A Work Commenced July 4 2022
Product: Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 32
Country of Manufacture: China
Chassis Material: Aluminium
Exit Pupil: 3.2mm
Eye Relief: 14mm
Field of View: 113m at 1000m(6.5 angular degrees)
Coatings: Fully Broadband Multi-coated, phase correction and dielectric coatings on BaK4 prisms, Armortec anti-scratch coatings applied to outer lenses.
Dioptre Compensation: +/- 4
Close Focus: 1.8m advertised, 1.84m measured
Water Proof: Yes
Argon Purged: Yes
ED Glass: Unknown
Weight: 454g advertised, 451g measured
Dimensions: H/W 11.2/12.7 cm
Supplied Accessories: Padded neck strap, logoed hard clamshell case, tethered rubberised objective and rain guard, microfibre cloth, instruction sheet, VIP Warranty
The compact 30 to 35mm aperture class of binoculars has emerged as my personal favourite size. Offering a solid binocular experience in a light weight body, they are ideal for daytime use and so enjoy enormous popularity among birders, hikers and general nature enthusiasts. There was a time not so long ago when obtaining a quality optic meant forking out a sizeable amount of money, but thankfully those days are now well and truly behind us.
In a previous review(see the preamble link above), I showcased the Diamondback HD 10 x 42, discovering its many virtues, both optically and ergonomically. Here I wish to discuss my findings about its smaller sibling, the 10 x 32 model. This is a third generation binocular, having been upgraded in 2019 with a higher quality optical system than the previous( 2016) model.
The package I received was pretty much identical to the larger 10 x 42 model, save for the inclusion of a smaller clamshell case(see the image above) which better fits the smaller frame of the 10 x 32. And just like the 10 x 42 Diamondback HD, the 10 x 32 possesses the same quality ergonomic features of its larger sibling. The lenses are fully multicoated throughout, the prisms are treated to a phase correcting coating and the use of high-reflectivity dielectric coatings ensures a high level of light transmission. of the order of 85 per cent.
Though considerably smaller and less massive than its 10 x 42 sibling, the 10 x 32 Diamondback HD proved to be equally well made, possessing a smooth focusing wheel with no play or backlash, a tightly set right eye dioptre ring which maintains its position well, a pair of solidly made twist up eyecups with three positions that lock firmly into place, and all built around a very sleek and stylish aluminium alloy chassis that tips the scales at only 451g.
In field use, the instrument is easy to get your hands ’round, thanks to a decently short central bridge and barrels long enough to allow your fingers to grip the instrument with confidence. The green rubber armouring also has enough friction to prevent any slippage, even in wet weather.
The ocular lenses are stated to have 14mm of eye relief. Using my eyeglasses however, I was not able to make out the entire field.
The objectives give a nice purple tinted view when viewed in bright sunlight, but they are not deeply recessed, which is not ideal for controlling stray light, dust and rain. Thankfully though, these binoculars are o-ring sealed with dry argon gas, making them fog proof and water proof, at least on paper. In addition the outer lenses are treated to Vortex’s proprietary Armortec coatings, which provide additional protection from scratching, and the accumulation of water droplets and oil from grubby fingers.
The underside of the binocular has two small thumb indents, presumably to guide your hands to the ideal places to grip the instrument. In practice however, I never used them.
All in all, this is a very nicely designed and refined binocular, with very well thought out ergonomics. Top marks to Vortex here!
I began my tests as usual, looking at an intensely bright beam of white light to see how the optics behaved. The results were excellent; there were no internal reflections or diffraction spikes and very little in the way of diffused light around backlit targets as seen from across my living room. The same was true when I looked at a bright yellow sodium vapour street lamp at night. This will be a good binocular to view illuminated objects after dark.
Next, I examined the exit pupils to test for light leaks. The results were quite good. There was little in the way of stray light immediately around the pupils, though the right ocular showed the merest sign of truncation. Some light leaks were evident further from the pupils as the images below show:
I performed most of my optical testing during daylight and under a variety of conditions, on bright, sunny days and during fairly dull, overcast conditions. Collimation was spot on! The images served up under most conditions were quite impressive, the binocular delivering very bright, pin sharp and high-contrast images with a very neutral colour tone. To my eye, there is quite a sparkle to these Diamondback HD images, especially when viewing targets in the centre of the field under good lighting conditions. The sweet spot is very generous in the 10 x 32 Diamondback HD. Indeed, most of the field remained pleasingly sharp with some minor field curvature and pincushion distortion creeping in near the field stops. Chromatic aberration was quite well controlled too, especially for a 10x glass. I detected the merest trace on axis by examining the brilliant white plumage of a Mute Swan against a dark water background. When examining leaves strongly backlit against a bright overcast sky inside a forest, I detected some very minor lateral colour but nothing that rendered the view particularly distracting.
Another thing that impressed me about the 10 x 32 Diamondback HD image was the very generous field of view: 6.5 angular degrees. That’s way larger than the 10 x 32 GPO Passion ED I showcased some time ago, which only manages a 6 degree true field in comparison. Indeed many 10 x 42 binoculars I’ve tested in the past only managed to serve up field sizes of the order of 6.2-6.3 degrees in comparison. The larger true field of the 10 x 32 Diamondback HD renders the view more immersive and engaging. And unlike some reports I’ve read about the 8 x 32 model from this series, there was no sign of chromatic aberration of the exit pupil, which manifests itself in a colourful ‘ring of fire’ circling the field stops.
The only optical effect I found slightly distracting was glare, which shows up when the instrument is pointed toward the vicinity of a setting Sun, either in a clear blue sky, or when veiled behind some clouds. Mild veiling glare also manifested itself when viewing the topmost boughs of conifer trees against a bright overcast sky. Fortunately though, much of this glare can be removed simply by shading the objectives with an outstretched hand.
Notes from the Field
The Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 32 is an enjoyable instrument to use in the great outdoors, its light weight but tough, waterproof design, adding to its charm Close focus was measured to be 1.84m, a really good result, especially if you like looking at butterflies and other insects at close hand. Depth of field is decent for a 10x roof. The focus wheel operates flawlessly, being neither too slow or too fast. Unlike the GPO Passion ED 10 x 32 model I tested extensively, there is no free play in the focuser. I’ve expressed some tolerance for a small amount of play in a binocular focuser in the past, but these days it has become more of an annoyance. That’s especially the case, since the Diamondback HD costs considerably less than the GPO! The HD labelling of the Diamondback is still somewhat of a mystery to me, as I’m still not sure if ED glass was employed in its design. Not that it matters that much; some of the best instruments I’ve looked through don’t use any!
Conclusions & Recommendations
The Vortex Diamondback HD 10 x 32 is a terrific little binocular. It looks and behaves like a much more expensive instrument. Its powerful magnification boost coupled to its wide and well corrected field of view create the instant impression of a quality instrument. Vortex really hit the ground running when they launched this excellent low-cost binocular range. I often wonder if a fourth generation Diamondback will someday see the light of day. Slightly better coatings and more deeply recessed objectives and/or more aggressive baffling, would go a long way to making a very good binocular great!
Neil English is currently writing an in-depth buyer’s guide for binocular enthusiasts. Choosing & Using Binoculars – a Guide for Stargazers, Birders and Outdoor Enthusiasts, will be published by Springer Nature in late 2023.