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Preview: ZEN Prime HD

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/01/2012 at 14:08
Klamath View Drop Down
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OK, not really a review yet Wink. I will however post more as I use these more. These are the 10x42 and have a 6.4* fov.

This comes in the standard black ZR looking box, but is clearly labeled Prime HD. Same green color as the ED 2 & 3. It has a softer textured rubber armor and...PRAISE THE LORD... no thumb indents, I hate those things (and I do realize that I may well be in the miniority here Big Smile)! It has a different style bag from the ED's, nice sized, big enough to not have to cram on the binocular to fit it back in the bag with eyecups extended. It is about the same color green as the binocular. Made from ballistic nylon with a fold over the top flap with latch.

This focuses counterclockwise to infinity. There is 1.5 turns with plenty of room past infinity. Close focus looks like about 6 feet. The focus knob is as good as any binocular I have tried. Soft, smooth, buttery slick, and there is NO slack in this one, NONE, not even a little bit. More on focus distances later.

This is a larger diameter in barrel cross section than the previous ZEN ED variants. I can wrap my thumb and middlefinger around those, but not the Prime. Overall it will remind us of the ZRS HD, and is noticeably shorter than the ED series, but still a fairly large binocular. Larger than the prototypes I saw, but those were naked.

This is going to reignite the alpha view vs the less than alpha $$$ view all over again. I don't see where it is real possible to cram much more useful "stuff" into an image than what there is here. This is a bright binocular, brighter than the ED 3. It is very similar in color bias, so I tend to think it is due to an increase in light transmission compared to the ED 3.

ZR looks to have achieved their goal of considerably improving the edge and flattening the field when compared to the ED 3 binoculars. There is 2% pincushion here in the 10x. I was thinking I might get the "rolling ball" here, but for whatever reason I don't. The image is most similar to the Swarovski SLC-HD in terms of sharpness, brightness, contrast, and tone. However, I will have to bend some effort in the days to come to get some side by sides set up.

Brief looks tell me this is about as much better than the ED 2-3 than what I could tell as a difference between the ED 2-3 and the alphas. As I said above, the sweet spot is very much noticeably wider with the Prime vs the ED 2-3. The edge is very much improved, but not quite with the Swarovision. The improvement is mainly wit the size of the sweet spot nad edges. There is a little improvement in centerfield sharpness, but not a lot by any means.

The only downside I can see right off is the diameter of the ocular and the resultant large diameter eye cups. They are the same size as the Kruger Caldera and may be problematic for some.

Anyway, there is the first installment, more to come.

EDIT to add: I would be remiss to fail to point out that there seems to be a fairly significant improvement in overall "feel and quality" with the Prime vs the ED series.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/01/2012 at 14:18
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Very nice to see some first-hand experience with the new Prime's.  Thanks Steve  Excellent
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/01/2012 at 16:45
Bitterroot Bulls View Drop Down
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Thanks Steve,
 
How is CA?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/01/2012 at 16:53
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[QUOTE=Klamath] These are the 10x42 and have a 6.4* fov.
 
1. FINALLY, A 10x mini-review!  YESSS!!

It has a softer textured rubber armor and...PRAISE THE LORD... no thumb indents, I hate those things (and I do realize that I may well be in the miniority here Big Smile)!


2. AMEN!
No, you are not.  Big Grin Big Grin
They never seemed to be in the correct location for me. 

Stan 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/01/2012 at 17:18
Klamath View Drop Down
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Originally posted by Bitterroot Bulls Bitterroot Bulls wrote:

Thanks Steve,
 
How is CA?
Non existant as far as I can tell, but I'm not real susceptible.
 
Sweet spot is at least 95% of the field.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/04/2012 at 11:08
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Nice 10x review! does this have water-repellent coating? 

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/04/2012 at 13:01
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I posted some comments about the 8x Prime HD over in Steve's thread on birdforum but will copy/paste both my initial impression post and the follow up today below.
 
Ok, I just spent the last half hour out on the patio with the Prime HDs, the ZR 7x43s and the Vixen Foresta 7x50s. Both of the latter two binoculars have served as a form of reference standard for me for roof prism and porros prism binoculars respectively. I will get a comparison a bit later after I give my initial impressions of the Prime HD.

I didn't read Steve's post yet so some of this may be redundant. Upon opening the box and removing the binocular my first thoughts were "heavier than expected" and "nice armor". Surprisingly the smell of the binocular was the second thing to register on my senses. It is sort of funny how we take our sense of smell for granted. Smells stick with us long after the experience itself has faded. Smelling these binoculars reminds me of both the Meopta and the Swarovski SLC Neu series. They have that odor to the armor. Different from previous ZR models.

Focusing is counterclockwise (to the dismay of some) from close focus to infinity. I believe this is contrary to what was originally posted. The focusing speed is very close to ideal. It feels slightly slower than the ED3s but faster than the ED2s. From a nitpicky perspective I think I would prefer another 1/4 turn to the speed. Focusing tension is excellent. No slop, no backlash and excellent resistance. The overall feel is also enhanced by the texture of the knob itself. It has a similar series of small bumps in a checkerboard like pattern in comparison to the ED3s. I can feel them grab a bit on the tip of my finger as I work the focusing knob. I doubt my fingers will slip on it even under wet conditions.

Ok, on to what everyone wants to hear...the view. I think this is what everyone has been expecting from Zen Ray. The centerfield apparent sharpness that is often praised on the ED3s has now been extended over a much larger portion of the image. If I had to rate the ED3s that I have in possession at 65-70% sharp from the center then I would have to rate the Prime HDs at sharp out to at least 90% of the field but probably closer to 95%. It is impressive and makes the image feel very natural. One caveat to that though.... as I have heard in reference to some other models there is an area of excellent apparent sharpness through the center 2/3rds of the image followed by a very narrow band that seems to lose a very slight amount of apparent sharpness under close inspection. The last 5-10% of the image seems just as sharp as the center.
I want to bring up color fringing here because it seems tied in to the various levels of performance throughout the full field of view. In the center 85-90% of the image CA is wonderfully well controlled. I certainly cannot see it and I am moderately susceptible to it. The outer 5-10% does exhibit a mild level of CA. This seems tied into the area that is "back in focus" with the center of the field.

Apparent brightness anc apparent contrast are excellent. Certainly as good as the ED3 series. From talking to Charles I believe the average measured light transmission level is 89%. Going by memory of other light transmission tests (prior to All Binos) I believe that puts it on par with the original Swarovski EL and the Leica Ultravid but just behind the Zeiss FL.

Color representation appears entirely neutral at first glance and even after extended use. It isn't until I compare it to the Vixen Foresta porro that I note a slight "blue-green" coloration to the image. The Vixen is what I would call neutral (white) to every so slightly warm (extremely mild red) so it stands as a good reference when looking to compare color "biases".

The field of view is fairly flat. Pincushion distorition has been added to help rectify any rolling ball issues associated with the dual field flattener elements. I can see the distortion when panning up and down but not left to right.

Apparent sharpness is first rate. In both handholding and resting the binocular I can see extremely fine detail on just about everything I look at. The image is anything but "soft". Close focus appears to be about five feet.

All I can think of for now. I will post more as time allows.
 
Today's post.....
 
I wanted to write a follow up post to my original one. I forgot to mention one key issue when I did my initial post...the environmental conditions. I did not give it much thought at the time but the overall conditions were poor. We had approaching thunderstorms (and actually a tornado watch) in our area the day I posted my initial comments.

Since that time I have used this pre-production unit quite extensively under a variety of conditions. It has not failed to impress for an 8x full-sized binocular. Under full daylight conditions the image is nothing but...well, beautiful. Colors are extremely well saturated. The various shades of blue on the back of a male Eastern Bluebird are very well represented. Even the subtle shades of green on the back of a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird are very easy to identify. The contrast level is instantly notable.

Details easily jump out at you. It is one of those situations with a binocular where you think you have achieved perfect focus only to find that another bump of the focus knob brings out even more detail in the object being observed.

I did take the time to see how they handle stray light issues. The dreaded crescent is not evident in the image under regular use. If I push the bins and start heading towards the sun and if I shift my eye position down towards the bottom half of the exit pupil then I begin to notice a faint crescent with a midpoint at approximately 7 o'clock. It is faint and not comparable to what the first generation of 7x36 ED2s displayed under similar conditions and usage.

The size of the sweet spot continues to impress me. It is notably larger than that of the ED3 series so, therefore, the image feels very natural to my eyes.

One last thought that struck me this morning was the handling. It has reminded me of something for several days but I just couldn't put my finger on it. They remind me of the Nikon Monarchs (original Gen II version) in terms of length and overall feel in my hands. Yes, they weigh a bit more but the way they fit into my hands is very similar to the Monarchs.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/04/2012 at 14:16
Klamath View Drop Down
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Prime HD Full Review.

 

Well Mother Nature gave us a work delay today, it rained nearly .75” last night and is still raining, so I have some time to write this out.  Might have a little more time off too, it’s supposed to snow tomorrow and/or Wednesday.  Oh well, maybe that’ll provide some good CA test background!

 

This is a binocular we have all waited on for quite some time.  It has had quite an evolution and I’ll give some of it as I know it.  I found out about it when talking with Charles about the then soon to be released ED 3.  I kept in reasonably close touch through the course of development and decided I’d better pre order one way ahead.

 

Frank posted a Prime HD thread quite some time ago.  This is a different binocular than that one.  Seems that one was one of those things that did not transfer from design board to reality too well, certainly not as well as it was thought it would.  It would produce a good binocular, but the prisms didn’t play too well with the eye pieces.  It became evident to Charles that he’d have to compromise some tolerance standards and he decided he’d have a high a probability of a too high return rate.  One of the other things he’d have to have compromised on was the center focus/diopter mechanism.  It, to put it kindly, was not very good.  They went through a couple of diopter designs, but were not happy. So the went back to the somewhat old fashioned, but reliable right eye diopter.  I had one of the early prototypes for awhile and the diopter was pretty unsatisfactory.  I imagine he’d like to have the color brochure he released early on back, but I personally give him credit for taking his lumps, waiting out delays, and sticking to his original goals.

 

The principal change, aside from the diopter, was a switch to a different (and in this case larger) prism configuration.  They also tried several levels of pincushion distortion and settled in on 2% for the 10x and 5% for the 8x.  My example is a 10x and it is quite edge sharp.  Going from memory, I’d say not quite Swarovision sharp, but this edge is (or at least should be) good enough for all but the most compulsive edge sharpness fanatics.

 

As I understand the recent evolution in Zen Ray Optics, they changed from more or less a rebrander, to a nearly complete OEM capability.  The seem to have advanced the OEM standing further with the Prime as Charles was able to not compromise here on some issues he may have had to settle on with his older situation.  One of the things that does seem evident to me is there is a noticeable increase in the apparent build and feel quality of the Prime.  There is a good, solid, dense, hefty feel to this binocular. The focus wheel movement is better than anything we have seen from ZR to date and is as good as any binocular I have tried.  Soft, smooth, silky and precise, there is absolutely no slack evident here.

 

Physical attributes

 

This is a both reasonably compact yet fairly large binocular.  Yeah, I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but that is what this is.  It is shorter than the ED series but fatter barrels.  In many ways it will remind those who have had experience with the Leupold Gold Ring, quit a lot about that binocular.  It is a more traditional piano hinge style instrument and both looks and feels different from the ED series.  In many ways it will remind us of a larger ZRS HD.  I mentioned earlier that this has large oculars.  This final beta prototype I have also has eye cups with very square edges.  This combines to give an ocular assembly larger than the Kruger Caldera and about the same size as the Swift 820 Audubon.  So if you don’t like larger oculars, this may be a problem.  Charles said he’d try to get the eye cup done with an ED like upper curve, but that getting the overall eye cup diameter reduced will be more for a long term fix.  Larger oculars may be what we need to accept for a wide, flat and edge sharp field.  The IPD ranges from 57-74mm.

 

The armor is thick, and feels softer from the ED series.  It is just slightly pebble textured and has no ridges, bumps or other protrusions.  I’ve already given thanks for the lack of thumb indents.

 


Steve
"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted". Albert Einstein

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: June/04/2012 at 18:45
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Nice reviews & comments guys....Thanks Excellent
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