Steiner Discovery 8x44 and 10x44 binoculars

Sixty years of binocular design, development and production have culminated in German manufacturer Steiner’s most high-tech offering to date in the form of the new Discovery series of binoculars. Comprising just two 44 mm models, 8x and 10x, the series is aimed at optics buyers at the top end of the market. In this respect, Steiner has perhaps taken its style cue from another highly successful top brand, opting for an open design that sees the central bridge reduced to two small hinges connecting the barrels only at the central focusing point and at the distal end, close to the objectives.

A number of interesting developments have materialised in these two models. The magnesium alloy barrels are overlaid with tough rubber armour with integral soft-touch thumb panels, which are incorporated to increase grip and reduce pressure on the thumbs. They may appear a little quirky and initially feel odd to the touch, but are comfortable enough in the field.

The snap-in ports for connecting the neck strap, employed in Steiner binoculars for a long time, are now recessed into the body armour. This not only makes it easier to attach the strap, but removes the need for obtrusive lugs, which can dig uncomfortably into the skin between the thumb and forefinger.

Also new is the dual precision setting, which allows you to adjust the focus of each eyepiece independently – and you don’t have to fiddle with narrow ocular base rings to do so. Instead, more than 70 per cent of the depth of each eyepiece is broadly milled and turns easily, without subsequently slipping. The resulting flexibility enables you to adjust the focus for each eye, ending up with a pin-sharp image. Effectively providing a dioptre for each eye, the system is no more difficult to use than most single-eye adjustments on other binoculars.

Another feature of the eyepieces is Steiner’s trademark rubber side-flaps on the eye-cups, which are designed to exclude stray light. Being fixed in one position on the rim of each cup, they offer an advantage only when the eye-cups are rotated outward to click-lock at their full extent, at which point the side-flaps automatically become correctly positioned. Some rotational tolerance at this setting allows you to find the most comfortable fit for the side-flaps, but the eye-cups do not click-lock in any position other than fully extended. Since the side-flaps have limited application – and are not compatible with spectacles – the manufacturer should consider offering ‘standard’ eye-cups as an alternative accessory.

The fast close-focus mechanism includes a distance control scale on the rubber-milled focusing knob, which is designed to give an indication of the viewing distance of a bird in focus up to 20 m away. Beyond this point the scale would be of no practical use because the depth of field is so good that almost everything appears to be in focus up to about 2 km!

One 360-degree turn of the focusing knob spans close focus to infinity, and a minimal turn of only a few degrees allows you to cover all distances from within about 30 m to distant horizon. I measured the close-focus distance at 2 m for both models, but it will vary to some extent, depending on the individual user’s dioptre settings. In addition, Steiner gets full marks for the field of view which, at 110 m and 130 m at 1,000 m for the 10x and 8x models respectively, puts them on a par with other top-drawer models.

The image itself is undoubtedly superb, again matching that of top-flight models. It is bright and crisp, with an ‘icy’ colour cast that is detectably bluish at the edges of the field. Colour fringing has been almost, but not quite, totally eliminated, and the overall image quality is excellent, even in low light conditions. This perhaps reflects the manufacturer’s claim of a ‘new level of brightness and natural colour balance’, achieved by a dielectric prism coating in which more than 40 layers of titanium oxide are applied to the glass surfaces.

One negative factor in the design of these binoculars is their weight: at about 850 g they are a little on the heavy side. Nevertheless, the overall build quality and precision are very good. The accessories comprise a comfortable neoprene neck strap, plug-in lens caps, a soft case and a neoprene rainguard.

The pricing, although high, is very competitive for binoculars in this class and the guarantee of 30 years underlines the fact that Steiner is offering a product of the highest quality. Let’s hope the parts will still be available in 30 years’ time.


Tech spec

Price: £849 (8x44); £889 (10x44)
Size: 188x126 mm (both)
Weight: 834 g (8x44); 854 g (10x44)
Field of view (m at 1,000 m): 130 m (8x44); 110 m (10x44)
Close focus: 2 m (8x44); 3 m (10x44)
Gas-filled: yes (both)
Waterproof: yes (both)
Guarantee: 30 years (both)