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Duel at sunset: Opticron Traveller ED 8x32 vs Kite Lynx HD+ 8x30 (and ELSV, Conquest HD) (1 Viewer)

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I'm a big fan of the idea behind the Opticron Traveller ED 8x32 (as I am of the Monarch 7 8x30*, which I've used for quite a while before setting in for the Opticron).
A really compact and light x32 binocular with great levels of contrast and sharpness and great handling for a very affordable price (especially when bought 2nd hand, although the Traveller is a little more difficult to come by than the M7). However, the Achilles' heel of this format seems to be its behaviour against low light (like sunset) or in very difficult light conditions, and complains about an annoying milky veil and glare are frequent. So I've been interested in the Kite Lynx HD 8x30 for quite a while. I was able to test the previous version a couple of years ago (when you could merrily take a plane and pop into an optics store to touch and experience binoculars), but at the time I was more interested in the Monarch HG 8x30, and I found the Kite inferior to that one. Luckily, I've been able to get hold of a new HD+ model and I've been comparing it against my Traveller ED. I was interested in seeing what the Lynx HD+ could offer to justify the notable price difference compared to the Opticron (around 400 € against +550 €).

I'd probably do a longer comparison when I have the time, but one area I wanted to check was specifically the famous glare issue.
In short: yes, the view through the Lynx is overall a little better than through the Traveller. I perceive a little more contrast, a little more "pop" to the image (the way the subject in focus is highlighted against the blurry background). Sharpness could be a tiny bit better too, but that's a closer call. The FOV on real life use is not as noticeable as the specs might suggest 8,2º for the Traveller vs 8,65º for the Kite). I found it to be actually one of the least noticeable differences. Weight, on the other hand can be felt beyond what the specs indicate: 452 g the Traveller vs 503 g the Kite). The Kite feels more substantial, it feels closer to 550 g actually, maybe because the barrels are a little thicker (despite housing narrower objectives, 30 vs 32 mm).

But let's go directly to the subject of behaviour in sunset.
Today the sun set at 18:30 around here, and I've conducted this test at 18:10 - 18:15, with the sun really low on the horizon.
In order to have other 8x32 to judge the performance, I've also used well known contenders from the next two price brackets, the Conquest HD 8x32 from the middle-upper class and the Swarovski EL SV 8x32 from the top-class. And, in for a penny, in for a pound, I had a just received Vixen Artes J 8x42 (with a bigger exit pupil, a narrower field of view and very good credentials), so I've also used it as a benchmark.

These are my findings. I have attached some pictures to illustrate it. Yes, I know pictures through binos are usually not the best thing to go by, but these actually depict what I've seen pretty well. I think by looking at them you can make yourself an accurate idea of what I've seen.
There are two sets of pictures, one looking at a tree, to see how the binos were able to pick up detail on the branches (it's al almond tree in bloom, so there are green leaves and white flowers, that truly represent quite a challenge under these conditions). The lower set of pictures shows the corner of an old barn with some holes and a door that give a chance to check for black tones, contrast or the lack thereof, also a pretty demanding task under those light conditions.

Opticron Traveller ED 8x32: noticeable veil, to the point of losing most details on the white flowers and the creases on the trunk of the tree. The door of the barn appeared brownish, not actually very dark, and there was a prominent reflection on the upper part of the FOV, like a crescent or light. Classical Traveller/M7

Kite Lynx HD+ 8x30: as soon as you look through it you notice a clear improvement. It retains a higher level of contrast, which in turns enables you to see more detail. Compared to the Traveller, the door and holes on the barn wall seem darker, although you can feel that the level of contrast could be better, that the reflections are taking a little from you. Looking at the pictures of the Traveller and Lynx, I'd say they show a level of difference a bit bigger than reality. Maybe looking at them you could jump to the conclusion that the Lynx is free of veil, but it isn't so. Noticeably better, but still has a weak point here.

Swarovski EL SV 8x32: a surprise (well, maybe). I know the ELSV's weakest point is exactly this, but I wasn't expecting it to perform so poorly. I use the ELSV on a daily basis, and I've got used to it's quirks, and I'd say that normally its performance is not so weak, but it seems that the conditions of this particular test have exposed the EL's weakness beyond what I usually find. There was an unacceptable level of veil under this particular sunset. It was actually worse than the Traveller. Most detail gone, no contrast, a washed image.

Conquest HD 8x32. As like everything else regarding this pair of binoculars, I'd say its performance has been solid, this thing simply delivers. While not perfect, it has been the best of the 8x32 bunch. As I said regarding the pictures of the Traveller and the Kite, the pictures of the Kite appear a little better than what they are, so in reality the difference between the Lynx and the Conquest is a little bigger than what the image shows. However, you could still see that the Conquest was struggling and you really had to get your eye position right (well, this was a constant during the test with each an everyone of the 8x32). But overall, an irreproachable performance.

And, the wild card.
Vixen Artes J 8x42. Yes, it's probably unfair to put these 8x32 against a device from other category, but I wanted to see what a "value king" could do, and I'm simply impressed. The performance of the Artes J regarding veil and glare reminded me of the famous Supertramp album from the 70s: "Crisis? What crisis?". So, while I had a +1500 € alpha drowning in veil, and the +500 € Lynx was struggling (but achieving) to justify its price against the Traveller... the understated Japanese (paid GCole 170 € for it) simply flew over the storm in complete quietness, without a single sign of veil: contrast, sharpness, detail, everything was there. Probably not at the 100 % level (say, compared to if the sunset was not in that direction, but fully operational to provide details and increase ID-ing possibilities and overall viewing pleasure).

So, in this order, best to worst:
1. Vixen Artes J. Top marks
2. Conquest HD. Best of the 8x32's
3. Kite Lynx HD+. It has proven to deliver on one of the most important aspects that interested me about it.
4. Traveller ED. You can't say a bad word about these binoculars, but simply this isn't their strongest suit.
5. Swaro ELSV. The title of the movie would be: "The Alpha who bite the dust". To be honest, I think this particular conditions played against it.

*Note: as a side note, I must draw your attention to the fact that in the past I've owned two different units of the Nikon Monarch 7 8x30, and I've used them intensively in all kinds of environments. When I got the second one, to see if I could improve on the veil issue, I actually confirmed that there is quite a remarkable sample variation, even at this price point. I was surprised to find a slight but nevertheless noticeable difference in performance between my two units. One was sharper than the other and displayed less veil, but suffered from more sudden flares/flashes (I guess reflections). This makes me think about the difference between the Traveller and the Lynx I've seen. It's useless to speak from memory, but I'd say the difference between the Traveller and the Lynx is bigger than the difference between my two M7. It's more consistent: the Lynx seems more sharp and contrasty no matter the light conditions, and has a better behaviour agains the light. However, brightness probably goes to the Traveller, although by a very slight margin, probably due to the ever so slightly bigger aperture or probably due to different colour balance (the Traveller tends more to yellow/green, while the Lynx I'd say is more magenta/cold... but that's another story for another thread).

I hope I've given you some insights as I know the Kite has stirred some interest, and the Traveller/M7 is a very well regarded device (I surely do love mine). Please feel free to add your experiences and thoughts.
 

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yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
They come with twist-up eyecups. If I remember correctly, the previous version, the Lynx HD ("non +") also came with twist-up eyecups. However, on that version there were no intermediate positions: it was full up or down. In the new HD+ version Kite has incorporated intermediate positions, but IMHO they have not made a very impressive job because the eyecups don't click firmly into position and sometimes you find that one of the eyecups has gone one click down; not very convenient. There are nice things to say about the build quality of the Linx, but I find there's still room for improvement in the eyecup department.

Compared to the Travellers, I prefer the Lynx eyecups as such (the rubber pieces), I find them a little better. Nothing wrong with the rubber on the Travellers, I just like the Lynx's better. However, I prefer the mechanism in the Travellers. Neither is at a premium level, but the Travellers seem to have solved it better, for me at least.
 

lmans66

Out Birding....
Supporter
United States
Is it fair to take one element and base a review upon that? ...I know you don't....but it would be good to broaden the overall review to other categories and see where it ends. Nice job....I am interested in your thinking as I went thru much the same process this past summer. I never looked at the Artes, and never heard of it...Chinese so perhaps why I never looked at it.... But as you look over other elements, where do they all fit? I would suppose that the Conquest and Swaro would be 1 or 2 or close.... I know I don't like the Kite due to colors, but the Traveler is obviously a step down in price, thus overall score I am just guessing. The Traveler is half the cost of the Kite, right and a third of the Swaro, so that has to be taken into account. Keep reviewing...I am curious as to your thoughts! For me, the Traveler tops that price-point (near $500 US or close to...even the Maven of GPO)... jim
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Is it fair to take one element and base a review upon that? ...I know you don't....but it would be good to broaden the overall review to other categories and see where it ends.
Maybe I didn't make my point clear. Let me explain. First, this is not a review, it doesn't say review anywhere, an it is not intended as such. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear enough. Then, I don't think this is about "fairness". As I explicitly indicate at the beginning, "I'd probably do a longer comparison when I have the time, but one area I wanted to check was specifically the famous glare issue", since it is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) complain regarding this series of binos (M7/Traveller/Maven/etc.) so I thought it would be interesting to check this aspect. This is by no means a "final day judgement" on the merits of these binoculars, it simply tries to focus on a particular aspect that some might find interesting, even a deciding factor. For many, if the M7 didn't have a glare issue, it bought be a sure purchase (the same way for some veil is a no-no when thinking about the 8x32 ELSV), because I'm under the impression that it is exactly this fail that worries many. My intention is in no way trying to say this or that binocular is "the better" device, but just pointing out what I've found (actually, as you can see on my last note, I make a remark about sample variation, so it might well be the case that someone got a lemon-y Lynx and a peach-y Traveller and the results would be quite different). I'm sorry if I didn't make this point clear enough: just a duel on behaviour against sunset light, nothing more :)

Nice job....I am interested in your thinking as I went thru much the same process this past summer. I never looked at the Artes, and never heard of it...Chinese so perhaps why I never looked at it....
Actually, the Artes J is made in Japan, as are its Leupold and Opticron siblings. I found the build quality really very nice actually.

The Traveler is half the cost of the Kite, right and a third of the Swaro, so that has to be taken into account.
Yes, that's the point of it all! :) As I said earlier, I'd probably be doing a proper comparison at some point in the future, but handling of difficult light situations was on top of my list, so this was it, it had no bigger or further aspirations.

Keep reviewing...I am curious as to your thoughts! For me, the Traveler tops that price-point (near $500 US or close to...even the Maven of GPO)... jim
Will do!! I also think the Traveller ED is a really nice invention. I'm really curious about the Maven, but it's kind of hard to come by around here. I saw it in Amazon a while back... but now (because of Brexit??) the Maven range only shows in Amazon .co.uk but not in any other European Amazon like es. or .de, and when buying from the UK now we have to pay import taxes, so the very nice 450 € become 590 € once you add import taxes and shipping, which is kind of steep. I've always been curious about how much of an improvement the B3 are regarding the M7, then the Traveller ED and then the Kite Lynx HD+...
 

jring

Well-known member
Hi yarelli,

great comparison - and I understand your result with the EL 8x32 very well - only it was a nice winter morning with a big flock of geese on a meadow and the sun right above it and a peregrine falcon sitting on a tree a bit away...

The geese were difficult to ID in the EL, the Falcon (closer to the sun) was almost invisible. I had my SE 10x42 with me on that walk and that had no issues... the owner of the EL was quite a bit astonished.

But even in other settings I find the view through the EL 32mm models unnaturally bright and low contrast and I think a lot of that background brightness is caused by stray light... I much prefer a darker view with good contrast, where black is really black - as in my SE or a pair of EDGs that I could try at some other time...

In general, it is not very surprising that an 8x42 model will be better in that regard - proper baffling needs space and even if they didn't take too much care with baffling, the longer tubes and smaller field stop (and correspondingly narrower true field) in the 42m model make for a much lesser chance of stray light getting through to the eye...

Joachim
 
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Gilmore Girl

Beth
Supporter
United States
But even in other settings I find the view through the EL 32mm models unnaturally bright
I had the same feeling when I looked through an 8x32 EL recently on a very sunny day. I was comparing the EL to my Nikon MHG 8x30 which looked sort of dim in comparison, but had more relaxing or 'calm' view relating to brightness and color tones. EL has better overall resolution, however.
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I had the same feeling when I looked through an 8x32 EL recently on a very sunny day. I was comparing the EL to my Nikon MHG 8x30 which looked sort of dim in comparison, but had more relaxing or 'calm' view relating to brightness and color tones. EL has better overall resolution, however.
Yes, I understand what Joachim and you say, and I think I can agree to that. The view through the EL is spectacular, so crisp, so much detail, such a feeling of having "super-vision" in your eyes. However, if you compare it to other, you instantly notice that the level of contrast (or apparent lack of dark/black tones in many circumstances) is low. In the past months I've had the same experience comparing it to the 7x35 Retrovid and the 8x42 Vixen Artes J, both provided a view much richer in dark tones, which yielded a more, how to say it... "solid" feel to the objects. Because of this enhanced feeling of contrast the objects seemed to be "sculpted in the air" in a more prominent way. This is something you obviously don't notice if you don't compare them, and you can live happily without even knowing. But it's starting to nag me, so now I think I might want to look for a more contrasty replacement for the EL. But then... what's there left to try? (without going in SF territory). I've gone through the UVHD, FL and most everything in between (Conquest HD, Meostar B1, Swaro CL, etc. The EDG is jus ridiculously heavy, I'd rather get an 8x42 MHG for that weight/size. But then, I've also read accounts of the 8x42 MHG not being especially strong in sharpness. So, whenever I think about this, I hold again the 8x32 ELSV and I'm amazed of the way they feel in the hands and the view. Yes, it's compromised by veiling and a "soft or clear" contrast (for lack of a better term). Actually, if the Artes J had a 7,5 - 7,8º FOV, I think it could very well be it.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
This was a great thread, thanks. I’m really enjoying the little Travellers, despite the glare problem they are a perfect backup mini-bin for when I don’t want to bring something bigger, better and heavier. Other than the veiling crescents they don’t make me feel like I’m missing much when I have them.

With respect to contrast.... for what it’s worth when I compared my 10x32 EDG to the Swaro SV 10x32 a few months back I had the exact same impression. The Swaro felt “flat” and desaturated, like the image was washed out. The EDG in comparison felt rich and contrasty, deeper and more “solid” as you say.

I will also note that I felt the EDG really trumped the Monarch HG in this respect as well. That’s one of the main reasons I never fell in love with the MHG, despite having great glare control and a wide FOV with a huge sweet spot, the image always felt a bit flat and lifeless in comparison to the EDG and UVHD. To be fair those two are probably the kings of contrast / saturation, so hard to compare to the champs. But it was startling just taking them out and looking at the night sky and seeing how in comparison to even the 8x32 (Cabela’s) Meostar the background was somewhat “milky”, like the black levels were elevated to just a dark gray.

Obviously personal preference is a big factor, so I’m fine if others see it differently, but I’m just a sucker for black levels / contrast and saturation. I’m the same way with video displays, I will always take a display with deeper blacks and better color at the expense of peak brightness.

Since you mention the EDG, also worth noting it’s not really any bigger than the Swaro, which is a large 32mm. It does weigh a bit more but it’s not ridiculous like the old LX/HG, my 10x32 weighs 650g on the nose and the Swaro is just a hair under 600g right?
 

dries1

Member
650 -700 grams must be heavy for some I guess, I can walk miles with the HG/LX, no problem. Same as some other folks on here.

Andy W.
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Since you mention the EDG, also worth noting it’s not really any bigger than the Swaro, which is a large 32mm. It does weigh a bit more but it’s not ridiculous like the old LX/HG, my 10x32 weighs 650g on the nose and the Swaro is just a hair under 600g right?
I seem to always concur with your observations! :) I've had several Ultravid (7x42 and 8x32, BR and HD) and the view was that lovely saturated and "pop-y" view. However, in my search I went through this "ladder of performance". The UVHD to my eyes gave a much sharper and nicer view than the FL, so I kept it. Then I compared the UVHD to the ELSV, and I kept the ELSV (while I found the difference between FL and UVHD quite obvious, between the UVHD and the ELSV it was also a matter of ergonomics, I never got on really well with the forma factor and the eye position on the UVHD.

So after reading your comments, I'm basically convinced that I'd love the EDG. In fact, the EDG has always appealed to me. I've had a number of binoculars over the last years in this lovely process of learning and searching for "the perfect binocular", and Nikon is by far the brand I've had the most binos from (I think more than 10). Every single Nikon I've had was always pleasing, always a good focuser and nice ergos, always a great value, so I hope their flagship to live up to its reputation. However, I've weighted my ELSV at 580 g, which is really on the limit for a light/trekking pair for me. I'm afraid 650 g could get tiresome. The other thing that deterred me from accepting a very tempting offer from a fellow forum member was warranty/customer service. I've had very good experiences with Zeiss, Meopta or Steiner, but Swarovski just edges them all in terms of service and attention (all are very good). I've never had to use a Nikon warranty or customer service, so I don't know how it works, but the fact that the EDG are discontinued worried me. The HGL has always appealed to me, but I've seen it going for little more than 400 €, and for that time I can live with the fact that it is an old device.
650 -700 grams must be heavy for some I guess, I can walk miles with the HG/LX, no problem. Same as some other folks on here.

Andy W.
Andy, I can indeed walk with a 800 g or 900 g binocular on me (like the 10x50 Viper HD). I do it every now and then (although usually it's a 550-580 g 8x32 or the 700 g of the SE 10x42), but only in flat terrain, and to be honest, it's not that nice. If I'm trekking or on some rugged terrain, 550 - 600 g is a comfort limit to me, I really can tell the difference in comfort at the end of the day (I've tried harnesses, but it's not my cup of tea). So the 435 - 480 g and form factor of something like the M7, Traveller, SW CL, etc. are just perfect. I can walk for 8 hours, climb 4000 ft and not even realise I was hauling an optical device. However, none of the 8x32 I've used gives me the viewing comfort of the ELSV (let alone the view). There is something about the eye comfort in the 8x32 ELSV, I don't know if it's their lenght or the optical box, but they just don't feel like a 8x32, they feel more like a 8x42. You know when you take a 8x42 or a 7x42 to your eyes? That feeling of comfort and a "roomy" view (not talking about FOV, but about what they eye feels). So I tend to think of the ELSV more like an 8x35, because they're bigger than some 8x32, but also give a comfort and experience more akin to 8x42, if this makes any sense.
 

Ries

Well-known member
Netherlands
Thanks for your comparison and information, yarrellii, really helpful. Do I also conclude correctly that you think the Kite HD+ is a improvement over the former HD in optical regards in general?
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
Thank you for this comparison. Glare is definitely the main optical issue with all the various Kamakura-based 8x30s. I would have considered the Kites over the Mavens I ended up with if I had access to this post last year. I did also try the M7, but returned it mostly due to eye placement issues and build quality. The Mavens felt a little better in terms of glare, but it's definitely an issue.

My problem with a lot of alpha binoculars in the 8x30 class is they also tend to be much larger and heavier than what I'm already using, which kind of defeats the purpose of having them. The Conquest HD 8x30 looks pretty solid in the comparison, but it's a fair bit heavier than the Maven B.3, M7, Traveller, Lynx HD+, etc. The obvious direct upgrade is the MHG 8x30, but it seems like that comes with a lot of trade-offs. I love my Mavens for their size, weight, general performance, and build quality, but I'd love to have something similar with better glare performance.
 

Bob_McBob

Well-known member
The CL-P and MHG seem like the most obvious competitors to the Kamakura clones in terms of size and weight. The Ultravid is getting up there at 535g, but certainly still comparable. When you hit the 600g range, the Conquest HD 8x32 and maybe Kowa 8x33 are appealing since they're at least still a similar size. Once you start getting into alphas that are both larger and heavier, I lose interest since I'd rather carry a smaller and lighter binocular and just accept the optical trade-offs. I guess I have a better idea of which models I would be looking at for an upgrade now though.
 

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