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Nikon 10x42 HG L DCF

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10x42 HG L  DCF

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High-grade HG L series waterproof binoculars with advanced lens and prism construction including phase-correction-coated roof prisms with high-reflection silver coating to provide brighter images and a high-eyepoint design provides a clear field of view, even for eyeglass wearers
hazzle  7
06/04/2011 - 9:49 am

Nikon binoculars HG L DCF 10x42

As will become obvious, I am a very occasional user of binoculars, for simple leisure purposes only, with little or no specialised knowledge and without even very much experience. My only decent reference points are my 40-year-old pair of Russian 8x30 bins (with a Cyrillic-script imprint translating apparently as BPC4 8x30), and my fairly new Opticron DBA Oasis monocular 10x42. I also have a huge pair of unbranded zooms, which even I can see are abominable, as their low price might have indicated had I not been young and ignorant when I bought them, and a pair of compact Sunagor zooms, which are not all that much better.

I bought the Nikon HG L DCF 10x42 binoculars in early March 2011). I largely omit here technical details which can be found online, for example at thewebsite.

At least three U.K. online dealers were offering the bins at prices between £810 and £876 delivered. However, two of these turned out to have no stock, quoting between 2 and 6 weeks for delivery. One of them said its new stock would be at a new price of nearly £1,200, the second did not confirm its attractive price.(Most other online dealers were already asking at leats £1,200.)

The first dealer's new price represented a 42.7% increase.

You might wonder whether this staggering increase is opportunistically related to the albinos.com review, which places the Nikon as third-best of all 10x42 bins, below the Zeiss Victory T* FL and the Swarovski SLC New, but above the Swarovski EL, the Leicas Ultravid BR, the Leica Trinovid BN, and the Zeiss Conquest T*.

At the time of review, five of these six competing lenses were more expensive (most of them much, much more) than the Nikon.

If that review does explain the price-hike (and it's not obvious what other explanation there might be), then there's a clear lesson here for consumers: if you see a very favourably-reviewed bin offered at an exceptionally attractive price, move very fast indeed, before the offering sells out or gets whisked away

Luckily for me, the third online dealer (not exclusively an optical equipment dealer…) lived up to its advert and delivered for £876 within two working days, thus saving me £300+.

The first thing I noticed on unpacking the beautifully-boxed bins was that there were two explanatory documents. One was the usual booklet (user's guide). The other ‘Product Guide', of the same size and general appearance, turned out to be a folded large sheet containing much, but not all, of the guidance in the booklet, the only major omission being the use of the diopter ring in focussing.

As a spectacle wearer, I tried first to use the bins with the eyepieces twisted in, as instructed, and almost gave up the attempt before realising that (as had been the case with my Opticron monocular) I had to find one precise way of placing the bins over my specs to avoid having dark ‘occlusions' partly obscuring my view. After, of course, properly adjusting the diopter ring and the inter-pupillary distance, I had to rest the upper edge of the eyepieces against, or marginally below my eyebrows, with the lower edges of the eyepieces held out well clear of my cheekbones. This will no doubt be obvious to experienced binocular-users, but might be of use to others more like myself. I then obtained a proper view. Moreover, when I then pushed my specs up onto my brow and twisted the eyepieces out to the position for non-wearers, the same ‘on-the-eyebrows', raised position was necessary. I wondered why no users' instructions I've ever seen say anything about this matter of how and where precisely to hold the bins.

With these preliminaries completed, using the binoculars proved to be a pleasure. They are not, of course, what you would really call lightweight, despite the L in their designation, and they are a wee bit larger than they appear on the cleverly-angled sales photo, but neither the weight nor the size is at all problematic for bins of this quality. Potential buyers need to compare closely the published dimensions and weight with those of other bins under consideration.

The objective measurements given in the review mentioned above prove the very high optical quality of these bins. But of course, a subjective opinion can be something else entirely. Never having looked through any of the competing bins, I can compare the Nikons only to my Opticron DBA Oasis 10x42 monocular and my old Russian 8x30s.

I had always been impressed by the optical quality of both these, particularly the Opticron. However, talk of a ‘sweet spot', which is appropriate for the Russian ones, is not so for the Nikon bins, which are ‘sweet' not just in a ‘spot', but to the very edges of the field. My initial experience is that, in good daylight, they are very clearly superior in clarity, resolution, light transmission, contrast, etc. to the (albeit far less expensive) Opticron. Certainly I cannot think of any way in which they fall short of excellence for optical quality.

Focussing is velvet-smooth and speedy, and the bins have a reassuring quality feel in your hands.

I have some reservations about ancillary details. The caps on the eyepieces (held together in one piece by a flexible connecting band) and those on the objective lenses, are all of them a very loose fit. A slight shake is enough to remove the former, whilst the latter tend to stay behind in the case when I take the bins out. The only way I have found to keep all four caps on tight is to close up the two barrels so that the objective-lens caps press against each other, and the band between the eyepiece-caps is stretched fairly tightly — but then the resulting slightly-humped shape of the bins does not fit comfortably in the case between its upper and lower walls. I'm still trying to figure out the thinking, if any, behind these loose caps.

The broad neck-strap was the usual dismaying Nikon one with the brand name printed on it in huge, bright lettering, making of its user an unpaid walking advertisement, and handing out tempting information to potential thieves, even quite a distance away. (It cannot be assumed that other countries have populations as reliably honest as I have seen the Japanese people to be.) My immediate move was to look on the 'net for a less loud strap of at least equal quality.

The case is a soft-ish one of very good quality for storage and access, but offering pretty limited protection against impact. It has no strap eyelets, the binocular strap itself being used to hang the cased bins.

At £876 these bins are a snip. At the new price, they compete with quite a few £1000+ bins.

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