Barska Naturescape 10x42 binocular
Possibly the smallest 10x42 birding binocular in the world has been launched by American optics manufacturer Barska. Part of the Naturescape series, it is amazingly compact for a binocular with a 42 mm objective lens and, at 595 g, also very light. In fact nothing in its class – nor any of the top-of-the-range brands – approach it on these two parameters.
In my first trial out in the field the binocular appeared sturdy, well balanced and generally well constructed, with a solid layer of dark green, smooth rubber armour adding to this impression. As a result of its compactness, I had to constantly remind myself this was not a 32 mm binocular I was handling and I was impressed by how small this model really is.
While apparently mechanically sound, the overly stiff rubber-knurled focusing wheel took some applied finger muscle to operate it but, in fairness, it appeared to ease a little with use. The 1.75 rotations it takes to focus from close up to infinity (but 1.25 from the same point to ‘distant’) is about par for a binocular towards the lower end of the price range. However, while this level of performance is clearly better than some, the stiffness does add to the time it takes to move from one end of the scale to the other. In this respect it is not ideal when needing to rapidly switch from watching a bird in close up to a more distant fly-over.
The non-locking, twist-out eyecups are covered in soft rubber and comfortable against the eye, but they are easily displaced during the application and removal of the rather tight-fitting articulated rainguard supplied with the model.
The dioptre to adjust single-eye focusing is located at the base of the right ocular. It can be operated without moving the eyecup and remains in place once set, although there is no locking device or scale for alignment. I found it a little too sensitive and, personally, a balanced image was obtained with a modicum of difficulty. Once achieved, however, the resulting image is clearly acceptable and peripheral distortion is minimal, with surprisingly little curvature of field and ‘softness’ pleasingly restricted to the very edges of the field of view.
The latter is 98 m at 1,000 m, which is largely what one would expect for a binocular in this class. The close focus measured down to 2.45 m against the 2 m specified by the manufacturer and there was some degree of ‘tunnel vision’ apparent at this distance.
In terms of colour, the image itself displayed a reasonable amount of contrast. The variable colour cast, characteristic of all optics, was at the warm end of the range and perhaps best described as a warm ochre, being quite obvious when compared against other models at the cold or bluish end of the spectrum. There is a visible degree of chromatic aberration across the whole image, which some users may find unacceptable.
Barska appears to have come along way with this binocular since the first of its models I tested a few years ago. This one is very good by comparison, with an obvious appeal to birders looking for a combination of high magnification, light weight and compactness at the budget end of the price range.
Size: 123 x 115 mm
Weight: 595 g
Field of view: 98 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2.0 m
Guarantee: limited lifetime warranty