Porro prism, 7X40 and 10X40
Porro prism binoculars are relatively economical. The Kowa 7X40s
offer among the longest eye relief (22.5 mm.) among Porro prism
binoculars for glasses wearers. They have an especially slip-proof
Kowa says will decline warranty service on grey market products,
but they report no such problems to date.
A really sharp binocular
Roof prism, 8X42 and 10X42, each the same size, shape and weight.
Venturers deliver a bright, clear picture. They're waterproof, and
like all the top roof prism binoculars, they are nitrogen purged,
nitrogen filled, and phase corrected. The non-slip texture and soft
armoring feel nice in the hand.
panel of judges praised the Venturer's edge-to-edge sharpness, the
equal of Swarovski's and Leica's. Its fast focus also received favorable
mention. About half the judges however, found it a bit heavy. (At
34.6 ounces, it's one of the weightiest roof prisms we tested.)
twist up or down, so you can dial the exact amount of eye relief
that your eyes and glasses need. Unusual among 10-power binoculars,
the 10X42 model has enough eye relief even for eyeglasses that ride
a long way from the eye, allowing the user to see the whole picture.
Close focus goes down to 9.6 feet. The diopter adjustment locks
so that it won't accidentally get knocked off its setting.
more about Nikon Venturer LX.
Porro prism, 8X32, 10X42, and 12X50
tested only the 10X42. Although our judges found it less sharp and
not so close focusing as the 10X42 Venturer LX, we still rated it
one of the best Porro prism binoculars. It is water resistant but
not waterproof. It has good eye relief (17.4 mm.)
Nikon's unique "tactile protein rubber armor" provides a pleasant
touch and sure grip. The instrument we tested had a particularly
smooth-turning focus knob. You can buy a tripod adapter from Nikon
Nikon promises to provide the original owner of Venturer LX or Superior
E binoculars with free repair or replacement for any defects in
manufacturing or materials for 25 years. Nikon representatives cautioned
that customers should buy from an authorized Nikon dealer and obtain
a USA warranty document, without which the product is not covered
by warranty and will not be repaired.
more about Nikon Superior E.
Optic Optolyth Alpin
Porro prism, 8X40 and 10X50
Optolyth is a good basic binocular. It has rubber armoring, a pleasant,
sure grip and a slender, easy-to-hold shape. It focuses closer (10
feet) than most Porro prism binoculars. It is nitrogen filled and
water resistant but should not be submerged.
Limited lifetime warranty. However, Deutsche Optik will charge for
repairs to Optolyth instruments, which have been purchased through
the gray market or otherwise not sold by Deutsche Optik. To qualify
for warranty service, such instruments must be sent to Germany.
A remarkable bargain
Roof prism, 8X42 and 10X42
the judges loved the new waterproof Pentaxes. Going by optical quality
and nicety of design, you'd have to class these DCF WPs with the
top roof prisms on the market. Nitrogen purged and nitrogen filled,
they withstand submersion in water to three feet deep. With phase
corrected lenses, they deliver the contrast and brightness usually
encountered only in the top roof prism binoculars on the market.
biggest surprise is the price, which is just a bit over half the
cost of comparable binoculars from Leica, Nikon, and Swarovski.
So why not buy the Pentaxes and save a bundle? Good question!
DCF WPs meets the criteria for excellent engineering details: light
weight (26.8 ounces), pleasant non-slip surface, pull-out eyecups,
and a snug diopter adjustment that clicks to each increment. Optical
qualities are excellent also. The binoculars focus down to about
8 feet, and they give a bright, clear image.
Pentaxes appeared to equal the sharpness of the Swarovskis, Leicas,
and the Nikon Venturers in the center of the field of view. Only
when we used the USAF optical resolution chart to compare the binoculars
critically in side-by-side tests did we detect a difference: in
the extreme outer limits of the field, the Swarovskis, Leicas, and
Nikons provided higher resolving power. However, a birder normally
places the bird in the center of the field of view, where the human
eye enjoys the greatest resolution.
think these Pentaxes issue a serious challenge to the leaders of
the industry and prove that it's possible to make an outstanding
waterproof, phase-corrected binocular at a moderate price.
The warranty against manufacturing defects does not expire when
the binoculars change hands. Furthermore, if a Pentax binocular
arrives for a minor repair job such as repair of loose prisms, missing
or loose eyepieces, loose objectives, broken strap lugs, or broken
diopter adjustment, or for collimation or realignment of optics,
Pentax policy is to repair it under warranty without charge. Major
repairs jobs, such as scratched lenses or smashed binoculars, or
evidencing neglect or deliberate damage, are repaired for a fee.
caution is that Pentax does not cover binoculars purchased from
gray market sources.
Porro prism, 8X44 and 10X42
many Porro prism binoculars, these UltraLites work for people who
wear glasses. With 21 and 22 mm. of eye relief, they are among the
best on this score. They're compact, with a soft, pleasant covering,
easy to hold, and relatively lightweight (21 and 25 ounces).
Porro prism, 8X40
binocular came late and was not seen by most of the judges, but
those who saw it liked the bright image it provided and the unusually
wide field of view. Its covering has a pleasant finish and is easy
SLC, nearly perfect
Roof prism, 8X30, 10X42, 10X50, and 7X42
are wonderful binoculars that have earned the respect of birders
over the years. They have impeccable optical qualities: waterproof,
nitrogen purged and nitrogen filled, and phase corrected.
also have outstanding fit-and-feel characteristics, including an
easy-grip rubber shell, locking diopter adjustment that won't get
knocked off its setting, and unlosable objective lens caps that
attach to the binoculars.
of our glasses-wearing judges could hardly put the 10X50s (the tall
ones in the photo) down to test anything else, because he loved
their luminous brightness and the full picture that they afforded
him. He'd never found a 10-power binocular that worked so well with
his glasses. To enjoy that view he was willing to carry the 41.6-ounce
judges also praised the optical quality of the 10X42 and 7X42 SLCs.
These binoculars weigh in at 30.7 and 33.5 ounces, respectively,
and such weights are not unusual in binoculars with such superior
resolution and brightness.
Swarovski 8X30s, however, which weigh just 19 ounces, excited particular
admiration and envy. This gem won the top marks among the medium-to-small
binoculars. Although the 8X30s give a brilliant picture in daylight,
the image dims at dusk, because the exit pupil is only 3.7 mm.
oddity of this model is the focus knob's placement at the far end
of the central shaft. One birder commented that she likes being
able to focus with her ring finger, leaving her index and middle
fingers free to stabilize the binoculars. By the way, the 8X30s
cost considerably less than other Swarovskis.
New standard in birding binoculars
Roof prism, 8.5X 42 and 10X42
has now outdone itself. Several years ago, Swarovski invited a team
of world-class birders, including Pete Dunne and the late Claudia
Wilds, to meet with Swarovski engineers and dream up the ideal binocular
for birders. Taking the suggestions back to Austria, the engineers
designed a brand new binocular, the Swarovski EL, waterproof, light
in weight, close focusing, phase corrected, and with superb optics.
you pick up these binoculars you immediately notice their remarkable
lightness, due in part to the space-age, lightweight magnesium housing
inside. Your fingers wrap around the pleasant-to-touch barrels,
tucking into the big hollow space between them: Swarovski has eliminated
the bridge, further reducing the weight and giving the binoculars
a distinctive silhouette. You'll notice that you can easily hold
these binoculars with one hand.
enable the birder to focus finely, the designers built 2-1/2 turns
on the focus wheel between 8 feet and infinity. All but one turn
of that, however, takes place between 8 and 18 feet. While not as
fast to focus as the Nikon Venturers, you get more fine control.
It's a tradeoff of benefits and a matter of personal preference.
the suggested retail price of the EL Swarovskis is comparable to
top roof prism binoculars, the Swarovski ELs may end up costing
more, because they are not often discounted so heavily as the other
brands. However, if money is not a controlling factor, the Swarovski
ELs must be seen before any other top binoculars is chosen. These
glasses show what Swarovski can do when it sets out to capture the
top of the mountain.
Swarovski's respected limited lifetime warranty covers any and all
failures of workmanship or material. Officially, the warranty applies
only to original owner. However, Swarovski enjoys a superb reputation
for binoculars warranty service that goes far beyond what is promised.
more about the new Swarovski ELs.
Rocky S, made in Germany
Roof prism, 8X42 and 10X42
trim, relatively lightweight binocular offers many smart engineering
details. It's rubber-armored, pressurized with dry nitrogen, and
waterproof to 16 feet. The objective lens caps are attached but
removable by means of a clever clasp. If you don't wear glasses,
you can extend the eyecups, which then wrap around to block light
from the sides. The strap attachment is ingenious.
8X42s offer a remarkable 23 mm. of eye relief. The focus knob turns
smoothly, with no slop or glitchiness. There is a tripod mount.
The binoculars withstand temperatures from 176 degrees Fahrenheit
to minus 40 degrees. The carrying case also holds a field guide.
Rocky S is not phase corrected, and our judges found the resolution
lower than that of the Pentax CDF WPs. However, these are good,
Limited warranty against manufacturer's defect lasts for 30 years.
The warranty survives change of ownership, provided the sales receipts
including that of the original purchase are provided.
Still great after all these years
Roof prism, 7X42 and 10X40
7X42 Zeiss ClassiC, a venerable binocular, continues to provide
a wide angle and some of the finest viewing that eyeglass wearers
can get. (Zeiss invented anti-reflective coating back in 1935 and
have had many years to perfect this technology.)
ClassiCs still have the traditional fold-down rubber eyecups. Like
all Zeiss products, they are waterproof. They are also a good buy,
less expensive than other top roof prism binoculars.
B/GAT Design Selection
Roof prism, 7x45, 8x56, 10x56 (the Night Owl)
new design is strikingly good looking, with a smooth, two-tone,
semi-hard armor replacing the older ribbed-rubber covering of the
ClassiC Zeiss. They fit well in the hand, and the optics are superb.
Of course, we would expect nothing less from Zeiss.
even more striking than the design is the weight. The Zeiss 7x42
classic, long a star performer that delivered one of the best images
you could see through glass, weighed only 28 oz. The DesignSelection
7x45 weighs 41 oz. Ouch!
10x56 DesignSelection Nightowls are a different story. Their 50.3
oz weight is justified by their incredible ability to resolve detail
in dim light. They would be worth owning just for crepuscular use.
the Design Selection binoculars have old-fashioned roll-down rubber
eyecups. Zeiss added light-blocking side-wings to the eyecup shape,
which is good for non-eyeglasses wearers but makes them hard to
Limited lifetime warranty. One caution is that Zeiss does not extend
warranty service to binoculars purchased from gray market sources.
Be sure that you are getting a USA warranty card with your Zeiss