- Bright and sharp even in murky weather
- Good natural colour
- Well balanced and comfortable to use
- Light, precise focusing
- Up there with the big boys, but cheaper
As a top-of-the-range binocular, the Elites have been around a long time. The latest incarnation is upgraded with ED glass, to improve resolution and colour fidelity, and ‘Rainguard HD hydrophobic lens coatings’, to help shed the rain. The Elite ED range includes 8x42 and 10x42 models. With an RRP of over £700, they are significantly less expensive than the big four, but at this price you still expect a very good binocular. I tested the Japanese-made 8x42 on two grey days in January – not nice weather, but good for putting a binocular through its paces.
Even in these conditions I was impressed. The image was bright, clean, and sharp. Sharpness across the field was very good (presumably thanks to the aspherical lenses). There was, perhaps, a little loss of sharpness at the very edges, but certainly nothing that would distract anyone. Their brightness was as impressive as their sharpness. As the light faded I compared them to a particularly bright binocular from one of the top four brands. This Elite was up against something substantially more expensive. The costlier model had the edge, but the Elite compared pretty well. I looked for colour fringing by using the FCAALS (flying corvid against a leaden sky!) test. The Elites passed with flying colours, or rather, with no sign of any unwanted flying colours. The LTTTWWAAPOWP (look through them the wrong way at a piece of white paper) test may have shown a slight yellow colour cast, but this was certainly not an issue in the field. Close-focus is quoted as 2.4m, but for me, it was about 2m. The Elites provide a very nice view - in direct comparison in grey conditions with one of the big four, they held up well. The competition did perhaps pick out a bit more colour on a collared dove, but the Bushnell view was not so different. At 6.3 degrees however, their field of view is not particularly wide. It’s not bad, but I would have liked a bit more.
The Elites sat well in my hands and were easy to use. They are well balanced and my fingers found the focuser easily. There are fairly substantial thumb indents on the underside but these worked fine for me. At 728g the Elites are not heavy. They are rubber armoured, nitrogen-filled, waterproof and fogproof.
The dioptre adjusts with a pull-up push-down ring under the focuser. Once you’ve adjusted it, you can lock your setting, and un-numbered dots provide simple calibration. Focusing was precise, smooth and quite light. The one-finger-wide focusser moves through about 1 ¼ turns, anti-clockwise towards infinity. In normal birding, about half a turn will cover most situations. The eyecups are rubber-covered and twist up and down with a good, smooth action. There are no click-stopped intermediate positions though the instructions say they can be set anywhere in between. On one or two occasions an eyecup inadvertently twisted down – if this happened often it would irritate me.
Then there are the accessories. A moulded case is supplied, and a simple, soft drawstring bag to store the binoculars in. I really like the drawstring bag – it provides a bit of protection without the added bulk of a proper case. More manufacturers should do this. The supplied strap clips on to a small ‘D’ ring on webbing attached to the binoculars. Very little adjustment is possible, and even though I’m over six foot tall, the strap was too long. I removed the Bushnell paraphernalia and put a more conventional strap on. The rainguard worked fine – I could get it on and off without looking. There are tethered objective covers, but I think the loops that hold them on are too loose – there’s a real danger of losing them.
In summary, the Elite EDs handle well (but watch out for disobedient eyecups!) and deliver a very impressive image. Try them alongside some of the acknowledged best and see what you think.
REVIEWED BY DAVID CHANDLER