I recently received the following question from a reader looking to choose between two reasonably priced ED glass binoculars:
I want to buy a pair of full size binoculars for every day use. I want a pair with ED glass, at what I consider a reasonable price. I came down with these two: Vanguard Spirit 8X42 ED (maybe 10X42) and Barr & Stroud Series 4 ED 8X42.
To their advantage, the Barrs seems to be a little sturdier with their double bridge design, maybe better water sealed and maybe more comfortable to hold. Also, I can buy them at around 50 pounds less.
The Vanguards score a very high 85/87 points in your review, look more elegant and seem to have the edge in image quality.
Which would you recommend? As a last note, the image quality has the upper hand in the decision. Are the Vanguards visibly better in this regard? Thanks in advance for your answer!
Many thanks for the question – to answer this one is pretty difficult as they are both great binoculars, both of which I would describe as being really excellent value for money.
Firstly and just in case you or anyone else who reads this article has heard of ED Glass, but is not quite sure what it is, what it does or if it is worth considering, please take a look at my complete guide to Extra Low Dispersion Glass (ED Glass).
You are right in saying that the open bridge design of the Barr & Stroud 8x42 Series 4 ED makes it a little easier to hold onto, especially with one hand. Over difficult and hilly terrain it is also sometimes very annoying to have a binocular dangling from your neck where they can easily strike against a rock as you climb over it. Simply holding them in your hand instead of around your neck overcomes these problems and the open-hinge design means that you can hold onto the binocular much more firmly by wrapping your hand completely around one barrel.
But I would go on to say that the design of the Vanguard with it’s single, but fairly small bridge means that you can also quite easily hold these with one hand and I really had no problems with their sturdiness when I reviewed them.
To help with the comparison, I have included a table showing their main features and specifications below:
|Vanguard 8x42 Spirit ED||Barr & Stroud 8x42 Series 4 ED|
|Price (approx):||$250 (£250 – £300)||£220 – £290|
|Weight:||22.6oz (640g)||23.3ozs (661g)|
|Length:||5.7in (14.5cm)||6.06in (15.4cm)|
|Width:||4.9in (12.5cm)||4.96in (12.6cm)|
|Close Focusing Distance:||8.2ft||14.8ft|
|Field of View at 1000yds:||330ft||341ft|
|Lens Coatings||Fully Multi-Coated||Fully Multi-Coated|
As you can see the Barr & Stroud’s having a slightly wider field of view and the Vanguard’s having a much better minimum focussing distance. But apart from that they are fairly evenly matched.
I would say that yes, the Vanguard’s probably have the edge when it comes to image quality, but without being able to compare the view through them at the same time I can’t be 100% sure. The amount of difference to my eyes between these two fairly evenly matched binos would also be very minimal anyway.
I would like to add that I personally own a pair of the 8x42 Vanguards Spirit ED’s myself, which I really love and have no hesitation in highly recommending them to you or anyone looking for a reasonably priced ED glass binocular (and no Vanguard don’t pay me to say that!).
Where the Vanguard’s are quite a bit better that the Barr & Stroud’s is in their attention to detail and the extras. The carry case and neck strap on the Vanguards are really good and I really like the build quality and the finishing details on the small things like the focussing wheel, which considering their price is impressive.
So if it were me you, know my choice, but to be honest I think it may just come down to which one you prefer the look of and just how important that 50 pounds is to you.
I hope this helps in some small way – and please let me know which one you eventually choose and just how well you get on with them.
More Information & Further Reading
- More about Vanguard Binoculars
- More about Barr & Stroud Binoculars
- Complete Guide to Extra Low Dispersion Glass (ED Glass)
- Best ED Binoculars under $350 / £350
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