I have been wanting to review a top of the range Vortex binocular for a while now as I have heard so many good things about them but had not as yet had the opportunity to give one a really good testing, so when the guys at Eagle Optics said they would like me to review their 8x42 Viper HD, I could not wait for it to arrive.
As with most quality binoculars that you get these days, the body of the 8x42 Vortex Viper HD is covered in a hard rubber armoring. This has become so common because it has a number of benefits beyond just protecting the optics from small bumps and day to day knocks. It also helps reduce the sound made from objects especially metal ones striking against them that could frighten away birds or other timid animals. An example of this would be something like your watch or a wedding ring - something that often happens to me when I grab hold of the binoculars. Other benefits include that it helps with grip in wet conditions and is less reflective than bare metal - bright sunlight shining of a metal object once again could frighten away wildlife.
These Vipers are well balanced and very comfortable to hold and I like the thumb indents on the underside of the barrels. The focussing wheel was easy to adjust and reach with the binoculars held up to your eyes.
Their weight of 24.2oz (686g) makes them fairly light for a quality full sized binocular. I have emphasized quality because you can find some very light pairs of optics out there, but they also come with cheap plastic components. Their dimensions of 5.8in (14.7cm) x 5.3in (13.5cm) is fairly standard for a full sized binocular.
Light, comfortable and a well balanced these are not qualities that should be underestimated in a pair of binoculars, especially if you use them for longer periods of observation.
Best Binoculars Rating for Body Stats: 9/10
Waterproof & Fogproof
The whole range of Vortex Viper HD binoculars are 100% waterproof and because they are and have been sealed with O-rings, which not only prevents moisture from getting into the system, but also any dust and other debris.
The air inside of the binocular has also been replaced with argon gas which almost guarantees them against internal fogging that can occur in places that have a high humidity level or where you get rapid temperature changes. Another side benefit of this is that it will protect the inner workings from corrosion.
The Eye Cups
The eyecups on the Vortex Viper HD have a very thin soft rubber coating that makes them feel comfortable even when pushed firmly against your face. Eye-cups are often overlooked, but as they are the point at which your instrument meets your face they can sometimes make the difference between a good and a bad view. These are good, but I must confess that personally I do like the ones that you find on some binoculars that have side wings that help to block out light from the sides.
Long Eye Relief
One of the real highlights of these Vortex binoculars is their excellent maximum eye relief of 20mm, which should be more than enough for most people who wear glasses and they easily make it onto my list of long eye relief binoculars where anything over 16mm is considered as long.
The twist-up mechanism on the eyecups works very well and they have two fixed intermediate stops that should enable eyeglass wearers get the exact amount of eye relief to ensure that they get the perfect view through the optics. Non-eyeglass wearers just use the eyecups in the fully extended position.
The focussing wheel on the 8x42 Viper HD has a hard rubber coating that has been etched for extra grip and turns very smoothly. It takes 1 and a half turns to go from infinity to it's very impressive closest focusing distance of 5.1 feet.
This is a fairly low geared mechanism, meaning that focusing from far to near (or vise versa) is not as quick as you find on some binoculars (some take as little as half a turn), but it does have the advantage of making fine tuning your focus to get it exactly right that much easier.
The diopter adjustment ring on the Viper HD is made from hard rubber and has been etched for extra grip. It is located on the right barrel, near the eyecup. It is also lockable, meaning that to adjust the setting you first have to pull it outwards before twisting. This will ensure that once you have correctly set up and focused your binoculars to your particular eyesight, your setting will not easily be accidentally moved. The are markings on both the barrel and diopter ring so you can easily see where the middle point is.
On the pair that I was using, the focussing wheel was smooth, easy to adjust and easily reachable with the binoculars held up to your face.
Best Binoculars Rating for Body Construction Quality: 8/10
Compared to the "standard" Vortex Viper binoculars, the biggest improvement to these is the use of what they call HD (High Density) glass - which is more commonly referred to as extra-low dispersion glass (ED).
ED/HD glass makes an improvement to the quality of the view as they help to prevent chromatic aberration (color fringing) by better directing and concentrating the wavelength of light more effectively onto your eyes. Extra low dispersion glass is able to achieve this because it gives the designer of a multi-element objective lens a wider range of options with which to control and minimise aberrations, in particular, chromatic aberration. Generally speaking, the better the aberrations are controlled the cleaner and brighter the image will appear. Because of the costs involved and precision needed to make them, they are only found on high end cameras, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars.
As you would expect to find on any quality roof prism binocular, Vortex use BaK-4 prisms as opposed to the cheaper and inferior BK-7 prisms. Vortex have also added phase correction coatings onto the prism glass. This as the name suggests helps to keep the light in correct color phases and produces images that have better contrast, a higher resolution and have a better color reproduction.
The lenses on the Vortex Viper HD binoculars are also fully multi-coated, which means all air-to-glass surfaces have received multi layers of what they call their XR anti-reflective coatings with the effect of increased light transmission making them perform better even in poor light conditions.
The exterior lenses also have a hard, scratch-resistant coating that helps to protect them from scratches, oil and dirt which Vortex call their ArmorTek coating.
Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Components Quality: 9/10
Because they strike a good balance between magnification and field of view, light gathering potential and size, binoculars with an 8x magnification and 42mm objective lenses are a common choice for most types of bird watching. This is because a fairly wide field of view is important to quickly locate small, erratic and fast moving birds. Good light gathering ability is also often important because quite a lot of birding will be done in thickly wooded or forested areas, early in the morning just before or at sunrise or late afternoon when most birds are at their most active, but where and when the light is potentially poor. 42mm objective lenses are big enough to let in plenty of light, but not so big that they make the binoculars too big to easily carry about in the field. These qualities however are also a good choice for general wildlife observation and hunting.
To explain how this configuration works, all 8x42 binoculars, these have an Exit Pupil of 5.25 and a Twilight Factor of 18.3, which if you compare them to an 8x32 pair, which have an exit pupil of 4 and a twilight factor of 16, shows that the increased objective lens diameter will improve the potential for the binoculars to transmit more light.
It is true that whilst a 10x42 binocular has a smaller exit pupil of 4.2mm, they have a better twilight factor of 20.5 and therefore should show better detail in dim light. They will however most probably have a far narrower field of view and that is why for birding an 8x magnification is often (not always) preferred to a 10x. There is also the point to remember that to make more powerful magnifications, thicker glass is needed and the thicker the glass, the less light that is transmitted through it.
It is also important to remember though that these figures do not take into account the transmittance or quality of the optical system, which in a modern binocular is as important if not more so. Now days the performance in poor light can depends more on the quality of the glass and optical coatings than on just the exit pupil and twilight factor formula. Good coatings can double the amount of light that gets through the binocular, when compared to those that have none or poor quality coatings and as we have already discovered these Vortex Viper binoculars use very high quality glass as well as coatings.
Field Of View
The field of view for these Vortex 8x42 binoculars is 116m at 100m / 347ft at 1000 yards (6.6°) - which is pretty decent and is wider than the 10x42 Viper: 106m at 1000m / 319ft @ 1000 yards (6.1°), but it is a little less that that of the very best. For example the Leica 8x42 Ultravid HD (389ft at 1,000 yards) and the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL Binoculars (399ft at 1,000 yards). But it must be remembered that these Vortex binoculars cost only a fraction of the amount of these two.
Close Focusing Distance
The minimum distance that you can focus on an object is a very impressive 5.1 feet (1.55m) away, which is excellent as anything under 6ft I consider to be very good. So if you are looking for a full size binocular that is also good for viewing objects close up, things like butterflies for example then these Vipers make an excellent choice.
Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Stats: 8/10
So I have been over all the major components and figures and so far these Viper HD's stack up very well, but how does this all relate to the quality of the image that they produce. To be as objective and as constant as possible I compared the view through them with that of my control binoculars that I use for all of my reviews.
Testing them on a typical day here in the UK (dull and overcast!), in terms of brightness, I could easily see a difference between these and that of my benchmark 8x42's. I therefore rate them very highly and I would say that the brightness of the image produced was excellent.
Their contrast is also excellent and once correctly focussed on an objet the image is very sharp. There was no noticeable color fringing (chromatic aberration) around the edges of objects that you find with cheaper optics, meaning that the HD/ED glass is obviously doing it's job!
The amount of softening of the image on the periphery of the view is there, but is very minimal and far less than my control binocular which is good.
So, to sum up, in regards to the overall quality of their image, I rate the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 binoculars very highly and they as good as many binoculars that I have reviewed that are far more expensive than these.
Best Binoculars Rating for Image Quality: 9/10
Whilst it may not be completely fair to compare a mid-high value binocular like these Viper HD's with the very top of the range, it does sometimes highlight their strengths and weaknesses by pitting them against the very best. Below is a table comparing this Viper with a range of other full size binoculars with magnifications of around 8x. The very top of the range Leica 8x42 Ultravid HD, the Minox 8x43 HG Binoculars, the Kowa 8x42 BD and the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL Binoculars.
|Vortex Viper 8x42 HD||Swarovski 8.5x42 EL||Leica 8x42 Ultravid HD||Minox 8x43 HG||Kowa 8x42 BD|
|Price (approx):||$450||$2300 (£1600)||$2100 (£1500)||$1100 (£640)||$550 (£590)|
|Weight:||24.2oz (686g)||28.9ozs (819g)||27.9ozs (791g)||22.9ozs (649g)||25.7ozs (729g)|
|Length:||5.8in (14.7cm)||6.5in (16.5cm)||5.63in (14.3cm)||6.0in (15.2cm)||5.7in (14.5cm)|
|Width:||5.3in (13.5cm)||4.8in (12.2cm)||4.72in (12cm)||5.1in (13cm)||5.0in (12.7cm)|
|Close Focusing Distance:||5.1ft||8.0ft||10.2ft||8.2ft||6.5ft|
|Field of View at 1000yds:||347ft||399ft||389ft||379ft||330ft|
|Lens Coatings||Fully Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated|
What this does show is that even though these Vortex binoculars are a fraction of the cost compared to some of the very optics that money can buy, they can compete and even beat them in some areas. As you can see strong points for the Vortex Viper 8x42 HD is it's low weight, long eye relief, and it's excellent minimum focusing distance. The fact that it comes with quality lens and prism coatings as well as HD glass and manages to cost what it does, makes them in my opinion extremely good value for money.
The soft nylon carry case is made really well and looks to be of very good quality, it is well padded on the inside to protect the binoculars and has a netted pocket that can be zipped closed to store a few small items and would be a good place to keep a lens cleaning cloth for example. It has two loops on the back enabling you to attach it to a belt.
The next strap is very well padded, it is also curved making it sit better on your neck and therefore is very comfortable. Most binoculars come with straight neck straps, so this is a nice touch and shows a good attention to detail. I also like the connectors that sit between the straps that attach to the binoculars and the actual padded part that sits on your neck, they have been designed to allow for the movement of the binoculars from your chest up to your eyes, without disturbing their position on your neck, it's a very small thing, but once again is a sign that Vortex have not cut corners with the extras.
The rubber objective lens caps fit very well and should not accidentally fall off they are also tethered to the binocular with a rubber ring that fits around the barrels, this is a feature that I really like as I find that I often misplace ones that are not connected. Some people don't like this and if you don't it is not a problem as they can also easily be removed.
The eye-piece covers are also made from rubber and they once again fit very well. They also have a flexible bridge between the two cups that allow for the different distances between the two eyepieces depending on your inter-pupillary adjustment. This is something that is often overlooked by manufacturers meaning that the eyepiece covers wont fit, unless you store your binoculars fully open, which can be a real pain as you have to adjust them every time you use your optics and every time you put them away. Once again another gold star to Vortex!
A lens cleaning cloth is also supplied as well as one of the most comprehensive instruction booklets that I have ever seen supplied with a pair of binoculars. It includes details on adjusting the eyecups, the inter-pupillary adjustment, how to properly focus your binoculars, how to properly attach the neck strap, lens care and cleaning, and details on the very impressive warranty:
Their VIP unlimited and unconditional warranty covers the Viper HD binoculars if they require service - No matter the cause, Vortex Optics will repair or replace the binocular at no charge to you!
There is a small cover or cap on the front of the central pivoting point that screws off. This allows you to then screw on a binocular tripod adapter (not included) that uses the standard ¼-inch threading, which you can then attach to your tripod.
Best Binoculars Rating for Extras & Attention to Detail: 8/10
Strong Points: Quality optical components and coatings means the view through these Viper 8x42 binoculars is excellent as is their low weight and close minimum focusing distance. The quality of the extras and attention to details like the nicely padded neck strap and the lockable diopter setting ring is also very good. They feel very comfortable to hold and are nicely balanced and things like the serrated (etched?) focussing wheel is a nice touch.
Weak points? The fact that they have so many good points, and high quality components, all at a very competitive price makes it hard to be too critical of them, but if I had to wish for something, I guess a slightly wider field of view would be nice. Don't get me wrong their field of view is far from bad, but they do fall a little short of the very best.
Ideal Uses: Like most 8x42 binoculars, they make perfect birding binoculars as they strike a good balance between their field of view and magnification with lenses that are large enough to make them nice and bright even at dawn or dusk, yet not so large that they are too big and heavy to carry about with you. As well as birdwatching, these make great general wildlife observation optics and are light and adaptable enough so as to be considered as ideal general use optics.
For uses like camping, taking on safari or to an outdoor sporting event they are fine, although some people may wish for a more compact binocular - this is where the Viper 8x32 would be ideal.
So to sum up, if you are looking for a binocular with very high quality optics that translates to an extremely good view, but don't fancy spending the mega sums of money that the "top end" brand names sell for, then I highly recommend the Vortex 8x42 Viper HD Binoculars.
Reviewed by Jason Whitehead
Main Specifications & Features:
Sharon L. from Texas - Source: Eagle Optics
Great bird watching binoculars! Especailly for the price. They allow a lot of light in so the colors are clearly visible. I would definitly recommend them to briders of all ages.
Richard L from Rapid City, SD - Source: Eagle Optics
I have owned my Vipers for a little over 2 years. At the time of purchase, I did quite a bit of research, and really wanted high quality at a good value. I was convinced this was the best value, and nothing in my experience has changed my mind. I think the optical quality is not far below high-end binoculars for a fraction ofthe cost. And it has one of the best warranties in the business. I banged up one of the eye-cups, and it was fully repaired, cleaned and rehabed at no cost. Outstanding product.
Stan H from Ann Arbor MI - Source: Eagle Optics
I purchased the Vortex Viper 8 X 42 binoculars several months ago and I am more than pleased with them. They are bright which is good for my ageing eyes and the focus is crisp. The locking feature on the adjustable right eye piece is great because they stay adjusted to my eyes. The twist eye relief with stops keeps the eye relief where I put it. The feature that is the most impressive is the close focus which allows a fantastic look at dragonflies, butterflies and birds that are too close. I also got the Eagle bino system harness strap, which makes light work of carrying the binoculars all day. A more serious birder than I, tried my binoculars, and is ordering the same outfit for himself
Lisa from Chicago - Source: Eagle Optics
I have had my vortex vipers for just under a year. I've been birdwatching for only about 5 years. My husband bought me a heavy chunky pair of inexpensive 10X Nikons. They had a large field of view, but lost definition at greater distances and they weighed close to 3lbs. My skills at getting on the bird have improved so I decided to ramp up my binoculars. I am very hard on gear and I wanted a pair that could take the use and give clear images. These vortex vipers fill the bill (and the beak too). Twice I fell this winter and both times my bins survived unscathed (so did I). I love these. I took them to a gulf coast trip and the winds on the beach at Mustang Island and National Seashore were 40 to 60 mile gusts. Everything got sandy! I came home and literally washed the vortex vipers out under running water and they are still great. I feel safe just leaving them in the car winter and summer. They are indeed very study and comfortable binoculars. Fast to focus and give a good image
Jeff from New Hampshire - Source: Eagle Optics
I bought these to upgrade a few pairs I have had for 20 years. With these new optics I was able to quickly distinguish the difference between the mob of finches that visit my feeders. Quick to focus, clear and light.
Below are similar pairs of Binoculars that you may also want to have a look at:
High quality optics that includes extra low dispersion glass, phase correction coatings on Bak-4 prisims with a tough, lightweight body...
General Price Range: (4/6) Mid-High Value Binoculars
Below is a link that will take you to a page with online retailers in both the US and UK that sell Vortex 8x42 Viper HD Binoculars this page makes it easy to compare prices and then to buy from your preferred option:
Buy & Compare Prices for the Vortex 8x42 Viper HD 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 Viper HD Binoculars? If so please let us know what you think of them giving both the good and the bad points: