A Work Commenced April 13 2022
Product: Opticron Imagic TGA WP 8 x 32
Country of Manufacture: China
Chassis: Rubber armoured Aluminium Alloy & Polycarbonate chassis
Exit Pupil: 4mm
Field of View: 122m@1000m(7.0 angular degrees)
Dioptre Compensation Range: 7.5(with click stops)
Close Focus: 2.5m advertised, 2.26m measured
Eye Relief: 21mm
Coatings: Differential Broadband Multi-coated, Proprietary F-Coat
ED Glass: No
Tripod Mountable: Yes
Nitrogen Purged: Yes
Weight: 614g advertised, 615g measured
Accessories: Lanyard, soft leather carry case, microfibre cloth, ocular and objective covers, instruction manual and warranty card
Warranty: 30 years
Several weeks ago, I began an in-depth investigation of porro prism binocular designs, having exhaustively examined many dozens of the more popular roof prism models, now saturating the market. My testing of two models from the internationally established optics manufacturer, Opticron, in particular, whetted my appetite for more studies on this highly traditional binocular design, so much so that I soon became enamoured by their charms.
In this blog, I will be reporting my findings on yet another Optricron-made porro prism binocular, the Imagic TGA WP 8 x 32, which has once again astonished this author in regard to the quality of both the optics and the design of the chassis, and which has caused him to radically re-think which models he wishes to use in the future.
Though I’ve been investigating the binocular market for just a few years now, I’ve had more of my fair share of fun with a number of Opticron-branded binoculars. Opticron began trading back in 1970 here in the UK, founded by a family passionate about bringing good value instruments to a rapidly expanding sports optics market. Today, Opticron enjoys a substantial part of the global market for binoculars, spotting scopes and a host of other optical technologies, and has gained the trust of many thousands of enthusiasts on every continent on God’s earth. Like the majority of companies in this industry, production of Opticron products has moved mostly to the Far East, either in China or Japan, where their well-orchestrated productions continue to manufacture high quality optical products to sate the demands of customers from every economic bracket. Today, their optical wares are well respected as offering exceptional value for money, and backed up by some of the best warranties in the industry.
Sourcing the Binocular
The Opticron Imagic TGA range of porro prism binoculars originally consisted of a 8 x 32, 8 x 42, 7 x and 10 x 50 models. The larger aperture models have earned a good reputation with stargazers, and are still going from strength to strength, but in the summer of 2020, the two more compact models – the 32mm and 42mm – were discontinued. I was lucky enough to source a 8 x 32 model from The Birders Store, Worcester, which was being offered at the excellent sale price of just £109; a roughly 33 per cent knock-down on its recommended retail price. At that price ’twas a no brainer!
The binocular arrived very well packed. To be honest, I was quite taken aback by the very substantial build of the instrument and the rather fetching soft leather case it was supplied in. Tipping the scales at 615g, this is quite a hefty 8 x 32, about 65g heavier than an average 8 x 32 but not quite as hefty as the Leica Trinovid HD 8 x 32(650g) I once had the pleasure of owning. I elected to remove the blue and silver waterproof sticker from the front of the rubber armoured chassis pretty much immediately. Here it is in all its glory:
The instrument is built like a proverbial tank. The bridge is made from high quality, machined aluminium, while the optics appeared to be accommodated in a polycarbonate housing, overlaid by a thick rubber armouring. Picking the instrument up and holding it in my hands, I immediately felt very comfortable with it.
Small porros are so nice to handle!
Like the lighter weight Savanna model I recently showcased, the binocular is exceptionally stable in my medium sized hands. These compact porro-prism designs are so very easy to grip, with plenty of contouring on the body to prevent accidental slippage while glassing.
The eyecups are thoroughly modernised, just like the Savanna 8 x 30 I reviewed. They offer a very comfortable 21mm of eye relief and twist up before locking rigidly into position. Those who wear eye glasses will be delighted to hear that the entire field of view can be very comfortably observed. The cups themselves appear to be fashioned from metal and covered by soft rubber. I find them to be very comfortable to place my eyes against.
The focus wheel is very large and easy to access. Turning through just 0.75 revolutions from nearest focus to just beyond infinity, I would describe its kinematics as very fast. That said, the motions are very smooth, backlash free and it enjoys a nice amount of tension, moving easily with a finger’s worth of torque.
The dioptre compensation ring is remarkable, especially considering the modest price I secured the instrument for. It is very sensibly located under the right ocular, and has a very ingenious click-stop design. One adjusts it in the normal way, by rotating it either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but it locks rigidly into place once your desired setting has been achieved. If you look carefully under the dioptre ring, one can make out numerous tiny teeth that enable the ring to slot into and hold its position well. This clever piece of engineering ensures that it will not move out of position, unlike some of the vintage designs I’ve had the pleasure of using while furthering my education in porro prism binocular use. Those other models have a dioptre ring that moves far too easily, making it almost essential to re-adjust the setting each time the instrument is taken out of its case.
The optics are fully multi-coated and have been bestowed with a proprietary ‘F coat,’ which apparently enhances colour contrast. The colour casts under daylight conditions show that they are significantly different to the greenish casts observed on the Savanna 8 x 30 objectives. Looking straight through the objectives, the lens almost ‘disappears,’ indicating that the coatings were doing their job well. The objectives are recessed reasonably well too; not as deep as others I’ve used, but certainly not the worst I’ve seen by a long shot.
The ocular lenses are also thoroughly modernised, presenting with large, 21mm diameter field lenses, so rendering eye placement child’s play. Intriguingly, the colour cast of the anti-reflection coatings on the ocular lenses is distinctly different to that presented on the objectives. I wonder if this is an example of a so-called differential multi-coating?
All in all, the Opticron Imagic TGA WP 8 x 32 is a very robust and well designed binocular that is a pure joy to hold and view through. I can see why the company was offering this instrument with a 30-year warranty. It’s clearly built to last!
The instrument arrived perfectly collimated; and I mean perfectly! Indeed, I’ve not encountered a better collimated instrument than this compact porro from Opticron. Directing an intensely bright beam of light though the instrument showed no annoying internal reflections, diffraction spikes or diffused light around the light source. In addition, the binocular showed no glare or internal reflections when aimed at the April full Moon This was a very satisfactory result, as you can enjoy this binocular looking at illuminated objects at night, such as a city scape or harbour if star gazing is not your forte.
Examining the entrance pupil of both oculars showed nice round results. Nor was there much in the way of stray light near the exit pupils as you can see below:
Optically, the view through the Opticron Imagic TGA WP 8 x 32 is very impressive! The image is very sharp, contrast rich, and glare free. The sweet spot is very large – approximately 80 per cent – with only mild field curvature and some pincushion distortion creeping in as the field stops are approached. Indeed, it is this pincushion distortion at the field edges that helps keep the rolling ball effect at bay. Glassing the edges of wooded areas along a quarter mile stretch, produced none of the nauseating effects I encountered with models employing field flatteners. Chromatic aberration was pretty much absent from the centre of the image. but some lateral colour could be seen at the edge of tree branches observed against a bright, overcast sky. I took an image through the Opticron Imagic TGA 8 x 32 with my IPhone 7 to give readers an idea of how nicely corrected the field of view is:
The central sharpness of these modern porros is quite remarkable. Glassing side by side with a highly-rated GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 ED roof prism binocular showed similar levels of sharpness for each instrument. The colour tone in the Opticron Imagic TGA 8 x 32 is more neutral than the GPO ED glass though, which showed somewhat warmer colours. If I’m being honest, I felt the Opticron delivered a colour rendition more true to life than the GPO.
Control of glare is very good indeed. Turning the binocular to a bush immediately below the Sun in a late afternoon sky, showed only minimal flaring, which could be largely eliminated by shading the objectives with an outstretched hand. Control of veiling glare was also impressive in this little Opticron porro; very comparable to the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 I tested it against.
If you’re used to the enormous(8 degree +) fields of view of other small, classic porros, you may find the 7 degree true field of the Opticron Imagic TGA to be a little restrictive. Indeed, in comparing the view in this binocular to the Japanese-made Opticron Dioptron 8 x 32 with its 8.25 degree field, gave the distinct impression that depth perception in the latter was a little bit more pronounced than in the modern Imagic. Indeed, I’m of the opinion that the 3D-like images served up by porro prism binoculars scales inversely with magnification and directly with field of view. For this reason, perhaps the most pronounced 3D images will be rendered with a 6 x 30 porro prism binocular. Where the modern Opticron excels though is image brightness. Comparing the images in a late model Carl Zeiss Jenoptem(1988) 8 x 30W and the Dioptron 8 x 32(late 1990s) showed that the Imagic was producing a brighter image than either, and with better contrast to boot. Clearly, the superior effects of these modern anti-reflection coatings were in evidence.
Concluding Comments & Recommendations
The Opticron Imagic TGA WP 8 x 32 is an excellent binocular, offered at an excellent retail price. I suspect that it had simply fallen below the radar of many binocular enthusiasts on account of its simple porro design and the steep competition it no doubt faced in light of all the roof prism models that were hitting the market at the same time. But having thoroughly tested this instrument, I cannot help but recommend it to anyone interested in acquiring an optically sound and mechanically excellent product, at a price that won’t break the bank. It’s a great shame it has been discontinued, but I have it on good authority that Opticron will still honour the 30-year warranty offered with the instrument, so the owner can be assured that they will take care of it should you hit any snags. I’m also very impressed with the accessories that came with the instrument, particularly the rather fetching soft leather carry case to store it in.
More generally, I’ve enjoyed using these wonderful, cost-effective porro prism binoculars so much that I’ve become a firm fan. I feel their excellent 3D images add a new dimension(excuse the pun) to the observing experience. Their excellent value for money also appeals to my desire to acquire the very best bang for buck I can get with my disposable income. The reader will note that the very best compact porro prism designs can still be had for prices roughly a quarter of those garnered by the best roof prism models. What’s more, the considerable advantages porro prism designs enjoy greatly outweigh their perceived disadvantages, in my opinion. And that’s great news for all binocular enthusiasts!
Thanks for reading!