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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 04:03   #1
Steve C
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Review: GPO Passion HD 8x42

Review series: New Binocular Brands

About this series: Over the last year or so several new companies have begun selling new brand name binoculars and other sports optics. Circumstances have led me to the opportunity to review several of them. The first review I did was for the new Maven B2. I have since acquired the Maven B1 and B3. These will be brought into the series at the appropriate point. I have already done the B2, but have as yet posted nothing on the B1. The first full review of this new series is the German Precision Optics (GPO) Passion HD in 8x42.

I do these reviews because I enjoy doing them. I am not affiliated with any of the companies and have no expectations of either being paid for the review, or otherwise being given anything. The folks at GPO are reading the review for the first time, right here, just like everybody else. I’m going to post here in the new GPO section. Other reviews will be posted in the General section. When those are done, I will do a comparison based on side by side observations. It is my intent to compare based on strengths and weaknesses. I have no intention of a shoot-out scenario with a grand winner and a big loser. Each brand and model will get its own stand alone review. I got the GPO first, so it is up. So let’s dive in.

GPO Passion HD 8x42: I got this glass for review by following the simple expedient of calling Mike Jensen and asking for one. Troubadour posted about the formation of the GPO brand, and that got my interest. This is one of the very first few binoculars that GPO received for early examination purposes. While the binocular itself is unchanged from the first that will be sold, it came with some rather generic objective covers, and no box. Just a hard zip style clam shell case, with a strap for both the case and the binocular, and lens covers. I was going to do a bit of an unboxing section, but since everything that might be included with the delivered sales models weren’t here, I didn’t. There is a minimum of exterior markings on this unit. On the left barrel there is a metal strip bearing the inscription GPO German-Precision-Optics. The focus wheel has only Passion HD and 8x42. There is the raptor head and wing logo on the right side of the single high hinge, another small German-Precision-Optics and a serial number on the right hand ring, just above the armor.

Out of the box the first thing I noticed was that this has excellent fit and finish, frankly just what should be expected from an instrument costing nearly $1,000. They are a solid instrument with a nice substantial feel. The second thing is that the eye cup assemblies have received a lot of thought. They don’t unscrew (at least not with what force I am willing to apply to somebody else's binocular), but from what I can tell they are not a generic off somebody’s shelf assembly. They simply have a unique sort of feel. There is three stops, all the way down, midway up, and fully extended. They move easily and smoothly and you can both hear and feel the detent as it thunks into place. They will stay where they are put. You will have to move the position, they show no tendency to move of their own accord.

The armor has two parts. The outer third, where your hands make contact while holding is a finely dimpled pebble grain finish that has a sandblasted feel to it. The rest is smooth, somewhat slick with a hard rubber feel. It seems a nice balance between grippy enough to hold and not so smooth as to feel too slippery.

Focus action: The focus action is an area that has received a lot of attention. This is as nice a focus mechanism as there is on any binocular, regardless of cost. The center focus wheel is pulled upward to expose the click stop diopter adjustment grid. It is a standard right eye adjustment. Snap it down and you have a soft, smooth counter clockwise to infinity movement. Focus direction is a no win situation. Either direction is wrong for somebody. This unit has a 6 foot close focus.

At the close focus point it needs one full turn to go to 50 feet. From there there are just slight bumps needed to get further away, There is about one quarter turn from 50’ to infinity. There is one quarter turn travel past infinity. Total focus travel is one and a half turns. Focus at infinity gives a close focus of about 75’.

The focus tension is equal in either direction. There is no slack in the wheel movement. If you like the buttery smooth focus, then this will suit you in that regard. However the downside is that there will be some tendency for the focus position to move when going in and back out of the case. I prefer a bit less silky movement.

PERFORMANCE:

FOV: OK folks here we go. Here we go because everybody just knows more fov is better right? I admit that if I had my druthers, I’d like to see 420’. When I first looked at the view through the focused HD, I thought, “this has to be understated, no way is this only 375 feet”. Literally the first review parameter I checked was the fov. Well guess what that is what it is. I even double checked my measurements and repeated the measurement several times. Well, 375 it is. It still looks wider. I would nearly bet somebody the price of a new GPO HD (I said nearly OK ) that the first thought will not be, “Ugh, this is too restrictive of a fov”. It simply is not. I seems wider in side by side comparison to a Promaster Infinity Elite ELX 8x42 I have which is both listed and measures as 7.5* or 393 feet. You can kneel to the spec sheet. That is fine. But it is your loss.

There are a lot of factors that go into the ultimate user satisfaction with the image. Whatever was done with this binocular worked. There is certainly a perceived “wider than it is” fov going on here.

Worth noting is the appearance of the widening of the fov as the eye cups are retracted. Since I measured the fov at full extension, which is where I leave them, I checked the fov at the intermediate and down stops. Whatever the reason, there is no change. The same measurement at all stops. But it sure looks like the field goes wider.

Image performance: The image is crisp and clean. Sharpness is top notch. Whatever the resolution spec is, it is certainly as good as anything else and better than a lot of others. Not an issue here. Looking backward at a bright, white, lighted surface there seems to be a very slight yellowish tint. In usage the color presentation seems quite neutral. Contrast is excellent. Greens are green, reds red, blues blue, blacks are black and whites are white. Edges of color boundaries are very sharply defined. Textures of things like feather detail and bark patterns leave little to be desired. Overall we have a very relaxed image, easy on the eyes. Easy in the vein you forget there is a binocular involved in the view. A characteristic of any good binocular.

There is little to no distortion across the field. Horizontal borders of horizontal corral boards stay horizontal in the view, all the way across the field, not bending at all as they either enter or leave either the top or bottom of the field. While there is some edge distortion it does not bend vertical lines at the edge. A vertical mirror of the horizontal performance. While there is no particular attempt for a flat field, the more or less conventional edge is well done, certainly not distracting. There is a little curvature, as would be expected without field flatteners.

Eye cups and eye relief: The eye cups are pretty standard 41 mm across the uppermost portion. They are 12 mm high, There is 2 mm between the ocular lens surface and the fully retracted eye cup. There is 14 mm of distance between the fully extended upper eye cup and the ocular lens. Listed eye relief is 19.5 mm. I measured it at 17 mm. IPD is from 57-75 mm on this unit. While the extension of the eye cup matches the eye relief as I measured it, there is less extension than needed if the actual listed figure is correct. With either reading glasses or sunglasses I can get a full fov. But I am not an obligate eye glass wearer, so I can’t make a better recommendation.

Glare and CA Suppression: I have noted before that I am not particularly sensitive to CA. I can force it to appear, and I tend to judge its control levels on the basis on how hard it is to get it to appear. In this instance it is somewhat easier to get it to show up, but it always is at very low levels. I would suggest that it will not be an issue unless a particular viewer is really CA sensitive. I have as yet been unable to get it to show any sort of glare in the image, even with exaggerated eye placements. It has been a dreary wet, and dark gray few days, so I have yet to get a really bright day to look harder. However after I wrote the last sentence, the snow stopped falling and the clouds broke away. Even in the snow, looking under the bright sun, there was no glare. Some glare has been noted for the 10x42. So I suppose the difference may be related to the exit pupil diameter.

Warranty and Service: GPO has trademarked the name “Spectacular Lifetime Warranty”. In description it is very Vortex or Leupold in application. Everyone is entitled to their market speak, and I’m fine with that. The idea is that GPO is going to take care of its customers. The proof is how well it works.

GPO USA has a repair facility of their own in Virginia. Binoculars in need of service will be sent there. They will be repaired unless severe damage warrants replacement. These are a built to be a take apart and repair precision instrument. The throw away merchandise idea seems not to apply here.

Summary: What we have with this binocular is another very good example of what can now be done at the $1,000 price range. There is ample image quality, contrast, and sharpness to satisfy almost anyone. There is a solid build and rugged feel, while also presenting a pretty refined instrument.

I am not going to make the claim these are an Alpha Killer. They are not, nor I am sure does GPO intend them to be a competitor at the $2,000++ level. That market niche is likely less than ten percent and it is not big enough to go after and the $1,000-1,200 range is where this glass is intended to compete. And compete it will. It is also close enough the the top tier that there will be some level of perceived competition there, intended or otherwise. The degree to which these will compete in direct comparison to a top tier is higher than many will ever be willing to admit.

I always do a review with one question foremost in mind. Is this good enough to either buy myself or to recommend to somebody else? The answer is yes it is.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 05:35   #2
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Steve:

Nice review, as usual!
In fact the eyecups can be removed, as explained in Lee's review---unlike for Swaro and Zeiss, for the GPO you unscrew them CW, an original mechanism.

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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 06:27   #3
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Thanks for the great review, Steve.

Looks like the optics mid-tier consumer selections are growing Nicely! Were you able to test low or challenging lighting conditions to determine their transmission qualities?

Ted
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 07:20   #4
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Thanks for a nice review. How does it compare against your maven b1? It would also be interesting IF you could digiscope a picture through the GPO and the promaster with the full image circle, so we could get a sense of the fov.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 08:48   #5
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Hello! Nice review,
But like many other reviews, for me it doesnt say much When people dont compare them to other existing binoculars.if you have a maven b1 i would be very interesting to see a comparison. And if someone have a maven b2 it would be more interesting, because i wants to Buy one.

Best regards rashid
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 09:12   #6
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Steve,

Many thanks for the detailed review Steve.

Did I understand you correctly that you couldn't detect any pincushion distortion? That would be unusual and might be troublesome for some. Have you spotted any odd effects, particularly when panning past buildings?

It's encouraging you haven't spotted any glare so far, but a setting sun and a dark backdrop can be a particularly tricky combo. Please let us know if you spot anything.

You say it isn't an alpha killer, but apart from the FOV, in what way do think the view might differ from the big guys?

Cheers,

David
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 11:35   #7
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Just wondering what the added value could be if it is not a alpha killer.
We already have top quality Japan made Kamakuras
Kite Optics has eg a kite bonelli with great optics!
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 12:34   #8
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Nice review Steve and I look forward to the rest of the series.

Lee
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 12:43   #9
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Thanks for the review, Steve.

As I asked Lee, what do you believe separates this pair of binoculars from the muddled mass of $800-1200 binoculars available?
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 13:37   #10
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Well done Steve, as usual. Thanks for your time and effort.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 14:58   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pesto View Post
Steve:

Nice review, as usual!
In fact the eyecups can be removed, as explained in Lee's review---unlike for Swaro and Zeiss, for the GPO you unscrew them CW, an original mechanism.

Peter.
Peter,

Thanks . I am aware they are supposed to be screw off, and in a CW direction. However as I said I have applied all the force I am willing to apply to a binocular I do not own. If I force it any further, something's probably going to break.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 15:09   #12
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Hello Steve!
Compared to the Maven B1, what are your thoughts?

Thanks
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 15:10   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Theo98 View Post
Thanks for the great review, Steve.

Looks like the optics mid-tier consumer selections are growing Nicely! Were you able to test low or challenging lighting conditions to determine their transmission qualities?

Ted
Ted,

Glad you liked the review. I have really had mostly poor, dark, and dreary conditions. These work real well in the gloom. Last night the gloom went away, looks like only for today. But this morning looking over the cattle on a frosty field silhouetted against the Stukel Mountain and a rising sun, there is nothing to complain about,

Glare control superior, CA suppression above average.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 15:13   #14
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Quote:
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Hello Steve!
Compared to the Maven B1, what are your thoughts?

Thanks
Dead even. They have different ergonomics. However it is an apples to oranges as my B1 is a 10x42. I promise to expand on that comparison later as the B1 will have its review, and there will be a closing comparison.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 15:17   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by currinamnam View Post
Hello! Nice review,
But like many other reviews, for me it doesnt say much When people dont compare them to other existing binoculars.if you have a maven b1 i would be very interesting to see a comparison. And if someone have a maven b2 it would be more interesting, because i wants to Buy one.

Best regards rashid
This will be an interesting comparison, which I will get into further later. I can't cram too much stuff together. So one review at a time, then comparisons.

As a result largely of the more reflective AK prism system and a slightly higher light transmission the B2 sits a slight cut above.

Buy either the GPO, the B1 or the B2 and I doubt you return whichever one you get.
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Old Thursday 23rd March 2017, 15:25   #16
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Sorry folks, I have to go for now. I'll be back to expand on the alpha killer comment from the review.
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Old Friday 24th March 2017, 20:05   #17
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As to my comment that I don't think it is an alpha killer.

Alpha is as much a concept or maybe a state of mind as it is of having an expensive binocular. I have said before regarding perceptions that it is not so much the binocular in front of your eyes as the perceptions between your ears. The true alpha concept needs both (with the binocular being a high end), kind of the Yin and Yang. There is always going to be a segment of users, for binoculars or anything else, who will go for the best they can get. That is just a facet of human nature, neither good nor bad, it is just the way things are. Some will always strive for the upper limit and really don't care about the cost. They may well have the income, or just be willing to work an extra shift or whatever to get it bought. When a person buys an alpha glass they have it fixed in their mind that they have spent enough, there isn't much more to be spent for improvement. So they go forth and just use the binocular. No $1,000 binocular from a new company will kill that concept, no matter how good it is.

Another reason they won't kill the alpha is the alpha segment is not the target market. That segment is too small to offer much opportunity. That segment is in all probability below 10% and Leica, Nikon, Swarovski, and Zeiss have that pretty well locked up. A new $1,000 binocular won't get into that club, so they are not trying to.

But they do represent a serious challenge to the alpha. That challenge seems to be what riles the alpha owners up. It is my opinion that on a worldwide basis, technology transfer has pretty much happened. Technologies like early phase correction that really and truly separated the likes of the Leica Trinovid BA from the rest are no longer serious technical challenges or advantages. So we have today, for less than a thousand bucks, any number of glass that offers more than 95% of the optics and build quality for maybe a third of the cost. We are getting to the point where at least some of the difference is perhaps not visible to normal eyes with no access to a lab. The next higher level is always where comparisons eventually go.

So what this GPO offers is a superb optical instrument, with very high build quality and with a goal of serious customer satisfaction. In truth, that applies to Maven, Stryka, and Tract. You will get enough quality here to satisfy anybody but those members of the committed alpha segment. If you can't spend in that level, you can go here and be happy for a lot less money. Like spending high end dollars, spending considerably less for an extremely high value ratio is also neither good nor bad. It is just the way things are

In a final side by side comparison, it is likely to find several thing that will favor the alpha glass. Your perceptions will determine how important those differences are to you personally
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Last edited by Steve C : Saturday 25th March 2017 at 03:23.
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Old Friday 24th March 2017, 20:17   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jremmons View Post
Thanks for the review, Steve.

As I asked Lee, what do you believe separates this pair of binoculars from the muddled mass of $800-1200 binoculars available?
As I see it it adds choice. Choice is never a bad thing. I think what we will see is more of the Vortex type business model. Ten years ago they were pretty much nothing, now they are getting into making their own.

Personally this glass lands at the upper level of the new $1,000 class.
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Old Friday 24th March 2017, 20:18   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arran View Post
Just wondering what the added value could be if it is not a alpha killer.
We already have top quality Japan made Kamakuras
Kite Optics has eg a kite bonelli with great optics!
Well that is one Kite I have never flown. If it flies right for you, there may well be no reason to change.
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Old Friday 24th March 2017, 20:56   #20
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Quote:
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Steve,

Many thanks for the detailed review Steve.

Did I understand you correctly that you couldn't detect any pincushion distortion? That would be unusual and might be troublesome for some. Have you spotted any odd effects, particularly when panning past buildings?

It's encouraging you haven't spotted any glare so far, but a setting sun and a dark backdrop can be a particularly tricky combo. Please let us know if you spot anything.

You say it isn't an alpha killer, but apart from the FOV, in what way do think the view might differ from the big guys?

Cheers,

David
David,

One of the things I look at is the top board of the corral fence which is just 100 yards from the back porch. I take the top board and put it at the very top of the field and move it downwards through the bottom, then back again, maybe several times. Lets me do a quick collimation test and shows how much the board image bends as it moves across the image. I then repeat vertically with the posts in the fence. Neither posts nor boards bend. Not all binoculars do that. Now there is some distortion at the edge. However as you shift your eyes to look directly at the edge those distortions, except for some curvature, disappear, The fov appears to have a very wide sweet spot. If there are still stars up there, I can get a better idea of what the sweet spot is. No odd effects across the image. I just seems like a superior view is about the best I can describe it.

One thing about the corral board, as the fov increases, at least among the binoculars I have in my possession, the distortion appears more pronounced.

So far still no glare, in cases where it should be there. Whether by design or personal characteristics, or combination, I don't know. But the GPO and the Maven B2 have yet to give me glare.
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Old Friday 24th March 2017, 21:28   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve C View Post
As to my comment that I don't think it is an alpha killer.

Alpha is as much a concept or maybe a state of mind as it is of having an expensive binocular. I have said before regarding perceptions that it is not so much the binocular in front of your eyes as the perceptions between your ears. The true alpha concept needs both (with the binocular being a high end), kind of the Yin and Yang. There is always going to be a segment of users, for binoculars or anything else, who will go for the best they can get. That is just a facet of human nature, neither good nor bad, it is just the way things are. Some will always strive for the upper limit and really don't care about the cost. They may well have the income, or just be willing to work an extra shift or whatever to get it bought. When a person buys an alpha glass they have it fixed in their mind that they have spent enough, there isn't much more to be spent for improvement. So they go forth and just use the binocular. No $1,000 binocular from a new company will kill that concept, no matter how good it is.

Another reason they won't kill the alpha is the alpha segment is not the target market. That segment is too small to offer much opportunity. That segment is in all probability below 10% and Leica, Nikon, Swarovski, and Zeiss have that pretty well locked up. A new $1,000 binocular won't get into that club, so they are not trying to.

But they do represent a serious challenge to the alpha. That challenge seems to be what riles to alpha owners up. It is my opinion that on a worldwide basis, technology transfer has pretty much happened. Technologies like early phase correction that really and truly separated the likes of the Leica Trinovid BA from the rest are no longer serious technical challenges or advantages. So we have today, for less than a thousand bucks, any number of glass that offers more than 95% of the optics and build quality for maybe a third of the cost. We are getting to the point where at least some of the difference is perhaps not visible to normal eyes with no access to a lab. The next higher level is always where comparisons eventually go.

So what this GPO offers is a superb optical instrument, with very high build quality and with a goal of serious customer satisfaction. In truth, that applies to Maven, Stryka, and Tract. You will get enough quality here to satisfy anybody but those members of the committed alpha segment. If you can't spend in that level, you can go here and be happy for a lot less money. Like spending high end dollars, spending considerably less for an extremely high value ratio is also neither good nor bad. It is just the way things are

In a final side by side comparison, it is likely to find several thing that will favor the alpha glass. Your perceptions will determine how important those differences are to you personally
Steve:

Nice review and very complete. I agree with your thoughts about Alpha
optics and the second tier offerings.

It is a great time to be an optics customer. Lots of great choices out there.

Jerry
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Old Saturday 25th March 2017, 03:39   #22
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As an edit to my alpha killer post above. I should add that there are people who do prefer the alpha class glass and can evaluate theses GPO types with an objective eye. I did not mean to say that if you are an alpha owner that you are automatically blind to attributes of less expensive glass.

I would also add that in spite of my personal opinion that the alpha glass does not live up to the hype that comes with that territory, it does not mean I am not an alpha fan. I do see superior instruments. I simply do not see that they are enough better to get me to fork over the dough. Having said that I have yet to see a Zeiss HT or an SF, let alone a Nikon EDG or a new Leica Noctovid. Maybe I will change my mind sometime, but for now my opinion stands
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Old Saturday 25th March 2017, 07:03   #23
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Steve,

I don't think I'm particularly susceptible to RB, solely caused by lack to pincushion distortion alone. There have been a number of occasions, particularly in an urban setting, where the lines and planes don't seem as solid, as they should be as you pan past, but it usually takes a bit more of a complex, 'moustache' distortion to get my stomach churning. It sounds like the GPO HD shouldn't be too troublesome for most users.

I understand that certain makes have become presteige brands for for very good historic reasons. Premium pricing can pay for better customer service and offers more scope for innovation in design, but I suspect there can also lead to complacency at times, and I currently feel there is now some rather interesting stuff going on in the next price level down. Personally, I didn't get excited by the second tier products from the big three. I'm sure they were never intended to challenge the top models, and for me they don't, but I definitely wouldn't tar a number of similarly priced models with the same brush.

Maybe wider/flatter is no longer seen as the only way to go. I'm now seeing fantastic resolution figures for some models that should make the big guys sit up and take notice. It's also pretty evident that there is some tailoring of the MTF profiles to improve perceptual sharpness, and transmission levels and colour spectrum have taken a worthwhile step forward as well. I personally feel the Noctivid has it's nose in front at the moment, but maybe the others probably should be feeling rather nervous, there some other runners getting in the mix these days.

Whether the the average buyer will be persuaded by these finer points of image quality over brand image remains to be seen, but I think it's great that some new, and indeed some old names, appear to be no longer be content to sit in their shadow. The reports on the GPO HD do sound encouraging and I look forward to trying it at some point.

Thanks again for your hard work.

David
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Old Monday 27th March 2017, 06:02   #24
Alexis Powell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve C View Post
...Snap it down and you have a soft, smooth counter clockwise to infinity movement. Focus direction is a no win situation. Either direction is wrong for somebody...If you like the buttery smooth focus, then this will suit you in that regard...
Sounds like it is going the wrong direction to win converts from Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, and Nikon, or from anyone who focuses with their right hand and subscribes to the notion that final focus should be from near to far and that precision is more easily accomplished with a pulling motion than a pushing motion. Is there any effect of cold on focusing action?


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...When I first looked at the view through the focused HD, I thought, “this has to be understated, no way is this only 375 feet”. Literally the first review parameter I checked was the fov. Well guess what that is what it is. I even double checked my measurements and repeated the measurement several times. Well, 375 it is. It still looks wider. I would nearly bet somebody the price of a new GPO HD (I said nearly OK ) that the first thought will not be, “Ugh, this is too restrictive of a fov”. It simply is not. I seems wider in side by side comparison to a Promaster Infinity Elite ELX 8x42 I have which is both listed and measures as 7.5* or 393 feet. You can kneel to the spec sheet. That is fine. But it is your loss...
Poppycock. FOV is about finding birds, and being _actually_ wider is what makes for superior utility. Appearing wider without actually being wider (???) is (would be?) nice psychologically, but it doesn't facilitate finding birds. These days, 375 feet is poor spec for an 8x full-sized bin.


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...IPD is from 57-75 mm on this unit...
Sure wish everyone would follow Zeiss and establish 54 mm as minimum (or do better than that) for full-sized bins.

--AP
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Old Monday 27th March 2017, 08:40   #25
adhoc
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Steve, thanks for another very informative review.

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...FOV is about finding birds, and...makes for superior utility...These days, 375 feet is poor spec for an 8x full-sized bin.
Alexis, are we not a bit spoilt these days!? Please see this thread on "Chandler S. Robbins amazing bins" (recently re-active on his death). Its FOV is also 7.2 degrees. He found birds! And that binocular (in that state) is the very picture of superior utility!

That said, very few 8x42s todays have such a narrow (relatively, I remind!) FOV. Of well known makes I can find only the Leica Trinovid, Leupold Pro-Guide and Zeiss Terra with FOV of 7.0, 7.1 and 7.2 deg. respectively.

There is too little written in the Binoculars sub-forum of BirdForum on actual bird observation. It will be most useful (and interesting) to know how much 7.2 deg. hampers those used to 8.0 deg. in actually finding birds in the field, in different settings, woodland, open wetlands, etc.

Last edited by adhoc : Monday 27th March 2017 at 09:00.
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