Thursday, January 16, 2014

Unlimited, Unconditional Lifetime Waranty. Vortex is causing a stir

The world of optics often takes a long time to change, being more a process of evolution rather than
revolution. The same familiar brands account for the bulk of the equipment used by birders in the UK and when a new name comes on the scene it takes good products and a lot of hard graft to be accepted. Hawke, with good products and warranties, have done this over the last few years and now Vortex are truly earning their place in the hall of fame.

Vortex and their UK importer Newpro are doing everything right, they have well made, user friendly
and sensibly priced equipment all with an extraordinary warranty. It is what Vortex call their VIP unconditional warranty and they actually mean it when they say unconditional. To quote their website:

Vortex's VIP Warranty. 
“Other than purposeful damage or mistreatment, it doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was or which Newpro authorised Vortex observation optics dealer you purchased it from in the UK and Ireland”

And it really works, we at Cley Spy have sent back accident damaged Vortex binoculars for customers and free repairs or replacement have followed. On their website they use as an example a binocular that was chewed by a black bear and replaced with a new item.

A range of good quality, thoughtfully designed and well specified products is essential to compete in the optics market, but to back this up with a reliable, and unparalleled after sales service is a recipe for success.

Below is a brief round-up of the best of their range of binoculars.

The step up image quality wise, the Diamondback is a good bet for those with a budget up to £200. Solidly built and ergonomic, it looks the part and does the job well. The 8x28 whilst technically a compact behaves more like a full size binocular but is very neat and pocket-size.

Excellent mid-range birding binoculars. Whilst comfort and ergonomics are really a matter of personal preference, these binoculars are a very refined piece of design that has a the Goldilocks factor of being “just right” for a lot of people. Again the image quality is very good for the price, but one of the stand out features of of the Viper HDs is their close focus distance. At a class-leading 1.5m (5.1ft) for the 42mm versions and a stunning 0.9m (3ft) for the 8x32, this makes them a sound choice for anyone with an interest in butterflies and other insects.

Vortex's top of the range. Don't expect these to be on an optical par with £1400 plus optics from Swarovski, Zeiss and Leica, but they are closer than the difference in price would lead you to believe. They are also compact for their specification, elegantly designed, light weight at just under 700g and comfortable.

...And one scope of particular interest:

This is the only rival to the Nikon ED50 Fieldscope. In terms of image quality it is on a par with the Nikon and is slightly heavier at 708g including the eyepiece (the Nikon is 618g), but it is a little more robustly built. This is an area of the scope market that has been somewhat neglected by the big names, with nothing to really rival the ED50 in terms of size, weight and image quality.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Small but perfectly formed: Compact binoculars to go anywhere.

Always to hand.
Compacts are there when you need them.
Most people will have had those moments when you wish you had binoculars with you but bringing
them was impractical or too much trouble. This is where compact binoculars come into there own. As a rule any binocular with a lens diameter of less than 30mm is classed as a compact, with 20-25mm being the most common sizes. Although by their very nature compacts cannot have the brightness of a larger binocular, they can prove to be one of the most useful instruments to own because they can be taken everywhere.

Typically compacts are available in 8x and 10x magnification and the usual factors apply, i.e.10x brings objects closer but produces a narrower field of view and a less bright image than 8x. It mostly comes down to personal preference, but if you were buying a gift for someone else then 8x is a safer bet that most people can get on with.

Pocket size.
A double hinged
compact folded.
The design of compact binoculars is generally focused on making them a small and light as possible, both in use and when folded away. Many have a double hinge, which allows both barrels to be folded into the bridge turning the binocular into a very small package for transport. This style also can be the best for younger children who can often not get full size binoculars to come close enough together for their eyes.


Image quality.

The Swarovski CL Pocket.
It is inevitable that in making a binocular as small as possible the image is compromised to a degree.
As a rule compact binoculars are a little less forgiving in terms of getting them into the optimum position for your eyes than full size binoculars, and the field of view is generally narrower. Compacts are no substitute for a 32mm or larger binocular if you are out birdwatching, but they are more than adequate for incidental use when out walking, in town or walking the dog. While the usual rule of the more you spend the better they get applies, the range of prices is smaller than with full size optics, starting at under £20 and stopping just over £500. The best are very good, and some of the latest, for example the Swarovski CL Pocket range, are offering image quality not far off that of their full size counterparts.

The best way to work out what you want and which binoculars suits your eyes is to test them in the kind of environment you are likely to be using them. The opportunity to do this, together with the best on-shelf range in the UK, is what we offer at Cley Spy. With two shops in North Norfolk, both with impressive views of the countryside, you can test everything you want to in a no pressure and relaxed atmosphere with expert advice on hand.
The view from our Glandford shop. The field being prepared for the conservation nectar and winter bird seed crop last Autumn.