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Review of new Explorer WA ED-R 8x32 (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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Staff member
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In recent years it has become my practice to take review units to the West of Scotland where more spectacular species such as Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles and Otters can be found and can enliven the review, but due to the Coronavirus situation with which we are all now painfully familiar, I am unable to travel. So, just as I used to do a few years ago, I have been venturing into the woods and meadows, moors and riversides within reach of home, where I encounter very few people and often, none at all. The species here are not so dramatic but it has been good to reacquaint myself with them because with their forms, colours and behaviour, they are great subjects to point binoculars at.

So what have we got on the table this time? It’s a new model from Opticron, and a compact format 8x32 listed at a modest £219, and so likely to appear on dealers’ shelves at around £195 in the UK.
Looking around the UK market, its likely competitors include Hawke Endurance ED 8x32 at around £180, Celestron Trailseeker 8x32 at around £150 and Viking Kestrel at around £200.

To put these in perspective here are a few key specification points:

Opticron Explorer: Field of view 136m at 1,000m / 408ft at 1,000 yds, close focus 2.5m/9.5ft, weight 440g/15.5ozs, length 120mm/4.7in, Eye Relief 18mm/0.7in.

Hawke Endurance: Field of view 129m/388ft, close focus 2m/6.6ft, weight 539g/13ozs, 134mm/5.3in, Eye Relief 18mm/0.7in.

Celestron Trailseeker: Field of view 136m/409ft, close focus 2m/6.6ft, weight 453g/16ozs, length 123mm/4.8in, Eye Relief 15.6mm/0.61in.

Viking Kestrel: Field of view 137m/411ft, close focus 2m/6.6ft, weight 509g/18ozs, length 120mm/4.7in, Eye Relief 15.6/0.61in.

Comparing specifications and general appearance, I think it is a fair bet that the Viking and Celestron are closely related. It is also clear that the Opticron is the lightest model here, the Hawke is noticeably longer than the others, the Opticron has a longer close focus, and while the kissing cousins Celestron and Viking beat the other two on field of view, they pay for this with only very modest eye relief.

Stepping back and considering only the Opticron, it is light, has a nice field of view, generous eye relief and is compact. The close focus is a bit longer than the others but is still acceptable for butterfly and dragonfly chasing, and of course more than acceptable for birding. So how does it feel in the hand, how does it handle?

At 120mm/4.7in long it is only a gnat’s crotchet longer than Leica’s king of compact Ultravid HD Plus 8x32 which is 116mm/4.57in long, and at 440g/15.5ozs it is lightweight, and according to intensive research weighs the same as two average bananas, which isn’t much. The armour has a nice texture, just enough to qualify for ‘not smooth’ and the thumb indents on the backs of the optical tubes give your thumbs cues as to where they are without getting in the way if they don’t suit your grip. The focus is smooth, without backlash/free play, and is a similar speed to Leica’s Trinovid HD 8x32, so I would call it medium-speed rather than either fast or slow. You should note that the focus wheel turns anti-clockwise to move the point of focus from nearby to infinity. This is the opposite direction to most of my binos, but I found that after only a few minutes of familiarisation I was quite comfortable with this.

As usual the Opticron ocular guard / rainguard attaches only at one side and as regular readers will know I prefer a guard that attaches on both sides, so that the user has a choice of left-hand, right-hand or both-sides attachment, rather than only one. Of course aftermarket guards are available if this is a concern.

I am a spectacle wearer and using these I had absolutely no problems with the eyecups or eye relief and could see the full field of view. Removing my spectacles and extending the eyecups I found on my first try that I pushed the eyecups too far into my sockets and got some blackouts. A minor adjustment of position, placing the eyecups against the underside of the arch of my brow/eye socket and I could easily see the full field of view without blackouts. I emphasise that this was no faltering, unsteady position that required the assistance of fingertips to achieve, it was easy, steady, secure and repeatable, without having to think about it. The Explorer has similar diameter eyecups to those on Zeiss Conquest HD 32mm and Leica Trinovid HD 32mm so are certainly well-sized.

Now, how did it perform in the field? The first thing I do as I step outside our front door is to check out the black poles and black overhead telephone cables across the road, where they are against the background of the sky, to investigate any chromatic aberration. I was pleasantly surprised to find that CA is very well controlled indeed.

The valley where we live runs from North-East to South-West up to the border with Derbyshire and it is very normal to see occasional groups of Lesser Black-backed Gulls streaming South-West into Derbyshire as they make their way to one of the big reservoir roosts. The Explorer picked these out decisively which was a good performance considering they were white and grey birds against white and grey clouds. Two Carrion Crows flying North-West stood out against the low pale clouds without a trace of chromatic aberration, so the ED glass used in this model is certainly effective. A good start for these modestly priced binos.

One of my favourite nearby places is an old Drover’s Road which is now a sunken track alongside farm fields and open countryside. On both sides are old trees with tangles of roots exposed by the gradual erosion of the banks on which they grow. And these trees, and the vegetation around them, attract the usual range of woodland and woodland-edge birds.

The first species I encountered was a female Chaffinch at about 10 metres /11 yards, and at first glance you might think it dull and unattractive, but through the Explorer I could see it was in beautiful fresh plumage with a wealth of different tones of grey, with white markings on the wing coverts that looked as though they were freshly painted with bright white lacquer. She flitted higher into the canopy but was almost immediately replaced by our most extrovert of finches, a Goldfinch. These have a red face, with white behind and black behind the white. If this theatrical mask wasn’t enough they have black wings with intense yellow markings across and along the coverts. What struck me immediately was the intensity of the red face and in fact ‘red’ hardly describes it as it is so deep, and perhaps has a touch of blue in it so in some lights it hints at purple.. The yellow markings were vivid too, looking almost waxy. And then, like the Chaffinch, it was gone. This bino has decent colour transmission.

Over the following week I was able to escape several times from the stress of trying to arrange home deliveries of groceries and other necessities and visit similar sites. Not all of these expeditions yielded good sightings but it was joyful to hear the expanding number of avian voices singing: Robin and Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, Great Tit and Dunnock. Now, talking of Dunnocks, a movement under a nearby hedgerow attracted my attention and out skipped a Dunnock flicking its wings. This species has a sex-life we shouldn’t dwell on too deeply here, it usually being based on a threesome that communicates not only vocally but also by a variety of wing movements, often termed ‘wing-waving’. IMHO this terminology is inaccurate as Dunnocks do not ‘wave’ their wings but flick them as if irritated by a swarm of passing gnats. Anyway, back under the hedgerow, the Dunnock flew off but was immediately replaced by another just as a beam of sunlight hit the spot where it was standing. This species has a colouration based on mottled browns so at a quick glance it just looks like a few dead leaves but this one stepped out into a ray of sunshine and my goodness it was stunning. The grey of its head looked almost blue-ish and its legs a bright red, and the rest of it was a kaleidoscope of rich browns. OK, the bright sunlight, as it stood against a shadowy background was flattering, but even so it showed this species could strut it’s stuff in the right circumstances and the Explorers did a great job of delivering the image.

And then the Dunnock was gone and in its place there landed a Woodpigeon. I confess this is not one of my favourite species but when I reluctantly lifted the Explorers again the sunlight picked out the intense white patches on the side of its neck, and the metallic green patch on the nape of its neck shimmered like petrol on a puddle.

Summing up, Explorer WA ED-R 8x32 is a really nice performer and a bargain at its price. Are there any shortcomings? Personally I would prefer a close focus distance of 2.0 metres or less rather than close to 3.0 metres, but for birding this is not worth quibbling about. This bino might not make alpha models redundant but as you can tell from my experiences recounted above, anybody could experience enjoyable and informative birding with it, and if you are looking for one around this price point, it really is worth trying out. This is a new model yet to be launched by Opticron, so if you are interested keep a watch on the Opticron website during the coming weeks.


Lee
 

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Gilmore Girl

Beth
Supporter
United States
Very nice Lee . Looks like it's typical Opticron - small and light - which is good :t:
... did you bring 2 bananas for lunch that day ? o:)
 

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Another thoroughly enjoyable (if slightly more 'parochial' than usual!) review Lee! Many thanks for taking the time to bring it to us.

Chris
 

Steve C

Well-known member
Lee,

How about a comment or two in comparison with the Opticron Discovery WP 8x32 or the Traveller ED 8x32? My Discovery has, after over five years being my farm ATV binocular become out of collimation. I really liked its small size. I generally find Opticron to be a solid value performer at a good price. These sound like they may be worth a look. Thanks for the review.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Lee,

How about a comment or two in comparison with the Opticron Discovery WP 8x32 or the Traveller ED 8x32? My Discovery has, after over five years being my farm ATV binocular become out of collimation. I really liked its small size. I generally find Opticron to be a solid value performer at a good price. These sound like they may be worth a look. Thanks for the review.

Hi Steve

I did do a quick comparison with Traveller ED and it was pretty much as expected, the Traveller has improved apparent sharpness in line with its price but the Explorer matched it on CA control.

Lee
 

dries1

Member
Thanks Lee for that review, perhaps a decent 8X32 for the money. Regarding the explorer, Optricon has usually been very business like with the external finish of their glass, the logo on the right tube must be for marketing purposes ?.

Waiting patiently for you to review the SF 8X32, and based on the current travel restrictions you would have plenty of time with it. I am quite interested in that one

Andy W.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
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Thanks Lee for that review, perhaps a decent 8X32 for the money. Regarding the explorer, Optricon has usually been very business like with the external finish of their glass, the logo on the right tube must be for marketing purposes ?.

Waiting patiently for you to review the SF 8X32, and based on the current travel restrictions you would have plenty of time with it. I am quite interested in that one

Andy W.

Andy

That logo repeats in full what the WA means in the model name, so it isn't just any old marketing spiel.

I have just received an SF32 test unit and put it in quarantine for 24 hours. Unfortunately I will only have it for 2-3 weeks before Zeiss need it returning, which is fine when on the Scottish islands and surrounded by spectacular nature, but tough when on the outskirts of my home town and restricted as to getting out by Corona restrictions and British weather. I will be working on it as from today.

Lee
 

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Andy

That logo repeats in full what the WA means in the model name, so it isn't just any old marketing spiel.

I have just received an SF32 test unit and put it in quarantine for 24 hours. Unfortunately I will only have it for 2-3 weeks before Zeiss need it returning, which is fine when on the Scottish islands and surrounded by spectacular nature, but tough when on the outskirts of my home town and restricted as to getting out by Corona restrictions and British weather. I will be working on it as from today.

Lee

Good luck with it Lee, I will also be very interested to hear your thoughts!

Chris
 

mbb

Well-known member
Thank you for this review!

I might add these binoculars to the candidates-list for some relatives looking for nice, compact binoculars for them. They liked my Kite Lynx HD 8x30 and found it more easy to use than my Zeiss Victory 8x25. Thus I'm looking at something similar in size, weight, ease of use etc. but preferably a bit cheaper. Thus these seem like a good alternative to some second hand Lynx (if I would any again).

Apart from the lower FOV and longer minimal focus distance, they seem spec-wise quite comparable to the Lynx, while actually being 32mm instead of 30mm and cheaper. (A big plus for Kite however, is the great service here in Belgium.)
Do you have any experience with the Kite Lynx HD for comparison, mainly optically?

How are these little binoculars handling difficult light?
(One of my main complaints about the Lynx is the reflections they can suffer from.)
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I have only looked through Kite Lynx 8x30 at Bird Fair and then only briefly but it was enough to know its a good bino. I guess you are asking if the Explorer suffers from glare. This is something I didn't encounter during testing but I will check it out more closely during the next couple of days and then post again.

Lee
 

JoeRawles

Feathers Wild Bird Care
Very interesting and a great read, Lee, thanks. Out of interest did you test the close focus to see whether you could achieve closer than 2.9m? On Opticron's website, the specs say 1.9m (6.2ft), but they have also quoted both 7.8 degree and 7.5 degree FOV in the description and specifications respectively, so there could be a mistake with the close focus too.

Edit: Again looking at the website, the photo of the binocular showing the focus wheel says 7.8 degree field of view, so I assume this is the correct figure.
 
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chill6x6

Well-known member
Enjoyed the review Lee!

I too was kinda wondering how the tested model HERE compared to the Traveler BGA ED 8X32. Sounds as if you think the Traveler IS the better binocular. Are both MIC?

I'm thinking about getting one of the two just for the heck of it.

Thanks again for the review!
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Enjoyed the review Lee!

I too was kinda wondering how the tested model HERE compared to the Traveler BGA ED 8X32. Sounds as if you think the Traveler IS the better binocular. Are both MIC?

I'm thinking about getting one of the two just for the heck of it.

Thanks again for the review!

Hi Chuck

You are welcome. The Traveller costs about 1/3 more than the Explorer and is worth the extra IMHO. Let us know what you decide.

Lee
 

Davidnewguy

New member
Hi. I have read many posts, and appreciate all of the information and wisdom. First post here.
I read a review of the prior version of the Explorer ED that the white balance was slightly on the warm side. That was just one guy's (but a very experienced guy) opinion. Is this new version more neutral in white balance?
Thanks, David
 

Pinewood

New York correspondent
United States
Hello Lee,

Thanks for the review. I am happy that you pointed out how much utility might be had from a relatively inexpensive binocular. That is not to write that more expensive binoculars are a waste but that the utility of lower priced optics should not be understated.

Stay safe,
Arthur
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hi. I have read many posts, and appreciate all of the information and wisdom. First post here.
I read a review of the prior version of the Explorer ED that the white balance was slightly on the warm side. That was just one guy's (but a very experienced guy) opinion. Is this new version more neutral in white balance?
Thanks, David

Hi David

I haven't tried previous verysions of Explorer but this one renders white clearly and beautifully white. And to make sure I just checked it out.

Lee
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Hello Lee,

Thanks for the review. I am happy that you pointed out how much utility might be had from a relatively inexpensive binocular. That is not to write that more expensive binoculars are a waste but that the utility of lower priced optics should not be understated.

Stay safe,
Arthur

I couldn't agree more Arthur.

Lee
 

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