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Kowa Genesis vs BD II XD impressions (1 Viewer)

eitanaltman

Well-known member
I recently picked up a Kowa Genesis 10x33 from a forum member (who kindly reached out and gave me a deal I couldn't refuse after had I mentioned my interest in this model on another thread). I've always loved the Genesis 8x33 and lusted after one, and I figured the 10x33 was a good choice for the format given the high level of sharpness and bright optics (and that precious extra 0.1mm of exit pupil!).

Then, on a whim, I bought a BD II 6.5x32 XD last week from OpticsPlanet. I had read all the praise here, and enjoyed them when I handled them briefly a few months ago at the local bird fair. I also have a soft spot for the format having previously owned the 6.5x32 Vortex Fury and 6x30 Vortex Viper (now with my brother).

I've had the Genesis for a bit more than a week now, using them hard for several hours a day in varied conditions, and the BD arrived Friday. I took both bins out in afternoon, evening, and morning conditions to compare over the weekend.

So it's time for some thoughts on the BD II XD mid level series, and how they compare vs the Genesis line. Separately, I'll do a more detailed review of the Genesis 10x33, which gets barely a mention vs the much more popular 8x33 and deserves some love.

First things first....


Unfortunately, my sample of the BD II 6.5x32 is garbage.

- The focus wheel, while light and smooth for the most part, has a bizarre "hitch" in it when I shift from CCW to CW focus. I can feel a small "bump" or "notch" and hear an soft, but audible, click when I switch to CW, and the focus goes wonky and I have to kind of wiggle it back and forth to dial in the focus. This alone is unacceptable and would cause me to return them, BUT if that mechanical flaw didn't exist the focuser would be perfectly pleasant to use.

- There are also, unfortunately, severe problems with the optics. While they feel nicely bright and crisp just casually scanning around, when really trying to dial in perfect focus they show a lack of critical focus snap and consequently pretty poor resolution. At first I thought it was just the focusing hitch preventing me from dialing in sharp focus, but now I'm convinced they are at minimum slightly miscollimated, and probably also suffering from some astigmatism or other defects.

My amateur eyes are not as discriminating as Henry, but re-reading his test report of the 10x42 BD II model I'm feel my sample shows nearly all the characteristics and issues he noted, and align precisely with the excellent example photos he provided: https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=384387

Last night, I took the two Kowas and my Trinovid 10x42 (2012) out to gaze at Jupiter and Saturn. The 6.5x32 was unable to focus Jupiter into a circle, the best I could get was an oblong egg-shaped ellipsoid type blob, like the bright circle planet had a smaller round "tumor" sticking out the side. Wiggling the focus back and forth a bit around the sharpest point would deform the blob vertically in one direction, and horizontally in the other direction, and while stars were reasonably point-like they were still slightly deformed at best.

Henry reported "poor correction of spherical aberration, coma from misaligned optics, astigmatism and very defective roof prisms with exactly the same appearance in both sides and which seemed to be aligned with the astigmatism." Sounds like a good explanation for the crappy results I experienced. I can also easily see the dark roof prism line mentioned in that thread running through the field of view when looking through them backwards (objective end).

(NB: The Genesis 10x33 did much better on the night sky test, very crisp in the center ~50%, and getting a little ugly in the outer 30-40%; the Trinovid 10x42 were clearly the best with pin ***** stars nearly to the edge indicating the typical excellent astigmatism correction of Leicas. The Leicas also feel "deeper"... hard to describe, and not sure whether it's the larger exit pupil and/or the better overall aberration correction, but switching back and forth the Genesis 10x33 felt a bit "flatter" and the black background a bit more "milky". The night sky through the Leicas felt deeper and "cleaner"...)

As you'd expect, the poor QC on the BD II's optics and focus meant that I could never quite get them to maximum sharpness in the field in daylight, and using for an extended morning walk I even noticed some mild eye strain which furthers my conclusion of optical issues.


Distortion, compression, AMD and FOV

I also was very aware of the wonky distortion pattern Henry discussed in the 10x42 review linked above. I found the impact of the extreme wide angle of the 6.5x32 mitigated due to *severe* compression on the edges; using a small circle or square target, the compression started surprisingly close to the center access and rises to IMO absurd levels near the extreme edge. Testing straight lines I clearly saw the "mustache distortion" pattern with slight pincushion in the middle, transitioning to a bit of barrel distortion closer to the edge.

The distortion pattern + compression at the edges and resultant AMD produces the notorious "rolling ball" effect when panning. It doesn't make me nauseous or anything, but I notice it clearly, especially when scanning across brushy/hilly landscape (common where I live). Unlike the Kowas, with the Trinovids (which have a pretty "classic" pattern of mild pincushion + field curvature, no AMD, and excellent astigmatism correction) panning feels much more "natural". Note that I have never owned a model with high AMD like a Swaro SV, so these Kowas have been my first real extended experience with this distortion pattern.

Henry also notes that a "result of this distortion is a smaller than expected AFOV as objects near the edge are crammed into a compressed space." I noticed this in both Kowas, but it's more obvious in the 6.5x due to the lower magnification. When I went to look through these for the first time, I was expecting to go "wow" with the 10º FOV, but I was actually a bit disappointed that it felt relatively pedestrian. Reading Henry's comments about the compression / AMD, as well as the fact that it's a 6x in reality (not 6.5x) per Gijs' review, completely explains this.

The simple formula of 6.5 x 10º would imply a 65º AFOV. If they are truly 6x and not 6.5x, you're already down to a 60º AFOV using the simple formula. But we know even that is overstated due to the impact of the distortion; Henry stated the 10x42's "AFOV measured only 64º. That was considerably smaller than Kowa’s spec of 72º." This implies that the true AFOV is under 60º, which correlates with my subjective assessment.

The FOV is definitely VERY wide, obvious in comparison to my other binoculars. But it doesn't FEEL as wide as it should IMO.

Now, it needs to be noted here that the Genesis 10x33 model shows essentially the exact same mustache distortion pattern with compressed edges + AMD, although not *quite* as severe (however the 10x vs 6.5x magnification is an uncontrolled variable). While reviews of the 8x33 Genesis rave about the central sharpness, many have noted the "ring of defocus" as you approach the edge where it is actually slightly sharper at the very edge than it is 70-80% of the way out. I observed this on both Kowas (although, interestingly, the BD II was sharper at the edge than the Genesis even after refocusing). I've also read reports of rolling ball / AMD in the Genesis 44 models. Consequently, I believe "moustache distortion + AMD" is just the Kowa "formula" for wide-field binocular eyepieces and is present across the Genesis and BD II lines.

And, similar to the 6.5x BD II, the 10x33 Genesis doesn't FEEL quite as wide as the impressive-on-paper 6.8º FOV spec would imply. The AFOV is still generous, as they feel quite a bit wider than my Trinovid 10x42, but based on memory the 10x33 Genesis doesn't feel that much wider than the 10x42 Tract Toric with its 6.5º FOV. I almost wish that the Genesis 33's were designed for a slightly smaller TFOV which would allow for a less jarring off-axis distortion profile.

All told, it feels a bit like "cheating" the FOV, where they are literally squeezing in extra image into the outer portion of the field so they can claim the increased TFOV spec "on paper" but it doesn't actually translate into the implied AFOV in real world field use.

And it also feels like after the critique of the original BD XD line for having relatively narrow FOV, when Kowa came out with the BD II XD they decided to use that "stretch the field" formula from the Genesis and take it to an extreme, allowing them to advertise eye popping TFOV in an effort to stand out in a crowded mid-range marketplace. Looking at the Allbinos review of the 1st gen BD 8x32, it has a pretty conservative FOV but low distortion and is sharp nearly to the edge. Kowa must have thrown out that playbook on the BDII and decided to go for broke on super wide FOV... but when you combine that with the distortion profile, extra short barrels, and mediocre QC, it's a recipe for a mess of optical aberrations. The superior glass, length, and quality of the Genesis (and not quite as aggressive FOV) mitigates the issues. Speaking of.....


Genesis vs BD XD II

So now we are comparing the Genesis to the BD II! First, the optics. Obviously, comparing a 6.5x to a 10x is fraught with peril, so I'll try to focus (har har) on general similarities/differences.

I've already discussed the similar distortion patterns, but one more thing is similar: in terms of brightness and color rendition, the BD II and Genesis are IDENTICAL. Kowa claims to use their C3 coatings on the BD II line, and I believe it.

Gijs' measurements of the BD II 6.5x32 show outstanding transmission, 90%+ across most of the visible spectrum with a very flat shape. This comports with the Allbinos measurements of the Genesis 8x33. So I think the quality of the coatings on the BD II and Genesis lines are completely identical.

What this means is that both binoculars are not only extremely bright, they are also VERY neutral with nearly perfect color representation and white balance. They are, perhaps, just a tiny smidge "warm" if I had to pick some deviation from perfect neutrality, but we're talking 9.8/10 so a nearly perfect score. Which is what you'd expect from a nearly perfectly flat transmission in the 90%+ range.

In good light (so minimizing the exit pupil factor) both Kowas appear slightly brighter than the Trinovids, and equal to the UVHD (perhaps even a tiny smidge brighter, although that could just be the more neutral color). The UVHD is just a TINY bit warmer, with deeper more saturated reds, and the Trinovid is again a bit warmer and creamier with its reduced blue transmission. In the dark, however, the large exit pupil makes its presence felt, and the little baby 6.5's still gave bright, relaxed views looking at trees and signs at night with easy eye position whereas the others could not keep up. It's a great format for noctural wildlife observation!

So, while much of what I've written so far might feel negative, let's take a moment to appreciate that you are getting literally alpha-level light transmission and color neutrality in a $400 binocular. That is worthy of applause, and (especially with the low 6.5x magnification) makes up for a lot of flaws.

Because of that outstanding baseline level of brightness / clarity / color, the BDII 6.5x somehow still gives the impression of "crispness" and that magical Kowa micro-contrast despite the aberrations / misalignment which prevented perfect sharpness. Combined with the similar distortion pattern, it "feels" very much like the Genesis view -- clean, bright, crisp, neutral -- but once you spend more time with them and look more carefully it's obvious that it's not executed to nearly the same level of quality.

Even assuming a good sample of the BDII, it's clear the Genesis is sharper and clearer. It's better glass, as it should be. The central sharpness on the Genesis is alpha level IMO, aided by the world class correction of lateral color (CA). The Genesis isn't perfect in this respect -- I can see a TINY bit of CA even in the center in extreme conditions, and it's not hard to see towards the edges if you try. But, in "real world" use, it's effectively nonexistent.

The BDII is ok, and I never found lateral color fringing to be a problem in the field, but when tested in the same conditions as the Genesis the BDII is obviously worse. Interestingly, I found the lateral color to be "soft" and fuzzy, which perhaps makes it less obvious in real world field use. The Genesis, as well as my UVHD 8x32, tend to show lateral color as very thin, crisp lines (the Genesis being better than the UVHD in terms of the size and intensity of the purple/green lines).

Summarizing, I would describe the BDII view as "Genesis lite", equal in brightness + color rendition but without the critical "super sharpness" of the Genesis, worse overall correction of aberrations... and sloppy QC.

Build Quality / Mechanicals

This will be a similar theme as the optics, I would also describe the build and mechanicals as "Genesis lite". Looks the same at a casual glance, but upon closer inspection the quality level of the BDII is not to the same standards.

Nearly everything about the BDII resembles the Genesis line, from the soft green rubber armor to the "metal" textured focus knob to the large diameter eyecups.

However, when you have the two binoculars side by side and compare closely, you notice differences. The green armor on the Genesis is nicer quality and fitted better (both are perfectly comfortable though). The texture and feel of the rubber armor, as well as that of the focus wheel, is "cheaper" on the BDII. The focus knob on the BDII has a light, easy action (other than the "hitch" on mine), but it doesn't have the perfectly engineered precision of the glorious focus knob on the Genesis which feels like a lab-grade instrument dial. The right-eye diopter ring on the BDII is standard, the one on the Genesis is a locking mechanism.

And, of course, the placement of the strap lugs on the 6.5x BDII is patently absurd. Who's idea WAS that?! Thankfully, I prefer to carry bins slung bandolier style, so not as much of a problem, but when I would wear them around the neck I was constantly annoyed by the awkward angle at which they rest.

I also was unhappy with the hinge tension of the BDII sample I had. Both the Genesis and the Leicas have perfect tension -- firm enough to NEVER move by accident, but pliable enough to easily make small, precise adjustments when needed. The hinge tension on the BDII was TOO tight, it held in place firmly but it was difficult to move and so tight that once it finally did move it was hard to dial in the precise IPD.

That said, there is one area where I think the BDII beats out the Genesis in terms of the mechanical execution: the eyecups! The eyecups on the Genesis are very nice, with a smooth rounding and very slight taper, but the multi-position detents are too mushy to hold securely. They are firm enough to not collapse when using them to view stuff, as I've never had them collapse when pressing them against my face. But they do not "lock", and I find they occasionally slip from their position when I'm carrying them around, taking them in/out of the case, or putting on/off the rainguard. In contrast, the BDII eyecups have no taper, but a softer rubber covering with nicely rounded edges. Most importantly, for whatever reason, they hold intermediate positions much more firmly than the Genesis.

The above is a critical factor for me, because with these large ocular / wide eyecup designs I almost always have to use the eyecups one click down from full extension. The eyecups are too big to fit around my nose and into my eye sockets deeply enough to see the full FOV, so I need to go one click down and then the large eyecups brace against the eye socket.

Acessories

Speaking of the rainguard, I also prefer the BDII version to that of the Genesis. The Genesis rainguard is suprisingly cheap feeling given the overall quality level of these binoculars; it's well fitted, but it's a very thin, hard plastic. The BDII rainguard is a thicker, softer rubber which is more pleasant to handle. That said, I rarely use the rainguard in the field (San Diego!) and the Genesis rainguard is perfectly functional and just the right fit to not fall off accidentally but also easy to remove quickly.

The cordura cases appear virtually identical in design and construction, and they are nice with decent padding and little internal "flaps" to protect the oculars (if you don't have the rainguard). I'm sure I'm not the first to mention it but the Genesis bag is ridiculously oversized for the 33mm model. I can easily fit the 42mm Trinovid into the 33mm Genesis case (although only with eyecups retracted, or else the case is too short). The BDII case is properly sized for the binoculars, and actually fits the 33mm Genesis snugly (although, again, due to the extra length it only works with the eyecups retracted). I am contemplating grabbing a BDII case for a 32mm model to use instead for the Genesis, since it's much more snug and compact to pack. On the flip side, the extra size of the Genesis case allows you to fit the binoculars with padded strap inside the case if you don't want the strap dangling out.

On the straps, I did not remove the BDII strap from the packaging but through the plastic it again appeared similar to the Genesis strap, if perhaps a bit less cushy. I'm sure it's fine. The Genesis strap is very thick and wide and well padded, making it comfortable in use and fully supporting the ~600g weight of the Genesis 33 without neck strain. I just wish it had some contour to curve around the back of the neck the way Leica straps do; it's so wide and cushy that it rides up the back of my neck when wearing them in traditional fashion, some contour would prevent that and spread the weight a bit more to the shoulders.


Overall, in terms of optics, build quality / mechanics, and aesthetics, my bottom line assessment is that the BDII feels like a cheap Chinese knock-off of the Genesis. Which, in a way, is exactly what it is! The exterior and optics look extremely similar at first glance, but the differences in quality become more obvious with closer inspection.


Gosh, it sounds like you really hate the 6.5x32 and the whole BD II lineup??"

Actually.... NO!

Despite the janky focus hitch and misalignment / poor sharpness, I was still favorable impressed by the overall package these provide and I *totally* get the appeal and mini cult status.

They are, truly, a unique binocular, not just the 6x5x32 format but the "short and chunky" profile, the soft green armor, the metal focus knob.... they have a lot of character and personality, and are kind of fun to use in their own way. Easy to hold, light and small to tote around, super wide and bright when you look through them.

And, leaving aside the aberrations and funky distortion, in terms of brightness and color neutraiity I'll reiterate they are the *exact equal* of the Genesis -- which is to say virtually alpha level! That's a pretty good starting point for a mid-level binocular!

Throw in the ultra easy eye placement and generous depth of field you get from the 6x magnification, and the huge FOV.... it all adds up to a lovely, "calm" view that is a joy to behold... as long as you don't need perfect sharpness and an aberration-free view (but really what $400 binocular offers that?). IF you got a good sample with a nice focus knob and better optical alignment, it is certainly worth the $350-400 price and would make a wonderful casual walkabout option with the light weight, small size, bright optics, and easy viewing.

To quote Henry again, "even with all it’s shortcomings I don’t think it’s likely to look obviously bad to a casual hand holding observer. That’s a testimony to just how much can be gotten away with in the world of binocular optics. The image through a low power, hand held instrument can look relatively OK, even when its optics are objectively pretty awful... I suspect the flaws of the 10x42 are in the other models as well, possibly even more visible in the 10x32, but probably less visible the 8x42 and especially the 6.5x32 where the flaws will be more forgiven by lower magnification and in daylight benefit from the lower aberrations that result from larger exit pupils."

I suspect Henry is dead on, and explain the consensus of the 6.5x32 being the jewel of the BD XD II lineup. Start with alpha-level brightness and color, mix in very low magnification and a large exit pupil, and the views can be quite lovely even if the optics have some significant flaws. But the flaws are there, due to a mix of the extra-short tubes, extreme FOV, and the cheaper materials and QC. It would take a lot more than a $400 binocular to execute on all that without serious aberrations.... but in "real world" use looking at nature, a casual observer isn't likely to notice the aberrations, and instead will be wowed by a wide, bright, crisp and neutral view.


I'll wrap up by channeling my inner Troubador and telling a little story from the field. Last night I hiked a nearby trail at sunset, with the intention of having my return trip be at dusk to check for nocturnal birds. I carried the Genesis 10x33 with me for its light weight (the BDII had already been boxed up and dropped off at UPS). As I was hiking back up, just after sunset a large, dark raptor flew above me across the canyon. I was expected a young Red-tailed Hawk (there's a nest just up the hill) but when I got them in view I could see it was a juvenile Great-horned Owl. I watched it land on the slope of the canyon and perch on a rock. Moving closer, it was clearly visible in the 10x33, but the view was dark and difficult and hard to focus. I could see the facial pattern, but couldn't quite make out the plumage details clearly. Soon, its parents began hooting and it screeched back in response. Moments later, as the sky darkened further, the Common Poorwills began calling all around me. As I continued walking towards the trailhead, I noticed one poorwill land on the trail just ~10-15m in front of me. In typical nightjar fashion, it sat still on the ground as I walked closer, then once I got within ~5m it would hop up, flutter another ~10m up the trail, and land again. This pattern repeated almost 10 times in a row, and each time I would pause to savor and observe the cryptic little fellow as it sat on the dirt at relatively close range.

What's the point of that story? The whole time I was watching the young owl learning its trade, and the poorwill sitting on the trail, I kept thinking "boy, I really wish I had that 6.5x32 right now instead of the 10x33". The 10x33 just struggled to get enough light to my eye, and based on my comparisons the previous day I knew the 6.5x32 would have been much brighter and more relaxed in those conditions.

Are they as good as the Genesis? Nope. But they are also much cheaper. Let's face it, a "cheap Chinese copy of the Genesis" with the Genesis coatings is still a pretty good $400 binocular! And the 6.5x32 specifically is such a unique format that **if you get a good sample** makes for a really nice "niche use" binocular.

Personally, I wouldn't spend $400 on these when the Genesis 33mm models are on sale for $800. I probably wouldn't spend $400 on them in any case, because I don't have an alpha budget and don't want to have $400 sunk into a non-frontline optic. And also at that point you're creeping very close to used pricing on "sub alpha" binoculars like Meopta Meostar and Zeiss Conquest HD which will have much better glass. Spending $550-600 on a used Conquest HD 8x32 sounds like a way better value than $400 on a new Kowa BD II if you need a workhorse binocular that you will use heavily.

But if I had much bigger budget, or if I stumbled across one of these used for $200-250 (and was confident it was a good sample), I would happily own a copy of the 6.5x32 and use it for casual walks, evening outings, night viewing, etc.

So, bottom line: cautious recommendation on the BD II XD lineup, they have many good points but some QC issues (which, let's be honest, nearly all <$500 Chinese binoculars have) so if you invest in one, make sure you inspect it carefully for optical misalignment and/or mechanical problems! But if you happen to get a good sample with smooth mechanics and sharp focus, and you're not hyper critical about some less-than-perfect aberration correction, the combination of outstanding brightness and color rendition, light weight, wide FOV, and comfortable ergonomics and handling makes for a solid overall package in a mid-level binocular.
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Hi Eitan,
Thanks for your detailed exposition on these binoculars.

As you may know, I have a copy of the 6.5x32 Kowas. My sample must not be nearly as poor as your sample, so maybe I'd recommend returning/sending them in for warranty work? I may have missed if you did that or not.

I actually got rid of a pair of 8x42 Conquests and decided against buying a replacement pair of 8x25 Victory Pockets simply because I feel the level of view provided by the Kowa 6.5 BDII is on par with Conquests, or close enough that my eyes cannot discern a large enough difference. I'm glad I don't notice the odd distortion profile, and also didn't note it in the 8.5x44 Genesis model I owned. Early samples of the Swarovision showed AMD/Rolling Ball to my eyes, but in my current, 2017 production 8.5x42 Swarovision, I do not notice this effect; maybe my eyes have gotten adjusted to it? The 6.5 BDII are probably my most used binoculars nowadays as they reside in my work vehicle and have for I believe a year or so, now. So far, no build quality or durability issues on my sample. Their image quality is certainly not at alpha level, but they offer a very bright, wide, CA free, and sharp view (at least in the center), and to me very pleasing for my field work.

I think as you say, QC on Chinese optics has not been brought up to the level of QC in some other Chinese products (e.g. computer parts, smart phones, vehicle parts, etc.).

I also wish the x33 Genesis series had better eye-relief as at their current price point I imagine the 8x33 are a steal (I had the 8.5x44 and thought it compared favorably with the alphas I owned at the time, the Zeiss Victory FL and Swarvoski SLC-HD).

Justin
 
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pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Interesting discussion and very interesting comments Justin, perhaps my copy of the Kowa BDII isn't a wonderful copy either, or perhaps I just don't get on with it amazingly.

I am still keeping it as it's the best wide field 6x I can find, but I find it a bit tiresome to use as time goes on. I am still struggling to understand why, as the collimation appears perfect. I have had it now for about 4-5 months and used it quite a bit. I find the distortion of the outer field distracting, and increasingly notice a rolling ball type effect when I pan with it. (Oddly in 1-2 other bins where I notice a bit of rolling ball from time to time, it doesn't bother me and tends to "go away" quickly). I agree it is very sharp and quite good in controlling CA, but - to my eyes, based on the copies of the bins I have used - I would never compare it to a Conquest HD in either optical quality or viewing comfort. It is quite markedly inferior to my old Conquest HD or my Monarch HG. Again, either different eye-binocular-brain interaction, I have a subpar copy, or both... At some point I want to get back to trying to examine / understand the distortion and aberrations in the bin better, I hope to learn a bit by doing so.
 

jremmons

Wildlife Biologist
Pbjosh:
Yeah I mean to be honest, I probably don't use the BDII in the manner some on this forum will use their binoculars. As they are my work truck binos, I mostly use them for survey work and don't typically have my eyes behind them for hours on end, just quick spotting to assist in identification.

Justin
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Pbjosh:
Yeah I mean to be honest, I probably don't use the BDII in the manner some on this forum will use their binoculars. As they are my work truck binos, I mostly use them for survey work and don't typically have my eyes behind them for hours on end, just quick spotting to assist in identification.

Justin

Hey Justin, many birders use their binos in this way, for a quick look to locate a bird and get a rough idea of it and then move to their scope to nail the identification.

Lee
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Pbjosh:
Yeah I mean to be honest, I probably don't use the BDII in the manner some on this forum will use their binoculars. As they are my work truck binos, I mostly use them for survey work and don't typically have my eyes behind them for hours on end, just quick spotting to assist in identification.

Justin

I haven't taken them for a full day outing yet... just an hour walk here and there, birding in the yard and local park, etc.

It's interesting, I can't put my finger on any one aspect, and I can't find any clear fault, but they are just not as comfortable to view with. When critically examined, everything seems to check out, but in actual use I also occasionally feel like it's a struggle to get the diopter set perfect or to get perfect focus... This never happens with any other bins of mine so I'm still kind of scratching my head.
 

eitanaltman

Well-known member
I don’t think it’s that much of a mystery — it’s poorly corrected glass, and yours is probably a meh sample. Lack of “viewing comfort”, difficulty achieving perfect focus, constantly tweaking the diopter... those strike me as signs of the stuff Henry found in his review.

I’d bet money that if you sent yours to Henry and he did a boosted star test they would have all sorts of issues. Probably not severe enough to totally ruin the view, but enough to have you constantly fidgeting trying to dial it in “just right” - your brain knows something is “off”.

But like I said above — start with alpha level light transmission and the forgiving 6x magnification and you can get away with a lot of optical flaws and they will still look lovely at a casual glance.

Even on my turd of a sample, they still looked pretty dang nice just in casual use. I initially attributed the lack of critical sharpness to just “oh well they are cheaper / lower mag” and in daylight it didn’t feel like anything was slap-you-in-the-face wrong. They just didn’t quite “snap” like the Genesis or Leica on micro detail. It wasn’t until i did the night test looking at Jupiter that I went “whoah something is really off with these”.
 
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