Steiner-Optik has been around since 1947 and today is one of the world's leading manufacturers of professional, high quality binoculars. Steiner have elected to launch their new professional range of birding binoculars in the UK and Ian Andrews has managed to get his hands on a couple of pairs to try.
Ask any professional or recreational sailor who makes the best binoculars and the answer will invariably be Steiner. That is because they have been making binoculars, and only binoculars, for the last 60 years. Steiner has a number of firsts to their name, including the first to use high tech materials, first nitrogen filled, first compass bearing binoculars etc. In 1999, in co-operation with the World Wildlife Fund, Steiner introduced its first Wildlife range. They have recently celebrated the Silver Jubilee of their famous Commander range, the most popular marine binocular ever.
And now, Steiner are targeting the Birding world by introducing two top end roof prism binoculars, initially in the UK, then Europe, then the rest of the world. The two models, an 8x44 and a 10x44 are at the top end of the binocular market with a number of innovative features and specifications.
Field of view at 1000m
Close focus distance
Water pressure proof
to 5 m
to 5 m
Nitrogen pressure filling
from -40 bis +80 °C
from -40 bis +80 °C
Design and Build
Now I have used Steiner bins extensively in the past in the marine world and I was interested to see what they could do with a pair of binoculars designed specifically for wildlife and birds in particular. I wear spectacles full time and have one eye that is considerably worse than the other, so in recent years it has become more difficult to find binoculars that suit. This is where the first of Steiner's innovations scores highly in their Dual Precision Setting, enabling each eyepiece to be adjusted individually. It takes a little getting used to and some fiddling to get it right, but once it is done the settings can be recorded. As birding/wildlife binoculars are a much more personal item of equipment than marine ones, which tend to be used by everyone on board a boat, the need for re-adjustment is much lower anyway. The system does allow for massive differences between the users individual eyes and the accuracy they can be set to makes a worthwhile advantage over the usual single side adjustment. There are also fold down eye cups to shade the sides of the eyes that flip out of the way for spectacle wearers. Twist cups move up and down, but the flaps are fixed to them and rotate into position when extended.
It is no surprise, considering the marine background, that the Discovery binoculars are waterproof to a depth of 5m and the nano-protection dispels water and dirt from the optic surfaces. The Makrolon chassis, which has each tube section constructed in a single piece, and special seals enable the binoculars to be pressure filled with nitrogen and ensures no internal fogging between -40º~80ºC, an amazing range.
Comfort comes in the shape of an ergonomically designed carrying strap with clic-loc quick release attachments that put no strain whatsoever on the neck and managed to stay around my neck all day without getting annoying or uncomfortable. The finish is an NBR-Longlife rubber armouring that gives good grip when wet or dry, hot or cold. It is also soft and shockproof. The Discovery comes with a soft carry case, a neoprene protective cover and objective covers.Optical performance
So, the design has been well thought out, but what are they like optically? Well, as with camera optics, things have come a long way and these binoculars seem to literally suck in the light. My old marine binos, even with their 50mm objective lenses, never seemed this bright. The accuracy of the focus mechanism, that only needs one full turn to go from infinity down to 2m or less (depending on dioptre settings) and the internal nature of the focussing means that the clarity of the image is amazing. No evidence of colour fringing is evident even when viewing things like branches of trees against a bright sky.
The only thing that would have worried me had these been a camera lens is a slight tendency to show flare in a small area of the field of view when the optics are pointing close to a bright sun, although with binoculars this is probably an advantage as it gives a little warning that you are straying in that direction.
With these binoculars, Steiner have produced a contender to take on the big boys of the ornithology world at a price point which, although not cheap, is certainly competitive in its class. Add to that a 30-year warranty and accessories supplied in the package along with the excellent optical performance and Steiner can become as well known in the bird world as they already are in the marine one.
Excellent build quality
First class optical performance
Slight tendency to flare near the sun
Eye cups can be a little awkward.
Price, although competitive in class.
Check the latest price of the Steiner Discovery Binocular range here.
Ian Andrews http://www.wildaboutkent.com/