Opticron 8x42 Countryman BGA T PC Oasis and HR WP
Renowned for its blend of low cost and admirable quality, Opticron has recently launched an upgraded version of one of its most popular low-cost roof-prism binoculars. The Countryman BGA T PC Oasis is the third incarnation of this binocular, with phase-corrected prism units and Oasis prism coating to improve image quality accounting for the main difference from its predecessor, the BGA T.
This new Japanese-manufactured binocular weighs 635 g, complying with the company’s objective that roof-prism models should not exceed 700 g. The similarly priced HR WP porro- prism binocular, although not overly heavy, does exceed this threshold, however, and as well as being bulkier, it handles completely differently.
Both binoculars are protected by rubber armour, the heavier model sporting a slightly raised area of more coarsely textured rubber to facilitate holding. Its porro-prism design increases its overall width, which means that short-fingered users may find focusing less comfortable in this binocular than in the roof-prism Countryman model.
Exactly the same broadly milled, rubber-covered focusing wheel and dioptre adjustment mechanism are employed in both models. Fractionally wider than one finger, each model’s wheel turns smoothly and both take focusing from the same 3-m close focus to infinity in two complete revolutions. The single-eye dioptre adjustment in each case is made to the left side by pulling up a shallow, centrally mounted wheel, and pushing it back to lock.
Although both models are easy to use and have almost the same eye relief (19 mm and 20 mm), they differ in the design of their eye-cups. Those of the Countryman, with their fractionally lower eye relief, extend from and retract into the barrels of the binocular, click-locking at their maximum extent and providing enough twisting resistance to be positioned unlocked at any point. The larger model’s eye-cups are mounted externally to the ocular lens housing, twist out smoothly and also lock only in the fully extended position, but I found them more inclined to slip, especially when I was fitting and removing the rainguard.
There were differences in image too. Although the manufacturer’s close focus figure for both models is 3 m, I was able to achieve less (2.7 m) with the Countryman, but only 3.2 m with the HR WP. Some cross-barrel shadowing was more evident in the HR WP than in the Countryman at this range.
In terms of the field of view, the porro-prism binocular is a clear winner with 112 m at 1,000 m – the corresponding figure for the Countryman model is 109 m – and both fall within the accepted range for binoculars of this size and magnification.
Direct field comparison, to my eyes, appeared to reveal a slightly better depth of field with the Countryman, and the field edge curvature distortion was surprisingly limited, appearing to be about the same degree in both models. The resolution also became ‘softer’ in the outer 10-15 per cent of the field in both models, although they returned an acceptably sharp image across the remainder of the field.
Chromatic aberration is also acceptable for both, but was slightly more obvious in the Countryman, and both models displayed a largely neutral colour cast, perhaps with a slightly bluish hue. There was little difference between them in terms of colour reproduction, although the HR WP appeared marginally more contrasty and the image a little less ‘flat’.
So, both models have pros and cons and choosing between them is no easy task. Both are gas filled and waterproof, and the 30-year guarantee of the HR WP seems to be testament to its updated design and durability, as a longer guarantee is usually a point in favour of roof-prism design.
Price: £229 (BGA T PC); £239 (HR WP)