Theron Wapiti APO-ED
These binoculars are new to the market. After Klamath (Steve) took a look at them, he put me in touch with Pat at Theron Optics, and they graciously arranged to let me have a look. The USPS package showed up and I cracked into the box. I removed the contents and found a very familiar looking binocular. The Theron Wapiti APO-ED is a near doppelganger for the previous generation Zen Ray ZRS HD. I reviewed that binocular here:
Zen Ray 2009 ZRS HD Review
This similarity in appearance isn’t surprising given both are OEM binoculars produced to specifications of a U.S. company by a major Chinese OEM manufacturer. The similarities don’t end there as they have the same FOV spec @ 367 ft./1000 yards. The Wapiti ED is somewhat different in that it is physically longer. I would venture this design adjustment likely has to do with the focal lengths necessary for the ED lens system, but I am not an optics engineer.
Here is the Theron Wapiti APO-ED:
The binocular is not overly large or overly compact. It is a bit heavy at 27.5 ounces, but as I have said before, and will repeat here: a little weight does wonders for steadying the view in a hunting binocular, where it dampens vibrations after long hikes, or on horseback. The binocular is solid looking and feeling, with firm rubber armoring over a magnesium chassis. The build quality leaves an impression of: durable. I does not have the finished build of the mid-priced and alpha binoculars, but it is built and finished well for a sub-$400 binocular. The focus wheel is similar to the 2009 ZRS HD with a firm, smooth feel and 1.5 turns from near to infinity. The diopter adjustment is likewise similar to the 2009 ZRS HD on the right eyepiece, with a pull up/ push down lock. The binocular has tethered objectives secured to the binocular with the tripod mount cover. The raingaurd is tight-fitting medium soft rubber. The binocular comes with the standard padded neckstrap and cordura case. The binocular is of piano-hinge construction. IPD adjusts with a smooth and firm feel, and would not go out of adjustment accidentally under normal use. The eyecups are the three-detent style, but I used them fully extended. There are no thumb depressions on the barrels.
I compared this bin to my Vortex Razor 8X42 and ZEN ED 10X43. I also compared my notes on the Wapiti APO-ED to notes I have for the ZEN ED 8X43 and ZRS HD 8X42.
This binocular was easier than others for me to get the diopter corrected for my vision. I had a clean and easy view at several diopter positions, but ended up with it dead smack in the center position. My ZEN ED 10X43 binoculars were much more sensitive to diopter setting.
This is a bright binocular. Low light performance is above average. I used it at night under a moderately bright moon, and had comfortable viewing.
This binocular offers a high level of resolution in the center field. It is extremely similar to the Zen ED in this way. Collimation is perfect. Color bias is cool.
The binoculars are advertised to have an “extra flat field.” If they are referring to a lack of distortion, I noticed moderate pincushion distortion. I am glad for it, as I noticed no rolling ball effect. (If you want to know what rolling ball is, use a new Swaro EL Swarovision for about 5 seconds of panning). I would prefer pincushion to be present, because rolling ball is bothersome to me, and I pan a lot. If they were referring to a lack of field curvature, I did notice field curvature at the outer edge of the field.
Depth of field is moderately deep. It is sufficiently deep to minimize focus changes while hunting, but not as deep as my super-deep Vortex Razor 8X42. Eye relief is generous at 17mm. I don’t wear glasses, but it seems it should not be a problem for most. I like the moderately-deep depth of field the best. I find I end up fiddling with the Razor focus more than most binoculars when I am looking for the absolute sharpest setting, because everything is near-sharp all the time with its wildly deep depth of field.
In the area of Chromatic Aberration control, the Wapiti APO-ED did very well . I am extremely sensitive to CA, and notice it often when others do not. There was very slight purple CA in the center field, and it only increased a little near the edges. This is very impressive at this price point, as they were a bit better than the much more expensive Vortex Razors. Power lines on a cloudy sky were distinct, black lines. Very nice. This CA control probably helps the Wapiti APO-ED deliver excellent contrast.
Internal light control was very well done. Looking at the eyepieces facing a white wall, I could not see prism edge reflections around the pupils, as I can in several of my much more expensive bins. I could not induce the strange internal flare surrounding the field edge that I can induce easily in the ZEN ED. I could, however, induce veiling glare and an apparent prism reflection in the field of view when looking nearly directly into the sun, but neither were easily induced or particularly bothersome.
Now we get to edge sharpness. Both Pat at Theron Optics and Klamath in his review noted the excellent edge sharpness of these binoculars. They are sharp right to the edge, other than extremely mild softening in the last maybe 2-3% of the field. I really had to try and see it. However, due to the field curvature, it takes a little edge focusing to get the sharpness right at the edge. It seems to me that the view through the Theron Wapiti APO-ED is very similar to the view through the ZEN ED, only the APO-ED stops down the field of view to gain apparent edge performance.
These binoculars offer very relaxed viewing. Eye strain was not an issue for me during extended viewing sessions.
What does this mean? Frankly, not much. Many people (yes, including me sometimes) get hung up on a few different things in optical performance, where it makes little difference in the real world. The field of view is not exceptionally wide in these binoculars, but it is sufficiently wide for hunting or birding. The extreme edges are not tack sharp when the centered subject is, but you would have to be staring at the edge of field to notice it. People naturally put the subject in the center of the field. The truth is, these bins perform very, very well.
The view through the Wapiti APO-ED is exceptional at their price point. I spoke with Pat from Theron Optics for quite a while on the phone before receiving these binoculars for evaluation. He explained his goal was to provide the best performance to hunters he could, and keep the cost down as low as he could. Pat is a hunter, and uses his optics. Theron optics are aimed to be high-performance optics for the every-man hunter. I think he met his goals with these binoculars.
While looking through these, I kept thinking the view reminded me of something, but couldn’t put my finger on it, until it dawned on me: Pentax SP! The view through the Wapiti APO-ED is very similar to the Pentax SP except … better! The Wapitis control CA much, much better, and have a bit wider field of view.
I’m sure people want to know if you are getting the latest euro-alpha binocular for under $400 with the Theron Wapiti APO-ED. IMO, you are not, but you are getting close-to-alpha optical performance for a bargain price. You get a list of good stuff: Magnesium body, ED glass, locking diopter, and great low light performance. There are no real weak spots to this binocular.
The Theron warranty is lifetime against manufacturer defect and one year no-fault. That seems reasonable to me.
I will be putting these on my recommendation list for hunters. They offer a performance level well above their price point, and are good alternatives to more expensive bins. If I have the $400 question from hunters my recommendation will be two-fold. Get the ZEN ED2 if you want a wide field and tolerate some edge softness. Get the Theron APO-ED if you want a similar view with better edge performance and are willing to give up a bit of field of view.
There is no reason I can think of for people to get bins like Nikon Monarch, Leupold green ring roofs, or the likes when bins like the Theron Wapiti APO-ED so easily outperform them at similar price points.