For awhile I have been predicting that by the end of the year some manufacturers will introduce Alpha quality binos for 1/4 to 1/3 the cost. Well, the future is now, and little did I suspect that the first one to the gate would be in such a small package, as I was counting more on an 8x42 or 10x42. I chose the 10x25 over the 8x20 because I like a little more punch in these small binos and am willing to give up some FOV for the extra magnification, and I figured the ED glass would benefit the 10x more. Besides, I still have one of the 8x20 Nikon LXL's, although I got rid of my 10x25 Zeiss Victory's. The street price on these 10x25 Wings ED's are about $170.
The specs on the 10x25 Wings ED are actually a little better than most of the Alphas, being a little smaller, lighter and having a better close focus. In addition to the ED glass they are phase coated and have silver coated prisms. In the folded position they are 4-1/4" L x 2-3/8" W x 1-5/8" H, weigh 8.5 oz, FOV is 285 ft, CF is 7 ft, ER is 16mm, and the occular lenses are 17mm wide. Lifetime warranty. They come with a nice cordura carry case w/strap and a 1-1/2" wide bino strap, but have no lens caps or rainguard. You would think in introducing a new bino of this caliber that they could have included some tethered caps and a rainguard, or even put a belt loop on the case.
The binos are the typical alpha double hinge type, and the build quality is excellent, with perfect hinge tensioning. In nearly 5 days of testing and sitting them down countless times, the hinges stayed put where I had set them. It is possible to adjust the IPD one handed, but not real easy. The rubber armoring is only as wide as the hinge and does not extend down the last 1-1/4" of the barrels, nor does it cover the top of the hinge. I found the armoring to be excellent and had no problems with grip. Strap hinges are mounted at the rear in the 6:00 position and look a little small and fragile, but hey - a lifetime warranty. Surely they knew what they were doing when they designed them.
The focuser is ala Nikon LXL with the focus knob at the bottom end of the hinge, and depending on your grip can be focused with either the ring or middle finger. Focusing is clockwise from near to infinity with the knob turning 1-1/2 turns. There is no overplay at close focus, so when it stops you are at close focus. Focusing is smooth and precise with no play at all, and has a great feel. If I had one wish, it would be that the focus knob was slightly taller, as I could see where one might have difficulty if wearing heavy gloves. The eyecups are twist up 3 position with an intermediate and a full up position and they stay exactly where you put them with no play or looseness. I tried them in the down position with my computer and bifocal eyeglasses and had no problems with ER or getting a good view.
Now for the fun stuff.
Brightness, sharpness, resolution, contrast, color fidelity and CA control are absolutely top shelf. They have a little pincushion distortion built in and some very mild field curvature at the outer edges. The sweetspot approaches 90% and at first glance these appear to be sharp edge to edge. Due to the small EP it is difficult to glance at the extreme edges, but after repeated observations you do notice some very, very minor field curvature at the edge - but you have to look hard for it. I was able to easily read a utility nameplate in my neighbors yard about 150 yards away that I had difficulty reading and resolving with the 10x25 Victory's. Color fidelity and rendition were spot on, and surprisingly these had a better 3d effect than I am used to in the mini compacts. CA is virtually non existent and it is hard to believe the ED glass could do such a good job. I have never tested any bino where I couldn't induce at least a little CA toward the outer edges - until now. No matter which of my test areas I used or the time of day, I couldn't get these to show any CA, even at the extreme edges which I found to be simply amazing. CA doesn't bother me much, but I do always look and test for it. Control of glare was also very well controlled, and was never a problem in back lit situations or front lit. The only time I could get them to exhibit any glare was with the sun in front at about a 45 degree angle or less, and also about 10-15 degrees or so off center. A very small glare oval would appear at the bottom down around the 5 to 7 oclock position. Never could get them to exhibit what I call the veiling glare fog at the sides which I can typically see on other binos with the sun up and off to one side. Since these are so sharp edge/edge, I did quite a bit of panning and more testing today to see if there was any problem with the big RB - I found no problems.
Needless to say, I am totally impressed with the 10x25 Alpen Wings ED, and feel they are superior to the 10x25 Zeiss Victory's I had. The only gripes I have are the lack of lens caps and a belt loop on the case, other than that, there is absolutely nothing not to love about these if mini compacts are your pleasure. I can only hope that the 8x20 Wings ED little brother is as good as the 10x25. Where else could you buy a matched pair for less than the price of one alpha mini?
Let the naysayers and doubting Thomas's have at it.