Vanguard Spirit 8x42 binocular


For 24 years, Vanguard has been producing photo-video accessories (tripods, ball heads, bags and so on), as well as hunting accessories. Optics with ‘advanced optical technology’ were introduced to its portfolio from 2007, and the Spirit range, launched in 2009, includes seven models with 36 mm, 42 mm and 50 mm objectives.

Solidly built and encased in a layer of non-slip rubber, the first thing to become apparent with the 8x42 I tested was its weight, or rather lack thereof. At just 600 g this binocular is one of the lightest for its magnification and objective size. One factor no doubt contributing to its low weight is the relatively thin covering of body armour. There is little in the way of thickened rubber protection around the objectives, an area that is more likely to be damaged than any other.

The ergonomics, however, are good. This model is very comfortable to use and easy to hold, the cutaway thumb-rests being in exactly the right place for the positioning of my thumbs, while the strap attachment lugs are well positioned at the very top of the body, immediately below the ocular. This means they don’t dig into the skin between the thumb and forefinger.

The rubber-covered eyecups twist out smoothly to any position deemed comfortable by the user; there are no click-stop positions. Single-eye focus is adjusted via a non-locking dioptre located at the base of the right ocular.

Focusing is achieved using a rubber-milled wheel of little more than one finger’s width in depth. This is where things become interesting, as it takes just three quarters of a turn to move from close focus to infinity, which means only tiny adjustments of the focusing wheel are necessary to focus between near and distant objects. Constant refocusing and struggling to focus quickly on a bird simply does not happen. I measured the close focus distance as 2.5 m – spot on the manufacturer’s figure – which is about average for today’s roof-prism binoculars.

The Spirit is one of the increasing minority of binoculars to have a water-repellent coating – Vanguard’s branded ‘Hydroguard’ – applied to its lenses. Water which collects on the objectives simply runs off, or it can be removed by lightly shaking the binocular.

Otherwise, fully multicoated optics and a BAK4 prism system combine to deliver an acceptably sharp and very bright image which, as one would expect, softens in a narrow area of its periphery, where there is also some curvature of field evident. A slightly bluish colour rendition overlays strong, natural colours, which appear to be a fraction darker than reality. I found chromatic aberration clearly present across the whole image, although it diminishes perceptibly in the central 30-40 per cent of the field of view, where I believe most users would find it tolerable. At 110 m at 1,000 m field of view is on the narrow side of average for this objective size and magnification; this is noticeable initially but I quickly adjusted to it after a little time in the field.

The Vanguard Spirit is clearly a budget binocular which you can pick up at well below the recommended retail price of £279, the current ‘street value’ coming in at around £50 less than this. There is a more expensive ED version available, which may be worthy of investigation if you like the feel of the standard model. Accessories for both include a comfortable padded neck strap and an articulated rainguard.

Tech spec

Price: £279
Size: 145x130 mm
Weight: 600 g
Field of view: 110 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 2.5 m
Gas-filled: yes
Waterproof: yes
Guarantee: limited lifetime warranty