Viking Optical 8x42 ED binocular
Viking Optical’s new 8x42 ED is, along with the higher magnification 10x42, the first open-bridge binocular to be launched by the company, furthering the design trend which appears to be gathering pace within the optics market. Some considerable time was taken with the development of this model, which had been initially designed without ED glass, before production commenced in the Far East.
A lightweight magnesium body combined with the open-hinge format ensures that the overall weight is kept to an absolute minimum, while at the same time maximising ease of use in holding and balancing the binocular. There is a grippy rubber covering with large shallow cutaways well positioned for thumbs of any size, although their shallowness brings into question their necessity or effectiveness. The presence or absence of thumb-rests will always be a matter of personal preference, and those on this model maybe seen as a compromise to please all users.
Notwithstanding the above, I found this binocular very comfortable to hold and operate. For added comfort there’s a good-quality padded neoprene-type neck strap backed by non-slip rubber. The articulated rainguard – also soft rubber – is very flexible and can be applied or removed with relative ease. The neck-strap lugs are sensibly located high up on the body and well away from the holding area, while the eyecups, covered with same rubber as the body, twist out, click-stopping at the distally extended position and the midway point.
Focusing is easily achieved via a very smooth-turning, rubber-covered wheel of about one finger’s width, taking approximately two full anti-clockwise rotations between close focus and infinity. Not that you will normally need to use it to its full extent, as the depth of field is excellent, with all subjects generally in focus from around 50 m to the distant horizon. I measured the close focus at just a shade over 1.5 m, and at 137 m at 1,000 m the field of view is good, even if to my eyes it lent the impression of being narrower than this.
All well and good so far, but at this point I must confess to being somewhat disappointed with the dioptre mechanism. The single-eye focusing adjustment is centrally mounted behind the focusing wheel. It consists of a calibrated ring with a series of eight marker points between the extremes of scale, the latter denoted by plus and minus signs. The ring itself has a small, raised button which must be depressed to make the physical adjustment, the ring then turning smoothly. When the button is released and raised, the ring should be locked, but it is still possible to move the ring if a little pressure is applied.
Furthermore, it would appear there is a danger of the button becoming unintentionally depressed – for example when picking up the binocular or putting it in its carry case – and the setting being accidentally changed. It is also worth mentioning that the ring does not operate at extremes of focus-wheel adjustment, although it shouldn’t normally need to be adjusted at these ends of the focusing scale. In addition, I discovered that the dioptre adjustment was extremely sensitive, to the extent that I found it very difficult to achieve a balanced setting for my eyes.
When I got there, however, I was rewarded with an excellent image, which was bright and sharp to within 5-10 per cent of its periphery. Most notably, I vividly recall a fine male Common Redstart coming to life with colours which were rich, natural and with nice contrast. The overall colour cast is on the cold side of neutral and there is an acceptable level of chromatic aberration which, as might be expected, is less evident in the centre of the image. One thing I discovered, however, was a noticeable but small fish-eye effect upon panning left and right; this was not a major cause for concern but some users might find it irritating.
At £559 this is by no means a low-cost binocular and, for overall quality, it falls within a fairly standard band of mid-range models that offer something a cut above the budget end of the market. It is certainly worthy of consideration if you can live with the dioptre adjustment in its current format.
Size: 136x129 mm
Weight: 710 g
Field of view: 137 m at 1,000 m
Close focus: 1.5 m
Guarantee: 10 years