Troubador's Review of Bushnell Legend M 8x42 and Trophy 8x32
Way back in 1979 I imported a Bausch & Lomb Discoverer 15-60x60 spotting scope directly from Bushnell in the USA and kept it until 1983. This has been my only contact with Bushnell sports optics products until now. My interest was aroused by noting that Bushnell is one of the top volume brands in the States along with Nikon, Vortex and Leupold. Not to mention that when any binoculars appear in American TV shows, if they show any brand logos at all, chances are it is the capital B for Bushnell that you see.
So being curious about this brand I contacted Bushnell UK and they kindly agreed to supply two models for reviewing purposes: Legend M 8x42 and Trophy 8x32.
The Legend series is a family of bins all having phase coatings, while models E and M have extra-low dispersion glass and M gets dielectric prism coating. The Legend M is priced at around £400 in the UK (if you shop around you can find it for less), while in the States it is being offered as low as $280 if you shop around. This is a very busy part of the market with many other brands and models at similar prices.
The Trophy 8x32 has multi-coating and thatís all, but it comes in at a very accessible £140 or $110.
Taking a look at the Legend M first, unlike the E and L models it has an open-bridge and if your IPD is big enough you will be able to slide your fingers around the tubes. If you do that your first finger will not fall on the focus wheel however so you will need to shift your hand a little closer to your face. This is no different from many other models on the market and when you have got a decent grip you may notice that at 722g / 25.5 ozs it is a bit heavier than a Monarch 7, about the same as a Tract Toric and a bit lighter than Zeissís Conquest HD. The eyecups have 3 positions and the 22mm eye relief and both extremes of eyecup position worked fine for me. They feel adequate to the task and proved reliable in the raised positions.
The field of view is extremely competitive at 142m/426ft and for example easily beats Mavenís B1 (130m/388ft) and Tractís Toric (126m/377ft).
The focus was very smooth but my goodness it was ultra-stiff to move making fast focusing impossible. The dioptre is adjusted by lifting the ring on the right-hand optical tube and turning it. While this worked OK on the first time I tried it, on subsequent attempts the ring was extremely reluctant to be lifted or pushed upwards and since it is not knurled in any way it was difficult to apply extra force. It shifted eventually but this ruined the whole adjustment process which needs to be easily accomplished while making judgements about the image sharpness. Checking other reviews of this model, none of them reported stiffness of focus or dioptre ring at all so I am content to regard this as confined to this unit. Stiffness aside it was geared for precision focusing needing just one turn from my usual target 4km / 2.5 miles away down to 2.0m / 6.56 ft which is exactly the same as Zeissís SF, and this brings us to the view which was actually very nice. It was as sharp as you need with really well balanced colours, reds as strong as blues, good blacks and whites and decent contrast too. This was quite good enough for me to see our resident female blackbirdís rictal bristles and every texture of her plumage. Visiting male Bullfinches looked stunning with sensational pink breast contrasting with jet-black glossy face-mask and cap, and even the local Dunnocks, which are not famous for their eye-catching plumage, looked lovely with their complex and subtle markings brought centre-stage through the Legends.
Our back-garden has been regularly visited by Siskins and Bramblings in recent weeks though these winter visitors will soon be heading north. Bramblings, like Chaffinches, achieve their summer colouration by the abrasion of their winter plumage and when a male showed up with what looked like a fully developed black hood, a look through the Legend revealed tiny lines of pale tips still remaining on the feathers of its head and nape. In addition, for the first time in several years we have a pair of Song Thrushes settling in and the Legend reproduced the gentle merging of pale belly into warm tan at the side of the breast perfectly, with the arrowhead-shaped Ďspotsí standing out as if they had been placed there with a rubber stamp and that black Indian Ink that many years ago only schools seemed to have. Very nice indeed.
The sweet spot extended to around 80% of the field of view with a gentle fall off. Very slight chromatic aberration showed up in edge of the field of view in difficult situations like black twigs against a white cloud, and the image lacked just a little in brightness, but I wouldnít regard these as issues considering the price.
In my opinion this model is simply great value for money and anyone looking for decent optics under $350/£450 should have these on their short-list.
The Legend arrived with a small buddy: a Trophy 8x32. This model has appeared in different guises in recent times, but despite external differences it is, as far as I can tell, identical with the following:
Trophy XLT, Trophy Offtrail, and Natureview. Trophy 8x32 is compact and light being only 123mm/4.84in long and weighing 439g/15.5ozs, this latter figure making even Zeissís Terra ED 8x32 feel chunky at 510g/18ozs. Costing £140 and $110 it definitely falls within the definition of Ďeconomyí binoculars and sure enough there is no phase coating, extra-low dispersion glass or dielectric coating just multi-coating. The eyecups and 16.5mm eye relief are effective and I had no blackouts with spectacles or without, and the action of the focus wheel is nice and smooth, turning counter-clockwise from near to far and having a close focus on the long side at 10ft/3m. The dioptre adjustment was straightforward and although the well-knurled ring was readily turned it never lost its setting.
Picking them up you find a grab-able little bino, with shallow indentations where the web between your thumb and hand can rest really comfortably. As you might expect from the modest specification the view is a little soft and the moderate contrast can slow down achieving the best focus, so it would not be your first choice for examining the fine markings or plumage texture of unfamiliar birds at a distance. Zeissís Terra comfortably beats it for optical quality but that is priced at £364/$320 so you would expect it to. However the view is plenty good enough to enjoy the birds you expect to see in your locality, as well as admire the view and check out the trail ahead. It is so light and compact I can imagine many hikers, campers, casual nature observers, tourists, kayakers, foresters and farmers would find it a pleasant and convenient companion while out and about, but for serious birding it has definite limitations
Last edited by Troubador : Saturday 1st April 2017 at 10:15.