Out with the old and in with new!
So about a year ago, when Anne and I first began investigating Long Island and the opportunities for her at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary and Audubon Center (TRSAC), she and I flew into Islip for a few day visit. As birding opportunities were an important factor for us, and as we had heard about a Barnacle Goose and a Pink-footed Goose at a place called Sunken Meadows, we made plans to get up there and check it out. That day, in the eastern parking lot at Sunken Meadows, Anne dropped her Vortex Diamondback 10×42 binoculars on the asphalt and they split in two!
Fast-forward almost exactly a year later to Sunken Meadows where Anne, Blair from TRSAC, and I visited Sunken Meadows together to bird. On a cold and windy day, with most of the birding behind us, my Vortex Diamondback 10×42 binoculars fell onto the asphalt in the Sunken Meadows parking lot and split in two!
Vortex has a fantastic warranty, so I would have sent my binos in for a free repair, but then Anne consulted with Santa Claus and decided that I should get an upgrade for my future ornithological work. Eagle Optics gave me a good deal and a pair of Vortex Viper 10x50s came to my door a couple days later. Here they are:
So the Vortex Viper 10x50s are in, and they are an awesome upgrade over my Diamondback 10x42s. I’m not going to compare specs and stats or anything, and I’ve no way to do any original testing of quantifiable values, but I can give you a qualitative review as well as comparing these binos to those of lower quality.
But first the basics on binoculars and what the numbers mean. The Vipers are a 10×50 binocular – this means that the magnification is 10 times and the size of the front element (where the light comes in) is 50mm across. Compared to my previous 10x42s, the glass on the front of these 10x50s is nearly 20% larger which means that more light will enter the binoculars and more light will get to your eye – this produces a brighter image and sometimes means the difference between seeing those last birds of the day and going home.
Back to the review: my Diamondbacks were roughly $200, which puts them into the low-end of binoculars by cost, not to say that their quality was in any way poor. These Vipers list for roughly three-times that price, which makes them mid-level binos (high-end is probably over $1000). As compared to the low-end binoculars, the Vipers have many nice upgraded features and quality of glass and construction are where the differences are most obvious. Optical quality is something that everybody will simply have to judge for themselves, but it is immediately apparent when viewing the Diamondbacks side-by-side with the Vipers that the Vipers are a step up in clarity. Big improvements are also clear in the quality of the focus-knob which doesn’t feel loose like some of the lesser-priced bins I’ve seen. The eye-cups are well-built and feature a multi-setting locking mechanism to prevent slippage (another issue with low-end bins). Finally, for those that need it, the diopter (which provides adjustment for people with a “good-eye,” locks into place to prevent the annoyance of having to constantly recalibrate.
The only thing I’ve lost in this upgrade is my close focus – the Diamondbacks could focus around 5-6 feet, these focus at 9-10 feet. No big deal for me personally, though, as I’m 6 feet tall, but some butterfly enthusiasts might prefer closer focus.
That’s pretty much it, the binos are very nice and I’m glad Eagle Optics was able to make me a deal – I’ll be giving these bins a rough field test this weekend when the CBC comes to town and I’ll post updates if and when I manage to break these in any way!