Category Archives: Opticron

Opticron MM3 50 mm spotting scope

I have had the Opticron MM3 50 ED for some time now. I have taken it out to several local lakes, quarries and rivers in search of waterfowl at this time of the year. I also spent all afternoon yesterday comparing it directly with an inexpensive 50 mm ED spotter I picked up this past December.

MM3

One of the most commonly accepted bits of wisdom shared here in the spotting scope forums is that practically any scope can look good at lower magnifications. It isn’t until you move up the magnification scale that you can begin to notice the difference between an average scope and an exceptional one. This was certainly the case here. The other scope performs at an acceptable level at/up to about 30x. Once beyond that obvious optical aberrations start degrading the image. This wasn’t the case with the Opticron.  Continue reading

Opticron Savanna 8×30

Opticron Savanna 8×30

After reading the last few reviews that I have done of Opticron binoculars some of you may see a bit of a pattern emerging. To save you the trouble of going back and reading through them in an effort to decipher “the pattern” I will simply say that they have all been 8×30-something class binoculars. The reason should be fairly obvious. I am a birder and many birders enjoy the 8×30-32 configuration. It is a good combination of optical performance and overall size.

Now I have a variety of binocular configurations at my disposal for regular use. I do find myself grabbing an 8×32 more often than not for a variety of reasons. The most important reason is size. They are “handy” in the sense of how much physical space they occupy…either on your chest, in your hand or in a backpack. There are times though that I prefer a 42 mm model. One specific situation is hawk watching. I like the convenience of having a larger exit pupil (5 mm+) when scanning the skies. I end up moving my eyes more and my binoculars less when I use a larger exit pupil model.

For several years I used hawk watching as a benchmark for binocular performance as I have found that the conditions a binocular is exposed to in that application can easily illustrate faults in either the optical performance or in the physical design. I then can readily say that many of my binocular purchases and choices over the years keyed in on how well they perform or would perform for that activity.

In hindsight I realize that there was an error in my reasoning. Hawk watching is an extremely enjoyable activity but migration only occurs twice a year over a fairly specific time frame. The vast majority of the year I am engaged in other types of bird watching activities. During that time I do not find the larger exit pupil of 42 mm, or larger, binoculars necessary for the type of birding I do. That then brings us back to my choice of the 8×32 for most of my birding.

The Opticron Savanna 8×30 is the focus of this review. The Savanna is Opticron’s representation of a fairly simple porro design that started with the Leupold Yosemite. The popularity of that model spurred a variety of other companies to include their own version of that design into their respective offerings. I have owned both the 6×30 and the 8×30 Yosemite as well as the 8×30 Celestron Nature. I do remember being extremely impressed with the 6×30 Yosemite for its obvious charms. I then had very high expectations for the 8×30 when Leupold eventually introduced it. Sadly, it did not quite live up to my expectations. Now whether is what a poor unit or just that the first generation of 8×30 Yosemites weren’t quite as good as the 6x30s I cannot say. I know many individuals have been happy with the 8×30 since then so I don’t really have an explanation.

Recent reports of some of the newer versions of this design have been very favorable. I am thinking particularly of Kowa’s version of this design. So, how does the Opticron Savanna fit into the grand scheme of things…..

Optical Performance:

I want to start off by not comparing the Savanna to anything else optically. I just want to relate my impressions of the image as the oculars are placed up to my eyes. The first optical characteristic that strikes me is the apparent brightness. The image provided seems notably brighter than what would expect from a 30 mm binocular. The relative simplicity of the porro prism design, in general, could certainly be the primary reason for this. I have to also give some credit to the choice of anti-reflective coatings that Opticron chose to utilize on this model. It not only contributes to apparent brightness but to the other optical performance areas mentioned below.
The second issue that jumps out at me is how easy to the overall view is when looking through this binocular. Depth perception ( a combination of depth of field and the 3D effect) is very good with this model. As I am sure everyone is aware at this point porro prism binoculars provide more of a three-dimensional to the image because of the wider spaced objective lenses. The Savanna displays this to good effect.

The third optical characteristic is apparent sharpness. Once again it has been my experience that porro prism binocular seem to be able to more easily provide greater detail to my eyes. Given a porro prism binocular and a roof prism binocular of equal quality levels I tend to find porro prism models just seem to be able to resolve the finest details more readily. This could certainly be related to the higher light transmission levels associated with the porro prism itself.

Apparent contrast is good on this model. I don’t get the impression of a “lifeless” image. Colors are very well saturated and overall color representation looks very neutral for my eyes.

Apparent sweet spot size is certainly acceptable with this model. When taken on its own merits I don’t find this particular optical characteristic objectionable. There aren’t any notably annoying edge performance artifacts present. The transition from the sweet spot to the “outer ring” is gradual and predominantly field curvature. My estimation to sweet spot size would be approximately 70% of the field of view.

Chromatic Aberration control is also certainly acceptable. Within the sweet spot my eyes detect practically none and, as it is with most binoculars, it tends to get gradually greater as you move out from the center of the field of view. On the edges I would call it moderate.

Ergonomics:

For my personal needs and preferences I find that the handling of the Savanna is certainly agreeable. I have no problem instantly finding a perfect grip to the binocular as soon as I pick it up. My preferred hand position is for both my pinky and ring finger to slide around the objective barrel while both my middle finger and pointer finger rest across the very wide focusing knob.

The binocular is very light in weight which can be beneficial in situations where “every ounce counts”. Manufacture-advertised weight for this model is 17.3 ounces. On the flip side of this though I have found that, depending on ergonomics, some binoculars can be “too light” in the sense that utilizing two hands can be required to get the steadiest image. This isn’t the case with the Savanna. Because of how securely I can grip this binocular and its position against my face the image is steady enough with just a one-handed grip. The rubber armoring is very smooth to the touch. There isn’t any notable ribbing or dimpling to the armor. This may cause the texture to feel “slick” under certain conditions. There are two raised “areas” on the underside of the prism housing which do have a slightly textured service. I tend to think of them as the opposite to thumb indents. I barely notice they are there when handling the binocular.

Build Quality:

I would rate the overall build quality of this model as very good. After going through my usual checklist of features to review I find almost all of them to be within my range of acceptance. Central hinge tension is firm but adjustable. Eyecup rotation in my opinion is very good. There aren’t any intermediate “click stops” between fully collapsed and fully extended but there is more than sufficient tension to keep the eyecups extended to the exact height you require. The feel of the rotation is very reassuring.

I did say “almost all” though in reference to the checklist. Two issues come to mind if I were to start nitpicking. The first has to do with the eyepiece bridge. Over the years I have owned many externally-focused porro prism binoculars as that is the typical design for the focusing mechanism. Some of those models have had varying degrees of flex in the eyepiece bridge. I don’t necessarily think that is a great concern here but I do feel the need to mention it in one sense. When attempting to adjust the diopter for my eyes I found it difficult at first until I realized what was happening. As I was applying rotational pressure to the diopter I was also pulling the eyepiece away from the binocular itself by flexing the bridge. After I realized it though I compensate for it and did not have any further issues with the eyepiece bridge flexing in regular use.

Second, when looking down the objective end of the binocular I noted two areas of exposed glue around the prism. Thankfully the glue is either clear or black in coloration so I am not concerned with it from a reflected light perspective. In addition to that the prism retention block is exposed metal and silver/gray in coloration. I am not sure if this contributes to light being reflected internally but it could lead to stray light issues under some specific conditions.

Conclusion:

I find that using the Opticron Savanna 8×30 is an enjoyable experience. Its ergonomics and overall image quality make it very comforting and easy to use. Overall image quality is very good for a relatively simple optical design. I have no reservations in saying that I could utilize this binocular on a regular basis for a variety of birding activities without feeling the need for more expensive optics. I think that is probably some of the highest praise that any binocular could receive.

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Opticron Verano BGA HD WP 8×32

Ergonomics and Design:

The Verano utilizes an “open bridge” design which is different from the traditional bridge design of the Countryman. Each design has its own particular appeal. Some consumers prefer one style over the other unilaterally while others tend to view each version of the two designs on a unit by unit basis. I tend to fall into the latter group. There are some models of each hinge design that feel more comfortable than others. I have found that other factors such as the length of the binocular, the diameter of the barrels and the specific placement of the hinges play a larger role in ergonomics rather than just the style of the hinge itself.

So how does the Verano play out in the grand scheme of things? Well, I find its open bridge design to be fairly unique. Some comments in the past have compared the overall housing to that of the Vixen Foresta roof and/or Theron Optics Wapiti of the same configuration. The three are alike to some extent but I can say that the Verano’s housing is slightly different. For one the binocular is shorter overall. In placing it next to my Sightron Blue Sky it is notably shorter. Going by memory here the Sightron was approximately the same length as the Vixen/Kenko/Theron.
The specific bridge placement is also unique.

Because of the shorter length of the binocular the bridges are slightly closer together than other models. I can still comfortably fit both my middle and ring fingers in between the bridges but it is a bit of a tighter fit than in comparison to something like the Sightron. There is also just a bit of barrel length left over after the second bridge for my pinky finger to rest on. Pointer finger placement on the focus knob is very comfortable and intuitive. There aren’t any thumb indents on the underside of the barrel.

So far we have addressed half of the “Human-binocular” connection in discussing hand placement and ergonomics. The other half of Eitan’s H-B connection is the eyecup design and usable level of eye relief associated with it. This is an interesting point of discussion with this binocular. The oculars are ever so slightly larger than average (an explanation for that will follow in the optics section). The eyecup diameter is slightly larger than average as a result. The edges of the eyecups are contoured though so the feel of them against the bridge of my nose is very comfortable. Eye relief is sufficient enough to allow me to see the full field of view (I don’t wear glasses) despite my larger than average nose.

I would consider this part of the connection acceptable but not perfect. The smaller diameter eyecup design of the Countryman actually allows me to place the eyecups past the bridge of my nose and further into my eye sockets. The feeling of this part of the connection with the Verano is similar to that of the Leupold McKinley I posted about last week but not to quite the same extent.

The focusing knob is of average size. Large enough to get a comfortable purchase but not overly large to the point where it becomes cumbersome. Focusing direction is counterclockwise from close focus to infinity. It takes approximately 1.5 turns to go from close focus to infinity. Focusing tension is very smooth but fast.

The rubber armoring is typical of what is found on many binoculars at and below this price point. Textured for a secure grip but not overly so to the point where dirt and dust would become trapped on it.

Mechanics:

As I mentioned in several recent reviews I look for a few key issues in a binoculars’ mechanics to get a handle on the mechanical quality of a given model. Issues such as central hinge tension, eyecup ease of use and design and focusing feel are examined. After looking at these issues, and others, with the Verano I was unable to find any fault with the binocular. The eyecup design specifically caught my eye as it appears that particular attention has been given to it. The design itself is not that much different than other conventional designs. It utilizes the typical “multi-stage” adjustment. There are two intermediate settings between fully collapsed and fully extended which should, theoretically, give the consumer the option of fine-tuning the eyecup setting for their individual eye relief requirements. The “feel” of the mechanism is exceptionally precise and it has a specific feel to it. In order to “lock” at each position the eyecup doesn’t just stop in a slot but rather “clicks”, for lack of a better word, back down into the specific distance. It has a very reassuring feel to it.

Optical Performance:

The optical performance of this model has given me a bit of a pause. As I have often mentioned in the past our subjective opinions are just that, subjective. They are dependent on a variety of issues. Not the least of which being other models we have on hand for comparison. When I originally looked at this model back in October I was also looking at several other Opticron models and a variety of other manufacturers’ units as well. In retrospect I don’t think I gave this model enough of a “fair shake”. I was more enamored, at the time, with the Countryman. I will get more into that below. But, for now, let’s just look at my general impressions of the optical performance of this model.

The first issue that strikes me, optically, about this model is the size of the sweet spot and/or its edge performance. Maybe I am looking for it now a bit more after doing the Leupold McKinley review. I cannot say. I don’t think that is the case though as I am still more than happy to use several of my own binoculars that have “less than perfect” edge performance. Still, I certainly cannot ignore this binocular’s performance in this area. So, on to the usual estimation of the size of the sweet spot….

I would estimate the apparent sweet spot to reach to close to 90% of the image. Now, keep in mind that I when I say “sweet spot” I am referring to the area of the image that appears to be in focus with the center of the field of view. I am not referring to issues such pincushion distortion or “rolling ball”. The two issues that typically affect sweet spot size are field curvature and/or astigmatism. Both lead to the edges of the field of view being out of focus in comparison to the center.

Now what makes this even more interesting though is that the last 10% of the image is ever so slightly out of focus with the center….and I do mean “ever so slightly”. Barely touching the focusing knob causes the edges to immediately snap into focus sharply. Using the diopter as a reference I only had to turn it between one and two positions in order for the edges to snap into focus.

I checked this several times because, depending on the circumstances, my eyes do tend to accommodate for this slight difference and the image appears sharp to the very edge. I have included a digi-binned picture through binocular of a tree outside my window to show some type of reference to this. As you could easily be determined at this point the slightly out of focus section of the image is the result of field curvature. I do feel the need to go back to some of my comments in relation to the eyepiece design at this point. The eyepiece is larger than average. As I have often found with binoculars utilizing a field flattener in their eyepiece design the ocular lenses are notably larger than “normal”. I do not know if field flatteners are utilized in the Verano but the large sweet spot and barely perceptible field curvature is most certainly the result of the larger than average ocular lenses.
Other aspects of this binocular’s optical performance are all above average. Apparent sharpness is excellent. I have no issues resolving the finest details on various objects at various distances. Apparent brightness is above average compared to other 8×32 models I have on hand. Apparent contrast is above average but I would not call it exceptional. Color representation appears neutral to my eyes. I see no hints of either a warm or cold color bias.
Chromatic Aberration is well controlled within the sweet spot. Outside of the sweet spot it is noticeable. I would rate it at “medium” in reference to other models I have on hand. The “purple band” that becomes visible on high contrast objects in the upper portion of the image is wider than what I have seen in some similar models. I have not found this distracting at this point but still felt the need to comment on it.

The last optical characteristic that I feel the need to mention is the “depth of focus”. Depth of focus, for discussions sake in this review, refers to how long (in distance and duration) the image retains “perfect focus” for my eyes as the focus knob is rotated in either direction. My eyes want to tell me that the focusing speed of this binocular is fast. The image is either in focus or instantly out of focus which translates into a shallow “depth of focus”. (Apparent depth of field, in comparison, appears no different than any other 8×32 model I have on hand and might actually be slightly above average for my eyes.) I don’t feel as if I can totally write-it-off as the result of fast focusing speed though, as illustrated above, the distance required to go from close focus to infinity is almost 1.5 turns. I don’t consider that “fast” by any stretch of the imagination. I would call it “average” in my experience. I am left to consider what else might then be affecting this issue.

One possible explanation would be the focusing tension of this model. As I commented on above, it is smooth in feel but very fast. I don’t want to call it “loose” because that gives the impression that it isn’t precise. It is precise.
Another possibility, since I ran into a similar concern with the Leupold McKinley, is that the shallower apparent depth of focus is somehow tied into the eyepiece design. Both binoculars have larger oculars with very large sweet spots and very good edge performance. Could the two issues be somehow related? I don’t have an answer and would leave that up to individuals more studied in optical design than I.

Countryman BGA HD versus Verano BGA HD shootout:

I feel the need to do a direct comparison here for a variety of reasons. First and foremost these two models represent some of the highest performing 8×32 roof prism binoculars that Opticron offers. Only the Imagic BGA SE “sits” at roughly the same price level as these two. The listed specifications for both are surprisingly similar. Both are around 21 ounces. Both have 8 degree (420 foot) fields of view. Both utilize Opticron’s “Oasis” prism coating. The only additional characteristics listed for the Verano that I see listed are “PGK prisms”, an “F-type” multi-coating and a polycarbonate body. Advertised eye relief levels are similar with the Countryman listed as having slightly more at 19 mm versus 17 mm for the Verano.

So what are my impressions of the two optically and ergonomically?

Tough call. Let me start off by saying that I enjoy using each. Each has its strong points. From an ergonomic perspective I find myself still preferring the Countryman BGA HD. I think this is for a variety of reasons. Going by Eitan’s “human-binocular” interface points I find that my hands get more of a grip, surprisingly with the traditional hinge design. I believe part of this is the rubber texture as my fingers get a solid grip across the central hinge. I think it is also because more of the barrel extends beyond the traditional hinge design so my pinky feels more secure wrapped around the barrel. The second bridge in the open bridge design of the Verano does not allow for much area to rest my pinky on, not to mention actually grip around the barrel.
The other point of contact between the user and the binocular is the eyecups. The Countryman wins here too, at least for my facial dimensions. Since the eyecups are narrower in design they fit more comfortably with my face. They are also more contoured than the Verano so the contact point is more comfortable.

Optically there are some subtle differences and some not so subtle ones. The sweet spot is larger on the Verano and the edge performance is slightly better. It is hard to put percentages on these impressions but if the Verano is sharp to 90% of the image then the Countryman is sharp to 80%. Field curvature is also the “culprit” with the out of focus area on the Countryman and it is to a slightly worse degree than that of the Verano (maybe 2-3 diopters as opposed to the 1-2 of the Verano).

I can detect no difference in apparent brightness or apparent sharpness. Apparent contrast favors the Verano, again, ever so slightly…possibly the result of the “F-type” multicoating.

Chromatic aberration control, particularly outside of the sweet spot favors the Countryman. I am left wondering if this is the result of the specific eyepiece design. Could it be possible that in an effort to obtain the larger sweet spot and better edge performance the sacrifice is slightly higher CA outside of the sweet spot? This seems likes a plausible explanation.
Another notable difference, at least to my eyes, is the appearance of a larger apparent field of view with the Verano. Notice that I did say “appearance”. The reason I use this term specifically is because in a side by side comparison I see no actual difference in the true field of view. Both binoculars appear similar in the “amount of real estate” they allow the user to see. However, my guess is that the larger sweet spot and better edge performance of the Verano give the impression of a larger apparent field of view.

Lastly, the issue of the focusing speed and tension on both models. I have no reservations in saying that I prefer the Countryman in this area. The focusing speed is actually a hair faster in the Countryman in the sense that it goes from close focus to infinity in about 1 1/3 turns versus the 1 ½ of the Verano. But, there is more tension to the Countryman’s focuser (though it is just as smooth). That extra tension gives the user more of a sense of control. Another potential result of this difference is the perception of better depth of focus with the Countryman.

So, which one would I choose? I think it would depend on the application. From an optical perspective if my intended application allowed me to ignore the focus (thinking of observing distant raptors as they fly along the horizon) then I think I would prefer the Verano. I wouldn’t have to worry about the depth of focus and the larger sweet spot would make spotting and following the bird of prey fairly easy. On the other hand if I was planning to focus more often then I think the Countryman would be my choice as I prefer the focusing tension and depth of focus of that model.

Optically I guess I have to give the Verano the nod. I do that grudgingly because I find myself preferring the Countryman overall both because of the ergonomics and the personal fit of the eyepieces. The slightly better contrast and larger sweetspot of the Verano nudge it just past the Countryman in overall optics score.

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Opticron Countryman BGA HD WP 8×32

The Opticron Countryman BGA HD WP 8×32

Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? That was my first reaction when presented with this model. Actually it was my first reaction when observing most of the lineup from the British-based company Opticron. It has made it a little difficult at times to keep track of their various models as they tend to have upgrades to certain models or the debuting of a new model with very similar names. Difficult to remember in that sense, yes, but not difficult to remember in terms of handling and performance.

That is pretty much how I would like to start the review of this particular binocular. I was first presented with the opportunity to try this binocular out when I attended a birding expo down at Cape May, NJ this past October. While there I spent a great deal of time looking at a large variety of the models that Opticron offers here in the United States. Out of their large selection (think along the lines of Bushnell in that sense) I found a few models that really turned my fancy….the 7×36 Classic BGA, the Discovery WP PC 8×50 and the Countryman BGA HD WP 8×32. (For the sake of brevity at this point let us just refer to it at the Countryman 8×32. )

I want to change my usual review format up a bit and just break this binocular down in terms of likes and dislikes. So, what is to like about this model?

- Size/handling
- Field of View
- Sweetspot size
- Edge performance
- Apparent Brightness
- CA control

The overall size, weight and ergonomics in general of this binocular are very much to my liking. I have fairly large, but not overly so, hands so I like a binocular that I can really wrap my hands around. Many of the current 8×32 models on the market are either too short or the barrels are a bit too narrow to really suit my tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I can use them but they are not what I would call “ideal” in terms of overall ergonomics. The Countryman 8×32 though has just enough length for my hands to fit comfortably on plus just enough “girth” for me to get a solid purchase on the barrel. You can see what I am referring to in the pictures below. Overall weight for this model is listed at 21.7 ounces. This represents a “middle of the range” figure for the various 8×32 models that I am familiar with.

The field of view is a very respectable 420 foot at 1000 yards. Other 8×32 models at a variety of price points reach this same level but none of them exceed it (roofs in reference only). What makes this figure particularly attractive though is how it is coupled with other optical performance characteristics. Many of the less expensive 8x32s on the market are able to achieve this wide of a field of view by sacrificing edge performance or the size of the sweet spot in focus with the center. The more expensive 8x32s are able to achieve this same field of view but with better optical performance in these areas through the use of complicated eyepiece designs that significantly increase the cost of the instrument. These more sophisticated designs require more lenses in the design to achieve this. More lenses means more weight and higher quality coatings to compensate for the potential light loss per each glass surface.

So you may then wonder how the Countryman fairs against other models with similar levels of field of view. Well, against its less expensive competitors it has a flatter field, a wider sweet spot and better edge performance. My estimate as to the size of the apparent sweet spot would be close to 80-85% of the field of view. The remaining 15-20% suffers from a slight amount of field curvature. I say slight in terms of the degree. My eyes, depending on distance and intended object of interest, are able to actually accommodate for it at times. The subsequent result is a sweet spot size that comes very close to reaching the very edges of the field of view. Pretty impressive considering how wide the field of view is in the first place.

The next question is how it compares with the “top dog” 8x32s on the market. At the moment I don’t have any of the most expensive/highest performing roofs on hand. At the time I was originally introduced to this model though I had the opportunity to compare it to what many consider the best 8×32 roof prism binocular on the market, the Swarovski 8×32 Swarovision. I will cut to the chase here…the Swarovski is a better binocular in a couple of optical areas. It has what I would consider “true” edge to edge sharpness and the contrast level is the best I have ever seen on a binocular. In all of the other optical characteristics that I usually look for I could find very little difference between these two models. Yes, the Countryman is that good.

It has been my experience that color representation/bias and apparent brightness go very much hand in hand. Binoculars that have a neutral color bias tend to appear brighter to most individuals. That is the case here with the Countryman 8×32. Compared to my beloved Sightron SII Blue Sky the Countryman appears slightly brighter, in my opinion, partly because the Countryman has a more neutral color representation. The Sightron has a bit of a warm, reddish/yellow, bias that is only readily apparent in comparison to something with a more neutral color tone. I believe part of this color bias is the result of the type of coating utilized on the roof prism itself. It has again been my experience that binoculars utilizing silver on the prisms almost always tend to have a warm bias. Binoculars with dielectric coatings tend to have a different color representation and typically are more neutral overall. One could argue that the light transmission levels associated with each of these coatings has a great deal to do with what I perceive as a color bias. I will leave that discussion for another time. The Countryman is advertised as utilizing Opticron’s “Oasis” coating which, though nowhere explicitly stated, I take to mean a dielectric coating as it is utilized on several of their more expensive models even the Aurora. Apparent brightness is certainly brighter than average as a result.

I also mentioned CA (chromatic aberration) as one of the areas that I felt the Countryman did very well in. I am susceptible to it in optics that display it. It does not bother me to the extent it may bother some individuals but I can see it when it is presented in sufficient amounts. Inside of the sweet spot of this binocular CA appears relatively absent when I view high contrast objects. Outside of the sweet spot in that small area of field curvature CA is noticeable but not excessive. The result is that the view through these binoculars looks very “clean” to the eye. Tied in with CA control, in my opinion, is apparent sharpness. The apparent sharpness level on this binocular is excellent. Whether it is looking at the bark of a tree 30 feet away or staring at a cell phone tower over a mile away I do not feel as if I am missing any level of detail when looking through this binocular.

So, we then come to inevitable nitpicks about this model. I only have one at the moment, the focusing tension. Both units I have had the opportunity to try display the same feel. Before getting into this in detail let me describe the focus in general. The close focus to infinity measurement is approximately 1 and 1/3rd turns, a good speed in my experience. Focusing tension “overall” is quite good. If I am quickly focusing from something up close to something at a great distance then the focusing tension is very smooth and precise. However, when fine tuning the focus on a specific object there is a bit of “stickiness” to the feel of the tension. It doesn’t feel as if it is a quality control issue so much as a design compromise. Keep in mind this is a relatively new unit. I am left wondering if that “stickiness” will eventually work itself out as the lubricant moves more evenly along the focusing mechanism.

Truthfully, that is my only nitpick. I cannot find much else to nitpick on in terms of the binocular itself at least in terms of my personal tastes. I haven’t really examined the accessories at this point but will be sure to comment on them in future posts in this thread.

Lastly, for those looking for some specific characteristics I present the following:

- Close focus is listed at 9.2 feet. My eyes allow me to focus it down to 7 feet.

- Focusing direction is counterclockwise from close focus to infinity.

- The eyecups have one indent between fully collapsed and fully extended.

- Listed IPD range is 56-73.

- diopter adjustment is on the center focusing wheel and is a “pop-out, twist, pop-in” style of adjustment.

All for now. Pics below.

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Opticron HR WP 8×42

I recently had the opportunity to pick up one of the Opticron binocular models recently…the HR WP 8×42. This particular binocular has been on my “radar” for well over a year now for a very specific reason. It is one of only two internal focus porro prism binoculars currently available for the consumer market. I had difficulty until recently getting my hands on a pair of these simply because Opticron products were not available to those of us living on “this side of the pond”.

That changed recently and Opticron is now available at three dealers/retailers here in states….

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

I have owned the two other versions of the internal focus porro prism design in the past (Leupold Cascade and Minox BD BP). All three of the models share practically identical optical performance characteristics with some differences externally especially in reference to the Minox. Let me break it down in the usual review format…..

Optical Performance:

The HR WP has many positive optical performance characteristics that users will find appealing. For one the size of the sweet spot of image in focus and free of distortions is very large. I would estimate that roughly 85-90% of the field of view is as sharp as the geometric center of the image. Chromatic aberration, color fringing on high contrast objects, is relatively well controlled within that sweet spot and only marginally noticeable in that outer 10-15%. The image also displays only a small percentage of field curvature in that outer portion of the image.

In addition, the image is bright and filled with contrast. Porro prism lovers can appreciate the wonderfully bright image that many binoculars of this design can provide. Comparing it directly to several 8×42 roof prism models that I currently have on hand reveals an image that is brighter in all lighting conditions. Color representation appears to be very neutral. I detect no bias towards either the warm or cold side of the color spectrum.

Most notably the binocular displays a very pronounced “3D effect” common with the porro prism design. The difference with this binocular though is that the effect seems more pronounced than other porro prism models I currently have on hand. I believe this to be the result of two other key optical qualities of note. For one, the previously mentioned sweet spot size. The larger than average sweet spot means that more objects are in focus and, therefore, the 3D effect is evident across a larger portion of the image. Second, and probably the only optical area where this model is lower than average, is the narrow field of view. At approximately 336 feet it is definitely on the “narrow side” of what is currently available. Five or six years ago it was common to find many 8×42 binoculars, especially roof prism models, with a field of view in this range. Since that time though I would estimate the average field of view for binoculars of this configuration, and at a similar price point, to be closer to 390 feet with some even reaching into the 420 foot plus range.

The question in my mind then is whether or not this is detrimental to the overall viewing experience provided to the user. In general I would say “no” it is not. My reasoning is fairly simple. Though the difference in field of view at 1000 yards could be as much as 90 feet the difference is not as substantial at distances that most of us tend to use the binoculars for. Using simple division the difference at 30 or so yards would only be about 9 feet. At closer distances the difference shrinks even further.

That would seem like a fairly minor difference with some notable understandings. One, with the true field of view being narrower, the apparent field of view is also on the smaller side…around 51 degrees. Second, with the narrow field of view and the porro prism design there is a bit of an issue with the close focusing distance. You can focus down to about 8 feet with this particular unit but the image overlap isn’t great enough to not receive a bit of a double image with the design. Translation: If you are looking for a butterfly binocular or to examine insects at close distances then I would probably suggest a roof prism model.

Ergonomics

I have to say that I really enjoy the ergonomics of this model. Ergonomically it appears to be identical to that of the Leupold Cascade porro and I love the ergonomics of that model as well. There are three issues I want to comment on when expanding on my favorable comments with this model. One is the contouring of the housing. Unlike many porro prism models the “bend” of the housing where the base of your fingers typically fall is very curved and the rubber armor is well textured. It feels natural and relaxed to have your hands fall upon it. It is somewhat similar to the Nikon SE 8×32 in this regard.

Second, though the length of the barrels is not “long”, it does appear to be the perfect length for your fingers to wrap around and still have a bit of room beyond that. Because of this you get a very firm purchase on the body of the binocular without having your last finger fall, accidentally, over the objective lens.

Third, the focusing mechanism is butter smooth. There is no “play” in the feel of it and it turns exceptionally smoothly without any bumps in either direction. Probably the only negative in this area is the fact that it is a fairly slow focus. I have to check the focusing speed but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is close to two full turns from close focus to infinity. The difference with this model though is that because of the excellent depth of field and the pronounced 3D effect I don’t seem to be as objectionable to the slower focus.

Fit and Finish

I have no objections to the fit and finish of this particular unit. Everything functions smoothly….diopter, focusing feel, central hinge, etc… The armoring appears to be well applied with no signs of bubbling or pealing. Speaking of the diopter though….I forgot to mention…as with the other internal focus models…the diopter adjusts the left eyepiece and not the right. I wish I had known that bit of information long ago when I first purchased the Leupold Cascade version. I cannot tell you the amount of frustration the first time that I attempted to adjust the diopter for my eyes.