Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Great Pretenders

The finest binoculars available to humanity are masterpieces of design and engineering using cutting edge chemical and material process. The very best fall into the £1200-£2000 range, but recently there have been a few models launched by the big names that are highly specified but coming in with a more modest price tag than their flagship lines. Although these are the second from top in the product line ups from their respective manufacturers they offer a lot of performance and are far from just also rans. Here is a quick overview of four of the best.

Opticron DBA S-CoatMG 8x42 and 10x42 both at £629.
The model above: Optcron Aurora from £715.
This is the new version of the popular rugged DBA, now with a magnesium body taking the weight down by 50g to 656g. These are an excellent all-rounder; light weigh and compact for a 42mm binocular, respectable close focus to 2.2m, fully waterproofed and grippy hard-wearing rubber armouring. The image is close to that of the Aurora in terms of quality, delivering sharp, bright and high-contrast view. In the hand they feel high-quality, well balanced and solid, with a smooth and consistent movement on the focus wheel and ribbed, matt finished rubber. The DBAs have all the latest lens coatings offered by Opticron and a reassuring 30 year warranty.

Zeiss Conquest HD8x42 (£699) and 10x42 (£749).
The model above: Zeiss Victory FL from £1337.
The latest addition to this line up, launched at the end of march. We were impressed with these as soon as we saw them, and even more so when we looked through them. The technical specification chart resembles that of top of range models and this backed up by using them in the real world. Without wishing to repeat myself the contrast, brightness and sharpness are all excellent, and the build quality is to a very high standard with one of the best feeling focus wheels of any binocular at regardless of price. These have Zeiss's T* and water and grease repellent LotuTec coatings and a 10 year warranty.

Leica Trinovid 8x42 (£949) and 10x42 (£999).
The model above: Leica Ultravid HD from £1469.
The well-respected Trinovid name returns in a new incarnation launched this year, and it does a fine job of upholding the reputation for excellent optics in tough go anywhere bodies. With a price tag more than £300 below that of the Ultravids, they have have already proved very popular because the image is so good and the build quality feels outstanding. Leica is one of the legendary names in optics and they have only enhanced their reputation with this new model. 10 year warranty.

Swarovski SLC HD8x42 (£1385) and 10x42 (£1455).
The model above: Swarovski EL Swarovision from £1620.
These are the heaviest of this bunch at 832g, but they are well balanced and feel remarkably comfortable in the hand. In terms of image quality these are the exception in this group, in that they are to the same standard as the top model the EL Swarovision, both having fluorite lenses and the full compliment of Swarovski's latest lens coatings. The difference lies in the tailoring of the coatings and optical system and the design of the body. The SLCs have always been mainly aimed at the hunting market, where brightness and durability are just as important as the sharpness and contrast and more important than colour fidelity. The theory behind the SLCs is that the lens coatings are fine-tuned for maximum light transmission, whereas the ELs coatings deliver the most accurate colours as desired by birders when scrutinising the infinite shades of greeny-yellowy-browny grey of Western Palearctic warblers. In reality the difference is minimal, both the EL and the SLC giving excellent brightness and colour rendition. The ELs also carry the 'Swarovision' specification, for a full explanation of the benefits of this see Swarovski's website. These have 10 year warranties and are backed up Swarovski's superb after-sales service.

You can view more details and order all of these from our website or visit us in Norfolk to try them for yourself.

Cley Spy.

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