• Vortex Viper 8x42mm Binocular Review

    In many circumstances a quality set of binoculars can be the difference between a successful hunt and coming home empty handed. Well, until just a few years ago I never really saw a need to purchase a quality set of binos, but as age started creeping up on me and with my eyes not quite as sharp as they used to be - good binoculars are something I've been looking at a lot lately.Now if you are like me, running out and spending $1,000 to $2,000 on a set of binoculars just isn't going to happen. Most of us live in the real world with real financial limitations, so we're forced to seek out the best performance and quality possible for the least amount of money.

    Fortunately, the mid-priced binocular market is plum full of excellent options that won't require you to take out a second mortgage. Manufacturers know that this is probably the most competitive segment of the market so they're constantly striving to cram as many features and as much performance into models within this segment to get the edge over their competition. This means more bang for the buck for us!

    The Vortex Viper 8x42mm is one example, and one of the most feature packed and best performing ones at that. Like most binoculars in this price range, the Viper's are nitrogen purged, waterproof and fogproof. The center hinge is threaded to accept a bipod adapter, and eyelets for a carry strap are molded into the body. The Viper's also feature an adjustable and locking diopter on the right barrel and adjustable 4-position metal reinforced eyecups with positive detents to ensure they don't collapse during use.

    The Viper's are sized similar to most other bino's in their class, coming in at 5.75 inches tall, 5 inches wide and weigh in at just under 24 ounces. Vortex armor coats the Viper's in a pale olive rubber coating with black accents, and while the coating is smooth to the touch it still offers plenty of grip. The molded in thumb grooves further help to aid in grip and fit the hands well.

    What really sets the Vortex Viper's apart from the competition is their optical performance. With a close focus of just under 5-feet and a FOV @ 1,000 yards of 347-feet, the Viper's stack up very well with binoculars costing much more. The center mounted focus wheel provides easy adjustability with little drag without sloppy or overly stiff, and at 1.5 turns of travel from minimal focus to infinity they're on the better end of similar models in this class.

    While this isn't a comparative review, I did take the opportunity to compare the Vipers head-to-head against the Zeiss Diafun 8x30mm and the Pentax DCF HF 8x43mm binoculars in the field to better gauge the quality of the Viper's optical qualities. In all instances, the Viper's were clearly superior to both the Pentax and Zeiss. Brightness goes to the Viper's as well, with the Pentax slightly behind and the Zeiss being noticeably inferior (attributed in part to the smaller 30mm size). The Viper's also offered the best contrast, providing the most color neutral field and being the most pleasing to the eye in most all lighting conditions.

    One area where the Viper's really excelled is in chromatic aberration, or the ability of vertical objects to remain straight when viewed towards the edges of the field. In other words, if you look at a telephone pole, it should remain straight as you move it to the edges rather than bowing slightly. Typically one has to spend much more to get binoculars with a comparably lack of chromatic aberration.

    If the build quality and optical performance of the Vortex Viper's wasn't enough, how about an iron-clad lifetime warranty? With Vortex's VIP Warranty, if your binoculars ever require servicing they will repair or replace them absolutely free, the only exceptions being deliberate damage, theft or loss.

    Still need more? How about rainguards, lens caps, a padded strap and high quality case? The rainguard consists of two pliable rubber caps about an inch deep, connected in the center by a flexible tether. There is also a slot so that the rainguard can be attached to the padded strap to ensure you never loose it. The lens caps consist of two soft rubber boots that fit snugly over the ends of the barrels and are attached to the barrels by flexible rings and short tethers so they'll never fall off or get lost.

    The neck strap is a fairly standard design of neoprene-like material welded to soft leather and a foam rubber type material. It's comfortable enough without being particularly cushy and offers plenty of adjustment length. The Viper case is actually really nice. Itís big enough to fit the binocular and folded strap, and should prove to provide an additional layer of water resistance if not fully waterproof. It has loops on the back for belt attachment and also comes with it's own separate clip-on shoulder strap. You could carry a field guide in it when you have the binocular out. This is a great case!

    Suffice to say, I think I have found me a new set of binoculars in the Vortex Viper's. Between my limited comparison and having read numerous other comparative reviews, I think it's safe to say that these binoculars are one of the best in it's class. Priced at around $600 they don't exactly fall within the budget binocular price range, but they are at the lower end of the mid-priced range making them an exceptional value over the competition.

    Vortex Optics
    2120 Greenview Dr. #4
    Middletown, WI 53562

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