RSPB 8x42 HD binocular


When the RSPB HD range underwent an upgrade some time ago, I acquired the 'stock in trade' 8x42 model for a test run and I was genuinely impressed with the results. At the time, its ease of use and the quality of the image it delivered represented seriously good value. With a subsequent drop in price and the chance to take it out again, it became an integral part of my kit during December and early January.

Birding at this time of the year always involves battling against short days and the poor light conditions associated with them. Testing can therefore become a challenge for any optics and the pressure is on to prove their worth.

The 8x42 HD is a comfortable 'utility' binocular, well balanced and easy to operate. Its magnesium alloy chassis is protected by a soft-textured, non-slip TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) covering, which offers tremendous grip, and I found this particularly useful when wearing gloves.

Operating the central focusing wheel is also comfortable as the lanyard attachment lug positioning is largely unobstructive, while the wheel is extremely smooth turning, as well as being covered in a rubber layer to improve contact. Approximately 1.3 clockwise rotations take the image focusing range from infinity to an advertised 2 m close-focus figure, but an accurate assessment of the latter measurement, using a laser measure, consistently delivered a much better 1.46 m. Very nice.

The dioptre adjustment, mounted below the right ocular, can be operated without having to twist out the eyecup above it, while the eyecups themselves, with their smooth, convex rims, are generously deep, loosely click-locking in two positions above the fully retracted setting. Their design renders them extremely comfortable against the eyes, but I have to say I was able to see the full field of view up to the point when they were extended to the first of these positions but not at any point beyond this.

At 126 m at 1,000 m, the field of view is below the figure I would have expected for a binocular of this specification, although I did not experience the feeling of 'tunnel vision' or of being restricted in what I could see. The upside of a narrower field, however, means sharpness is not compromised and the HD's image remains crisp almost to the very edge of the field.

The one thing about the image which struck me initially was its colour accuracy, as well as its general brightness. I was fortunate to find a Siberian Chiffchaff at one of my local Northamptonshire sites in early January and all those nice subtle hues of pale chestnut-buff on the ear coverts, dull green edges to the flight feathers and the visible lack of yellow in the plumage really came to the fore in terms of helping to quickly establish the identification of this constantly moving bird.

Chromatic aberration is low, as is curvature of field and the HD combines Bak4, high-reflector phase-coated prisms, double ED objective lenses and full multicoating, geared to enhance image quality. This binocular was a pleasure to use.

Accessories include the usual removable tethered objective lens caps and an articulated rainguard, while the bungee-style neck strap is comfortable and includes quick release clips, for safety purposes. However, some things have still not changed for the better and this strap is way too short and cannot be easily adjusted. Other straps are available, of course.


Further info

  • Price: £469
  • Size: 160x130 mm
  • Weight: 700 g
  • Field of view: 126 m at 1,000 m
  • Light transmission: 83%
  • Close focus: 2 m
  • Gas filled: yes
  • Waterproof: yes
  • Guarantee: 10 years



  • Recent price drop renders model even better value
  • Image is sharp with excellent colour accuracy
  • Field of view below what might be expected of a model of this spec
Written by: Mike Alibone

Mike Alibone is Birdwatch's Optics Editor and a keen Northamptonshire birder, where he previously served as County Recorder. He has been testing binoculars and scopes for 15 years. Follow him on Twitter: @bonxie