Helios Nirvana-ED 8x42 binocular
Extending the breadth of choice and price of low-cost, ED-glass binoculars, the Helios Nirvana-ED is a stylish roof-prism model built to a high standard by an established Chinese manufacturer. Marketed in this country by Optical Vision, there are two 42 mm models in the series, with 8x and 10x magnification, and they form part of a wider range of some 11 roof-prism (and the same number of porro-prism) binoculars.
The 675 g of glass, magnesium and rubber – not forgetting the Argon gas filling – combine to form a binocular which I found light, compact, comfortable to use and easy to operate. The otherwise smooth rubber armour is fashioned to produce a leather-effect surface in the shallowly indented area that makes contact with your hands, thereby serving to increase grip, and the strap lugs are positioned above this and out of the way. Flared rubber rims surrounding the objectives add extra protection against drops and knocks, while the glass itself is fully multi-coated on all lens surfaces.
Slick mechanics manifest themselves in the smoothly turning, rubber-covered focusing wheel, with just under 1.25 anti-clockwise rotations taking the image from close focus to infinity. It delivers pleasingly precise control, with no play or looseness associated with its operation, although I discovered I was not able to focus on subjects closer than 2.4 m away, which is a little more than the 2 m close-focusing distance quoted by Helios.
I liked the dioptre adjustment: centrally positioned behind the focusing wheel, it click-stops when rotated and a raised pointer leaves you in no doubt as to the chosen setting should readjustment be necessary. Using your fingertip, this makes it considerably easier to operate than conventional ocular-mounted dioptre controls, but it leaves the system exposed to accidental changes in setting during general use, although in fairness this did not occur at any point throughout testing.
The twist-out, rubber-covered eyecups lock loosely in three positions – fully retracted, extended and between the two – offering a maximum eye relief of 17.2 mm. I was impressed with the exceptionally wide field of view; delivering 142 m at 1,000 m, this puts the model in the premiership in this instance.
The image delivered by the ED glass is also very good, especially when you take the price into consideration. It’s nice, bright and very sharp across most of the field and, among other birds, I enjoyed viewing the natural colours of my first spring Northern Wheatears when they appeared on my local patch in mid-March. There is a low to average amount of chromatic aberration, and the only minor negative points are a softening of the image in the periphery of the field and the overall colours being just fractionally darker than reality.
The bottom line is that I liked this binocular, its ease of use and its overall optical performance. The very competitive price covers a package which includes a broad, padded neck strap, articulated rainguard and, best of all, hardened plastic lens caps which click neatly and unobtrusively into the deeply recessed objective housings, which remove the need for tethering and means they are unlikely to fall off. I am, however, surprised there is only a one-year guarantee when many manufacturers are offering much longer warranty periods than this.
Size: 140x130 mm
Weight: 675 g
Field of view: 142 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2 m
Guarantee: 1 year