Product Review: Carson VP 10 x 42.

 

The Carson VP 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 12 2021

 

                                                             

Product: Carson VP 10 x 42

Country of Origin: China

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

Eye Relief: 15mm

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Close Focus: 1.92m(measured)

Chassis Material: Rubber over Polycarbonate 

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

Dioptre Range: +/- 5 dioptres in click stops

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes(no depth or time specified)

ED Glass; No

Weight: 692g (measured)

Warranty: Standard No fault 

H/W: 14.6/14.0cm

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

Retail Price: £121.19

 

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

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

Ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optical Assessment

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

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

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

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

Can’t say better than that can I?

 

Ad Astra

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

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

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

Overall Conclusions

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Post Scriptum:

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

August 8 2021

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

August 16 2021

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

Meade rainforest Pro 10 x 42.

De Fideli.

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

 

Chock full of archaeological facts that uphold the Biblical narrative.

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

Author: Titus Kennedy Ph D.

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7915-3

Number of Pages: 254

Price: £13.99(UK) Paperback

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

De Fideli.

 

Product Review: Svbony SV202 8 x 32 ED Binocular.

The Svbony 8 x 32 ED binocular.

A Work Commenced July 20 2021

 

 

Product: Svbony SV202 8 x 32 ED

Place of Manufacture: Hong Kong

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

Eye Relief: 15.6mm

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.98m measured.

Chassis Material: Rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

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

Dioptre Range: +/- 3 Dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

ED Glass: Yes

Weight: 510g(measured)

Warranty: 1 year International Manufacturer Warranty

H/W:14.8/12.3cm

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

Retail Price: £99.99(Amazon UK)

 

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

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

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

Ergonomics Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optical Comparisons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the right eye.

Concluding Comments

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

 

Very highly recommended!

 

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

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

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25.

 

The Zeiss Terra TL 10 x 25 package.

A Work Commenced July 8 2021

 

 

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

Country of Manufacture: China

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

Eye relief: 16mm

Close focus: 1.9m

Exit Pupil: 2.5mm

Chassis material: fibre glass reinforced polyamide

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

Dioptre range: +/- 3 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes to 1m( unspecified time)

ED Glass: Yes (Schott ED)

Weight: 310g

Dimensions: H/W 11.1 x 11.5 cm

Warranty: 2 years

Retail Price: £300 UK

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

 

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

Optical Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

Not recommended for its considerable retail price!

 

 

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

 

 

De Fideli

Product Review: Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP.

The Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP package.

A Work Commenced July 7 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Ricoh-Pentax SP 10 x 50 WP 

Country of Manufacture: China

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

Eye Relief: 20mm

Close Focus: 5.5m

Exit Pupil: 5mm

Focuser: Central, lockable

Chassis Material: Aluminium with rubberised overcoat

Coatings: Fully broadband multi-coated throughout

Dioptre Range: +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (JIS Class 6)

ED Glass: No

Weight: 1060g

Dimensions: 18 x 18 cm

Retail Price: £170UK

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

 

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

First Impressions

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

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

Ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optics

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

Not for the Birds

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

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

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

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

Conclusions & Recommendations

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

Qui bono?

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

Very highly recommended!

 

 

 

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

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42.

 

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced July 1 2021

 

Preamble

 

Product: Vanguard Endeavor ED II 10 x 42 

Country of Manufacture: Myanmar

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

Eye Relief: 19mm

IPD Range: 58-74mm

Close Focus: 1.45m

Exit Pupil: 4.2mm

Chassis Material: Pebbled rubberised Armor over Magnesium Alloy

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

Dioptre Range: Lockable +/- 4 dioptres

Nitrogen Purging: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

ED Glass: Yes(Hoya)

Weight: 770g

Warranty: Limited Lifetime

Retail Price: £280(UK), $300(US)

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

 

 

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

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

Ergonomics

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

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

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

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

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

The fully multi-coated objectives are very deeply recessed.

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

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

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

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

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

Optical Evaluation

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

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

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

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

Notes from the Field

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

 

Thanks for reading!

 

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

 

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28.

 

The Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28 compact binocular package.

June 25 2021

 

 

Product: Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 101m@1000m(6.2 angular degrees)

Eye relief: 18mm (advertised), but a lot less in practice.

IPD Range: 55-72mm

Close focus: 1.83m advertised 1.75m measured

Exit Pupil:3.5mm

Chassis Material: Rubber Armoured Magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully multi-coated, dielectric coatings on prisms, phase correction coating, Armotek hydrophobic coatings on outer lenses.

Dioptre range: +/- 4  dioptres

Gas purging: Yes Argon

Waterproof: Yes (unspecified depth and time)

ED Glass: Unknown

Weight: 398g

Dimensions: W/H 11.7/11.4cm

Warranty: VIP Unlimited Lifetime

Supplied With: padded carry case & strap, lens cloth, instruction manual, logoed padded binocular strap, rubberised ocular and objective tethers

Retail Price: £135 UK/$170US

 

Vortex Optics is a US-based company specialising in sports optics for the hunting, birding and the outdoor enthusiast. They have brought to market an extensive range of binoculars from entry-level right up to low-end premium, manufactured in China or Japan. Arguably their best-selling series is the Diamondback range of roof prism binoculars. Over the last 15 years or so, Vortex has upgraded and modified the design of these binoculars, where they are widely considered to offer the best performance to cost ratio on the market. This review will be looking at the newest, third-generation of the Diamondback – the so-called Diamondback HD series, which first hit the market in 2019.

I purchased the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 with my own money and the opinions I offer are entirely unbiased, unlike a lot of fake reviews of said products all over the internet.

First Impressions

The instrument arrived in a single box, containing the binoculars wrapped inside a plastic bag and securely placed inside a black padded case. I received a neck strap, lens cleaning cloth, rubber ocular and objective tethers, and a strap for attaching to the carry case. The full-colour instruction manual offers all the basic information you need to adjust the binocular to get the best use out of it.

As I removed the binocular from its case and assessed its fit and feel, I was quite impressed. This was a solidly made binocular with a tough army green rubber armouring, ribbed at the sides for a more solid grip. The little Diamondback has good quality metal-over-soft rubber twist-up eyecups and a large, silky smooth central focus wheel. The dioptre ring located under the right ocular is a bit hard to access, as it’s very resistant to movement; a good thing I suppose as one normally doesn’t want this to move easily while out in the field. Only by twisting up the eyepieces could I negotiate moving it to my preferred dioptre setting.

The external features of the Diamondback HD 8 x 28. Note the thin dipotre ring under the right eyepiece. It’s hard to access with medium and large hands and is best adjusted by first pulling out the eye cup.

The objectives are quite deeply recessed for a small binocular(4mm) which helps protect the lenses from dust, rain and peripheral light. Inspecting the inside of the instrument showed that everything was clean and dust free. The ant-reflection coatings applied to both the objective and ocular lenses appear to be very smoothly applied and give a faint greenish purple tint in broad daylight.

The twist-up eyecups have three settings and once they click into place, hold their positions rigidly. The focus wheel is covered in a textured rubber which makes gripping and rotating it very easy. Moving from close focus – measured at 1.75m – to infinity involves two full rotations of the wheel, and I was pleased to see that there was very little play or backlash throughout its motion, either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

The high quality twist up eyecups lock rigidly in place.

Ergonomically, the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 feels solid in the hand and is small and light enough to carry along on extended trips.

The Diamondback HD is weatherproof, O-ring sealed and purged with dry argon gas. In most other binoculars built for the great outdoors, dry nitrogen is used to replace the air inside. I suppose argon, having a larger relative atomic mass than molecular nitrogen, might diffuse out more slowly than the latter, but whether this has any real advantages in practice is debatable.

Size comparison between the Vortex Diamondback HD 8 x 28 (left) and the Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32 (right).

Optical Evaluation

With the advertised full-featured coatings used in the manufacture of this binocular, I was expecting a good result from my smartphone flash light test. Directing an intense beam of light into the binocular and looking through the eyepieces, I was pleased to see a very clean image, with very well suppressed internal reflections and with little in the way of diffraction spikes evident. Neither was there any diffused light showing that the glass was very homogenous and free of major artefacts. This would be a good performer looking at artificial lights at night or casual moongazing, as my subsequent tests indeed confirmed.

But while I was using it in the field, I uncovered a significant issue with the Diamondback HD 8 x 28. When I fully extended the eye cups and locked them into place, I was very surprised to experience pretty severe blackouts and it was very challenging to see the field stops. Indeed, instead of normal well-defined edges to the field, I was seeing a ‘ring of fire’ around the edges which I found quite distracting. I quickly realised that the eye relief was just too short for me to obtain a stable binocular image with no blackouts. I had seen this before but in a far less extreme way while using a Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32 binocular, which has multiple twist-up positions. If I had inadvertently not pulled these eye cups fully out, I got more blackouts and these would alert me to the problem. So the same issue must have been happening in the Diamondback HD binocular, only it was much more severe.. Only by pulling my eyes away from the eyecups could I obtain a reasonably stable field  but I have to admit that I found this to be quite annoying.

More’s the pity as otherwise the Diamondback HD 8 x 28 served up a very bright, high-contrast image rich in detail and with a large sweet spot. Depth of focus in this instrument is good too. Colours were very vivid and realistic and it even exhibited well-above-average control of glare. Edge sharpness was also very good with only slight colour fringing seen on high contrast objects beginning about 70 per cent out from the centre.  I have no idea what the term ‘HD’ means – ‘High Density’ perhaps, or ‘High Definition’ even? And if HD indicated the use of some low dispersion objective element, why not just call it ED in line with most other models?  All I can say is that the image was of impressively high quality but somewhat off putting by the positioning of the eyecups.

When I tested the unit under a clear twilit June sky at night, star fields were impressively presented with bright luminaries like Vega, Arcturus and Deneb focusing down to sharp pinpoints and remaining tightly focused nearly all the way to the field stops. Again, this result was better than expected but I suspect that it is due to the rather small field served up by this binocular. Simply put, by restricting the field of view,  binocular designers can mask more severe distortion and field curvature that would show up in a larger field. Views of a low-hanging, waxing gibbous Moon were also very good! The bright, silvery orb was clean and sharp and showed no secondary spectrum on axis, but did show up some minor lateral colour as the Moon was moved to the edge of the field.

Final Thoughts

Does the Diamondback HD 8x 28 have a general design flaw or did I just get a lemon? Maybees aye, maybees naw!

In light of the many positive reviews of larger Diamondback HD binoculars made by experienced glassers, I am reluctant to write-off this series based on my less than favourable experience of this 8 x 28 model. With their modest cost, above-average optical performance and great ergonomics, I can see why these Diamondbacks enjoy a loyal fan base. Those who wear eye glasses, unlike me, will probably fare OK with these binoculars though. As for me, I returned the instrument and received a full refund, so no permanent harm done.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Dr. Neil English has written over 300 articles for various astronomy, religious and birdwatching magazines over the last 25 years, and is the author of seven books on amateur and professional astronomy. His magnum opus, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, continues to go from strength to strength among serious astronomy historians.

 

De Fideli.

 

 

The Wonder that is Israel.

 

Raising of the Ink Flag, marking the end of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Image credit Wiki Commons.

Originally Posted April 24 2019.

Updated May 23 2021

 

On that day I raised My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ the glory of all lands.

Ezekiel 20:6

Any unbiased reading of the Bible will soon reveal that the Creator of the Universe has had a long and enduring relationship with the Jews. This people group were the first humans to forge a relationship with God, where He made Himself known to them and guided their founding of a nation in a relatively tiny strip of land on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The Biblical narrative accurately portrays much of the history of the ancient Jewish nation and modern archaeological research is unveiling more and more details that affirm the historicity of their story, despite militant opposition from secular academics, who have been proven wrong time and time again.

Mlp of Israel and Judah in the 9th century BC. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

Originally the land promised to the Jews by God actually stretched from the Nile to the Euphrates:

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,  And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

Genesis 15:18-21

 

We also read the same thing in the opening passages of Joshua:

Cross the Jordan River. Lead these people into the land that I am ready to hand over to them .I am handing over to you every place you set foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert  in the south to Lebanon in the north. It will extend all the way to the great River Euphrates in the east (including all Syria) and all the way to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. 

Joshua 1:2-4

 

Because of their unfaithfulness to their God, the former glory of the kingdom established by David and his son, Solomon, was gradually but inexorably wrenched from them because of their reluctance to follow Torah, as well as their eagerness to seek out and worship the false gods of the surrounding nations and the inter-marriage of their nobles with the nobility of foreign cultures(and against God’s wishes). As a result, ancient Israel and Judah suffered many waves of conquests by foreign imperial powers including Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Byzantium and the various waves of Islamic invasions over the centuries and millennia. Israel ceased to be a free nation about 2,600 years ago being occupied by foreign powers throughout much of this time.

The Mereneptah Stele, dating to the 13th century BC, has the earliest known reference to Israel as a nation inscribed on it. Image credit: Wiki Commons.

For much of its history, the Jewish people have suffered terrible persecutions under various powers, culminating with the attempt of the evil Nazi regime to exterminate them from the face of the Earth. Still, despite these perils, they have bucked all the odds to maintain their culture and religion; indeed they are the only truly ancient people that exist through modern times. After World War II, the United Nations created a homeland for the remaining Jews, which culminated in the declaration of independence of the modern state of Israel on May 14 1948. The declaration was immediately condemned by all the surrounding Arab nations and was immediately attacked, leading to the Arab-Israeli War (1948-9). No superpowers came to the aid of the young nation but miraculously, the Israeli’s won. Less than twenty years later, Israel was once again attacked by a coalition of Arab nations including Syria, Jordan and Egypt in June 1967. Though attacked on three different fronts and greatly outnumbered in terms of troops, tanks and aircraft, the conflict lasted just six days, with Israel, miraculously, emerging victorious. Thus, Israel had to work hard from the outset to establish its borders, rapidly developing an excellent military machine that staved off aggressive behaviour by its surrounding enemies, and which remains so to this day.

In the 73 years since its founding days, the story of Israel has been one of astonishing prosperity, so much so that many Bible believing Christians accept it as a clear and unambiguous miracle in our times. Furthermore, it is clear that while the majority of contemporary Jews do not accept Jesus as their Messiah, the Lord would not make a complete end of them, but established them again for the sake of a minority who have(or will) come to accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Furthermore, the Bible foretells that this tiny little nation will play an important role in converting many unbelievers to the true God during the Great Tribulation period, otherwise known as the time of Jacob’s Trouble.

Most denominational Christians however, have been taught the false doctrine of replacement theology, which assumes that the modern Church has taken the place of Israel, and as a result, know very little about how Israel will play a central role in God’s ultimate plan for the salvation of many people. This was essentially my thinking for most of my life, as I continued in my walk with the Catholic Church, being largely ignorant of Biblical knowledge. We had no Bible in our home(my neighbours had none either), and no Sunday Schools when I was growing up. Indeed, I saved up some pocket money to buy a children’s Bible in my youth and only purchased my first ‘real’ Bible:- an old King James Version:- as a graduate student during my time at the University of Dundee in the mid-1990s. But this is equally true of many Protestant denominations, which teach nothing at all concerning the true role of Israel in God’s redemptive plan for humankind. Only when I began to read the Bible for myself, as a non-denominational Christian, that I rejected the notion of replacement theology.

With the Lord, there is the Church and then there’s Israel; they are not one and the same.

With Israel, it’s personal.

Consider the particular interest our Lord has expressed in the land of Israel;

For the land you are going in to possess is not like the land of Egypt from which you came. There you planted your seed and watered it by foot, like a vegetable garden.  But the land you are crossing over to possess is a land of hills and valleys, drinking from the rain of the heavens it drinks in water.  It is a land that Adonai your God cares for—the eyes of Adonai your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year up to the end of the year.

Deuteronomy 11:10-12

The prophet Ezekiel writes:

 

Therefore say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: Not for your sa ke do I act, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name, which you desecrated among the nations to which you came.

Ezekiel 36:22

So what’s it all about then? In a phrase, the execution of Absolute power!

Israel is God’s land; He gave it to the Jews.

The prophet Jeremiah writes:

Thus says the Lord, “If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’”

Jeremiah 33: 25-26

In other words, the Lord would sooner abolish the laws of nature than renege on His promises to Israel.

In Ezekiel 37, God states explicitly that His covenant with Israel is for all time:

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever.

Ezekiel 37:26

So let’s take a closer look at the remarkable rise of Israel in the modern psyche. As a nation state, Israel is tiny,  with a land area of just 21,000 square kilometres, smaller than Wales(or the US state of New Jersey)  and ranking about 150th out of the 200 or so nations on Earth. It’s population is currently 9 million, of which 75 per cent identify as Jew. But with antisemitism on the rise worldwide it is estimated that as much as half the entire global population of Jews will be living in Israel by 2030.  The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Israel is $410.5 billion, ranking it as the 31st richest nation in the world. Its per capita annual income is even more impressive though, at $42,000 per annum, making its citizens the 25th richest nation in the world; on par with the average UK dweller. Israel is also home to more millionaires per capita than any other country in the world, with over 7,200 millionaires with collective assets of approximately $45 billion. What is more, Israel’s economic wealth far exceeds that of all the surrounding (Muslim and non-democratic) nations. The life expectancy of the average Israeli is 82 years, where it poles as the 8th longest among the other nations of the world. Israel’s age demographic though is astonishing and contrary to every other developed nation currently in existence. 25 per cent of the population are under the age of 14 and 40 per cent are aged 25 years and younger. Only 11 per cent of the Israeli population is aged 65 years and older!

This very youthful population is also highly educated; 45 per cent of Israeli’s hold a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent; higher per capita than any other nation on Earth. Their official language is Hebrew, for centuries considered an all but dead language, but thanks to the efforts of Jewish linguists, is now widely spoken and thriving. Curiously, though Israel is one of the most technologically advanced nations currently in existence, her citizens are taught little or nothing about Darwinian evolution in public schools, which dovetails with the ideology’s current fall from grace as a proper science of origins. And yet, Israel is a shining light in the emerging biotechnological and agricultural industries, both of which require an excellent knowledge of the life sciences.

Because of more or less incessant terrorist threats from foreign regimes, Israel has one of the best trained professional armies in the world. The so-called Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) has about 150,000 full-time members and over 400,000 reserves. All Israeli citizens over the age of 18 are obliged to undergo two years and eight months of military service for men and two years for women, although many seek exemptions on religious, psychological and physical grounds. This rise in military power also comports with the Biblical narrative, which describes the desolate land of Israel being revived from a “valley of dry bones”(see Ezekiel 37):

So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.

Ezekiel 37:10

Despite more than half of the land being desert and only 20 per cent being arable, Israel is a world leader in irrigation technology. In addition, it’s de-salination technology is now being exported to other nations (the US state of California, for example, is now steeply committed to using these technologies). The north of the country receives a plentiful supply of rain but the south is much more arid, with the result that water transport and use is carefully regulated. The statistics are impressive; agriculture’s share of total water use fell from more than 70% in 1980 to 57% by 2005, and is projected to drop to just 52% by 2025, according to a recent report. Many nations around the world have benefitted greatly from Israel’s lead in this regard. Indeed this small nation has become the fruit basket of Europe and the Middle East, growing and exporting over 40 different types of fruit. Indeed, 95 per cent of all Israel’s food is homegrown, supplemented by imports of meat, grains, coffee, cocoa and sugar. Israel also produces most of the flowers sold in Europe(especially during the winter months), with an industry estimated to be worth $60 million. These flowers are almost exclusively grown on 214 hectares of land.

A Lemon grove in the Galilee. Image credit: David Shankbone.

Just as the Bible informs us, Israel has truly become “a land of milk and honey.” Specially bred, disease-resistant cows produce the highest amounts of milk per animal in the world, with an average of 10,208 kilograms of dairy in 2009, according to data published in 2011 by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, outperforming cows in the US (9,331 kg  per cow), Japan (7,497), the European Union (6,139) and Australia (5,601). Honey production in Israel is prodigious, with more than 100,000 apiaries scattered across the country and exported to many other nations around the world. And despite the alarming decline in bee numbers in almost every other country, Israel’s bee populations have not endured such decimation, thanks to the implementation of a number of ingenious management strategies. Indeed, the Israeli department of agriculture estimate that the value of their bees as vehicles of pollination is worth more than 30 times the value of the honey they produce! In 1948, only about 400,000 acres of land in Israel could be tilled. Today it stands at over a million acres, with productivity increasing by a factor of 16 per unit of water used. And instead of growing strains of wheat that are waist high, as is the case in most other nations, Israeli farmers cultivate new varieties that only grow to knee height and so require far less water to bring them to maturity.

In the spheres of technology, Israel ranks as the 8th most powerful nation in the world. Outside of Silicon Valley, California, Silicon Wadi on the coastal plains just outside Tel Aviv  has the highest number(over 3,000 as of 2019) of IT start-up companies in the world. The first anti-virus software was formulated here, as was the first voicemail technology, and all manner of memory sticks that we use in our everyday lives. Motorola, Microsoft, Celebrite and Intel all have major investments here. The oil industry is booming at an unprecedented rate in Israel with valuable, high-grade crude oil and natural gas reserves found in the Negev, the Golan Heights and most recently off shore in the Leviathan and Tamar fields. Analysts suggest that the energy reserves in these newly discovered sites could power the nation for another 300 years! What’s more, it is expected that Israel will become a major supplier of petrochemicals to the European nations by building under-sea pipelines across the Mediterranean.

In recent years, geologists have assessed Israel’s mineral wealth. In particular the rapidly evaporating Dead Sea has an estimated $5 trillion of minerals salts including, calcium, sodium, magnesium and potassium chlorides, bromides and iodides, phosphates and other resources. Even the mud dredged up from the Dead Sea floor has important medicinal properties that many people will pay for. Moreover, an extremely rare mineral, Carmeltazite, hitherto thought to form only in outer space was recently found in Israel, which, owing to its rarity, is potentially more valuable than diamond.

By most anyone’s standards, the story of the re-birth of Israel is a remarkable phenomenon. Look how much they have achieved in only one human generation! But all of this was foretold in the prophecies of Ezekiel, most likely dated to 7th century BC:

Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”

Ezekiel 36:33-36

And yet, the Biblical narrative also suggests that this new-found prosperity will attract the eyes of power-hungry nations surrounding it, like a proverbial moth to a brightly lit lamp:

After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them. You will go up, you will come like a storm; you will be like a cloud covering the land, you and all your troops, and many peoples with you.”

‘Thus says the Lord God, “It will come about on that day, that thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil plan, and you will say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the centre of the world.’ Sheba and Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish with all its villages will say to you, ‘Have you come to capture spoil? Have you assembled your company to seize plunder, to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to capture great spoil?’”’

Ezekiel 38:8-13

The Bible also asserts that Israel is the centre of the world as God sees things:

Thus says the Lord God, ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the centre of the nations, with lands around her.

Ezekiel 5:5

And when we look at Israel’s geographic location, it indeed lies at the hub of three continents; Africa, Europe and Asia.

The Bible also confidently predicts that Israel will always attract trouble makers and that eventually all the nations will be gathered against her under the auspices of the Anti-Christ:

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.

Zechariah 12:3

The Book of Jeremiah also makes it clear that when the Jews come back in the land after being scattered among the nations, they will do so without the ark of the covenant:

Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’ It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore.

Jeremiah 3:16

And what do we see today? Israel back in the land without the ark! This was quite simply unthinkable at the time it was written, since it was indispensable to their worship.

What is more, the ancient nation of Israel was divided up into two kingdoms- the northern territory of Israel, and the southern territory of Judah, in the reign of king Jeroboam I,  and remained so. But the prophet Jeremiah informs us that when the people come back in the land in the latter days, there would no longer be such an administrative division:

In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

Jeremiah 3:18

What is the ‘northern land’ referred to in this verse of Scripture?

It could well be Russia, as some 1.2 million Israeli citizens originated there.

Isn’t the Bible remarkable for its accuracy? Surely, we are living in the times of fulfilled prophecy!

Already, we can see this gradual build-up (a Biblical “hook in the jaw”) with the hatred expressed by the politicians of many countries toward Israel as well as pervasive antisemitism(an irrational hatred of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is both trans-generational and global in reach). Sadly, one of Israel’s greatest enemies is the United Nations(UN). For example, Syria bombs its civilians with chlorine gas, China tortures dissidents, Venezuela restricts access to food, and Burma is engaged in the ethnic cleansing of its Muslim minority. Yet despite these atrocities, the UN Human Rights Council trains the bulk of its diatribe on, you’ve guessed it, Israel!

At the time of writing, 31 UN members don’t recognise the state of Israel. Additionally, the nations of Bolivia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Qatar and Venezuela have suspended ties to Israel. Most of these nations do not want the state of Israel to exist. There are also several countries, most notably Egypt, that recognise the state but almost always vote against it. That is how far-reaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become!

The UN has chosen to oppose Israel at nearly every turn because of the influence and encouragement of all of these member states. On the UN security council, Israel has the support of the U.S’s power of veto and is therefore safe from most harmful resolutions, but in the general assembly the anti-Israel countries almost always win out. The most recent example of this was the decision to condemn the United States for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital even though they have every right to claim it as their own. That resolution overwhelmingly passed. But if the UN were nicer to Israel, every Muslim majority country in the world (except Albania and a few others) would withdraw from the organisation and thus would lose all of its influence over the Muslim world. There would be no more peacekeepers in Syria and Iraq, no nuclear weapons inspectors in Iran, etc. To my mind, the UN has strategically chosen to alienate Israel, over dozens of others. As a result, most Israelis are rightly suspicious of the UN to the extent that it’s somewhat of a mystery why they haven’t yet severed all ties with the organisation.

The so-called ‘Palestinian conflict stems from the claim that Palestinians are a valid ethnic group of people who occupied the land along with the Jews. But this claim is a complete lie, as anyone who has studied classical history can attest. Not once is the term ‘Palestine’ referred to in the Bible. Indeed, it actually derives from about 135 AD, when the Roman Emperor Hadrian (reigning from 117-138 AD), who in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, laid waste Jerusalem and ostracised the Jews from the city, re-naming it, Aelia Capitolina after himself(Publius Aelius Hadrianus). Moreover, Hadrian re-named the province, Syria Palaestina, in a derogatory reference to Israel’s ancient and wicked enemies, the Philistines( originating from Greek stock).

Yet it is important to remember that both the UN and the state of Israel were both founded on very similar principles: the exercise of democracy, liberty, national self-determination, as well as freedom from persecution and the respect for basic human rights. But the simple truth is that the vast majority of countries that oppose Israel respect none of these principles, as their actions so clearly demonstrate. Moreover, most of them don’t even care for an independent Palestine either. They just view Israel as a convenient scapegoat. It is tragically ironic that the UN, an organisation that has done so much good for the world, is siding with tyrannical regimes rather than a nation that clearly shares its own values!

This is especially prescient in light of what was witnessed by the world when Israel was condemned by most of the international community who accused them of genocide in the 11-day long war with the terrorist organisation, Hamas, which took place in May 2021. Despite the fact that Hamas initiated the conflict by firing rockets – a few thousand in all – into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The corrupt mainstream media fanned the flames of antisemitism by siding with the Palestinian terrorists, resulting in mass protests and wicked violence against Jews all over the world. Some of the participants in these protests included Biblically illiterate(read clueless), ‘nominal’ Christians. Furthermore, such events are prophesised to escalate as we get closer and closer to the triumphant return of Christ to the Earth.

Sunset on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Image credit; Andrew Shiva.

The Bible also tells us that the people of Israel will not be uprooted again:

I will bring back the captives of My people Israel;
They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them;
They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.
 I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

Amos 9: 14-15

All of those prophecies have now been fulfilled.

Israel, a vibrant, liberal democracy, is here to stay no matter what evil intentions the goat nations plot against her. This is in spite of the majority of their people’s stubborn unbelief in the true Messiah they had rejected 2,000 years ago. That said, the Messianic Jewish population (who accept Yeshua as their Lord and Saviour) has increased ten-fold to ~30,000 in just a decade! Truth be told, Israel is actually one of the most secular nations on Earth, with Tel Aviv having risen to notoriety in recent years as the gay capital of Europe/Middle East. The Bible addresses the spiritual blindness of Israel in both the Old and New Testaments;

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

                                                                                                                John 12:36-41

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the Bible tells us that He will once again set foot on it at His second coming, where He will fight against those nations wishing to destroy Israel:

Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

Zechariah 14:3-4

So, we’re living in exciting times; times that most unbelievers are completely oblivious to; but that too was foretold. Israel is indeed the timepiece for understanding the climactic events in world history.

So keep watching Israel, the Biblical ‘fig tree’ and pray for the peace of Jerusalem(Psalm 122:6), as we are instructed to.

 

Neil English is the author of a large historical work; Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.

A Form of Child Abuse.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
                                                                                                                  Matthew 18:6

The immortal words of Jesus Christ attest to His great love and care for children. He warned us about the grave dangers of indoctrinating young minds to the ways of the world. Yet, our educational institutions, all the way from kindergarten through University, place a maximum emphasis on teaching children that all of the grandeur of the natural world can be explained by known natural laws and actively discourage children from entertaining thought processes that appeal to the supernatural or the divine. But these findings fly in the face of recent research conducted by psychologists that reveal something altogether different:- that young children, irrespective of whether they are brought up by parents in a religious or a secular home, are strongly disposed to thinking that many natural phenomena have been intentionally created by non-human agents or a deity of sorts and, furthermore, ascribe purpose to natural objects. Sadly, by the time children reach adolescent ages, much of this design intuition is suppressed by educational and/or cultural conditioning as they fully engage with our secular societies, teachers and parental influences(1)

Beginning in the late 1920s, the Swiss child psychologist, Jean Piaget, came to some very surprising conclusions about young minds. In particular, he showed that, contrary to popular belief, children are not merely less sophisticated thinkers than adults, they are capable of thinking in radically different ways to adults. In particular, Piaget described children as ‘artificialists,’ who drew their subjective intentional experience to conclude that all things were created by people or intelligent agencies for a purpose(2). As such, Piaget concluded, children are broadly inclined to view natural phenomena, whether living or non-living, in teleological terms. For example, clouds are for ‘raining’ and lions are for ‘keeping in a zoo.’ Furthermore, when Piaget asked children how natural objects originated, they frequently identified ‘God’ as the cause. And not only that, they perceived this God as anthropomorphic, having an overarching authority of its own, like some kind of ‘super parent’ and could even formulate a mental representation of such an agency despite its intangibility to the senses(2).

Intuitive Theists
Piaget’s assertion that young children were incapable of distinguishing between human and non-human causes proved controversial though, and subsequent studies have shown that he was wrong on some of these issues. Young children can, in fact, identify some natural causes. Yet he was correct in saying that children start out with the intuition that the natural world was made for a purpose. Back in 2004, University of Boston child psychologist, Deborah Kelemen, provided strong evidence that young children (4-7 years of age) are “intuitive theists” who are “disposed to view natural phenomena as resulting from non-human design(3).”

Further work conducted by Kathleen Corriveau, also based at Boston University, conducted a study of 66 kindergarten children aged between 5 and 6 years, from religious and non-religious backgrounds(4). In the study, the children were presented with 3 different narratives; religious, historical and fantastical. Across the board, children thought the historical narratives were true. When it came to the religious narratives though, children brought up in religious homes were more likely to accept it as true than their counterparts raised in secular homes. The most striking difference Corriveau et al found came from the presentation of the fantastical narrative, where 87 per cent of the secular kids rejected as false, as compared to only 40 per cent of kids raised in religious homes(4). That said, Corriveau concluded that “religious children have a broader conception of what can actually happen.” What is more, she added, “exposure to religious ideas has a powerful impact on children’s differentiation between reality and fiction.”

What I found most striking is how these child psychologists reacted to their own findings. For example, Kelemen suggested an ‘interventive’ learning program in a storybook format (where have we heard that before?!) to ‘help’ them develop greater ‘scientific literacy’ at an early stage(3). For Kelemen at least, the correct way to think is to uncritically believe in unguided evolution, where the encouragement of religious streams of thought are portrayed negatively, specifically as a form of indoctrination.

Born Believers
Building on these findings of the University of Boston psychologists, Justin L. Barrett, based at the Centre for Anthropology and Mind at the University of Oxford concluded in his recent book, Born Believers, that “children tend to believe that the world has order and purpose and that there is a supernatural element to the origin of this order(5).” Indeed, Barrett further added that, “a child’s playing field is tilted towards religious beliefs.” Furthermore, he raises a very provocative question- what if the indoctrination, as implied by Kelemen, involves teaching children not to believe in God? What if there are tangible benefits to not only nurturing but further developing the ‘intuitive theists’ within every child? In this capacity, Barrett further suggests that religious thinking enriches the imagination and is absolutely vital for contemplating reality itself. After all, even the most ardent materialist would be hard pushed to deny that every now and then, the unusual or even the ‘fantastical’ can and even does happen. Tacit examples include peer-reviewed, clinically documented medical miracles that defy any rational explanation(6). Furthermore, Roger Trigg, a collaborator with Barnett at the University of Oxford’s Ian Ramsey Centre added these comments to Barnett’s findings;

“This project suggests that religion is not just something for a peculiar few to do on Sundays instead of playing golf. We have gathered a body of evidence that suggests that religion is a common fact of human nature across different societies. This suggests that attempts to suppress religion are likely to be short-lived, as human thought seems to be rooted to religious concepts such as the existence of supernatural agents or gods, and the possibility of an afterlife or pre-life(7).”

Clash of Worldviews
These research findings made by psychologists are at direct odds with sentiments popularly expressed by atheists. For example, Richard Dawkins, who has adopted a hard-line stance on raising children with religion stated that we should be instilling in children a healthy degree of scepticism, teaching them that “‘it’s too statistically improbable for a prince to turn into a frog.” The irony has not gone unnoticed on me though, given the stupendous odds of life emerging from lifeless molecules and evolving into higher organisms. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the three dimensional structure of the DNA double helix, also waded into the same argument when he reminded biologists that they “must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved(8).”

Molecular biologist Douglas Axe at Biola University, in his excellent book, Undeniable; How Biology Confirms our Intuition that Life is Designed, wholeheartedly agrees that children are born believers in a designing intelligence at the heart of living systems but extends it further to include cognitive science. He writes:

“The children whose simple view of life has proved superior to the view endorsed by the Royal Society and the National Academy also have a simple view of consciousness. Their view begins to take shape in infancy, with games like peekaboo where small hands over small eyes form a screen that momentarily isolates the inside world from the outside world…..Through countless learning moments like this, children build a connection between their inside world and the outside world, a connection far more profound than anything technology has given us(9).”

For Axe, the overwhelming richness displayed to us by the outside world is thoroughly complemented by an equally rich inner experience, “almost as if the two were made to go together(9)” So what materialists like Dawkins and Crick are actually saying is that we should completely ignore what is, in reality, intuitively obvious. Axe continues:

“In our childhood, if not since, our design intuition assured us that life could only be the handiwork of God, or someone like him. As universal as this intuition is, though, it is almost universally opposed by the technical experts on life. None of us have been able to erase the intuition but many of us struggle to defend it against this professional opposition – or even to know whether it ought to be defended(9).”

What does all of this smack of? We are, in effect, being asked to believe our lying eyes. At least that’s the way Frank Turek, a leading Christian apologist, sees it. In his book, Stealing from God: Why Athiests Need God to Make their Case, Turek brings his readers’ attention to the mind-boggling complexity of the living cell, replete as they are with molecular machines far in advance of anything humans can currently build. He writes;

“Our brains are the instruments through which we have thoughts, but the thoughts themselves are immaterial products of your immaterial mind. And it is our minds that make us rational, conscious agents, with the ability to make choices(10).” So what does all this mean? According to Turek, “it means that you shouldn’t abandon your common sense intuitions for the nonsense ideology of materialism(10).”

Scientific Language to the Rescue
But Turek also alerts us to another aspect of the design intuition that even secular scientists, unconsciously or not, engage in. And it pertains to the language used to describe the incredible molecular machines operating at the nanoscale in living systems. These are such engineering marvels “that biologists can’t help but describe their parts with engineering names. There are molecular motors, switches, shuttles, tweezers, propellers, stators, bushings, rotors, driveshafts etc. And together they operate with unrivalled precision and efficiency(10).”

What Turek is driving at here is that, regardless of whether the scientists accept or reject design as a real phenomenon in nature, their language compels them to describe it as such. This important point went largely unnoticed until relatively recently, but some scientists have begun to sound the alarm bells. Professor Randolph M. Nesse based at the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University had these words to say regarding the state of emotion research;

“….progress in emotions research has been slowed by tacit creationism. By tacit creationism I mean viewing organisms as if they are products of design, without attributing the design to a deity. Few scientists attribute the characteristics of organisms to a supernatural power, but many nonetheless view organisms as if they were designed machine(s(11).”

Nesse urges his readers to be more reflective about couching the language of emotion research in terms of Darwinian materialism, but seems unaware that this ideology is now being ditched by leading life scientists because it simply doesn’t work and has had its day in the sun(12). Seen in this light, Nesse’s arguments seem counterintuitive at worst and self-defeating at best. After all, if the language of design best describes the workings of the human mind or any other living system for that matter, and if it’s perfectly intelligible when couched in those terms, it seems downright silly to me to make active steps to changing it! Worst still for Nesse, by describing living systems in terms of designed artefacts, scientists have opened up a brave new world of biological research called biomimetics, which, as its name implies, seeks to model new engineering structures by mimicking the genius designs at the heart of living things. What’s more, it’s already achieved spectacular success. For example, by studying the antics of swarming honeybees, engineers arrived at novel solutions to designing telecommunications networks, and in studying the complex aerodynamic motions of dragonflies, produced remarkable refinements in drone design.

In a fascinating article by the Blyth Institute(13), author Annie Crawford argues that since teleological(that is, design and purpose in nature) language is so deeply embedded in centuries of biological enquiry, it simply cannot be abstracted away without either partial or complete loss of intelligibility to the audience it is intended to be presented to. Crawford goes further still:

“It is disingenuous,” she writes, “to continue pretending that teleology is or can be divorced from biology. Indeed, it is the teleological character of life which makes it a unique phenomenon requiring a unique discipline of study distinct from physics or chemistry(13).”

In summary then, the design intuition appears to be hardwired into the human psyche, and while it is actively suppressed in our secular educational systems from kindergarten through University, it cannot be entirely eradicated. St. Paul expressed these conclusions with astonishing accuracy in his letter to the Romans:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Romans 1:20

What is more, human language reinforces this intuition, irrespective of whether or not we believe in creation or not. The more we learn about the world around us, the more it screams of design. And far from being a hindrance, the design intuition has proven to be spectacularly successful in cutting edge scientific and engineering research.

If it ain’t broke, why even begin to fix it?

References & Bibliography
1. Wells, J., A Child’s Intuition of Purpose in Nature is No Accident; https://evolutionnews.org/2018/06/a-childs-intuition-of-purpose-in-nature-is-no-accident/
2. Piaget, J. The Child’s Conception of the World, Joan and Andrew Tomlinson, trans. (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1929), 253.
3. Kelemen, D., “Are Children ‘Intuitive Theists’?” Psychological Science 15 (2004), 295–301.
4. Coriveau, K. et al, Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds, Cognitive Science, 39(2):353-82, 2015; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/cogs.12138
5. Barrett, J.L, The Science of Children’s Religious Belief, Simon & Schuster, 2012.
6. Strobel, L., Does Science Support Miracles? New Study Documents a Blind Woman’s Healing, The Stream May 16 2020; https://stream.org/does-science-support-miracles-new-study-documents-a-blind-womans-healing/
7. Humans ‘predisposed’ to believe in gods and the afterlife, Science Daily, July 4 2011, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714103828.htm
8. Crick, F., What Mad Pursuit, (Basic Books, 1988), 138.
9. Axe, D. Undeniable; How Biology Confirms Our Intuition that Life is Designed, Haper One, 2016
10. Turek, F, Stealing from God; Why Atheists Need God to Make their Case; Navpress, 2014
11. Nesse, R.M. Tacit Creationism in Emotion Research; http://emotionresearcher.com/tacit-creationism-in-emotion-research/
12. Behe, M. Citrate Spiral Death: https://evolutionnews.org/2020/06/citrate-death-spiral/
13. Crawford, A. Metaphor and Meaning in the Teleological Language of Biology, https://journals.blythinstitute.org/ojs/index.php/cbi/article/view/55/75

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. His latest work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, shows how, over the centuries, the majority of astronomers held to a strong Christian faith throughout their careers.

 

De Fideli.

 

Review: The Complete Jewish Bible.

 

A great Messianic Jewish Bible.

Preamble

For the vast majority of Christian history, the ordinary person could neither read or hope to gain hold of the words of Scripture. Such knowledge was the preserve of the scholarly priests, who dispensed nuggets of spiritual truth to their congregations. It was only after the momentous events that led to the Reformation beginning in 16th century Europe, before the common man or woman could begin to read the words of God in his or her own language; first in Spanish, English, and German, and later in a panoply of other languages – many thousands in all – spoken across the world today. In the 21st century, we live in a golden age of Bible scholarship, where it has never been easier to access Biblical truth. Yet, at the same time, there are so many distractions in the full-on materialistic world in which we live, that many have lost touch with much of its truth claims, to the extent that what many- perhaps the majority – believe and hold as morally acceptable is often totally at odds with the mores laid down in the Bible. Indeed, it is this author’s impression that the rapid decline in western civilization we are now in the midst of is at least in part attributed to the uncoupling of our societies from Judeo-Christian values, and with truly disastrous consequences.

Reading the Bible has become for me an essential part of everyday life. As the world becomes entrenched in ever more evil and immoral practices, only Biblical truth can keep me on the straight and narrow path. Indeed, reading the Bible is one of the best ways I can recommend to keep sane in a world that is becoming more insane by the day. And while we all have our favourite translations that we can return to again and again, I really enjoy reading the various versions of the Bible to gain as much theological insight as possible. Here I would like to provide my impressions of a most unusual translation of the Scriptures; the Complete Jewish Bible, the brainchild of the Israeli-American  Messianic Jew, David H. Stern (b 1935).

Stern has an interesting background. Born and brought up in Los Angeles, California,  he is the great grandson of the first diaspora of Jews who put down roots in the city. Dr Stern earned his PhD in economics from Princeton University, serving as a professor at UCLA.  But he also displayed a passion for mountain climbing and surfing(authoring a book on the subject), as well as establishing a number of health food stores. In 1972, he came to faith in Jesus Christ, which led him to study theology and the earning of a Masters in Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary and further graduate work at the University of Judaism. After marrying a fellow Messianic Jew in 1976, he was enrolled in the establishment and delivery of the first course in Messianic Judaism at Fuller, which led to a number of published works exploring the rich and deeply interconnected relationships between Christianity and Judaism, including the Messianic Jewish Manifesto, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel and a Message for Christians.

Dr Stern and his family made aliyah in 1979, settling in Jerusalem, where he has played an active part in progressing the cause of Messianic Judaism in Israel. But arguably Stern’s greatest work is the Bible he gave birth to, which was first published in 1998 and which aimed to restore the Jewishness of the Old and New Testament. Since then the Complete Jewish Bible has gone from strength to strength, being used by many faithful Christians and Messianic Jews the world over.

Though I’ve covered other Messianic Jewish Bibles before, the Complete Jewish Bible(CJB) integrates Biblical Hebrew into the Scriptures far more extensively than anything I have studied before. Whereas translations such as the Tree of Life Version(TLV) uses Hebraic terms sparingly and rather selectively, Stern’s translation is far more ambitious and makes no apologies for doing so. Here you will find many more transliterated Hebrew words that really bring the Scriptures to life in ways that genuinely impressed me. Where the TLV presents the books of the Old Testament in the traditional Jewish Way, the individual books therein are headed by the names most Christians are familiar with. Not so with the CJB. Upon opening the Book of Genesis, we see B’resheet, Exodus becomes Sh’mot, and Leviticus is headed as Vayikra etc. 

The CJB restores the original Hebrew names throughout the Bible.

The CJB introduces many more Jewish terms and names than the TLV. Abraham is presented as Avraham, Joseph is Yosef, Moses appears as Moshe, Sha’ul is Paul, Isaiah is Yesha’ yahu,  Solomon is Shlomo, Yochanan is John, and 1st & 2nd Peter becomes Kefa 1 & 2. Unleavened bread is ma-tzah. The word ‘Lord’ is replaced by Adonai. Re-introducing such names would be viewed by many Christians as rather trivial, but Dr Stern’s ambitions go much further still. For example, all of the Jewish feast days have their transliterated Hebrew names restored in this text, as are the names of towns and cities. God’s glory is revealed as Sh’khi-nah. The city of the Great King is referred to as Ye-ru-sha-la-yim and the tower of Siloam, replaced with Shi-lo-ach. The word ‘Pharisee’ is referred to by P’rushim and the ‘Saducees,’  Tz’du-kim. You’ll not find any mention of Jesus’ (Yeshua) disciples in the New Testament either. They were His talmidim. When first engaging with the text and all the new words, the reader will very likely need to have permanent bookmarks placed in the glossaries at the back of this Bible.

What is the over-arching effect of restoring all of these Hebraic terms? For one thing, it gives the reader a crash course in Biblical Hebrew, reminding us that Christianity had its roots in the Jewish community who gathered in synagogues, after which it spread across the vast Roman Empire to the Gentile(or pagan)nations(Go-yim). We, as Gentile believers are grafted into God’s Olive Tree and not the other way around. All in all, the CJB shows us that God chose the Jewish people above all others to reveal His glory to humankind. Most importantly, the reader will begin to see clearly that in removing nearly all references to the spoken language of the Jews, conventional English Bibles helped to cement and foment the erroneous notion that God has finished with the Jewish people. That might have seemed appropriate in the days of Martin Luther(a radical anti-Semite), but the re-birthing of the modern state of Israel in 1948 and its flourishing as a vibrant and wealthy democracy in defiance of its many enemies, is proof enough that God will come to the aid of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the closing years of human history, when all of the goat nations of the world attack Israel.

In addition to the re-introduction of many Hebrew words, the CJB is peculiar in a number of other respects. The word ‘faith’ is not to be found, only ‘trust’. You can also see that Dr Stern has considerable respect for the most famous of English Bible translations, the Authorised King James Version. For example, in Genesis Chapter 47 we hear echoes of the KJV in phrases like, “when I sleep with my fathers” (Genesis 47:30). In Romans Chapter 2, the text bursts into the memorable language of the KJV:

“Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.”

You can also see the influence of the KJV in the opening chapter of the Gospel of Luke:

“My soul magnifies Adonai” (Luke 1:47)

Dr Stern also takes a few liberties with the text, as evidenced by the rendering of the closing passages of Isaiah 66, where, instead of ending in a rather gloomy note in verse 24, he repeats the more reverent words of verse 23:

The rather strange ending of Isaiah 66 in the CJB.

Each book of the CJB has a brief introductory text that provides the reader with some of the relevant historical background and the themes developed within the text.

Each book of the CJB features some brief introductory notes to ease the reader into the main text.

In terms of translation philosophy, the CJB is firmly in the camp of dynamic equivalence rather than being ‘word for word.’ But it reads very smoothly and is, in my opinion, suitable as a stand-alone Bible, even though it is the work of a single author. I especially enjoyed reading through Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Romans and Revelation. I’ve not found a single typographical error in this work either – quite an achievement in my estimation – and in contrast to a few modern Bibles I’ve read through, even though these texts were laid out by a team of Bible scholars! The CJB does not use gender neutral language either; surely a good thing, as the Bible was never meant to be politically correct.

Another eminently useful feature of the CJB is its use of bold print when referring to Old Testament phraseology appearing in the New Testament;

The CJB uses bold text in the New Testament to indicate phrases originating in the Old Testament.

Maybe you’ve heard something recently about the movement among some false teachers, who have suggested that we should uncouple the Old Testament from the Bible? Well, as these bold printed references attest to, Jesus Himself used the writings of the prophets of old in his teachings and so did St. Paul, so there’s no getting away from it! Indeed, the Old and New Testaments are a seamless whole, and totally incomplete one without the other. Indeed, Dr Stern cleverly reminds the reader of this by not mentioning the terms Old or New Testament at all! The text goes straight from 2 Chronicles to Matthew as it ought to!

Another neat and rather amusing feature of the CJB is Stern’s inclusion of hand-written texts at the end of some of St. Paul’s epistles, where he emphasises that they were written by his own hand. Check out this presentation at the end of 1 Corinthians:

Stern cleverly introduces handwriting at the end of some of St. Paul’s epistles to emphasise the freshness and authenticity of the text!

All of these subtle and not so subtle renderings of the Scriptures really adds to the vibrancy of the Bible as a living, breathing record of God’s unchanging words and morals, challenging the reader at every turn of the page.

The CJB is available in Kindle format for those who like having access to the Bible on their phones and other electronic devices. It is also available in a hard back format(see the the right hand-side Bible in the opening photo of this blog). I also acquired a very nice giant print version in a flexisoft edition, which is very easy to read but not exactly practical for mobile use. It is Smyth sewn however so should last many years of use. Those interested in more expensive renditions of the CJB can also purchase it in real leather if that floats your boat. There is also a CJB study Bible published by Hendrickson which uses a modified(gender neutral?) version of Dr. Stern’s excellent text complemented by additional background information for the curious student of historical Biblical knowledge.

In summary, I would highly recommend the CJB to all Bible believing Christians. It provides an excellent grounding and reacquaintance with the culture and language of the original Jewish authors of the Bible, and provides a fresh and lively ‘thought for thought’ reading of the Holy Scriptures. With the rise of antisemitism across the world, the CJB will help the reader re-engage with our Jewish brothers and sisters and better understand the demonic nature of the political world’s hatred for Israel and the Jewish people. This is especially prescient, as we are now seeing the alignment of Satanic forces allied against the Christian world and the imperilled nation of Israel, now that its historic ally – the United States of America – with its radical far-left government  – has turned its back on them.

 

Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy. 

 

 

De Fideli.