Barr & Stroud Savannah 10x42 binocular


Waxwings, Waxwings and more Waxwings. I could not have asked for a more delightful subject matter for testing the 10x42 binocular from the Barr & Stroud Savannah range this winter. Waxwings look good through just about anything, and the Savannah 10x42 is no exception, but the species did play an important role in helping to assess various aspects of performance and image quality against a variety of different backgrounds and light conditions.

Priced at just below £200, this is a value binocular for the budget-conscious, but in the hand it feels robust and solidly built, the green rubber armour providing adequate protection for the body. While there are no raised surface pads or cutaways, broad ribbing across the bridge, extending to the upper surface of the barrels, helps to increase grip, and the neck-strap lugs simply morph unobtrusively from the body below the oculars. At 774 g, this binocular is clearly not overweight and it’s very comfortable to handle and easy to use.

The Savannah’s dioptre is positioned just behind the central focusing wheel, instead of below the right ocular as with the manufacturer’s lower-tier Sahara range, allowing you to more easily adjust it while looking through the binocular with both eyes. There is a raised node on the otherwise smooth ring, which facilitates precise adjustment and, because it is raised, it does not allow the setting of the main focusing wheel to be changed accidentally (and vice versa). The latter is rubber-covered and broadly milled. It turns smoothly and is easy to operate when wearing gloves.

According to the manufacturer, “The rapid focus mechanism takes the user from close focus to infinity in less than one turn of the focus control knob”. I discovered, however, approximately two and a quarter anti-clockwise turns were possible from close focus; perhaps the full turning extent takes the focusing to infinity and beyond ...

Most importantly, though, little more than a quarter of a turn is all that is required to focus between nearby subjects and those at ‘long distance’ (distant horizon), while the depth of field is generous, so that minimal adjustments need to be made for general viewing. Close-focus distance is billed by the manufacturer as 2 m, but I was still able to obtain a sharp image at a creditable 1.8 m.

A last look at the mechanics reveals twist-out eyecups, clad in soft rubber, which click-lock in three positions. Fully multi-coated optics and BaK-4 phase-coated prisms no doubt serve to increase light transmission. While contrast is good, I found the warm yellowish image rendition made colours appear a shade darker than reality. This was not a major problem; in isolation, it was not readily apparent, but in comparison with some other – admittedly higher spec – models there was, unsurprisingly, a clearly visible difference.

Colour tones not withstanding, the image was reasonably bright, as well as being sharp across most of the field, softening noticeably in the outer 10 per cent. Peripheral distortion caused by curvature of field in this area was pleasingly very low, and chromatic aberration was present at a level which I would describe as ‘average’ for a binocular in this price range.

Overall, the Savannah performs well within its class. It is not as inexpensive as the no-frills, sub-£100 Sahara range from the same stable, but it is a little more refined and still represents value for money at the budget end of the market. It comes with an acrylic-type, semi-rigid carry case, padded neck strap, articulated rainguard and ‘tethered’ objective lens covers.

Tech spec

Price: £199.95
Size: 150x130 mm
Weight: 774 g
Field of view: 114 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2 m
Gas-filled: yes
Waterproof: yes
Guarantee: 10 years