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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:18   #1
FrankD
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Sightron "Blue Sky" II 8x32

In my never ending quest to find the perfect binocular I have ventured far from the mainstream binocular market. The company name "Sightron" will carry little recognition for most birders but those in the US hunting population are very familiar with their optics' products as they have been producing high quality optics for many years. Admittedly, I knew next to nothing about Sightron other than to see occasional posts in reference to their riflescope products over on 24hourcampfire. I never imagined that they produced binoculars not to mention one that I would end up trying.

What led me to them was a bit of a roundabout journey. Many evenings I surf ebay, amazon and various other places around the net in search of "good deals" on more well-known optics. You might be surprised though with what you find if you type in "8x42 or 8x32 binoculars" in a search engine or two instead of just typing "Nikon" or "Bushnell". It was just such a search that led me to find many of the other bins I have tried in the last three or four months.

That search did not initially lead me to the Sightron model referenced in the title of this thread. It actually lead me to the Vixen Foresta 8x32 DCF HR open-bridge model. I had considered buying them but $329 was a little steep for what I was looking for at the time. I did find a nice review of them over on allbinos.com which, in turn, led me to the Kenko version of them (Ultraview HP 8x32). $239 looked better than $329 plus the allbinos review of them was equally positive. I decided to order one. Sadly though, after I placed the order from Amazon, I was informed that they were out of stock with no mention of when they would be back in stock. I sat back then and considered my options.

I am not sure how that led me to the Sightron SII "Blue Sky" 8x32 but I did eventually find it. It appears to have all of the same specs and features as the other two and now the price was down to $189.99. It didn't appear to offer as aesthetically pleasing of an exterior as the other two but how does that phrase go about beggars and choosers?

So I ordered one and it arrived early last week. I have had plenty of time since then to give it a try and compare it to a variety of other binoculars I have on hand. In truth my expectations were not high because I have run into a variety of binocular "downfalls" that I have not posted here on the forum. I expected this to be just another journey out of the binocular mainstream. I was expecting average quality control and image quality along with mediocre handling. Boy was I surprised by what I received.

Let me start off with a rather shocking statement....this is currently the best overall 8x32 I have tried. Now, take a step back and consider what I just posted. I do not post this lightly and please do keep in mind that I do own the 8x32 Nikon SE and have owned the likes of the 8x32 FL, 8x32 Swaro EL, the 8x32 Meopta Meostar and the 8x30 Nikon EII. So, then you might ask how anyone in their right mind would consider a $190, non-ED, Phillipine made roof prism glass to be preferrable to all of these others? Well, there is an easy answer to that and a complicated one. The easy answer is price versus performance. The more complicated one is that this binocular simply provides the best combination of optical performance, handling and quality control for the price that I have yet to handle. So then the question becomes how does it stack up to what I have on hand.



Well, I do have three 8x30-something porros and one other 8x32 roof on hand to compare them to. I am going to immediately dismiss the Celestron Nature 8x30, the Ultima DX 8x32 and the Dakota 8x32 Elite. Each is a fine instrument in their own right but only the 8x32 Nikon SE is direct competition to the Sightron SII 8x32. How can I make such a statement? Well the answer is fairly simple.....

Ergonomics:

The ergonomics for my hands are very close to perfect. This is an open-bridge design which means that it is very easy for your hands, and my hands in particular, to comfortably wrap themselves around this binocular. Hand placement is extremely critical in the perceived ergonomic comfort level of any binocular. With this particular design my fingers effortlessly slide between the hinges. I can even reposition my hand slightly to allow the pinky and ring finger to sit comfortably on the forward bridge connection for an even more stable image. This stability adds to the viewing comfort level of this binocular.

In addition to hand position the weight of this binocular plays a major role in the perceived comfort level of the handling of this binocular. It has a listed weight of 19 ounces which is average to slightly below average for most 8x32 roof prism models currently on the market. That isn't too unusual but then consider that the 19 oz is distributed over a 5 inch plus frame and you can understand why the binocular feels so light in your hands. The open-bridge design only further enhances this feel.

So, then the question becomes, is there anything not to like ergonomically about this binocular. Yes, there is one issue. Sightron chose to be employ a bumped-out extrusion for their nameplate near the eyepiece end of the barrel. This provides the only "less than perfect" feel to the binocular. Neither the Vixen nor the Kenko has this little "bump out" to the barrel so I would imagine the ergonomics on these two models to be even better.

In addition, though I do not find the eyecup edges to be objectionable a slightly more rounded design is more comfortable in my experience. This would be another area where one of the other two versions of this binocular might fare better.

How about focus?

Well I find the focusing speed to be ideal. It has very good depth of focus. The focus is smooth in both directions but just a tad stiff to be entirely "perfect" in my experience. However, I found something interesting that is often overlooked. When focusing to the far end of focusing knob range in either direction the focus comes to a very abrupt stop. You can almost feel the focus hit a metal "stop" in both directions. There is absolutely no "spongy feeling" in either direction. It is easily the most positive feeling I have ever felt in a focusing knob. The focus is also extremely precise. The image jumps out at you when you reach perfect focus and then it stays in focus for a decent distance as the focusing knob is turned in either direction. Translation? Excellent depth of focus.

Note: The focus is counterclockwise to infinity.

Now the fun part the......

Optical Performance:

Where to start? Well, as I mentioned, the image snaps wonderfully easily into sharp focus without having to move the focusing knob back and forth. There is no problem finding perfect focus in this model. The image itself is bright for an 8x32 model with very good contrast. Colors are very well represented, rich and well saturated. Not quite the equivalent of the 8x32 SE but above average in my opinion. I am going to attribute part of this to the slightly warm (red/purple) color bias of the image. As is often the case this is not readily apparent until you compare it with a binocular that offers either a neutral color representation or one with a cold (blue/green) bias.

The size of the sweet spot is larger than average. In casual use it almost appears as if it reaches very close to the outer edges of the image. Under careful inspection I would estimate the sweet spot size to be close to 80% of the image. The outer portion which is out of focus appears to be primarily field curvature as I can easily refocus the edges with a slight turn of the focusing knob.

As I mentioned the apparent sharpness is excellent. It comes exceptionally close to rivaling the 8x32 SE and the ZR 8x43 ED3. That genuinely surprises me as the this is a non-ED roof prism binocular. Color fringing is very controlled in the sweet spot and only marginally noticeable in the area of the image out of focus.

The field of view is advertised as 7.5 degrees (394 feet) and comparing it to the 8x32 SE this seems to be the case. This is certainly not the widest field of view in an 8x32 and should probably be considered "average" overall. The interesting part is when you couple this size of the field of view with the other aspects of the binocular's optical performance (size of sweetspot, CA control, etc...) the image is extremely relaxed and quite natural.

Another optical performance area where this binocular seems to shine is in its straylight control. I have tried to push this binocular under conditions which should force it to display some aspect of ghosting, flare or other straylight conditions and it excels. Internal baffling and design seem to be very well thought out and extremely effective.

Conclusion:

Is this binocular "perfect"? No, certainly not. However, it displays exceptionally high performance levels in just about every area I could think of examining. If it wasn't for that little "bump out" in the body I would almost call this binocular "close to perfect" in terms of the total package. One cannot overlook the most important fact and the one that separates it from just about any competition...the price. Finally, a wonderfully high-performing 8x32 binocular that truly anyone can afford.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:19   #2
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Eyepieces
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:24   #3
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Baffling
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:25   #4
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"Bump out"
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:26   #5
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Hand positioning
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 04:27   #6
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SE vs SII size comparison
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 08:46   #7
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Wow these sound amazing. I was getting very close to buying some SE's or EII's as I'm getting a bit frustrated that I cant find anything to match the sharpness of my HRWP 8x42's but with a wider field of view, now I'm seriously tempted by these.

Would you say they have that transparency of view, like you are really there 8x closer that the SE's are said to have? I feel my HRWP's have this. My zen ed2 7x36's and my old Hawke ED 8x43's , great though they are, do not I feel have that sort of transparency. Maybe its just a porro thing, still these sound quite something.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 17:34   #8
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Received a Bushnell Excursion 8x28 a couple of days ago. So far I like the form factor, the big FOV together with decent eye relief and the build quality.
The image is sharp but the color representation goes towards red/purple/magenta.
I'm close to call it a tint. At present this is the one of my bins with the worst color representation. (the IOR Valdada was extremely green , the Swift Newport very cold/blue and the Zeiss Notarem very brownish/golden, but I own none of these anymore)

The Sightron sounds like a great buy. Should I regret the Excursion?
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 17:38   #9
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MO,

They come very close to matching the transparency level of the SE. There are three issues where the SE beats this model. One, the size of the sweetspot. The SE is better but the SII compares very well to it. Two, the color bias. The SE appears neutral to the red/purple color of the SII. It is subtle but it is there in direct comparison. Three is the 3D effect of the porro. I have yet to find a roof that can match it.

Now that may sound like a great deal of difference but in direct comparison it really isn't. The SII gives me very, very close to the same view as the SE in all but those specific areas.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 17:44   #10
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looksharp,

I haven't compared the two side by side but will do so now. I don't think the Sightron is as purple/red but will let you know shortly.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 18:09   #11
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LS,

I just compared the two outside. The color bias isn't to the degree in the Sightron in comparison to the Excursion. Further there are other visual differences. Though the Excursion has a very respectable sweet spot the Sightron's is larger. Second, the apparent brightness difference is substantial. It is almost like turning on a lightbulb. Further the Sightron shows no sign of the dreaded crescent from stray light whereas the Excursion shows some signs of it depending on eye position.

Of course, the Sightron gives better apparent sharpness as well.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 18:36   #12
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I too noticed the excursions 8x28's purple haze straight away. I find them to be just as sharp, or very nearly, as my zen ed2 7x36's though. My HRWP are clearly sharper than both so your comment Frank that the sightron's are, of course, sharper than the Excursion is a good sign and makes me think I may order these in preference to the EII or SE's.
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Old Thursday 22nd September 2011, 18:58   #13
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Thanks Frank!

I suppose the color representation of the Sightron is similar to the Monarchs?
The Sightron is substantially larger than the Excursion, so I won't be exchanging it as it's replacing my Minox BV 8x25. The Excursion's view and handling is more of midsize than compact, so a lot more useful than the 8x25.

With eight bins and two scopes in ordinary use, I'm seemingly about to finish my optics collection. Thus, I won't be buying the Sightron.
If it had been a clockwise focuser, I might not have been able to withstand the temptation.

/L
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Old Friday 23rd September 2011, 15:38   #14
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MO,

You are in luck. I managed to get my hands on an Opticron HR WP 8x42 when I was at the Symposium. I will compare the two and let you know this evening.

LS,

It was you that I had in mind when I posted that little note about the focusing direction for this binocular. I forgot to check for it initially but then it occurred to me on the drive home one night this week. I was half hoping that it would focus clockwise to infinity so you would have something new to try.
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 00:11   #15
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Intrigued, i googled them. I am getting an 18 foot close focus in specs (opticsplanet, swfa). Is that correct?
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 03:45   #16
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Jay,

Someone else also mentioned that. It is a typo...straight from the manufacturer's website. They actually focus about a foot closer than the Nikon SEs. I haven't done the exact measurement yet but I would estimate 7 feet.

I am also kicking around the idea of ordering the Vixen and Kenko models just to see how the three compare. Amazon has all three but I can't use Prime so it will take a bit to receive them.

LS,

I did compare the Opticrons to the Sightrons. The HR WP is a little brighter and has that pronounced 3D effect. The Nikon doesn't even equal it in the case of the latter. The Sightrons are a touch sharper across the entire sweetspot and have better edge performance...plus the wider field of view.
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 06:17   #17
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Frank. That's really impressive that the Sightrons are a touch sharper than the HRWP. With a wider field of view and better edge performance too, they sound almost perfect.

Incidentally the zen ed2 7x36's have really grown on me now, I love em. All their strengths just seem to come together to make a very impressive whole. Still, I've had them out together with the HRWP on a number of occasions and the HRWP are most definitely ( to my eyes) sharper, cleaner and more transparent than the zens, which themselves are super sharp and transparent ( in my experience of roofs) So this all makes the Sightrons sound quite incredible :)
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 18:25   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankD View Post
MO,
LS,

It was you that I had in mind when I posted that little note about the focusing direction for this binocular. I forgot to check for it initially but then it occurred to me on the drive home one night this week. I was half hoping that it would focus clockwise to infinity so you would have something new to try.
Thank you very much, Frank!
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 19:25   #19
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Great review, Frank, and a very intriguing result. Many thanks for bringing these kinds of revelations to BirdForum
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Old Saturday 24th September 2011, 21:31   #20
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You are certainly welcome. I just love finding a "diamond in the rough" as it were. As a side note I did order the Kenko and Vixen versions of this design. Will compare all three and report probably by the end of the week.
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Old Sunday 2nd October 2011, 07:33   #21
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I bought this 8x32 Blue Sky by Sightron! I like it! I paid 178 dollars with shipping cost to buy it at www.manventureoutpost.com.

The link is: http://www.manventureoutpost.com/pro...no-8x32mm.html

They do work very well. The view is good, alot of the view is in focus. I do like the decent wide view for the 8x32. The focus speed does not seem extra fast. It is of a good speed but not extra fast. I was focusing on squirrels as they ran around on the ground. I do not see any stray light. The eyecups help in keeping the side illumination from giveing a veiling glare. The eyecups remind me of the minox style. I have to keep the eyecups extended only 2/3rds so I can see a nice focused field stop.

To me, the focus seemed a slightly fleeting. Everytime I moved to a new view, I got it back into correct focus. Yes, since I am in my 50's, my eyes do not accommodate like they should. I have not yet seen any chromatic fringing. I will have to test for that some other time.

The weight was light for a 8x32 at 20 oz. I have had a Pentax SP 8x32 ,a Pentax 8x32XP. The 5 inch objective tubes (from glass to glass) are longer than those other two. That is why it reminds me of the Pentax 9x28 DCV. The body seems to be made from a man-made material. I just searched for the ad copy and I cannot find any comment on the materials of the body.

I have wanted a good 8x32, but I had lost faith in all the medium priced roof binoculars. At one time I had a lead on a Leupold Goldring HD 8x32, but it turned out that it was falsely advertised.

I was happy to see this thread.

Rob.

2011 catalog from sightron.com go to page 11 to see the Series II blue sky binoculars. -5.7 megabytes.
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Old Monday 3rd October 2011, 02:27   #22
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Rob,

I am glad to see you took the plunge and ordered one. I continue to be impressed by the optical performance, handling and focusing of this model.

I did receive both the Kenko and Vixen models mentioned earlier. I will leave a more detailed comparison for a separate thread but for those that cannot wait...I am keeping the Sightrons and returning the other two. All three share some very similar characteristics but the Sightron easily has the best contrast and, because of which, also the most apparent sharpness. I see no other differences in terms of optical performance. Handling is a bit different as I now can see why Sightron chose to employ that little flare around the neckstrap lugs.

I will say it again, this is the first and only mid-low price roof prism glass that compares very favorably to the Nikon SE in a variety of areas. This one is definitely a keeper.
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Old Monday 3rd October 2011, 13:09   #23
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I was looking for a new rifle scope for my .243 and the Sightron II was always a top choice on the varmint forums - so I bought a 4-16x44mm. It was such a great scope that I bought a Sightron II Big Sky 6-24x44mm for my new .204 Ruger. Since their rifle scopes are this good, I can only imagine their binoculars would follow suit . . .
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Old Monday 3rd October 2011, 14:29   #24
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Quote:
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I was looking for a new rifle scope for my .243 and the Sightron II was always a top choice on the varmint forums - so I bought a 4-16x44mm. It was such a great scope that I bought a Sightron II Big Sky 6-24x44mm for my new .204 Ruger. Since their rifle scopes are this good, I can only imagine their binoculars would follow suit . . .
Along that line of thinking....I am considering trying their high end SIIILR in 8x43. It is the typical open hinge/ED glass design. The field of view is "only" 393 feet so I am expecting something similar to the Promaster. Still, if their $180 bins are this good then maybe the $425 model will surprise me as well.

Haven't talked myself into it yet though.
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Old Friday 7th October 2011, 22:56   #25
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Frank:

Sightron does indeed make good scopes. I still have one of their early S33-4R red dot sights - it's top quality. I also had one of their very early 8x42 poros. It too was very good, built like a tank and almost as heavy. Sightron has always made very good optical products with quality and customer service about the same as Vortex.

Unfortunately those bump out name plates are a deal braker for me on the 8x32. I've never cared much for open bridge designs, I suspect those bumps would make the Sii Blue Sky 8x32 very uncomfortable to hold. I just do not see an advantage to having my ring finger and pinky wrap around the barrel. I've no strength in those fingers - too many dislocations. Also having two short hinge locations, particularly when combined with a magnesium frame requires much additional cross-sectional area resulting in unnecessary extra weight.

Have you seen a Vanguard Spirit ED 8x36 yet? I would like to find a review. I'm a bit concerned over their useable eye relief?

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