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Vixen Foresta 8x32 Porro (vs Nikon E2 8x30) (2 Viewers)

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
Expectations can be pretty tricky in life, and binoculars are no exception. I’ve been sometimes disappointed by binoculars that receive a whole lot of praise, like the Vanguard Endeavor ED2 10x42 or the Meopta Meostar 8x32 or even the almighty Dialyt 7x42 BGATP (yes, I know, I know, it is a holly cow, but I guess my expectations were too high; on the other hand, the 7x42 FL is probably my favourite bino together with the E2). Bad samples, bad luck or too high expectations? Who knows.

But then, low expectations can also play tricky games. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by binoculars that don’t receive so much attention, or that are criticised for different reasons. I’ve read great things about the Vixen Foresta 7x50 CF porro (and it’s a binocular I’m actively looking for, whistle if you have one you want to move on). So recently I saw a good deal on the Foresta 8x32 CF Porro (a modern 8x32 waterproof porro, what’s not to like, I said) and I ordered it, although by most accounts, it appears not to belong in the same category of its bigger brother.

So here are some remarks (absolutely unscientific, just plain and simple first hand experience to be taken for what it is, no aspirations here). I hope they might be of interest. I am writing this quite simply because these binoculars have exceeded my expectations by a huge margin.

The View
The moment you put the Foresta on your eyes you are up for a big surprise, and it is contrast. I mean contrast. I have no experience or education in the field of optics, so I’ll try to explain what I see in simple terms, I hope to use the right words. Comparing the Foresta to the E2, the image on the former looks surprisingly crispier, sharper, it appears to have more contrast (yes, I know, I was really surprised by this). The image on the E2 appears a little washed in comparison. They’re closer when it’s very bright outside (like at noon in June in Ibiza), but even then the Foresta always has a little more contrast. Then when you use them under less bright conditions ("intermediate light" say 5 PM, June) the lead of the Foresta seems to increase noticeably. Looking at the bark of almond trees, the cracks and grooves on the surface appear “bolder” on the Foresta, somehow like if you had increased contrast while editing a picture in Photoshop. Looking back and forth between the two binoculars appears pretty obvious to me (checked with my partner; same to her eyes. I know, I know, nothing scientific, but worth mentioning either way). This higher contrast makes for a bigger perception of sharpness. So I’m not sure how they do it, but what you get is a richer and crispier image that appears both sharper and more contrasty. I know the E2 is sharp and full of contrast, and this is why I find the Foresta remarkable (and what has made me write this).
CA is really well controlled. I’d say a little better than the E2, which is not bad actually, so quite surprising indeed. Nothing to worry about.
The field of view quoted at 7,5º appears wide, obviously narrower than the E2 (well what isn’t?), but wide enough. The edges are nothing to write home about, but I don’t find them terrible or a deal breaker, like in a Minolta Activa or Nikon AE porro, for example. I’d say they’re a little worse than the E2, and the E2 is 1,3 º wider, so the sweet spot is larger on the E2. All in all, I don’t find it disturbing. I remember the edge on the 7x33 Celestron Granite was simply appalling to my eyes; on my sample there was a fuzzy ring, like a doughnut. Nothing like that here.

Under difficult light conditions
June, 40 minutes before sunset, the Sun was around 5 - 10º of elevation, pretty low on the horizon, and the light was pretty direct, right above the canopy of the low almond trees. Looking directly towards the West, the E2 displays a veil that hinders contrast. Big surprise, the Foresta displays the trees full of contrast, hardly any veil. Wow. But then, while panning with the Foresta, once in a while you get an instant flash of diagonal light (displaying a bit of rainbow) as if there was some reflection coming from the prisms (more on this later). If I was to take a pair for a sunset walk (as I usually do), the E2 would probably stay home for that particular purpose. I found the Foresta truly amazing. I made a couple of pictures through the binoculars to illustrate as best as I could what you can see looking towards the West on this situation through the E2 and the Foresta (picture 1). Again, nothing scientific, but the pictures represent quite faithfully what I saw. The main theme of contrast reigns here; I’m sure someone with knowledge of optical construction of binoculars can explain this easily.
Later on, 15 minutes after sunset, inside a pine tree forest. Not terribly dense (this is Ibiza, not the Amazonian rainforest!), but dark enough to represent a challenge for 32 mm binoculars, it was nearly 22:00 H. The Foresta appears brighter than the E2. Not by a lot, but brighter. How much of this is due to those 2 mm wider lenses and how much is due to coatings/construction, I don’t know. But I’d say in this conditions it is a brighter binocular.
Night time. We can easily see stars magnitude 4,95 - 5 with the naked eye. Not bad at all, the Milky Way is also easily seen.
Here the difference in brightness is less apparent. There seems to be a faint advantage for the Foresta, but really really minor.
And here is where things get twisted and the E2 really shines in the darkness (pun intended): the stars look more defined through the E2, they are really pinhole small, sharp and crispy. The Foresta suddenly crumbles down, it is really difficult to get stars like points, I guess it’s comma, and it’s not nice. Two of the Galilean moons are very close on one side of Jupiter, and the Foresta has a really hard time splitting them, for the E2 is piece of cake. Furthermore, the reflections that appeared while panning at dusk with the Foresta turn into nasty ghosting when there’s light coming from a source around 90º. So, a pretty poor night performance. It is quite puzzling to get such a great contrast during the day and such a poor resolution and performance by night.
Another day, while looking at the eyepieces I could see false pupils, not sure if this migh explain the poor night performance, or the fact that the prisms are very exposed (Picture 2) when you look through the objective side (or a combination of both).

Shape, handling, texture
There is something about porros for me, the way your hand wraps around the contoured body of a porro prism binocular. I find it is unmatched by roofs. Yes, there are extremely comfortable roofs, and their game is actually to be slim and portable (and some succeed at that, be it open hinge like the EL and the like, be it short bridge with plenty of tube to hold), but the wide nature of porros makes for a great “holding experience” IMHO, and what a delight the Foresta are in the hands. Find attached some pictures. I’ll use the very well known Nikon E2 8x30 and SE 10x42 for reference. I love the shape of both Nikons, probably more so the SE, and the Foresta follows on the steps of the SE and has tapered “shoulders” where the hand cups so naturally (picture 3). What a delight, the middle finger sits naturally on the very generous focus wheel (Picture 4). As a plus, the objective tube is a little bit longer than the E2, so my pinky has a more than adequate room to rest there, whereas in the E2 it is a bit short. Ace. And then there’s the rubber, it reminds me very much of the rubber on the SE (picture 5), if a little rougher, but I’d say not worse, just different (and very pleasing to my taste). Mind you I just love the rubber armour on the SE, and the fact that it remains in such good shape in the 2 units I have speaks for itself (I don’t expect the rubber on the Foresta to last that long… probably). Shape/grip is 10/10 for my medium sized hands.
Obviously, all this comes at a price: the Foresta weights 700 g which is quite beefy for a 8x32 (heavier than a Nikon HGL-Premier). However, maybe because they’re so wide, they don’t feel that heavy (talking about density). Anyway, I’d say they’re very nice for general use (hide, car, home), they're on the limit for a short-medium walk, but I wouldn’t want to take them on long treks or to the mountains.
The focus wheel works fine, comparable in speed to the E2, but much wider and thus easier to move. It feels nice, but it lacks the sense of mechanical precision of the E2. The only concern here is that the wheel itself is covered by a simple rubber armour that looks as if it could become loose with time (picture 6). However, I've used them under 34 ºC and they're ok, the wheel hasn't become looser and nothing has changed.
The bridge is made of plastic, and could be of concern for some, but I’ve tried putting pressure with my eyebrows and it seems to hold pretty well. Ok for me.
Eyecups are wide (maybe too wide for some), perfect for my eye sockets, that have made me give up on nice devices with narrow eyecups such as the 8x30 CL (2018), the 8x30 Habicht and the Meostar B1 8x32. The eyepieces are noticeably wider than those on the E2 and SE (picture 7). And then there’s something nice; the eyecups have 3 positions: low, medium, high, but even when completely down, the lens on the eyepiece looks recessed (mind you the eyecup on picture 7 is at its lowest setting). That could very well be the intermediate step on any other binocular. I find this remarkable (for good) because I can use them with the eyecups fully down even without glasses, but I’m not sure how people with glasses may find this. I’ve seen the eye relief quoted as 20 mm.

Conclusion
A lovely device for people looking for a not-so-small modern porro (say the Kowa YF feels too toy-like and too small in your hands), with a great shape-factor, twist-up eyecups, plenty of eye relief and stunning contrast (I’d say it feels like the contrast on a 500 € roof). At the discount prices you can find it today I’d say is a great choice. But if you’re into astronomy you better stay away from these.
I bought them for the retail price of a Kowa YF/Leupold Yosemite, and I think their performance is one clear step ahead of those (as is its original retail price, obviously). For that price, for me it’s a keeper (and increases my desire for a 7x50 Foresta). I've found it to be ahead of the E2 in some areas (shape, waterproof, eyecups, contrast, brightness) but way worse in others (weight, performance under difficult light conditions, especially at night). Someone wise said there was no free lunch ;)

(Pictures 1-5 on this post, 6-7 on the next one, due to attachment limitations).
 

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yarrellii

Well-known member
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Pictures 6 (rubber covering focus wheel) and 7 (size of eyecups and eyecup at lowest setting).
 

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Patudo

Well-known member
Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful review yarrellii! I haven't tried the products from this brand before, but will keep an eye out for them in the future. It shows that a well executed porro can still deliver good performance at a very good price (well done for getting them at the list price of a Kowa YF!).

I keep thinking a modern porro (long eye relief etc) that can offer Conquest HD/Monarch HG levels of performance, at maybe two thirds to three quarters the price, would be a decent business proposition. But the guys who have no doubt done their market research definitely don't seem to agree...
 

yarrellii

Well-known member
Supporter
I understand Vixen is quite well known among astronomy enthusiasts, they make dedicated stuff, and then some rebranded Chinese binoculars like a clone of the Kowa YF/Leupold Yosemite (which I have and is very nice) and this range. FrankD wrote a most glowing review of the 7x50 CF Foresta porro, but the 8x32 get mostly poor reviews. Since I could get one at a bargain price, I thought I could try it, and I've been very pleasantly surprised. Yes they have some flaws, but the regular view is quite impressive to my eyes, especially for that astonishing contrast.
As you say, I think the Porro format has so much to offer, but probably manufacturers and brands know their business, what works and doesn't work for them. However, I could see a rubber-armoured version of the E2 with twist-up eyecups being an impressive device. Say you waterproof it and keep at leas the same coatings (or even update them for something up-to-date)... what's not to like? Probably not a best-seller, but I think it could sell well among enthusiasts (the same way the E2 seems to sell quite well). But then, maybe nice affordable binoculars like the YF/Yosemite are more profitable for the industry, since they seem to be sold under so many brands.
 

dae33

Active member
Interesting, i have different feelings about Foresta 8x32. I feel a little lack of the contrast because of the bright view. The field of the view is fully lighted because of big prisms size. There is no vignetting on edges. E2 looks better to my taste. The color bias is slightly red, which i don't like either. And big eye cups do not fit my eye sockets.
But Foresta 8x32 is very sharp on axis; sharper, than E2 8x30.
 

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