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Opticron Imagic VHD 8.5x50 and 10x50 review

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Old Thursday 25th January 2018, 08:42   #1
typo
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Opticron Imagic VHD 8.5x50 and 10x50 review

I believe an Imagic in various guises has been a mainstay of the Opticron catalogue for around 20 years. It is possibly the most common model of any make I see at our local reserve. Not surprisingly the new VHD incarnation has sparked quite a lot of interest on the forum, especially as itís close relative, the Tract Toric x42s in the US has received so much attention as well.

While the last BGA Imagic SE x42s morphed into the Verano HD for a while, the 8.5 and 10x50 featured unchanged in the Opticron catalogue for 10 years. Last year, together with itís smaller siblings, they got revised as the VHD. Outwardly It looks like nothing had changed. Indeed the spec sheet was unaltered as well. There is some rewording in the product features, but I think you might be forgiven for missing that there was anything new on offer there as well, other than the VHD label. So what is new? The Opticron strapline is ďSmaller, Lighter, Brighter Sharper". The old model ticked the first two boxes nicely. These x50s tick all four.

Visiting various retailers over the past year Iíve managed to check out most of the new products from Opticron, but the Imagic VHD x50s had eluded me. I particularly need to thank Pete Gamby for lending me these two binoculars.
http://www.opticron.co.uk/Pages/im_bga_vhd.htm

The binoculars come with strapless case, which I found a good fit. Fine for travelling, but best left in the car. The press over stud fastening worked fine while I had them, but Iím not sure how secure it would be in the long term. The rain guard is the usual, fairly stiff, Opticron design, which I find a bit fiddly to put on with narrow IPDs, but stays put and easily removed for use. I didnít fit the strap or anchored objective covers for the time I had them.

The ďSmaller, LighterĒ part of the tag seems particularly apt for these models. They may be 76mm/6.9Ē long but they sit in the hand like a fairly compact x42s. Indeed the top half is very much like the x42 Imagics, only flaring out to accommodate the 50mm objective gradually. This obviously makes it much more manageable for smaller hands. The armour compound appears fairly smooth at first glance, but is in fact finely textured and quite grippy. The compound seems more flexible, or perhaps itís just thinner than some, which would help to keep the diameter and weight down but perhaps a little less protection? Iíve recently learned that binoculars can be miscollimated very easily by a over excited three year old? There is a temptation to just hold these binoculars at the narrow end, but that makes them a bit nose heavy and unbalanced I feel. I find the steadier grip is to have one hand near the top for focus and the other and the other nearer the objective.

At under 800g/28oz they must be amongst the lightest x50s on the market. Itís more than 260g/9oz lighter than the last x50 I reviewed and 35% lighter than another I own. While more weight can mean a steadier view in the short term, these would be much less tiring and easier on the neck over the course of a day. In fact these these are pretty much the same weight as the x42s I normally use.

There is a difference in the focus tension between these two samples. The 8.5x50 is the slightly stiffer of the two and perhaps less likely to overshoot the mark than the 10x50, but I personally prefer the faster action of the latter. I donít imagine these are design differences, just sample variation. The focus action is very fast with close focus to 5m taking about 60į anticlockwise, and from 5m to infinity about 220į. The spec sheet lists 3.5m/11.5ft for close focus, but the 10x50 did better better at 3.05m/10ft. The speed, particularly when combined with the light focus of the 10x gives it fingertip control that I prefer. The dioptre adjustment is on the right eyepiece and is simply held by friction. Again there is a difference in the turning resistance, this time the 8.5x seems a little on the low side to be totally secure. The zero position was also a long way out on the 8.5x50. The IPD range is listed as 58-74mm but was just 0.5 wider on my ruler.

I know some of those that wear glasses will note the listed 23mm eye relief with some interest and those who donít might despair. I actually measured it at a still generous 21mm which is more in keeping with the lens dimensions and field of view. The measurement from the rim of the fully collapsed eye cup to the ER was 17mm, and 6.5mm fully extended. There are two ratcheted intermediate eye cup positions at 2.5 and 7mm extended. As is usually the case, none of these positions worked particularly well for me. I would need to source some O-rings for an intermediate position with glasses or hold the binocular slightly away from my face without. Iím sure others will be luckier.

In order to keep the barrels slim and the weight down, it seems that Opticron have opted for a smallish prism size which has a consequence for the field of view. The focus cap of the 8.5x50 is labelled 6į and the 10x50 5.8į. In fact my estimate for both was identical at 5.87į which would be [email protected] or 306ft at 100yds. The 58į AFOV of the 10x50 may not compete the widest views on the market but I found it quite acceptable. The 8.5x50 with 50į on the other hand, is definitely on the narrow side. Of course the view is a bit steadier than the 10x, and the quality of the view might still be quite persuasive.

Having ticked the Smaller and Lighter boxes, itís the turn of Brighter and Sharper. Iíve not done a direct comparison with the previous model, but itís very obvious indeed that the coatings have had a major overhaul. The colour rendition is excellent. The blue is quite noticeably stronger than in the past and the transmission seems pretty flat with maybe just a bit of rounding off in the longer red wavelengths. I personally much prefer this to the colour bias of some premium models, and these impressed me more than the Imagic x42s when I tried them, I donít have any numbers for transmission levels but in the gloomy conditions weíve had since new year, they have has been perceptually brighter than other binoculars I own. I think this is mostly due to better colour. Unfortunately I was unable to test these by moonlight.

The two binoculars I normally use for comparison when reviewing are no slouch when it comes to sharpness, but both these Imagics are better stillÖ. most of the time. There will always be light conditions that favours one binocular or another. The illuminating light and response of the eye will bring different characteristics into play, but given a little bit of sunshine, these VHDs really do sparkle. The absolute limit of detail will be determined by the users eyesight, but both these binoculars were able to bring out plumage detail and textural patterning Iíd missed with the reference binoculars. Add in the improved colour and Iíve found these a real pleasure to use. I should point out that when the conditions were gloomy, I thought the 10x brought out the finest detail a little better than the 8.5x. Iíll probably post a bit more about the resolution and technicalities another time.

I do not have the Imagic VHD x42s for comparison, but the view characteristics of these do seem a little different. It might be due to the narrower FOV, but the field curvature seems more pronounced with these x50s. In lower light levels when the pupil of the eye dilates the sweet spot does shrink a little and the depth of field seem shallower than its smaller siblings. This will probably be less obvious to younger users with better focal accommodation.

It took me a while to make some sense of whatís happening with regard to CA. Most of the time it appeared absent, but then it would suddenly appear and mar the view. It turns sometimes it was my fault. The larger diameter eye cups and profile of the molding meant the binoculars did not always sit squarely against my glasses and I was looking through the edge of the exit pupil. Others with other frame designs and IPDs may not have that issue but itís worth checking. I won't go into all the details here, but I still found at lower light levels, features tangential to the edge of the field of view can be subject to quite strong lateral colour fringing. We know from the forum that individuals do vary in their sensitivity to CA, and this may be a trivial issue for others.

As I said at the start, both the 8.5 and 10x50 tick all the Smaller, Lighter, Brighter, Sharper boxes. I personally prefer them to the x42s that have been reviewed by others here. But they arenít perfect. There were a couple minor niggles about the build of the 8.5x50 which were absent on the 10x50 so perhaps I was just unlucky with that sample. Some will find the 50į AFOV on the 8.5x rather narrow, and I would personally wish for a bit better CA control. Obviously others will have their own priorities, but I can forgive all of that when the colour and sharpness is this good. Iíve not been able to make any direct comparisons to other mid priced models, and Iím actually struggling to think of another x50 Iíve seen in this price category. There will be x42s which are smaller, possibly lighter, offering wider views and may have better CA control, but I can't think think of one that betters these for both colour and sharpness.

Of the two, I preferred the 10x50. It was a real pleasure to use both across the lakes of the local nature reserve or tracking along the hedgerows around where I live. The ability to switch from a chaffinch at 20yards to a buzzard at a mile away with just a flick of finger was particularly pleasing. The low sun at can be challenging at this time of the year. These were untroubled even by blinding levels of glare off the water which were a total whiteout with one of my other binoculars. I canít claim that I could pick out the eye of a tufted duck at greater range than I could with my own binocular, but the yellow gleam was much more obvious and better defined. The complex patterning of the greylag breast feathers at about 70 yards again gave the Imagics another clear advantage. The weather has meant that I havenít really been able to determine the low light advantage of this 10x50 over my usual 10x42 works in field conditions, but itís obviously there from backyard viewing.

I have done some further bench test and waiting for answers to a couple of technical questions, so there may be a bit more to add at some point. I returned the binoculars when I picked up my re collimated Classics, but would be happy to answer any questions I can.

David
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Old Friday 26th January 2018, 07:34   #2
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When Opticron first launched the DBA VHD to it's range we were told that the "VHD optical system" featured ED glass. However when the Imagic VHD came out, the line describing the "VHD optical system" now makes no mention of ED glass at all. Pete has now double checked their records and I'm assured the Imagic VHD definitely has it.

David
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Old Friday 26th January 2018, 17:16   #3
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David .... thanks for putting together the Imagic 50mm review, very informative as usual!

I have the newest 10X42 version that came out last year. When you mentioned that Pete confirmed the new Imagic VHD uses ED glass, am I correct to assume that applies to both the 50 mm series and the 42mm models?
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Old Friday 26th January 2018, 19:45   #4
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Bruce,

I'm sure Pete meant the x42s as well. It's a shame I wasn't able to do the direct comparison with the x42s. I presume the eyepieces, prisms and mechanical components are common to both but I have a strong impression there are subtle, but important differences in their view characteristics. I wonder how close the Tract Toric really is?

David
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Old Saturday 27th January 2018, 00:18   #5
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The x50 Imagics look just like longer x42 mm Imagics. I would challenge anybody to pick any notable differences between the x42 Imagics and the x42 Toric. Having said that I can't comment on the x50 Imagic as David has the advantage of me, as I have not seen one.

Thanks for the review David!
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Old Saturday 27th January 2018, 07:21   #6
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Steve,

The Imagic and me have got history. I first tried is as the BGA SE 8x42 shortly after joining the forum as a complete novice 8 years ago. My comment to the sales guy at the time was "I think there is something wrong with this binocular". It's something that has continued through the Verano HD and now the DBA VHD itterations. I'd be the first to admit the VHD x42s are in a different league to the originals, but I still have this unsettling feeling that something isn't quite right with the view. Apart from a very slight difference in sharpness at times and the CA pattern, I haven't been able to pin down any specific reason in the time I've had with them. I chose to look at the x50s because I'd preferred them in the older range and was keen to see if they suited me better. Sure enough, at times they looked fantastic, but on closer inspection, also a bit lacklustre at others. I'm sure it would go unnoticed by most users.

I'm holding back on the technical stuff a bit at the moment in the hope that Opticron are able to check a few thingss. For now, I'd say that the resolution testing shows that the 10x50 looks like a superb 10x30 and a below par 10x50. In practice it means my pupil dilation and eye positioning seem to explain the slight variation in performance, and particularly the CA. The fact that they did't sit well with my glasses exacerbated the problem. What I can't say with any certainty is if the same reason explains why I wasn't too keen on the x42s. If it is, I'm guessing the Tract Toric might be slightly different.

David

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Old Saturday 27th January 2018, 21:09   #7
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The Toric will place your glasses further away from the ocular lens by a couple of mm.
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Old Saturday 27th January 2018, 22:50   #8
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Steve,

Steve I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I can't see anything in your reviews that say you think the 19mm ER for the Tract Toric and 22mm for the Imagic VHD are incorrect. That means my glasses would need to be 3mm further away with the Imagic which I'm guessing might just make a difference optically.

As for available ER, it looks from your data that there is 14mm for the TT and 20mm for the Imagic. With both the Imagic x50 it was 17mm.

Did I get things right?
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Old Thursday 1st February 2018, 22:52   #9
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Vert interesting thread you have started David,this is one of many binoculars I tried last year. You may remember I was having eye problems and felt I needed something letting more light in. The Imagic roof prism looked and worked fine but just did not click with my eyes. As you may remember I ended buying the older pattern Imagig porro prism bins. They did not cure my problem with my eyes,nothing can at the moment, but they have enabled me to carry on birding even if I am slower at locating flying birds until they cross my sightline. I have a great liking for Opticron gear and the odd time I have needed help or advice they have always come up trumps. Some of the newer members of our little birding club keep telling us (my wife is also an Imagic porro user) that we should be using roof prism bins not our "old fashioned" models.
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Old Thursday 1st February 2018, 23:42   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by typo View Post
Steve,

Steve I'm not sure I understand what you mean. I can't see anything in your reviews that say you think the 19mm ER for the Tract Toric and 22mm for the Imagic VHD are incorrect. That means my glasses would need to be 3mm further away with the Imagic which I'm guessing might just make a difference optically.

As for available ER, it looks from your data that there is 14mm for the TT and 20mm for the Imagic. With both the Imagic x50 it was 17mm.

Did I get things right?
Imagine the Imagic eye cup with a 2 mm thick O-ring incorporated into the uppermost portion of the eye cup cover
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Old Friday 2nd February 2018, 19:04   #11
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Pete,

I remember you mentioning your difficulties, and delighted you've managed to find a way to keep birding. I've really only taken a close look at the 7x42 from the Imagic porro range alongside the 7x42 Imagic BGA SE and the Classic 7x36. Apart from the complications of a 24mm ER, I thought the porro view was pretty good. I wouldn't worry about not following the fashion. I chose the Classic at the end. It's served me very well. Unfortunately it needed a bit of attention recently after my 3 year old grandson took an interest. Opticron sorted it out nicely.

Thanks Steve. On the face of it it seems an odd thing for Tract to do, but thinking about the numbers, it should be just about perfect for me, with or without glasses.

David
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Old Wednesday 23rd May 2018, 10:38   #12
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I know this is an old post but I was wondering how does chromatic aberration and overall "shapness" of the image of the x50 of this series compare to the x42 ? If someone has tried both their input regarding the existence or nonexistence of any differences would be appreciated.
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