Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Review and Field Trials of Omicron Estavia 10 x 42 Aspherics WP and Minox BL 10x42 BR Binoculars
Recently, I field tested the Omicron Estavia 10X42 Aspherics WP binocular. I compared this with my own Minox BL 10x42 BR binocular.
Both models are quite comparable in terms of specifications, as can be seen from the summary table below, gleaned from the respective websites http://www.omicron-optics.com/b-estarvia10X42.htm and http://www.minox.com/index.php?id=676&L=1 :
Both models would be contenders for anyone considering buying their first pair of ‘serious’ birding binoculars, particularly if the top of the range models are out of range price-wise. Both are also comparably priced. So how do they stack up in the field?
Both binoculars give a clear image, but I found that the Omicron provided slightly greater sharpness, greater contrast and more intense colours, which helped to make details clearer than the Minox. Slight chromatic aberration was visible on vertical edges with the Minox model, while I couldn’t see any through the Omicron.
Colour rendition was good in both models, with the Minox giving a slight bluish cast and the Omicron more or less neutral.
When comparing clarity across the whole image, I found both to be sharp at the center, but the Omicron gave a significantly sharper image toward the edges. This was offset, however, by the Omicron having more of a double image effect at the edges, making the field of view seem narrower than it actually was. Although not as sharp, the Minox edge image was not obscured by any double image effects.
Ease of Viewing
When panning, I found there were no unpleasant side effects or distortion in either model, but when panning from near to distant objects, I found the Omicron easier to use due to the greater depth of field, which meant there was less need to refocus than with the Minox.
Technical properties and usability
I found there to be no actual difference in the field of view for both models, but, as mentioned above, the double image effect at the edge of the Omicron made the field of view feel rather tube-like and narrow. The Omicron had a slightly better depth of field than the Minox, while the close focusing limit seemed identical in both models, and easily close enough to be useful for examining butterflies or other insects. The focusing wheel on the Omicron was slightly stiffer than the Minox, but this did not significantly affect performance. The eyecups on the Minox slide out with a smooth twist. As a glasses-wearer, I find that one or both eyecups tend to twist out by themselves, which can result in a frustratingly distorted view on occasion. The Omicron eyecups twist out with three clicks, which I would imagine makes them less prone to twisting out by themselves.
One unique feature of the Omicron as far as technical properties are concerned is their latest ClearVue hydrophobic coating (a special water,grease and oil repellent coating ) which is normally found on certain higher priced binoculars.
Both binoculars seem well-balanced and are pleasant to hold, the Omicron being slightly heavier and longer-barreled. I found the weight difference barely noticeable in the field. The strap that comes with the binoculars is a little narrow and unpadded on the Omicron, whereas the Minox has a broader, padded strap. The fastening arrangement of the strap is the same on both models, and I have found, with the Minox, that the strap occasionally comes loose at one end, which could be an expensive failing, resulting in the binoculars falling to the ground or worse. Most recently, the strap came adrift while I was seawatching in deep sea from a boat. Happily I became aware that my binoculars were no longer securely attached to my person before they disappeared into the depths! This is one design failing that I would like to see improved in future models from both Minox and Omicron. It is good news that the current strap will be replaced by a broader and comfortable neoprene strap in the Omicron from June 2008 onwards.
A rainguard and objective lens caps are provided with both Omicron and Minox . The latter clip onto the strap, but unfortunately, unclip rather easily, with the result that they tend to be easily lost. I found the rainguard on the Omicron rather tight and difficult to put on and take off quickly, an essential requirement for birders, while the Minox rainguard was rather better designed. I understand that a larger, looser fit rainguard similar in design to that supplied by Minox is also available from Omicron. Each also comes in a soft case, fastened by a sturdy plastic clip on the Minox, but a rather cheap and not so cheerful patch of Velcro with the Omicron.
Both the Minox and Omicron 10 x 42s are excellent mid-range binoculars, providing superb value for money and optical quality that will easily meet the needs of discerning birders. Their field performance is close enough that I would recommend handling both before making a final choice, since individual needs differ. Personally, I found the Omicron shaded the Minox optically in terms of clarity and sharpness of image, the only significant failing of the former being the slight double imaging at the edge of the image. The Minox comes with a slightly better quality batch of accessories (rainguard, lens caps, strap, etc). Nevertheless, the differences were sufficiently small that I did not feel a compelling urge to exchange my Minox for Omicron, and both are excellent value for money.
Both binoculars are also available with 8x42 specifications.