Adventures with a “Go Anywhere” Binocular.

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Preamble 1

Preamble 2

A Work Commenced June 17 2021

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Neil,

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

 

Gijs

 

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

Schematic showing the phenomenon called the pinhole effect.

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

The joy of knowing things!

And yet, there is still more to know!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Buzzard Field

The Buzzard Field.

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

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

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

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

The view from the tree trunk rest.

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

Culcreuch Pond

Culcreuch Pond, looking East.

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

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

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

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

A Walk through the Woods

The Mill Lade.

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

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

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

Bigger is not always better you know!

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

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

The View from on High

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

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

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

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

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

The River Walk

River Endrick

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting Local Lochs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

To be continued…………………..

 

 

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

Country of Manufacture: China

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

Eye Relief: 15.6mm

Exit Pupil: 4mm

Close Focus: 2m advertised, 1.98m measured.

Chassis Material: Rubber armoured Magnesium alloy

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

Dioptre Range: +/- 3 Dioptres

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

ED Glass: Yes

Weight: 510g(measured)

Warranty: 1 year International Manufacturer Warranty

H/W:14.8/12.3cm

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

Retail Price: £99.99(Amazon UK)

 

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

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

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

Ergonomics Comparison

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optical Comparisons

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

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

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

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

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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: 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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Three Achromatic Binoculars.

Three achromatic binoculars.

A work commenced April 16 2021

 

Over the last decade I have dedicated much of my free time to educating the amateur community on the great achievements of the classical achromatic refractor. My 650 page historical work, Chronicling the Golden Age of Astronomy, documents many of the amazing achievements made by highly skilled individuals over many centuries who used these great telescopes to divine pretty much everything amateur astronomers explore today. And despite what some claim regarding the newer refracting telescopes that employ extra low dispersion(ED) glass, this modern development represents, at most, a mere footnote to the true history of these telescopes.

But it is not the classical refractor that best exemplifies the wonders of crown and flint, but the humble binocular. I have had the pleasure of looking through many of these fine instruments and have been astounded at the wonderfully sharp and clear views they serve up. And even in this era of extraordinary technological development, I’m especially delighted to see that crown & flint is alive and well in a suite of state-of-the-art binoculars that carry on that legacy into the 21st century.

This blog will describe three such instruments that fulfil all of my binocular needs; the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR, the Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 and the Pentax PCF WP II 20 x 60.

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR

The extraordinary Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR.

This tiny optical marvel has transformed what I understand an ideal daytime binocular to be. This state-of-the-art instrument uses no ED glass, yet achieves a level of optical excellence that really needs to be experienced to be believed! The following sentiments are contrary to what you will read from almost every other binocular enthusiast, but they are solidly grounded in both optical theory and field experience. For daytime use and for much of the year, the size of your eye pupil is very small, typically between 2 and 3mm. This means that using binoculars with larger exit pupils (calculated by dividing the aperture of the binocular by its magnification) wastes a lot of the light collected by larger binoculars usually touted as being ideally suited to daytime use – I’m thinking of those with objectives sizes of 32 and 42mm in particular. But there is another, perhaps even more important reason for choosing these smaller exit pupils – image sharpness. When you are sampling the image with a smaller exit pupil you are employing the best part of your eye lens to bring that image to focus. And when you couple this optimal image sensor(itself a marvel of Divine creation) to an optically excellent binocular, you have a match made in heaven!

Thanks to the incorporation of the latest in coating technology into this small binocular, including phase corrected prisms, aspherical eyepieces, and multiple layers of the best anti-reflection coatings on all glass surfaces, this small 20mm aperture instrument serves up impressively bright and high-contrast images across the entire field of view. Leica optics are the contrast kings, being world leaders in suppressing stray light and internal reflections, including veiling glare, which is a particularly pernicious problem in many binoculars, however the size. The image just snaps to focus with none of the ambiguity you all too often get with binoculars of lesser quality. The mechanical build quality and ergonomic handling of this binocular are also superb, being designed for a busy life in the great outdoors. Only at dawn and dusk does the limitations of its small aperture become apparent, but these are times I do not normally glass, so these shortcomings are rarely encountered.

The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 is very compact and lightweight(245g), fitting in any pocket. You can wear it ’round your neck all day and never experience neck strain. Try doing that with an 8 x 42 or even an  8 x 32! Employing a dual-hinge design, squaring on with the eye pupils takes a little more care to get right, but with practice this becomes easy. And because the collimation and robustness of the binocular is second to none, you don’t experience eye strain, blackouts or headaches even after prolonged daily use. But another hugely important factor for many glassers, including yours truly,  is its cost to performance ratio. You get sublime Leica(alpha) quality at a fraction of the price of buying larger alpha binoculars. And because it works so well, my encounter with the little Leica Ultravid saved me a small fortune. I’d have to shell out more than a £1000 more to get a larger instrument of similar optical quality.

The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 goes everywhere with me. I use it for birding with its generous 6.5 degree true field, examining objects at close distance(less than 2 metres) both indoors and out of doors, surveying the landscape, whether in a rural or urban setting, and I look forward to being able to visit theatres, museums and classical music concerts in the future with it, as the country opens up for life as normal. I have even used it productively observing the phases of the Moon at night. I would highly recommend this to readers who are wanting the best optical quality at a price that is considerably lower than going the traditional- think heavier – route. It certainly works for me!

The Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 

The Series 5 8 x 42; a wonderful, cost-effective instrument to study the starry heaven.

As binoculars move from pocket to mid-size formats, they become easier to make well, owing to less stringent design tolerances. The Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 is a solid, mid-tier binocular that I use for general stargazing. Its larger 42mm objective lenses collects far more light than the Leica 8 x 20, and produces impressive wide field images of the night sky. It is also often employed observing the Moon, especially when clouds pass over it in the sky, producing wonderful, colourful light shows. Ergonomically, the Series 5 is easy to handhold for considerable periods of time, and with its very well corrected 8 degree true field of view, it’s a superb tool for scanning the Milky Way and observing larger deep sky objects such as the Pleiades, Hyades, the Sword Handle of Orion, the Beehive and Coma cluster, the Double Cluster in Perseus and the Great Andromeda Galaxy, to name but a few.

The Series 5 has a light-weight magnesium chassis, a silky smooth focuser – one of the best I’ve encountered, in fact, in a binocular in this price class – and very decent optics. Its very large field is very well corrected – a lot better than many other models I’ve sampled in this price range – with stars remaining satisfyingly sharp even near the field stop. The metallic twist-up eyecups overlaid with soft rubber are of high quality and maintain their positions well, affording an exceptionally comfortable viewing experience. And though I don’t use it much during the day, the Barr & Stroud Series 5 has excellent contrast with very aggressive control of veiling glare. Indeed, internal reflections are also exceptionally well controlled so that it can be used to observe well lit scenes at night without showing up annoying internal reflections and diffraction spikes.

When I want the steadiest views I can place it on a lightweight monopod or tripod to coax out the maximum amount of detail from a celestial scene. Indeed my own experiments show that when tripod mounted it can detect stars as much as a magnitude fainter than when hand held.  Overall, it fits the niche I have made for it very well indeed, and without breaking the bank.

The Pentax PCF WP II 20 x 60

Excellent bang for buck: the Pentax PCF WPII 20 x 60.

The Pentax PCF WP II 20 x 60 is my very economically priced, high power binocular that functions in much the same way as a spotting ‘scope during daylight applications when I need greater magnifications to see stationary objects better at an extended distance, such as a small bird or a distant landmark. Though conventional spotting ‘scopes do employ a greater range of magnifications(typically 15x to 50x), the 20 x 60 allows me to use both eyes, which is a big advantage over a regular monocular ‘scope and somewhat makes up for the lack of power at the higher end of the magnification scale. Unlike a dedicated spotter, it can be stably mounted on a monopod( that can be collapsed telescopically), which is easier to carry about than a regular spotting ‘scope mount

This large Pentax Porro prism binocular is fairly lightweight for its specifications – just 1.2 kilos in all – so it’s rather easy to mount on a tripod or even a monopod for steadier views. The optical quality of this large achromatic binocular is very good, thanks to its fully multicoated specification and excellent baffling, which ensures very good light transmission in high contrast. Just like the Leica Ultravid, this Pentax also sports aspherical ocular lenses, which serves up a very well corrected vista, right to the edge of its 2.2 degree field of view. As one might expect from a binocular of this specification, it does show a little more chromatic aberration on high contrast targets but it’s never enough to be intrusive. As with the Leica Ultravid, this binocular has a small exit pupil of just 3mm so it’s widely lauded sharpness among its many enthusiasts may well be attributed to this design feature as well. Indeed, as I’ve noted before, this may well have been the aim of the designers of the legendaryTakahashi Astronomer(limited edition) 22 x 60, which has an even smaller exit pupil and field of view(2.1 angular degrees).

The 20 x 60 presents the Moon in stunning detail, with wonderful contrast and sharpness and only a sliver of secondary spectrum seen at the edge of the orb.. Indeed it is one of my favourite instruments to study its changing phases, from slender crescent right through to full phase. Selected deep sky objects such as the Pleiades, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Beehive Cluster, the Orion Nebula and large Messier open clusters like M36 through M38 in Auriga, as well as M35 in Gemini can be observed in glorious detail with this nifty instrument, with stars remaining sharp and undistorted right to the field stop.

Sometimes, I like to use the Pentax 20 x 60 to study colourful star fields and wider double and multiple stars. I’ve enjoyed stunning views of the Garnet Star, Mu Cephei, the lovely colour contrast pair, Albireo, as well as O1 & 2 Cygni, and the orange dwarves comprising 61 Cygni. Indeed, the sky is chock full of widely spaced binocular doubles well within the reach of this powerful binocular. It could keep you going for years!

I also employ the 20 x 60 to conduct all of my solar observations, recording sunspots using a pair of homemade white light solar filters. It produces the right combination of image scale, contrast and resolving power to get the job done. In addition, I may use it to search for and/or observe brighter comets which grace our night skies from time to time.

I have often thought about going larger in terms of light grasp, perhaps with a 70 or 80mm binocular,  but this would severely limit its portability and mine too. Thus, I regard the 20 x 60 as being at or near the limit of where I’m willing to go with two eyes, before I switch to monocular vision with my astronomical telescopes.

Well, as I bring this blog to a close, I hope you will more fully appreciate the choices I have made in pairing down the binoculars I intend to use in the coming years, and hope that it inspires you to find your own path through the complex binocular maze. There is a great satisfaction in finding the minimal set of instruments that fulfil all the requirements of a busy life in the great out of doors, a set of instruments that don’t cost the earth and yet satiate every desire I could wish for them. I used to enjoy perusing the colourful adverts of all kinds of binoculars in the glossy birding magazines, but these days I tend to ignore them; they just don’t offer any temptations that I would want to pursue, and that’s a good thing in my opinion!

Thanks for reading!

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR.

Defending limes

A work commenced March 19 2021

 

 

Product Name: Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR

Country of Origin: Portugal

Field of View: 110m @1000m(6.3 angular degrees) advertised, 113m@1000m(6.5 angular degrees measured)

Eye Relief: 15mm

IPD Range: 34-74mm

Close Focus: 1.8m (advertised and measured)

Exit Pupil: 2.5mm

Chassis Material: Rubber armoured aluminium/titanium

Coatings: Fully multi-coated, High Durable Coating(HDC),  phase correcting coating P40 , HighLux-System (HLS), AquaDura coatings applied to outer lenses.

Dioptre Range: +/- 3.5 dioptres(lockable)

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Waterproof: Yes to 5m

ED Glass: No

Weight: 245g(8.6 oz)

Dimensions: Folded W/H 6.0/9.3cm

Warranty: 10 Years

Accessories: Logoed Cordura case, eye caps, woven neck strap, test certificate, warranty card, instruction manual

Retail Price: £495-570 (UK), $749 (US)

 

 

Every now and then, something crosses your path that is truly remarkable and worthy of discussion, something that radically changes your perceived priorities when it comes to choosing the right equipment for your intended needs and purposes. Having thoroughly test-driven the smallest instrument in Leica’s Ultravid line of binoculars, I would have to concede that the 8 x 20 BR is one such instrument, as I hope to elaborate on at some length in this review blog.

When I began my exploration of the world of modern binoculars less than three short years ago, I was amazed what a relatively small financial outlay could buy you in terms of optical quality. As with telescopes, gone forever were the days when you couldn’t acquire decent optical performance without breaking the bank. As my curiosity for all things binocular grew however, so did my appetite for buying up and hoarding lots of different models – some very expensive in the scheme of things – to the extent that I soon recognised that my collection was getting far too large, and indeed was becoming a bit of an obsession.

The catalyst for this personal reflection started when I tested a Leica Triinovid HD 8 x 32 against a far less expensive Barr & Stroud Series 5  8 x 42 binocular. The latter proved to be very good indeed, with a very wide and well-corrected field of view (of the order of 8 angular degrees). Optically, the Series 5 was only marginally less sharp and contrasty compared with the Leica and much easier to use owing to its larger and more forgiving exit pupil and comparable mass(less than 100g heavier than the Leica HD). Ergonomically, it was no slouch either, with a magnesium alloy body, excellent focuser, high-quality twist up eye cups, and a nicely finished rubber armoured exterior. I rapidly grew very fond of this binocular after using it extensively on my walks, and wondered if I had made the right choice in going for the 8 x 32 Leica. After some reflection, I decided that I would part with the Leica glass and embrace the Series 5 as my mid-size binocular. of choice Since then, I’ve had no regrets. Indeed, I’ve completely ruled out buying a more expensive mid-size instrument, as the Series 5 8 x 42 fulfils all my needs from that binocular aperture class.

Incredulous? Why don’t you test drive it?

Thus began a selling off spree that radically reduced my binocular collection. But it also freed up funds to acquire a state-of-the-art pocket binocular that utterly amazed me from the moment I acquired it; enter the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR.

Leica make some seriously nice kit. I had experienced the optical wonders of no less than three Trinovid binoculars; two pocket glasses – the BCA 8 x 20 and 10 x 25 – and the larger HD 8 x 32. Built to last, with optics to write home every day about, it soon became clear to me that Leica were a world-class binocular maker, holding their own or even exceeding the best other optical giants in the field could offer, including Zeiss and Swarovski. I had sworn to myself that the optical performance of these two pocket binoculars was as good as I could possibly perceive with my average eyes, and that acquiring their Ultravid pocket glass would not be justified. But I was wrong about that!

The 8 x 20 BR was purchased from a reputable dealer – Cley Spy of Norwich, England. I got it for a good price – at least as this model retails for – £495 delivered. It arrived the next day in a very large box filled with paper and foam, surrounding a much tinier box containing the binocular and its accessories. As is typical of Leica products, everything was immaculately packed inside; the instrument snugly placed inside the Cordura pouch, with the neck strap, user manual, warranty card, and test certificate.

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR; up close and personal.

As I discovered in testing lots of different binoculars of different sizes, I deduced that as the instrument gets larger, they are easier to make well owing to their less stringent design tolerances. This is especially true of 42mm class instruments and above, and it was self evidently the case when I tested the excellent Series 5 binocular marketed by Barr & Stroud. But the opposite is also true, the smaller the binocular, the harder it is to make well – and the tiniest ones of all are the most difficult of all to build. And that’s why they are quite expensive as binoculars go. That said, what Leica achieved in miniaturising almost all of the technologies that went into their large Ultravid models is nothing short of phenomenal! To see why, read on!

Ergonomics

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR is beautifully made instrument, with a very solid feel in the hand. Weighing in at 243 grams, its frame is constructed from aircraft-grade aluminium  overlaid by a thick layer of easy-grip black rubber(whence its BR labelling). It has a dual hinge design, just like the Trinovid BCA models but has fixed stops that prevent it from unfolding too far unlike the latter. That said, it can be used by anyone; from kids to adults, with a wide range of inter-pupillary distances to suit most everyone’s face.

The eye cups twist up and click firmly into place with a very reassuring ‘thwack’ sound. There are no detents just like the Trinovid pocket glasses. You simply leave the eyecups down if you wear glasses or pull them out if you don’t. I personally love this arrangement, as I don’t like having multiple stops as you usually find on most larger binoculars. They are held rigidly in place and only retract after applying a firm downward force to the edges of the soft-rubber-clad padding on the top of the eye cups.

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR can be deployed in seconds.

One slight gripe I have is that the left eye cup is harder to deploy than the one on the right. Indeed I have to twist them round as I pull them up to get them to deploy quickly( I don’t observe using eye glasses), but I suspect this will become slightly easier to do with more use. The eye relief is a decent 15mm, a full millimetre more than the 8 x 20 BCA Trinovid. This makes for very comfortable viewing and easier squaring on of one’s eyes with the small exit pupils. Eye glass wearers will also have no problem seeing the entire field with this instrument. I checked this with my varifocals on.

The Ultravid pocket glass has a lockable dioptre mechanism. You adjust it by pressing a small button under the bridge of the binocular just ahead of the focus wheel. When the button is pressed in, you rotate the focus wheel which is indicated by a dial on the focuser. But this must be carried out while looking through the right barrel of the binocular, which can be quite a tricky task, especially if you have large hands. Once the button is released the dioptre setting is locked in place and need not be adjusted again – at least in theory.

The lockable dioptre setting on the Ultravid is located under the bridge of the instrument and is a bit fiddly to adjust. Note also the lack of a numeric scale on the display.

Although I do acknowledge that this is a clever engineering solution, I believe it’s a bit  overkill, and a bit fiddly to boot, as I found the dioptre adjustment on the Trinovid BCAs to be perfectly adequate in comparison, located as it is on the right objective barrel of the latter instruments. Furthermore, I find I need to tweak the adjustment of the dioptre from time to time, and the Trinovid solution is much more amenable to this kind of micro-adjustment on the fly compared with the Ultravid. The other minor gripe I have with the lockable dioptre on the Ultravid pocket binocular pertains to the lack of a numeric index on the scale. If you already know how much to offset the dioptre from its zero position, and in which direction to rotate it – either plus or minus – you can just go ahead and move it to that position. But that’s not the case with the Ultravid dioptre. You’re simply left guessing which way to turn the dial when first adjusting it. Ho hum.

The large, centrally placed focus wheel on the Ultravid is a significant ergonomic advance over the Trinovid BCAs, which has a much smaller focuser in comparison, and which is especially noticeable when wearing gloves. It is very smooth but rather stiff, especially using one finger. Indeed, I find I like to use two fingers while rotating the focus wheel to get optimum momentum. Close focus was precisely measured at 1.8 metres, exactly as advertised, taking just 1.5 revolutions to go from one end of focus travel to the other. It also can focus just a little beyond infinity.

The objectives of the Ultravid are recessed just a tiny bit more – perhaps 3.5mm – than I remember on the 8 x 20 Trinovid BCA. And while still rather shallow, I’m grateful to have that small improvement, as it affords the objectives with a little bit more protection from rain, dust and peripheral light. You also don’t have to worry quite as much about standing them upright on a level surface in case the lenses get scratched.

The thick rubber armouring covering the aluminium chassis is applied via a novel vulcanisation process which ensures that it will not come loose from the metal even under the harshest conditions of cold or heat.

The slightly more deeply recessed objective lenses on the Ultravid 8 x 20 BR is a step in the right direction.

Optical Evaluation

First class ergonomics counts for nothing of course, unless the optical quality is up to scratch. Beginning with my iPhone torch light test to look for internal reflections, diffused light and diffraction spikes, I was relieved but not really surprised to see that it was every bit as good as the Trinovid binoculars, but did fall a little short of my Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 control. Specifically, when the torch was set to its brightest setting about 2.5 metres away, the Ultravid served up very clean images of the light beam with only the merest trace of faint internal reflections, and no diffused light that causes a haziness to develop around bright light sources. There was however, a more pronounced diffraction spike in comparison to my superlative Series 5 control binocular. When pointed at a bright sodium street lamp, the little Ultravid served up a lovely clean image, with no diffused light, and only the merest trace of faint internal reflections. I could not make out any diffraction spiking however. Here again, I thought the Series 5 images of the street lamp were that little bit cleaner but the results for the Ultravid pocket glass was more than satisfactory.

The torch test never tells the full story however, as it doesn’t test for veiling glare, one of my pet peeves concerning binocular optics. Veiling glare comes mostly from on high lol, and is seen most easily in daylight in an open area away from the shading canopy of trees and observation hides. It occurs when light from above strikes the edges of the lenses in the objective causing a contrast-robbing veil of glare to manifest in the image. In addition, I discovered yet another source of veiling glare, not reported before in the literature to my knowledge, while testing binoculars during bright sunny winter days, with fresh snowfall underfoot. Under such conditions, the highly reflective snow adds to the veiling glare by causing the upper edges of the binocular objectives to add a significant additional source of this annoying stray light. It is easily detected by pointing a binocular high up in a tree canopy against a bright overcast sky. It also shows up in strongly backlit scenes, such as near a low-lying Sun.

The Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 exhibits excellent control of stray light and veiling glare but  is not quite as good as my superlative Barr & Stroud Series 5 8x 42 control binocular.

Well, I was absolutely amazed when I tested the Ultravid 8x 20 BR for this phenomenon! It proved excellent in supressing veiling glare; certainly in a different league altogether to the Trinovid BCAs and quite comparable to my Series 5 8 x 42 control binocular! Leica have really done their homework on this model and it is one of the major contributing factors to its optical excellence. Of course, while no binocular yet made can completely eliminate veiling glare, with pocket binoculars being particularly sensitive to it, the little Leica Ultravid is certainly the best pocket glass I’ve yet tested for this by some considerable margin. Leica binoculars are well known in the industry for their very aggressive control of stray light, being ahead of some other premium manufacturers such as Zeiss and Swarovski in this department. Well done Leica!

The field of view of the 8 x 20 Ultravid is advertised(as in the user manual) as 110m@1000m or about 6.3 angular degrees. I discovered however, that the true value is nearer 6.5 angular degrees or 113m@1000m. This I ascertained by imaging a star field at night. The Plough asterism provides a convenient test; specifically the distance between Mizar and Alkaid is a precisely known 6.66 angular degrees, and I was able to see that the Ultravid almost captures both stars in the same field; not quite but very nearly! The result is not surprising, as I’ve found that many manufacturers misquote their fields of view, but mostly to over-estimate field size.

From the moment I picked up the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR, I was deeply impressed with the images it served up. Even before tweaking the dioptre adjustment on the instrument it was showing an intensely sharp, bright and well corrected field. The lack of any glare has the effect of peeling away another layer that brings out the finest details in the image. I would describe the effect as being rather like going from a mediocre 7 element  eyepiece to one of the highest optical quality with just 3 or 4 elements. You can really see the contrast and sharpness gain immediately!

The Ultravid serves up a slightly brighter image than the Trinovid BCAs owing to its superior light transmission. Some independent testing by others have estimated its transmittivity to be of the order of 90+ per cent across much or all of the visible spectrum, even exceeding 94 per cent at green visual wavelengths (~550nm). In another test carried out on a larger first generation 10 x 42 Ultravid, a transmission value of 88 +/-3 per cent was measured.

Colour correction is excellent. Indeed, I have yet to see any secondary spectrum from this binocular, even after testing in very challenging light conditions. In good light, the colour rendition of the image is very rich and vivid but also stays natural. Greens and yellows are particularly vivid in this instrument – an observation I’ve made before with the Trinovid binoculars. Depth of focus is also very impressive in this 8 x  20, with objects beyond about 50 yards being in sharp focus and only requiring the tiniest tweak of the focus wheel for optimum results.

The other thing that was immediately noticeable to me was the flatness of the image across the field, with off-axis performance being particularly impressive. There is noticeably less edge distortion in the Ultravid pocket glass in comparison to the Trinovid BCA glasses(which are already very good). Furthermore, this was not only true horizontally but also vertically(hardly ever tested by users).  What is especially remarkable is that all of this is achieved without employing extra low dispersion (ED) glass elements!

This is not just hearsay. In an optical matter like this it’s always best to consult with the manufacturer. I contacted Leica Sports Optics UK, asking for information on this matter, and I got this reply:

Dear Neil,

Nice to hear from you!

We are glad to hear that you are impressed with the Ultravid. As you correctly guessed, the Ultravid 8×20 BR doesn’t have an extra-low dispersion element like the bigger “HD” Ultravid. Despite this, the compact Ultravid features aspherical elements that greatly reduce colour fringing and increase sharpness.

Please let us know if you have any more questions.

Best wishes,
Tizia

Tizia Barci
E-Commerce Manager| Leica Camera UK

So, there you have it! That extraordinary sharpness and excellent colour fidelity of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR is achieved using specialised aspherical elements built into the eyepieces most likely, but maybe elsewhere in the optical train. But it also serves as a reminder to those who think the addition of ED glass somehow makes a binocular magically better or brighter.

Absolutely untrue!

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 is arguably the world’s best achromatic binocular! 

But I believe there is yet another ingredient that contributes to the extraordinary image quality of the Leica Ultravid  8 x 20, and it pertains to the small exit pupil. The aberrations in the human eye increase as the exit pupil increases. This enables you to take in more light of course, but with the added disadvantage of introducing more aberrations. For normal daylight observations for much of the year, the exit pupil reduces to between 2 and 3mm, so there is no big optical advantage in using a binocular that serves up a larger exit pupil. Furthermore, because you are sampling the image with the best corrected part of the eye, the image does present as unusually sharp and well defined.  Again, this is not mere opinion. Studies have shown the same thing!  Thus, when you are using the Ultravid 8 x 20, you are delivering a very well corrected image to the best part of your eye.

Note added in proof: It’s amazing how some so-called ‘experienced’ folk discover the virtues of a small exit pupil after the fact!

Of course, all of this comes with some trade-offs; small exit pupils make it harder to align your eyes with the small light shaft emerging from the binocular making them more fastidious in regard to precise eye placement, with the result that some glassers report blackouts as the eye becomes misaligned with the exit pupil. This makes them unsatisfactory to some users, but I find this is a skill that most glassers can easily learn. You get better with practice! And because there are no collimation issues with these mechanically robust instruments, eye fatigue even after prolonged use is minimised.

Trust but Verify

Don’t be a snowflake: the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR submerged in a bowl of tap water for 10 minutes.

Unlike the Trinovid BCA pocket glasses, which are splash proof, meaning that they can handle light rain, they are not water proof in the same way that the Leica Ultravid  pocket glass is. Indeed, the latter is advertised in the user manual as being watertight to a depth of 5 metres(16.4 feet). Judging by its excellent build quality, I had no real reason to doubt this but decided to conduct a simple submersion test with the Ultravid, by placing it in a bowl of tap water and leaving it there for 10 minutes before retrieving it and letting it dry naturally. To my relief, it presented no problems whatsoever. The binocular remained bone dry inside with nary a sign of any trapped moisture.

I can also confirm that the AquaDura coatings applied to the outer lenses work very well indeed, by testing against another pocket glass with no such coating. Remarkably, even though the ocular lenses were of the same diameter, it took about six times longer to disperse a fog breathed on the surfaces of the control binocular in comparison with the Ultravid. I found a short youtube clip showing AquaDura strutting its stuff. You can see that clip right here.

In yet another test, I placed the little Ultravid inside a small tupperware container and left it inside a freezer at -20C for an hour. Despite being covered in ice crystals, the focus wheel remained smooth and functional, and the optical glass showed no signs of stress, so the instrument should be reliable in these extremely cold conditions.

These features really add to the robustness of the binocular. You needn’t worry about rain or rivers, or even whether the binocular will fog or freeze-up on even the coldest winter days

What does all of this give the owner? In a phrase, peace of mind!

 

Notes from the Field

The very first thing I did after giving the Leica Ultravid BR 8 x 20 a quick once-over was to affix the strap. Unlike the neoprene neckstrap that attends the Trinovid BCA binoculars, the Ultravid carry strap is fashioned from fine woven cotton. It’s quite comfortable but there is no provision to quickly remove it by unclipping it from the binocular like you can do with the Trinovids. With such a small and expensive instrument as this, one doesn’t want to tempt fate and drop it while you’re using it. Getting that strap on gives you that little bit of extra security.

Though there has been a tendency for sports optics manufacturers to provide ever wider and wider fields of view, I feel very fortunate indeed not to have been caught up with that rat race. The 113m@1000m field of view is plenty wide enough for most any outdoor activity. Leica binoculars have wonderfully delineated field stops that give the distinct impression that you’re looking into a finely textured landscape painting. I have referred to these picture paintings as vignettes and derive great joy framing objects in the landscape that present the finest blend of colour, light and contrast. It might be a tree trunk covered with moss or lichens, a rocky river bank, a cascading waterfall, a craggy outcrop on the summit of a hill catching the last golden rays of a setting Sun,  the delicate stone masonry of old, abandoned farm houses and water mills. The Scottish rural landscape is studded with such visual marvels.

The Ultravid 8 x 20 a fine binocular for birding. The very next morning after receiving the instrument, I took myself off for a quick walk down by the river. Frequent rain had replenished the streams that fed into the Endrick and many of its drier spots were now covered in fast flowing water. It was on this occasion that I came across a brand new species I had never laid eyes on before; a plump little Dipper. Presenting with a snow white breast and throat, a truncated tail and short wings, a jet black nape and mantle, and a ring of chocolate brown plumage on its lower belly, it sat on a rock in the middle of the rapids, bobbing its head up and down as if contemplating its next dive into the water. I got quite close to it- within about 15 yards or so- but the little Ultravid presented the creature in exquisite detail. I watched in amazement as it submerged itself in the water, disappearing for a few tens of seconds before coming back to the surface.

Of course, at the time, I had no idea it was a Dipper. It was only afterwards when I rummaged through my RSPB handbook, that I finally knew what I was observing. Apparently they are fairly common in rural waterways, but are quite elusive owing to their small size and tendency to remain submerged for long periods. They are supremely adapted to life underwater, another book informed me, having denser bones than normal which decreases their buoyancy. They actually walk along the bottom of the river seeking their next meal. How ingenious!

The next sighting I had of the Dipper was on the early evening of St. Patrick’s Day, nearly two weeks after my maiden sighting, but after that a longish dry spell put paid to any more visits. But after a day of rain on March 24, a short dry spell in the evening coaxed me back outside and down to the river to see if the Dipper would return; and sure enough it had! But it wasn’t just one – there were two Dippers enjoying the fresh rainwater. I had learned that pairs begin nesting at this time of year and usually set up home within a metre of water. As one bobbed frantically on a rock in the middle of the river, the other took to flight, hovering just a few inches out from the rock, calling its mate with a high pitched ‘zit zit zit’ sound. And then I watched as they took their turns scuba diving. What a wonderful treat to see such marvellous creatures just a short stroll from my home.

But the rain changes the behaviour of other birds too. I had learned quite some time ago that crows and ravens, wood pigeons, common and black-headed gulls, and even the odd Buzzard descend on the rugby fields annexed to the village sports centre in search of juicy earthworms that tend to come near the surface after prolonged rainy spells. The Ultravid has provided some sterling views of these avian species and their great inventiveness for finding grub.

The natural world pays little or no attention to what humans do. Thank God for that!

Can you imagine if nature turned as wicked and destructive as human souls have become?

God forbid!

Will animals and plants accompany redeemed humanity in the New Creation?

I would like to think so!

 

Another memorable birding event occurred on the afternoon of March 22, when a walk to my local pond in the grounds of Culcreuch Castle revealed a young Cormorant perched on a branch of a fallen conifer tree at the water’s edge. When I first caught sight of it, it was about 120 yards distant at the northwestern corner of the pond. Its relative youth was all too easy to discern owing to its light coloured underparts. When I tried to get a closer look, I frightened off some Mallard ducks that immediately took to flight, and the somewhat anxious Cormorant headed for the water, and began to swim away from me. This is not the first time I had chanced upon seeing a Cormorant at Culcreuch Pond. More than a year had passed since seeing one(an adult), where it remained for several weeks before moving on. Alas, a long staycation was not on this bird’s mind, as several visits to the pond over the next couple of days showed up nothing.

Unexpected Findings

The reader may recall that I subjected the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR to a water submersion test on March 23 2021. Specifically, I placed the binocular in a bowl of tap water for 10 minutes, after which I left it dry naturally. I reported that I encountered no problems after it had dried. The binocular seemed to pass the test flawlessly. In the coming days, I used the instrument on a daily basis and still encountered no problems. But things changed on the afternoon of March 29, when I noticed a marked drop in contrast while glassing some Dippers in the local river. Puzzled, I examined the objective lenses and discovered, to my horror, that one of them had completely fogged up!  Worst still, when I got home and inspected the optic more thoroughly, I noticed that the prisms had also fogged up!

Deeply concerned, I took a couple of photos to document what I understood to be clear evidence of a water leak, which took several days to manifest itself!

The Leica Ultravid 8x 20 BR showing an internally fogged up objective lens.

The internal prism also shows internal fogging.

The next morning I contacted the seller, informing them of my findings and also including the two photographs of the instrument featured above. They asked me to box up the instrument and send it back to them via a courier pickup they had arranged for it. They agreed to dispatch a replacement for the clearly defective instrument upon receipt of the defective binocular. The replacement binocular was received on the evening of April 7 2021. Thank you Cley Spy! To be honest, the whole experience was a bit of a shock for me. I mean, the instrument was meant to be water tight to a depth of 5 metres. In reality, it couldn’t withstand a simple submersion in just a few centimetres of water for 10 minutes!

Will I be checking the water tightness of the replacement binocular?

Are you nuts?

No.

But it does raise all sorts of questions in my head. Maybe this was just a fluke; an unfortunate one-off? But what if it wasn’t? If a leading binocular manufacturer such as Leica can have slip ups like this one, what chance do lesser manufacturers have in this regard?  How many other brands claim to be water proof and are not? Are you willing to test your investment? Is it really correct to designate the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR  as water tight to 5 metres? If so, for how long exactly? 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute? And if it’s not water tight, it can’t be air tight either. How long will the dry nitrogen pumped into it realistically remain?

At this stage in the game, I am only confident to assign the term ‘splash proof’ to this binocular and thus must tread more carefully with it than I had initially intended!

Having said all of this, I’m very grateful for the replacement binocular and remain suitably impressed with the instrument’s mechanical and optical quality.

Intended Usage

The tiny Leica Ultravid 8x 20 BR fits snugly inside the small clamshell case with a sachet of silica gel to keep it bone dry while being stored.

The Leica Ultravid 8 x 20 BR is to become my most used binocular for daytime use. Its superb optics in a small, ultra-portable package makes it the ideal companion for walks, treks through the forest, hill walking and birdwatching. It has replaced my two Trinovid binoculars – the 8 x 32 HD and 10 x 25 – and thus represents a significant cost-saving measure. My larger binoculars will be used exclusively for low-light and night time use, where greater light gathering power is an obvious advantage. I will store the instrument in my small clamshell hard case, with a fresh sachet of desiccant enclosed; the.same shell I used to store my long-gone, but missed; 8 x 20 Trinovid. Unlike the supplied Leica soft storing pouch, this smaller, tougher and  less expensive caddy can be zipped closed, keeping the instrument away from dust and moisture while not in use. I hope to write considerably more about my adventures with this small binocular in the months ahead, Lord willing.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Neil.

 

 

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

 

De Fideli.

Product Review: Barr & Stroud Series 5, 8 x 42 Binocular.

The Barr& Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 package.

A work commenced March 2 2021

 

Product Name: Barr & Stroud Series 5, 8 x 42

Country of Manufacture: China

Field of View: 142m@ 1000m (8.14 angular degrees)

Eye Relief: 17.2mm

Close focus: 2m advertised(1.78m measured)

Exit Pupil: 5.25mm

Chassis: rubber armoured magnesium

Coatings: fully multi-coated,  BaK 4 phase corrected roof prisms, water repelling coatings on outer lenses.

Dioptre range: +/- 4

Waterproof: Yes (1.5m for 3 minutes)

ED Glass: No

Nitrogen Purged: Yes

Weight: 716g

Dimensions H/W: 15.4/12.6cm

Warranty: 10 years

Accessories: Hard clamshell case, lens cleaning cloth, rain guard and objective lens covers, quality padded neck strap, generic instruction sheet, warranty card.

Retail Price: £160-£200 UK

Ever since I was first introduced to Barr & Stroud by a village acquaintance, I’ve been singularly impressed with their line of roof prism binoculars. The Sahara range is one of the best options you can buy for under £80 and even these give you perhaps 60 per cent of what any premium binocular of similar specifications can offer up. Why can I assert that with confidence? Because technology has advanced so much now that even budget binoculars today vastly outperform premium instruments produced just a few decades ago. Advances in mechanical and optical engineering are now providing the budget consumer with instruments that are fully multi-coated, with phase corrected roof prisms, full waterproofing and purged with dry nitrogen to prevent internal fogging. Coupled to all of that are advances in material science, which enable the binocular manufacturer to create solidly constructed chassis fashioned from light weight metallic alloys like magnesium, titanium and aluminium, as well as synthetic polymers. Taken together, these advances mean that there has never been a better time to purchase a quality binocular at a price that won’t break the bank.

Having sampled various binoculars from Barr & Stroud, including the Sahara, Sierra and the Savannah range, I am more convinced than ever that this company employ staff that have advanced or even specialised knowledge in optical design. As I’ve explained in a few previous blogs, Barr & Stroud once enjoyed an illustrious reputation for delivering fine optical products to the British Navy during two world wars. With the advent of increased globalism in the post-war era, the company ceased trading independently in the late 1970s, but in 2008 the company was re-registered Barr & Stroud under its new parent company, Optical Vision Limited.

I surmised that any firm that created state-of-the-art optics for the British Navy would also know a thing or two about making rugged and long-lasting instruments that worked in the harshest environments and under very severe lighting conditions. They would therefore know how to suppress glare and internal reflections, how to hermetically seal off optics from the elements and how to build instruments that would stand the test of time, even if they are manufactured and assembled in China. All of these considerations came flooding back to me as I began testing one of their most advanced models; the Series 5, 8 x 42.

I purchased the binocular from a reputable dealer, the Birder’s Store in Worcester, England. I paid £159.95, which included a free two-day delivery to my home. That was a very good price, as other outlets were selling the same binocular for £200 +. I have learned the hard way about buying more pricey binoculars from mass market outlets like Amazon, which seem to have inventories that often have mechanical and/or optical deficiencies which ultimately leave you cold.  Reputable dealers, in contrast, get stocked with the best gear from any given range so you can be much more confident of obtaining a properly functioning instrument if purchased via these routes.

First Impressions

The Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 is a handsome instrument that feels good and solid in the hand.

The instrument arrived double boxed, with everything packed away safe and securely.  Unzipping the hard clamshell case revealed the binocular packaged inside a plastic bag. From the moment I held it in my hand, I could see it was a well-designed instrument, quite conventionally styled, and at 715g, weighing in more than 100g lighter than the Savannah 8 x 42 binocular I showcased very favourably in another review. The chassis is constructed from a magnesium alloy overlaid with a thick rubber substrate for extra grip.

Though it sports much of the same optical specifications as the Savannah 8 x 42, the ergonomics of the Series 5 are a good step up from the Savannah. For one thing, the dioptre ring is situated back under the right eyepiece, which is more sensibly placed than that of the Savannah series, which placed the dioptre setting just ahead of the central focusing knob. The dioptre ring is quite rigid and difficult to turn and so is not likely to get out of place easily.

The focuser on the Series 5 is remarkable, easily the best I’ve encountered in models costing as much as three times its modest retail price. It is buttery smooth, completely backlash free and very easy to grip owing to the textured rubber covering its all-metal construction. Unlike a few other models I’ve tested which possessed an outwardly similar appearing focus wheel, you don’t hear the sound of cheap glue unhinging from the internal focusing mechanism as you hone in on your object of study.  I’ve noted several times before that Barr & Stroud (B & S) produce binoculars with excellent focusing knobs and this one is no exception. Indeed, I would rate it of higher quality than its counterpart on the Savannah series and just a notch below my state-of-the-art Leica Trinovid 8 x 32 HD. In addition, I would describe the focuser speed as slow to progressive, moving through just over two full rotations going from one end of its focus travel to the other. It also focuses beyond infinity- a useful attribute that helps tweak edge-of-field images as and when required.

The focus wheel on the Series 5 8 x 42 is a work of art. Exceptionally smooth, backlash-free and a joy to turn.

The eyecups are made from metal overlaid with soft rubber and twist up in three stages. The eye relief on this instrument is a very generous 17.2mm, ample enough for eye-glass wearers to engage with the vast majority of the field. They are quite firm once locked in place, though I have noticed that the left eye cup is not quite as rigid as its right eye counterpart. They are less rigid, for example, than those found on the Celestron Trailseeker and Nikon Prostaff 7s series.  As a reasonably experienced binocular user, I felt a bit of anxiety over this issue, as I like my eyecups to be absolutely rigid and don’t want to wake up one day soon to find it fails to lock at all. I would have liked if B & S took some time in designing the eyecups so that they would hold their positions as rigidly as possible.

A good test for eye cup strength. If they can withstand the weight of the binocular whilst fully extended, they’re probably OK to go.

The fully multi-coated objective lenses are deeply recessed, conferring extra protection from rain, dust and stray light.

The objectives are deeply recessed, as all good mid-sized binoculars ought to be.

The accessories that attend this Series 5 binocular are also of good quality. You get a nicely padded neck strap adorned with the B & S logo, snugly fitting rubber rain guards and tethered objective covers that protect the instrument from the elements as well as from accidental scratching.

The B & S Series 5 also boasts a hydrophobic coating applied to the outer lenses which causes any accumulated moisture to pool and run off / evaporate quickly. I tested to see if this was the case by performing a simple breath test on the ocular lens and comparing it to an untreated lens surface. In the picture shown below, I can reveal that the ocular lens on the Series 5 binocular dispersed the fog about twice as quickly as my control binocular, a Celestron Trailseeker 8 x 32. Even though the latter has a smaller ocular lens surface area, the fog dispersed faster on the Series 5. Impressive stuff!

The fog test shows the Series 5 (bottom) does have a hydrophobic coating that disperses moisture faster than a non-coated ocular lens( top). Both ocular lenses were fogged up at the same time.

Optical Evaluation

In order to be objective as possible, I decided to carry out tests of the Series 5 binocular alongside my control instrument; a Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32. My first impression of the Series 5 8 x 42 showed a lovely bright, sharp, high-contrast image with a huge field of view and a very large sweet spot. Depth of focus is excellent, with anything beyond about 60 yards remaining in sharp focus and only requiring the merest tweak to obtain optimal results. Handling is superb. The focus wheel is beautifully responsive and focuses down to about 1.78m – that’s significantly closer than advertised (2m), but not as good as the class-leading 0.95m the Leica Trinovid is capable of. Contrast and colour saturation in both binoculars was excellent with the nod going to the Leica, which has a more neutral colour tone compared to the slightly warmer tone of the Series 5. The Leica had better off-axis performance than the Series 5 however, with less pronounced pincushion distortion, lateral colour and field curvature. That said, it must be noted that the Leica has a considerably smaller field of view than the Series 5 – 7.12 vs 8.14 angular degrees, respectively.

The Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32 (left) compared with the Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 (right).

Performing my iPhone bright light torch test revealed superb results for both instruments. The image was clean, with no significant internal reflections in either instrument, no diffused light and the merest trace of a weak diffraction spike. The same was true when I pointed both binoculars at a bright sodium light after dark.  The image was crystal clear with no diffused light, internal reflections and diffraction spikes. To be honest, I was actually expecting such a result for the Series 5, as several other tests I carried out on their less expensive Savannah series also yielded excellent results. These tests affirmed what I observed in my preliminary comparison of the two binoculars during a quick daylight evaluation.

But there was still more excellent results when I tested the Series 5 alongside the Leica glass for veiling glare. This is easily evaluated by pointing the instrument upwards at some tree tops against a bright, overcast sky. I am delighted to report that the Series 5 was every bit as good as the superlative Leica Trinovid in this regard. Taken together, these are excellent result that set the Series 5 well ahead of other binoculars costing significantly more, including the Viking ED Kestrel and Merlin, the Zeiss Terra 8 x 25 pocket, and way ahead of the otherwise beautifully designed Leica Trinovid BCA 10  x 25. Barr & Stroud have really delivered wonderful performance in the suppression of internal reflections, glare and lens flare; an amazing result when you also factor in its modest retail pricing!

The Camera Never Lies

After acquiring a neat new binocular mounting platform and digi-binning gadget I was able to capture images through the Series 5 and Leica Trinovid, enabling me to more objectively assess the optics of both instruments. And here again, the Series 5  stepped up to the mark!

The binocular mounting platform used to take images with my iPhone.

Below is an image taken of the wood carving in a tree located some 60 yards away as seen through the Series 5 8 x 42. The images are completely unprocessed; just the raw images as they were shot through my iPhone mated to the digi-binning adapter.

iPhone image of wood carving through the Series 5 8x 42 binocular.

The next image is shot though the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32  under the same conditions.

Image taken through Leica Trinovid HD 8x 32.

You can see that the Leica has the edge in terms of image sharpness, colour saturation and edge of field correction, but what’s remarkable to me is how good the Series 5 binocular has turned out!

I took another set of images of some wooden steps located about 20 yards away. The first image was taken through the Series 5 8 x 42.

Close up of some wooden steps taken with the Series 5 8x 42.

And here is the same target at the same scale taken at the same time with the Leica Trinovid HD 8x 32.

Image of the same steps taken through the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32.

The Series 5 image has a warmer tone than the Leica, but I think that there is little to differentiate them in terms of sharpness. The Series 5 shows a little more chromatic aberration in high contrast areas than the Leica but if you look carefully at the images, you’ll find some secondary spectrum in both glasses. All that having been said, the view through the binoculars using your eyes is far better than what the camera picks up. Bear in mind that your eyes were created to accommodate things like field curvature, chromatic aberration, and other optical defects far more effectively than an Iphone camera.

Now let’s compare prices: the Leica costs nearly 5 times the retail price of the Series 5 Barr & Stroud!

The exit pupils in both barrels of the Series 5 Barr & Stroud are nice bright circles, indicative that the optics have not been truncated. Also check out the nice dark areas immediately around them! Very nice indeed!

Right eye exit pupil.

Left eye pupil.

 

Further Notes from the Field

The Series 5 feels really good and sturdy in my middle-sized hands. It is supremely comfortable and immersive to look through, a consequence of the large exit pupil of the instrument. I’m also quite fond of the colour tone the Series 5 throws up. Once again I was reminded of why this particular configuration of binocular is close to being the ideal all-round instrument used by the naturalist. Even though it has a very large field of view, the level of correction it achieves is very impressive. While a lot of binoculars presenting this size of field have very blurry edges, the Series 5 field is pretty much useable from centre to edge. The focus wheel rotates at a speed roughly mid-way between a good hunting bino(slow) and a birding bino(fast), making it ideal for both activities. I measured the size of the true field under the stars. I was just able to fit the two stars in the Big Dipper – Phecda and Merak  – into the same field.  These are separated by 7 degrees 54 arc minutes(7.9 degrees), thus a little under the advertised field size of 8.1 angular degrees.

The reduced mass compared to the Savannah series is also very noticeable, enabling it to be worn for longer in the field before neck strain sets in. The padded neck strap also increases the level of comfort afforded to this binocular.

The instrument begins to pull ahead of my 8 x 32 Leica Trinovid shortly before sunset, where its larger aperture and greater exit pupil size transmit more light to the eye as dusk progresses. It’s also considerably better as an astronomical instrument than the 8 x 32, pulling in more starlight across a noticeably wider field of view. I enjoyed some spellbinding views of the Beehive cluster, the Belt stars and Sword Handle of Orion, the magnificent Pleaides and Hyades and many other celestial sights. It’s also an excellent moon-gazing binocular, throwing up the most gorgeous pastels as clouds approach and recede from it on a windy night.

Conclusions & Recommendations

An exceptional binocular at an exceptional price!

The Barr & Stroud Series 5 8 x 42 is a remarkable instrument in a number of respects. The images it serves up are very sharp, bright and show very high contrast with impressive depth of field. The field of view is very large and well corrected, with only a little peripheral softness. The binocular also shows exceptional control of glare and internal reflections. Ergonomically, the Series 5 is a joy to use, with an exceptionally smooth and precise focus wheel and a very tight right eye dioptre which rigidly stays in place. The instrument feels solidly made, with high quality twist-up eye cups and with its large exit pupil, easy to align with one’s eyes. And on the night sky, the 8 x 42  is vastly superior to any 8 x 32.

My experience with this Series 5  has led me to re-evaluate my current inventory of mid-size binoculars. Indeed, with a heavy heart, I must concede that it is a better general-purpose instrument than the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32. Indeed, the only real advantages the Trinovid has going for it pertain to its lower mass and slightly smaller frame, but if I’m being honest, these differences are not enough to justify staying with the 8 x 32 format.

I would highly recommend this binocular to birders, hunters and other nature enthusiasts who want maximum bang for the buck. If you’re thinking of getting a more expensive brand, I would encourage others to test-drive the Series 5  first before parting with their hard-earned cash. Incidentally, Barr & Stroud also market an ED version of the same instrument; that is, you get the same ergonomics with an extra-low dispersion objective element for about £70-100 more. Would I be interested in the ED version? No, for reasons that I have explained in a number of previous blogs. My eyes are perfectly sated with the achromatic version of this binocular, but your mileage may vary!

A very valuable addition to my binocular collection!

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Neil English is the author of seven books in amateur and professional astronomy, who currently is enjoying a new lease of life exploring the fascinating world of binoculars. If you like his work, why not consider buying one of his books or by making a small donation to the upkeep of his website so that he can keep bringing you more of what you like.

 

 

De Fideli.