In my never ending quest to find the perfect binocular I have ventured far from the mainstream binocular market. The company name “Sightron” will carry little recognition for most birders but those in the US hunting population are very familiar with their optics’ products as they have been producing high quality optics for many years. Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about Sightron other than to see occasional posts in reference to their riflescope products over on 24hourcampfire. I never imagined that they produced binoculars not to mention one that I would end up trying.
What led me to them was a bit of a roundabout journey. Many evenings I surf ebay, amazon and various other places around the net in search of “good deals” on more well-known optics. You might be surprised though with what you find if you type in “8×42 or 8×32 binoculars” in a search engine or two instead of just typing “Nikon” or “Bushnell”. It was just such a search that led me to find many of the other bins I have tried in the last three or four months.
That search did not initially lead me to the Sightron model referenced in the title of this thread. It actually lead me to the Vixen Foresta 8×32 DCF HR open-bridge model. I had considered buying them but $329 was a little steep for what I was looking for at the time. I did find a nice review of them over on allbinos.com which, in turn, led me to the Kenko version of them (Ultraview HP 8×32). $239 looked better than $329 plus the allbinos review of them was equally positive. I decided to order one. Sadly though, after I placed the order from Amazon, I was informed that they were out of stock with no mention of when they would be back in stock. I sat back then and considered my options.
I am not sure how that led me to the Sightron SII “Blue Sky” 8×32 but I did eventually find it. It appears to have all of the same specs and features as the other two and now the price was down to $189.99. It didn’t appear to offer as aesthetically pleasing of an exterior as the other two but how does that phrase go about beggars and choosers?
So I ordered one and it arrived early last week. I have had plenty of time since then to give it a try and compare it to a variety of other binoculars I have on hand. In truth my expectations were not high because I have run into a variety of binocular “downfalls” that I have not posted here on the forum. I expected this to be just another journey out of the binocular mainstream. I was expecting average quality control and image quality along with mediocre handling. Boy was I surprised by what I received.
Let me start off with a rather shocking statement….this is currently the best overall 8×32 I have tried. Now, take a step back and consider what I just posted. I do not post this lightly and please do keep in mind that I do own the 8×32 Nikon SE and have owned the likes of the 8×32 FL, 8×32 Swaro EL, the 8×32 Meopta Meostar and the 8×30 Nikon EII. So, then you might ask how anyone in their right mind would consider a $190, non-ED, Phillipine made roof prism glass to be preferrable to all of these others? Well, there is an easy answer to that and a complicated one. The easy answer is price versus performance. The more complicated one is that this binocular simply provides the best combination of optical performance, handling and quality control for the price that I have yet to handle. So then the question becomes how does it stack up to what I have on hand.
Well, I do have three 8×30-something porros and one other 8×32 roof on hand to compare them to. I am going to immediately dismiss the Celestron Nature 8×30, the Ultima DX 8×32 and the Dakota 8×32 Elite. Each is a fine instrument in their own right but only the 8×32 Nikon SE is direct competition to the Sightron SII 8×32. How can I make such a statement? Well the answer is fairly simple…..
The ergonomics for my hands are very close to perfect. This is an open-bridge design which means that it is very easy for your hands, and my hands in particular, to comfortably wrap themselves around this binocular. Hand placement is extremely critical in the perceived ergonomic comfort level of any binocular. With this particular design my fingers effortlessly slide between the hinges. I can even reposition my hand slightly to allow the pinky and ring finger to sit comfortably on the forward bridge connection for an even more stable image. This stability adds to the viewing comfort level of this binocular.
In addition to hand position the weight of this binocular plays a major role in the perceived comfort level of the handling of this binocular. It has a listed weight of 19 ounces which is average to slightly below average for most 8×32 roof prism models currently on the market. That isn’t too unusual but then consider that the 19 oz is distributed over a 5 inch plus frame and you can understand why the binocular feels so light in your hands. The open-bridge design only further enhances this feel.
So, then the question becomes, is there anything not to like ergonomically about this binocular. Yes, there is one issue. Sightron chose to be employ a bumped-out extrusion for their nameplate near the eyepiece end of the barrel. This provides the only “less than perfect” feel to the binocular. Neither the Vixen nor the Kenko has this little “bump out” to the barrel so I would imagine the ergonomics on these two models to be even better.
In addition, though I do not find the eyecup edges to be objectionable a slightly more rounded design is more comfortable in my experience. This would be another area where one of the other two versions of this binocular might fare better.
How about focus?
Well I find the focusing speed to be ideal. It has very good depth of focus. The focus is smooth in both directions but just a tad stiff to be entirely “perfect” in my experience. However, I found something interesting that is often overlooked. When focusing to the far end of focusing knob range in either direction the focus comes to a very abrupt stop. You can almost feel the focus hit a metal “stop” in both directions. There is absolutely no “spongy feeling” in either direction. It is easily the most positive feeling I have ever felt in a focusing knob. The focus is also extremely precise. The image jumps out at you when you reach perfect focus and then it stays in focus for a decent distance as the focusing knob is turned in either direction. Translation? Excellent depth of focus.
Note: The focus is counterclockwise to infinity.
Now the fun part the……
Where to start? Well, as I mentioned, the image snaps wonderfully easily into sharp focus without having to move the focusing knob back and forth. There is no problem finding perfect focus in this model. The image itself is bright for an 8×32 model with very good contrast. Colors are very well represented, rich and well saturated. Not quite the equivalent of the 8×32 SE but above average in my opinion. I am going to attribute part of this to the slightly warm (red/purple) color bias of the image. As is often the case this is not readily apparent until you compare it with a binocular that offers either a neutral color representation or one with a cold (blue/green) bias.
The size of the sweet spot is larger than average. In casual use it almost appears as if it reaches very close to the outer edges of the image. Under careful inspection I would estimate the sweet spot size to be close to 80% of the image. The outer portion which is out of focus appears to be primarily field curvature as I can easily refocus the edges with a slight turn of the focusing knob.
As I mentioned the apparent sharpness is excellent. It comes exceptionally close to rivaling the 8×32 SE and the ZR 8×43 ED3. That genuinely surprises me as the this is a non-ED roof prism binocular. Color fringing is very controlled in the sweet spot and only marginally noticeable in the area of the image out of focus.
The field of view is advertised as 7.5 degrees (394 feet) and comparing it to the 8×32 SE this seems to be the case. This is certainly not the widest field of view in an 8×32 and should probably be considered “average” overall. The interesting part is when you couple this size of the field of view with the other aspects of the binocular’s optical performance (size of sweetspot, CA control, etc…) the image is extremely relaxed and quite natural.
Another optical performance area where this binocular seems to shine is in its straylight control. I have tried to push this binocular under conditions which should force it to display some aspect of ghosting, flare or other straylight conditions and it excels. Internal baffling and design seem to be very well thought out and extremely effective.
Is this binocular “perfect”? No, certainly not. However, it displays exceptionally high performance levels in just about every area I could think of examining. If it wasn’t for that little “bump out” in the body I would almost call this binocular “close to perfect” in terms of the total package. One cannot overlook the most important fact and the one that separates it from just about any competition…the price. Finally, a wonderfully high-performing 8×32 binocular that truly anyone can afford.