Carson 3D Series 10x42 Binoculars Review

Carson 10 x 42 3D Series Binoculars
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These Binoculars are On Sale Discount Binocular: These Carson 3D Series Binoculars are available at a discounted price on Amazon.com in the USA. >> Check Prices
Price Range: (3/6) Mid Price Binoculars       

Ideal Uses:

General Use Rating for General Use Binoculars
Birdwatching Rating as Birdwatching Binoculars
Outdoor Sports Rating asOutdoor Sports Binoculars
Safari & Travel Rating as Safari Binoculars
General Wildlife Rating as Wildlife Observation Binoculars
Hunting Rating as Hunting Binoculars

The 3D Series of roof prism binoculars from Carson is their flagship range, which as you would expect have many top end features like phase correction coatings on the prism glass as well as fully multi-coated optical elements. But right at the top of the Carson 3D Series is the 10x42mm TD-042ED model that also comes with ED Glass. I was lucky enough to get the chance to put it through it's paces and so below is my full review of the Carson 10x42 TD-042ED 3D Series Binoculars:

Selected Highlights

  • Compact and Lightweight Body Design
  • ED (extra low dispersion glass)
  • Fully Multi-coated Lenses
  • Phase Correction Coatings on the prisms
  • BAK-4 Prisms
  • 100% Water & Fog Proof
  • Eye Relief: 16mm
  • Excellent and Innovative Wrap around BinoArmor Case
  • Binocular Harness Included

The Body

Unlike the current trend of open-hinged design binoculars, Carson have used a fairly traditional solid single bridge design on these roof prism binoculars.

Weight
Weighing just 23.2oz (658g) these are up there with some of there lightest pairs of full sized binoculars that I have ever reviewed. For comparison take a look at these other similar sized optics:

You have to be a little careful when comparing the weights of binoculars as it can sometimes be a little misleading: Some very light binoculars are sometimes made of much weaker and inferior materials (like plastic), thankfully this is not the case with these Carson D Series binoculars (take a look at the section on build quality below).

Dimensions
The dimensions of these 10x42 Carson 3D binoculars are 5.5in (13.9cm) x 5.0in (12.8cm) x 2in (5cm) - with their eyecups fully extended their length increases to 5.78in (14.8cm) and with the inter-pupillary adjustment set to it's minimum, their width reduces from 5.0in (12.8cm) to 4.3 in (11cm). This pretty good and they compare well with most other quality mid-sized binoculars.

In my "average" sized hands they were comfortable to hold and well balanced and the central focussing wheel was easy to reach and turn without having to adjust from the standard grip when holding them up to your eyes.

Best Binocular Rating for Body Stats: 8/10

Carson 10x42 3D Series Binoculars

Lenses deeply inset on the Carson 10x42 3D BinocularsBuild Quality
Carson don't state what the frame of these TD-042ED's is made from, which is a shame as I do wonder what they used to make them so light. You sometimes find that very light binoculars are made from cheap and inferior materials, but this pair of optics feels like a quality instrument that is very solid and robust and whilst I did not test them to destruction, I would say that they should handle even the toughest conditions under normal uses.

Like most binoculars, the frame has been covered with a hard rubber armoring which will protect them from scratching as well as small bumps and knocks and helps to improve you grip on them. Because the armor is so hard, it is not as tactile as some binoculars I have reviewed, but because it has a rough design cut into the armour where you hold them, they are as "grippy" as any out there, even in damp or wet conditions.

This rubber armour also has a number of another benefits, including making the device less reflective and will also dampen down any sounds, if say your watch or ring strikes against the barrel - these are important features if you want to remain unnoticed when observing timid birds and other wildlife.

Under each barrel on the underside of the body is nice deep thumb indent which is placed in such a way as to encourage you to use the correct grip and to perfectly balance the binoculars in your hands. I also like that the objective lenses are set fairly deeply within the body (about 5mm) - which helps to protect them.

Fog and Waterproof
The body on these Carson 10x42 3D binoculars are O-ring sealed to make them fully waterproof which obviously protects them from moisture, but also prevents dust and other tiny particles from getting inside them, which can lead to your view being spoilt. They air inside the body has also been replaced with dry nitrogen gas that prevents the internal optics from fogging up which can happen when you get rapid temperature changes. This moisture free environment also helps to protect the inner workings from any corrosion.

The Eye Cups
Eyecups and diopter adjustment ring on the Carson 3D 10x42 BinocularsThe eyepiece housing on these Carson's look to be made from a hard plastic or something similar, as do the twist-up eyecups, which have then been covered in a fairly thick and soft rubber coating. The ocular lens has a diameter of 19mm, whilst the eyecup has an external diameter of 30mm and I found them fairly comfortable even when pushed quite firmly against your face.

The twist-up (helicoid) mechanism on these Carson 3D series binoculars is pretty smooth, but lacks any fixed intermediate stops which is a slight shame as this means that eyeglass wearers have less flexibility when it comes to adjusting the eye-relief to suit their exact needs. However the maximum of 16mm of eye-relief is very good, which should be enough for most people who wear glasses to be able use these optics without having to remove them and still get the full field of view without any vignetting. Non-eyeglass wearers will just use the eyecups in the fully extended position.

Focusing
The central focussing wheel, like the eye-cups looks like it is made from a hard plastic and is then covered in a soft rubber coating with large grooves cut into it for styling and to help with grip. It has a diameter of 33mm which is large enough to make it easy to move even if you are wearing thick gloves.

The actual focusing mechanism is geared so that it takes about 1 and a quarter turns of the wheel to go from infinity to it's minimum focusing distance, which is about middle of the road when compared to most other binoculars. What this means is that focusing from near to far (or vise versa) is not as quick as a binocular that takes less amount of turning (some take as little as half a turn), but they do have the advantage of making fine tuning your focus to get it exactly right a little easier.

Diopter Adjustment
Located on the right barrel, between the eyecup and the barrel is the diopter adjustment ring. The mechanism is not notched/ratcheted and is not as tight as some on other pairs that I have tested and so could be moved accidentally. There is a marking on the barrel and one on the ring so that you can line up the neutral diopter setting, but no others. So if you discover that your setting is not neutral when you first correctly set up and focus the binoculars to your particular eyesight, I would suggest making a small mark with a sharp knife or something similar so that you can quickly return it to your setting if the diopter ring should accidentally be moved.

Best Binoculars Rating for Body Construction Quality: 7/10

The Optics

Lenses
As mentioned earlier, Carson have used some excellent quality optical components and coatings on these 3D Series TD-042ED Binoculars. The biggest improvement of these TD-042ED's over the "standard" models in the 3D Series is the use of ED glass (extra low dispersion) - whilst ED glass is becoming more and more common, it is still only really used on high end cameras, telescopes, microscopes and binoculars. What the Extra low dispersion glass does is to give 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.

Extra Low Dispersion Glass

Lens CoatingsAll air-to-glass surfaces have also received multiple layers of anti-reflective coatings meaning that they are Fully multi-coated. This has the effect of increasing light transmission to produce a brighter image and therefore better low light performance. Carson also advertise that these binoculars come with their own "High Definition optical coating technology", which they say "significantly enhances light gathering capabilities of the 3D Series Binoculars for even brighter, sharper images in low-light conditions."

These and high reflective coatings on the prisms can make a really big difference on the brightness of the image produced. It is not uncommon for a binocular with smaller objective lenses, but high quality anti-reflection coatings to outperforming binoculars with much larger objective lenses, but with fewer or no anti-reflection coatings. This is an important feature to look out for when choosing your binoculars - lower quality optics that will often only add multiple anti-reflection coatings to the outer surfaces of the lenses (Multi-Coated) and cheaper still are optics that only have a single layers of anti-reflection coating added to the outer lenses (Coated). The very cheapest optics have no anti-reflective coatings at all and I highly recommend staying well clear of these.

Yo give you an idea, the table below shows Transmittance by type of lens coating:

  Per Single Lens Surface 10 Lens & Prism Surfaces
No Coating: 96% (0.96) x Power of 10 = 0.66 66%
Single-Layer: 98.5% (0.985) x Power of 10 = 0.86 86%
Multilayer Coating: 99.5% (0.995) x Power of 10 = 0.95 95%

The Prisms and their coatings
These Carson binoculars use good quality BaK-4 glass on the roof prisms as opposed to the inferior BK-7 prisms found on cheaper optics. The result of this is that it will help to produce clearer, better quality images.

As well as the good quality glass, Carson have added phase correction coatings onto the prism glass - when light waves are reflected at the opposite faces of a roof prism, "phase shift" occurs which means that you get a small amount of deterioration in sharpness. These phase correction coatings counter this by keeping the light in the correct color phases and therefore produce images that have better contrast, a higher resolution and improved color reproduction. These coatings are only usually found on higher end roof prism binoculars and is another indicator of a better quality binocular.

Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Components Quality: 8/10

Optical Stats

Field Of View

The field of view for these Carson 10x42 3D binoculars is 105m at 100m / 314ft at 1000 yards (6°) - which, for a binocular with a 10x magnification is well above average, but it must be said does fall a little short of some the very best 10x binoculars. For example something like the Minox 10x42 BV's has a field of view of 342ft at 1000 yards (6.5°).

Close Focusing Distance
For some reason Carson don't advertise the minimum focussing distance, but I measured it at 1.9m (6.2ft) away. This for a full sized binocular this is very good and whilst they may not beat specifically designed close focusing binoculars, I would still recommend them to anyone who also wants to occasionally observe objects at close range - butterflies for example.

Eye-Relief:
Their maximum eye-relief of 16mm is also very good and even though they just miss out on making it on my list of long eye-relief binoculars, 16mm should be more than enough for most people who wear glasses.

Best Binoculars Rating for Optical Stats: 8/10

Image Quality

As with all my reviews, I compared the view through these Carson D Series 10x42 binoculars with that of my control 10x42 binoculars. These comparisons were carried out on an overcast, but fairly bright day.

Contrast & Colour Reproduction
This is a hard parameter to judge, but I thought that the contrast of the image produced was good to very good and once you have correctly focussed on an object the image is pin sharp. In my opinion, the depth of field for a binocular with a 10x magnification is about average as they were about the same as that of my control pair. The colors that are produced look and feel nice and natural, unlike the artificial tints that you sometimes find on cheaper binoculars.

Image Brightness
Compared with my benchmark binoculars, I could notice as small improvement in image brightness and so rate them as very good and well above average in this department.

More about Image Brightness & Low Light Performance
Good light gathering ability is important because quite often you will find yourself in situations where the lighting is sub-optimal, especially in thickly wooded or forested areas, early in the morning just before or at sunrise or late afternoon when most birds and other animals are at their most active. All 10x42 binoculars, including these 3D's have an Exit Pupil of 4.2 and a Twilight Factor of 20.5, both of which indicate that they will perform pretty well in most low light conditions.

But no matter how much light your binoculars gather, it is no good if that light is not passed onto your eyes (transmittance) and this is where it is important to know that not all 10x42 binoculars are created equal as the performance of a pair of optics in poor light 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 - As we have already discovered, these Carson 3D Series binoculars use good quality coatings and glass that help to transmit more light to your eyes and therefore produce a brighter image than inferior binoculars of the same design and configuration.

Color Fringing
This is the area where the ED glass used in these optics should make a difference as it should help to minimise the amount of chromatic aberration (color fringing). To test for signs of color fringing, I focus on light coloured and white objects that contrast greatly with something in the background and look at the edges of the light objects. Again this is a hard parameter for me to judge as it can be hard to distinguish, but if there was any color fringing on these Carson's, it was very minimal and not at all a problem. So I rate these very highly in this area.

Softening
The amount of softening of the image right at the edge of the view of these bins is extremely minimal and is only noticeable if you are really looking for it. This means that the image remains sharp even right at the edge of the view, which I thought was very impressive. Therefore in this area, these Carson's are better than most in this price range and as good as many that are far more expensive.

Overall and to sum up, I would rate the view through these 10x42 Carson 3D's as excellent.

Best Binoculars Rating for Image Quality: 8/10

10x42 Carson 3D Series Comparisons

Below is a table comparing some of the main features and specifications of this Carson 10x42 3D Binocular with a selection of other full size roof prism binoculars with magnifications of 10x - The Kowa SV 10x42, the Minox 10x42 BV's, the Swarovski 10x42 EL's and the Steiner 10x42 SkyHawk binoculars.

  Carson 10x42 3D Kowa 10x42 SV Steiner 10x42 SkyHawk Minox 10x42 BV Swarovski 10x42 EL
Price (approx): $300 (250) $230 (279) 390 $250 (220) $2480 (1650)
Weight: 23.2oz (658g) 23.6oz (670g) 25.4oz (720g) 27.5oz (780g) 27.5ozs (780g)
Length: 5.5in (13.9cm) 6.8in (17.2cm) 5.9in (15.1cm) 5.5in (14cm) 6.2in (15.7cm)
Width: 5.0in (12.8cm) 5.0in (12.8cm) 4.9in (12.5cm) 5in (12.7cm) 4.8in (12.2cm)
Eye Relief: 16mm 15.5mm 8mm (approx) 18mm 15mm
Close Focusing Distance: 3m (9.8 feet) 4m (13.1 feet) 2m (6.6ft) 1.2m (3.94ft) 2.4m (8.0ft)
Field of View at 1000yds: 314ft 315ft 315ft 342ft 330ft
ED Glass Yes No No No Yes
Phase Correction Yes Yes Don't Think So Yes Yes
Lens Coatings Fully Multi-Coated Fully Multi-Coated Fully Multi-Coated Fully Multi-Coated Fully Multi-Coated
Waterproof Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fogproof Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Comparing a mid priced binocular like these Carson 3D Series binoculars with some that are far more expensive may seem a little unfair at first, but as long as you keep in mind the price difference, it does throw up a few interesting points and can highlight a few of their relative strengths and weaknesses.

What the table above does highlight is the fact that they are extremely light weight and compact for a binocular with 42mm objective lenses. They also have a pretty good field of view for a 10x porro prism binocular, plenty of eye relief and a reasonable minimum focussing distance. Also considering their price, the the fact that they come with ED glass and have phase correction coatings on the prisms is impressive.

Included Extras & Attention to Detail:

Neck Strap
The next strap that comes with the Carson 3D series binoculars well padded, but possibly not quite as wide as I would have preferred. It looks to be well made and is of good quality, but not quite as deluxe as what you get on the very best binoculars. I like the attention to detail in that the padded section that hangs around your neck is slightly curved to ensure that it hangs more naturally. It lacks loops that allow for more freedom of movement between the padded section of the strap and the cords that connect to the optics that I sometimes find on the very best neck straps, this is however a very small thing.

Binocular HarnessBinocular Harness
It is always great when you get more than expected so as well as the standard neck strap, the 10x42 3D Series binocular also comes with a ("Kuban Hitch" type) binocular harness that goes over both shoulders, under the arms and behind the neck, holding the binocular snugly to the chest. The harness attaches to the binocular using a couple of plastic clips. The harness straps are adjustable and made from heavy-duty elastic and the tension from the elastic adds stability when using the binocular and I found them very comfortable to use.

Also often called binocular suspenders, they take the strain off of your neck and distribute the weight of the binoculars to your shoulders and torso. Another advantage of the harness over your neck strap is that it keeps your optics closer to your body and allows you far more freedom when traversing over difficult terrain.

Carry Case
These 3D Series ED Binoculars come with Carson's rather innovative BinoArmor Deluxe BA-07 binocular case, which they actually first introduced way back in 2008 and is designed for serious binocular users. Instead of a standard carry case that you get with most optics, this BinoArmor case is basically a lightweight neoprene cover that wraps around the binocular and uses magnetic fasteners to keep it closed.

This clever design has a number of advantages, with the main one being that you can wear the binocular using the harness or neck strap whilst it is still protected in the case and then when needed, the case can be opened very quickly and removed from the binoculars by parting the two magnetic flaps. As well as quick, this process is also pretty much silent as there are no zips or Velcro fasteners that often make enough noise to spook easily frightened wildlife. Inside this wrap around case there is a wide elastic strap that holds the case to the binoculars while viewing, or if you prefer you can simply remove the case completely from the binoculars by not using this strap.

The neoprene cover fits the binoculars well and they can be easily wrapped inside even with the eyecups fully extended and with the Interpupillary Distance set to maximum. The case has a pocket on either side of the case for holding small objects, such as some small personal items and your lens cleaning cloth.

Interestingly and possibly because it is so innovative, you can also purchase this case separately to use with other similar sized roof prism binoculars (10x42 and 8x42) - it costs between $20 and $40.

Below is the marketing video produced by Carson that highlights the main features of the BinoArmor Deluxe BA-07 case and also shows how best to use it:

 

For more on this excellent carry case, take a look at my Carson BinoArmor Deluxe Review

Lens Covers
Before I realized that the case was designed to be "worn" by the binoculars, I was a little surprised when I found that there was no eye-piece (rain guard) or objective lens covers supplied with these Carson binoculars. But because of the excellent warp around design of the case, these are not really needed and the fact that you only have to remove one item (the case) instead of all the lens covers in the field , it really does save you time and means there is far less to loose.

Other Included Accessories
Also inside the case you will find a lens cleaning cloth and a fairly generic instruction booklet that includes details like adjusting the eyecups, how to properly attach the neck strap, the inter-pupillary adjustment, how to properly focus your binoculars, lens care and cleaning etc.

Carson Guarantee
Carson provides a limited lifetime warranty for this binocular, which means that it is warranted to be free from defects in material and workmanship and Carson will either repair or replace any part or assembly of parts found to be defective. In addition this binocular comes with Carson's "No-Fault Limited Warranty" that states that it is warranted against damage, regardless of cause and Carson will at it's option and for a $12 handling fee, either repair or replace it or the damaged parts. Full details of this excellent warranty is included inside the box.

Tripod Adaptable
These binoculars can be attached to a tripod using a tripod adapter (not included) that uses the standard ¼-inch threading. To attach the adapter to the binocular you just unscrew the small cap on the front of the central pivoting point on the binoculars.

Best Binoculars Rating for Extras & Attention to Detail: 8/10

Conclusion

Strong Points: The standout features of these Carson 10x42 3D binoculars is their lightweight and compact body that looks great. They also produce a really bright and high quality image that is mostly down to the use of high quality glass elements and coatings in their construction. The quality of their accessories is also very good and I love the fact that they come with a binocular harness as well as a standard neck strap. Their wrap around BinoArmor carry case is also excellent and I love the way that you can quickly unwrap them from your binoculars to use in the field and then quickly wrap them up again to keep your optics well protected as you move on again - brilliant!

Weak points? Theses actually don't have any major weak points, but if you had to press me and being very picky, I would have preferred a wider field of view.

Ideal Uses: Like most 10x42 binoculars, these Carson 3D's are ideal wildlife observation optics, and whilst their field of view is narrower than good 8x42 binoculars, they will still make pretty good birding binoculars, especially if most of your birding is done in wide open areas or over longer distances like around lakes or by the sea. Hunting is another ideal use for them and I would say that they are easily light and adaptable enough so as to be considered great general use optics.

They also more than hold their own as a binocular to take camping as well as on any safari, but some may prefer a more compact binocular for travelling.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Carson Optical, Inc. 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 and are not influenced in any way by manufacturers, distributors or suppliers.

Carson 10x42 3D Series Binoculars with neck strap, case and harness

Reviewed by

Best Binocular Reviews Ratings:

Body Construction Quality: 7/10 78%
Excellent
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Components Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Attention to Detail: 8/10

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Main Specifications & Features:

Walk-Around Video of the Carson 10x42 3D Series Binoculars

 

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General Price Range: (3/6) Mid Price Binoculars

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