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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Review of Opticron Aurora BGA VHD 8x42 (1 Viewer)

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Back in early April I introduced Opticron’s Aurora 8x42 with a short ‘unboxing’ article which can be found here: Unboxing Opticron’s New Flagship Binoculars: Aurora BGA VHD 8x42 . To avoid repetition I will refrain from describing the external appearance of Aurora and its accessories and move on to the review, which I know I have been promising for weeks, well, here it is at last!

At £799 in the UK, Aurora is Opticron’s most expensive line at the time of writing, and seems to have found itself at a price point with few competitors. The most obvious is Leica’s Trinovid HD 8x42 at around £770. At the moment Nikon’s Monarch HG 8x42 can be found for as little as £800 but usually this floats around £850-870 which is really a price-point at least half a notch higher than the Opticron’s. So I will confine my tech comparison to Aurora and Trinovid.

A look at their key specification points is interesting:

Aurora, fov 141m /423ft, close focus 1.9m / 6.2ft, weight 725g / 25.6ozs, length 152mm / 6in.

Trinovid, fov 124 m / 372ft, close focus 1.8m / 5.9ft, weight 730g / 25.75ozs, length 140mm / 5.5in.

Aurora has a clear advantage with a field of view of 141m compared with Trinovid’s 124m. This means Aurora has an area of view 29% bigger. On close focus and weight the two run close to each other, but Trinovid has a small advantage when it comes to length, being 12mm or 1/2in shorter.

That’s enough of sitting indoors, comparing specifications and reading through my unboxing post, because at last the Aurora got taken on an adventure. Six hundred miles north of my home town, in the small coastal village of Uig on the Isle of Skye, we sat outside on the deck of the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry to Lochmaddy, on North Uist in the Western Isles, known more widely as the Outer Hebrides, as she pulled away from the pier and headed out across The Little Minch. The voyage takes about 2 hours and on this occasion we knew very soon after leaving port that this trip was special due to the large numbers of seabirds in sight. This was our 32nd visit to the Western Isles and the numbers of seabirds seen each time has varied widely, but on this occasion it was hard to keep up with the sheer number of birds.

The Auroras handle nicely and have a gentle focus-speed, similar to that of Meopta’s MeoStar B1 8x42 and a bit slower than Zeiss’s SF 8x32, so it is easy to focus precisely on your subject. They did justice to the parade of seabirds, capturing the dark brown and slim, pointed beaks with of the Guillemots and contrasting these with the more formal black attire of the Razorbills and their heavier beaks with hairline white stripes. Looking back, it is hard to understand how we used to confuse these two species in our early birding days. There were dozens of Puffins too, with their comical beaks looking like something from a clown’s costume, as well as a continuous parade of Gannets, mostly adults, but with some immatures, the adults a shimmering white with that splash of dairy ice-cream yellow on the head. Now these are all familiar details to me, and you could say that this meant the Aurora’s didn’t have a difficult task to perform to present them to me, but here’s the thing. I watched these birds for a solid hour through the Auroras simply because seeing these familiar details as the birds went about their business was so enjoyable. Isn’t that one of the best things you can say about binoculars: simply that you enjoyed what you were looking at?

I can’t finish this summary of sightings from the ferry without mentioning the Minke Whale that surfaced 5 times and gave me an awesome view of its long back, and the small-ish dorsal fin as it glided along so effortlessly. It didn’t tell me anything about the Auroras but by golly it was terrific to see even if Minkes are one of the smaller cetaceans.

All-in-all then, a great start for the Auroras.

The next day, out on the local moors, a bird of prey suddenly appeared from behind a low hill and glided passed us giving only a side-on view. It provided a useful lesson in not jumping to conclusions, as with no view of the wings or tail, for an instant, to my embarrassment, I was inclined to dismiss it as one of the local Buzzards, but then it tilted slightly over to one side and through the Auroras the wings and tail came slightly into view and the whole shape of the bird transformed, revealing it to be a Hen Harrier. It tilted a little more and I caught a glimpse of a corner of the white rump that gives female and immature Hen Harriers the colloquial name of ‘Ringtail’. The light was poor too so kudos to the Auroras for presenting that fraction of the ringtail so brightly.

In May on Islay our neighbours were several Brown Hares but on North Uist they were rabbits. They emerged to graze mostly in the evenings and on one occasion a nearby young one stopped feeding and began grooming. Through the Auroras I watched this individual go through the same routine as my own pet rabbit did many decades ago. That shouldn’t be too surprising as it was the result of an unplanned ‘liaison’ between a male wild rabbit and a domestic Dutch female. The start of the routine had the rabbit sit back on its back legs and lift its front paws and flick them vigorously to free them of any detritus and then use them to wipe its face and its ears. Just before moving its attention to its chest and flanks, it paused and lifted up its ears, and at that moment, light from the low sun reached it, shining on the backs of its ears and causing the insides of the ears to turn a deep pink in the view through the Auroras. Then the light faded leaving me still looking at its ears and noting that behind them, on the nape of its neck, its fur was coloured a vibrant ginger and looked silky and soft. At that moment, it noticed another rabbit a few metres away, and bounded over to it to play, and they moved away.

Back to the birds and to the two best sightings the Aurora had the privilege of making. The first was the best sighting we have ever had of Short-eared Owl. This one was floating over a grassy bank next to a quiet backroad as we drove up, gently pulled to a halt, and opened the windows. There is something about the flight of Short-eared Owls that whispers how quiet their flight is. Its primaries seemed to caress the breeze as it maintained is position, its big blunt head aiming down at the ground and occasionally rotating to give us a hard stare. Not only was its flight fascinating, but its beautifully mottled plumage was breathtakingly complex. Its side-on outline of hardly any tail at the back end and large flat face at the front, simply flies (sorry!) in the face of conventional aerodynamics. And when it turned to glare at us, we nearly ducked down to avoid its stare. Nearly, but not quite, because it was just so gorgeous to look at.

And just when we thought we were not going to see any Arctic Skuas, one came gently gliding over us, and, on seeing us, banked away giving us a fantastic view of its underside. It was a dark phase bird, and in the light we had at the time, it looked totally black, as if light falling on it got sucked in like into a black hole, and couldn’t escape. Of course, they are really a dark Guiness-brown, and this one looked freshly groomed with the white markings at the base of the primaries flashing in contrast to the surrounding dusky plumage. And there, sticking out of the centre of the tail were the two feathers that are longer than the rest, and shaped like the nib of an old-fashioned fountain pen. If you haven’t seen an Arctic Skua chasing a gull or tern, and harassing it until drops its food item, you have missed what I consider to be one of the most thrilling displays of muscularity and agility. These are powerful and highly manoeuvrable birds, and seeing one so close through the Auroras was breath-taking.

Summing up, the Aurora has a super-large sweet spot with excellent perceived sharpness that softens at the very edge of the field, but remains sharp enough for your peripheral vision to pick up any new arrival at the edge. Aurora has a field flattener, and I guess we have it to thank for the big, sweet spot, but the soft edge suggests the flattener is not as severe as some, and this will please those who feel aggressive field flatteners impart an artificiality to the view. I would say this flattener is nicely balanced. Chromatic aberration is absent from the centre field and there is only merest hint of it at the edge.

So there you have it: an Aurora that comfortably bears comparison with Leica’s Trinovid HD, Zeiss’s Conquest HD or GPO’s Passion HD and easily justifies an audition if you are looking for a binocular at or around this price level.

Lee

A1 IMG_5013.JPG A2 IMG_5052.JPG
 

Ratal

Well-known member
Thanks Ratal they are among our most favourite birds.

Lee

And a timely reminder to scan all Raptors! Many a Hen Harrier has snuck by folks who did the "Just a Buzzard" thing. Oh and I love the photos you added of the bins in the habitat.
 

Scridifer

Registered User
Supporter
Bulgaria
Delightfully evocative write-up as always Lee, many thanks for sharing! Sounds like a bin well worth considering.

Chris
 

Mikewander

Well-known member
Scotland
Nice write up.
I picked up a set of the 10X42s a couple of weeks ago, and have really enjoyed using them.
No faults or weakness apparent so far. Just very easy to use, and they have a solid, balanced feel in the hand.
I tried the other models you mentioned as competitors, and these were the only ones that i could jam into my eye sockets without problems.
No mystery envelope in the box though!:)
 

Ratal

Well-known member
My love for this binocular grows stronger and stronger every time I look through it.

It has an image that just soothes the eye and let you just enjoy what you are looking at as the binocular fades away, leaving you with just the scene. Blissful.
 

Troubador

Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Excellent review. Would you choose the Aurora over the Trinovid?
Good question and one I can't answer because I haven't used a Trinovid 42 on an expedition and I would need to do this before giving an answer to your question and my opinion would be coloured by my personal preferences which might not be the same as yours. I do have a Trinovid HD 8x32 which I use for its ultra close focus capability but I am cautious about assuming the Trinnie 42 is the same but bigger. I have occasionally looked through a Trinovid 42 at BirdFair and what I am absolutely clear about is that in pure technical terms it would be a close race between it and Aurora. For example if a group of birders were to audition these two and then state their personal preferences I wouldn't be surprised if half of them preferred the Aurora and half preferred the Trinovid.

Lee
 

Petrus82

Well-known member
I had the Trinovid years ago and liked it a lot. In fact, at one point I had it alongside the Ultravid HD + (what was I thinking ?) and I tried, but failed, to see any discernible difference.

I think if it’s very close between the two then, for me, the Aurora would win for that huge field of view.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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