There are so many binoculars out there, from cheap Chinese £30 pairs to £2000 Swarovski specials. People use binoculars for different purposes. Civilian Marksmen may use them for spotting, hunters to identify prey, ornithologists and Wildlife enthusiasts for observing fauna and of course there are the numerous tactical uses. The interesting thing, is that they are all made in the same way. Binoculars are simply a prism of glass that magnify what we see.
Tim spotting with his Binoculars.
Different people use them in different ways. Tim Davies, shooting instructor of note, spots for his clients using a pair of 8 or 10 power Binoculars. He simply watches the flight of the bullet as it travels out. I find 10×40 binoculars good for spotting anything up to 500m but beyond that- I really need to use something more powerful. Ornithologists like 8-10 power binoculars for tracking birds in flight. Most section commanders in the army used to be issued with 6x wide binoculars for reconnoitring ground and enemy positions.
When travelling on expedition In the desert I use a maximum of 8 times binoculars (usually 6×40) to give the widest possible view of the sand (and hopefully rock) ahead.
The Author Turkish Raf in Wales. Poor weather is testing for guns and kit.
We used Vortex Diamond back binoculars in Wales shooting out to 1000 yards in sub zero temperatures we then used them on safari in Tanzania in 34’c heat and direct sunshine in Africa.
The two pairs used in Wales at the Orion firearms Facility were fairly new. The pair lent to us by our Safari guide in Tanzania were well used.
African safari guide sporting a pair of well used Vortex Binoculars.
We collected opinions and data from five users at our shoots in Wales and Tanzania. All the users contributed to this report.
We compared them directly against my Olympus Binoculars in Tanzania and against my personal Hawke Binoculars in the UK. No inducements or free gifts were recovered from Vortex. (Although we would like a spotting Scope to test at 1400yds in the UK- just in case they are reading!) .
The reviewers used were ladies from Japan and the Netherlands, an ex US forces sniper, and of course myself and Mr Zen – who are most definitely British Civilian Marksmen. The testers are all travellers and involved in shooting or the adventure travel business.
The Vortex Diamond Back are well built with protective rubberised outer and expandable rubber eye caps. The strap is well sited and adjustable for length. When hanging around the neck, the Binoculars are comfortable, or as comfortable as anything hung around your neck can be. They have no sharp edges or annoying protrusions which is important if you are wearing them for hours at a time.
The compact nature of the binos makes them very attractive considering the magnification they offer. They are quite heavy but the weight belies the quality of the optics. These are definitely a compact, robust and rugged product.
The rubber caps can become weak with time. The pair of Vortex that I had were old and worn but still in good condition. The only exception being the caps. It should be noted that Vortex offer a cast iron warranty for life replacing any faulty parts free of charge no matter how the fault occurred. That is pretty amazing.
Using the unit could not be easier. After setting the eye relief, one simply sets the left diopter and then focuses the right eye. After that I open both eyes and focus again. There are different ways of using binocs, and this is only my preferred method.
I find the vortex binoculars are good and easy to focus. Important when animals make a sudden appearance!
The difference between a cheap Chinese pair of binocs and a pair of German or top end Japanese ones has to be the glass. Sure build quality has something to do with it, but the build quality of the latest Chinese units has improved dramatically in recent years. The Vortex diamondback come out firmly on top regarding glass. They are high quality and excellent in low light.
I compared them with an old pair of Olympus 8×40’s; These in themselves are a very respectable pair of optics which I bought in Damascus in 2010 to cross the Sahara Desert in a truck.
The Olympus binoculars were easier and faster to focus.
The Olympus were clear, but the vortex were just that little bit clearer. And in low light conditions, they were fairly equal. The Olympus binoculars were an old design and so bulky and allowed more light in, but I felt the vortex had the edge on finding lions hiding under the bushes.
As the light grows dim you need quality glass which can still perform..
The safari took us from the west Kilimajaro game management area through to lake Burunge and the western edge of Lake Tarangire. We were using our optics at ranges of 50 metres to look at birds and 3000metres to spot elephants and buffalo on the Masai plains.All in all we gave the binocs a good work out.
The Vortex Diamondback 10×42 come in at £170 in the UK and are definitely worth that price. They are an exceptionally good binocular for the money. They compare very well with similar binoculars that cost four figures.
But if the price tag is too high and space is not an issue, a good pair of Nikon or Olympus binoculars for around the £100 will deliver great performance. However that extra £70 also buys you the lifetime warranty which you do not get with most other brands in the sub £200 category. Even if you run them over or drop them Vortex will replace.. £70 well spent in my humble opinion..
Wrapping up the review as darkness descends on the African plains.
So my final words on these binoculars is that they are a superb product for the price. They do have some serious competition but then so do most good products that we test. When you consider the rugged compact build and solid warranty I would say these are my number 1 selection in the price range.
Thanks to the African and Oriental Travel Company (www.orientafricatravel.com) for arranging the safari. The AOTC specialise in safaris around Tanzania Zambia and Namibia – and dive adventures in Asia and around the globe.
Article and pictures by Turkishraf – global adventure seeker..