Having been disappointed after a recent review of the Steiner 8X22 Safari Ultrasharp model, I wanted to give Steiner's newest model, the 8x22 Blue Horizon a fair chance. The current Amazon price is $194 for the 8x22 and $199 for the 10x26 model. The street price on the 8x22 Safari Ultrasharp was about $115, so I was hopeful that the more expensive, Blue Horizon might be an upgrade and in some ways it was, in other ways, not so much.
The first thing that I noticed when unpacking them was that they were larger than expected. The diameter of the barrels and the width of the bridge are very similar to a 8x25/10x25 binocular, although shorter. The second thing that I noticed, was the weight! Recently, I've been evaluating a variety of "pocket" binoculars. After a while you become accustom to the feel of these different models and with a publicized weight of 8.8oz (249 grams) I was expecting it to feel much lighter, relatively speaking. The actual weight (on two scales) was closer to 10.9oz or (308 grams). Not the end of the world but does Steiner really not know what their own binoculars weigh? Best Binocular Reviews, who from what I can gather, appears to be a paid reviewer and offers only the most cursory information to the uniformed, actually reviewed the 10x26 Blue Horizon and rated it very highly, calling it the "2020 Best Compact Binocular." I was curious about the weight information that he posted because he directly grades binoculars on various metrics, including body stats." It looks like he simply copied the published weight of 10.6oz (300 grams) for the 10x26, which is actually lighter than the verified 10.9oz of the 8x22. Perhaps he could persuade one of the scale manufactures to send him a free one. Based on the increased size, armoring and 26mm objectives, I would estimate it's actual weight of the 10x26 to be over 13oz, making it one of the heaviest in the 25-26mm class. I've ordered the 10x26 Blue Horizon to verify.
Weight aside, the build quality of the housings appears to be excellent! The armor is quite thick and actually has a pleasing design with a subtle diamond-grid pattern. Steiner doesn't always go with the most conventional armor designs so I was happy that they didn't do anything overboard. The strap lugs are very minimal and clean. They're designed for a minimalist strap, with pass through eyelets and pull through loop design. The eyecups are slightly winged, very soft, ultra-comfortable and easy to fold or unfold however, I'm not an eyeglass wearer. I'd say that the branding on this model is 'medium" compared to what's printed on other models like; "CAT" "Ultrasharp" "N2" (on both barrels) "Fast Close Focus" "Nano-Protection" "High-Definition" "Focus-Free" ...and other associated mischief. The badging on the Blue Horizon consists of the manufacture's badge, model, size and "Autobright" badge on the right barrel, which looks like a blue wart. More on AutoBright later. The hinge tension on this example is about perfect for a pocket binocular, out of the box. It's firm but smooth and should break-in to a perfect resistance at 80°F. Likewise the turning feel of the focus wheel is equal or superior to my Swarovski 8x25 CL.. no exaggeration. There's perhaps .5mm of felt slack but nicely dampened and it's very close to linear tension, rotating back and forth through its range of focus. The diopter adjustment is on the left barrel and is coated with firm, knurled rubber. The adjustment is quite firm and jumps a bit when you start to turn it. For me, this is preferable to low friction diopter, which shifts every time you bump it or it drags across your clothing. This diopter ring will not move without the user's intent. As far as the housing and felt functions go, there's really nothing that I don't like about this binocular. I think reviewer's put far too much emphasis cases and accessories for inexpensive binoculars, but yes, it has some. The neck strap is purposely small and quite appropriate but the Neoprene soft case is not. I believe they've used the same case for both this and the 10x26 model, making this case almost twice the size it needed to be for the 8x22.
The Blue Horizon model line up, consisting of 8x22, 10x26 and 8x32 models, all use what's called "AutoBright Lens Technology." Steiner claims that it's the "world's first sunlight adaptive binocular" and seems to use a similar technology to photochromic sunglasses or Transition lenses. Steiner stats that it "Automatically optimizes lens light transmission for maximum clarity in bright conditions. No shimmer or glare from water, sand, snow or sky. No squinting, guessing or eye strain. Just a perfect image." Honestly, when I recognize this style of marketing, it's instantly repelling to me. With that stated, if it turns out to work or it's necessary, I'm okay with floating the advertising gimmicks and appreciating the results, but does it work? I own a set of Revision sunglasses that I occasionally use for shooting. They have their place but in truth, they never get as dark as a conventional sunglass and they never get quite as transparent as a clear/safety glasses. I think the technology is interesting and applying it to a binocular sounds pretty neat, again.. if it works as claimed. However, here's the actual effect, severely warm tinted images and very poor low light performance. It's an 8x22 model so low light performance will be a challenge for most models in this range. The Blue Horizon is the worst low light performer of all the 20-25mm binoculars that I own. By contrast, the light transmission through the $70 Nikon Trailblazer feels top tier after looking through the Steiner at dusk, while the CL and Terra feel like night vision. It truly struggles and because of this, one might as well just put it away at sunset. Most disruptive to enjoyable viewing however, is the prominent, yellow-orange with hint's of pink, image tint. It's the most unnatural color that I've ever seen through an optical instrument. Saying that the image is, "warm" is actually a gross understatement. When I was thinking of how to describe the color, I immediately though of another set of Oakley shooting glasses. Instead of the classic, yellow style, these have a yellow/orange/pink color to them and mimic, to a degree what I see through the Steiner. If it wasn't for this single, huge issue, I could probably learn to enjoy this binocular.
These binoculars have a similar color tint to the pictured shooting glasses but to a lesser degree.
Here's a view with natural light..
Here's a view through the shooting glasses..
Here's view through the binocular, although it looks like the white balance partially compensated for the tint. It's worse in person. Note: that the focus wasn't perfect.
I mentioned before that the focus was smooth and without significant felt slack, "felt" being the key word. When I attempted to focused on a fixed image, I'd inevitably go slightly past sharp and have to back up a little. Backing up a little with this binocular required about 35-45° degrees of rotation before it would even begin to shift the image focus in the other direction. At first I though my perception was somehow being tricked so I decided to just watch focusing assembly through the objectives. Sure enough, there was somewhere in the neighborhood of 40° of focus wheel rotation before the internals began to move, after turning one direction, then the other. I initially marked the focus knob with blue strips of tape in order to determine how much play there was but after spending more time diagnosing the issue, the amount of rotation required before movement of the focus assembly occurred, was greater than the degrees marked by the blue tape in the picture. I even put my ear against the bridge and listened to the assembly while subtly turning the wheel back and forth. The upper drive assembly seems to engage almost instantaneously as I can here the metal tab making contact after a few degrees in either direction. Based on this, I believe the play occurs lower in the lens shift assembly. Either way, it's a difficult deficiency to overcome as the user. After I was familiar with the gross initial travel required, I'd just turn the wheel coarsely, to where I remembered that the focus started to shift. I could adapt to it if I had to but I don't have too.
Blue tape estimating the amount of turn before the focus adjusted. Repeat of image above.
After experiencing the other issues, it's almost easy to forget things like the great field of view, 410ft @ 1000 yds. Looking at the roof tile segments on my neighbor's roof, I can see that it's a much wider FOV than my 8x25CL, 8x25 Terra, and very close to the 8x25 Trailblazer. Most of that image isn't usable but it's there nonetheless. Blurring begins at 40% from the center and increases exponentially each 10° thereafter. The wide FOV is useful for detecting movement and colors while looking on axis but only the center 40% is useful before needing to re-align on a new target. I didn't spend a lot of time checking CA but it was very obviously there. Eye placement was relatively easy and never a issue or something a thought about. Both exit pupils are truncated but have fewer bright spots outside of them than the 8x22 Safari US. It's worth mentioning that the internal cleanliness was immaculate. Shining a flashlight through both sides revealed there wasn't a single spec of anything. It might be the cleanest binocular internally, that I've ever seen. It just goes to show me that Steiner can do some things right but lacks the wisdom or care to do other things right like, blacken the interior. All of the interior surfaces are a metallic bronze color that's either the actual color of the coating or an insufficient application of a proper coating. I'm guessing it's the second.
From everything I was able to research, all three of these Blue Horizon models have unique optical specifications and my guess is that they evolved these from other models are simply spent the time and money to develop them fresh. Considering that the only single issue, that was bad enough to prevent me from enjoying these, was the excessively, off-color tint, it strikes me as strange that Steiner added this AutoBright gimmick rather than just release this optical specification without it. I could live with goofy focus... even though this is probably something that could also be easily remedied. The search for a usable Steiner compact continues...
Thanks for taking the time!