RSPB 8x42 HD binocular


With the performance gap between mid-priced binoculars and those at the top of the range having considerably narrowed over the past two or three years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find significant fault with many middle-tier manufacturers’ models that are now coming through to compete with the best. The recently launched RSPB HD range – which has just undergone an upgrade within little more than a year of its market debut – is a prime example. The range comprises 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42 models.

One of the key differences from the previous model is the improved dioptre correction; the single-eye adjustment is now built in to the right ocular, which results in the central focusing wheel sitting lower down in the body than before. This also means that the strap lugs are less likely to dig uncomfortably into users’ hands while focusing.

In line with top-tier manufacturers, another feature of the upgrade is the addition of a dirt- and water-repellent coating to the lenses, which makes cleaning easier and means water will simply run off or can be shaken off. Internally, new high-reflective prisms have been added to provide improved light transmission and contrast.

With these improvements, we should be seeing something approaching the ultimate low-cost, high-performance binocular for which many birders have been waiting a long time. With this in mind, I put the ‘birder’s choice’ – the 8x42 – to the test.

This binocular is nicely compact, has a quality feel and, at 670 g, weighs a little less than its top-tier equivalents, although there are some mid-range models out there which weigh less. I found the smooth rubber armouring just a little slippery, but otherwise it was well balanced and easy to handle.

Seemingly sound mechanics were evident in both the dioptre adjustment and the central focusing wheel. The latter is finely stippled, slightly broader than a finger’s width and takes approximately one and two-thirds’ smooth rotations to move between close focus and infinity. In reality just under one and a half rotations will suffice to focus between objects at close range and long distance, but the depth of field is excellent and I did not need to continually adjust the focusing to any great degree. The closest I was able to focus this binocular was 1.8 m, a shade below the 2 m given by the manufacturer.

The rubber-covered eyecups click-stop positively in three positions – fully extended, fully retracted and one intermediate – with the single-eye adjustment on the right ocular operated without the need to extend them.

I found the image full of surprises. On the face of it, it’s excellent. The colours are superb: full, rich and alive, true to life and with great contrast – a little better, in fact, than one top-tier model I compared it to during field testing. Overall, the colour rendition is neutral. It’s also pleasingly bright and stands up well to use in poor light. The curvature of field is relatively slight and comparable with top models.

On the negative side, the chromatic aberration evident in the peripheral area of the image extends to its centre, albeit to a much lower degree, but it’s there if you look. While image sharpness is very good in mid-field it deteriorates to a narrow margin of softness at the edges. Peculiarly, this soft area was considerably more extensive in the right-hand margin of the field than on the left and I found this could be improved to some extent by adjusting the single eye focus. In so doing, however, the remainder of the field then became ‘out of sync’ with my left eye.

I hasten to add that this anomaly did not occur in the 8x32 model I subsequently looked through as a comparison, so I would hope that the review sample was atypical in this respect. Neither of these two issues was particularly noticeable in general viewing, but I found my eyes drawn to the soft area in the right of the field of view simply because I knew it was there.

In overall terms, this binocular would appear to be great value for money – clearly worthy of serious consideration by anyone who is looking for a new binocular which combines low cost and high performance. Accessories with all models include a soft case, articulated rainguard and padded neck strap.

Tech spec

Price: £499
Size: 140x125 mm
Weight: 670 g
Field of view: 131 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2 m
Gas-filled: yes
Waterproof: yes
Guarantee: 10 years