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Old Wednesday 20th April 2011, 05:14   #1
Steve C
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Kruger Caldera 8x42

I originally was going to include this with the RazorHD review, but decided to seperate the two.

This is a mid price binocular, selling for $379 for the 8x version I have. I got this one for a couple of reasons. One, I am pretty impressed by the abilities of the current $4-500 binoculars to deliver the goods far above and beyond their asking price. This is a more reasonable comparison to the ZEN ED 2 and the Theron Wapiti APO-ED and a couple of others. There are some differences here that will help separate the three. Curiosity is always there for use as a reason too.

Kruger takes a little different approach to making things in China The Kruger factory (one of them) is in Sisters, OR, a bit over a two hour drive north of me. I have been there twice. This is where they do all their optical design. They design, engineer, build the prototypes (they have complete CNC controlled manufacturing ability), and do product development here. They are currently building a couple of riflescopes in Sisters. Some of the parts come from their China facilities. They intend to expand as much of the assembly work at the Sisters site as they can. Kruger started out with a couple of Leupold engineers who started Pacific Rim Optical. This is a division of the now larger parent Kruger Optical and wholly owned by Kruger. PRO makes optical glass for almost any sort of optical use you can think So when the Kruger design and engineer team starts building an optical instrument, PRO makes the prototype lenses and prisms. When they go to production, Kruger owns the assembly facility in China. Kruger has ownership of the whole process. While some of the process is in China, Kruger still owns it all. They use the terms “Crafted in the USA” or “Engineered in the USA”. That will not be good enough for some, but that is what it is too. Kruger also builds things for other companies. One binocular they build is the Cabela’s Alpha Extreme. They also build one of the Cabela’s Pine Ridge binoculars as well.

The Caldera got a pretty decent workout alongside the Razor HD, the ZEN ED 2, and the Promaster ELX ED. There are a couple of things that immediately stand out with the Caldera. First it is a very short binocular, no longer than a 32 mm compact. I would not say it is particularly compact, but it is enough smaller in size that the difference is obvious from the other binoculars. The second thing is the unique ergonomics. It looks like somebody forgot to install the front hinge of a double hinge design. The engineers flatly told me that the hinge is strong enough, as strong as any and any blow that will damage this hinge will damage any binocular. The reason for the no front hinge is to give the pinky fingers a place to go and to give enough room to have the tethered eye cups stay in place. So this gives a different feel than you get from other binoculars. This has built in fold up/down eye shields and the rain guard is designed to fit over the folded down wing. Personally, I happen to like the feature, but eye glass wearers may not find it useful. The eye cup wings offer a source of nit pick. They rotate too easily and are never in the same place as they were when you take off the ocular covers. This has a nice, substantial feel, and the construction seems better than some other mid price stuff.

The Caldera comes with fluorite objectives, full broadband coating, and dielectric mirroring. It also has hard, scratch resistant, and substance repellent coatings. It is a very dark charcoal gray armored unit with three longitudinal grooves along the side of the binocular. There is a polygonal indentation for the thumbs that is different from anything I have seen.

The case is a zippered clamshell style, similar to what is seen with some Vortex or Zen Ray stuff. They include a patented “cool neck” strap, which is really a pretty good strap. It is light and wide and has an eight inch by two inch zippered compartment. The compartment will hold whatever you wish, but the idea is to use it to hold refreezable cold packs or hot packs. Two hand warmer packs come in the package. They include two QD straps to go on the binocular and the strap snaps into the QD clips. You get two sets of QD release straps

This may be just me, but the 438’ FOV seems wider than it is. This was somewhat of a surprise as the ZEN ED has a 426’ FOV. That’s 8.34* for the Caldera and 8.11* for the ZEN ED. I didn’t think that would be a noticeable difference, but to me anyway, it is. It has about the same presence in width as the ZEN ED 7x36 or even seems very close to my old Swift Nighthawk 8x40 porro which is 9.5*. I’m not sure why this is, or if it will seem so to anyone else, but I sure notice it.

The Caldera focuses counterclockwise to infinity. There is two full turns of focus wheel travel. The close focus is 6 feet. From there to 20 feet takes the same 0.75 turn needed by the Razor HD. From 20 feet to infinity uses another 0.50 turns, leaving 0.75 turns of focus past infinity. The wheel is smooth, with about the right tension and there is no backlash. There is a right eye diopter adjustment on the back of the focus wheel. This one has a small button that is pushed down to unlock the diopter and with the button down, the diopter is adjusted. When done, the mechanism locks when released.

As noted above, the image seems quite wide, giving a big, pleasant view. The image is quite bright, sharp, and has very good contrast. There is a little pincushion at the edge and also some field curvature. The sweet spot is about 70% of the fov. No, the edges are probably not sharp enough for the users who worry about that, but they are as sharp as most binoculars and sharper than many.

I could find no CA or fringing of any kind. This glass handles stray light very well and I found no veiling glare, even panning under the sun or with the setting sun behind me. I got a situation on a recent morning where with a bright, clear sky panning under 7:00 am sunshine over a scenery coated with morning frost where I got some glare right under the sun with the RazorHD. The Caldera handled that glare better than the new Razor. The Caldera is better than the ZEN ED 2 in both areas, and about like the Theron APO-ED.

There is not a lot to separate the image of this and the ZEN ED 2, or the Vortex Talon, and the rest of he class of excellent mid price selections. The Caldera, as well as the ZEN, Promaster, and Theron continue to impress with their optical ability. The Caldera has the edge in a big fov, more compact size, an apparently superior construction, and is the most comfortable for me to hold. The Theron is sharper at the edge, a little brighter, but a smaller fov. The Promaster has a little warmer color bias, but all are pretty good. I had some comparison to the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD as well. The Bushnell is lighter than the rest, has as good centerfield sharpness, but all of the samples I have seen have smaller sweet spot than the others, as well as softer edges. The Bushnell construction strikes me as a little “light”. These are a step down from the new Razor HD, but the differences are still slim.

Pictures to follow. I will add to the comments as needed.

Here is a cautionary note. The price you will pay fore a Caldera is $379 for the 8x and $389 for the 10x. Deals shown at Amazon are NOT right. Kruger has notified these places of the price. So you will NOT find a $210 Caldera actually available for sale. They will take the order and say “oops the price went up”. Correct prices are shown on the SWFA site, and probably Optics Planet.
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Old Wednesday 20th April 2011, 14:28   #2
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Stellar review Steve. I'm always impressed with them. Hope the euro homers don't get wind of this one.....
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Old Wednesday 20th April 2011, 17:11   #3
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Stellar review Steve. I'm always impressed with them. Hope the euro homers don't get wind of this one.....
Glad you liked it. The quality gap is certainly closing, but still exists. While the likes of the Caldera, ZEN, Theron et. al are certainly better values relative to price point, the difference is there. Sometimes discussing the differences may be akin to discussions of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
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Old Thursday 21st April 2011, 03:11   #4
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Since I posed this elsewhere I better post in the review lest I get admonished by the forum monitor . I did have an issue with the unit I got from SWFA, and it was the reason for my second trip to the Kruger facility. The first was to get a look at the Caldera.

At any rate, the unit I had had different resolution ability in each barrel. One pretty good and the other barely within spec. The collimation was still within spec, but since the weak resolution barrel was also the one not quite collimated, the unit acted as if it had no depth of field, and focus between barels was tenuous at best. Sharp and precise image at the shallow depth to which it could be focused, but annoying. It was an experience to talk with the engineer and watch him check resolution and collimation.

We checked out a replacement unit and it was good to go. So I got the swap done in a day instead of waithin several shipping days each way. I also got to hear for myself what the engineer had to say. So while the first unit was a bummer, the experience was pretty educational.
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Old Friday 22nd April 2011, 18:43   #5
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Steve C, thanks for the review- sounds like an intriguing mid-range binocular option, especially with the faster focus than the ED2.

Did you/could you perhaps measure the interpupillary distance? Couldn't find anything on that anywhere on the web for these.
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Old Friday 22nd April 2011, 22:50   #6
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The IPD is 57-80. Don't know why it is so wide. Had this in my notes for the review but forgot.
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Old Friday 22nd April 2011, 23:15   #7
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Thanks! That is wide.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 06:11   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve C View Post

Here is a cautionary note. The price you will pay fore a Caldera is $379 for the 8x and $389 for the 10x. Deals shown at Amazon are NOT right. Kruger has notified these places of the price. So you will NOT find a $210 Caldera actually available for sale. They will take the order and say “oops the price went up”. Correct prices are shown on the SWFA site, and probably Optics Planet.
Amazon is selling them for $267.50
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 12:48   #9
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Amazon is selling them for $267.50
Hence the cautionary note. Maybe they are. You can be the first to see if you can get one for that price. Let us know if that works.

Edit:

OK, I answered that pretty early this morning from my cell phone. Now that I've had time to get online and look, the Amazon stuff does seem to be different this time. Last time I looked there were Calderas there for a little as $202. When I was looking for mine, I saw that and called Kruger and asked if that was really legitimate. They said no. Their concern was that somebody would order, and the $202 deal said they had one in stock, that the company would take the order and then say, the price had gone up. Kruger's worry was that whoever was expecting a "good deal" would get mad at Kruger, not Amazon, and buy something else, elsewhere. So I know from my conversation that Kruger had pointedly notified Amazon and Ammo Zone, since both were linked on the dealer locator at Kruger. The Amazon and Ammo Zone deals were the reason for the cautionary note in the first place. I guess be careful if you try that. That glass would be a bargain at $700.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 14:15   #10
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Hi Steve, Thanks for the great review!

"I could find no CA or fringing of any kind. This glass handles stray light very well and I found no veiling glare, even panning under the sun or with the setting sun behind me. I got a situation on a recent morning where with a bright, clear sky panning under 7:00 am sunshine over a scenery coated with morning frost where I got some glare right under the sun with the RazorHD. The Caldera handled that glare better than the new Razor. The Caldera is better than the ZEN ED 2 in both areas, and about like the Theron APO-ED. "

I had a chance to check out the Theron APO-ED and found it handles veiling glare very well, excellent in fact. So I agree with you about the Theron.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 17:49   #11
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Greetings from Amazon.com.

We thought you'd like to know that we shipped your items, and that this completes your order. Your order is being shipped and cannot be changed by you or by our customer service department.
..

Here's a store selling them for $282.24. There are several online merchants selling for less than MSRP. Wholesale sounds about to be in the $100 range.

I don't think Amazon will comply with MSRP as it's only a suggestion. Their interest is in volume profit.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 18:24   #12
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birdazzLED

Well, it is nice to know that seems to be straightened out and there are deals to be made. Nothing is more worth the $282.24 (where did that amount come from I wonder?) for that glass.

Just for giggles I tried the $202 item and the checkout system said something vague about "will ship when we get it." Not confidence inspiring. That one is gone now too.

Hope you like yours .
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 19:31   #13
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Thanks Steve, I hope it like it as well. It was your post that made me curious about a possible good deal.

Here's another at $267 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003FWM9CM

*damn, I just realized I bought the wrong one! Oh well, the $267 adds + $9.23 shipping and it's from a third party i've never heard of. Mine is sold by Amazon at $282
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 19:40   #14
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Thanks Steve, I hope it like it as well. It was your post that made me curious about a possible good deal.

Here's another at $267 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003FWM9CM

*damn, I just realized I bought the wrong one! Oh well, the $267 adds + $9.23 shipping and it's from a third party i've never heard of. Mine is sold by Amazon at $282
I'll be curious to see whether you see the same apparrent wider fov as I do.
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 20:02   #15
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I'll come back to this thread and let you know
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Old Saturday 23rd April 2011, 23:03   #16
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I’m glad you reviewed the Caldera’s, Steve. I bought a pair of the 10x42 after Christmas. I actually got them for $235. They had problems unfortunately. There was about 10 degrees of play in the focus knob and the diopter moved every time I put it in the case. I send them into Kruger and they replaced them with a new unit. The one I sent in had a serial number starting with AB21 and the replacements were AB22. The new ones are much better. The play in the focus knob is gone and they’ve redesigned the lock button on the diopter. When I ordered mine, I noticed that some dealers were selling for $350 to $400 and some for $200 to $250. I suspect Kruger had problems with the first production run and the cheap ones are the early ones. That would explain why the cheap ones are not available anymore. The place I bought mine from has raised the prices by about $100.

The Caldera’s are a mixed bag for me. I love the ergonomics. The optics are sharp and the FOV is impressive. However, the focus is too fast for me. I do OK with them at close range, but focusing on distant objects requires too light a touch. I find myself constantly tweaking the focus. I have the same complaints about the Minox HG 8x33, which everyone else seems to love. So, it’s probably just me. The only other problem I encountered was that I noticed the rolling ball effect for the first time in my life while panning across a row of houses. I’ve been unable to reproduce the effect while birding, so I guess it was the straight lines of the houses that did it.

I bought the Caldera’s with the idea that I would review them. I couldn’t find a single other review on the web at the time. Not even a thumbs up, thumbs down review. I decided not to review them because I didn’t want the only review to be a negative one that might be just a matter of personal taste. I saw another brief review on Cloudy Nights recently and he likes them too, so it probably is just me.
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Old Sunday 24th April 2011, 00:48   #17
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BinoBoy,

I think it is fairly apparent that any single binocular design does not work for everybody. That is probably more true with the $400ish glass than with more expensive stuff, but I really don't know for sure. Kruger has had some problems getting stuff done right and as a result the Caldera suffered some production delays. One of the things that they did was to secure their own facility to produce the rest of the optic besides the glass. They have owned their own glass works since their inception. Now they own essentially the whole process and the only things I think (if I understand my conversations with them properly) they subcontract for are things like cases, straps, ocular covers, objective covers, and things like knobs or other minor stuff.

It sure looks like you got in on the problem end of their cycle. It seems like I got in on the fix end. But you do have a valid point about the focus. Between 20' and infinity it is really fast, as you point out.

Edit: I note your reference to rolling ball. This comment showed up on Optics Talk too, but I could not see any RB here. For that matter, the only binocular that has ever bothered me with RB is the new SV EL.
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Old Sunday 24th April 2011, 04:19   #18
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It seems I said something about some pictures, so here are some.

Caldera and clamshell case
Winged eye shield up
Winged eye Shield down
Thumb indents
Razor HD, Caldera, and an 8x32
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Old Wednesday 27th April 2011, 22:26   #19
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Just arrived. Can someone tell me where the serial number is located? I don't see anything that begins with an AB21 - AB22
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Old Wednesday 27th April 2011, 23:51   #20
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Just arrived. Can someone tell me where the serial number is located? I don't see anything that begins with an AB21 - AB22
Inside the left barrel, just behind the underside of the hinge. AB21 seems to be the ones with the gold post exposed for the diopter unlock (as in the website pictures), The AB22 is the current production run with the diopter unlock post and ring covered.

Mine is an AB21 and the diopter post can be seen in the picture I posted above.
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Old Thursday 28th April 2011, 10:03   #21
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A couple of years ago, with the help of web-site reviews, I bought a pair of Vortex-Stokes DLS 10x42s for under $500 and was blown away by the combination of American design and quality control plus Asian (Japanese I think) lenses.

(I'm in Australia where binoculars are generally astronomical in price or like looking through jam-jar bottoms).

This time, I've been looking for a pair of entry level binoculars around the $200 mark for my son. I stuck with the American/Asian formula and went for Kruger Caldera 10x42s at $214. (I think I scored the last discounted pair on Amazon).

They have an AB18 series prefix. No problems whatsoever with the diopter setting or focus knob. Or anything else for that matter. These are excellent birding binoculars, comparable to my Vortex with the bonus of an increased FOV and fiddley but effective eye-shield wings. Incredible for the price.

I read one review warning of a "Rolling Ball" effect on these. When I first used them I noticed it too - very slightly. Strangely though, after about 15 minutes of use the effect went away. Maybe the software between my ears kicked-in and compensated.
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Old Thursday 28th April 2011, 10:42   #22
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insomnia....

This is the older version. I paid too much for it. Here it is for 202.00:http://www.packsandtents.com/product...52dWd-FOV.html

The diopter keeps moving and it doesn't focus as sharp as the Zen Ray.

I'm a tiny bit suspicious if Krueger really "engineered" this binocular when Adorama had/has an identical diopter design for quite a while. I already had one of these and it was defective and I returned it. I thought the diopter looked familiar..

Pic below is Adorama's Pro-Optic

****edit***********

However, I really like the focus dampening. There is a little play but it's very easy to move.
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Old Wednesday 4th May 2011, 06:53   #23
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I spoke with the folks at Kruger this afternoon and found out facts regarding two applicable points discussed here. First, it was stated that the Caldera does not have dielectric mirroring. Second, they sure way to check if one has the new, corrected diopter adjustment is to look at the button: if it is round, it's the old one and if it's square and black, it's the improved model.
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Old Thursday 5th May 2011, 03:09   #24
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I'll be curious to see whether you see the same apparrent wider fov as I do.

Oh yeah, I did not have a similar experience. My peripheral vision indicated less apparent FOV and when I tried to use my eyes to look at the edges, I would see "blackouts". This is with eye cups fully extended. It just wasn't a good fit for my eyes.
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Old Thursday 12th May 2011, 13:59   #25
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So SteveC's doesn't have diopter lock just like the ones on Sportsman Guide. But the new ones do have diopter lock as shown on their website?

http://www.krugeroptical.com/caldera.asp
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