As a birder and bird photographer, a good pair of binoculars is an important part of my kit. I almost always have a pair in the car or in my bag. I use binoculars to spot and identify birds. Then I move to that location to start making photographs.
Most people aren’t familiar with binoculars so I’ll start this post with a VERY short and VERY basic introduction to them. My review follows.
Binoculars – The Basics
It’s all about magnification and objective. All binoculars are identified by a set of numbers, such as 10×42, which refer to their magnification and objective lens diameter, respectively. Using 10×42 as an example, the 10x means that the binoculars have 10x magnification power, making the view through them appear 10 times closer than it appears to the naked eye. (10×42 glass is usually the maximum that most casual binocular users will need. Anything larger usually requires a tripod.)
Remember that the higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view. Now on to the larger number. The “42” in the Olympus 10×42 binocular refers to the diameter of the objective (front) lens in millimeters. Since the objective lenses will often be the largest portion of the optic, they will affect the overall size and weight of the binocular, and how much light it can gather. In basic terms: larger objectives allow more light to pass through them than smaller objectives, which means images will appear brighter, sharper, and clearer. However, the larger objectives will also add bulk and weight, and that is where certain tradeoffs and compromises need to be considered when deciding if certain models will be convenient to carry, pack, hold, and use comfortably.
I use both 10×42 and 8×42 glass. (If I want a wider field of view or if I plan to spend the day “glassing,” I use the 8×42 because they are lighter and more comfortable and easier to use for long periods of time – if I need more reach and more detail I use the 10×42 glass.)
Lucky for me, Olympus makes all sorts of optics – not just for cameras, but for binoculars too. For 100 years, Olympus has focused on high-quality products and they bring this focus to their binoculars.
I love the Olympus lenses that I use so I was excited to see if their lens-building prowess would extend to their binoculars.
I own (and use) an older pair of Olympus binoculars. They are a consumer-level piece of gear and well worth the money. When Olympus discontinued this item, I suspected that a new, improved version was coming, and I was not disappointed.
NOTE: Most of what I write about the 10×42 glass applies to the 8×42 as well.
The Olympus 10×42 Pro Binocular is a major upgrade from the last pair of binoculars Olympus sold. It is inspired by the OM-D camera line and comes with everything you’d expect from a pair of professional-quality binoculars. And maybe even a few things you wouldn’t.
Here are some specs…
- *Closed-bridge configuration offers a solid and stable platform for the focusing system
Large, slip-resistant center focusing wheel is easy to manipulate in cold or wet conditions or when wearing gloves
- * A ±2 right- and left-eye dioptric correction allows for precise focusing even for those who normally require corrective eyewear
- *Twist-up click-stop rubber eyecups for comfortable use with or without eyewear
- *Tripod mountable with optional adapters for hands-free use to reduce arm fatigue and vibrations
- *Comfortable 16mm eye relief reduces eyestrain for easier viewing, especially during long glassing sessions
- *4.2mm exit pupil will cover most pupils as they open and dilate in low light to keep the entire scene in view at all times
I want to mention a few of these specs that I think are important. The binoculars use extra-low dispersion (ED) glass with phase-correcting and dielectric coatings on the BAK4 prisms, along with anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics. What does all that mean? It means that the images are super bright, contrasty, clear and that there’s no ghosting or distortion that you might find in lower-quality binoculars.
In daily use, the glass really delivers. It has good build-quality and is an easy-to-hold optic with a non-slip surface. It has a good heft—at 24 ounces but never feels heavy. It focuses simply and quickly, and this is a key feature that will make those who are unfamiliar with binoculars more at ease. It’s bright (even low-light) and it renders true colors. (Cheap binoculars almost always give off a color cast, which is a problem for birders since we rely on color cues for identification.)
One feature that I truly admire is that these binoculars are both waterproof and fog proof. When you use inexpensive binoculars, you will almost always experience problems with condensation if you move from hot to cold weather and back. Not so with the Olympus 10×42 Pro Binocular. It is nitrogen filled and waterproof. Since all the Olympus gear that I regularly use to make bird photographs is also waterproof, for me, this is a must-have feature.
This pair of binoculars is easy to focus and very sharp. I was actually surprised at how much detail the binoculars could provide. I have used $3000 binoculars that didn’t seem to resolve any more detail than this $500 Olympus pair.
The brightness of the image that you can grab in the Olympus Pro glass is also second to none.
Another noteworthy feature is the close-focusing distance. A 5-foot close-focus distance allows detailed viewing of small birds, butterflies, and insects at feeders and flowers when you can get close.
When you open the box, you see that the binocular comes with a nice strap, tethered front and rear lens caps, instruction sheet, and a case.
If you need binoculars, you can’t go wrong with this pair. If you’re just starting out and a newbie, the wider field of view of the 8x will make it easier to pick out your subjects. It will also save you a few bucks. I use both, but generally prefer the 10x view. Either way – you can pay LOTS more for a fancy set from one of the European optical companies, but if you compare how much they cost against the difference in quality, the Olympus is the pound-for-pound, better choice.
I am an Olympus Visionary. Even so, I try to give my unbiased opinion about Olympus gear. I wanted to disclose that fact as a matter of transparency.