Time for the third review in this series, the Opticron Explorer WA (wide angle) ED 8×42. This model replaces the non-ED Explorer WA which was only introduced a year or two ago. I don’t have the original on hand for direct comparison but going by past experience the new model seems practically identical with the exception of the introduction of extra low dispersion glass in the design. I enjoyed using the original EX WA and enjoy using the new one even more.
Before proceeding I do have to say that I am genuinely excited to see Opticron finally introducing ED glass in so many of their binoculars over the last year or so. They only had the “ED-X” in their lineup for a few years and it wasn’t that big of a hit from what I am told. With so many models from so many manufacturers utilizing some type of chromatic aberration correction glass in their designs it only made sense for Opticron to follow suit. Of the three new models I have tried in 2017 all of them have improvements in the areas of apparent sharpness and CA control especially within the sweet spot.
So, as always, let us start with the advertised specs for familiarity:
- Nitrogen waterproof construction
- BAK 4, fully multicoated optical system with ED glass objective lenses
- PC phase corrected prisms & Oasis-C high light transmission coating
- Long eyerelief eyepieces for spectacles wearers
- 3-stage retractable eyecups
- Close focus to 6.6ft (8×42), 8.2ft (10×42)
- Tripod adapter socket
Explorer WA ED binoculars come with a comprehensive Limited Lifetime Warranty.
Close Focus ft / m
Eye Relief mm
Weight oz / g
6.6 / 2
23.6 / 670
As you can see from the advertised specs and features this binocular ticks off all the boxes for a solid performer at this price point….good field of view, decent physical weight, acceptable eye relief and reasonable close focus. Going by specs alone there doesn’t seem to be much of a weak area for this model, especially at this price point (street price right at $299). So lets see if the specs hold up in actual use.
I will start out with optical performance as most folks enjoy reading this section first. As you can tell from the introduction I found a couple of important areas very favorable.
Chromatic Aberration control is very good within the sweet spot of the image. It isn’t quite at the level I found in the Natura ED but certainly better than many non-ED models I have owned in the past. Outside of the sweets pot the levels are moderate but still reasonably acceptable. My opinion is that the wider field of view eyepiece (for an Opticron model) makes it more difficult to control CA as well as some of the models with a more conservative field of view design.
Directly related to CA control, again in my opinion, is apparent sharpness. Within the sweets pot the apparent sharpness is very good and similar to both the Natura ED and the Traveller ED that I reviewed previously. I have not found a single situation in practical use where I felt I wasn’t receiving all the detail I wanted or needed in an 8x binocular.
Apparent contrast is slightly better than average for this price point and color rendition is slightly warm. Colors overall are well saturated but there is a slight bias towards the warm side of the spectrum. Apparent brightness is good but not great or excellent. I wouldn’t call it class-leading at this price point but it certainly isn’t an area of weakness.
I mentioned sweet spot size several times already. With this model, as with many others, the conditions you utilize to estimate sweet spot size can play a big part in the impression that it leaves with you. Short of you using a standardized test format it can be difficult to give a fair representation of it. Having said that, I would estimate the “super sweet spot” size to be about 70% of the field of view. There is a very gentle transition out of the sweet spot. It appears to be your typical mixture of astigmatism and field curvature with a nod more towards astigmatism as I can’t refocus the image in the transition area. The image stays this way out to maybe the outer 5% of the image before transitioning to entirely field curvature as I can refocus that small percentage though it is roughly one to two diopters different from the sweet spot itself.
Eye relief is certainly adequate. I don’t wear glasses but typically need longer eye relief models because of my facial features. With the eyecups fully collapsed I can clearly see the full field of view with the expected sharp black edge around the view itself. I wouldn’t call the eye relief generous as I don’t experience any blackouts but it should certainly be adequate for most eyeglass wearers.
Ergonomics and Mechanics:
Ergonomically this model has a bit more of a chunky feel, in comparison to the Natura ED model I reviewed most recently. I wouldn’t call the barrerls “fat” but they are not contoured as much from the objectives back to the eyepieces. Some individuals might find this desirable when coupled with the conventional bridge design as gives average to large size hands more area to grip before overlapping over the bridge itself. As with the Natura ED and Traveller ED models there are thumb indents on the undersides of the barrels but they are fairly shallow and broad in design so your fingers don’t have to sit squarely in them to be comfortable.
The focusing knob is of average size and appropriately placed so your index finger falls naturally onto it. Focusing tension is very smooth with good resistance. There is no “play” when changing direction with the focusing knob but there is a difference in tension in certain areas of rotation. This produces a noticeably different feel when compared with models that have a “play area” that does not change focus and does not have any tension to it. My guess is that the lubricant is not evenly distributed internally at least at this stage of usage.
The binocular close focuses, for my eyes, at a distance of about 5 feet and goes from close focus to infinity in about 1 and 1/3rds rotations counterclockwise.
As mentioned in the product description the metal eyecups have three settings: fully collapsed, an intermediate setting and fully extended. There is enough tension in the eyecup design for the eyecups to remain fully set in whichever position is needed by the user.
Central hinge tension is good with this unit. I cannot accidentally move it from the desired IPD setting without significant pressure.
Looking at the binocular internally through the objective lenses I did not notice any glaring issues, no pun intended. Baffling appears to be well utilized between the objective and prism. I did not note any shiny surfaces nor did I note any dust, fingerprints or exposed glue inside the barrels.
The Explorer WA ED is another new model from Opticron incorporating ED glass in the optical design. If the field of view of some of their other models isn’t wide enough for you and your budget is $300 US or less then this binocular certainly deserves consideration. It doesn’t excel in any one particular area optically, mechanically or ergonomically but it does deliver solid performance in practically every area.