Product Review: Oberwerk SE 8 x 32ED.

The Oberwerk SE 8x 32 ED package.

Product: Oberwerk SE 8x 32 ED

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Field of View: 145m@1000m(8.2 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 15mm(Useable)

Coatings: Fully broadband Multicoated

Chassis Material: Aluminium

ED Glass: Yes (FK-61)

Water Proof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

IPD Range: 56-76mm

Close focus: 3m advertised, 2.99m measured

Weight: 794g advertised, 798g measured

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Dimensions: 13 x 11 cm

Accessories: neoprene neck strap, padded canvas carry case, rubber objective caps and rain guard, microfibre lens cleaning cloth, test card.

Warranty: 2 Years

Price(US): $249.95

 

 

In this review blog, I’ll be test driving the new Oberwerk SE 8 x 32 ED Porro prism Binocular.

 

Tune in soon for full details………………….

 

De Fideli.

An Extraordinarily Lucky Find: Nikon Action 7 x 35 Widefield 9.3 Degree.

 

A mid-1980’s Nikon Action 7 x 35 Widefield 9.3 degree field.

A Work Commenced January 25 2023

Over the last year, I’ve taken a deeper interest in Nikon Porro binoculars. In previous communications, I’ve described how much I’ve been enjoying both the 8 x 30 Nikon E II and the 10 x 35 Nikon E, the performance of which have really spoiled me. In more recent times I field tested the lower power 7 x 35 Aculon A 211 and Action EX and while both were enjoyable, I felt that their excessive field curvature at the edge of their 9.3 degree fields left a little something to be desired. I briefly considered the 7 x 35 E but its rather restricted field of view of 7.3 degrees didn’t sit right with me. To my way of thinking, a 7x glass is already compromised owing to its lower power – call it ‘pain’ if you like -and there ought to be some ‘gain’ in return, and that meant an enlarged field of view. So, in summary, I was after a 7 x 35 glass that offered better optics than either the Nikon Aculon or the Action EX, especially off axis.

I knew and read about some classic Porro prism binoculars from yesteryear that sported enormous fields, sometimes up to 11 degrees or more, but I wondered whether their edge of field performance would also let them down. So I began looking at classic Nikon Porros that offered something of a compromise and 9.3 degrees seemed to fit the bill the best. I’d lose a little magnification but gain a whole half a degree over my Nikon E II. But which model to choose?

Having never tested any of these out in real life, it was somewhat of a guessing game, but I had to start somewhere. The condition of the instrument ranked high on my list of priorities too. I wanted an instrument that was in good condition, with no large build up of internal haze on the prisms or, worse still, fungus. Did such an instrument exist? The answer, I’m delighted to say, is yes!

Doing some browsing on Fleabay, I came across a very intriguing instrument. This was a Japanese-made 7 x 35 Widefield 9.3 degree binocular in what looked like excellent working condition. It even had the original eyepiece and objective caps as well as the black bonded leather case – Japanese made also. And it was going for £85 inclusive of free delivery! The seller had the presence of mind to include some photos taken through the objective lenses against a plain white background, which allowed me to assess the condition of the interior lenses and prisms. It looked amazingly good for the age, which the seller informed me dated to the mid-1980s. So I pulled the trigger and sure enough it arrived two days later. Opening the package, I removed the case from the wrapping to find the instrument perfectly positioned inside. When I picked it up, I was quite taken aback by its rather large frame. This was a longer-barreled binocular than I expected any 35mm Porro to be. Take a look at it in comparison to my 10 x 35 Nikon E below:

The large frame of the Nikon 7 x 35 Widefield(left) is apparent compared with my Nikon E 10 x 35(right).

Upon inspection with a flashlight I confirmed that the innards of the instrument were indeed pristine. How on God’s Earth could a binocular that first saw light when I was a middle schoolboy still look so good after all these years? Well, the excellent condition of the chassis – with a couple of minor scuffs on the metal rims on the instrument’s mid-section– and the fact that it still had its original caps and no internal haze suggested to me that it must have been very lightly used. But it must also have been stored in a good, dry place to prevent the growth of internal fungus.

The instrument is fully coated – most probably using a single layer of MgF2 on all optical surfaces. Thus I fully expected that it would not be nearly as bright as instruments treated to a full modern multicoating. More on this later.

The coatings on the objectives appear pristine after all these years.

Unlike the later E series, the focus wheel, which also appears to be made of some kind of tough plastic, is much larger and placed right between the barrels. It was a bit stiff coming right out of the cold box, which had travelled the length of the country from the seller, but after I ‘thawed’ it out, as it were, it came back to life moving smoothly in both clockwise and counter clockwise directions, with no free play or backlash.

The Nikon 7 x 35 Widefield from above.

Splendid!

The eyepiece housings appear to be made of  some kind of tough plastic too, as were the rim of the objective barrels, which surprised me. The eyecups are made from rubber though, a significant departure from the hard plastic of the old classic Zeiss Porros. The dioptre ring is very similar to that of my Nikon 10 x 35 E, which has a tendency to wander while in field use, but I soon remedied that by fitting a very tight rubber o ring immediately under it which keeps it in place much better. The chassis is ‘armoured’ in an attractive, textured leatherette which is very nice to the touch as well as to visually inspect.

Belly side up.

Despite it being a big glass for a 35mm format, I was surprised that it tipped the scales at only 665g – much lighter than the Action EX and also lighter than the Aculon 7 x 35! The only disappointment with the instrument was a somewhat frayed neck strap, which I might have got by with, at least for a while. But having taken a short stroll with it, paranoia got the better of me, and I decided to replace it with a nice, old fashioned leather lanyard which supports its moderate weight well.

The strong blue-tinted ocular lenses. Note the leather lanyard.

The handling of this instrument is superb. I can wrap my hands round those curves in the mid-section with wonderful ease and comfort, using my middle fingers to fall naturally on the deeply ridged focus wheel. Less than half a turn clockwise brings you from closest focus (measured at 4.1 yards) to a little bit beyond infinity. All in all, this instrument, which has travelled nearly 40 trips ’round the Sun since it saw first light, is an ergonomic delight!

Bravo!

Optics

After about an hour of warming the instrument up to room temperature, I noted that all was well. The optics were clear both internally and externally. And it was at this moment that I brought it outside for a gander. Wow! This thing is super sharp! But what really impressed me was how big the sweet spot was: it was in a totally different league to the Nikon Aculon or the Action EX, which always gave me that funny goldfish bowl feeling as soon as my eyes drifted to the periphery of the field. No, this instrument was optically far superior to those other Nikon’s both on axis and especially off axis. Pure, indulgent pleasure! To access the entire field, I had to turn down the rubber eye cups in order to get a good view of the field stops, just like I had done with my Nikon E 10 x 35. Glare was surprisingly well suppressed for a singly coated optic like this; far better, for example, than my multi-coated Zeiss Jenoptem from the same era. It has a slight yellowish colour cast, very much like that achieved by a very mild photographic warm-up filter.

Both longitudinal and lateral colour correction are very well controlled. Hardly any was seen even on the most difficult high-contrast targets. Barrell distortion is mild. My first stroll with the binocular was during dull, overcast conditions. I brought it to one of my local patches, where a fallen tree occupies the far end of a pond. I’ve come to use this to judge how big the sweet spot is in many binoculars I test because it crosses the entire field. I could immediately see that its optical behaviour was much more like that of my Nikon E II 8 x 30 than either the Aculon or Action EX models. Far superior off axis performance, with the sharpness being maintained nearly right to the edge. Vertical correction was not as good though, but that’s true even with my Nikon E II 8 x 30 and virtually all others I’ve tested.

Right exit pupil of the Nikon Action 7 x 35.

My next tests took place in brilliant winter sunshine, on the formative afternoons of January 25 and 26. The views in this fabulous light were breath-taking. I could see details on the far hills that simply didn’t stand out in my tests with the Aculon and Action Ex. I quickly came to realise how little refocusing I was doing owing to the instrument’s impressive depth of field. The focus is a little stiffer than a top-rated birding binocular, but this turned out to be largely immaterial, owing to the generous field depth. I’m really coming ’round to appreciating this wonderful optical property! In bright sunlight, one hardly notices the slight yellow tint of the old Nikon Widefield 7 x 35, but as the light fades more tests conducted with my Nikon E II showed up the clear advantages of modern broadband multi-coatings. Venturing out just before sunset on a cold and cloudless late January day, I glassed some tree trunks about 80 yards in the distance. Comparing the images side by side, I could see that the Nikon E II 8 x 30 was already pulling ahead of the old classic. It had an unquestionably brighter image and better contrast between the browns of the tree bark and the green moss and lichen mottling its surface.

In yet another test, carried out in the early evening of January 26, I mounted both instruments on a tripod and studied the images of a beautiful crescent Moon sinking towards the western horizon. Apart from more internal reflections in the 7 x 35 I was genuinely impressed how comparable the images were. The Moon had a very faint fawn tint to it that I didn’t really find distracting, comparing it with the marble white colour served up by the Nikon E II 8 x 30. Colour correction was actually better on the Nikon Widefield 7 x 35 than the E II, both on and off axis. I would estimate its sweet spot is a good  75% of the field, about the same, in fact, as the 8 x 30. Illumination drop off was a bit more pronounced on the 7 x 35 though, but the effects of mild field curvature near the field stops could be easily focused out – just like the venerable E II.

Moongazing, January 26 2023.

Venturing out after midnight in the wee small hours of January 26, the Moon had set and the full glory of the winter night sky was presented to me. Cassiopeia, Perseus and Taurus were now hanging low on the north-western sky, Gemini was near the meridian and brilliant Arcturus was rising fast in the east. I enjoyed fabulous views of the Hyades and Pleiades. Framing the Auriga Messier open cluster trio in the enormous 9.3 degree field proved child’s play. I swept up the Beehive cluster in Cancer, and looking eastward I enjoyed some marvellous views of the Coma Berenices Cluster. Stars were beautiful pinpoints across most the field of view, with only slight distortion seen on the brighter stellar luminaries near the field stops. Despite its lower overall light transmission, this is a better glass than the Aculon or Action EX 7x 35s for stargazing. What it lacks in light gathering power is easily offset by its better corrected field of view.

After I had received the instrument and done some preliminary testing, I did a search to see if others had reviewed the Nikon 7 x 35 Widefield 9.3. My searches came up empty at first, as all I got was a number eBay links here and there showing some photos of the instruments for sale. Puzzled I began to read older threads on past Nikon Porro prism binoculars and eventually hit on the issue: this model was apparently known as the Nikon Action 7 x 35. What’s more, there were apparently several incarnations of the Action, with the later models being switched to production in China. What nailed it for me was finding a very interesting post on Birdforum dating to January 2012 made by Henry Link, an experienced US-based binocular enthusiast who discussed the same model. You can read his report of it here. What’s more, he came to largely the same conclusions about this binocular as I did: a Mark1 Nikon Action 7 x 35 Widefield. Furthermore, in his post he described the results of tests of this binocular, concluding that it was one of the sharpest shooters in its genre. It was, in his own words, “as good as it gets.” Link also provided a really good explanation for why the Action Mark I worked so well. It has a longer than average focal length – a full 140mm in fact – making it a slower f/4 optical system. Increasing the F ratio of any telescopic system is a way to reduce all geometric(Seidel) aberrations as well as chromatic aberration.

I contacted Henry to tell my story with a few photos of the instrument. He confirmed that it was the original Nikon Action as described.

Concluding Thoughts

What a marvellous find! To say that I’m delighted with it would be an understatement. This is a higher-class binocular than anything Nikon is currently churning out in the 7 x 35 format. But it raises as many questions as it answers. Why give up on such a great optical design? Can it be resurrected? It’s also taught me a valuable lesson; there is nothing new under the Sun and great optics can be had from pretty much any era if you’re lucky enough to stumble on them!

Neil English’s up-and-coming book, Choosing & Using Binoculars: a Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, will also include a chapter on classic instruments from the past. He would like to thank Henry Link for interesting discussions on this binocular.

 

 

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42.

The Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced January 15 2023

 

Product: Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 5.25mm

Eye Relief: 22.5mm

Chassis: Rubber armoured Magnesium Alloy

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

Dioptre Compensation: +/- 2

Close Focus: 1.5m advertised, 2.04m measured

Coatings: Fully Broadband Multicoated,  Phase and Dielectric Coatings on BAK4 prisms

Field Flattening Optics: Yes

ED Glass: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

Fogproof: Yes

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Weight: 768g advertised, 819g measured

Dimensions: 15.2 x 13 cm

Accessories: High quality clamshell case, binocular harness, rubber rain guard and tethered objective lens covers, logoed neoprene neck strap, microfibre lens cleaning cloth, instruction sheet

Warranty: Limited Lifetime Warranty

Price(UK): £350.00

 

There’s a quiet revolution taking place in high quality sports optics. Over the last decade, Chinese optics houses are producing instruments of amazing quality, packed full of features that up to very recently would have been unthinkable. This is not born of idle speculation but from solid and extensive experience of many instruments made in China and now marketed extensively in western markets.

I’ve already showcased a number of instruments produced by Svbony, Vortex, GPO, Opticron and Nikon to name just a few, that have gone well above and beyond the call of duty, producing very high-quality instruments that offer both excellent images and solid ergonomics in packages consumers could only dream of a few short years ago. The instrument I will showcase in this blog is the Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42, the new flagship, full-sized binocular from the well-known telescope manufacturer.

The instrument was kindly lent to me by fellow binocular enthusiast, Gary, from Northern Ireland. He was keen for me to put it through its paces and to see what I thought of it. I’m delighted to reveal that I was very impressed with the instrument and would recommend it wholeheartedly to the community. For more details though, read on.

Celestron has been turning heads for a while now, bringing a good range of binoculars to the low and mid-priced market. The Nature DX and DX ED ranges are very good entry-level instruments for those who wish to cut their teeth in quality binocular optics, featuring fully multicoated components, phase corrected roof prisms in  lightweight, weatherproof housings. Moving up to the Traliseeker models, we see Celestron offering durable Magnesium alloy chassis, dielectric coatings and higher quality optical components, delivering brighter and sharper images. The next step in the intelligent design of the Celestron binocular is embodied in the Trailseeker ED range, which added extra low dispersion glass for sharper, higher contrast images. Collectively, these instruments have delighted birders, hunters and general outdoor enthusiasts alike and helped the hobby grow in ways unthinkable to the elitist attitude of top European optics houses, creating feverish competition between manufacturers to deliver the best bang for buck in a rapidly growing and evolving market. Now Celestron has gone one step further still, introducing flat field optical technology into their new flagship binocular models in the form of the Regal ED 8x and 10 x 42.

Ergonomics

The 8 x 42 binocular arrived brand new, as Gary had conveniently arranged for it to be sent to me first before shipping on to him at the conclusion of my tests. The instrument arrived inside an attractively presented black and orange box – the longstanding trade colours of Celestron. Upon opening the box, I found a beautifully designed clamshell case safely storing the instrument away inside. All the usual accessories were there: the tethered rubber objective covers, a high-quality rain guard, neoprene neck strap and binocular harness, microfibre cloth and instruction manual.

The Celestron Regal ED is a solidly built instrument with a well-thought-through optical and ergonomic design.

Holding the instrument in my hands for the first time, I was immediately taken by the heft of it. This is one chunky binocular! Weighing in at over 800g I was immediately struck by its attractive black rubber armouring and fetching orange touches. The heft of a binocular like this shouldn’t really surprise anyone. All those hi-tech optical components add to the weight of the instrument and, as such, is no different to anything found from the top-tier of European alpha binoculars.

Irrespective of how their weight is re-distributed under the bonnet , they’re all bricks in the end. lol

Heavy.

The oversized focus wheel moves with buttery smoothness, with no annoying free play or backlash. Just short of two full rotations anti-clockwise brings you from closest focus to infinity and a little bit beyond. Tension is excellent. I was able to move it perfectly well with my pinkie! The nicely machined multi-stage, twist up eye cups are clad in soft rubber and click rigidly into place. I noted that they were not quite as firm as those I experienced on the Trailseeker model, but still presented no issues in field use. The eyecups are very comfortable, with no eyestrain experienced even after using it for a couple of hours in the field.

The right eye dioptre located under the ocular lens is larger than normal, and moves smoothly with a good degree of friction ensuring that it stays in place with no issues. The large ocular field lenses are easy to engage with and I found no real trouble centring my eyes on the large(5.25mm) exit pupil. The fully broadband multicoated objectives are nicely recessed, protecting them from rain, dust and peripheral light sources.

The large ocular lenses are easy to line up with your eyes.

Eye relief is very generous. Though I don’t observe with glasses on, I had no trouble seeing the entire field when I donned by varifocals, with the eye cups fully retracted.

Note the deeply recessed objective lenses on the Celestron Regal ED 8x 42.

The underside of the binocular has some shallow thumb indents. I found these convenient to use but it’s not something I look for specifically when shopping for an instrument.

Belly side up.

The textured rubber armouring affords excellent griping in the hands and though I personally have a preference for a slightly shorter bridge where I can better wrap my fingers round the chassis, I was quickly able to find a nice stable positioning with my hands, allowing me to enjoy the views. Clearly Celestron have done their homework in delivering a very solidly made instrument that looks and feels like a quality act. Top marks awarded for ergonomics!

And I’m delighted to disclose that the optics too impressed me!

Optics

I began, as ever, directing a bright beam of light into the binocular and examining the images garnered from across my living room. These tests revealed very good results. There were no diffraction spikes, only the merest traces of weak internal reflections and no contrast robbing diffused light around the beam, all collectively indicative of high-quality optical components. My next test involved examining the exit pupils. Both presented as almost perfectly round with very little in the way truncation, but I did record some stray light immediately outside each pupil as the images below show.

Left exit pupil. Not the false pupil at upper right.

Right exit pupil showing slight truncation.

That said, I’ve seen considerably worse on instruments costing more than twice the retail cost of this instrument.

As soon as I brought the binocular to my eyes, and even before I had made the dioptre adjustment, the image was really impressive. That’s a sure sign of excellent optics. The image is very sharp across most of the field, with excellent contrast, casting a distinctly warm colour balance. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled in the centre of the image, with only a trace of lateral colour appearing in the outer part of the field on the highest contrast targets. Seeing the hard field stops certainly enhanced the degree of immersivity of the images. Testing the field flatness, I was pleased to see very good control of barrel distortion. Drainpipes and telephone poles maintained their straightness even when placed near the edge of the field. Indeed, it showed up the distinct barrel distortion in my own full-sized roof prism binocular all too easily.

I detected some slight blurring at the edge of the field during my daylight testing, but wasn’t sure of its nature until I employed the instrument under the stars and a bright, late December Moon. By defocusing the bright star Procyon with the right eye dioptre, I was able to confirm excellent collimation. Turning the binocular on a bright gibbous Moon showed some very minor internal reflections. The Moon looked razor sharp within its generously wide sweet spot, with excellent contrast and control of chromatic aberration, but when I moved the silvery orb to the edge of the field, I could see that the last ten per cent or so of the field produced a blurred image with some lateral colour – blue and yellow for the most part. I attempted to refocus the lunar image but was unsuccessful in doing so. This suggested the presence of astigmatism and/or coma as opposed to field curvature, which is easily focused out in contrast. Turning to some some bright stellar luminaries of the winter sky, I was impressed how well they maintained their pinpoint sharpness across most of the field, showing some elongation near the field stops.

Turning back once again to daylight tests conducted during some dull, overcast early January days, the Regal ED showed excellent control of glare, for the most part, but some did creep in when the binocular was pointed to targets in the general direction of the Sun. Veiling glare, on the whole, was also very well suppressed in this instrument too. Scanning a long stretch of conifer trees near one of my local patches did throw up some blackouts and some mild manifestations of the rolling ball effect, but it was far less severe than what I had encountered with a Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 and a Nikon Monarch HG 8 x 30 in comparison.

Comparing the images in the Regal ED to my control binocular – the Svbony SV 202 ED 8 x 42 – during dull overcast conditions, I concluded that the latter was slightly brighter, a consequence I suppose of it having a simpler optical design, without using field flattening lenses. More optical components usually result in lower overall light transmission. Close focus was measured to be just over 2 metres, a bit longer than the advertised value of 1.5m, but not an issue for me.

I enjoyed some stargazing vigils with the Celestron Regal ED 8 x 42. Its very wide sweet spot – covering about 85 per cent of the field – made sweeping the winter Milky Way through Perseus and Cassiopeia a very pleasant affair. I enjoyed great views of the Swordhandle of Orion and the brilliant white Belt Stars. The instrument effortlessly swept up the trio of Messier open clusters through Auriga and made easy pickings of M35 in Gemini. The Pleiads were sparkling jewels in this instrument and below them, the magnificent Hyades produced some very memorable views. Mars was an intensely bright beacon high in the winter sky, its beautiful ochre tints standing out well against a jet-black sky hinterland. This will make a great binocular for astronomical viewing, but its significant heft will probably limit hand-held use to a few minutes at a time. That said, it’s easily mounted on a lightweight monopod if you’re after rock steady views of the heavens.

Impressive optical kit.

Is the Regal ED for you? Well, that depends on how well you respond to the effects of the field flattening lenses built into the instrument. I suspect that most people will find these new Celestron binoculars to be great. For me though, I have gradually come to realise that I prefer non-field flattened optics. I prefer the more relaxed views of daytime objects without any blackout issues, even if that means sacrificing some field of view and the effects of barrel and pincushion distortion.

This is definitely a binocular to try before you buy, if at all possible. But I can wholeheartedly recommend it to the binocular enthusiast looking for great optical and ergonomic performance. Celestron has really come a long way introducing these new high-performance instruments.

Where next Columbus?

I would like to personally thank Gary for kindly lending the instrument to me for the purposes of this review. May the road rise with you!

 

Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy, including his highly acclaimed tome, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, celebrating four centuries of visual telescopic history. If you like his work, why not consider buying one of his books? Thanks for reading.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42.

The Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 package.

A Work Commenced January 8 2023

 

Product: Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 133m@1000m(7.6 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 5.25mm

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.83m measured

Eye Relief: 17mm

Chassis: Rubber armoured magnesium alloy

Coatings: Fully multicoated optics, phase corrected BAK4 prisms

ED Glass: Yes

Tripod Adaptable: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Weight: 705g advertised, 701g measured

Dimensions: L/W 14.8 x 12.7cm

Accessories: Padded clamshell case, logoed neoprene neck strap, permanently tethered objective covers, rubber rain guard, microfibre lens cloth, instruction manual.

Warranty: No Fault Lifetime Warranty

Price(UK): £239

Hawke is a British family-founded sports optics company that has established a solid reputation serving the birding, hunting and hiking community. Over the last few decades the company has expanded its business, creating a US branch in 2007. Their binoculars, monoculars and spotting scopes have earned high praise over the years, producing consistent optical quality at reasonable prices. The Hawke Endurance ED series has received various makeovers over the 15 years or so since its first incarnation and represents the company’s entry level mid-tier optic. In this blog, I’ll be reporting on the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 model, which is available in black or green colours. I elected to choose the green coloured chassis. The unit was kindly loaned to me by First Light Optics.

The Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 has excellent ergonomics.

The instrument arrived in a small, attractive white box containing a high quality clamshell case(with strap), a logoed neoprene lanyard, lens cleaning cloth, a soft pouch, rubber rain guard, permanently attached objective lens covers and multi-language instruction manual. First impressions of the instrument were really good. The magnesium alloy chassis is covered in a grippy dark green rubber armouring with prominent ribbing on the sides. The central hinge has very nice rigidity ensuring that your preferred inter pupillary distance is reliably maintained. The instrument feels really solid in the hands even though it tips the scales at just over 700g.

I really like the metal focus wheel. Covered in large ridges, it rotates very smoothly and accurately with no free play. Just over two full rotations anticlockwise brings you from closest focus to infinity. The bridge is narrow – something I personally like very much, as it affords plenty of space to wrap your fingers round the barrels to hold the instrument steady. The twist-up eye cups are covered in soft rubber and are very comfortable to rest your eyes on. Four different locking positions are offered from fully retracted to fully extended. The cups hold their positions very well. Eye relief is decent, but I couldn’t quite see the entire field wearing my regular glasses. The enlarged ocular lenses are very easy to engage with and the objective lenses are quite deeply recessed to protect the optics from rain, peripheral light and aeolian borne dust.

The large ocular lenses on the Hawke Endurance ED 8x 42 are very easy to engage with.

The dioptre compensation is achieved by rotating a metal ring under the right ocular lens. Though it’s not lockable, it has a decent amount of resistance so won’t budge easily out of your desired position.  The strap lugs are among the largest I’ve experienced on any full-size binocular, protruding quite a bit from the side of the barrels making them a bit more susceptible to getting snagged on a bush or some such during field use.

All in all, this is a very well thought-through binocular with well above average ergonomics that make it a pleasure to hold in one’s hands. Good job Hawke.

Optical Assessment

My first tests involved shining a bright light located a few metres away and examining the images captures while looking through the binocular. I detected a few minor internal reflections and quite a bit of glare around the light source. The same was true when I turned the Hawke Endurance ED on a bright sodium streetlamp after dark. From previous experience, I anticipated that such glare would also reduce the contrast a tad on daylight targets, as my later tests were to verify.

Examining the exit pupils, I was relieved to see that were round with no signs of truncation, though one did reveal a small false pupil very near the true exit pupil as the photos below show.

Left exit pupil.

Right exit pupil. Note a small false pupil at lower right.

Testing in dull winter light which generates the worst possible lighting conditions generated good results. The field stop is very easy to see and very well defined: something I’ve grown to really appreciate. The image is nice, wide(7.6 degrees) and sharp, with good contrast though a small amount of glare reduced its punch by a notch. Colours are true to life, and quite warm compared to other 8x 42s I’ve experienced. The sweet spot of the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 is quite large, with just a little bit of peripheral softness creeping in around the edges which I didn’t find particularly distracting. Colour correction is very well controlled, even off axis, where only a trace was seen on some high contrast targets. Barrell distortion was also very low on this test unit.

Notes from the Field

Close focus on the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 was found to be 1.83m, a little better than the advertised 2m. Tracking a small flock of Redwings flying across an open field from 10 metres to beyond 100 metres only required about a one third of an anti-clockwise turn of the focus wheel to maintain a sharp image. Viewing through the instrument gives nice, relaxed images with no blackouts or rolling ball effect encountered while panning. Colour rendering is what I would describe as warm, with reds and yellows being most notably enhanced. Low light performance is decent but was not as bright as my control binocular with dielectric coatings, possibly indicating lower reflectivity aluminium or silvered( non-enhanced) roof prisms. I also detected some veiling glare while glassing a group of Carrion Crows perched high in some conifer trees against a grey overcast sky.

A good, all-round performer.

The Hawke Endurance ED served up some very nice images of the night sky. The full Moon was nice and sharp but I could see some glare in the sky around it. Moving the bright silvery orb to the edge of the field showed up some weak lateral colour and some mild field curvature. The winter showpieces of the sky including the Pleiades, the Hyades, the Perseus Double Cluster and the Sword Handle of Orion were nicely framed in this light weight 8 x 42. Stars remain nice tight pinpoints across about 70 per cent of the field after which field curvature begins to distort them, but overall, I judged its edge of field performance to be good.

Conclusions

The Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 proved to be a pleasant experience. It’s very nice to hold and everything works well. And while not a world class performer, it serves up very decent optical performance at this price point. And it’s good to know that should you encounter any hiccups, Hawke’s lifetime warranty should reassure you that they will take care of any issues you may encounter going forward

Recommended.

 

I would like to thank Steve from First Light Optics for lending me the Hawke Endurance ED 8 x 42 for review.

 

Dr N English’s new book dedicated to binoculars will be published later this year. Check out Choosing and Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts published by Springer Nature.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: The Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35.

The Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35.

A Work Commenced December 27 2022

 

 

Product: Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35

Country of Manufacture: China

Exit Pupil: 5.00mm

Eye relief: 11.8mm

Field of View: 164m@1000m(9.3 angular degrees)

Coatings: Multilayer coated

Close Focus: 5m advertised, 2.35m measured

ED Glass: No

Waterproof: No

Nitrogen Purged: No

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Accessories: logoed padded neck strap, plastic rain guard and objective covers, soft padded carry case, instruction manual, warranty card

Dimensions: 11.9 x  18.5cm

Weight: 686g advertised, 684g measured

Warranty: 10 years

Price UK: £104

 

 

While it is generally true that you get what you pay for, it’s also true that you can pick up very decent optics for not a lot of money. I was very much reminded of this when I test drove the Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35. This is yet another cost-effective Porro prism binocular from Nikon having a good black rubber armouring, twist-up eye cups and a large central focus wheel. Though it’s not quite as well armoured as Nikon’s more expensive and waterproof Action EX 7 x 35, it is considerably lighter, tipping the scales at just 684g. Indeed, I had no trouble carrying it round my neck for several hours while completing a 10km trek near my home.

 

The Nikon Aculon A211 7x 35 is a pleasure to use.

The instrument is multicoated ensuring a high light transmission. Indeed, according to tests carried out by allbinos.com, light transmission is close to 80 per cent. Right out of the box, this little Aculon impressed. I had a wee bit of trouble adjusting the dioptre setting as the ring under the right ocular was quite stiff but it eventually yielded. The image is bright and sharp within its sweet spot, which  covers the inner 50-60 per cent of the field depending on your degree of accommodation. Contrast is very good too. But what’s most impressive is its huge field of view: 9.3 angular degrees. That’s ideal for surveying landscapes. Eye relief is tight though: that wasn’t a problem for me as I don’t wear glasses while looking through binoculars, but when I did try to engage the view with eye glasses on, I could not see the entire field.

I found that the Aculon had a small amount of glare when the eye cups were fully extended upwards but I was really surprised to discover that I could comfortably access the entire field of view without glasses when they were fully retracted! This will obviously reduce the wear on the eyecups, so extending their functional longevity. But it also had the effect of removing much of the glare I encountered in the open air.

The focus wheel is silky smooth and easy to turn with no backlash or free play. Indeed it felt considerably better than the Action EX 7x 35 I reviewed some time ago. Moreover, of all the different brands of binoculars I’ve tested over the years, Nikon focus wheels have been consistently excellent. The ease with which I could move the focus wheel made this binocular a very enjoyable birding binocular. Indeed, I spent some time watching flocks of Long Tailed Tits flit from tree to tree across the valley. Their mode of flight – in fits and starts – reminded me very much of the way Wagtails navigate during the warmer months of the year. It was so easy to keep up with them, even as they moved off into the distance. The impressive depth of field meant refocusing was an infrequent affair. And that’s got to be a good thing for any birder.

I was impressed by its close focus distance – less than half of the 5m advertised value. The enhanced 3D views through the Nikon Aculon A211 were very memorable, especially when scanning for signs of life inside a densely forested patch near my home. The field curvature actually helps keep closer objects at the bottom part of the field tightly in focus, creating a heightened sense of spatial awareness. This little 7x 35 was a much better fit in my hands than the larger 8 x 42 Aculon I tested prior to acquiring this smaller instrument. Does it have any flaws? Yes. When I turned the binocular on a bright streetlamp after dark I picked up significant internal reflections. It was the same when I glassed a bright, waning gibbous Moon. Bothersome? Yes, a little, but didn’t really detract from the nice, relaxed views I enjoyed during the day. And while the internal reflections detract somewhat from the aesthetic of Moon watching, it’s quite an impressive stargazing binocular. By studying the image of the bright, first magnitude star Rigel, I could see that field curvature and coma are strongly apparent near the field stops but to be honest, there is plenty enough field to thoroughly enjoy the view. Lateral colour was also strong at the edge of the field but nowhere near as bad as what I saw testing the larger 8 x 42 Aculon A211.

I spent 30 minutes enjoying the glories of the Winter sky on Christmas Day. Orion looked magnificent riding high on the meridian, sweeping east into Monoceros where the binocular easily showed the somewhat overlapping NGC 237 and NGC 2244 and even the 8th magnitude M50 to the south was faintly discerned. I also enjoyed sweeping up the three Messier open clusters high overhead in Auriga. The large, expansive field of the little Nikon Aculon 7x 35 made light work of framing all of them inside the same field. I also spent some time in a zero gravity chair sweeping through the wonders of Perseus, Cassiopeia and Cygnus, now sinking low into the northwest sky.

The Nikon Aculon A211 7x 35 in its ultra dry Sarcophagus.

For a binocular that you can acquire for about £100 or less, it’s probably a best buy in my opinion. It does lots of activities well and is great fun to use. If you’re on a tight budget and want decent optical performance in a portable package, go check them out. Indeed, as a firm Porro prism binocular fan, this is such a good bargain that I decided to prepare another ‘Sacrophagus’ for the Nikon Aculon A211 7 x 35; a simple water tight Tupperware container with lots of activated silica gel desiccant inside. This will also render them fog proof, as my tests on higher-end Nikon Porros have shown

Recommended!

 

Dr Neil English is busy writing a book dedicated to binoculars. Choosing & Using Binoculars: A Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, which will hit the shelves in late 2023.

 

De Fideli.

Further Adventures with my Nikon E Porro Prism Binoculars.

The author’s refurbished Nikon E 10 x 35(top) and his Nikon E II 8 x 30(bottom).

A Work Commenced December 6 2022

 

Without a doubt, one of the great highlights of my year was being introduced to the Nikon E series of Japanese-made Porro prism binoculars. Collectively these instruments have utterly transformed my opinion on the relative merits of roof over Porro prism designs, to such an extent that I’ve come out strongly in favour of the latter for daytime and night time use(using a 10 x 50 model). In this blog, I wish to discuss these fine optical instruments and what I’ve been learning about them in field use. It has also led me to carry out an investigation as to how well they perform in cold winter weather use, which will be ongoing.

First of all, I have been overjoyed by the images both these binoculars have served up in a variety of lighting conditions. The Nikon E II 8 x 30, in particular, remains my firm favourite, where it never ceases to inspire in every conceivable way. Its older cousin, a newly restored mid-1990s vintage Nikon E 10 x 35 has also impressed me as a longer range, wide-angle instrument in a lightweight, portable package.

The Move to Shorter Neck Straps

Shortening the neck strap of the 8 x 30 significantly reduces the ‘hang problem.’

One common gripe among some Nikon E II 8 x 30 users is its ‘hang problem.’ Though I never saw much of an issue with this personally, I hit on a neat solution when I swapped out the high-quality neck strap attending the E II with the 10 x 35 strap, which was significantly shorter. What did that do? Well, by resting the instrument higher on my chest, it caused the little 8 x 30 ocular lenses to orient themselves with a much smaller angle to the vertical, with the result that it now sits much more upright on my chest.

Indeed, I’ve also shortened the neck strap on the 10 x 35 so that it too sits higher on my chest, reducing the amplitude of oscillatory motion significantly. This measure will reduce shock impact in the long term, especially when negotiating walls and fences on my walks through the Scottish countryside, reducing the risk of accidental knocks and bumps and so minimising the possibility of the optics becoming misaligned over time.

The Effects of Partially Folding Down the Rubber Eyecups on the 10 x 35 

One afternoon, while glassing the landscape with my 10 x 35, I realised something was off. Specifically, unlike the 8 x 30, which showed me the beautiful field stops of the binocular with its amazing 8.8 degree field, I realised I wasn’t seeing the same on the 10 x 35. But that was easily solved by partially folding down the rubber eyecups(see the first image presented above) on the instrument, which finally enabled my eyes to engage with the full 6.6 degree field the instrument serves up. Now the field stops are beautifully apparent, and as a result I’ve come to more greatly appreciate just how wonderful it is to view the world at 10x in an expansive 6.6 degree field. Let’s face it, even with the march of time, having such a large field at 10x is still rather special. And while its newer incarnation – the venerable E II 10 x 35 – sports one of the widest fields for a 10x glass currently available(7.0 angular degrees), the field of view on the Nikon E only represents a very modest 12.5 per cent  truncation; not enough to justify acquiring the E II 10 x 35 in my opinion. The view through the Nikon E 10 x 35 is highly immersive, feeling wider than it really is owing to the excellent off-axis performance of the instrument.

The other improvement I’ve noted by partially turning down the eye cups on the 10 x 35 is significantly better glare suppression. I learned this while using a few roof prism models, most especially the Vortex Diamondback HD series, when I noted that moving the eyecup down one notch greatly improved their control over glare. The 10 x 35 now yields comparable performance to the E II 8 x 30 in this regard, which has excellent glare suppression properties.

Ongoing Cold Weather Experiments with the Nikon Porros

Test everything, Hold fast to what is good

1 Thessalonians 5:21

 

My exchanges on Birdforum on the alleged weakness of the Nikon E Porros in regard to not being waterproof or fog proof, left me puzzled. I asked what I felt was a completely legitimate question:

“What did folk do before the advent of full waterproofing and nitrogen gas purging?”

Were there no birders before Steiner introduced the first fog proof binocular back in 1973?

The response I got was rather telling. Only a single person(Brock) eventually gave an answer of sorts, which indicated to me that not a great deal of thought was put into this issue. Instead I got rather glib responses like, “folk moved with the times and just bought waterproof instruments.”

That wasn’t good enough for me. Several generations of birders got on just fine before such an issue was “solved.”I perceived an altogether timorous culture of individuals who simply bought into the ‘roof prism solution.’

So how did they do it? And more importantly, what could I do about it?

 I wanted to find workable solutions.

And this led me to initiate an investigation into how effective simple, interventive measures could make to keeping such instruments fog free, both internally and externally, while glassing in cold and damp conditions.

My first approach was to construct proper storage containers for my non-waterproof Nikons. Theses comprised of simple Tupperware plastic containers filled with silica gel desiccant that were both air and water tight. You can see one such arrangement in the photograph below:

My 8 x 30 in its Tupperware ‘Sarcophagus.’

My plan was to simply leave the empty Sarcophagus in a cool, dry, unheated outhouse before venturing out into the cold and humid air. Such an outhouse would be at most just a couple of degrees higher than the outside air. I would wear gloves to minimise the transfer of heat from my hands to the Magnesium alloy chassis of the binoculars. And immediately after my return from my glassing excursions, I would then place the instruments inside their containers before bringing them into a cool back lobby. Then, after a spell there, I would return them to room temperature.

Taking advantage of a cold snap, which would endure for at least a few weeks from the beginning of December 2022, I began daily experiments, taking some notes on ambient temperature, wind speed and humidity, as well as the duration of my walks. The reader will note that I did not use any anti-fogging agent during the course of these experiments. My results are published below:

Date: December 4, 8 x 30

Temperature: +4C

Wind: 11mph NE

Humidity: 70%

Time outside: 11:30-12:35 GMT

Result: Recovering from a head cold, some perspiration from my head caused the ocular lenses to fog up once externally. It dispersed within seconds. Otherwise, no problems. No internal or external fogging.

Date: December 5,  10 x 35

Temperature: +4C

Time Outside: 12:25-13:35

Wind: 8mph N

Humidity: 70%

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

Date: December 6 , 10 x 35

Temperature: +3C

Humidity: 65%

Wind: 5mph N

Time Outside: 12:45-14:10

Result: No external or internal fogging observed.

 

Date: December 7, 8 x 30

Time: 11:05 – 1230

Temperature: +2C

Humidity: 84%

Wind: 6mph NW

Result: No internal or external fogging observed

 

Date: December 8, 8 x 30

Time: 11:15-12:30

Temperature: -1C

Humidity: 73%

Wind: 6mph N

Result: Some occasional fogging on right ocular lens, quickly dispersed. No fogging internally or externally observed when placed back in container.

 

Date: December 9, 10 x 35

Time: 12:30 – 13:40

Temperature: 0C

Humidity: 78%

Wind: 6mph NW

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 10, 8 x 30

Time: 12:45-14:10

Temperature:: +2C

Humidity: 81%

Wind: 6mph N

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 11, 10 x 35

Time: 12:55-14:05

Temperature: 0C

Humidity: 70%

Wind: 8mph NW

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 12, 8 x 30:

Time: 11:55-13:10

Temperature: -3C

Humidity: 88 %

Wind: None

Result: Right ocular fogged up a few times but dispersed rapidly, otherwise no internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 13, 10 x 35

Time: 11:55-13:10

Temperature: -4C

Humidity: 94%

Wind: None

Result: A couple of instances of fogging to ocular lenses, quickly dispersed, but otherwise no internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 14, 8 x 30

Time: 1200:13:10

Temperature: -2C

Humidity: 82%

Wind: 11mph NW

Result: No internal or external fogging observed

 

Date: December 15, 10 x 35

Time: 12:05-13:15

Temperature: -1C

Humidity: 94%

Wind: 3mph NW

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 16, 8 x 30

Time: 13:45-14:45

Temperature: +3C

Humidity: 83%

Wind: 9mph SSW

Result: Exposed to sleet and light rain, visibility poor. Chassis covered with some precipitation and droplets also deposited on ocular lenses. Instrument & strap was dried externally with cotton towel and a lens cleaning cloth used to rub away precipitation on ocular lenses before returning it to its Tupperware container. No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 18, 10 x 35

Time: 10:55-12:10

Temperature: +2C

Humidity: 85%

Wind: 8mph ENE

Result: No internal or external fogging observed.

 

Date: December 19, 10 x 35

Time: 12:15- 13: 25

Temperature: +12C

Humidity: 91%

Wind: 16mph S

Results: No gloves worn, some intermittent light rain encountered greatly reducing visibility. Water on chassis and strap removed with a cotton towel. No fogging observed externally or internally.

Date: December 20, 8 x 30

Time: 13:10-1415

Temperature: +7C

Humidity: 72%

Wind: 16mph SW

Result: No gloves worn, encountered one brief rain shower on the road. Instrument dried with cotton towel before being returned to Tupperware container. No internal or external fogging observed.

Conclusions: This two-week +-long study, conducted over a long cold spell, as well as some drizzly days show that these non-waterproof Porro prism binoculars fare just fine, so long as some simple interventive measures are set in place like wearing gloves when the temperatures are low, and returning the instruments slowly to ambient temperature once returned to their desiccant filled Tupperware containers. Some fogging of the ocular lenses tends to occur on colder days with reduced wind, but that’s exactly the same for waterproof roof prism binoculars, as my parallel experiences attest to(data not shown).

The results contradict those who claim that Porro prism binoculars are only fair weather glasses. To you I say:

Lazy, Scaremongering Killjoys!

You’re not credible!

This is yet another manifestation of our current “Big Jessie” culture, where “safetyism” is taken to extremes.

Don’t be a snowflake, and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t use them in winter conditions for ordinary activities, including walks in the outdoors up to at least 90 minutes duration. 

These results will be apprised in my up-and-coming book.

Some Highlights from my Winter Glassing

I’ve been really spoiled by the views these two high-class Porros have generated during the painfully short days of a Scottish Winter. To make the most of the light, it pays to get out in the late morning or early afternoon, as after about 2pm local time, the Sun sinks below the hills greatly diminishing the quality of light available in the valley. Still, the low altitude of the mid-Winter Sun illumines the Fintry Hills to the east of my home in unique ways. Hunting Buzzards are quite common sights this time of year. Often, I see them being harassed by crows which create fascinating aerial displays. The snow-capped summits reveal captivating details and when it thaws and melts, I’ve been mesmerized by the cascades of water tumbling back down into the valley. I’ve enjoyed watching Jacob’s sheep foraging on the land near my home, with their thick winter fleece contrasted against the blinding white of snow-covered fields. On other days, I’ve been lucky enough to glass small groups of Redwings wintering here. And while out for a saunter on the Castle drive, I’ve been lucky enough to watch battalions of Chaffinch, Bullfinch and even the odd Stonechat foraging in the leaflitter at the side of the road. I’ve also been delighted by watching the acrobatic displays of Red Squirrels negotiating the conifer trees around Culcreuch Castle Estate. They’re certainly making a comeback around these parts!

One of the great virtues of both the 8 x 30 and 10 x 35 is their instant optical gratification. Despite their smaller exit pupils, they never induce blackouts unlike many wide-angle roof prism binoculars I’ve tested. They also serve up uniquely immersive views, with their wonderful wide-angle optics, as well as the unmistakable impression of being embedded in the image. I’ve come to appreciate the 10 x 35 in recent weeks. Its stereoscopic qualities really stand out when viewing targets in the middle distance. I’ve been captivated by the River Endrick, watching the water undulate as it flows over rocks beneath it. Scanning the hills with the 10 x 35 is also immensely enjoyable, with tall conifer trees swaying in the foreground against the soaring crags in the background. You really get a much more heightened sense of spatial awareness while viewing through the 10x glass over the lower powered 8x instrument. I find I can hand hold the lightweight 10 x 35 more steadily than a typical 10 x 42 roof prism instrument. Maybe it’s the way my hands engage with the chassis or maybe it’s attributed to its greater proximity to my centre of gravity.  I don’t know exactly. But what I can tell you is that the 10 x 35 Nikon E affords a unique viewing experience possibly only matched by its newer incarnation – the venerable Nikon E II 10 x 35. You really have to look through it to fully appreciate its enchanting qualities!

The 10 x 35 also delivers its charms on the night sky in spades. There is nothing quite like it actually. The smaller exit pupil darkens the sky background allowing the refulgent beauty of the Winter stars to really stand out. I’ve been enjoying views of the Pleaides and the Hyades with this glass; the 10x magnification and wide, engaging field of view working together to create unforgettable viewing experiences, especially now when they transit the meridian before local midnight. The Sword Handle of Orion is also a favourite target with this instrument as it’s so comfortable to view just above the leafless trees to my south. And after it culminates, I’ve very much enjoyed observing brilliant Sirius – The Rainbow Star – not far from the southern horizon coruscating wildly in gorgeous pastels of red, green, blue, purple and white as the light differentially refracts as it passes through turbulent Winter air. That’s just one of the advantages of having the brightest star in the celestial realm so low down in my local skies. Finally, in the wee small hours of the morning, with no Moon in the sky, those wondrously dark winter skies here in rural central Scotland have shown me some of the most beautiful and compelling handheld views of Praesepe and the Beehive Cluster in Cancer with the 10 x 35. It’s almost as if this binocular were tailor made to contemplate such things!

Now that the Winter Solstice has finally arrived, daylight will get longer as the Sun begins its preordained sojourn north again. Roll on the Spring and the long days of Summer!

Post Scriptum: December 26 2022

I’d like to report the results of two more experiments.

It occurred to me that a small binocular like the E II 8 x 30 being stored in a water and airtight Tupperware container with desiccant at room temperature will allow efficient diffusion of gases. The container has 20 sachets each containing 10g of activated silica gel. That ought to create a strong concentration gradient for the net diffusion of a small molecule like water vapour (molecular weight 18 which is considerably smaller than the average molecular weight of air) out of the inside of the binocular. Such a long-term storage strategy ought to thoroughly dehydrate the air in the interior of the instrument. And if that were true, I reasoned, it wouldn’t matter if I treated the binocular like any waterproof, nitrogen-gas-filled roof prism instrument. It should not fog up internally under any conditions so long as I kept to this storage routine.

I can now disclose the result of two further experiments. At five to midnight on Christmas day, I ventured outside with the EII 8 x 30. Temperature +2C, 75% humidity. The sky was clear and I enjoyed 45 minutes of stargazing wearing only light gloves. But instead of returning the instrument to the Tupperware container at the same temperature as the ambient outside air, I just brought it straight inside the house(temperature +20C) like I do with my water and fogproof roofs. The chassis quickly became covered in water as the cold metal encountered the warm inside air. The outer lenses fogged up, as I expected, but after a few minutes, I could see that the interior of the binocular did not fog up. Once it was dried down and left to further air dry, the inside remained crystal clear; no internal fogging observed! I then returned the instrument to its Tupperware container.

In a further experiment conducted on Boxing Day, I ventured out for a two hour glassing session. Temperature +3, 85 per cent humidity. This time I did not wear gloves (I did miss them however as the magnesium alloy chassis really gets cold fast). Time 12:00-14:00. Once again, I brought the instrument straight into my living room(temperature +21C) and watched what happened: once again, the chassis rapidly became drenched with condensed water, and the outer lenses fogged up. But after some of the water evaporated away, I could see that the inside of the instrument was crystal clear, with no signs of fogging. Once all the water had dispersed from the outer lenses, the instrument showed no fogging internally!

 

Conclusion: Storing the Nikon E II 8x 30 in this desiccant laden Tupperware container prevents internal fogging. Because the air is dry inside the instrument it should not fog up in any realistic situation I will encounter. No need to acclimatise the Tupperware container either. I can use it in much the same way as a modern roof prism binocular.

 

Yeeeehaaaw!

 

De Fideli.

A Couple of Binocular Favourites.

Optical & ergonomic marvels: the Nikon E II 8 x 30(left) and the Svbony SV 202 8 x 42 ED(right).

Preamble 1

Preamble 2

After testing hundreds of binoculars over the last several years, I can now reveal my two personal favourite 8x instruments for daylight use: the Nikon E II 8 x 30 and the new Svbony SV202 8 x 42 ED. Optically, the latter is better but the former inspires with its magnificently wide and stereoscopic field of view.

Tune in soon to hear the full revelation………………..

 

De Fideli. 

Product Review: Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 CF.

The Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 CF package.

A Work Commenced November 25 2022

 

 

Product: Nikon Action Extreme 7 x 35

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 164m@1000m(9.3 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 5mm

Eye Relief: 17.3mm

Close focus: 5m advertised, 2.46m measured

Coatings: Multicoated 

Waterproof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Tripod Mountable: Yes

Weight: 800g advertised 798g measured

Dimensions: 18.2 x 11.9 cm

Accessories: padded soft case, rain guard and objective lens caps, padded logoed neck strap, instruction manual, warranty card

Warranty: 10 years

Price(UK): £149

 

The Japanese optics giant Nikon has produced some incredible binoculars over their century + years of being in business. What I think they really excel at is designing and marketing really sweet binoculars at very competitive prices. That’s exactly the sentiments I felt towards their very economically priced Action EX 7 x 35 after spending a couple of weeks with it in the field.

You might think a 7 x 35 format would be lightweight and streamlined: not so with this binocular! Weighing 800g, this is one chunky binocular, overlaid as it is with a very thick rubber armouring, which contributes to its wet weather resistance. This instrument is o-ring sealed and purged with dry nitrogen gas making it fully water- and fog proof.

Nikon states that the Action EX series have multi-layer coatings on the lenses and prisms ensuring high light transmission. One good way to test the effectiveness of these coatings is to aim the binocular at a bright artificial light source after dark and examine the images produced. I was glad to see that there was very minimal internal reflections. Having said that, it was virtually identical to the result I obtained with the lower priced Aculon 8 x 42 marketed by Nikon. Still, those coatings weren’t nearly as good as the Japanese-made Nikon E II series which cost considerably more but shows virtually none in comparison.

The Nikon Action EX 7x 35 is exceptionally well armoured for use in all weathers.

The large centrally located focus wheel moves very nicely with no free play or backlash. It’s been reported that waterproof Porro prism binocular often have overly stiff focus wheels – a necessary compromise for making it weatherproof – but I must report that this was not my experience with the Action EX 7 x 35. The gearing in the focus wheel was perfectly fine, even when rapidly adjusting focus from close up to far away.  One and a quarter turns clockwise brings you from closest focus to beyond infinity. Unlike classic Porros of the past, which usually come with fold-down rubber eyecups, the Nikon Action EX has modern twist up cups with three detents. Eye relief is a very decent 17mm. I tested them while using my eyeglasses and was comfortably able to access the entire field. The ocular lenses are very large and easy to centre your eyes in. The objective lenses are also very deeply recessed, further protecting them from stray light, dust and rain. The right eye dioptre ring is located under the eyepiece. It’s well designed and holds its position well.

Some may think the Action EX 7x 35 is overbuilt. I really don’t think so. Yes, it’s quite heavy for its relatively small aperture but it feels exceptionally sturdy in the hands and its 7x gives very stable views which partially negates its bulk mass. Comparing it to the lower cost Aculon 8 x 42, I felt the grip was noticeably better in the Action EX. The rubber armouring is simply more grippy in the latter.

Optically, the Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 is quite impressive: bright, sharp across a good chunk of the field with very good contrast. How bright? Allbinos measured one Action EX model to have a transmission of the order of 80 per cent – not bad but noticeably dimmer than models nearer 90 per cent transmission. Intriguingly, the lower priced Aculon models apparently have similar light transmission values.

The Nikon Action EX 7x 35 binocular also controls glare very well. That said, it was not significantly better than the less expensive Aculon 8 x 42 I tested alongside it. The outer field does display field curvature, but I think this is quite acceptable given the fact that the field of view is a whopping 9.3 degrees. I felt the edge of field performance was a little better than the 6.5 x 32 Opticron Adventurer T WP I tested a few months back.  Depth of field is impressive too. I quickly became consciously aware of how little I had to refocus the instrument as I scanned the hills around my home. Anything beyond about 50 yards is sharply in focus.

On the afternoon the binocular arrived, it was a dull, overcast and drizzly late October day, but the Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 seemed to take it all in its stride.  I scanned the leaden skies in the open fields near my home and quickly picked up the silhouette of a hovering raptor, which I was later able to identify as a Peregrine Falcon from its fanned-out tail feather. The enormous field of view allowed me to track the bird as it moved off toward the hills. At one stage the Peregrine entered the same field as a Buzzard which looked enormous in comparison. What a sight on a gloomy autumnal day! Nikon quote the close focus on the Action EX 7x 35 to be 5 metres, but I found that it is well under 2 meters!

I also found the Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 very useful during a few forest walks. This is where the field curvature and enhanced 3D effects combine to create incredibly vivid images of treescapes with even closeup tree trunks being sharply focused. Absolutely exhilarating! As good as this binocular is for daylight glassing, I found it most excellent for stargazing. With a decent magnifying power of 7x and 35mm objectives providing a 5mm exit pupil, not to mention its enormous 9.3 degree true field, the Nikon Action EX 7 x 35 throws up wonderful views of the night sky. On a dark, moonless night, I enjoyed sweeping the Milky Way through Cygnus, Perseus and Cassiopeia. The dazzling Pleaides star cluster looked rather small in the enormous field of this binocular. Ditto for the Hyades beneath it. The effects of field curvature are quite pronounced near the field stops but that’s a small compromise when you consider the modest cost of the instrument and the more than generous field of view. Quite simply, there is plenty to see in each new field of night sky.

A good all-round performer.

Conclusions

I was pleasantly surprised by the Nikon Action EX 7x 35. It’s a very nice binocular to use in the field and I can readily understand why it’s such a popular choice. Its build quality goes well beyond the call of duty and although it’s rather heavy for such a small aperture binocular, you’ll quickly forget about it. This will make a good binocular for short-range birding, exploring landscapes and casual star gazing. It does many things well.

Recommended.

 

Dr Neil English is the author of a highly lauded 650+ page historical work: Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy.

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Swarovski Optik EL 8.5 x 42.

The Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42.

Product: Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42(first generation)

Country of Manufacture: Austria

Field of View: 130m@1000m(7.4 angular degrees)

Exit Pupil: 4.94mm

Eye Relief: 18mm

Close Focus: 2.5m advertised, 2.07m measured

Coatings: Proprietary Swarodur, Swarotop, Swaroclean, Swarobright

Dioptre Compensation: +/-3

ED Glass: Yes

Waterproof: Yes

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Weight: 820g advertised, 822g measured

Dimensions: 16.5 x 12.3cm

Accessories: Padded logoed neoprene neck strap, rubber rain guard and tethered objective lens covers, stylish clamshell carry case, Instruction manual, warranty card

Warranty: 10 years

Current Retail Price: £1675(UK)

 

 

 

In this review blog, I’ll be test driving a first generation Swarovski EL 8.5 x 42 and comparing it to a few newer, mid-priced models available today, with some surprising results!

 

Tune in soon for full details……………………

 

De Fideli.