Optics Master Extraordinaire
Well, I have been doing a lot of horsetrading lately, and through some lucky circumstances on a certain evil online auction site, I have recently accumulated some spending money. Some recent threads really got me thinking about my position on "Alpha" binoculars.
This thread in particular:
In that thread I "ranked" binoculars I had actually used (even briefly) for how I liked them overall. That list was topped with 1.Zeiss 2.Leica 3. Swarovski. There they were, the BIG 3. I was a little surprised, I thought my favorite binoculars were Meoptas, but there they were at number 4. Price DOES matter.
I have always been a big proponent of real-world value for hunters, because I am a hunter, and that is why I got into optics in the first place. The ED bins coming out of China right now are really good optically. I have the ZEN EDs in my favorite configuration, 10X43. They offer a fantastic view that is just hard to believe, given their price. I recently spent some time with, and reviewed the Theron Wapiti APO-ED 8X42 and came away with a similar impression as the ZEN. These are great values, no doubt. However, they both offer compromises.
The Theron shows field curvature, and some a little purple Chromatic Aberration in high-contrast situations. It has a relatively narrow field of view. While the build quality is sturdy, it is not ... well ... refined.
The ZEN is wider, but a little soft at the edge. The Zen also shows a little CA, but not in the center of the field. The ZEN shows a halo of prismatic light when I get my eyes deep into the cups. The build quality is OK, but my armor is loosening a little and one rubber eyecup has loosened from its metal cup. The focus wheel is a bit slow, and doesn't have the best feel.
These are minor quibbles, I know, and both bins far outperform their price points.
I also own (now just recently owned) two sub-alpha bins Meopta Meostar and Vortex Razor. The Meoptas were just about perfect, but I had to glue the diopter adjustment, and they showed noticeable CA in an otherwise awesome image. The Razor showed a little CA, but the field showed too little distortion, and I get some rolling ball. Both are GREAT bins, and I thoroughly enjoyed using them.
But I used a bin (borrowed) for about a week a while back and I noticed no flaws. I loved it, and it loved me. It was a Zeiss Victory FL, and it is at the top of my binocular list in the above referenced thread. I knew I could never spend $2000 plus for a binocular, so I just assumed it would never happen, and the other bins I have were so close anyway. But then, I noticed SWFA was closing out their 10X42 FLs in Green. Wait! Not only were they closing them out, but there was an instant rebate of $100 to boot!
I had just bought a Swarovski rifle scope ... but I still had some stuff I could sell ... Well here we are and I am waiting for the Brown Truck at my house again. I can't wait. My first (uhh, last?) Alpha.