The XPs are very well spec'd for their £250 price tag, with a carbon composite body (bringing the weight to 660 g), nitrogen filled (and so water/dust proof) and BAK-4 prisms (which have a higher density glass than the cheaper BAK-7 prisms, producing a sharper image). There is no ED (Extra low Dispersion) glass, but in addition to the usual phase-correction coatings (which increases resolution, colour rendition and contrast) the prisms do also have a dielectric coating (not found on the ED models) which increases light reflectivity and improves sharpness and clarity, along with fully multi-coated lenses (for a glossary of optical terms click here).
Eden Quality tell me that an ED model with a dielectric coating is in the pipeline, and it will be very interesting to see how these compare. The XPs come with a 25 year warranty and are supplied with a case with a useful front pocket (although the velcro fastener doesn't close with both the bins and strap inside), a decent neoprene strap (which I would have preferred to be able to shorten a little more), soft rubber rain guard, attachable objective caps, cleaning cloth and manual.
Initial impressions of the XPs were of a solidly built piece of kit (although the front hinge nut was loose on delivery and needed tightening) with a thin rubber armour protecting the body (including small indentations on the underside of each barrel for grip) and fairly sturdy eye cups. The dioptre adjustment is located under the right ocular and is fairly stiff to turn which prevents the setting being changed accidentally. After a few months of use the bins still looked good as new.
I find field reviews of binoculars quite limited unless direct comparisons are made between similarly priced/spec'd models from difference companies. My bins of choice are Swarovski EL 10x32s and so any comparison with these would be unfair, but my backup bins are Opticron Verano BGA PC 8x32s, a few years old now, but a similar specification and at the time a similar price. So, although they are a smaller objective some comparisons are worth mentioning.
I was able to test the XPs both in the UK and in Brazil's tropical Atlantic Forest - one of the most bird-rich biomes on the planet. I found them light and very comfortable to hold and at just 145 mm long, they are nice and compact and I often forgot I was using 42s instead of 32s. The eye cups twist out anti-clockwise and have three settings allowing good eye relief. For me, one click out gave me the optimal image but I found they moved position easily and I had to regularly readjust them (although no more so than the eye cups my Veranos). The focusing is particularly nice - very smooth and lightning fast, with just over one turn to focus from the closest distance to infinity. The minimum distance I could focus to was 1.39 m - not as close as the 1.2 m Eden Quality claim, but still excellent for their class, and more than close enough to study insects.
It took me a while to find the correct dioptre setting for my eyes but once done I found the image very sharp across the central 80% of the field of view, but noticeably softer in the outer 20% where a slight curvature of field is also detectable. The colours produced are natural although warmer than I am used to with my Swarovski ELs (although very similar to the Veranos).
The image is nice and bright, even when watching a passage Ring Ouzel at Staines Moor one misty April morning. In Brazil I had plenty of opportunities to test the XPs in low light conditions, such as watching skulking antwrens and foliage-gleaners in the rainforest interior and Giant Snipe and Black-banded Owl at night. Each time the XPs delivered a great image. The wide field of field (129 m at 1,000 m) makes locating birds easy, especially in flight, and despite the lack of ED glass chromatic aberration is very minimal (again similar to the Veranos) and you really do have to look very closely to see it.
Overall I found the XPs to be robust, comfortable and a joy to use. I was actually very tempted to keep them as my backup bins, replacing the Veranos, but from the beginning I had decided that after the test I would donate them to a ranger at REGUA - an NGO in the Atlantic Forest of south-east Brazil where I work as a volunteer.
REGUA now employs 10 rangers, all from local villages, and mostly ex-hunters. The rangers patrol the Reserve to deter hunting and prevent the extraction of valuable plants such as heart of palm, bromeliads and orchids, both of which are illegal. REGUA estimates that hunting on the Reserve has been reduced by 98%, and this has allowed the re-introduction of two locally extinct bird species - the Red-billed Curassow Crax blumenbachii and Black-fronted Piping-Guan Aburria jacutinga.
Spending so much time in the forest the rangers make numerous wildlife sightings, but good quality binoculars are a true luxury, so at the end of my trip last month I gave them to REGUA's head ranger Luiz Rogick. Luiz has been working for REGUA for six months, after previously working for the Três Picos State Park for several years. He is truly passionate about the Atlantic Forest and his position at REGUA, and as well as managing the rangers he is involved in REGUA's Education Programme. Luiz will put the XPs through their paces in this harsh environment, but I have no doubt they can handle it.
|REGUA Head Ranger, Luiz Rogick, showing off his new Eden Quality binoculars.|
Eden Quality binoculars are available in the UK only online through EdenWebshops. For specifications and prices please visit their website.
In September I returned to REGUA and Luiz informed me of a problem with the binoculars. On inspection, I found the bonding attaching the rubber eye cups to the the metal section that allow the eye cups to be raised and lowered had disintegrated. Probably as a result of the high humidity in the Atlantic Forest. It was disappointing to find the build quality to be not as good as I originally thought, but in some ways it's more important to see how the manufacturer deals with the problem. On return to the UK I contacted KATO Group and very quickly they requested I send the binoculars to them for repair. I've just received the binoculars from Brazil so I'll update this post once I know the final outcome.
|The bonding on the rubber eye cups disintegrated after just two months use|
in the humid Neotropics. (Photo by Rachel Walls)
Postscript: I'm please to report that Eden Quality were efficient at repairing the binoculars (at no charge) and they have now been returned to Luiz at REGUA.