Opticron Traveller 8×32 ED

Opticron Traveller  ED 8×32

 

Introduction

 

It has been quite some time since I posted an optic review. For that I apologize. As I am sure many of you can relate to, life can sometimes get busy and out of control. Though that hasn’t changed at this point I thought it was time to sit down and put a few reviews together. Part of the reason for this is the recent introduction of the Opticron Traveller series of binoculars. I received my review pair a week or two ago and have been using it daily since then.

To get this out of the way from the start, yes, it is very similar in design to both the Nikon Monarch 7 8×30 and the Maven B3 8×30. To say otherwise would be a bit silly on my part. As they say though, the devil is in the details and the Traveller is loaded with details.

 

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Advertised specs and features from Opticron are listed below:

Specifications 8×32 10×32
Product Code
Field (m)
Min Focus (m)
Eyerelief (mm)
IPD (mm)
HxW (mm)
Weight (g)
Price £ inc. VAT
30648
143
1.8
19
51~73
119×115
451
309.00
30649
113
1.8
17
51~73
119×115
453
319.00

Features include:

  • Lightweight polycarbonate body protected in natural rubber armour
  • Nitrogen waterproof construction (3m depth)
  • ED, fully multi-coated optical system with BAK 4 phase corrected prism units and Oasis prism coating
  • Wide field long eye relief eyepieces giving full field with spectacles
  • 4-stage twist-type retractable eyecups
  • Close focus to 1.8m
  • Tripod adapter socket
  • 30 year guarantee

Ergonomics

I chose to start off with this category first for a reason. At least 8 or 9 years ago there was an inexpensive 7×28 model on the market. I became aware of it only when it was discontinued and discounted significantly. The optics were so-so but the handling was close to ideal in my opinion. Just big enough to get your hands fully around and yet small enough to be considered “compact” compared to a full-sized 42 mm model.

Now you may ask why I am bringing this up? Well, in my opinion, the Traveller falls into that same category in terms of overall size and handling. It is big enough for me to really get my slightly larger-than-average-sized hands around and yet small enough and light enough to make carrying it seem almost unnoticeable.

As you can see in the attached picture, my pinky and ring fingers fit comfortably around the barrel without extending in front of the objective lens. My middle finger sits across the bridge for stability and my index finger fits perfectly over the focusing knob. There are some modest thumb indents underneath the barrel but they aren’t deep enough to really affect thumb positioning in my opinion.

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Mechanics/Fit and finish

Just to set the tone for this part of the review, there isn’t anything in this category that I found wanting. The central hinge tension is a tad looser than ideal but that is an easy fix if you have the right tools plus it hasn’t been an issue in actual practice at this point.

The eyecups do have two intermediate click-stops between fully collapsed and fully extended and they do stay in place. Because of the generous eye relief and relatively narrow eyecup diameter I am forced to move the eyecups up to the first intermediate click-stop setting from fully collapsed. As I mentioned in previous reviews I do not wear glasses or contacts but have a high bridged nose and relatively close-set eyes. The result is that I often used most binoculars with the eyecups fully collapsed just as an eyeglass wearer would.

As an interesting side note, I don’t remember needing to extend the eyecups on either of the other two similarly-designed models which, to me, means that the eye relief is slightly longer on the Traveller.

The binocular is completely rubber armored and I detect no issues with the quality, feel or smell of the rubber armoring. It does its job and does not take away from the overall feel or design of the binocular.

The focusing knob is large and easy to find with either bare or gloved hands. Focusing speed is fairly fast at one full turn clockwise from a close focus of about 4 feet (for my eyes) to infinity. Focusing tension on this unit started out fairly stiff but has loosened up slightly. I actually prefer a slightly stiffer focusing tension with a binocular that has a faster focus (1 revolution or less) as it give me more control. The focusing tension does stiffen up noticeably in colder weather but is still usable because of the faster focusing speed.

I did not detect any quality control issues externally or internally as in evidence by the pictures provided.

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Optics

Last but not least, optical performance. There is a great deal to like about this binocular optically. Let us start out with the obviously wide 8.2 degree field of view. That is approximately 430 feet at 1000 yards… field of view which is slightly wider than almost all 8x32s roof prism binoculars at any price point.

The use of extra low dispersion (ED) glass in the objective design does a nice job of reducing chromatic aberration (color fringing) resulting in a clean-looking image. I would consider it very well controlled within the sweet spot and average around the perimeter of the field of view.

Speaking of the sweet spot, it is very large in my experience. I would estimate 75-80% of the field of view. The remaining 20 or so percent appears to be field curvature and only slightly so as I barely need to touch the focusing knob to get the outer edge to snap in focus.

damping

Apparent brightness is very good. As an example, this morning before the work I was using the binocular for just general observation around my home. It was light in the sky but the sun had not yet broken the horizon. I had no problem picking out fine details on a variety of objects in the surrounding area. I usually don’t expect notable low light performance from a 32 mm binocular but the Traveller certainly delivered in this area.

Apparent contrast was certainly good and possibly slightly above average. Colors weren’t oversaturated but appeared very lifelike in representation. Apparent sharpness was above average as I never found myself wanting for more detail at any distance.

I feel the need to mention an overall impression here as I believe this binocular’s optical performance is one of those that is greater than the sum of its parts. The wide field of view, large ocular design and large sweet spot gives one a very immersive experience. The lack of CA in the image, the excellent apparent sharpness and realistic contrast provide a very natural and relaxed image.

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In closing I want to say that this could very well be the ideal binocular for many individuals. It certainly has an excellent combination of size, ergonomics and optical performance. Two big thumbs up from me on this model.

Athlon Optics Cronus 8.5×42

I was given the opportunity to review the new Athlon Optics Cronus 8.5×42 binocular. For those that didn’t read my review of the Argos model, Athlon is a relatively new company staffed by a variety of individuals that had worked for Bushnell in recent years. These gentlemen had the idea that they could offer high quality optics directly to consumers at a very reasonable price. I was quite satisfied with what they were able to produce with the Argos lineup so I was curious what they could do with their flagship model.

cronus1

Athlon Optics has 6 binocular lines and 2 spotting scope lines. Each line is geared for a specific level of performance for that particular price point. The Cronus offers all of the latest features. A list of them is below…..

E2ES System- Edge 2 Edge Sharpness system

E2ES System is a field flattening system that produces sharper, clearer images all the way from one lens edge to the other

ED Glass- High definition glass ED glass gives you an image with little or no chromatic fringe so the final result brings a clearer and sharper image to your eyes

ESP Dielectric Coating- Enhanced Spectral Prism Dielectric Coating ESP Dielectric Coating is a multi layer prism coating that reflects over 99% of the light to your eyes bringing you a clear, bright image that displays accurate color reproduction.

Lightweight Magnesium Chassis Magnesium chassis give you the strength of a metal chassis while reducing the weight as much as 35%

XPL Coating- Xtra Protective Layer coating XPL Coating gives you an extra protection on the exterior lenses from dirt, oil and scratches

Phase Corrected prisms Phase corrected prisms produce images that have better contrast, a higher resolution and better color reproduction

BaK4 prisms Bak-4 glass prisms reflect more light to your eyes which will give you brighter and sharper image.

Advanced FMC Advanced Fully Multi-Coated lenses gives you better light transmission to bring optimum brightness and true color across the entire light spectrum.

Locking Diopter Locking Diopter keeps the diopter adjustment knob from accidentally moving from the optimal setting

Long Eye Relief Long eye relief can be particularly important for eyeglass wearers because longer eye relief allows them to still see the entire field of view.

Close Focus Close focus is important for those who are nature observers and especially important if you are going to watch butterflies or insects

Twist Up Eyecups Twist up eyecups with intermediate stops allow you to set the eyecups to the ideal eye relief for you eyes

Waterproof Waterproof to protects the binocular in the harshest weather conditions or if accidentally submerged underwater

Argon Purged Argon purging gives you better waterproofing and thermal stability

cronus2

Advertised specifications are as follows:

POWER 8.5X

OBJECTIVE LENS DIAMETER 42 mm

EYE RELIEF 22 mm

FIELD OF VIEW ANGULAR 7.6°

FIELD OF VIEW FEET @1000 Yards 399 ft

FIELD OF VIEW METERS @1000 METERS 133 m

CLOSE FOCUS 2 m /6.6 ft

INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE 56 mm-73 mm

WEIGHT 33 oz

When reviewing these features what jumped out at me initially was the mention of a field flattening element in the design. For those of you that are familiar with the market the use of field flatteners, typically in the eyepiece, has been utilized for quite some time but only in certain models and never in any great variety. That seems to have changed over the last three or four years.

Several of these most recently introduced models appear to be based off the same basic design as they all sport practically identical performance parameters and specifications (eye relief, field of view, physical weight, etc…). The latest introduction into this market segment is the Athlon Cronus. In many ways it appears to be based off the same base design but with one notable difference. All of the other recent introductions are offered in an 8×42 and a 10×42. Athlon decided to spice things up a bit by offering their Cronus model in both a 10×42 and an 8.5×42.

So you might ask why an 8.5x model? Well, Swarovski, and Swift, have had considerable success with this magnification. 8.5x does provide just a little bit more potential resolution when all else is equal. I have owned the original Swarovski EL 8.5×42, a vintage Swift Audubon of this configuration and a Bresser Montana 8.5×45. In each case I could see just a bit more detail with these 8.5x models than I could with my old standby 8x binoculars. Furthermore, I do not seem to notice much of the negatives of jumping up to a 10x model in the sense of notable decreased depth of field or notably narrower field of view. 8.5x seems like a worthwhile compromise for those looking for just a little more “reach” than an 8x can provide. With that being said, let us take a look at the rest of this binoculars’ optical performance.

cronus3

Optical Performance:

The use of ED glass in the objective design, the field flattener in the eyepiece and the eyepiece design in general produce a very bright, sharp, contrast-filled image that does come very close to edge to edge sharpness. It is better than average in all of these areas plus it has relatively low levels of chromatic aberration (color fringing). So, its performance basically mirrors that of the previous models built on this platform. Where it is slightly better is in the level of apparent sharpness on axis. I believe the extra .5x magnification does provide slightly more detail particularly in the center of the field of view. I can see the smallest details relatively easily with this model.

The only negative aspect of this binoculars’ optical performance is that it does suffer from slightly increased angular magnification distortion and the subsequent rolling ball as a result. The field of view is flat with excellent edge sharpness but the transition zone between the on axis and off axis performance is slightly larger than in the 8x versions and also slightly more pronounced. With a static image the distortion is practically unnoticeable but when panning I pick up on it relatively easily.

Apparent brightness is above average as is the contrast level. Color representation is neutral to ever so slightly warm.

cronus5Phonescoped image with Cronus 8.5×42 via the Iphone 6S and Phone Skope adapter. Edited only by cropping to eliminate vignetting.

Mechanics and Ergonomics:

The build quality on this binocular is very good. I had no concerns with the central hinge tension or eyecup design and function. Internally the binocular is extremely clean, well baffled and blackened. The focusing knob is a little stiffer than I would prefer right out of the box but has loosened up somewhat over the last month. The minimum close focusing distance for my eyes was measured at 5.75 feet. The focusing speed is fairly fast in going from close focus to infinity in just a hair over one full turn of the focus knob. The diopter adjustment is located on the focusing knob and has a small raised extension used for adjustments. It has a locking function that requires you to depress it before it will freely move from its set position.
Probably the only objectionable issue with this model, as it was with similar designs, is the physical weight. The manufacturer lists a 33 oz weight which I tend to believe though I haven’t had a chance to weigh the binocular myself. This is about 5 ounces heavier than the previous model I reviewed and I believe that the increase is the result of thicker rubber armor. Personally, I don’t have an issue with the weight as I have used heavier binoculars in the past (Nikon Venturer LXL 8×42 – 36 oz, Vixen Foresta 7×50 – 31 oz, Leica Trinovid BN – 31 oz, Meopta Meostar 8×42 – 32 oz) but it might be a consideration for some folks looking for a lightweight full-sized design.

cronus4

Conclusion:

All in all this is another excellent introduction at/around $500. You receive all of the latest features available on models at a much more expensive price point. It sets itself apart from similarly designed models by offering an extra .5x magnification and a diopter adjustment on the central focusing knob. Build quality is very good and the binoculars are well balanced. Athlon definitely chose an excellent design to use as their flagship model

Opticron DBA VHD 8×42

Do you know how much I love doing optics reviews? I really do. They are so much fun and now is a great time to be involved with the sport optics industry because there are so many new and interesting products. If it isn’t the startup companies with their new designs then it is the longstanding, respected companies producing a new model or two each year. It is a product from the latter type of company that I will be commenting on in this review.

Opticron is a company based out of Great Britain. They have been in business for well over 40 years but have only been in the US market for a little over four. Their binocular line hits just about every price point from around $100 all the way up to just over $800. I have been given the opportunity to review their new flagship binocular, the DBA VHD 8×42. The MSRP for this model is listed at $915 but I see the street price puts it just under $800. I have had this unit for a couple of months now so I have really had an opportunity to use it extensively. So, without further adieu let us get to it…..

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Advertised features and specs via the Opticron USA homepage…..

http://www.opticronusa.com/Pages/dba_vhd.html

• Compact, lightweight roof prism design
• Dual hinge, single axis body
• Textured rubber armoring
• Nitrogen gas filled waterproof (16ft depth)
• VHD optical system incorporating a high quality ED glass objective system, phase corrected prisms with Oasis prism coating S-type multi-coating to all air/glass surfaces
• Flat field vision
• Long eyerelief for spectacle wearers
• Multi-stage twist type retractable eyecups
• 500° turn smooth action wide wheel focusing
• Close focus to 8.2ft
• Central diopter adjuster
• Tripod adapter socket

Field ft/1000yd  367
Field m/1000m  122
Close Focus ft / m  8.2/2.5
Eyerelief mm  22
IPD mm  56-74
HxW inches 5.7×5.0
HxW mm 145×126
Weight oz / g  24.6/696
MSRP $ 915.00
Lets mix it up a bit and talk about Ergonomics and Mechanics first…..

Ergonomics/Mechanics:

The VHD is an open bridge design but it is a relatively short open bridge design compared with many of the open bridge/ED glass binoculars on the market. As you can see from the specs list it measures at 5.7 inches long. I am able to fit both my ring and middle finger in between the two bridges. Most of the binocular is rubber-armored except for a small strip between the bridges. This gives the feel of a bit of an indent for your fingers to rest into.

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The focusing knob is of average size. It focuses counterclockwise from close focus to infinity in approximately 1.5 rotations with an extra half turn beyond infinity. This could be considered a little slow to average by today’s standards. What I have found though is you cannot judge a binoculars’ focusing speed based strictly on the number for rotations. You also have to factor in the amount of tension in the focusing knob. Too much tension coupled with too many rotations and the focus can be painstakingly slow. I can happily report that the focusing tension on the VGA HD is not excessively stiff and as a result the focusing speed/tension combination is not slow. This combination actually has a bit more precise feel to it. Minimum close focus for this model is right at 7.5 feet for my eyes.

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The eyecup design is something I am a little excited about. Though I have seen similar designs in previous years I have to say that this is the most positive feeling design I have encountered recently. The eyecups are of the typical rotate out/in design. Where they differentiate themselves from other designs is in the mechanism that allows them to stay put at the predetermined settings. As you rotate the eyecups out they go a millimeter or two past the preset distance and then rotate forward again to lock into place. You cannot accidentally move the eyecups from the pre-set position. What an awesome feature. For those concerned about needing an eye relief setting between the predetermined ones there is more than enough tension in the eyecups to keep them set in place. For my use I need to have the eyecups moved out to the first setting from completely collapsed. This leads me to believe that eye relief is very generous.

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No issues with the central hinge tension. It isn’t overly stiff but will not accidentally move during regular use. The diopter adjustment is located on the central hinge of the binocular and is of the “pop-out-to-adjust-pop-back-in-to-lock” design. I have not had any issues with it moving accidentally.

Optical Performance:

So the question that most of you should be thinking, at least in my opinion, is “So just how good optically is Opticron’s flagship model?”

I am glad you asked that. ;)

It is good. Very good as a matter of fact. On axis performance is as good as any binocular I have had the privilege to look through in the last year including some of the most expensive consumer binoculars on the market.
So what stands out to me as I look through this binocular?

Well, the first time I used it I was on a pelagic birding trip off the coast of Cape May, NJ. We left the dock around 1 pm and stayed out for 6 hours. I had the opportunity to use the binocular under some very challenging conditions including in low light. In that situation and in every other scenario I have put these bins through I have been struck by their excellent level of apparent brightness, contrast and sharpness. You know that 3D impression that you get when an object is extremely well saturated with color and contrasts beautifully with the background? That is the impression I get with this binocular.

Apparent sharpness, influenced by a variety of factors beyond just resolution, is excellent on axis. The apparent brightness is also first rate. This binocular outperforms everything else I have on hand in low light conditions (assuming a similar configuration). Based on these impressions I am led to believe that Opticron either significantly upgraded the coatings compared to their other models or is using some new type of high transmission glass recently introduced in much more expensive models. Regardless of the origin the effect it has on the image is immediately noticeable. I have compared the VGA to one particular binocular that is advertised as having light transmission numbers in the 90% range and the VGA appears brighter in every condition.

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Color representation is completely neutral. I have compared it with two other binoculars I have on hand that display a warm color bias. The VHD looks completely neutral in comparison. I do not have any cool-biased binoculars on hand for comparison.

Chromatic aberration (color fringing) control is excellent on axis….or within the sweet spot if you prefer. I cannot detect it inside the sweet spot. As with most binoculars, as you move away from the centerfield a faint halo begins to appear around high contrast objects.  I would call it moderate at the outer edge of the image.

So, in this day and age where edge performance seems to be as much of a selling point as the centerfield performance how does the VGA perform? Well, if there was one area where I would like to some improvement it is in this area. My estimation of the apparent sweet spot size is in the 70-75% range. That is certainly acceptable and actually quite good compared to many models. Having said that it isn’t at the level where many of the more expensive models are at. I feel that needs to be mentioned simply because this binocular competes with those more expensive models in just about every other optical category.

So what is the off-axis performance like?

Well it isn’t poor by any stretch of the imagination. It is quite good actually but when you are accustomed to the high level of performance within the sweet spot then you start to want to have it across the entire field of view. Off axis degradation seems to be mostly a slight amount of field curvature with a little bit of astigmatism as I can’t quite the outer edge as sharp as the sweet spot no matter how I rotate the focus.

The only other optical area that I feel needs improvement is the field of view. At 7 degrees (367 feet) I would call the field of view conservative. There was a high-end model from a well-known Japanese manufacturer that had a 7 degree field of view that nobody complained about but then it also was sharp from one edge of the image to the other. It was also popular about 12 or 13 years ago when field of view numbers, across the market, were more conservative. In comparison to many of the most expensive consumer binoculars the field of view falls a bit short. Its closest competition has a field of view that is about 20 feet wider at 1000 yards. The good news though in this case is that when used on its own the 7 degree field of view does not feel restrictive. Only when comparing it with much wider field of view binoculars do you begin to see a bit of the limitation.

Conclusion:

This model was designed to perform against much more expensive binoculars not only in a variety of optical areas but also in terms of build quality. It falls a little short in one area, field of view but the other optical performance areas make you want to forget about that issue. Ergonomically and mechanically it is a very good Japanese-made binocular. It certainly competes well with anything I have seen priced at or under $1000.

Phonescoped picture out of my office window. Very foggy day so not the best representation in terms of brightness. I will add a better picture at a later day/time.

I did receive a message from the manufacturer addressing my field of view comments in the review. It is copy/pasted below:

 

“While it is technically possible to deliver a wider FOV, 7 degrees was
decided upon as it gave a what we saw as a good balance between FOV and
resolution with the chosen prism set. A wider FOV with similar resolution
figures would necessitate using a larger prism set with an associated
increase in body size and weight. This change would negate many of the
advantages the compact 42mm format delivers for the VHD”

Athlon Optics Argos 8×34

I haven’t had much time lately to sit down and share my thoughts on a few of the more recent binoculars that have graced my home. Besides all of the usual holiday hustle and bustle I have been intently birding my local patch(es) in search of any new and interesting birds. With the holidays over and a great start to my year list I thought it was time to finally sit down and put something together for the handful of models worthy of review. First on the list is the Athlon Argos.

focusing knob

 

I am sure your first thought after reading that statement is “who is Athlon” and what is the Argos model. Athlon is relatively new company staffed by a variety of gifted individuals that had worked for Bushnell in recent years. These gentlemen had the idea that they could offer high quality optics directly to consumers at a very reasonable price. It seems they succeeded from what I have seen with the Argos model.

Athlon Optics has 6 binocular lines and 2 spotting scope lines. Each line is geared for a specific level of performance for that particular price point. Their most expensive binocular model, the Cronus, has an MSRP just under $600 but sports an impressive list of features not the least of which being a field flattener element.

So where does the Argos fit into their lineup?

Its price point, around $200 MSRP, puts in the lower middle of their various binocular lines. The inevitable question is why I would request to have one of the lower price models for review instead of one of their higher price and higher performing models. Well, there are a few answers to that question. For one, I look for the best “value” in terms of optics. I would much rather spend $200 on a binocular that performs like the average $400 model rather than spend $400 on an average $400 model.

Second, some of the specs and features of the Argos jumped out at me. For one it is lightweight. Two it is an open bridge design. Three it has an advertised 34 mm objective diameter and, four, it had a listed field of view of over 400 feet. The last point, as it turns out, was a typo on the website. The actual field of view is 7.1 degrees (371 feet)…..a bit of a letdown but not a deal breaker when you handle and look through this model.
Lastly, I did also request their high end Cronus model but it was not available prior to the holidays (hopefully more on that in the near future).

 

So let us start with the basic advertised specifications and features:

POWER  8X
OBJECTIVE LENS DIAMETER 34 mm
EYE RELIEF  17.4 mm
FIELD OF VIEW ANGULAR  7.1°
FIELD OF VIEW FEET @1000 Yards 407 ft
FIELD OF VIEW METERS @1000 METERS  137 m
CLOSE FOCUS  4 m /13 ft
INTERPUPILLARY DISTANCE  56 mm-76 mm
WEIGHT 16.3 oz

ESP Dielectric Coating- Enhanced Spectral Prism Dielectric Coating ESP Dielectric Coating is a multi layer prism coating that reflects over 99% of the light to your eyes bringing you a clear, bright image that displays accurate color reproduction.

XPL Coating- Xtra Protective Layer coating XPL Coating gives you an extra protection on the exterior lenses from dirt, oil and scratches

Phase Corrected prisms  Phase corrected prisms produce images that have better contrast, a higher resolution and better color reproduction

BaK4 prisms  Bak-4 glass prisms reflect more light to your eyes which will give you brighter and sharper image.

Advanced FMC  Advanced Fully Multi-Coated lenses gives you better light transmission to bring optimum brightness and true color across the entire light spectrum.

Long Eye Relief  Long eye relief can be particularly important for eyeglass wearers because longer eye relief allows them to still see the entire field of view.

Close Focus  Close focus is important for those who are nature observers and especially important if you are going to watch butterflies or insects

Twist Up Eyecups  Twist up eyecups with intermediate stops allow you to set the eyecups to the ideal eye relief for you eyes

Waterproof  Waterproof to protect the binocular in the harshest weather conditions or if accidentally submerged underwater

That information is a direct copy/paste from the Athlon website. So, as you can see, the only two features that it does not offer are ED glass and a field flattening element in the eyepiece design. Keep in mind this model does have a regular “street price” of around $170.

Optical Performance:

Optical performance is always my first place to start. Don’t get me wrong. I think ergonomics and mechanics can play an equally important role but optical performance is the foundation to which the other two build upon (in my opinion).

As mentioned above the field of view should be considered average for a 30-something class binocular. Typically as you move up in objective size with a particular binocular line you lose field of view (assuming all else is equal). Your normal 8×30 or 8×32 model has an average field of view around 393 feet (7.5 degrees) with some of the more impressive models approaching and exceeding 420 feet. The 34 mm objective brings that field of view down a bit but not objectionably so.

So what strikes me about the optical performance of this model?

Good question. I think, optically, the size of the sweet spot and the overall transition from the sweet spot out to the field stop is what I like most. The apparent sweet spot size is approximately 80% of the field with a very gradual transition to the out of focus edge of the field of view. Image deterioration at the edge seems to be entirely field curvature. The out of focus area is only just out of focus as a slight bump of the focusing knob brings it into focus.

How about the other optical performance areas such as apparent brightness, sharpness, contrast, etc…?

My experience with this and other models at this price point leads me to believe that it is slightly above average in most areas. Apparent sharpness within the sweet spot is more than acceptable. The contrast level is good but not very good or excellent. CA control is surprisingly better than expected within the sweet spot. Apparent brightness is above average. The image also has a neutral to ever so slightly warm color representation.

So what do I think about the overall image representation?

I like it. The combination of sweet spot size, color representation and apparent sharpness all make the image seem very natural to my eyes. There isn’t any eyestrain either because of alignment issues or excessive distortions or aberrations. So, in other words, the binocular is a solid little performer at the $200 price point. I definitely prefer its optical performance over some other recently introduced models reviewed previously at this price point.

The minimum close focusing distance for my eyes is approximately 7 feet.

phonescoped2

Ergonomics:

No optical performance pun intended but I think this is where this model really shines. I genuinely love the ergonomics of this model. The barrels are long and without bumps or extrusions. As a result there is plenty of room for your fingers to fit in between the barrels. In addition the eyecups are nicely contoured along the rim so the eyecups fit comfortably in/around my eye sockets.

The binoculars feel even more lightweight than their listed 16.3 ounce weight which is most likely the result of open bridge design coupled with the fairly long , for a 30 mm class, barrels (5.25 inches). The focusing knob is large and the positioning of the open bridge design easily allows my index finger to rest comfortably across it during regular use.

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The ocular diameter appears fairly large in relation to the diameter of the eyecups. In my experience this makes for easy eye placement especially when coupled with the 4.25 mm exit pupil (and as opposed to the 3.75 mm exit pupil of an 8×30 model).

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Mechanics:

In regular use I have no major objections to the mechanical performance of this model. I do have some nitpicks though that I will get into shortly. Central hinge tension is good with the IPD setting not moving during regular use. Focusing direction is counterclockwise from close focus to infinity. It takes approximately 1.5 turns of the focusing knob to cover that distance with a little (1/4 of a turn) remaining beyond infinity for my eyes. Focusing tension is smooth with slightly less than average tension. I do not find this objectionable since the focusing speed is average to slightly slow.

 

There is a small amount of play in the focusing knob at one point in the focusing range. It is not large, maybe 1/8th of an inch but I do notice it on occasion during regular use.

The eyecups rotate out for non-eyeglass wearing individuals. I don’t wear glasses but typically have to use a binocular with the eyecups fully collapsed to see the full field of view. Blame my big nose and close-set eyes for that situation. The eyecups work very well either fully collapsed or fully extended. There feels like there should be an intermediate setting but the eyecups do not stay set in any position other than the two mentioned.

objectives2

Summary:

So what are my final thoughts on this model?

In general I like it. It fits a useful niche. The binocular is smaller than a full-sized 40 mm model and light enough for you to wear around your neck all day and not even notice that it is there. The ergonomics are excellent in my opinion. I love holding and using this model. Optically it punches slightly above its price point. If only the field of view was closer to its advertised 407 feet I think I might be more enthusiastic  about its overall optical performance. Still, even with that small nitpick I could easily see myself using this little model as a regular day to day binocular….and let us not forget one of its more appealing overall characteristics….its price. 

Theron Optics Questa 8×42

I have been meaning to sit down and type up a review of the new Theron Questa 8×42 for a few days but just haven’t had the time until now. The Questa is a new model which has just been added to the Theron lineup and is available in both the 8×42 and 10×42 configurations. For those not familiar with Theron Optics they are a house brand for a company known at Predator Optics. Predator Optics sells a wide variety of sport optic and outdoor gear. The Theron Optics division has been in existence for the last 7 or 8 years and has been known for providing very good optical optical performance for the price (value). Prior to the introduction of the Questa their highest performing model was the Wapiti ED-APO. The Wapiti ED-APO, introduced several years ago, has many of the high end features such as dielectric prism coating and ED glass lenses. The Questa has the same features but takes performance to another level by introducing field flatteners in the eyepiece design.

theronfront

Looking at the entire binocular market a potential buyer will find very few consumer-grade binoculars that utilize field flatteners. For many years only one or two companies, such as Nikon, utilized field flatteners in any of their binoculars. That small group got a little bigger several years ago when Swarovski introduced their Swarovision models. Since then one or two other models utilizing field flatteners have been introduced, the latest being the Theron Questa.

So, what makes the use of a field flattener so important? Well, what it does allow for is to have more of the field of view in focus. We often hear the phrase “edge to edge” sharpness. Field flattened binoculars often come the closest to being able to produce this level of performance. This then begs the question as to why more companies aren’t using them in their designs. As with any optical design there are drawbacks. The most often mentioned in this case is AMD (Angular Magnification Distortion) or “rolling ball” as it has been affectionately called as of late. AMD refers to a phenomenon where the image appears to roll as if across the surface of a ball when panning with the binocular. To counteract this to some extent manufacturers introduced some percentage of pincushion distortion. Such is the case with the Theron Questa. As someone that can notice AMD but is not bothered by it unless it is excessive I can happily report that the Questa displays very little of it.

So before we go into my impressions of optical performance, ergonomics, etc… let’s look at the basic features/specifications of the binocular.

8×42 model

- 22.6 mm of eye relief

- 425 foot (8.1 degree) field of view

- 822 grams (28.9 ounces)

- 6.2 inches tall

- Dielectric/phase coated, prisms

- Broadband Fully multicoated lenses

- ED glass objective design

- Nitrogren filled / waterproof

- 4 foot close focus

- 1.25 rotations from close focus to infinity counterclockwise (with an additional .25 rotation past infinity)

10×42

- Same overall specs and features as the 8x but with a 336 foot (6.4 degree) field of view, 18.5 mm of eye relief and an 812 gram (28.6 ounce) weight

Optical Performance:

As mentioned above the most prominent advertising feature with this model is the edge to edge sharpness. Does it really deliver edge to edge sharpness? Yes and no. As I have mentioned when describing various field flattener models in the past the image is sharp across more of the field of view than non-field flattened models. Is it edge to edge? Yes, in a sense it is however there is a small zone where the image loses a very small amount of sharpness. I would estimate the inner 3/4ths of the field of view is sharp and then there is about 10% of the field of view is slightly less sharp followed by the remaining 15% of outer edge of the image being as sharp as the central 75%. As has been discussed previously this “ring” is possibly where the AMD and pincushion distortion overlap within the image.

flowers
Apparent sharpness inside the sweetspot and at the edge is excellent. I have no difficulty pulling out the finest detail both at close focus and out on distant targets. CA control is excellent in the central 75% with a gradual worsening outwards. I would call it moderate at the very outer edge.
Apparent contrast is very good but a slightly warm to neutral color bias does influence this area to some extent. Apparent brightness is excellent and in comparison to just about every other binocular I have on hand it is notably brighter in challenging conditions.

When you combine all of these attributes then the resulting experience is truly extraordinary. The field of view is wide, so much of the image is in focus with the center, colors are accurately represented, CA is well controlled and the image is bright. I would use the term “panoramic” to describe the experience. Only a few of the binoculars I have owned in the past gave me a similar experience. The Meopta Meostar and Nikon Premier LX/HG/Venturer are the two that immediately come to mind because of the field flattener elements with the understanding that the Questas is a bit better because of the effective use of ED glass and the notably wider field of view. Definitely an “immersive” experience.

Ergonomics:

The largest objections to previous versions of this design was that the large oculars forced the eyecup diameter to be larger than average. This in turn forced consumers to use wider IPD settings to compensate to some extent. This created a less than ideal viewing comfort level for many individuals.

Questa

That issue has now been resolved with the Questa design. The eyecups are notably narrower at both the base and end which allows for narrower IPD settings and a much more appreciable comfort level. The eyecups have one intermediate setting between fully collapsed and fully extended and have a solid feel to their design.

The rubber armoring is smooth in texture and very pleasing to the touch. Unlike one of the previous versions of this design this model has narrower overall feel as a result. The texture of the rubber in combination with the thumb indents provides a similar feeling to that of the original Swarovski EL 8×32.

Both the focusing speed and tension of the Questa are close to ideal. As mentioned in the specs above it takes 1.25 revolutions to go from a close focus of about 4 feet all the way out to infinity. I tend to find binoculars with 1.25-1.5 revolutions to be ideal as they provide a nice compromise between too fast and too slow so long as the focusing tension is sufficient enough not overshoot “perfect focus” on any given object. This is the case with this model.

I have not noted any fit and finish issues with this model. Every component performs as intended (eyecups, central hinge, diopter, focuser, etc…). The diopter adjustment is located in the classic position around the right eyepiece. It does not lock but does have enough resistance to keep it locked in place.

objtheron

Accessories include carrying case, neckstrap, objective covers and rainguard. The Questas carry a one year no-fault warranty and a lifetime manufacturer defect warranty. They have a listed retail price of $499 but are currently on an introductory sale price of $425.

Nitpicks?

Not really as my concerns with the previous versions have all been addressed. Some individuals might find the listed 28.9 ounce weight objectionable It is an ounce or so heavier than the premium models offered…

Swarovski SV 8.5 x43 – 28 ounces
Zeiss SF 8×42 – 27.5 ounces
Leica Ultravid Plus 8×42 – 27.9 ounces
Nikon EDG 8×42 – 27.7 ounces

Compared to some other popular mid-high priced models….

Leica Trinovid 8×42 – 28.6 ounces
Meopta Meostar HD 10×42 – 27 ounces
Zeiss Conquest HD – 28 ounces

I often find it interesting to compare specs on paper with various models. Keeping that in mind the Questa compares very favorably with models costing 4-5 times the price. Obviously, as fun as that might be, the real test is in actual use. I would encourage anyone to compare the Questa with any of the models listed above and report your experiences. There might not be as big of a gap as the price would dictate.

In summary, I find the Questa to be a bit of a game-changer for a variety of reasons. Yes, there were two models based on the same design from other companies but the eyecup size made “ease of use” much more difficult for me at least. This binocular has all of their benefits and none of their concerns. Optically this binocular has everything going for it…wide field of view, very good CA control, a huge sweet spot, excellent brightness and color and, ergonomically, I find it a pleasure to use.

The real question, as with many optics coming out of China, is whether or not the quality control is going to be good from unit to unit. With a sample of one in my possession I cannot comment on that issue but would be interested in others’ comments once more of these are purchased.

Two big thumbs up from me on this binocular!