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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.