Last year I reviewed the excellent Opticron MM4 travel scope. It went down very well, and Opticron has asked me to review their latest MM3 version (more on that another day). They also gave me the opportunity to review a new pair of bins. The Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+.
Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ – Review
Now I love a pair of bins. For a birdwatcher there is little more exciting than testing out new ones. Or comparing them to your own. For years I have used Swarovski 10×42 EL’s. But they are getting on now and technology has changed. So this opportunity comes at a good time for me.
As usual on to the specs of the Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ first.
Taken from the Opticron website:
- HD+ optical system with ‘PC’ phase corrected prism units and Oasis prism coating.
- Nitrogen filled construction to a depth of 3m.
- Textured ‘natural’ rubber armouring for exceptional comfort & grip.
- Wide wheel glide-action focusing with right side dioptre adjustment.
- 3-stage retractable eyecups: 10×42, 10×50, 12×50, 4-stage: 8×42.
- Tripod adapter socket.
- 30 year guarantee
|Min Focus (m)||2.3||2.3||4||3|
|Eye Relief (mm)||22||17||19||18|
|Price £ inc. VAT||349||359||369||379|
Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ In Field Use
As someone who has always used 10x binoculars, changing over to an 8x set up was something I was a little concerned with. Would I struggle with the reduced magnification? Would I still be able to ID the more distant birds? I needn’t have worried, the magnification is not actually that noticeable. And the extra light gathering (due to lower magnification I think?) Is excellent.
What surprised me most was just how good these binoculars are.
LIGHT AND FRINGING
With binoculars you will want bright, crisp images when you look through the eyepieces. The better the light gathering the better colours will be reproduced in lower light. Sounds like I’m talking cameras but it works the same for your eyes. The Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ are excellent at gathering light. I’ve used them at dawn and dusk and they are superb.
When used in bright conditions there is no fringing (or none that I noticed). If you are unsure what this means, sometimes in bright light you will notice an extra fringe of colour around an object when against a bright sky, for example. I can’t tell you why this is, but I believe it is to do with the refraction of light. (I’m sounding like I know what I mean here aren’t I).
Of course the other thing you need to worry about are how sharp is the “glass”. What do I mean, well when you look through the eye pieces is the image you are seeing sharp? And teh answer for the BGA HD+ is a resounding yes. details are clear, edges are crisp, and overall everything looks good.
Carrying the binoculars around my local patch the last few weeks has been great, they are very light. And the included strap, seems to take some of the weight off your neck (stretchy neoprene?). My neck has certainly appreciated this.
The three stage eye relief is an interesting one. I’ll be honest here I haven’t used anything but full relief. And can’t really see why this exists (If you know, please let me know in the comments).
Then we come to the focus wheel. It is smooth, and easy to adjust to the desired focus. You can very quickly move from minimum focus (2.2 meters) to infinity, but not so quickly that micro adjustments are hard. But that is not to say it is perfect, more on that later.
Now every year when I attend Birdfair, I am stunned by just how expensive optics have become. For “top of the range” binoculars, from one of the “Big boys” you are talking thousands rather than hundreds. I’m sure ordinary birders are being priced out of the market somewhat here. Especially youngsters. Well not, it seems with Opticron.
The Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ retail at £350 roughly. A very reasonable price for a “mid line” pair of binoculars. To be honest (and I may seem like I am pandering to Opticron here) all their products seem really well priced. They are affordable. But that doesn’t mean they have ditched quality to achieve a lower price.
As mentioned I use 10 year old (plus) Swarovski EL’s at the time they were top of the rang bins. Cost 4 figures, and were classed as the best around. The Opticron Countryman 8×42 BGA HD+ are every bit as sharp, in fact they are sharper. Optical glass has improved a lot over the years. These retail at £350. Now if that isn’t a reasonable price, in an age when the so called top manufacturers are demanding over £2k for a pair, then I don’t know what is.
Do they match up with the big boys now? Well I’m not using them in direct competition so hard to say really, but they do everything you want in a pair of binoculars. The light levels are great. The image is sharp. I have not noticed any fringing on the edges.
But let’s be honest here if you are looking to spend 2 grand on binoculars chances are you have a pair in mind already.
I alluded to issues with focusing earlier in the post, and here I’ll explain. There are actually two issues. Firstly the focus does something a little strange to my eyes, when at closest focus. If I quickly try to adjust the focus from closest to a little further and then back again i get a feeling of seasickness. It is not noticeable at distance, so when watching birds is fine. But for insects I struggle a bit. I’m not sure what causes this, I’ve had it in a few pairs of binoculars I’ve tried over the years, and may just be me?
Secondly is the micro adjustment between eyes (this has to have a real name right? – UPDATE: It’s called a Diopter Adjustment wheel, I knew that all along really, thanks dad!). I found this wheel stiff to pop out, and awkward to adjust correctly. Once I had worked things out I got it set as wanted. But eyes change (my right eye needs more adjustment when I am tired) and it sin’t quick and easy to do.
These are the only issues and they are not major, at all. They make no difference to the quality of the view.
I’m not convinced you will find better bins for the money out there. Comfortable to hold, a decent weight, not heavy but not too light so you struggle to hold them still. Crystal clear, sharp, and with no noticeable fringing. The Quality of the optics is brilliant. And with the only issues being personal to me, or not ones that you would notice much. I would highly recommend these to anyone who isn’t interested in spending thousands or buying for for superficial reasons.
Try them out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
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