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Steiner Navigator 7x30 - with "Auto Focus" (1 Viewer)

Canip

Well-known member
Disclaimer: I own roughly a dozen Steiner binoculars, some of which I like very much, some I like, and a few I really don’t like. My critical comments hereafter about Steiner’s “autofocus” marketing are in no way intended to belittle the quality of Steiner binoculars, some of which I find very good.


So how well does the Auto Focus work in the new Steiner Navigator models ?
Absolutely great, surprising, you just press the AF button, look through the binocular, and everything is in focus!!! And we all lived happily ever after …

Of course, I am just kidding, and of course, the so-called Auto Focus in the Navigator does not work at all! The only thing that I still wonder about is the fact that Steiner, who has been making false claims about their “Sports Auto Focus”, now sometimes called “Steiner Auto Focus”, for many years and has been proven wrong by optics experts numerous times, is still trying to confuse customers with their – optically clearly incorrect – autofocus claim.

Think about it:

If a car salesman were to tell you: “I can sell you an electric car that doesn’t need recharging. It automatically recharges the battery while you drive”, I bet you would have your doubts.
And if a nice lady in an optics shop were to tell you: “I can sell you a camera that focuses automatically without any electronics or power source needed, just the lenses do the work”, you would probably tell her goodbye and try another camera shop.

But if someone were to tell you: “I can sell you a binocular that has an autofocus system, so you adjust the diopter setting on each eyepiece once, and then you never need to refocus, it works by itself and does not need any batteries or other power source”, you would believe that person? Especially if that someone happens to be a well-known, large international binocular producer?

It speaks volumes about our education system in my view that Steiner for many, many years has been able to sell binoculars with an alleged “sports auto focus” system that is a pure marketing gag. Apparently, people smart enough to dismiss the above claims of the car salesman can still be induced to believe that it is possible to overcome the laws of optics. Steiner is making good money thanks to the credulity of binocular buyers. Just read some user reviews on the internet and you know what I am talking about.

A few days ago, I got my hand on a new Steiner Navigator 7x30, the updated model with the open bridge. The Navigator, which replaces a previous “Navigator Pro” model, is a somewhat “downgraded” version of Steiner’s famous “Commander” marine binoculars. I own several Commander models, both in 7x30 and 7x50, since many years and like them very much, despite the fact that their “Sports Auto Focus” label proudly printed on the binoculars is an insult to any halfway critical thinker.

The Navigators are now marked differently; “AUTO FOCUS” is printed in big letters on both sides of the central hinge. But I can assure you that Steiner has neither found the holy grail nor overcome the laws of optics.

This is what the Navigator manual says about how to use the “Auto Focus”:

quote

“Adjust both dioptre settings to “0” and everything from approx. 20m and beyond is always sharp and clear. If this is not the case, one or both eyes may be ametropic. This has to be adjusted.
1. Choose a very detailed and remote object (approx.. 200m distant).
2. Cover the left objective with your hand or the objective protection cover and look through the binoculars.
3. Now turn the dioptre setting on the right ocular until you can see an entirely sharp and clear image with your right eye.
4. Please repeat the same steps for the left eye. Now everything from 20m and beyond is always sharp and clear.”


unquote

I followed these instructions very precisely. The result:
  • everything from about 60m-70m up to infinity is perfectly“sharp and clear”; below, everything is increasingly blurred as you observe objects at shorter distances. Objects at 20m appear VERY blurred.
  • if I focus at objects about 25-30 m away, objects are sharp between about 20m and 40m, beyond that they get increasingly blurred with increasing observation distance. Objects at infinity appear VERY blurred.

This is exactly what I expected. Every 7x30 binocular in the world has similar depth of field and works the same way without any imaginary “autofocus” necessary.

Of course, young people with a greater accommodation capacity of their eyes than me (I am 68) may believe that something like an “autofocus” reduces the need for them to refocus between various distances, but that just means that their eyes are performing most of the focusing work that usually should occur in the binocular. And that is true with any binocular of comparable magnification and exit pupil size.

Leaving the subject of autofocus aside, I find the Navigator quite a decent binocular.

Specifications:

Objective diameter: 30 mm
Magnification: 7 x
Exit pupil: 4.29 mm
Eye relief (according to spec: 17.4 mm
Usable eye relief (measured from rim of folded eyecups): 14 mm
IPD (according to spec.): 56-74 mm
IPD (measured): 56 – 73 mm
RFOV (acc. to spec.): 7.3 degrees = 128 m
AFOV (measured, rounded): 52.5 degrees
Minimum focus distance (measured): 6.85 m
Focus type: CF (direction of rotation from close to infinity: > clockwise)
Range of diopter adjustment (acc. to spec.): +/- 5 dpt
Excess travel of focus wheel beyond infinity position (estimate): 5.5 dpt
Prism system: Porro I
Waterproof: yes (spec.: 5m)
Weight (acc. to spec, without accessories): 499 g
Weight (measured, with eyepiece cover and strap): 588 g

There are not many 7x30 binoculars on the market, which is a pity, and I like the – compared to an 8x30 – slightly larger exit pupil with all the advantages of a 7x binocular.

My first impressions after a few days of use:

Great:
+++Very compact and lightweight
+++ Excellent ergonomics, very pleasant haptics
+++Good central sharpness

Nice:
++Nice build quality and finish
++Comfortable foldable eyecups
++Sufficient usable eye relief probably for most users with glasses
++Off-axis sharpness is not perfect, but quite acceptable
++Good image brightness
++Field of view: not superb, but quite satisfactoryChromatic aberration: almost none in the center, more pronounced towards the edge
++Good color fidelity

Not so great:
Stray-light control could be better, there are some reflections around bright light sources
The focusing on the two eyepieces (Steiner calls it dioptre adjustment) goes quite stiff.

In a brief side-by-side with my Commander 7x30 (which Steiner, in contrast to the 7x50 model, does not sell any more) revealed very few differences between the two. The 128/1000m field of view (upgraded from the Navigator Pro, where it was 123/1000m) is almost the same as the Commander’s, image properties including distortion (very little) etc. appear quite comparable. In the field, the light weight of the Navigator is a big plus, the handling is pleasant, the optics are quite nice, mechanically there is nothing to be desired, even if the Navigator was designed with marine usage and not birding as a purpose (and, of course, you need to keep in mind that this is individual focus binocular, with all the advantages and limitations of that design). So overall, another Steiner bino that I like.

For what it’s worth. I may add an update once I lay my hand on the 7x50 version of the Navigator.

If I were allowed a last wish: Steiner Optics, a number of your binoculars are actually quite usable, please stop devaluing them with claims about “autofocus” that are clearly incorrect. Quousque tandem abutere, Steiner Optics, patientia nostra?

Canip
 

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rdnzl

Not Sure.
United States
I enjoy my M+M's. But I do agree about the auto focus nonsense. They are IF binoculars. They all do the same thing.
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Very interesting reading your findings about the latest Navigator, and great to hear someone as experienced as you stating the simple facts as they are. I'm sure it can be very helpful for not so experienced people looking for advice!

My impression about the 7x30 Navigator was quite worse, but then I tried an older version. I'm not sure what year it was made. Above the word "Navigator" there is some kind of figure, like a logo of the series, vaguely resembling a sail (or a wave?).

SteinerNavigator730_03.jpeg

It was simply appalling. Of all the binoculars I've tried, it had the most inner reflections by far, to the point that it was really annoying, both night and day. Frankly unusable. And it is a pity, because I agree that there are very few 7x30/32, a format I would die for, if it was presented in contemporary, convenient quality optics. Like a 7x32 Zeiss Conquest HD, or a 7x32 Swarovsky EL SV, or a 7x32 NL... Can you imagen that? With a 9,5 - 10 º FOV... well, enough. What I mean is that, even if I tried to like it, I found the optical quality simply unacceptable for the price. Maybe I got a lemon? Who knows.

I'm curious about the new "open hinge" design, it does indeed look really comfortable. And, mind you, I find Steiner "usual" Porro design a pleasure to hold.
 

John A Roberts

Well-known member
Australia
Hi Canip,

Thanks for the comments and review. Considering the light weight, I presume that the bridge arms are plastic?

Steiner 7x30.jpg


And more generally while recently looking at the Steiner site, I noticed that the ClicLoc fittings for connecting the neck strap are not only propriety
- but also model specific! 🤷‍♂️ ( . . . so yet another 'Steiner Innovation' :unsure: )
See the screen grab from the spare parts pages: Steiner ClicLoc Connector for sale


John
 
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Ted Y.

Forum member
Supporter
Canada
I followed these instructions very precisely. The result:
  • everything from about 60m-70m up to infinity is perfectly“sharp and clear”; below, everything is increasingly blurred as you observe objects at shorter distances. Objects at 20m appear VERY blurred.
  • if I focus at objects about 25-30 m away, objects are sharp between about 20m and 40m, beyond that they get increasingly blurred with increasing observation distance. Objects at infinity appear VERY blurred.
I am using a Steiner 10x42 AF and I found also two intervals of focus.
I hoped the 7x50 will offer one single interval as advertised, but I understand now is only a hope, not a reality (for my age).
 

Canip

Well-known member
I noticed that the ClicLoc fittings for connecting the neck strap are not only propriety
- but also model specific!
Correct, the Navigator is NOT fitted with ClicLoc (and the strap that comes with the bino is way too long for my taste, so I am going to fit a comfortable Zeiss strap - I hope Zeiss won‘t mind 🧐)
 

Canip

Well-known member
I am using a Steiner 10x42 AF and I found also two intervals of focus.
I hoped the 7x50 will offer one single interval as advertised, but I understand now is only a hope, not a reality (for my age).
Highly unlikely, Ted, given my experience with the 7x50 Commander.
 

Binastro

Well-known member
7x35 Minolta Standard MK 11.05 degrees.

There are rather many 7x35s with 11 degrees or larger fields.

Bushnell Superwide 7x32 13 degrees, but for me an awful view.

Regards,
B.
 

Binocollector

Well-known member
Germany
I wish Steiner would offer more porros with CF. My 8x25 "Safari Ultrasharp" is not that bad (apart from the horrible stray light control and ghosting) but the same bino in 8x30 with CF costs above 200€. Not sure I will spend that much for a plastic bino.
For my eyes however, the "from 20 m out"-sharpness still works rather well with my Komz 7x30. But you do notice that the closer you look, the more "over-sharpened" it is. I wonder how good they will still work when I am 60 -- however on the Komz there is a simple trick to make them CF -- just get a big rubber band and put it over the barrels. They are long enough to still get my nose in between them.
Steiner could be a much "better" brand if they first would clean-up their line-up or at least make it clearer why very similar looking binos have vastly different prices, and next get rid of the false advertising and be honest about which binos are manufactured where. And how about a few magnesium-body models? Considering how cheap Chinese binos with magnesium body are these days. I'd rather have them buy their bino bodies from a 3rd party and then put the nice Schott-glass inside. I'd get one of those for a reasonable price.
 

Canip

Well-known member
Brief update on the 7x50 version of the Navigator which I just inspected.

This version of the Navigator is also a downgraded version of Steiner's same size Commander marine binocular. Its image is not as contrasty, bright and brilliant as the Commander's (the reason for the lower brightness: lower quality of the AR coatings, reflections on the objective lens surfaces are clearly brighter than in the Commander) and it has less FOV, but the Navigator costs less than half than the Commander. When using the Navigator on land, it's a pity that the individual focusers turn so stiff; of course, for a marine binocular that may not be so relevant because at sea, you almost always observe at infinity. Just don't believe Steiner when they tell you the focusers are stiff because you never really have to use them after a first setup for your vision, and the rest is then done by autofocus ... ;) ;)

Take the Navigator for what it is: a decent middle class binocular with individual focus, with excellent ergonomics and pleasant haptics, a good build quality and finish, comfortable eyecups, sufficient eye relief, good central and satisfactory edge sharpness, a decent stray-light control (better than the 7x30 model) and acceptable correction of CA.

Just my 2 ct.
Canip
 

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