It has been awhile since I did any reviews. Part of the reason is because I have been busy doing a variety of family activities and the other part is simply because there haven’t been any interesting models in my current price range (note: I have had an order in through binoculars.com for a Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 since early June and they have yet to arrive at the retailer)
A few weeks ago I was surfing Cloudy Nights when I noticed that someone posted a link to these Zhumell Nova EDs. They were/are on clearance for between ($91 and $101). They attraced me for the obvious reasons….price, the use of ED glass, the wide field of view and the relatively compact body design for a 42 mm binocular.
I do remember noticing them a few years ago on the same site and I believe the regular retail price for them then was $229. So, I ordered a pair just to see how they perform/handle.
They arrived a little over a week ago and I have been using them daily in conjunction with several other models I have on hand. Those binoculars are either comparable in price or comparable in optical configuration (Sightron SII Blue Sky 8×32, Bushnell Legend 8×42 (original model) and the Leupold McKinley BX-4 8×42).
The Nova EDs come with functional accessories (carrying case, rainguard, padded neoprene neckstrap and objective covers). The last is of the internal compression variety typically found on many camera lenses.
Ergonomics and design:
The Nova ED is a relatively short 42 mm binocular approximately 1/4 of an inch shorter than the Bushnell Legend and almost identical in this area to the Sightron 8x32s. Advertised weight is 26 ounces which I find to be accurate based on feel. The focusing knob is average in size and comparable to the Sightron in diameter. Minimum close focus is a hair under 6 feet. Close focus to infinity is just under 1 full turn with about an extra 1/4 turn past infinity in travel. Focusing tension is very smooth with no backlash or gaps whatsoever. Diopter adjustment is located directly behind the focusing knob with a small raised bump to indicate specific setting.
The eyecups rotate out in the typical fashion found on most binoculars today. They have one intermittent stop between fully collapsed and fully extended. I find them average in feel and in construction. Both the ocular and objective lenses are coated in the typical purple/green coloration. Internal baffling appears present immediately in front of the prisms but not on the first inch or so behind the objective lenses. I did not note any bright, non-blackened surfaces while looking down each barrel.
Eye relief is listed as 17 mm and most of that is effective eye relief as the ocular lens surface is only recessed ever so slightly from the eyecup surface. Field of view is advertised as 426 feet (8.2 degrees) and comparing that with the McKinleys it seems accurate.
Let me start off by mentioning something that almost immediately jumped out at me when using these for the first day or two. They reminded me of some other bins in terms of the overall optical impression….speaking primarily of the level and type of distortion present coupled with the size of the sweet spot. They remind me a bit of the Zen Ray Vista and the Vortex Diamondback. Both of those models always gave me a bit of a relaxed feel simply because the sweet spot appears relatively large and the transition from the sweet spot to the edge is very gradual and not distracting. The same performance applies here except there is very good apparent sharpness inside the true sweet spot. CA is also very well controlled inside that “super sweet spot” with a very gradual transition outside to the very edge of the image.
I would estimate sweet spot size to be between 70-75% with the area outside of it being some field curvature but predominantly astigmatism as I can’t refocus it completely.
Color representation is relatively neutral with an ever so slight green/yellow bias. It is only evident when comparing them directly to the Sightrons (reddish) and the Leupold (neutral to slightly warm). Contrast is good but not very good or excellent. I would rate it slightly behind the Sightron but slightly ahead of the Legend.
Apparent sharpness is very good within the sweetspot. Again I would rate it slightly behind the Sightron but ahead of the Legend. Apparent brightness is average. The image doesn’t appear dim by any stretch of the imagination but when comparing them to the Leupold and the Sightron I get the impression of slightly less brightness. This could be the result of the slightly lower contrast and or a lower light transmission level. If I had to hazard a guess I would say that this is either the result of less effective multicoatings or possibly an aluminum, instead of silver, prism coating. Again, most of these performance characteristics are only evident in direct comparison to the other models. As a stand-alone product none of these issues are particularly evident.
I really only have one particularly considering the price. The diopter knob has proved troublesome at times. Once set it doesn’t move on its own but rather is easily bumped from the desired location. Since it is located so close to the focusing knob I have found myself occasionally turning it when attempting to turn the focus.
For under $100 I don’t see how you can really go wrong with this model. I think it was competitive at its original price point with many of the other $200-$225 models out there. At the $100 price point it doesn’t really have any competition. Judging by information from over on Cloudy Nights there are approximately 70 pairs of these left so I would suggest grabbing one as a solid backup binocular, good starter binocular or even a car bin.
Pics to follow. Give me some time to upload them.