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?
– 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.