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7x42’s; High end versus mid range (oldies but goodies)

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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 19:23   #1
dwatsonbirder
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7x42’s; High end versus mid range (oldies but goodies)

Following on from Chuck’s excellent threads (here and here) regarding 7x42 binoculars, I’ve been keeping an eye open for a second 7x42 to compare with my Swarovski SLC’s. As those who have read any of my previous posts will know, I am a birder first and foremost, though I appreciate decent kit. Optically, I still consider these as one of the best binoculars available, but the truth be told, they become a literal pain in the neck on longer walks. I bought a pair of Nikon HGL 8x32’s as a (slightly) lighter weight alternative, and they have a lot of positive features (handling, image quality, eye relief) but the smaller exit pupil can make eye placement a little fiddly. I’d hoped for a pair of Zeiss FL, but alas, I was too slow, and my available funds became progressively more diminished. Other options were either too expensive (Leica Ultravid/Nikon EDG) or unsuitable due to eye relief/waterproofing (Zeiss BGAT/Leica BA/BN).
One brand which seems to produce good quality and affordable optics is Opticron, and with a little luck and patience, I have managed to procure a pair of Imagic 7x42 BGA WP. I wanted to compare a relatively affordable pair of 7x42’s with a high end pair, in the hope that the comparison may be useful to those thinking of adding a set of this specification to their kit, but are not necessarily willing to spend a significant sum.

Pricing

Both binoculars are no longer in production. The Swarovski’s are available in several iterations, and the age of the binocular appears to affect pricing; early models (pre Swaro-bright) appear to be available from around £350 - £450. Pre-neu models can be found for as low as £400 but are usually in poor condition, and £500 - £650 appears to be the market value. Neu models appear to sell for between £700 - £850. Although not as expensive as the latest and greatest, a pair of these binoculars is a not inconsiderable investment.
The Opticron model’s appear to be somewhat more unusual on the used market, but seem to sell for between £140 - £300 depending on condition.

Build quality and mechanics

The SLC’s have been discussed at length, and by all accounts are a solid unit built to withstand serious and extended use in the field. Mine received a (free) service last year due to wear of the armouring and some internal condensation, but perhaps this is reflective of the fact they are used on a daily basis and across a range of environments each year. Information on the Opticron appears a little more limited; there are few references to issues in terms of the build quality, and they are backed up by Opticron’s excellent warranty. Whether this extends to a used pair of binoculars I do not know.
The SLC’s are covered in a thick and rather tactile rubber, with a relatively stiff central hinge. The focus wheel is typical of Swarovski’s of this generation; smooth travelling from near focus to infinity, a little more coarse in the opposite direction. Diopter adjustment is via a small srung wheel atop the focus wheel, and clicks into place. The eyecups scroll up and down firmly but positively without incremental stops, and eye relief is very good at 19mm. On the rear of the binoculars are deep thumb indents. The binoculars are hefty at 950 grams.
The Opticrons have a very different feel, with their tapered barrels covered in a slick, thinner rubber armour. There are shallow thumb indents on the rear. The focus wheel is particularly well dampened, but requires a few more turns when changing distances. The diopter adjustment is via a ring on the right hand barrel and is still enough not to move out of place once set. The eyecups are solid rubber, and twist up and down slightly stiffly, while the central hinge has a little more play and movement than I am used to. Eye relief is excellent at 24mm. At 680 grams, the binocular is noticeably lighter than the SLC.

Optics

Perhaps it is unfair to compare a top end 7x42 with a mid range model. It should be fairly apparent that the Swarovski is optically a better performer than the Opticron when one looks at some of the statistics, particularly the field of view (140m versus 110m), however, this is not the whole story. Thanks to the large exit pupil, eye placement with both binoculars is easy. Colour balance in both binoculars is good, with the Swarovski offering a colder more neutral view against the slightly yellow/green bias of the Opticron when looking at a white wall in bright sunlight. That said, colour reproduction is very respectable on both units. Center sharpness is very good on the Opticron, and is maintained across approx 75% of the image. The Swarovski is sharp practically to the edge. The resolving abilities of both binoculars is impressive, with fine details such as individual leaves at a distance of 1km, or the individual feather tracts and blue iris of a Jackdaw at 50m clearly visible with both optics.
The overall views of both are pleasing, though the wider field of view of the SLC is apparent, and gives the images a more immersive quality. Contrast is also better in the Swarovski, with colours that seem dynamic and an almost 3D quality to the view. The Opticron is still impressive, as it has a good level of contrast and is perhaps as sharp as the more expensive SLC, but the field of view gives the optic a slightly tunnel effect. I feel that you could get used to this, but it may cause issues in enclosed environments such as forest, where 7x42’s are meant to come into their own.
One area where the Opticron excels is the close focus, as I was able to focus comfortably down to 1.5m - ideal for insects or plants. The Swarovski can focus as close as 2.8m though it is stated to be 4m, I suspect this may depend on your eyes.
Low light performance is also good with the Opticron, but with the SLC it is exceptional - again, I feel this is likely due to the significantly larger field of view, better coatings and use of larger prisms.
Overall the Swarovski is clearly a better binocular in terms of raw image quality, particularly assisted by the 140m fov and edge sharpness, that being said, the Opticron is certainly no slouch, and the sharpness and contrast coupled with the impressive close focus make for a worthy contender.

Summary

I doubt it is a surprise to anybody that the Swarovski is the better optic, but for a binocular costing approx 50-75% of the price, the Opticron has a lot to offer somebody looking for a decent, affordable 7x42 roof prism. The Opticron appears well built, and with the exception of some shiny areas, the armouring seems to hold up pretty well on many of the used examples available. Optically, there are a few areas where it falls down, with some colour fringing, a slight cast in colour on white backgrounds and perhaps the largest downside being the slightly tunnel view as a result of the 110m field of view. The Swarovski excels in all these criteria. Perhaps most notable is the resolution, where to my eye at least, both optics are within a few points of each other.
If you are looking for a good budget 7x42 roof, and you can live with the small field of view, then it is well worth tracking down one of the Opticron 7x42 BGA WP models.
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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 22:36   #2
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Hi Daniel.

Two observations and a question . . .

As to the Swarovski’s becoming a literal pain in the neck on longer walks, an under appreciated accessory for carrying binoculars is the Crooked Horn Bino Shield
Properly adjusted at chest height - as opposed to the image in the advert - it takes most of the weight off the neck
(by preference, I always adjust a binocular's neck strap so that it's barely long enough to fit over may head so as to minimise swing - so the strap and the covering work perfectly together)

For more detail see here: https://www.birdforum.net/showpost.p...6&postcount=10
and if you can put up with the ‘photo realistic’ camo pattern, the medium size will be perfect for the 7x42’s

By observation of box markings, the 7x42 SLC’s had Swarobright/ dielectric prism coating by late 2000 (not on D7027 61227 but by D7033 62504; 70 + 1930 = 2000, and 33rd week)

I presume from your description of the performance that yours dates from after then?


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Old Saturday 7th September 2019, 23:18   #3
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Daniel,

Your fifth photo is an excellent illustration of one of the qualities of this binocular (I too own one).
The exit pupil of the right barrel (what Swarovski call the Randpupille) is about to occlude but is still gibbous moon-shaped.
The exit pupils of many binoculars in this situation are almond-shaped but the large Randpupille of the Swarovski contributes to its ease of view. All down to its generously dimensioned (and heavy) prisms, but you can't have it all!

John
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 00:42   #4
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I have recently been on a 7x42 kick. I have not tried the SLC 7x42 or the Leicas. Here is my experience with the others.

For me, the main reason to try 7x42 is the true field of view. That means I want 8* - 8.5*. Anything under that I can get from an 8x (and the Zeiss SF 8x42 does 8*, though I have the EL at 7.6*). I also like close focus, as I often use binoculars out my breakfast window to some insects on plants nearby. There is some advantage to DoF and ignoring shakes with 7x compared to 8x, and that is important to my girlfriend, but not so much me.

Opticron Discovery 7x42 (USD$250). It's good for the price and pleasant in the sweet spot. But it has a fairly large ring. My girlfriend likes them because they are inexpensive and the 7x helps her see more with minor shakes. Very good close focus (4.9', ~1.5m). With a 7.8* FoV, I would not use this over an 8x.

Sightmark Solitude 7x36 (USD$270). In the same league optically as the Opticron, though I have not done a head-to-head test yet. I like the Opticron build better. The sightmark feel more plasticy and rubbery. I am not going to keep this, it was an experiment to compare against the Discovery.

Zeiss Dialyt 7x42 BGATP (USD$1100 used, 2018 Astromart). Zeiss cleaned and adjusted them for free :) Optics are clearly superior to the previous two. Very clear and bright. I find the long tubes awkward to carry and eyepiece movement for focus unfamiliar. So ergonomically, I do not like them much. They also have roll-down eyecups for glass wearers, so might not be too friendly to some. Does not do close focus (~3.5m).

Zeiss Victory 7x42 T FL (USD$1075 used, 2019 birdforum). What a great package. I like the ergonomic of this the best of all I have tried. I like the tapered eyecups and the way they feel in hand. The sweet spot is generous and very crisp. They have the best close focus after the Discovery, being 6.6' / 2m. The sample I got came from a smoker's house, so I am in the process of washing every so often with Murphy's oil soap (with covers on) then letting them air out. I'm slowly winning.

Nikon EDG II 7x42 (USD$1150 used, 2019 ebay). I think these have the best view. The edge-to-edge sharpness is fantastic. They weigh a small bit more than the Victory, which I notice if I'm holding both at the same time, but otherwise is not a problem. I think they control ghosting better than the Victory. I do not like the thick round eyecups, I like the Victory better. The tubes are not tapered much, so again I prefer holding the Victory to the EDG. And the snap-in objective covers are fickle and do not stay in well, so the Victory wins again with its objective covers. It is a narrower FoV and if I had the 8x42 SF, I wouldn't see a reason to have the EDG.

So as it is now, I'm going back and forth between the EDG and Victory. They seem to focus about the same speed. The Victory does have a closer focus (2m vs 3m), so I like the Victory better there. The victory has the better FoV, though it is not sharp edge-to-edge like the EDG, but it is good enough to track things and find things and one can achieve crisp focus at the edge.

Marc
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 01:55   #5
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You guys are forgetting the excellent Meopta 7x's
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 08:31   #6
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Mentioning the classics the good old Zeiss Victory 7x42 FL (now becoming rare) might be the star of the pack.

If you don't mind some yellowish tint the cheaper to have old East German Zeiss Jena 7x40 EDF military binoculars aren't bad at all. Good for bad lighting situations. Plus super robust and watertight as a bonus.

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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 08:38   #7
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Hi Daniel, nice read, I had the Opticron for a couple of years, I can`t think why I sold it, I always felt it punched well above its price, and to be honest I`m always looking for a good used one to replace it, in fact I always liked the whole Bga SE range, great value.

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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 09:47   #8
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Hi Daniel.

Two observations and a question . . .

John
Hi John, thanks for the reply. I've previously tried binocular harnesses but I've found them a nightmare, particularly in tropical regions where I am already carrying backpack, camera and scope. They seem to restrict movement (probably as a result of getting snagged in the other various straps) and I couldn't adjust the bins high enough for comfort. Like you, I wear my neckstrap very short, with the bins resting on my upper chest.

With regards to my own SLC, it is of a 2003 vintage, so already had swarobright coatings. I believe that the swarodure coating was also present, but was reapplied after the recent service - water seems to drop off.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 11:25   #9
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Daniel,

Your fifth photo is an excellent illustration of one of the qualities of this binocular (I too own one).
The exit pupil of the right barrel (what Swarovski call the Randpupille) is about to occlude but is still gibbous moon-shaped.
The exit pupils of many binoculars in this situation are almond-shaped but the large Randpupille of the Swarovski contributes to its ease of view. All down to its generously dimensioned (and heavy) prisms, but you can't have it all!

John
Yes, I have considered selling it a few times due to the weight, but by the same token, the image delivered is truly impressive. I'm not sure that there is another binocular with such easy eye placement.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 11:27   #10
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Marc, that is an enviable list of 7x42's! I would really like to try the FL's because of their lower weight and larger fov. I could probably purchase another high end 7x42 in addition to my SLC, but that would reduce the number of birding trips I can take each year - something I'm not willing to do.

Old 45; I have not tried a Meopta binocular, but by all accounts they are excellent, and similarly bombproof to the SLC.
Sebzwo; Those Zeiss appear to have been around for a while and have a military application, I'd expect they would withstand the use I impart on my optics! Not sure about the IF design for birding, but it could work if the depth of field was decent.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 11:33   #11
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Hi Daniel, nice read, I had the Opticron for a couple of years, I can`t think why I sold it, I always felt it punched well above its price, and to be honest I`m always looking for a good used one to replace it, in fact I always liked the whole Bga SE range, great value.

John.
Thanks John, they are very good. I owned the 8x42 BGA (previous model) which was optically very good but again had a smaller fov. All binoculars are a set of compromises, but given the price v's performance ratio of the mid range binoculars (particularly Opticron) one could easily be happy to use one of these units without feeling a major need to upgrade. I'd be interested to have a look at the Discovery 7x42.

If you are still looking for a 7x42 BGA, here is one for sale at a good price. The unit I tested was also from the Birders Store, and I highly recommend their service.
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Old Sunday 8th September 2019, 13:20   #12
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Don't forget the Swarovski Habicht 7x42. It is lighter, brighter and has better 3D than any of the roof's for less money. None of the roof's will touch their transmission. They are just as sharp on-axis as any of the alpha roofs and you wouldn't believe how with their great 3D how much easier it is to see birds in bushes and trees. They "Pop" the birds out from the back round branches. I think they are better built than most roof's now days also. They keep their value. Buy one for $700.00 and in 5 years you can probably sell them for $700.00 because they don't change.

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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 01:38   #13
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7x42's are about idea for use from in a vehicle. I use my Meoptas when on the road a lot. You hardly notice the dirty windshield ;-)
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 03:42   #14
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Great report Daniel!

It's a shame there aren't more quality 7X binoculars even AVAILABLE anymore. I guess the UVHD+, Opticron Discovery, and the Swarovski Habicht are about it? Optolyth has a Vianova 7X42 currently. Don't know much about it and not a WHOLE lot about Optolyth. IDK if the Meopta has dropped their excellent B.1 7X42 or if it's just not available at US dealers. The newest rendition of the SLC would make an EXCELLENT 7X42. It would be lighter than our 7X42 SLCs.

Overall I like the Opticron products. They offer a wide variety of affordable binoculars. The Verano models are actually excellent binoculars. I have that very Opticron Discovery 7X42 model! No surprise I'm sure! LOL! It's a nice, lightweight, handy package. I was probably a little harder on it than I should have been. It's a nice binocular for the money.

Something funny... While I've bought and sold just about all the major brands...Nikons, Swarovskis, Zeiss, Meopta, Leica, etc....I've NEVER sold a 7X binocular that I've purchased!

I got to go birding Saturday....7X42s was the choice....this time of the Leica variety!

BTW....good suggestion above about the harness. Maybe you've tried one before. I swear by the Rick Young Ultralight Harness. I tried one on a whim. Really, I couldn't believe how THIS HARNESS with those small diameter elastic cords could even work much less be comfortable. Long story short...I love this harness. I'm sure I have ten of them on various binoculars with more with just the snaps, ready to snap the harness to them. Easier to go in the case than with the OEM strap too.

Again, enjoyed the read!
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 06:46   #15
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Marc, that is an enviable list of 7x42's! I would really like to try the FL's because of their lower weight and larger fov. I could probably purchase another high end 7x42 in addition to my SLC, but that would reduce the number of birding trips I can take each year - something I'm not willing to do.

Old 45; I have not tried a Meopta binocular, but by all accounts they are excellent, and similarly bombproof to the SLC.
Sebzwo; Those Zeiss appear to have been around for a while and have a military application, I'd expect they would withstand the use I impart on my optics! Not sure about the IF design for birding, but it could work if the depth of field was decent.
I figure buying used I can sell them for about what I paid when I'm done playing with them. I want to do some photos through the lenses of them all to compare color and brightness in my studio. Now that I have the Victory and EDG and Dialyt, I think I'm ready to do the side-by-side tests.

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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 07:49   #16
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I always liked the whole [Opticron] Bga SE range, great value.
John.
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It's a shame there aren't more quality 7X binoculars even AVAILABLE anymore. I guess the UVHD+, Opticron Discovery, and the Swarovski Habicht are about it?
Not so often seen these days is the Opticron Imagic BGA SE 7x42. With the relentless rise in prices of new alpha optics these are certainly good value and worth buying if you can find one.

As an aside BelOMO, the Belarussian Optical Mechanical Association mfr, offer a not inexpensive focus free 7x42 porro, although I have not seen it :

http://belomo.by/en/catalog/optical-...s/binokli/7x42

expanded details here:

https://binoculars.ru/product/binokl-7h42/

I have a BelOMO achromatic triplet loupe, heavy, good glass.

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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 12:00   #17
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That BelOMO looks very much like the Avimo binocular that used to be a standard issue British Army item - and wasn't particularly well regarded - optically or ergonomically... and I see from a quick search there is a thread about them here...
https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=318899

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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 17:54   #18
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Don't forget the Swarovski Habicht 7x42. It is lighter, brighter and has better 3D than any of the roof's for less money. None of the roof's will touch their transmission. They are just as sharp on-axis as any of the alpha roofs and you wouldn't believe how with their great 3D how much easier it is to see birds in bushes and trees. They "Pop" the birds out from the back round branches. I think they are better built than most roof's now days also. They keep their value. Buy one for $700.00 and in 5 years you can probably sell them for $700.00 because they don't change.
Hi Dennis, thanks for your thoughts, I suspect those Habicht are really good binoculars. Unfortunately they fall down in 4 main areas as I see it: Waterproofing (depending on how much and what type of birding you do), eye relief (probably fine if you don't wear glasses) fov (seems a bit skimpy in comparison to most other roofs of the same specifications) and finally price! Yes, $700 for a well built binocular offering one of the best views available may be a bargain to some, but it is still a fairly significant outlay to those with less disposable income, or for whom it would be a secondary tool for the job. I suppose if you look at it as giving at least 25 years service it would only work out at $28 per year, which is excellent value!
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 18:02   #19
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Great report Daniel!
Thanks for the kind words Chuck.
I think that you've not sold a single 7x42 shows just how useful they are. I've used them as a primary bin for over a decade now (including for work - lucky me!) and never feel like I'm missing out. If I need more power I can always use a scope.
I agree with you regarding the latest version of the SLC - that weight and form in a 7x42 configuration would be excellent, sadly I think it unlikely.
I'll have to look into the Rick Young harness, not sure if we get them this side of the Atlantic. I've got 2 weeks trekking and birding lined up in November, would be an ideal opportunity to test it out! Cheers.
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 18:03   #20
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I figure buying used I can sell them for about what I paid when I'm done playing with them. I want to do some photos through the lenses of them all to compare color and brightness in my studio. Now that I have the Victory and EDG and Dialyt, I think I'm ready to do the side-by-side tests.

Marc
I look forward to that, also I think a "shoot-out" of all the 7x42's would be very popular indeed!
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 14:16   #21
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Originally Posted by dwatsonbirder View Post
Hi Dennis, thanks for your thoughts, I suspect those Habicht are really good binoculars. Unfortunately they fall down in 4 main areas as I see it: Waterproofing (depending on how much and what type of birding you do), eye relief (probably fine if you don't wear glasses) fov (seems a bit skimpy in comparison to most other roofs of the same specifications) and finally price! Yes, $700 for a well built binocular offering one of the best views available may be a bargain to some, but it is still a fairly significant outlay to those with less disposable income, or for whom it would be a secondary tool for the job. I suppose if you look at it as giving at least 25 years service it would only work out at $28 per year, which is excellent value!
The Swarovski Habicht's 7x42 are totally waterproof and fog proof unlike a lot of porro's, the eye relief is fine if you don't wear glasses, the FOV is narrower than some of the other 7x42's but it makes up for it by being amazing bright and sharp. As far as the price I think you would have to at least pay twice as much to get a roof prism of the same quality and the Habicht's will not lose value over the years from depreciation. There is not a roof prism available of the same quality for $700.00. The Habicht's are really alpha porro's with EL glass and coatings. Meaning some of the best. That is why their transmission is over 95%. There is no 42mm roof that will equal their brightness. They are as light as most 32mm roofs and you have the advantage of a 42mm aperture plus the much underrated and not talked about fact of a 3D view versus the poster board flatness of most roof's. I had the Nikon EDG II 7x42 and the Habicht 7x42 is a much more WOW binocular. I got rid of the EDG even though it has a bigger FOV it is not nearly as bright as the Habicht and it is way heavier. The Habicht's FOV is incredibly bright.

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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 16:06   #22
dries1
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I guess some folks like me can see a lot with 89-90% transmission and not needing 95%.

Andy W.
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 16:10   #23
ceasar
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Don't forget the Swarovski Habicht 7x42. It is lighter, brighter and has better 3D than any of the roof's for less money. None of the roof's will touch their transmission. They are just as sharp on-axis as any of the alpha roofs and you wouldn't believe how with their great 3D how much easier it is to see birds in bushes and trees. They "Pop" the birds out from the back round branches. I think they are better built than most roof's now days also. They keep their value. Buy one for $700.00 and in 5 years you can probably sell them for $700.00 because they don't change.


See the Four accurate but less than enthusiastic individual reviews in Allbinos below.

It's overall Specifications are not impressive even with its well known very high transmission.

It has a very narrow FOV of 341' @ 1000yds and Short Eye Relief of 14mm and a long minimum focusing distance of 3.5 meters.

https://www.allbinos.com/270-Swarovs...fications.html

In short, it is not a very practically designed 7x42 binocular for general use and "General Use" is what 7x42 binoculars excel in! (For example almost every 7x42 binocular will come with a FOV 8º [420'@1000yds] or close to it. The eyepieces used in them also have long eye relief to go along with their wide fields.)

Bob

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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 16:31   #24
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See the Four accurate but less than enthusiastic individual reviews in Allbinos below.

It's overall Specifications are not impressive even with its well known very high transmission.

It has a very narrow FOV of 341' @ 1000yds and Short Eye Relief of 14mm and a long minimum focusing distance of 3.5 meters.

https://www.allbinos.com/270-Swarovs...fications.html

In short, it is not a very practically designed 7x42 binocular for general use and "General Use" is what 7x42 binoculars excel in! (For example almost every 7x42 binocular will come with a FOV 8º or close to it.)

Bob
Hello Bob,

Yes. That Austrian binocular is simple and robust. A simple eyepiece, with few elements helps provide high transmission but at the cost of the FOV of oculars with more elements. It is rather old design, perhaps the company's oldest model, suited to Alpine hunters and hikers.

I once owned the Austrian 7x42 bur I still have two 7x42 glasses: Leica BA and the Zeiss Dialyt. The latter is my favourite. Because it uses Abbe-Koenig prisms, the Dialyt actually provides some stereopsis.

Happy bird watching,
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Old Tuesday 10th September 2019, 16:47   #25
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What 7X42, past and present has the largest apparent FOV.

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