A work commenced August 19 2021
This is going to be a very short review. In my opinion, the reverse Porro-prism binocular reached its zenith in the body of the wonderful Pentax Papilio II 6.5/8.5 x 21, which offers excellent optics in a very cost-effective package. I was mightily impressed with their excellent sharpness, contrast and edge-to-edge clarity, not to mention their exceptional close focus of just 0.5 metres. The Papilio II should be part of the collection of any keen binocular enthusiast!
So I was expecting these very economically priced instruments – the Vortex Vanquish 10 x 26 and the Nikon Travelite Ex 10 x 25 – to yield some good results when I put them through their paces. Alas, this wasn’t to be, as I shall now explain.
To begin with, I borrowed the Nikon Travelite EX 10 x 25 from an ex-student of mine(and graduate in astrophysics from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland), Joe, I recently hooked up with. The instrument is several years old and was actually owned by his mother. The Vortex Vanquish was bought in by yours truly for a comparative test under bright daylight conditions, and later under the stars. Joe accompanied me with the testing and we quickly came to a consensus. As a control, I brought out my Leica Ultravid 8 x 20, with a similar size exit pupil, as a suitable control, with only the magnifications being different (8x versus 10x).
Ergonomically, we both preferred the Nikon Travelite EX, which had a smoother focuser than the Vortex Vanquish. We also felt that the build quality on the Nikon was a wee bit ahead of the Vortex.The pull-up eyecups were pretty solid and easy to extend on the Nikon but we both felt their counterparts on the Vortex were rather stiff and hard to execute.
Our tests showed that both reverse Porro prism binoculars exhibited quite a bit of tunnel vision. With fields of view of 5.0 and 5.6 degrees for the Nikon and Vortex, respectively, both binoculars felt rather uncomfortable with very narrow feeling fields in comparison to the sumptuous comfort of the Leica Ultravid 8 x 20, with its 6.5 degree field. This was despite the adequate eye relief (around 15mm for all instruments) available on all three binoculars. Of the two reverse Porros tested, the Nikon Travelite EX was the superior performer, having significantly better contrast than the Vortex Vanquish and better edge-to-edge sharpness, owing to its smaller field and the utilisation of an aspherical ocular design.
Both instruments showed an annoying reflection off one or more optical surfaces, which reduced contrast, but while the Nikon Travelite Ex was OK, the Vortex Vanquish showed an alarming amount of the same reflection, which was very off putting for both Joe and I. The Leica in comparison was in a completely different league, as one might expect; beautifully sharp and contrast rich, with effectively no internal reflections to be seen. The same was true when we tested for veiling glare by looking up into the canopy of some conifer trees against a bright overcast sky. Both reverse Porros showed very high levels of veiling glare but the Vortex was particularly poor in this regard. In effect, most of the field was almost completely washed out and rendered effectively useless!
Star testing close to local midnight showed the clear superiority of the Nikon Travelite Ex, which served up nice pinpoint stars effectively all the way from edge to edge. The aspherical optics were definitely working here. In comparison, the Vortex was OK in this regard but did show significant distortions at the edge of its larger field.
These results are completely at odds with the review conducted by the gentlemen in the link provided in the preamble above. We would not describe either of these binoculars as providing quality views, at least in the way conveyed by that reviewer. And while both instruments retail for about £100 or so, there are far better options available to the discerning consumer. For example, the Opticron Aspheric 8 and 10 x 25 provide views that are much more enjoyable than either of these incarnations, and, of course, there is the veritable Papilio II instruments to consider in the same price range, though not quite as pocketable as the former.
Hope you found that informative!
Thanks for reading!