Kenko Ultraview 8x42

  • Image is impressively sharp, and generally bright. That’s what you’re really paying for
  • Focusing easy and accurate
  • Good close focus, making them versatile
  • Good field of view
  • Light and compact – would make a good second pair

The optics world, especially where binoculars are concerned, has changed massively over the last decade or so. Improvements in glass quality and lens coatings have seen standards inching ever higher at the top end of the market, but perhaps the change has been even easier to see in budget binoculars. The trickle-down effect of new technology has meant that it’s perfectly possible to find several very usable models of binocular for £100 or less, while for £300 you can even get binoculars with ED glass that’s not a million miles, optically, from what the top brands offer.

That all means, of course, that cheaper binoculars have to work all the harder to sell themselves. Very few are of anything other than good quality optically, so a bit of extra build quality here and there, or an innovative extra, can go an awfully long way in persuading the customer. Kenko are a Japanese firm with an excellent record where camera and optical accessories are concerned, but this is the first time I’d come across their binoculars and scopes. Optically, first impressions were generally good. The image was sharp and bright – certainly it compares well with others in the same price range – and the colour pretty natural. In low light, an area where the more expensive binoculars score highly, it continued to perform solidly. The field of view was good, too, and the image stays sharp close to the edge, something that’s not always apparent on lower-priced binoculars.

Close focus is increasingly a concern for birders who want to be able to watch bugs, butterflies, moths and the like, and the quoted figure of 2.5m felt, if anything, a little conservative. It went comfortably down to 2m, making it very competitive. Focusing generally was good – it was fast and accurate, using a ridged wheel that’s almost two fingers wide, and that takes around a single anti-clockwise turn from close focus to infinity. It travelled smoothly and with medium resistance. There was noticeable colour fringing, though. However much I adjusted my eye position, I couldn’t quite get rid of it. It wasn’t hugely distracting, but it’s worth thinking about.

Which brings me on to the design. Very often what appear to be minor optical problems can be easily ironed out by taking the time to set binoculars up properly. The Kenkos did take a while to set up, but as I say, that’s OK – you should really be trying to do this to a whole range of binoculars before you even buy, because what suits one person won’t suit another. For me, a problem was that the eyecups slipped out of position too easily. From the middle of the three positions, it took only a little pressure to start to push them in. It wasn’t such a problem from the fully out position, however.

The dioptre adjuster was also too often moved accidentally. Another slight design flaw, for me, was the position of the strap attachment, which meant that the binoculars never quite sat flat against my chest. That’s a shame, because otherwise I found them nice to handle. They’re compact and well-balanced, making them feel even lighter than they are, and they sit well in the hand.

As far as extras are concerned, they’re waterproof, and come with a reassuring 10-year guarantee. The case is a bit disappointing, although in all honesty I rarely use one, and the same goes for the strap. In the end, then, the Kenkos are another solid addition to the ranks of sub-£300 binoculars, and well worth looking at. Some of the things I found a little troublesome aren’t necessarily going to be a problem for you, while the optics are thoroughly competitive.

REVIEWED BY MATT MERRITT


FACTFILE

  • Price: £259.99
  • Dimensions: 131mm x 148mm x 51mm
  • Weight: 660g
  • Close focus: 2.5m
  • Field of view: 131m@1,000m
  • Distributed by: Intro 2020 Ltd, Priors Way, Maidenhead. Berkshire SL6 2HR, Tel: 01628 674 411
  • website: www.ultraview-optics.co.uk