Birdfair / Thoughts on the Tracticron
Attended with my brother Duncan between 11.00am and 5.30pm Saturday - my first visit to this event. The extensive selection of binoculars that could be picked up and looked through in a real world setting made the trip very well worth the time spent. Particularly memorable for me were two or three good sightings of great egret and Eurasian hobby, and one of the resident ospreys hunting over the lake right in front of the optics marquee, making two dives and succeeding on the second try - I'm pretty sure by then every binocular in the big tent must have been pointed at it. Simon King's very well attended presentation gave the large audience the opportunity to view some exceptional footage and I regret not having had the time to attend the talks given by other very interesting speakers. Although I find it difficult to imagine travelling all the way to places like Bolivia just to go birding, it was very interesting speaking to representatives from destinations closer to home - might just visit Mallorca once the crowds of my fellow countrymen intent on re-enacting Love Island 2017 have thinned out...
I took particular time to have a careful look through:
Opticron BGA VHD 8x42
Canon IS 10x42L
Zeiss SF 8x42 and later 10x42
Zeiss HT 8x42, 8x54 and 10x54
Zeiss Conquest 8x42HD (Duncan also looked through the 8x56)
Swarovski 8x56 SLC, 8x42 SLC
Swarovski 10x50SV (Duncan also looked through the 12x50)
Swarovski 8x30 Habicht
Leica Noctivid 8x42
plus briefer looks through:
Canon IS 18x50
Opticron SRGA 8x30 and HRWP 8x42 porros
Swarovski 15x56 SLC
Nikon 8x42 Monarch HG and 8x42 EDG
Nikon 8x30 EII (100th anniversary edition)
All in all a most rewarding selection. We brought along our own 8.5x42SV (Duncan's), 8x30SLC Mark II and Dialyt 10x40BGAT*P*, all of which we are very familiar with, as benchmarks. Alternating overcast and sunny conditions made it possible to compare performance in different light levels. The main aspect of performance that could not really be checked were performance in very low light and against glare.
I'll note down my impressions of the Opticron BGA VHD 8x42 first as this was one of the binoculars I had most wanted to try thanks to the various Tract Toric 8x42 reviews and threads like the infamous "Death of the Alpha". These are, of course, my own personal impressions - please take them with the requisite pinch of salt.
- My first impression upon initial handling was how lightweight and handy this binocular is, easily more so than my SLC 8x30 mark II. Light weight and general handiness were noticeable aspects of virtually every offering.
- Image quality I found very good, especially given its price point. I would say when fully tweaked (IPD, diopter etc) it seems, to my eyes anyway, competitive with the Monarch HG, Conquest in definition and colour rendition. I had a quick look through Opticron's DBA VHD which was a little brighter but otherwise very similar in image quality. It seems the tradeoff required to deliver this level of image quality for that price is a smaller field of view which to me was just about adequate but only just. I appreciate though that the large field of view so important to me when following fast-flying raptors is far less critical for other birding situations.
- Fittings and fixtures wise: Eyecups were adequate, as were focus tension and speed. (I personally prefer focus wheel tension to be stiffer than most current offerings.) The focus did seem to be fussier than other 8x42s I tried, requiring more tweaking to get things just perfect, and on the second sample I tried later in the day the diopter was fussy too.
- Build quality: I would say the Monarch and Conquest give the impression of being better built, but both are of course priced significantly higher. Probably the better comparison would be with the Terra (which unfortunately I didn't try). All in all I'd have to say Steve C's recent review of the Toric is very accurate, in particular the statement that to better the view offered by this binocular you will need to pay a good bit more.
I took quite careful notes of the others I tried and cross referenced my impressions extensively with Duncan's. I could make some follow-up posts if these would be of interest to anyone?