks in relation to each other. Simply put; more details remain in sharp focus compared to a good roof prism binocular imaging the same field. In another test, I used a very nice 8 x 42 ED roof prism binocular to focus in on a chimney some 40 yards in the distance, but background trees at about 65 yards distant were a little blurred, lacking information:- a wee bit out of focus. Not so with the little 8 x 30 porro prism binocular from Opticron! Both targets remained sharp! The effect becomes less pronounced at distance though. But for walks in the woods, where trees litter the landscape both near and far away, I can’t think of a better instrument than a small high-quality porro like this to enjoy those views!

Compared to good roof prism binos, like this Barr & Stroud Series 5 8x 42 ED, the Opticron Savanna adds much more depth perception to the images.

Indeed, I’ve now come to see this effect as adding valuable information to the binocular image – just as our eyes were created to do.

Let’s just say roofs lack dimensionality in side by side comparisons.

 

Conclusions & Recommendations

Ain’t she purdy?

The old adage is certainly true; you have to go to great lengths to make a roof prism binocular as good as porro prism designs. The quirky little Savanna 8 x 30 takes a tried and trusted optical design and puts a thoroughly modern accent on it. For the modest price of just over £100, you get an instrument that has excellent optics and ergonomics. It totally smashes the stereotype of porro prism binoculars being big and clunky. And it’s quite a good looking binocular too, don’t you think?

My experiences with this lovely little instrument has consolidated my conviction that porro prism binoculars will be my instruments of choice in the compact-size format, with their unparalleled 3D-enhanced images and brilliant, sharp, high contrast optics. I would highly recommend this instrument to savvy binocular enthusiasts wanting to get the absolute maximum bang for buck. I would also recommend the instrument or its lower power sibling – the Savanna 6 x 30 –  for younger individuals or adults with smaller faces. Rest assured, it will embarrass roof prism designs costing a few hundred pounds and the solid 10-year warranty from Opticron will put your mind at ease that it will stand the test of time.

Thanks for reading!

 

Dr Neil English is the author of a highly lauded 650+ page history of visual telescopic observing; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

.

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Opticron Adventurer T 8 x 32.

 

The Opticron Adventurer T WP 8 x 32 package.

A Work Commenced March 20 2022.

 

 

Product: Opticron Adventurer 8 x 32 T WP

Country of Manufacture: China

Chassis Material: Rubberised Aluminium & Polycarbonate 

Exit Pupil: 4mm

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

Coatings: Fully Multicoated on all glass surfaces

Prisms: Porro BAK4

ED Glass: No

Close Focus: 3m advertised, 3.24m measured

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 5

Waterproof: Yes

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Accessories: tetherable rubber objective lens caps, ocular caps, padded neck strap, soft carrying case, microfibre lens cleaning cloth, warranty card & instruction manual.

Weight: 540g measured

Warranty: 2 Years

Dimensions LxWxD (cm): 10.9 x 16.9 x 5.0

Price(UK): £61.00

 

Introduction

Every now and then, a product finds its way to me, challenging what I know and understand about binoculars, and their market. As you may have gathered, I have spent the vast majority of my reviews on modern roof prism designs, which are understandably very popular with nature enthusiasts, birders and hunters alike. The advantages of roof prism models include their compact, sleek design, internal focusing and ease with which they can be rendered weather resistant. But for all their charms, roof prisms are much more difficult to make well compared with the older, more traditional, porro-prism designs. For one thing, they need specialised phase corrections coatings that bring the electric field vectors into precise alignment after being shifted out of phase, travelling through the roof prism. They also require aluminised, silvered or dielectric coatings to boost the light transmission to the eye to achieve their high-contrast images, that can begin to compete with their porro-prism counterparts. But while the market has clearly moved in favour of roof prism designs, it’s good to see that some of the leading binocular manufacturing companies have retained one or more porro-prism models that offer wonderful optical performance in classic configurations. I speak of course of the Swarovski Habicht, for example, which is still available in 30mm and 42mm formats, and offer exceptional optical performance at prices substantially below their equivalent roof prism counterparts.

Zeiss also continued their manufacturing of classic porro-prism designs, like the multicoated Jenoptem 8 x 30, well into the 1990s, and the later models still provide excellent optical performance. Nikon also makes its highly-lauded EII as a premium product, as well as a number of less expensive porro-prism models – the Aculons & Actions come to mind- that deliver decent optical performance, apparently. But it’s also nice to see other binocular companies like Opticron, Vortex, Kowa, Olympus, Canon and Leupold continue to offer small porro-prism binoculars at very economical prices.

Truth be told, with vast improvements in optical glass quality, modern multi-coating technology, and advancements in materials science, it’s possible to produce an optically excellent porro-prism binocular for a very modest financial outlay. This review will describe the optical and mechanical features of a charming little porro-prism binocular by Opticron; the Adventurer  8 x 32 T WP.

Inspiration from Fellow Astronomy Authors

My attention to the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8 x 32 was piqued after reading some reviews made by British binocular astronomer, Stephen Tonkin, who showcased a very interesting Adventurer T WP 10 x 50 model, and highly recommended this model as a well-built and optically excellent stargazing binocular available for under £100. Indeed, this was also reflected in the many favourable reviews left by stargazers about the same model. But there was almost nothing mentioned about the smaller models from the same line; namely the 42mm and 32mm models. I discovered that 32mm Adventure T WP had a nice, light weight- 540g – quite typical even for a roof prism model of the same aperture class. It offered a good, wide field of view too – 143m at 1000m – again right up there with some of the widest fields available in the top-selling roof prism brands. But unlike many older models, which offered just coated or multi-coated optics, these porro-prism binos from Opticron were fully mutli-coated, ensuring a high light transmission – at least in theory.

I decided to order up the Opticron from Amazon, which was offering the instrument for a very attractive price of just £61. This was a little bit below what I would have expected it to sell for, so I suspected that I was going to get the binocular in an ‘open box’ condition, meaning that some previous customer opened up the package, briefly examined the instrument, before packing it away and sending it back to Amazon. Sure enough, when the package arrived, it certainly looked like the box was opened before!

Never mind!

Everything looked OK though. The binocular itself was very nicely built – much better, in fact, than I had expected, if I’m being honest. My initial impression was, ” this has got to be a Habicht clone,” so similar it appeared to the famous Swarovski classic.

Ergonomic Features

The Opticron Adventurer T 8 x 32 WP is a well built binocular, with solid mechanics

Holding it in my hands, I was very satisfied with its sturdy build. The central hinge is good and stiff, easily maintaining my preferred inter-pupillary-distance. The focus wheel is very nicely engineered, rotating smoothly with a fair amount of tension and without any play or backlash. The eye cups are the old-school rubber design but they felt quite comfortable to rest my eyes on. When folded down, the instrument can be used with eye glasses, but you’ll have to move your eyeball ’round to see it all, so a fairly tight squeeze! Dioptre compensation is achieved by rotating a ring located under the right ocular. It also moves smoothly but I would have liked to see that little bit more tension.

I hit my one and only snag as I began to remove the nicely designed objective covers from the barrels. The rubberised armouring immediately covering the left ocular came away, as I struggled to tease the objective cover off.

Bummer!

Fortunately though, I had some Gorilla glue handy, and simply applied a bit to the inside of the armouring before putting it back on. It worked a treat, but it did leave a few glue streaks around the rim, lol, as you can see in the photo below:

The underside of the binocular. Note the glued-on rubber armouring around the left objective. Minor issue, no sweat!

The objectives are quite deeply recessed, with the anti-reflection coatings almost disappearing in normal daylight. That’s a good design feature, as it affords greater protection from dust, rain and stray light.

The fully multi-coated objective lenses are nicely recessed for extra protection and do a great job preventing reflective glare coming off the surface.

I was delighted to see that Opticron made a provision for affixing the binocular to a tripod. Good move!

Though you may not use it, the Opticron can be affixed to a tripod if need be.

The binocular handles very well indeed. It’s super easy to grip and wrap one’s fingers ’round. The focus wheel is easily accessed and moves with a very reassuring amount of tension. Fit and feel are way better than I expected, given its rock-bottom price. But how did the optics hold up?

Optical Assessment

I had read that more economically priced porro-prism binos, like this 8 x 32, often have stopped down apertures. This was very easy to test however, simply by directing my Iphone torch through the ocular lens and observing the size of the circle of light projected through the objectives onto a flat surface. The results were very encouraging: the effective diameter was 31mm, quite in keeping with the 32mm advertised aperture.

Cool.

Next, I turned my phone torch to its highest setting and placed it about 4 metres away at the other end of my living room. Looking at the beam through the binocular produced yet another excellent result; there were no significant internal reflections or diffraction spikes. I did detect a small amount of diffused light around the beam, though I judged it largely un-injurious to the image. This I was able to confirm by imaging a sodium street lamp at night. There was no annoying internal reflections and just a small amount of diffused light immediately around the lamp. All in all, these results were thrilling, given the very low price I paid for this binocular!

In the next test, I photographed the entrance pupils on both the left and right ocular lenses. As you can see, the pupils were round, with no sign of truncation. Nor did they display the characteristic signs of cheaper BK7 prisms. I did detect some light leaks away from the entrance pupils however, but all in, not too shabby!

Left entrance pupil.

Right entrance pupil.

The Opticron Adventurer 8 x 32 T WP delivers a very good image in daylight tests. The sweet spot is generously large. Contrast and colour rendering were both excellent. Images snap to precise focus, with the focus wheel moving through about one and a half full rotations from nearest focus(measured at 3.24m) to infinity. What immediately impressed me most was the instrument’s extraordinary depth of focus, with objects in the middle distance and beyond taking on a wonderful, immersive three-dimensionality. This amazing effect is far more acutely perceived in this binocular than in any roof prism instrument I’ve had the privilege of using. Of course, porro-prism binoculars are known for this, but it still came as quite a surprise to me when scanning a stretch of river, an open field, or a woody glade. The viewing is extremely comfortable too. I encountered no blackouts or rolling ball effects while panning large swathes of wooded terrain.

Simple pleasures.

The binocular does suffer a little bit from glare, especially when it’s pointed near the Sun, but no more than many other binoculars I’ve tested costing many times more. In most situations, this glare can be minimised simply by outstretching one’s hand.

I noted very little chromatic effects within the sweet spot, but did begin to see traces as my eyes were directed towards the edges of the field. The periphery of the field becomes progressively more blurry, but the decline in image sharpness is very gentle and gradual. The main off-axis aberration is field curvature. I took the liberty of capturing an image of a nearby roof through the Opticron and compared it to the same image captured by a GPO 8 x 32 Passion ED costing more than six times more. I hope you’ll agree that compared with the GPO binocular, the little Opticron Adventurer T did very well indeed, both on and off axis.

 

10-burst raw image from the Opticron Adventurer 8 x 32 T WP with 3s delay.

10-burst image of the same roof as seen through the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32.

Though the captured IPhone images don’t fully convey the visual impressions garnered with the eye-brain interlocutor, they do show that the GPO delivers a punchier, more contrasted image. That said, the little Adventurer did very well indeed. The reader will also note the greater focus depth of the Adventurer T (see the tree in the background at the top of both images) as well as a little bit of vignetting at the edge of the field. Since the fields are broadly the same size, one can see field curvature is pretty similar in both instruments i.e. gentle.

While it was pretty clear from the get go that the Opticron Adventurer T was well collimated, as evidenced by the wonderful depth perception I experienced after merging the images, I did confirm this by testing on a bright star at night and it passed. Looking at a decidedly pinkish full Moon rising low in the eastern sky, the image was bright and sharp across the majority of the field. As the Moon was moved off axis toward the field stop, I did notice a significant brightness drop off at the edges, in keeping with the results seen in the image captured above.

Star fields were presented really well in the Opticron too, with stars remaining acceptably small and sharp across most of the field. Like many other binoculars I’ve showcased in the past, off axis aberrations are more pronounced panning the instrument vertically than horizontally. This will make a very decent stargazing bino for those who like to use smaller instruments.

Proof of Concept.

Conclusions

To say that I’m impressed with this little binocular would be quite an understatement. For the ridiculously low price I paid for it, the Opticron Adventurer 8 x 32 T WP performed WAY ABOVE expectations. It may be an inexpensive binocular, but boy does it perform! It’s lovely wide field, sharp optics and wonderful depth of focus will allure many. And while it’s no Habicht, it gets my highest recommendation as arguably one of the most charming instruments I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.

Long live the classic porro prism binocular!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

De Fideli.

Earth Story.

Chosen Planet

An Essay Originally Published in Salvo Magazine Volume 51

Updated periodically as new science emerges

 

 

For this is what the Lord says—

he who created the heavens,

 he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth,

 he founded it; he did not create it to be empty,

 but formed it to be inhabited— he says:

“I am the Lord, and there is no other.

                                                                                                             Isaiah 45: 18

Just a few short decades ago, the Earth was considered to be an ordinary planet, orbiting an ordinary star, lost in a vast galaxy of other stars, amid myriad other galaxies populating the Cosmos. Mindless processes produced the first living organisms, we were told, which slowly evolved over the eons to produce creatures like us1. This secular myth was accepted hook line and sinker by the uneducated masses after its promotion by God-denying ‘high priests’, including the late Arthur C. Clarke, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, and mindlessly parroted by a generation of science journalists unwilling to dig any deeper. Yet, with the exponential rise of human knowledge, this worldview is being radically over-turned by an avalanche of new science, that paints an entirely different picture of our world: one in which its exceptional properties for supporting a long-lived biosphere for the express benefit of humanity in particular, is coming to the fore; where life itself ‘terraformed’ the Earth under Divine instruction.

An Anomalous Solar System

Many lines of evidence show that the Earth is old; 4.543 billion years with an uncertainty of just one per cent. But the circumstances under which our planetary system was shaped were very unusual. Formed from the gravitational collapse of a vast cloud of gas and dust, the proto-solar system condensed into a relatively thin disk with the neonatal Sun at its center. The inventory of elements endowed to the solar system might have turned out to be much like any other were it not for the presence of at least two relatively close-by supernova events2 which helped eject it from a nursery of other stars, but which also enriched the primordial solar system with relatively large quantities of heat-generating radioactive elements such as aluminum 26, thorium and uranium3. The aluminum 26, with its short half-life of 730,000 years, provided enough thermal energy to remove excess levels of volatiles including water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide which would have scuppered the future emergence of living creatures on our world. In contrast, the very dense and long-lived radioactive elements like uranium and thorium sank to the center of the primordial earth, where their prodigious heat has kept the planet in a geologically active state over billions of years.

The most recent research on star formation shows that the Sun is far from being an average star4. Indeed that distinction goes to stars with masses roughly 50 per cent less massive than the Sun, with luminosities only 5 per cent as bright and surface temperatures of 3600K4, comprising some 80 per cent of all the stars in the Universe. Many more are smaller L dwarfs that are unable to fuse hydrogen in their cores, or larger stars than the Sun that have much shorter lifespans. In the words of the  University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank;

Please stop calling our Sun an “average star. It is philosophically dubious and astronomically incorrect.4 ”

The Moon-forming event, which is thought to have occurred about 100 million years after the neonatal Earth formed5, in a highly improbable, oblique collision with a Mars-sized object, helped remove still more volatiles from the primordial Earth, allowing it to eventually form relatively shallow oceans where the continental land-masses could eventually emerge from the sea floor.  The debris from this cataclysmic event formed a relatively large Moon in close proximity to the Earth, helping to stabilize its orbital inclination and over time, to slow down the rotation rate of our planet from just 5 hours shortly after the Moon’s formation, to its present leisurely rotation period of 24 hours.

For the first few hundred million years after its formation, the Earth would have looked black and golden from the vantage of outer space, from the vast amounts of solidified magna cooling on its surface as well as the prodigious levels of volcanic activity spewing out hot lava from the planet’s interior. Frequent collision events with smaller space debris like asteroids would also have exacerbated these hellish conditions, but eventually the prodigious levels of water vapor outgassed from its interior would have transformed our lava dominated planet into a blue water world still devoid of continental landmasses.5 But just as soon as the Earth cooled down enough to enable liquid water to flow on its surface, life appeared.

Life Terraforms the Planet

The standard evolutionary story is that life began as simple organisms and gradually progressed to more complex forms with the slow march of time, but the best scientific evidence now suggests that this life was already complex and biochemically sophisticated. This is based on isotopic evidence6,7 from the analysis of ratios of carbon and sulfur isotopes in sedimentary rocks laid down over 3.5 billion years ago. Since these biochemical processes have an absolute requirement for highly complex protein enzymes to have been present, it completely eludes an evolutionary explanation. Then why did our Creator choose to begin Earth’s life story with microbes? The answer has less to do with evolution than it has with chemical sophistication. The simple answer is that microbes are, by some considerable margin, the hardiest creatures ever to have lived on our planet.

Microbes are the die-hards of the living world, being capable of surviving in very hot and cold temperatures, high and low pH environments, and can even thrive in a cocktail of toxic chemicals and radioactive environments. Once the planet cooled enough to allow the first microbes to survive, they were set to work removing a plethora of poisonous substances from the primordial Earth. In these early times, the Earth’s surface would have had large amounts of so-called vital poisons, substances that are required in small amounts for more complex life to thrive, but in higher concentrations, can prove lethal; substances like iron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, arsenic, boron, selenium and iodine, to name but a few. In their soluble forms such vital poisons would have stunted any new life forms coming on the scene but in chemically transforming these elements8 into insoluble ores and minerals, microbes not only  removed such vital poisons from the Earth’s water environments but also formed large deposits of the valuable minerals that are now mined for their use in high technology devices. This also makes sense from a creation point of view, as more complex organisms are far more sensitive to these toxins than microbes are. One other benefit that life brought to the Earth is that it greatly enriched the planet’s mineral and gemstone tally. According to Dr. Robert Hazen, a world-leading mineralogist, Earth has the greatest diversity of mineral species of any body in the Solar System.5 Over 4,600 mineral species have been identified on Earth. In contrast, Mars probably has about 500 and Venus about 1,000 at the most. What’s more, Hazen discovered that life processes formed about two-thirds of Earth’s mineral species5.

Recent oxygen isotope evidence shows that ongoing plate tectonic activity produced nearly all the continental landmasses by about 2.5 billion years ago.9 The fact that just 29 per cent of the planet’s surface area is covered by dry land appears to be highly fine-tuned. Greater land surface areas would induce too little precipitation in the interior of those ancient continents, preventing life from gaining a hold in these places. On the other hand, land areas significantly less than 29 per cent would not be able to re-cycle enough valuable nutrients between the land, the sea and the atmosphere to maintain a healthy biosphere.

The earliest lifeforms extracted energy from these minerals without the need for molecular oxygen, but the introduction of photosynthetic microbes radically transformed the early biosphere, paving the way for the introduction of advanced lifeforms. One way to get a handle on how early oxygenic photosynthesis occurred on Earth is to study so-called Banded Iron Formations (BIFs)comprised of iron rich clays containing magnetite and hematite. The early oceans had high concentrations of soluble iron, but when it reacts with oxygen, it forms an insoluble rust-like substance that serves as iron ore today.

Such studies reveal that BIFs were first laid down about 3.0 billion years ago, continuing up to about 1.8 billion years ago.10 This coincides with the microfossil record of life, which shows that oxygen-dependent complex cellular life (the so-called Eukaryotes) made its first appearance around 2 billion years ago.11The rise in atmospheric oxygen also created the ozone layer, which protected future life on land from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. The emergence of oxygen-generating photosynthesis had other effects that are not immediately obvious. When the Sun was born, it was about 30 per cent less luminous than it is today, but as it aged, its luminosity increased with the result that the amount of thermal energy received by the planet also increased. Photosynthetic organisms removed great amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by absorbing carbon dioxide and generating oxygen which reacted rapidly with another greenhouse gas, methane. In so doing, photosynthetic organisms served to counteract the tendency of the aging Sun to overheat the planet.12 The remains of these and other unicellular creatures settled to the bottom of the oceans where they formed vast sediments that were compressed over time to produce natural gas and oil reserves so important to human civilization today.

After a long cooling phase coinciding with the formation of the supercontinent, Rhodinia5, signs of the first large(macroscopic) multicellular lifeforms appeared about 600 million years ago in an event known to palaeontologists as the Avalon Explosion, where scientists have uncovered the first evidence of simple animal lifeforms. It is unclear however whether these bizarre creatures were animals or plants but what is clear is that in the space of a short 410,000 year period starting around 541 million years ago, 80 per cent of all existing animal forms appeared in the fossil record, with no credible evolutionary antecedents3,22. Paleontologists studying the so-called Cambrian Explosion have found no transitional forms in layers immediately pre-dating this period in Earth history. Moreover, the land was being prepared for the arrival of vascular plants by fungi who began breaking down rocks into soil as early as about 1000 million years ago14.  It is difficult to conceive how any blind process like Darwinian evolution could produce such stunning biological complexity and diversity in such a short space of time without any foresight.

In recent times, a greater appreciation of the interplay between life and plate tectonics has been appreciated. Without plate tectonics, our planet wouldn’t have a climate stable enough to support life over billions of years of time. That’s because plate tectonics takes center stage as a planetary thermostat in a process called the “carbonate-silicate” cycle.13 Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves in rainwater to form carbonic acid, which dissolves silicate rocks. The by-products of this erosion, or “weathering,” are conveyed to the oceans where they are ingested by organisms—such as tiny planktonic foraminifera—and incorporated into limestone (calcium carbonate) shells. When those creatures die, they fall to the bottom of the ocean and pile up as sediments, creating new raw materials used by humanity. The introduction of life on planet Earth also increases the amount of water subducted into the mantle, where it functions as a kind of lubricant, facilitating motions between plates. It also lowers the melting point in the mantle, which leads to more volcanism and therefore more continent building. So, without life speeding up the weathering at the surface as well as the sedimentation rate on the sea floor, the fraction of the surface covered by continents would be far smaller.

Plate tectonics has other, hitherto unforeseen consequences for the maintenance of the Earth’s strong magnetic field.  By accelerating the transfer of heat to the surface, plate tectonics induces convection in the liquid iron outer core of our planet. What’s more, it’s the dynamic outer core that generates our planet’s magnetic field, which protects Earth’s atmosphere and oceans from excessive erosion and desiccation from the solar wind as well as all surface life from dangerous cosmic rays.

The fossil record attests to several mass extinction events that occurred over the long history of our planet.14 Research has shown that these devastating events are followed by equally spectacular mass speciation events, uncannily similar to the scenarios described in Psalm 104. According to Christian astronomer, Dr. Hugh Ross, these events proved crucial for maximizing both the quantity and longevity of Earth’s life.15 By ensuring that the right quantities and kinds of life are present at the right times, our Creator employed these organisms to remove the just-right quantities of greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere so as to compensate for the Sun’s increasing brightness. According to Ross, one would expect God to intervene periodically to remove life no longer appropriate for compensating for a brightening Sun and then replace it with life that is more efficient at doing so. Finally, in the last few hundred million years, vast deposits of coal and oil were produced from the remains of plant life that flourished on land during the Carboniferous and Permian (360 to 250 million years ago) periods, which was necessary for the launch of the industrial revolution.

Jewel Planet

Seen in the light of these new scientific discoveries, it is apparent that the Earth is a highly fine-tuned planet that has sustained a very stable environment over 4 billion years for the flourishing of life. And that same life transformed our world beyond recognition to make it ideal for humans to thrive in. This consensus is now being expressed by other scientists, who have noted Earth’s amazing properties. Influential books like Donald Brownlee and Peter Ward’s Rare Earth18: why complex life is are in the Universe, David Waltham’s Lucky Planet19, John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe20 as well as Privileged Planet21by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, all seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Far from being a humdrum planet orbiting an ordinary star, the Earth was designed by a mind vastly more advanced than our own. And I give God all the glory!

 

Neil English is the author of several books in amateur astronomy. His latest historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, is published by Springer-Nature.

 

 

 

 

References

  1. Sagan, C. Cosmos, MacDonald Futura Publishers, London, 1981.
  2. Eric Gaidos et al., “26Al and the Formation of the Solar System from a Molecular Cloud Contaminated by Wolf-Rayet Winds,” Astrophysical Journal 696 (May 10, 2009): 1854–63.
  3. Ross, H., Elemental Evidence of Earth’s Divine Design; https://reasons.org/explore/publications/nrtb-e-zine/read/nrtb-e-zine/2010/03/01/elemental-evidence-of-earth-s-divine-design
  4. Frank, A., What is the “Avergae Star” like? Hint: It’s not like our Sun: https://bigthink.com/13-8/average-star/
  1. Hazen, R. The Story of Earth, Penguin, 2012.
  2. Allen P. Nutman et al., “≥3700 Ma Pre-Metamorphic Dolomite Formed by Microbial Mediation in the Isua Supracrustal Belt (W. Greenland): Simple Evidence for Early Life?” Precambrian Research 183, no. 4 (December 15, 2010): 725–37.
  3. Yanan Shen et al, “Isotopic Evidence for Microbial Sulphate Reduction in the Early Archaean Era,” Nature 410 (March 1, 2001): 77–81.
  4. Gadd, G.M., Metals, minerals and microbes: geomicrobiology and bioremediation https://mic.microbiologyresearch.org/content/journal/micro/10.1099/mic.0.037143-0;jsessionid=CfnAVoIxE-Nxln81QM-D2S0N.x-sgm-live-02
  5. N. Bindeman et al., “Rapid Emergence of Subaerial Landmasses and Onset of Modern Hydrologic Cycle 2.5 Billion Years Ago,” Nature 557 (May 23, 2018): 545–48, https://doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0131-1.
  6. James, H.L. (1983). Distribution of banded iron-formation in space and time. Developments in Precambrian Geology, 6, 471–490.
  7. Simonetta Gribaldo et al., “The Origin of Eukaryotes and Their Relationship with the Archaea: Are We at a Phylogenomic Impasse?” Nature Reviews Microbiology 8 (2010): 743–52.
  8. Ross, H. Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016.
  9. Ross, H., Cambrian Explosion Becomes More Explosive:                                   https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/cambrian-explosion-becomes-more-explosive
  10. https://theconversation.com/complex-life-may-only-exist-because-of-millions-of-years-of-groundwork-by-ancient-fungi-117526
  11. Walker, J.C.G., Hays, P.B., & Kasting, J.F. A negative feedback mechanism for the long-term stabilization of Earth’s surface temperature. Journal of Geophysical Research 86, 9776-9782 (1981).
  12. Melott & Bambach, “Do Periodicities in Extinction—With Possible Astronomical Connections—Survive a Revision of the Geological Timescale?” Astrophysical Journal 773 (August 10, 2013).
  13. Ross, H. Mass Extinction Periodicity Design; https://www.reasons.org/explore/publications/nrtb-e-zine/read/nrtb-e-zine/2013/12/01/mass-extinction-periodicity-design
  14. Brownlee, D. & Ward, P., Rare Earth, Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe, Springer, 2000
  15. Waltham, D., Lucky Planet, Icon Books, 2015
  16. J., Alone in the Universe; Why our Planet is Unique, John Wiley, 2011.
  17. Gonzalez, G. & Richards, J, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery, Regnery Publishing, 2004.
  18. Ross, H., Cambrian Explosion Becomes More Explosive: https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/cambrian-explosion-becomes-more-explosive

 

 

                                                                                                                       

De Fideli.

Product Review: GPO Passion ED 8 x 32.

 

The GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 package.

A Work Commenced March 5 2022

 

 

Preamble 

 

Product: GPO Passion ED 8 x 32

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Eye Relief: 16mm

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 3

Chassis: Rubber armoured magnesium alloy

Field of View: 139m@1000m(8.0 angular degrees)

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.87m measured

Coatings: GPO Bright Fully Broadband Multicoated, dielectric and phase correction coatings.

ED Glass: Yes

Light Transmission: 90%

Waterproof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Weight: 520g(advertised), 520g measured.

Dimensions: H/W: 11.8x 11.8cm

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

Warranty: 10 years 

Price: UK £327.99

 

In previous blogs, I reviewed two excellent binoculars from the new company, German Precision Optics(GPO). The GPO Passion HD 10 x 42  proved to be a phenomenal performer, easily as good as the best models built by Zeiss, Leica or Swarovski. Indeed, someone sent me word that the guy who started Optica Exotica waxed lyrical about the larger 12.5 x 50 Passion HD, comparing it favourably to the flagship Zeiss Victory SF models, both in terms of build quality and optical quality. Unfortunately you’ll have to pay for the privilege of seeing that review.

The more economically priced GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 matched my personal requirements much more closely though, delivering both excellent optics and ergonomics in a much more portable package. Recently, I bought up its 8x sibling for an in-depth review: the Passion ED 8 x 32, which is actually available in four colour schemes. Initially I just wanted the same black colour as my 10 x 32, as I’m not especially partial to two-tone colour schemes, but after seeing the green & black model under different lighting conditions, I settled for the latter, as the photo above shows.

First Impressions & Ergonomics

Like the previous GPO binoculars I showcased, the little 8 x 32 arrived in the same beautifully designed presentation box. All of the accessories were to be found inside the high quality hard clamshell case with its attractive GPO logo. The binocular itself was immaculately presented, with its attractive dark green and black rubber armouring covering the tough magnesium alloy chassis. The long, slender barrels have ample room to wrap my fingers round, delivering an ultra-stable viewing experience.

The GPO Passion ED 8x 32 is exceptionally pleasing to handle with its long, slender barrels to wrap your hands around. Note the Zeiss-like objective tether.

The same top-quality anti-reflection coatings present on the 10 x 32 are also present on the 8x model. They present a lovely magenta hue in broad daylight.

Ocular lenses.

Note the very deeply recessed objective lenses.

One very neat feature of the objective lenses is that they are very deeply recessed inside the top of the barrels. This affords exceptional protection from rain, dust and stray light.

The magnesium alloy central hinge is short but very strong. It has nice tension, easily keeping your preferred inter pupillary distance (IPD) while being stored or in field use.

The eyecups are fashioned from machined aluminium, overlaid with soft rubber, and have three positions. The cups lock rigidly into place, with no wobble or wiggle room. These are among the finest eye cups I’ve personally experienced from any binocular manufacturer, period. Eye relief is a tad better than on the 10 x 32 model too, and I was able to image the full field of view with the eyecups fully retracted using my eye glasses.

The eye relief on the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 is generous and the entire FOV is visible using eye glasses.

The focuser is oversized and centrally located, taking just over one complete turn (~390 degrees) to go from one end of its focus travel to the other. Motions are very smooth and precise, with zero play when rotating it either clockwise or anti-clockwise. The level of tension is just right in my opinion, neither too fast or too slow, making it eminently suitable for birding, hunting or general nature studies.

The dioptre compensation ring is very sensibly located under the right ocular and is quite difficult to move. I noted the precise position it took for my right eye and was very impressed to see that it was adjusted to exactly the same position as on my 10 x 32. Neat!

The padded neoprene neck strap affords exceptional comfort when carrying the binocular around your neck. I choose to wear it high on my chest, to minimise the amount of swing the binocular undergoes while being carried.

Binoculars are especially joyful with a high quality padded neck strap.

The carry case and strap are of very high quality too. While there are similar cases offered by less expensive models, my experience with many of them is that the zipper breaks after a few months of use. Not so with this GPO clamshell case. I store the instrument with the eyecups fully extended, as shown below.

The GPO-logoed clamshell carry case affords excellent protection for your optical investment.

Optical Assessment

Having tested and enjoyed two other GPO binoculars, I was honestly expecting very good things from the 8 x 32 model. I began with my flashlight test, directing an intensely bright beam of white light into the binocular from across a room. I used the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 as a control instrument in the same test. The result was very good. The beam showed no diffused light around the beam, indicating that the optical glass employed in the binocular was very homogenous. And just like the 10 x 32 ‘control’ binocular, there was no sign of annoying artefacts like diffraction spikes that can show up even in some high-end binoculars. I did detect a couple of very weak internal reflections in the 8 x 32 in comparison to the 10 x 32, but I deemed their presence largely non-injurious to the image. For example, when I turned the binocular on a bright sodium street lamp at night, those reflections were all but absent and neither were they apparent when I turned the binocular on a waxing crescent Moon. These results showed that the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 can be used productively at night, for moon gazing and observing cityscapes from high-rise apartments, or monitoring harbour lights from an elevated vantage after dark.

In the next test, I examined the exit pupils as seen in front of an indoor lamp. The results(see below) were very encouraging: both entrance pupils showed no departments from circularity, and the area around each pupil was good and dark.

Left ocular.

Right ocular.

Right from the get go, I was taken by the quality of images served up by the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32, even during the dull overcast conditions on the afternoon the instrument arrived. The binocular serves up a very powerful optical wallop. Images snap to focus with no ambiguity across the vast majority of its impressively wide field. I would estimate the sweet spot to be about 85 per cent of the field of view, but falls off very gently as the field stops are approached. The remaining 15 per cent showed progressively more field curvature that younger eyes can accommodate to some degree(I have no trouble at 53), and some mild pincushion distortion near the field edges. Contrast is most excellent, with very good control of glare. Colours are vivid and true to form. Greens and browns are particularly well enhanced, especially as the late February-early March light faded in the evening. An overall light transmission of 90 per cent is very credible in my opinion.

I couldn’t detect chromatic aberration in the centre of the image. Viewing some denuded tree branches against a uniform, grey sky did throw up a trace of lateral colour from about 65 per cent of the way out from the centre, becoming a little more pronounced right at the edge of the field.

I took the liberty of capturing an image of a roof located some 35 metres in the distance with my IPhone 7 camera through the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32. It was taken with a 3 second delay and consists of a burst of ten images. No processing of any kind was done on the image. Although it certainly does not convey all the visual details, I think it does provide a fair indicator as to the quality of the field:

Unprocessed burst image of a roof located some 35 metres in the distance as seen through the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32.

 

Depth of focus on the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 is quite remarkable, in my opinion. Looking across an open field on a bright sunny day, I was able to view objects from about 50 metres all the way to infinity in wonderful, sharp focus, as if you were there. Examining the trunk of an old, dead tree trunk some 25 metres away, generated vivid three dimensional details of the moss, fungi and wood grain, as though I could reach out my hand and touch it! I believe this very immersive depth perception was particularly vivid owing to the excellent sharpness across the majority of the image, coupled to its enormous field of view(8 angular degrees). Close focus was significantly better than advertised too. I measured it at 1.87 metres; good news if you like to observe insects, flowers, water courses and rocks at close hand.

Ad Astra

Testing binoculars under the starry heaven is arguably the best way to assess aberrations and to check alignment of the barrels. That’s because it’s easy to get overwhelmed by a daytime vista in all its rich detail, and it can be difficult to judge where off-axis aberrations begin to encroach. Stars and other celestial objects are much simpler animals in comparison, and how they distort as one moves off axis is easier to diagnose. The first thing I did was to check collimation. This was easily achieved by placing the brilliant star Sirius in the centre of the field, while the binocular is mounted on a tripod. The Dog Star is close to the meridian after dark on early March evenings, and so is very well placed for testing. The star is focused as finely as possible and then the dioptre ring is turned to the end of its travel to create a prominent anulus of light. If the binocular is properly collimated the perfectly focused left barrel will be located on or inside the defocused anulus. If not, you’ve got an alignment problem. Such testing confirmed that the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 was very accurately collimated, with the focused star being located just off the centre of the anulus. Good job GPO!

Centring the magnificent and sprawling Hyades star cluster, now sinking fast into the western sky, showed that all of the constituent stars were morphologically well presented in the binocular. Moving the bright, ochre tinted Aldebaran from the centre of the field towards the edge revealed that it remained sharp and acceptably well focused across ~ 90 per cent of the distance to the field stop, bloating moderately in the last ten per cent of the linear distance to the field. Much of this bloating could be removed by slight refocusing, indicating that the main culprit was mild field curvature. This tests showed that the little 8 x 32 will make a  fine star gazing instrument, as I was to discover after my formal testing ended.

In another test, I observed how well the glorious crescent Moon retained its brightness as it was moved from the centre towards the field stop. I detected very little in the way of brightness drop off, indicating that near full-field illumination was retained all the way to the edges of the field. I detected no visible chromatic aberration on axis but did detect a trace of secondary spectrum as it was moved to about 60 per cent of the way to the field stop. And even at the field stops secondary spectrum was still fairly modest.

It is also worthwhile tweaking the dioptre adjustment under the stars. I often find that adjusting the dioptre on a daytime target does not offer the very best correction. Usually, I obtain rough adjustment on a distant signpost, but quite often I find that when I examine the images of bright stars in both barrels, the dioptre compensation can be a wee bit off and can be micro-tweaked on a star image.

 Differences between the 8 x 32 and the 10 x 32 Models

Apart from the obvious differences in the sizes of the field of view served up by the 8x and 10x GPO Passion 32mm binoculars, two other disparities are noteworthy. Firstly, the diameters of the field lenses on the eyepieces of the 8 x 32 are significantly larger than the 10 x 32. The 8x glass has a 21mm diameter field lens compared with just 18mm on the 10x glass.

The size on the field lens is significantly larger in the 8x 32 compared with the 10 x 32.

Intriguingly, I noticed that the larger ocular field lens in the GPO 8 x 32 ED induces some occasional blackouts(spherical aberration of the exit pupil) when first looking through the binocular, that are all but eliminated by paying more careful attention to obtaining the optimal IPD for my eyes. This is true irrespective of the fact that the 8 x 32 model has a larger exit pupil(4mm as opposed to 3.2mm on the 10 x 32). Despite its smaller field lens, I rarely, if ever, encounter blackouts with the 10 x 32. This result is also consistent with my previous blogs on the little Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20(with its 2.5mm entrance pupil), where I reported little in the way of blackouts in field use, unlike some other reports I have read online. I believe this is attributed to the smaller ocular lenses on these binoculars, which forces one to centre one’s eyes more accurately from the start.

Secondly, there is a noticeable difference in the focus tension in the 10 x 32 compared with its 8x sibling. The latter has more tension than the former. I have found that this is actually a good thing going forward, as the 10x glass has a shallower depth of focus than the 8x, and so benefits somewhat from a faster focusing mechanism, especially  during glassing adventures in wooded areas.

Notes from the Field & Conclusions

Enjoying the great outdoors.

During most glassing excursions, only a quarter of a turn of the focus wheel is used.  A gentle touch is all that’s required to focus more closely or farther away. One of the great virtues of this 32mm format is its light weight, tipping the scales at only 520g. That’s light enough to be used all day long. This format is also ideal for the vast majority of birding activities, which take place under good lighting conditions. As expected, the larger exit pupil on the 8 x 32 serves up a brighter image than the 10 x 32, but only when the light fades near and after sunset.

Trivia: did you know that the rain guard accompanying these binoculars can also fit over the objectives! Cool or what?!

During the first week of March, we enjoyed some cold but clear blue sky days, followed by dark, frosty nights. I enjoyed some mesmerising views of a waxing crescent Moon, with its beautiful earthshine illumining the dark face of our natural satellite.  But after the Moon set, I was able to enjoy some wonderful views of seasonal deep sky objects, such as the Pleaides, Hyades, the Alpha Persei Association and the Double Cluster. The super-wide and nearly flat field made observing these extended objects particularly pleasant. Fainter open clusters, such as M35 in Gemini, and the trio of Messier open clusters straddling the mid-section of  Auriga, were also very easy to sweep up in this small binocular.

Later in the night presented opportunities to observe the Beehive(M44) and Coma Clusters (Melotte 111). The excellent colour correction of the GPO Passion ED binocular presents stars in their natural hues, without any colour fringing. I particularly enjoyed glassing some showpiece binocular doubles in Leo, especially Zeta, Gamma and Alpha Leonis. This will make an excellent binocular to observe the full glory of the summer and autumn Milky Way later this year.

Birders will find the GPO Passion ED 8 x 32 to be particularly delightful to use. It’s very wide, sharp, immersive and glare-free field of view, together with its responsive focus wheel, renders it especially versatile in this regard. The superb ergonomic handling of the binocular in my medium sized hands adds yet another pleasant dimension to using this instrument. I feel that its rugged mechanical design and excellent optics will provide first-rate, hassle-free views for many years to come.

How can an instrument of this calibre be offered at such an attractive retail price? I think that’s probably down to the unique cross fertilisation of brains behind the company; founded as it was by professionals from across the leading European optics houses, who bring an eclectic mix of ideas to the table. This, together with the fact that their products are quality controlled in Germany before being shipped out to retailers, gives the consumer much greater confidence of obtaining a quality instrument that will stand the test of time. And that 10 year European warranty ensures that they will take care of your binocular should you hit any snags!

Easy on the eye.

Is there any room for improvement? Yes, I think so! I would have loved to see hydrophobic coatings applied to the outer lenses, which would make it more resistant to the vicissitudes of our mercurial British climate. Since these coatings are now appearing on more economically priced models, I don’t think this is an impossible task for GPO to execute.

Right, that’s your lot folks!

Very highly recommended!

 

Dr Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. He hopes to announce some big news in the near future!

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32.

The Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32 package.

 

A Work Commenced February 14 2022

 

 

Product: Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Eye Relief: 18mm

Chassis Material: Rubberised Polycarbonate

Field of View: 140m@1000m(8.0 angular degrees)

Close Focus: 1.2m advertised 1.26m measured

Coatings: Fully Multicoated, phase and dielectrically(Oasis) coated roof prisms

ED Glass; Yes

Dimensions: W/H 10.8×11.7cm

Weight: 390g advertised, 378g measured

Accessories: Rubberised objective and eyepiece covers, soft carry case, instruction manual and warranty card, lens cleaning cloth, logoed padded neck strap.

Warranty: 5 Years(limited)

Price UK: £196.99

 

Opticron is a familiar name in sports optics, having been established back in 1970 as a British family based business. Since then, Opticron has gone on to command a sizeable chunk of the binocular and spotting scope market, especially here in Europe. Today, Opticron has brought to market a great range of optical devices, ranging from entry-level right up to premium quality instruments, featuring state-of-the-art optical and mechanical features. While most of their most economical models are made in China , Opticron’s top tier instruments are manufactured in Japan. In this review, I’ll be discussing the Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32, arguably one of the lightest compact binoculars on the market today.

Ergonomics

The Opticron binocular came double boxed, with all the accessories and paper work neatly packaged away. My immediate impression on removing the binocular from its softcase was, ” Wow, this bino is tiny!” The roughly square-shaped( 12x 12 cm) chassis is made of a lightweight polycarbonate substrate overlaid by a tough black rubber armouring. It’s nicely textured for maximum grip and feels pretty good in the hands.

The Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32 is a stylish and petite binocular.

The focus wheel turns smoothly with no free play and takes about 1.75 rotations to move from one end of focus travel to the other.

The eyecups twist up, with one intermediate stop, and hold their positions securely. Eye relief is generous on this binocular. I was able to see the entire field of view with the eyecups fully retracted with my glasses on.

The objective lenses are averagely recessed and have a magenta hue in broad daylight. There is no provision to mate the binocular to a tripod adapter, unlike many other models, but the unit is so lightweight that it won’t matter in most situations.

The objectives on the Opticron are averagely recessed and have nice, evenly applied multi-coatings , with a magenta hue seen in daylight.

The underside of the binocular has no thumb indentations. To be honest, I never really warmed to these anyway, as it is rarely the case that they are positioned to fit my own thumbs comfortably, and so I can live without them.

The underside of the binocular has no thumb rests. Note the serial number located under the bridge and the country of manufacture.

The dioptre ring is located under the right ocular, and can be adjusted using a small, upraised lever. Moving this to the left or right produces a faint clicking noise, presumably indicating when the next setting is reached. It works well in practice, but I fear that during prolonged use in the field, it may be prone to moving off the optimal setting and so require more frequent adjustment.

In the hand, the Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32 is feather light. I measured its weight without the strap and lens covers to be just 378g; an amazing achievement when you consider all the technologies that are built inside it. That said, I had great difficulty holding the binocular properly, as the central bridge is very broad, leaving little room to wrap my fingers round the barrels. Comparing the Opticron to my GPO Passion ED 10 x 32, you can see the difference easily:

The Opticron Discovery WA ED 8x 32 (left) and the GPO Passion ED 10x 32(right).

Optical Tests

The Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32 was subjected to my iPhone torch test to see how it handled an intensely bright beam of light from across a room. The little Opticron passed this test very well with no sign of significant internal reflections diffused light or diffraction spikes. Testing the binocular after dark on a yellow sodium street lamp showed a nice clean image, not quite as good as my Barr & Stroud Series 5 ED 8 x 42 control binocular but close.

Next I had a look at the exit pupils of the Opticron binocular by examining the light coming through the eyepieces when pointed at a bright, indoor lamp. As you can see below, the results were excellent, with nice round exit pupils and little in the way of light leaks around them;

Left exit pupil.

And the right exit pupil.

The images thrown up by the Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32 are bright, contrasty and sharp within its sweet spot, which covers the central 50 per cent or so of the image. Colour correction is very good but it does show some lateral colour in the outer part of the field. Outside of the central sweet spot, the images become progressively more blurred, with the outer 20 per cent of the image being quite distorted. That’s a great pity, as the field of view is very large and expansive, but the poor outer field performance was a deal breaker for me. Indeed, every time I brought the instrument to my eyes, I became acutely conscious of this distorted outer field, which artificially depressed the instrument’s depth of focus to an unacceptable degree.

The binocular also suffers quite a bit from glare. Observing through the Opticron in the open field threw up substantial glare in situations where my other binoculars, such as my GPO Passion ED 10 x 32, simply didn’t show any. Veiling glare control was also quite poor, as evidenced by pointing the binocular at the top of a distant hill near a setting Sun. A bright arc of white light covered the bottom of the field, most of which could be removed by shading with a outstretched hand.

These results were also mirrored under the stars. The inner 50 per cent of the field showed up perfectly sharp and pinpoint stars but as one moves to the outer part of the field, the stars become progressively more distorted, and at the edge of the field, the stars were quite severely bloated from strong field curvature and astigmatism. This is not an instrument that I could enjoy under the stars. Examining a waxing crescent Moon produced a nice sharp image in the centre of the field, with only a trace of purple fringing at the limbs, but moving the slender crescent off axis rendered an unacceptably distorted image at the field edge.

Close focus is very good though. I measured it at 1.27m, quite in keeping with the advertised value of 1.2m.

Conclusions and Recommendations

To be honest, I was expecting better things from this Opticron binocular. I mean, it has all the right ingredients to create a good image; BAK 4 prisms, full multi-coatings, high reflectivity dielectric coatings applied to the prisms(I assume this is what Opticron mean by their Oasis coatings), as well as ED glass. In the end, the execution of these features was not nearly as good as I’ve seen on binoculars of the same format costing half the retail price of the Opticron. For example, the Sybony SV 202 8 x 32 ED is in an entirely different league to the Opticron Discovery WA ED 8 x 32. It has better contrast, less glare and a much bigger sweet spot, despite having substantially the same size field of view. Maybe I got a lemon? I don’t know!

The handling of this binocular was also a bit underwhelming. I found it difficult to get my fingers round the chassis, owing to the overly large central bridge. The GPO Passion ED in comparison was the dream ticket! Indeed, I wanted to test the design of this chassis in light of another 10 x 32 I had my eye on for quite some time; the Leica Ultravid HD Plus 10 x 32. With the same shaped chassis as the Opticron, I don’t think it would feel right in my hands either. Binoculars are highly personal instruments; if they don’t sit right in your hands, you’ll soon tire of them!

So, all in, I can’t  in good conscience recommend this binocular, as there are far better options available at significantly lower prices.

Thanks for reading!

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 42.

The Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced January 31 2022

Preamble 1

Preamble 2

Preamble 3

 

Product: Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 42

Country of Manufacture: China

Chassis: Rubber Armoured Magnesium Composite

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Eye Relief: 15mm

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

Coatings: Fully Broadband Multi-coated, phase correction and dielectric coatings on BaK4 prisms, Armortec anti-scratch coatings applied to outer lenses.

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 5

Close Focus: 1.52m advertised, 2.21m advertised

Water Proof: Yes

Argon Purged: Yes

ED Glass: Unknown.

Weight: 605g advertised, 608g measured

Dimensions H/W 14.5/13.0cm

Supplied Accessories: Padded neck strap, Glasspak binocular harness, tethered rubberised objective and rain guard, microfibre cloth,  instruction sheet, VIP Warranty

Price(UK): £229.00

 

Vortex, a US-based company founded in 2002 in Middleton, Wisconsin, has grown to become one of the leading manufacturers of good but economically priced binoculars for the growing sports optics industry. Today they sell an impressive range of binoculars, monoculars, spotting scopes, rangefinders, riflescopes and other products, mainly for the American market, but have also made very solid inroads here in Europe. Arguably their best-selling product is their highly popular Diamondback binocular range, which first came to market in the early noughties, but has underwent a number of upgrades over the years. The second generation Diamondbacks came out in 2016, and mainly involved improvements in the ergonomics of the chassis. Then in 2019, a third generation of the Diamondback series was introduced. This time, no changes were made to the ergonomic features of the binocular, but the optics received an upgrade to so-called HD status, which promised better colour correction, contrast and edge of field performance. The Diamondback HD series offers an extensive range of binoculars in apertures all the way from 28mm right up to 56mm. This review will concentrate on the 10 x 42 HD, particularly popular with birders and hunters.

First Impressions

The package arrived in a single box, housing the binoculars, the Glasspak case and strap, lens cleaning cloth, padded logoed neck strap, an instruction card and VIP warranty information. The binocular was presented with its rain guard and tethered objective covers attached.

Examining the binocular, I was quite impressed with its streamlined appearance and robust build quality. The magnesium composite chassis is overlaid by a tough green rubber armouring, textured on the sides for extra grip.

The twist-up eye cups worked perfectly from the get go, and the central focussing wheel rotated smoothly without any free play. The central hinge was quite stiff out of the box and held my personal IPD very well over a few weeks of testing. The right eye dioptre turned only with a fair amount of effort – a good thing surely. Overall, the cosmetic appearance of the instrument was flawless. So far so very good.

Ergonomics

The Vortex Diamondback HD 10x 42 is a smart, solidly built binocular.

From the moment I first help the Diamondback HD 10 x 42 in my hands, I got the distinct impression of quality. This is a well designed and refined binocular, and it shows. Everything is mature and well thought through. The eye cups are made from a very tough rubber substrate, which have three positions to suit various eye placements, with and without glasses. They twist up with one intermediary position, and a loud click tells you they are rigidly in place. Nice engineering!

The textured rubber armouring on the side of the Diamondback HD affords excellent gripping.

I found no issues seeing the entire field of view without glasses and the eye cups fully extended outwards. I did however have a bit of an issue seeing the entire field when I retracted them using eye glasses, but you could get there with a squeeze… but only just. In use, I sometimes got the impression that they were a tad too hard when pushed up against my eyes, but it wasn’t a big deal in field use.

The focus wheel is very nicely engineered and provides smooth accurate focusing. The eye cups lock very rigidly in place in all settings.

The focus wheel rotates very smoothly and accurately, with a a nice amount of traction. It is neither too fast or too slow. I suspect many users will find it just fine. From one end of focus travel to the other takes just 1.5 turns. The dioptre ring, which is located under the right ocular, has an acceptable amount of tension so that one needn’t worry that it will slip out of position easily. A prominently visible, white line indicates your correct setting and small but distinctly visible dots on either side presumably indicate plus and minus settings, though it’s not clear which is which until you dial in your preferred setting.

The updated HD designation is prominently displayed on the focus wheel.

The underside of the binocular has two prominent thumb indents. While many users might find them useful, I found that my own thumbs didn’t naturally rest there to obtain the most stable handheld views.

The underside of the Diamondback HD 10 x 42 has thumb indents but I never used them while holding the binocular.

The objectives are not very deeply recessed as mid-sized binoculars come. I suspect this was a design compromise to shave off as much weight as possible from the binocular in order to maximise its portability. But in my experience, this only increases the chances of picking up glare in field use. More on this later. On the plus side though, the Diamondback HD 10 x 42 tips the scales at just over 600g – a remarkable fact! Indeed, it is much lighter than the vast majority of binoculars in this size class.

The internal optics are argon purged and O-ring sealed. Why argon? Well, its an inexpensive noble gas, so is completely unreactive. One other bonus is its larger relative atomic mass than molecular nitrogen (40 as opposed to 28). In theory this should decrease the rate of diffusion of the gas from the interior of the binocular, but I’m not sure whether it makes much difference to nitrogen in the scheme of things.

The objectives on the Diamondback HD are not very deeply recessed.

Overall, I was very pleased with its sleek, ergonomic design. A lot of thought was put into this binocular and it’s abundantly in evidence!

Optics

As always, I began my optical testing to see how an intensely bright beam of light  behaved as it was directed through the binocular across a room. The results were excellent, with no significant internal reflections detected. Neither was there any annoying diffraction spikes or diffused light around the beam. This indicated that the coatings applied to the lenses and prisms were of high quality. Indeed it was pretty much the equal of my control binocular – the Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 ED – in this regard. The same results were in evidence when I turned the binocular on a sodium street lamp at night.

Next I took a look at the exit pupil from both barrels of the binocular. Both the left and right barrels had round exit pupils, and little in the way of stray light around them as shown below.

Left eye pupil.

Right eye pupil.

My first look through the binocular on a dull overcast winter day proved very promising. The Diamondback HD 10 x 42 threw up a very good image, with a big sweet spot within which the image was very sharp. Contrast and colour fidelity were also very good. I detected the merest trace of chromatic aberration in the centre of the image which became progressively more prominent when the targets were moved off axis, but overall I judged the colour correction to be very good. Edge of field sharpness fell off a bit, starting from about 65 per cent out from the centre of the field.

As an astronomer, I’ve learned that the best way to test binocular aberrations is not during daylight observations, but under the night sky. Rising before the Sun on a late January morning showed a last quarter Moon to be nice and sharp within the sweet spot, with very little colour fringing at the limbs. Moving the Moon off axis showed up more lateral colour and some drop off in illumination, as the bright, silvery orb was brought progressively closer to the edge. Right at the edge of the field, the lunar image became darker and a bit fuzzy. I was able to refocus it to some degree, but was unable to obtain a perfectly sharp image. The same was true when I turned the Diamondback HD 10 x 42 on some bright winter stars like Capella and Procyon. Stars remained crisp and tightly focused out to about 65 per cent of the distance from the centre, before significant distortions began to creep in. Stars placed at the edge of the field could be improved somewhat by re-focussing but not entirely so, indicating that field curvature was not the only geometrical aberration in evidence, with astigmatism being the most likely culprit.

Collimation was shown to be quite excellent in the Diamondback HD however, as evidenced by seeing a perfectly focused star at the centre of a defocused diffraction disk, evinced by rotating the right eye dioptre ring to the extreme of its travel.

The Diamondback HD 10 x 42 did throw up some glare though. While looking towards a setting Sun behind some thin clouds, the field became a bit washed out. Veiling glare was also in evidence as a bright arc of light at the bottom of the field when I pointed the binocular high up into the canopy of some conifer trees against a bright overcast sky. And while shielding the objectives with an outstretched hand removed a lot of this unwanted glare, it couldn’t remove all of it, unlike with my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20. I believe this could be significantly improved by recessing the objectives more deeply than they are.

Notes from the Field

Despite these shortfalls, some time out in the field with the Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 42 convinced me that this is a good, solid performing binocular, with no serious defects. The images it throws up are impressive but are certainly a notch down on higher quality instruments, such as my GPO Passion ED 10 x 32, which I found to deliver better contrast, sharpness and more vivid colours than the Diamondback, and with less glare to boot. Close focus was measured to be 2.21m, considerably more than the advertised value of 1.52m.

One very pleasant aspect of using the Diamondback HD 10 x 42 was its low weight. In my opinion, its low mass really adds to its ergonomic appeal. A lighter weight binocular like this is often easier to stabilise and easier to use, especially in prolonged excursions.

Its excellent collimation also reduces eye fatigue .

Conclusions & Recommendations

The Diamondback HD 10 x 42 is a very good binocular that serves up impressive images, with no serious optical defects. It does many things very well, but falls short of being considered outstanding. It’s a pleasure to use in the field, with a tough, lightweight chassis, excellent twist-up eyecups and a well-designed focus wheel. While it is unlikely to impress those used to looking through substantially more expensive models, it will certainly deliver the readies for most applications. And when you factor in its modest cost and VIP warranty, I believe it offers a lot of bang for the buck, making it easy to see why it remains a very popular choice for nature lovers, hunters, birders and stargazers alike.

Recommended!

 

Dr Neil English is the author of a 650+ page treatise, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, celebrating the lives of dozens of astronomers over the last four centuries, who turned their telescopes towards the heavens in search of celestial treasures.

 

 

De Fideli.

Lights in the Sky- Seeing Through The UFO Phenomenon.

At the end of June 2021, after months of hype all over the internet and a string of sensationalized reports by the main stream media, the Pentagon released a 9 page report1 on the subject of 144 Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs)or Unidentified Aerial Phenomena(UAP) documented in recent years by the US government. Millions of people all over the world anxiously awaited the findings from that report but were ultimately left disappointed and frustrated because the same report was completely inconclusive and never even mentioned the word ” extra-terrestrial” or ” alien.” Instead, the report merely stated that,

“Most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects, given that a majority of UAP were registered across multiple sensors, to include radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers and visual observation1.

But the Pentagon report was presaged by further hype fuelled by Harvard Astronomer, Avi Loeb, who released a sensational book, Extra-terrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life beyond Earth2, in February 2021, in which he claimed that an asteroid nicknamed Oumuamua, which passed through the outer solar system in a highly unusual orbit in late 2018, displayed signs of artificiality, both in terms of its of movements and physical properties. Since then, several natural explanations have been forwarded by scientists to explain the behaviour of Oumuamua, but predictably, those were largely ignored by the media. A few months earlier in December 2020, Haim Eshed, a retired army general and former head of Israel’s Defence Ministry’s space directorate, claimed in an interview that Earth has been contacted by a “galactic federation” of extraterrestrials,3 and that “they have been waiting until today for humanity to develop and reach a stage where we will understand, in general, what space and spaceships are.”

Stories such as these form the basis of a multi-million-dollar industry in the form of books, documentaries, the internet and Hollywood Sci-Fi blockbusters, entertaining countless millions of curious individuals across the world. But why are some people captivated with UFOs and extra-terrestrials and on what basis do they believe in their existence? Furthermore, how should we, as Christians, respond to such events?

 Test everything; hold fast to what’s good4

That famous quote from St Paul, writing to the Church in Thessalonica, provides a great place to start. The secular world has been fed a staple diet of evolutionary ‘science’ that powerfully affects the way many people think. The reasoning sounds both rational and straightforward, at first glance; life evolved on Earth and our planet is one of countless quadrillions scattered across the Universe. Life therefore must have taken hold on many worlds, and in many epochs, so it’s reasonable to expect that intelligent spacefaring aliens exist.  Unfortunately, though, the latest science is casting severe doubts on this worldview.

For one thing, there are now serious doubts that evolution, as described by biologists, really happened. The origin of life is a profound mystery and given the astonishing complexity of even the simplest living cells, there is effectively zero chance that it happened by accident5. Furthermore, the fossil record, which scientists have now unearthed in great detail, doesn’t show any evolutionary progression over the 3.8 billion years or so since its inception. Instead, it reveals many extirpation events followed by equally rapid speciation episodes, in contrast to the expected gradualism of Darwinian evolution. Simply put, we can be reasonably confident that if a scientific theory approaches the truth, the uncertainties become smaller over time. The problem with the evolutionary paradigm is the opposite – the error bars are increasing… and rapidly.

Coupled to this is the growing realization that most of the planets orbiting other stars, both within our galaxy and in myriad other galaxies scattered across the cosmos, are now considered very unlikely to harbour habitable worlds. For example, as much as 80 or 90 per cent of all the stars that exist are cool red and brown dwarfs that would require their habitable planets to be located far too close to their surfaces to be warm enough to allow liquid water to exist. Yet the same stars are highly unstable, firing off dangerous high energy flares and ferocious stellar winds that would damage fragile living systems5. What’s more, when you factor in all the other requirements for a viable biosphere, Earth stands out like a proverbial sore thumb as being very special indeed!

We therefore suffer somewhat from what scientists call observational bias;  because we see our planet teeming over with life, we naturally assume the same thing happened on countless other worlds.  But, as the distinguished organic chemist, James Tour, quipped.

 ” Life should not exist. This much we know from chemistry. In contrast to the ubiquity of life on Earth, the lifelessness of other planets makes far better chemical sense5.”

Biblical Guidance

So, if there is life out there, and intelligent life in particular, it must have been placed there by God. Yet the Biblical narrative gives us other clues about whether space-faring ETs exist or not.  The secular world view posits that humans emerged from other lifeforms accidently, but the Bible makes it clear that the Earth was first prepared before humankind was placed here. Living things made Earth habitable for humans and continues to provide a life-support system for human flourishing. Would God create worlds packed with life without placing sentient beings on them? That’s a good question, but I suspect not.

Similar conclusions are reached by the Christian astronomer and young earth creationist, Danny Faulkner(PhD Astronomy Indiana University), in his book, UFOs & ETs; a Biblical and Cultural Exploration of Aliens.6 Faulkner squarely lays the blame with the brainwashing of the general public in accepting evolutionary thought:

“We must realize that nearly all discussion about such matters has been within an evolutionary framework. That worldview assumes the plurality of worlds-that life has arisen on many other planets in the universe, and that life on at least some of those planets is intelligent. Hence, in the evolutionary worldview one might expect that extra-terrestrial aliens will visit Earth from time to time. However, Christians ought not to adopt an evolutionary worldview. Instead, we ought to base what we think about on the Bible, not the ideas of men. Evolution is clearly contrary to Scripture, and so life only exists where God created it. While the Bible does not explicitly state that God created life only on Earth, the clear implication from Scripture is that God made life only on Earth and that man is the centre of God’s attention. Therefore, within a Biblical worldview, one would reject the plurality of worlds idea and would not expect extra-terrestrial aliens to have visited Earth(or even to exist)6.”

Furthermore, we read in the passages of Scripture that Jesus died “once for all7.”  If there are other civilizations out there, did Jesus die for them too? Some theologians have suggested that these beings might have not fallen, as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, and so were in no need of a Saviour. But we read that the entire creation is groaning8 and that God has reserved this current Universe for a fiery destruction9. If those putative civilisations exit elsewhere in the Universe, they too will perish and that would make God a monster, which is clearly a theological non sequitur!

 Occult Connections

But there appears to be a more sinister facade to UFOs and ETs. Many in-depth studies conducted over many decades have shown a strong connection between these phenomena and the occult, and which often involve narratives that serve to undermine Christianity in particular. In their now classic work, Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials9, astronomer Hugh Ross, theologian, Kenneth Samples, and political scientist, Mark Clark, showcase many studies linking the obsession of the New Age movement with extra-terrestrials and flying saucers. They conclude that, while most of these sightings can be discounted by natural phenomena, hoaxes or human-made technological devices, a small number of residual cases cannot be explained away and display properties that suggest that they are real but non-physical in nature, that is, these events are demonic in nature and represent deceptions by fallen angels who can move inter-dimensionally, at one moment looking real and the next, vanishing into thin air.

To my mind, our culture’s fascination with spacefaring aliens merely represents a post-modern form of idolatry, a convenient distraction from the things we ought to think about. Unwilling to accept the reality of an omniscient Creator, they resort to imagining beings far in advance of our own as new gods that will solve all of humanity’s problems. Yet, as I’ve explained earlier, this is little more than fanciful thinking that has no basis in scientific reality. I suspect that, in the end, the only aliens we’ll ever meet are our neighbours. So, as Jesus taught us, we ought to love our neighbours as ourselves!

 

 

  1. https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Prelimary-Assessment-UAP-20210625.pdf
  2. Loeb, A., Extra-terrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life beyond Earth, Houghton Miffin Harcourt, 2021.
  3. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/weird-news/former-israeli-space-security-chief-says-extraterrestrials-exist-trump-knows-n1250333
  4. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
  5. English, N., Origin Stories, Why Life is Beginning to Seem Very Special Indeed, Salvo #50
  6. Faulkner, D., UFOs & ETs; a Biblical and Cultural Exploration of Aliens, 2015, Answers in Genesis Press.
  7. Romans 8:28
  8. Romans 6:10
  9. 2 Peter 3: 7
  10. Ross, H, Samples, K., and Clark, M., Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men: A Rational Christian Look at UFOs and Extraterrestrials, Nav Press, 2002.

Dr Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. His latest work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, showcases four centuries of visual astronomy and the many Christian personalities that shaped its progress.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Canon IS 8 x 20.

 

The Canon IS 8 x 20 package.

A Worked Commenced January 21 2022

 

 

 

Product: Canon IS 8 x 20

Country of Manufacture: Taiwan

Field of View: 115m@1000m (6.6 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 2.5mm

Eye Relief: 13.5mm

Coatings: Fully Broadband Multi-Coated, Super Spectra Coating

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 5.9 

Water Proof: No

Nitrogen Purged: No

ED Glass: No

Close Focus: 2m advertised( 2.02 m measured)

Dimensions: W/H 11.8/14.2cm

Weight: 420g(without battery)

Supplied Accessories: Soft carry case, padded neck strap, instruction manual, 1x CR123A lithium battery, eyepiece covers, warranty card.

Price(UK): £425.70

 

 

In a recent blog, I outlined my experiences of an older model Canon IS 10 x 30. I was impressed by the image stabilisation technology on that unit and described its optical quality as very good but not outstanding. These tests got me curious about two smaller models recently introduced by the giant Japanese camera manufacturer; a 8 x 20 IS and 10 x 20 IS, which promised even better ergonomics than the older generation 8 x 25 IS and 10 x 30 IS models. So I decided to buy and test the smaller 8 x 20 IS, the subject of this new review.

First Impressions

The Canon 8 x 20 IS arrived neatly boxed away inside its soft carry case, together with a comprehensive user manual, lithium ion battery, and warranty card. Weighing in at 420g without the battery, the binocular has a tough, grey coloured plastic chassis which I immediately found much easier to handle than the larger 10 x 30 IS, which tips the scales at 660g in comparison.

Like the older generation models, the new Canon 8 x 20 IS has soft rubber eye cups that can be folded down for use with spectacles. Turning next to the objectives, I was quite surprised but very happy to see that the 20mm objectives on the Canon were very deeply recessed; far more deeply in fact than any other binocular I’ve thus far encountered. Doubtless, this helps quite a lot in keeping stray light, dust and rain at bay; a good thing surely, as these units are not waterproof.

The small, 20mm objectives on the Canon IS 8 x 20 are very deeply recessed to protect them from the elements and stray light.

The focus wheel on the Canon IS 8 x 20 appears to be made of metal. It has very good grip and is large enough to access and manoeuvre even while wearing thick winter gloves. The dioptre compensation is achieved in the traditional way, by rotating the base of the right eye cup until you achieve your desired setting.

The single CR123A lithium ion battery is easily installed in a pull-out compartment located under the focus wheel. The image stabilisation is achieved by pressing a small button offset onto the right barrel of the binocular, causing a small green LED to light up while it is being activated. The instruction manual states that the battery has a lifetime of about 12 hours at room temperature but is reduced to just 8 hours at -10C. During my tests I never encountered any problems using the image stabilisation function, which involved a few hours of testing at temperatures ranging from +20C to -2C.

The objective lenses on both the ocular and objectives have very nice and evenly applied anti-reflection coatings. The objective coatings have a pale, greenish tint while those on the eyepieces appeared magenta in daylight.

Note the magenta coloured anti-reflection coatings on the ocular lenses. One can also see the rectangular shaped battery compartment on the instrument immediately under the focus wheel.

Ergonomics

In comparison with my experiences with the older generation Canon IS 10 x 30, the smaller 8 x 20 model was much easier to use in my medium sized hands. For example, it was considerably easier to hold it with two hands, and accessing the off centre stabilisation button did not present any problems.

The large, centrally placed focus wheel turns very smoothly, with excellent inertia and with no play while rotating clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The textured, metal focus wheel on the Canon IS 8 x 20 rotates smoothly with no backlash, stiction or free play.

The rather old-school, flexi-rubber eyecups proved reasonably comfortable when they were pressed against my eyes. When I folded them down to test the eye relief for spectacle wearers however, I found it difficult to image the entire field of view using my varifocals. I think this an area that Canon can improve on in the future.

The old school soft rubber eyecups fold down for use with eye glasses.

Playing around with the Canon IS 8 x 20  in my hands, and comparing it to a conventional 8 x 20 pocket binocular, I felt the latter was much easier to achieve a stable, comfortable grip with. So, while the newer 8 x 20 IS units are a big improvement  over say a larger 10 x 30 IS, they are still nowhere near the comfort levels I experience using a conventional, dual-hinge 8 x 20 glass.

The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 (left) is much easier to handle than the Canon IS 8 x 20(right).

Optical Assessment

I was quite impressed with the optical quality of the older generation Canon IS 10 x 30 but my tests on the newer IS 8 x 20 showed it to be a good deal better again. Conducting a bright light torch test showed no annoying  internal reflections, diffraction spikes or diffused light. Indeed, it was a good step up from the results I achieved with the older, Canon IS 10 x 30 in this regard. No doubt, this is largely attributed to the improved ‘Super Spectra’ coatings applied to its optical elements.

Looking through the Canon IS 8 x 20 during dull, overcast winter weather, I was  immediately impressed with the excellent sharpness, contrast and brightness of the image from edge to centre. Like the older models, these smaller Canon IS binoculars have built-in field flattening lenses which reduces field curvature and other off axis aberrations when viewing a target away from the centre of the field.

Indeed, in low light tests I conducted alongside my excellent Leica 8 x 20 BR Ultravid, I judged the Canon IS 8x 20 be equally bright, but just falling short of the sharpness of the Leica. Glare suppression however, was noticeably better in the Canon though. This is probably attributed to the very deeply recessed objective lenses on the Canon IS binocular in contrast to the Leica, the objectives of which are not at all recessed( maximising its compactness) and so are at the mercy of intrusions of stray light.

One aspect of the view was less engaging with the Canon IS 8 x 20 over the hand-held Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 though. Despite having a slightly larger field of view(6.6 vs 6.5 angular degrees), I felt the field was significantly more immersive in the Leica compared with the Canon 8 x 20. It almost felt as if I were watching a scene on a movie screen in the latter compared with the feeling of being much more ‘in the image’ using the Leica.

Chromatic aberration was an absolute non-issue in the Canon IS 8 x 20, unlike the larger and older Canon IS 10 x 30. Indeed, it was fully the equal of the Leica Ultravid 8x 20, with only the extreme edges of the field showing up the merest traces of secondary spectrum whilst glassing high contrast daylight targets.

Close focus was found to be very good in the Canon IS 8x 20 too. I measured it at just over 2 metres, in accordance with the stated numbers issued by Canon. Still, the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR was noticeably better at 1.8 metres.

Depth of focus proved excellent in the Canon IS 8 x 20. Indeed, it was even a shade better than my Leica 8 x 20 Ultravid BR. This was largely to be expected, as the Porro prism design of the Canon has long been known to create better depth perception in comparison to their roof prism counterparts.

All in all, I judged the Canon IS 8 x 20 to have excellent optics, as good or better in many respects to the best roof prism instruments models available today.

Engaging the IS Technology

The real magic of these binoculars takes place when you press the image stabilisation button. Like the larger 10 x 30 IS I tested some weeks back, the smaller Canon 8 x 20 IS works brilliantly. Aim at your target, focus as sharply as you can and press the IS button. You can immediately see finer detail that is quite invisible in the non-stabilised views. The stabilisation function works in two modes: sporadic and continuous. Most of the time, I used the button to stabilise the image for a few seconds before dis-engaging. But the IS function can also be used continuously for up to five minutes. I got on less well with the latter mode, as I felt a bit queasy moving the binocular from one target to the other, and watching the images ‘swim’ into  stabilised mode.

In another test, I compared the stabilised views on the Canon 8 x 20 IS to a tripod- mounted Leica Utravid 8 x 20. Carefully going back and forth between the instruments, I discerned slightly more details in the tripod-stabilised Leica than the Canon 8 x 20 IS. This is in keeping with my results with the older generation 10 x 30 IS. The tripod-stabilised view offers a little more in the way of resolution at the cost of losing portability.

In yet another test, I aimed the Canon IS 8 x 20 on the Pleaides star cluster high in the winter sky, comparing the non-stabilised view with the images served up when the IS function was engaged. The results were quite dramatic; many fainter stars popped into view when the IS button was engaged. Very impressive!

Concluding Thoughts and Recommendations

The Canon 8 x 20 IS serves up very impressive views, even when the image stabilisation function is dis-engaged. These newer models have noticeably improved optics over their older counterparts, especially in terms of brightness and contrast, and in the control of stray light. Indeed, optically, they are very close to the quality served up by the world’s best pocket binoculars. Having said that, while I fully acknowledge that the smaller weight of these new Canon IS binoculars is a big step in the right direction in terms of ergonomic handling, they still fall quite a bit short in terms of how good they feel in my hands compared with my little Leica Ultravid. Indeed, I think the engineers at Canon could make some significant improvements in the shape of the chassis to allow a better grip in the hand. What’s more, their lack of waterproofing will put others off, especially if they intend using them for long periods in the field where the weather can change without warning.

So, all in all, a terrific product, but still some room for improvement.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

De Fideli.