Thursday, September 26, 2013

Binocoluar Review: Sierra by Tasco 8x25 Compact Roof Prism (TS825D)

Compact binoculars are a dime a dozen, or more literally, $20 by hundreds. Just about any sporting goods, drug store, big box.. you name it... seem to carry the ubiquitous 10x25 compact folding binoculars. For most people, the lower quality of the optics isn't pertinent, considering how infrequent the average person uses binoculars, but the price and convenience of small size make up for it.

If you can look past the numbers, it helps to go to the 8x25 size. The magnification is slightly less, but the objective diameter is the same at 25mm. This makes for a brighter and clearer image, and with binoculars, brighter beats more magnification all of the time. The Sierra by Tasco 8x25fits this bill, and is pretty much a proper and sorted-out version of the 10825 cheapy special.

These are a bit more expensive than your typical throw-away 10x25 compacts, but they are also less expensive than going with a lower end big-name model by the likes of Nikon Travelite et al. This is a sturdy rubber-coated solid-frame binocular that is advertised as waterproof, but so far, in three years of usage, I haven't had a chance to push the limit on that. At 318g, there's a bit of heft to it, but folded up and tucked into it's ouch, its the sort of thing that can sit forgotten in a glovebox or at the bottom of a backpack until needed. Unfortunately, there is no tripod mount, so they are strictly hand-held use only. The focus dial works smoothly and in all of the time that I've had mine, the resistance to turning has remained the same.

The eye relief is rated at 15mm. In practice, this means that if you wear glasses, the rubber eyepiece cups will be sitting right on your lenses, but otherwise viewing is more or less comfortable. The optics are coated, and give reasonable resistance to optical aberrations. When viewing, the corners aren't as good as the center as you would expect, but it's not that noticeable. For practical purposes, even at 8x magnification the largest detriment to image quality is the movement from hand holding, so outright image quality isn't a priority at this price point. (Just as an aside, the most amazing binoculars I have ever used were the Kowa 10x44's.... but we're talking about the difference between a $25 binocular and a $1500 professional piece of kit.) However, the combination of brightness and reasonable image sharpness make these binoculars usable even at night under street lights.

Prices for the Tasco binocular vary wildly across the internet, from $17 to as high as $77 list (in USD).  Tasco's corporate website has them listed at $32.95. I bought mine three years ago for $25 CDN, on sale from a local pharmacy chain, so it pays to shop around. Anything less than that price (USD or CDN) will be a good bargain indeed.

Good For:
  • Sporting events
  • Rock concerts
  • Occasional outdoor activities and camping
  • Giving to the kids to play with

Less Good At:
  • Astronomy; you'll want something brighter like a 7x35 or a 10x50
  • Serious bird watching/hunting

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