It is not that often that I get a fairly uniquely designed binocular to review, so when the guys at MINOX asked me if I wanted to review their compact fixed focus BD 7x28 IF binoculars, with its open bridge design I was immediately interested.
A good pair of compact binoculars needs to excel in a wide range of areas, this is because I tend to use them more than any other pair. The reason for this is that they are so easy to carry with me, and so I do - I take my compacts with me just about everywhere I go.
For example good compact binoculars should easily fit into my golf bag, or in my carry bag when I go out mountain biking, hiking or to watch a football game. They should easily fit in the cubbyhole (glove compartment) of my car or just in my jacket or shirt pocket when I going out for a walk. So not only do they need to be compact, but also tough enough to handle being left in a bag and be able to take the heat inside my car when I forget to take them out. As well as this, I also want the view through them to be as to as good as possible, but at the same time they should not be too expensive as to be irreplaceable!
So as you see a good compact needs to cover a lot of bases and to see if these Minox binoculars have what it takes, I was given the chance to take with me on holiday as I toured northern Spain that included a few trips up into the Spanish Pyrenees. Take a look at my full review of the Minox BD 7x28 IF Binoculars below:
The first thing that you notice is these binoculars very distinctive body that was designed with the help of Volkswagen. This open bridge design that Minox call their "open comfort bridge" is different to most others in that there is only one bridge connecting the two barrels. Whilst this looks really sleek, before receiving them, I did worry weather it would make the binoculars too flimsy. I couldn't test them to destruction, but I can say that after using them for almost a month now, they feel as robust as most other binoculars out there and you would really have to try hard to bend the barrels out of alignment. So for most uses I am sure these will be more than strong enough.
I also personally love open bridge designed binoculars as not only are do the feel really comfortable to hold up to your face, but your grip on them, even with one hand is that much more secure. This is also really important when for example you are walking through dense vegetation whilst holding your optics as the chances of them being knocked out of your hand is greatly reduced.
I really like the way these Minox binoculars have a nice solid feel to them and they also look to be very well made. I could not find any details on exactly what the body is made of, but they have been covered in a black rubber coating which helps with the grip and feels great in your hands. This "rubber armour" will also protect the optics from scratches and small knocks and bumps which to me is important as I will often carry my compact with me in a bag that contains many other things like money and keys that could mark your binoculars.
What this black rubber armouring also does is to ensure that your binoculars are less reflective than if the bare metal was exposed and which could frighten away timid birds or other wildlife. Any sound made from an object striking against them (like your watch or a ring) is also dampened down by the rubber armour which also helps to prevent you from frightening away wildlife.
I also like the fact that the objective lenses are set fairly far back within the body, this combined with the hard rubber surround from the body armouring offers them plenty of protection from the elements in general usage.
Waterproof & Nitrogen Filled
These compact Minox 7x28 binoculars are 100% waterproof and have had all their internal air replaced with a dry nitrogen gas. The nitrogen helps to stop the interior optical surfaces from fogging up due to rapid temperature changes or in areas that have high humidity. Apart from moisture, waterproofing also prevents any dust or other small particles from entering the binocular in dry climates. Once again this helps when storing them in places like the cubbyhole in my car which can get very dusty.
The Eye Cups
These Minox binoculars feature pull-out eyecups, which is a little different from the more commonly used twist-up eyecup design found on the majority of binoculars. They work really well and seem to be made from something like brushed aluminium. On top of this they then have a thin soft rubber coating on them which makes them feel fairly comfortable even when pushed quite firmly against your face.
The 15mm of eye-relief is pretty good for a compact binocular and should also be enough for most people who wear glasses to use them without having to remove them. Because of the pull-out mechanism, they don't have any fixed intermediate stops, which for some people may be an issue. Although because this pull out action is fairly tight, you can actually stop the eyecups at any distance between fully retracted and fully extended, but this setting could be accidentally moved if you pushed them too firmly against your face. Non-eyeglass wearers will just use the eyecups in the fully extended position.
Because these are fixed focus binoculars (often mistakenly referred to as self focusing or auto focus binoculars), once you have set each individual eyepiece to your particular eyesight and the binocular is thus focussed to the hyperfocal distance, you then no longer have to make any further adjustments and the binoculars will provide you with sharp views of everything from 20 metres away to infinity. Fixed focus binoculars like these have a large depth of field allowing your eyes to make the adjustments rather than the binoculars.
To set up the binoculars for your eyesight, each of the eyepieces can be focussed individually which allows for differences in your eyes. To do this you close your right eye and look through the left barrel of the binoculars with your left eye, choosing an object to focus on. This is done by turning the left ocular eyepiece until the image become sharp. You then do the exact opposite for your right eye. The binocular is now adjusted to your eyesight and will be in focus from about 75 yards to infinity without any further need for adjustment.
The advantage of this is that it saves time by not having to focus on every object that you look at. The other main advantage is that because there are less moving parts, fixed focus binoculars tend to be more robust than traditional centrally focused binoculars. On the down side, their minimum focussing distance is very poor in comparison to most binoculars where you can make focussing adjustments.
Best Binoculars Rating for Body Construction Quality: 9/10
The most important feature on any compact is that they are as small and lightweight as possible:
At 340g (12oz) these are obviously very light compared to full-sized binoculars. Compared to other compacts with similar sized objective lenses, they are about average. This is a little surprising as I thought that they would be one of their very lightest because of their single bridge design and because they have done away with the central focussing mechanism.
An important point to consider is that whilst you can find lighter compact binoculars, these are still pretty light and weight alone can sometimes be a little misleading. This is because sometimes featherweight binoculars are only light because they have been constructed from cheap and poor quality materials and components that also happen to be light. I assume that in order to ensure that these single bridge binoculars are strong enough, Minox have beefed up the housing.
The dimensions of these 7x28 Minox binoculars are 4.41 x 4.21 x 1.40 in. (11.2 x 10.7 x 3.5cm), when fully opened. Their width reduces from 10.7cm, to 9.7cm when the interpupillary distance is set to it's minimum distance. This makes them about average for this type of binocular.
The size of compact binoculars when fully folded away can make a big difference and is a very important feature to consider when choosing your optics. Most standard roof prism and porro prism compacts like these ones only have a central hinge, which means that they are not nearly as compact when folded up as some compact binocular that feature a duel hinge design. To demonstrate this, take a look at the image below of the Steiner Wildlife 10x26 with it's duel hinge design and the single hinged Barr & Stroud 10x25 Sahara - it clearly demonstrates my point and shows just how much smaller a duel hinge design helps. If the folded size is very important to you, Minox produce two other binoculars in the BD line, an 8x24 and a 10x25 that both feature the duel hinge design. Another binocular that may interest you is the very impressive and compact Kowa 8x25 BD.
The IPD (Interpupillary Distance) on these optics can be adjusted from 58mm - 72mm. For those who don't know, this is the distance between the eyecups that the binocular can be adjusted to by opening or closing the hinge to enable them to be correctly set up to fit the distance between your eyes.
BBR Rating for Body Stats: 6/10
Lens & Prism Coatings
I have not been able to find out a whole lot of specific details on the coatings and glass used on these compact roof prism binoculars from Minox, but what I do know is as follows:
In the marketing material Minox state that these binoculars use "hightech optical glass", which to be honest does not mean a whole lot to me.
They Minox 7x28 binoculars use multi layered anti-reflection coatings, which is good and means that at least some surfaces (usually the first and the last) have multiple layers of antireflection coatings, but it must be sad that it is not quite as good as fully multi-coated binoculars:
It is important to note how the manufacturer describes their coatings. "Coated" means a single layer antireflection coating on some lens elements, usually the first and last elements (the only ones you can see). "Fully Coated" means that all air to glass surfaces are coated. This is good. "Multi-Coated" means that at least some surfaces (again, usually the first and the last) have multiple layers of antireflection coatings. (A multilayer coating effectively reduces reflected light that cannot be eliminated with a single-layer coating, and increases the transmittance of light.) Multiple layers are about an order of magnitude more effective than a single layer. "Fully Multi-Coated" means that all air to glass surfaces have received multiple layers of antireflection coatings, and this is what you want in your binoculars.
Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Components Quality: 6/10
Field Of View (FOV)
The field of view for these 7x28 binoculars is 128m at 100m / 384ft at 1000 yards (7.3°) - which even considering that it has a smaller 7x magnification, is excellent. For example the Kowa 8x25 BD has a FOV of 331ft at 1000 yards, the Steiner 10.5x28 Wildlife Pro has is 264ft at 1000 yards, the Leica 10x25 Trinovid has a FOV of 273ft at 1000 yards and the Minox 10x25 BV BRW has a FOV of 290ft at 1000 yards.
Close Focusing Distance
As with most fixed focus binoculars these don't have a very good minimum focusing distance. The minimum distance that you can focus on an object is at 20 meters (65.6ft) away, which compared to centrally focussed binoculars is poor (I consider anything under 6ft to be very good). So if you are looking for a compact binocular specifically for things like observing butterflies then I do not recommend getting these. Rather take a look at these close focusing binoculars.
Their maximum eye-relief of 15mm is pretty good and should be enough for most people who wear glasses.
The 7x28 Configuration
It is interesting to me that Minox have decided to use a 7x magnification on these binoculars - most 28mm compacts tend to have either an 8x or 10x magnification. The upshot to this is that you really get a nice and wide field of view through these and obviously the image is easier to hold steady. I imagine the other reason is that with lower powered binoculars, you also get a better depth of view where the distance from the hyperfocal distance to infinity is greater, which for fixed focus binoculars is extremely important.
The lower magnification will also help to ensure that as much light as possible gets to your eyes to produce a brighter image, helping these binoculars perform in poorer light conditions. This is very important with compact binoculars that have much smaller objective lenses in comparison to full-sized binoculars. To explain this take a look below:
All binoculars with a magnification of 7x and 28mm objective lenses will have an Exit Pupil of 4 and a Twilight Factor of 14. Compare this to the more commonly found 10x28 compacts that have an Exit Pupil of 2.8 and a Twilight Factor of 16.7 - it demonstrates that with their larger exit pupil and all other things being equal, more light should get to your eyes. The lower value of the Twilight figure suggests that whilst the image on the 7x28 will be brighter, the 10x28 should still be able to show better detail in dim light (I suggest this is because with a more powerful magnification, you will be looking at the subject more closely.)
If you compare these figures to an full size 10x42 binocular, which has an exit pupil of 4.2 and a twilight factor of 20.5, it also confirms just how good the exit pupil is on the 7x28 in comparison to a full sized pair of optics.
What is also important to remember is that image brightness and the performance of a pair of optics in poor light also depends hugely on the quality of the glass and optical coatings and not just the exit pupil and twilight factor formula. Good coatings on the lenses and the prisms can in some cases double the amount of light that gets through the binocular, when compared to those that have none or poor quality coatings.
Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Stats: 7/10
The following tests were carried out on a very dull and overcast morning and as I do for all my reviews, I compared the view through these compact Minox BD 7x28 binoculars with that of my control binoculars with the same or similar configuration:
In terms of brightness and to my eyes these Minox binoculars were about equal with that of my control 10x28 compacts. What is interesting to me is that because of the lower magnification on these 7x28's, compared to my control 10x28's which therefore produce a larger exit pupil, I was half expecting to really see a difference in terms of brightness between these, but as I said to my eyes, they looked about equal.
So then I also decided to compare them to a pair of Kowa 8x25 BD binoculars that I had with me. Whilst the Kowa's do have much smaller 25mm objective lenses, their very impressive optics often means that they often outperform other compacts. Not this time, I could quite easily notice that the Minox produced a brighter image.
So overall I would say that for a pocket sized binocular, I rate them as very good and well above average.
For me, the amount of color fringing (chromatic aberration) around the edges of objects is a hard one to judge, but to my eyes it was extremely minimal and only really noticeable if you are actually looking for it by closely observing the edges of light or white coloured objects sitting in front of a dark background. This means that it should not bother you at all and so I rate these very highly in this area.
Whilst there is a small amount of softening of the image on the periphery of the view, it is very minimal and was about the same as my controls and actually a little better than the Kowa 8x25 BD binoculars which is impressive.
Contrast & Colour Reproduction
Unlike the artificial tints that you sometimes find on cheaper binoculars, the colour reproduction to my eyes looked and felt natural. Considering that these have such a deep field of view, I was impressed how good the general contrast of the image was.
As you would expect with a fixed focus binocular the image sharpness varies. The closer you are to the binoculars hyperfocal distance, the better the image sharpness. Fuzziness was more noticeable when looking at closer images than looking at images in the distance.
Overall and to sum up, I would rate the view through these Minox BD 7x28 binoculars as very good and they are much better than the majority of similar sized optics out there.
Best Binoculars Rating for Image Quality: 7/10
Below is a table comparing this Minox binocular with a selection of other roof prism compact binoculars. The very top of the range Leica 10x25 Trinovid as well as the Minox 10x25 BV BRW's, Kowa 8x25 BD and the Steiner 10.5x28 Wildlife Pro
What the table below does highlight is just how wide a field of view these binoculars have and indeed just how poor their minimum focussing distance is.
|Minox BD 7x28 IF||Steiner 10.5x28 Wildlife Pro||Leica 10x25 Trinovid||Minox 10x25 BV||Kowa 8x25 BD|
|Price (approx):||$330 (£220)||$330 (£280)||$630 (£440)||$160 (£110)||$300 (£300)|
|Weight:||12oz (340g)||12.9ozs (366g)||9ozs (255g)||9.14ozs (259g)||11.3ozs (320g)|
|Length:||4.4in (11.2cm)||5.0in (12.7cm)||4.36in (11.1cm)||4.29in (10.9cm)||4.4in (11.2cm)|
|Width:||4.2in (10.7cm)||4.2in (10.7cm)||3.63in (9.2cm)||3.85in (9.8cm)||4.2in (10.7cm)|
|Close Focusing Distance:||65.6ft||8.5ft||16.4ft||4.9ft||6.0ft|
|Field of View at 1000yds:||384ft||270ft||273ft||290ft||331ft|
|Lens Coatings||Multi-Coated||Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated||Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated|
Compact and lightweight binoculars like these do not need much padding on the neck strap, and so the strap that comes with these has more than enough to make carrying them around your neck no problem at all. As well as this the strap looks to be fairly well made is of fairly good quality.
The soft neoprene carry case is lightly padded, but is enough to protect a compact binocular. It has a buckle to keep the case closed and a loop on the rear of it, which you could thread your belt through and the binoculars fit inside of it pretty easily even when fully opened. Overall the quality is above average and once again it it looks to be pretty well made.
These Minox binoculars come with some basic plastic objective lens and eye-piece covers all of which fit well and won't easily come away accidentally. As with most compacts, these lens covers cannot be attached to the binocular or the neck strap and so I would suggest that you would only really use them when storing away your binoculars and not out in the field. Out in the field it is simple enough to keep the carry case with you to protect your optics and besides, the objective lenses are set fairly far back within the body of the binocular which should help to keep them safe.
These binoculars also come with a good quality microfibre cleaning cloth.
Inside the box there are also some basic user instructions with things like how to adjust the eyecups, attaching the neck strap, the inter-pupillary adjustment, how to properly set up the binoculars for your eyesight, lens care and cleaning. It also contains information on the warranty.
Minox offer an impressive 5 year guarantee on these optics.
Best Binoculars Rating for Extras & Attention to Detail: 6/10
Strong Points: The strongest feature for me is their field of view, which for a compact binocular is very impressive. Overall their optical performance is also very good and they compare very well with may other compact binoculars that I have tested that are far more expensive than these. I would also say that their build quality is also very good and I like the fact that they are both water and fogproof.
Weak points? Their minimum focussing distance is terrible when you compare them to most compacts that can be focussed and this one of the major drawbacks to using fixed focus binoculars.
Ideal Uses: Like most compact binoculars, these are ideal if you are looking for a take anywhere pair of binoculars, perfect for camping and I would take them hiking with me if birdwatching was not my main focus. I also see them sitting in my car, or in my golf or kit bag to be used at any time. They also make pretty good safari binoculars and are ideal for most types of holidays as they can easily fit in with your hand luggage.
The fixed focus design, with less moving parts means that there is less chance of something going wrong and therefore only adds to their suitability for these uses.
The fact that they have a fixed focus and a wide field of view means that you should easily and quickly be able to spot fast and small moving objects like birds, but I am reluctant to recommend them to all types of birding as their relatively far minimum focussing distance would mean that nearby birds would not be observable.
Where these compact binoculars with the fixed focus and wide field of view would absolutely be ideal is at sporting events. The fact that they are so small makes them easy to take and their wide field of view means that you will get plenty of the action, without having to scan about.
Another good use for them would be on a boat. Now I know that they have not been specifically designed as marine binoculars and if that was your main intended use for them I would suggest getting a proper set of marine optics, but for occasional use on a boat they would work well. Their 7x magnification makes them easier to keep a still image even on a moving platform like a boat, they are waterproof and their fixed focus design means you get a really good depth of field, great for looking out over the water.
Because of their size, compact binoculars are ideal no hassle binoculars to take travelling and it was because of this I really wanted to test out these Minox binoculars whilst I was travelling through northern Spain and the Pyrenees mountains. As you would expect, there was no problem fitting them in with my luggage and if I was flying, I could have easily have taken them on board with me in my hand luggage. Instead of flying, I actually took the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander in North West Spain and for the entire three week trip It took the Minox BD 7x28 IF Binoculars almost everywhere I went as they practically lived in the cubbyhole (glove compartment) of my car.
Their small size, low weight and the very open bridge design meant that taking them on long walks and hikes in the mountains was as comfortable as it gets. Their body design also made them much easier and more secure to carry them in one hand whilst climbing up or down steep and difficult terrain, this helps to ensure that both you and your optics remain undamaged!
I really liked their wide field of view, which was great for birding, especially for locating the fast moving ones. On the down side, their poor close focusing distance means that I could not enjoy looking at the details of things like butterflies and other insects and flowers at close range.
I would like to thank MINOX Germany for sending this binocular to me to review. I would also like to point out that all the reviews on this site, including this one are my opinion of the binocular and are not influenced in any way by manufacturers, distributors or suppliers.
Reviewed by Jason Whitehead
Main Specifications & Features:
Below are similar pairs of Binoculars that you may also want to have a look at:
Tough, water & fogproof compact binoculars with fully multi-coated optics and Bak-4 roof prisms with an exceptional price to performance ratio.
General Price Range: (3/6) Mid Price Binoculars
Below is a link that will take you to a page with online retailers in both the US and UK that sell Minox 7x28 BD Binoculars this page makes it easy to compare prices and then to buy from your preferred option:
Buy & Compare Prices for the Minox 7x28 BD Binoculars
I would love to get your comments and well as your opinions on these optics. Do you want to or do you already own one of these BD Binoculars? If so please let us know what you think of them giving both the good and the bad points: