Monthly Archives: April 2015

Maven Optics B3 8×30 Binocular

I like to add variety to my reviews so let me start off this one by saying that I really like this binocular. The Maven B3 8×30 checks off all the boxes for what I find appealing in a binocular. The optics, ergonomics and mechanics are all very good and I would have a difficult time believing that folks would find fault with them when it is considered as a “stand alone” product. Why do I say that? Well, when you ask most demanding optics users they will probably run through a checklist of items that they want in a binocular. If I had to take a stab at that list then it would probably look something like this….

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- Optically bright, sharp, wide field of view, good neutral color, low levels of color fringing.

- Ergonomically easy to use and comfortable not only in the hand but also up against your face.

- Mechanically sound – focus wheel is smooth with no slop and very precise. Not too fast or too slow in rotation. Not too stiff or too loose in tension. Eyecups have to stay in place and so does the central hinge.

- Good accessories that are useful and actually fit the product.

- Reliable and thorough warranty and service from the company

Well, the Mavens check off all of those boxes. Lets break it down by section and get into more detail with each of these areas

Optical Performance

Lets cut right to the chase. I mean really who cares if the binocular fits like a glove in your hand if the optical performance doesn’t wow you? Who cares if the company will replace your binocular free of charge if you damage it unless you like putting it up to your eyes? Thankfully you don’t have to compromise when it comes to the B3 8×30.

Optically the Maven has a great deal going for it. Please keep in mind that my comments are general in nature and not specifically geared towards the fact that it is an 8×30 configuration unless otherwise noted. For one it is bright…even for an 8×30. I am referencing apparent brightness here which is often a combination of a variety of factors. It can be influenced by things such as color representation, color saturation, field of view, sweet spot size, eye relief, etc… We are talking about the apparent brightness here not just the light transmission level. If you could you contrive of some way that a person could look through the binocular without handling it then I have a hard time believing they would be able to differentiate this from several very good larger diameter binoculars in almost any light condition. Sure the smaller exit pupil would be notice in terms of eye placement but other than that one issue I think it would be a difficult call.

Second the apparent sharpness is excellent. In either viewing objects at close focus or several miles away I have never felt as if the binocular was lacking in terms of resolving ability. Everything seems very sharply defined. As with the case of apparent brightness it can be difficult to separate sharpness into its own category since it relies on other optical characteristics, such as contrast, to generate a specific impression. I have yet run into a situation with this binocular where I felt like I wanted better apparent sharpness.

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Third, the color representation of this binocular seems entirely neutral to my eyes. I have compared with several other binoculars in my collection that either display warm or cold color biases. In comparison to them the B3 seems entirely neutral. If pressed, and under certain circumstances, I might say that the image comes off ever so slightly warm but that isn’t the impression I receive during regular usage.

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Fourth, contrast and color saturation are very good but not what I would call excellent. It is definitely above average in this area but colors don’t necessarily pop as much as binocular that utilizes coatings to accentuate certain ranges of the color spectrum. Don’t misunderstand me, there hasn’t been a time where I didn’t see the beautiful blue associated with an Eastern Bluebird or the scarlet red associated with a Northern Cardinal. The colors look very good through this binocular but not necessarily heavily saturated.

Fifth, chromatic aberration control and sweet spot size are interrelated in my opinion. My estimation as to the apparent sweet spot size of this unit is approximately 75%. Keep in mind a couple of things as you read that. For one the field of view is very large, even for an 8×30-something binocular. At 8.2 degrees or 430 feet it is well above average. It wasn’t that long ago that all but the most expensive 8×30-somethings had average fields of view in the 7.5 degree (393 feet) range. Then the average shifted a little higher to where many of them approach the 8 degree (420 feet) mark. The Maven and only one or two other roof prism models now exceed that number. When you consider the price point that the Mavens sell at I think it is a difficult characteristic to ignore. So, 75% of an 8.2 degree field of view is very large in my opinion.

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In addition, the transition from the sweet spot to the edge of the field is very gradual and appears to be entirely field curvature. I say the latter simply because with a very slight bump of the focus knob the edge of the field of view resolves itself into a sharp focus. The transition area between the sweet spot and that outside edge also gradually resolves into focus as you slowly turn the knob. The benefit to this, especially if your eyes have a good level of accommodation, is that the sweet spot can appear to be even larger than it is depending on the circumstances.

I mentioned color fringing in reference to this simply because the two are often interrelated. Such is the case with this model. Inside the sweet spot chromatic aberration is lacking. The image appears very “washed” and “cleaned” as a result. In this area it reminds me very much of the Zeiss FL and the Zen Ray ED series. Outside of the sweet spot in the transition zone all the way out to the very edge the level of lateral chromatic aberration increases. At no point do I find it objectionable though and only notice it when looking for it under extreme conditions.

Ergonomics

I enjoy the feel of this binocular in my hands. It has the newer “open bridge” style of central hinge where there is only a single hinge but it is extremely short in nature and situated close to the ocular section of the binocular. My index finger comfortably rests on the focusing knob while my middle finger sits on the central hinge and both my ring finger and pinky wrap very comfortably around the objective barrel.

I find the texture of the rubber armor to be very enjoyable as well. It has the “grippy” tactile sensation to it. When you couple this with a focusing knob that has a metal, checkered surface to it I have a difficult time believing the binocular could slip from your hands in any way. It just feels pleasant to hold. Keep in mind the physical weight of this binocular is listed only at 16.25 ounces. That certainly can add to the comfort level not only in your hand but also when hanging from your neck.

The ocular width of this binocular is large in comparison to the diameter of the eyecup. Translated that means that the eyecup width is fairly narrow in relation to entire diameter of the eyepiece. As a result the binocular passes nicely past my high-ridged nose and comfortably inside my eye sockets. With this position I experience no blackouts with the eyecup extended out to the first notched setting. With the eyecups fully collapsed I have to be more critical of eye positioning as the eye relief appears fairly good with this model.

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Mechanics

After using this binocular daily for almost two weeks now I haven’t really found any mechanical concerns. As mentioned above the focus knob is smooth and exceptionally precise in feel. The 8×30 goes from a close focus a little over 5.5 feet out to a mountain a mile away in exactly one clockwise rotation of the focusing knob. That may seem “fast” to many individuals but the tension on the focusing knob controls the rotation to an extent that the focus doesn’t seem fast to my eyes. There is an extra quarter rotation beyond infinity focus with this unit.

The eyecups do twist out from fully collapsed to fully extended. There are several intermediate positions that the eyecups fall into as you rotate them outwards.

Accessories

overall

Nitpicks

I have a few but nothing drastic. For one, the central hinge tension needs to be tighter for my personal preferences. I rarely share binoculars while out birding. If I do take someone with me then they either have their own or I give them one of my “loaner pairs” to use. As a result of this I want the central hinge tension to be tighter rather than looser. The B3 that I have in my position has central hinge tension that is a bit too loose. I haven’t accidentally knocked off the IPD in regular use but in removing the binocular from around my neck the neckstrap can get caught in my hood to the point that the IPD moves and I have to reposition it before the next use. This has only been a minor annoyance and one that is easily remedied on the manufacturer’s end.

Second, though I haven’t run into an issue with the eyecups moving from there set position there is some play when they fall into any of the intermediate positions between fully collapsed and fully extended. Again, I would assume this is fairly easily remedied in future production runs of this model.

Lastly, though I have no personal objections about having the binocular case as an optional item since I rarely put any of my binoculars in a case I think this is certainly an objection for some. A case, to my knowledge, has always been a regular part of any binoculars’ accessory package and shouldn’t be something that can be purchased separately.
A couple of further thoughts…..

1. I feel as if I didn’t say enough about the fit and finish of the binocular. I find it first rate in that there aren’t any concerns with the rubber armoring or the edges of any connecting components. I could also not find any type of internal debris inside either or the barrels. In other words the quality control on this particular unit seems to be excellent. There is a great deal of attention to detail evident in the design…even down to the word “Maven” inscribed on the front of beveled edge of the focusing wheel.

2.  We have often seen similar binoculars “rebadged” under different company labels. However those binoculars can often have notably different optical performance parameters and quality control levels. The first binocular that immediately comes to mind as I type this is the Vixen Foresta/Kenko (I forget the model name)/Theron Optics Wapiti LT. They all have the same chasis and practically the same specs on paper. Having owned all three I can say that there certainly was a difference in optical performance and quality control. I thought the Vixen was the most impressive optically of the group with the Theron not too far behind. Expectedly the Vixen was the most expensive also. If they all used the same components then I would expect that the coatings utilized on each model had a great deal to do with the final level of optical performance.