There is now a vast array of binoculars and spotting scopes available to birders and making a choice is difficult for anyone considering purchasing optics at the bottom end of the market. The difference in performance between top tier optics and those in the mid to low eschelons of the quality spectrum is gradually narrowing, with many good, low cost models coming out of China at present. But how much longer will this last? With the current rate of inflation there running at 16% and labour costs rising by 25% per annum many of today’s ‘good value’ models may become more expensive in the not too distant future …
With consumer confidence at an all time low and purse strings tighter than ever, when it comes to binoculars I am often asked my opinion on which models offer value for money within certain – usually low – price brackets or for a certain specification. While this is a matter of personal taste I can only offer comment on models of which I have had some experience.
Of the sub-£500 models I have tested over the past year I was quite impressed with the Eden Quality ED 8×42 binocular at £245. This has a great field of view (142 m @ 1000 m), ED glass and central dioptre adjustment and it is also reasonably light and compact and it has water-repellent coatings; for the price I thought it was good value and the guarantee is 25 years http://www.edenwebshops.co.uk/. Also from Eden their HD 8×42 takes some beating at only £129. The downside is that you can only get them via the internet (there are no UK stockists) so you can’t test them first.
Also excellent are the new Hawke Sapphire ED 8×43 (open bridge) and ED 8×42 (top hinge) models, at £480 and £430 respectively; both are very good indeed with a great 142 m field of view and super image. The 43 mm model is marginally better but it’s larger – the 42 mm is more compact. Water-repellent coatings are also featured. Guarantee is 10 years http://www.deben.com/ Another one I like is the New Nikon Prostaff 7 binocular. For the price (£250) the image is very good, although the field of view is only 110 m. Guarantee 10 years. http://www.europe-nikon.com/en_GB/
I have been reviewing birding optics for Birdwatch magazine since 2002 and a number of recent review articles available online are listed below.
Barr & Stroud