RSPB 8.5x42 WPG binocular
Launched in February, the new RSPB WPG binocular represents an addition to an already popular and relatively low-cost range from Viking Optical. Pitched in the middle of the RSPB Optics price spectrum, this new model becomes the lowest-priced 42 mm roof-prism binocular in the range and even offers some refinements over existing models.
This is another model that offers a marginally higher magnification than the standard 8x and in doing so represents a first for binoculars in the RSPB and Viking ranges. I found it to be extremely solid and well-built, with a uniform black rubber armouring, smoothly contoured strap lugs and well-protected, deeply recessed objectives. There are no cutaways or thumb-rests within the covering.
In terms of ease of use, the binocular is well balanced and its weight, at 731 g, compares favourably with that of top-tier brands. In fact, it is even lighter than the more expensive High Grades, but not as light as the BG.PC in the same range.
The rubber-covered eye-cups are comfortable against the eye and twist out to three basic positions. Although they do not specifically lock at these settings, you will experience some turning resistance at these points to help keep them in place; this could perhaps be described as ‘loose locking’.
When the eye-cup is in the lowest position, just enough space has been left between its lower edge and the right ocular dioptre ring for the latter to be pulled up, adjusted and locked down again without you having to change the eye-cup setting. This represents a neat advance on the other models, which do not offer dioptre locking, although there is no incremental locking scale, just a simple + or – either side of a mid-point marker.
The central focusing wheel is about one and a half fingers’ width and turns freely. Its surface is rubber-stippled as opposed to the more conventional ribbing of the other models in the range, but I found this still provided adequate finger contact, even when I was wearing gloves. Just over one and a half turns of the wheel take the image from infinity down to a highly acceptable close focus of 1.8 m. In the field, I was still able to focus on objects 1.5 m away, but the dioptre required a further slight adjustment at this range.
I would describe the depth of field as fairly average, but the field of view – 133 m at 1,000 m – is excellent for an 8.5x magnification model at this end of the market, and even beats some top-tier binoculars!
Birding in late winter provided plenty of opportunity for use in poor light conditions. The images returned by the WPG remained reasonably bright towards dusk and under overcast skies, although it seemed that the colours deteriorated slightly. A marginally diminished contrast appeared to lend a barely perceptible sepia tinge to the image, which was not evident to any noticeable degree on bright and sunny days. I hasten to add that this did not detract from general viewing, and with this binocular I enjoyed excellent and highly satisfying views of Norfolk’s White-crowned Sparrow, among many other interesting birds.
Against a generally neutral, albeit cold, overall colour tone, other aspects of the image which came to light during testing were the ever-present spectre of chromatic aberration – which was at a low level, but clearly evident – and the general crispness of the image, which remained sharp almost to the very edges of the field.
The WPG is supplied with a soft carry-case, attachable objective lens caps, an articulated rainguard and a padded ‘bungee-style’ strap. The last began to show signs of wear over the short time I was using it.
In summary, this binocular represents a welcome low-cost roof-prism addition to the RSPB range and is clearly worthy of consideration if you are considering making a purchase below £250.
Size: 147 x 127 mm
Weight: 731 g
Field of view: 133 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 1.8 m
Guarantee: 10 years