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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Minox BV BR 8x42 Reveiw

Following on from my review of the Minox BL HD 8x44 Minox sent me the BV BR 8x42 model to try out.  This binocular has a SRP of £209 but retails at around £165.  Made in China, it sits just above the bottom of the range BF. 

Although made in China, the binocular chassis is designed by Volkswagen  and is engineered to "german quality".  The body is aluminium and is covered in black rubber armouring which gives it a very slick and stylish look.  It is fully multi-coated, phase corrected and is waterproof and fogproof. Eye Relief on the 8x42 is an excellent 18mm.  I often struggle with eye relief as I wear glasses and like the binoculars to sit right on the glass.  18mm is usually perfect for me, but I found it a little bit too much on this binocular and had to hold them slightly away from my glasses to avoid blackouts.  Field of view is an impressive 129m. 

I have to say that the binoculars look great and feel great in the hand.  At 780g they aren't particularly light, but this gives a reassuring feel of quality.  They feel extraordinarily well made.  I know Minox take great pride in the build quality of their binoculars and subject them to stringent quality control inspections.  Clearly, this contributes to the high build quality and offers the customer reassurance.

The focussing on the model I tried was very smooth, except for a small section near the close focus which felt like the focus wheel was scraping off the side of the binocular.  I must say, I am ultra critical of focusing and this anomaly wouldn't have stopped me from buying the binoculars.  The focusing wheel is large enough to use two fingers and take about one and half turns anticlockwise from close focus to infinity. 


Close focus is listed as 1.2m.  I do a lot of insect and butterfly watching and these binoculars should be ideal for this.  However, tricky eye positioning made it difficult to achieve a sharp, comfortable image at close focus.

So, they look good, they feel good but what's the view like?  Sharpness is quite impressive for the price, but compared to a similar priced binocular, it did lack something in sharpness.  Although these binoculars do not have ED glass, chromatic aberration is well controlled and quite acceptable, even in strong sunlight.   

The binoculars are bright and contrast is good for the price point.  The colour rendition seemed quite warm to me and reds, oranges, browns and blacks really stand out.  However, whites look a little creamy to my eyes and greens look a little washed out.  What I will say is stray light can be slightly problematic under certain conditions.  I stood under the canopy of Scots' Pine trees looking at a roosting Tawny Owl and the stray light was quite distracting. 

I did notice a strange anomaly with these binoculars.  Compared to several other 8x binoculars with a similar field of view, objects in the image looked smaller through the Minox.  This has left me wondering if they truly have 8x magnification. 
 
As I mentioned earlier, I am very critical when it comes to binoculars.  Things that I notice might not be noticeable to others.  These binoculars have recently been on sale for as low as £149.  For this price, they are very good value for money.  The highlight for me has to be the impressive build quality.  Along side the perfectly acceptable optics, these could be a good choice for those on a budget.  Many thanks to Rob Spicer at Minox for providing the model for review.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Vanguard Endeavour ED II 8x42 Review

Following on from my review of the Vanguard Endeavour ED II 10x42 back in November, Vanguard sent me the 8x42 model to try out.  As mentioned previously, the use of "premium Japanese ED glass", widely believed to be sourced from Hoya, is a star feature of this binocular.  This glass is a significant upgrade from the Chinese ED glass used in the previous model. 


Like its predecessor, the ED II is an open bridge binocular, made with a lightweight magnesium alloy body.  It weighs in at 770g. The binocular is covered in black rubber armouring which gives it a very slick and stylish look.   As you would expect with a binocular in this price range, it is waterproof and fogproof. Eye Relief on the 8x42 is an excellent 19.5mm.  I often struggle with eye relief as I wear glasses and like the binoculars to sit right on the glass.  The Vanguard 8x42 provides a little too much eye relief for this, but I've found it is far more comfortable to have too much than too little.

These look like a stylish, high quality binocular, but how do they feel in the hand?  Here's what I wrote back in November for the 10x42 model:

"The ergonomics on this model just didn't quite work for me.  I found the space between the two barrels to be quite tight and the binocular just didn't feel quite right in my large hands.  As a result, I found it quite difficult to hold the binocular steady."

The lower magnification of the 8x42 certainly helps and I had no problem whatsoever holding the binocular steady.  I like to use two fingers to focus a binocular, but the positioning of the focus wheel on the Vanguard makes this impossible.  Therefore, I felt I had to place my hands higher up than I would like, which in turn made them slightly front heavy.  However, with prolonged use, I did find a comfortable hand position and, along with the lower magnification, made the experience much more enjoyable than that of the 10x42.


The focussing wheel travels incredibly smoothly and quickly. It focusses from right to left, from close focus to infinity in about three quarters of a turn.  I like a quick focuser and although I found this to be a little too quick, in the 10x42, I really enjoyed being able to move from close focus to infinity quickly.  Unlike the 10x42, I found it very easy to obtain a sharp image. 

Close focus is listed as 2m, but in reality I found I could focus down to 1.5m.  I do a lot of insect and butterfly watching and these binoculars are ideal for this. 

So, they look good, they feel good but what's the view like?  Quite simply, they are incredibly sharp.  It has one of the flattest views on the market today.  The image really is sharp right to the very edge.  Chromatic aberration is very well controlled and is virtually eliminated by the high quality glass.

The colour rendition seemed quite warm to me and reds, oranges, browns and blacks really stand out.  However, whites look a little creamy to my eyes.  Brightness is very good in strong sunlight, but I was a little disappointed in gloomy conditions.  It's low light credentials are a little disappointing too. Perhaps the inclusion of dielectric coatings on the prisms would rectify this.  
 
The Vanguard Endeavour ED II retails for £399.  Given the high quality glass, excellent sharpness right to the very edge, lack of chromatic aberration, excellent close focus and quality feel, this seems to be a very good price.  However, dielectric coatings on the prisms are a glaring omission, with other brands producing cheaper binoculars with better coatings.  Despite these minor shortcomings, the Endeavour ED II is a quality binocular that is a significant improvement from its predecessor. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Latest

I've had a very busy few weeks and have only managed to get out birding a few times.  Two weeks ago I visited RSPB Lochwinnoch and RSPB Baron's Haugh.  A good amount of birds were seen at both reserves.  The highlights are listed below.

Lochwinnoch

Buzzard
Reed Bunting
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Starling
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan
Blue Tit
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Chaffinch
Collared Dove
Tufted Duck
Mallard

Baron's Haugh

Cormorant
Mute Swan
Lapwing
Wren
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Robin
Bullfinch
Buzzard
Kestrel
Blackbird
Grey Heron
Tufted Duck
Mallard

However, the highlight over the last few weeks has been the birding I have done at my "local patch".  Linwood, Renfrewshire, is surrounded with a variety of habitats, with good numbers of breeding territories,  Birds that nest in the local area are Buzzard, Barn Owl, Oystercatcher and Bullfinch.  There's woodland, wetland, farmland and moorland habitats.  The Linwood Community Woodland is a particular highlight.  This weekend whilst out walking I saw Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Magpie, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Jackdaw and Carrion Crow - not to mention a stag roe deer!  All on my doorstep.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Hogganfield Loch and Butterfly Conservation AGM

On Saturday 31st January I visited Hogganfield Loch for the first time this year.  Owing to the recent low temperatures, large parts of the loch were frozen, along with smaller ponds.



Despite the cold and extremely icy footpaths, good numbers of walkers and birdwatchers were enjoying the large numbers of wildfowl present.  This included large numbers of whooper swans.  Other highlights included male and female goosander, herring gulls, blackheaded gulls, lesser black back gulls, tufted ducks, mallards, coots, moorhens, wigeon, gadwall, pied wagtail, magpies, robin, dunnock and large numbers of feral pigeons.  A few photos are provided below.







 
 


 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
After enduring the cold for around 90 minutes, a friend and I drove from Hogganfield to Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton, Lanarkshire for the AGM of the Glasgow and South West Scotland branch of the Butterfly Conservation Society. We were treated to a review of the year, including attempts to reintroduce the Small Blue butterfly to Ayrshire and a stimulating talk by Davie Black from Plantlife.  Everyone left the AGM with a renewed optimism for butterfly watching.  Roll on spring!
 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Welcome Back !

After our winter shutdown, Tartan Birder is back.  The weather in the west of Scotland hasn't been conducive to birding over the last few weeks, but I have had a few recent highlights including, a flock of 24 redwings in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, and several Buzzards spotted in Renfrewshire. 

Hopefully 2015 will be a great birding year for me and you can read regular updates, including photographs, here on the blog.  I've included below a brief list of what to expect over the coming months.

A trip to Chatelherault Park, Lanarkshire, including the AGM of the Butterfly Conservation Society.
The Tartan Birder heads south...again.  A visit to RSPB Leighton Moss.
Loch of Lowes  - Osprey Watch!
Scottish Bird Fair 2015.
Sea Watching in Cumbria - the Tartan Birder visits RSPB St. Bees.

Of course, I will include updates on my visits to local nature reserves, including RSPB Lochwinnoch, RSPB Baron's Haugh, Possil Marsh, Millichen Farm, Loch Ardinning, Hogganfield Loch and Glen Moss. 

I hope to continue reviewing binoculars, scopes and monoculars.  The following reviews will be published over the coming weeks:

Hawke Frontier ED 8x43
Viking MD 6.5x32
Viking AW 65mm Spotting Scope

Keep checking in to the most comprehensive birding and wildlife blog in Scotland for further updates.

Opticron HR WP 8x42 Review

I'll be honest - this is a binocular that has intrigued me for sometime. There are very few like it on the market today.  Japanese made, the binocular is Opticron's top of the range porro prism.  The Opticron HR WP is a porro prism binocular with a difference.  The focussing is internal, meaning  you don't see the usual up and down movement in the bridge.  As a result, it is less likely to be knocked out of collimation. It offers the added protection of being both waterproof and fogproof.

The binocular weighs in at 715g.  The ergonomics of this model are, shall we say, unique. They have a rather bulbous shape. However, they feel good in the hand and the rubber armouring is both grippy and comfortable.  The focussing wheel is rather small and placed quite high up on the binocular.  I was really impressed with the focusing - it was very light and smooth.  The dioptre adjustment is located on the end of the focussing wheel and locks in place.  It feels very good in the hand and the build quality is very impressive. 

Field of view is a rather narrow 112m at 1000m.  However, for some reason the view did not feel claustrophobic.  Other aspects of the view are so good, see my comments below, this is one compromise that is well worth making.  Eye relief is excellent with 20mm being more than enough for eye glass wearers.

Image quality is very impressive.   A very sharp and detailed image is produced.  Looking at the image when close up, the sharpness extends almost right to the edge.  However, at distance, there is a very strong field curvature which accentuates the "stereo" 3D effect a porro prism provides.   By no means is this a criticism of the binocular, quite the opposite in fact.  The depth of field is very impressive with very little focusing required.  The image was very bright and colour rendition appeared neutral.  All of these effects contribute towards producing a wonderfully sharp image that is full of life and character.    Contrast is very impressive.  Viewing a pair of magpies nesting in the trees, the black, white and green plumage really sparkled in the sunlight.  It really is one of the best images I have seen on a binocular under £500.

The Opticron HR WP really is an excellent binocular, currently retailing at £249.  It is a very interesting and unusual binocular which punches well above its weight in terms of resolution.  In fact, I would go so far as to say it is one of the best porro prism binoculars on the market.  It's ergonomics won't suit everyone and neither will its relatively narrow field of view.  However, in terms of image quality, build quality and the excellent customer service provided by Opticron (not to mention the comprehensive 30 year guarantee), it really is hard to be critical.  Well worth a look!


Friday, 21 November 2014

Vanguard Endeavour ED II 10x42 Review


The Vanguard Endeavour ED Mark I has long been recommended as a good choice for those on a tight budget and gained quite a few positive reviews.  Therefore, news that Vanguard were launching a Mark II caused quite a bit of excitement.  I wrote to Vanguard asking if I could review the 10x42 model and a unit was sent to me from Vanguard's European base in Luxembourg.  

The biggest change in the new Vanguard Endeavour ED II is the use of "premium Japanese ED glass", widely believed to be sourced from Hoya.  This glass is a significant upgrade from the Chinese ED glass used in the previous model.  The field of view has been increased in the 8x42 model from 122m to 126m.  The Field of View on the 10x42 model remains the same at 114m.  The two models closely resemble each other, although the ED II has a stippled focusing wheel and two black hinges, rather than grey. 


 

Like its predecessor, the ED II is an open bridge binocular, made with a lightweight magnesium alloy body.  It weighs in at 770g. The binocular is covered in black rubber armouring which gives it a very slick and stylish look.   As you would expect with a binocular in this price range, it is waterproof and fogproof. Eye Relief on the 10x42 is a very adequate 18.5mm

The ergonomics on this model just didn't quite work for me.  I found the space between the two barrels to be quite tight and the binocular just didn't feel quite right in my large hands.  As a result, I found it quite difficult to hold the binocular steady. 

The focussing knob is well positioned and travels smoothly, but incredibly quickly. It focusses from right to left, from close focus to infinity in about three quarters of a turn.  I like a quick focuser, but found this to be a little too quick.  I found it rather difficult to obtain a sharp image due to the fast focuser and quite often had to travel back and forth before I was completely happy with the image.  There was also a little bit of play in the unit I reviewed.

Close focus is listed as 2m.  This is good, but it is not great.  I do a lot of butterfly and insect watching and whilst these binoculars would be perfectly adequate for this type of observation, I would probably choose another binocular if I wanted to go out for specifically this purpose. 

Image quality is impressive for the price point. The sharpness on the unit I used for this review was very good.  I have tried the 8x42 model and I found this slightly more impressive. The 8x42 was really quite exceptional.  The 10x42, whilst very good, didn't quite live up to the standard of its smaller brother.  The image was sharp right to the edge and had one of the flattest images on the mark today, although there was a slight hint of astigmatism right at the edge of the view.  The image was very bright and colour rendition appeared relatively neutral with only a slight hint of a yellow cast. 

The Vanguard Endeavour ED II 10x42 really is a very good binocular.  There have been several reviews written on the 8x42 model and this appears to be something quite special.  One reviewer suggests that the resolution is really quite exception and could give several alphas a run for their money.  Does the 10x42 ED II equal the performance of the 8x42?  In my opinion, probably not.  However, at the price point, £399, I don't think there would be much that could come close.  Ergonomics won't suit everyone, so make sure you try before you buy.