Clarity 8x32

  • No-nonsense looks and robust build
  • Easy to set up for all users
  • Sharp, impressively wide image
  • Superb close focus – where are those dragonflies?
  • Excellent extras for budget binoculars

As the giants of the birding optics world make ever greater leaps in technology, creating brighter, cleaner, more natural images, so the benefits trickle down to the budget end of the market, opening up more and more good quality choices for the consumer.

Clarity’s 8x32 binoculars arrived as something of an unknown quantity, but they didn’t take too long to make a favourable impression. They’re compact and pleasingly solid in the hand, with an easy-to-grip rubberised finish. The twist-up, twist-down rubber eyepieces are fine, too. I found them comfortable in extended use, and the three positions offer plenty of eye relief and the flexibility you need to get the best from the optics. They didn’t always stay in the middle position as securely as I’d have liked, so maybe you’d have to pay close attention to that in the field – there’s nothing more annoying than raising a pair of bins to view a great bird to find that the eyepieces are askew.

Getting the most from the optics, of course, is very much the name of the game at the cheaper end of the market, so I was pleasantly surprised by just how well these performed. The image feels wide enough (it’s 131m@1,000m), and stays sharp pretty close to the edges – I thought it was a good ‘sweet spot’ for binoculars at this price. There is a slight yellow tinge to the image (or at least, it appeared consistently slightly warmer than the natural), but it’s nothing too distracting, and the contrast and sharpness are really rather impressive. Chromatic aberration did appear in the brightest light, but again it was nothing that would cause you too many problems, especially if you’d taken the time to get your eye position right. In more ‘normal’ light, it all but disappeared.

Focusing was precise, and the movement of the wheel (about a finger wide, with a nice textured, grippy surface) smooth enough. It was rather stiff, though. That might well not be a problem for you – it comes down to personal preference. It takes 1.75 anti-clockwise turns from close focus to infinity. The dioptre, on the right barrel, was pretty stiff too, but I usually see that as a plus point, making it difficult to accidentally knock it out of place. It’s not calibrated or click-stopped, but I found it easy to find the right setting for my eyes. Close focus was a real bonus – the 2.5m listed in the technical specs felt like a very cautious estimate. Again it’s something that varies from one person to another, but I was able to get it down to only a little over a metre with some comfort. Again it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it’s a big plus point if you’re thinking of buying a pair of cheap 8x32s as a second pair of bins.

As far as extras are concerned, the Claritys scored pretty highly. The rainguard and removable tethered objective lens covers are unfussy but perfectly functional, but a decently wide neoprene strap and a really nicely put together case were excellent bonuses.

So, for a round £100, you get a well-built, optically solid pair of bins with some nice extras and one outstanding feature – the close focus. That makes them the sort of binoculars any beginner should consider, as well as those of us who like to keep a cheap second pair handy in the glove-box for bird and bug emergencies. Try them, and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

REVIEWED BY MATT MERRITT, BIRD WATCHING NOVEMBER 2010


FACTFILE

  • Price: £99.99
  • Dimensions: 118mmx118mmx60mm
  • Close focus: 2.5m
  • Field of view: 131m@1,000m
  • Distributed by: Swains International PLC, Eastland House, Westgate, Hunstanton, Norfolk, UK PE36 5EW; tel: 0845 450 4242;
  • e-mail: sales@swains.co.uk