It’s good to see the world through nice, clean, modern glass windows, and it therefore stands to reason a nice pair of binoculars are a pleasure to look through for all the same reasons. For me, I use my binoculars every single day and on some days (when working on Ring Ouzel on Dartmoor for example) they will often be pressed to my face for a good 5-6 hours at a time – sometimes almost without a break. Similarly I will often be using mine at the top and tail of the day, when light is dimpsy. So various considerations need to be considered, I want light-weight – as they’ll be around my neck all day, they need to be bright and clear and above all I need to not have to worry about them – they need to be life proof.
Over the years I’ve used several different types of binocular and more recently I’ve returned to the brand that started it all (my very first pair of ZEISS binoculars were the old Dialyts which I purchased for a couple of hundred nicker off my barber back in the 90’s). Now these were (and still are, assuming my ex-girlfriend is telling the truth and she hasn’t sold them) very good binoculars – but ZEISS has come on leaps and bounds since and my current pair are as near as I have found to perfect…Thanks to the unique design which is somewhere between a closed bridge and open bridge design – I believe something that ZEISS call a high bridge – and because of the lack of pointless ergonomic design features found in some other brands, your fingers can fall wherever they like. There is no design feature forcing them into a position you simply might not find comfortable. The grip is further enhanced by the armour, this ensures the barrels are not circular in cross-section – they have two subtle ridges that run down the outer length of the barrels. If you form your fist into a grip, these ridges coincide with the creases in your bent fingers and thumb – perfectly flexible ergonomics no matter how far apart the barrels are, or indeed what angle you’re holding them, the grips fall into place.
ZEISS claim these are the brightest binocular on the market and they are – thanks to a host of processes that’ll only boggle the mind of a naturalist and are beyond most of us anyhow. The amount of light lost as it passes through the glass from your subject to your eye has traditionally been a bit of a hurdle to overcome if you’re in the business of making binoculars. Achieving a 95% transmission, they really are the brightest binoculars in their class and if you spend enough time, peering off into the twilight for that first glimpse of a Woodcock, Pine Marten or Badger, then you’ll see what I mean. I’ve done direct comparisons with other top end brands under the same conditions and the difference is most definitely noticeable. While I’m on the subject of the glass – I like this bit. The objective and ocular glass pieces have a LotuTec® protective coating, which is a microscopic coating that was inspired by nature. A branch of science and engineering known as Biomimetics means we tap into mother nature’s very own R&D department to see how she deals with problems. In this case the leaves and flowers of the Lotus plant – they bead water and as it rolls off it takes dirt and grime with it, leaving the leaf unhindered access to the sunshine.
The Comfort-Focus-concept. The focus wheel itself is a large and chunky thing, set in the double-link bridge. Hold the binoculars in one hand or two and at least a couple of your fingers will naturally fall onto the wheel and because it is large, it doesn’t require much turning to go from closest focus to infinity – around 1.8 turns to be precise. The point of this is it’s very easy and precise and quick to get your focus sharp. Also the diopter adjustment is by a stiff wheel that is completely separate to the focus and therefore cannot be accidentally knocked. The eye-cups I like a lot. Now I’m always dropping my binoculars. Part of my job requires frequently taking them on and off (often to satisfy the working requirements of sound men, who need to pin things to the inside of my clothing) and this has been when mishaps occur. With previous brands I have found the eye-cups to be the weakest link – I’ve split them, I’ve lost the little ball bearings and I’ve jammed up the railings with dust and sand. But in all honesty I’ve had no problems at all with my HT’s in nearly two years of use. I swap regularly between contact lenses and glasses and so having functioning eye-cups is essential.