Phuketbirdwatching.com

News and Information on Birding Sites Throughout Thailand and the Andaman

Introduction

The most important piece of equipment a birder has in their arsenal is their binoculars. Without binoculars, it’s pretty darn hard to identify anything at a distance. Binoculars come in many shapes, sizes and prices, and owning a quality pair of binoculars can make a big difference in the success of ones birdwatching career.

A common misconception is that the term “quality” also means “expensive”. However, this is not always true, especially when it comes to choosing a pair of binoculars.

Veteran birders and those who spend the majority of their time in the field will usually stick to using top-grade equipment. However, those of us who just do it part-time or as a hobby may not want to cough up $2000-plus for premium-grade glass. There are also those who are new to the world of birding or those who want something for viewing nature while out trekking through the forest. These types of people will probably be happy using what we term as “entry level” optics. But don’t be fooled by the belittling terminology; much of the same technology found in many high-end binoculars is also available in their base models. The term “value for money” has never rung truer than in today’s binocular market.

– A prime example of this can be seen in the Minox BV 8×42 BRW.

Specifications

Size: Full Size Binoculars
Magnification: 8x
Lens Diameter: 42mm
Exit Pupil: 5.2
Twilight Factor: 18.3
Eye Relief: 15mm
Close Focus Distance: 3.9ft
Weight: 27.5ozs (780g)
Length: 5.5in (14cm)
Height: 2.0in (5.1cm)
Width: 5.0in (12.7cm)

Prism Type: BaK 4 Roof Prism Binoculars
Lens Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
Phase Correction Coatings: Yes
Extra Low Dispersion Glass: No

Real field of view: 6.5°
Apparent field of view: 65.0°
Field of View: 389 ft at 1,000 yds 7.4°
Field of View: 129 m at 1,000 m 7.4°

Waterproof: Yes, down to 9.84 ft/ 3.0 m JIS class 7
Fogproof: Yes, nitrogen purged
Operating Temperature: 14° up to 122° F
Operating Temperature: -10° up to +50° C
Tripod Adaptable: Yes

The Minox BV 8×42 BR hails from a family renowned for their optics. The company is best known for its high-quality miniature photographic equipment, ranging from compact 35 mm cameras to diminutive spy cameras which were utilized by numerous intelligence agencies throughout the Cold War.

The Minox Head Office is located in Germany, and only the top-end products from each line are produced in the European Union. Since the Minox BV 8X42 BR is slotted as an entry-level product, it is one of a number of items which Minox has chosen to produce in China. However, the company’s strict quality control and careful monitoring of the production process has ensured that the product is of the same standard expected from its factories within the E.U.

In the Lab

Build, Design and Quality

bin (3)

The Minox BV 8×42 BRW is a full-sized BaK 4 roof prism binocular and classified as a member of Minox’s Sports Optics Family. While it is often viewed as entry or mid-level binocular due to their pricing, don’t let that fool you; the Minox BV 8×42 BR can hold its own against even some of the most well-known names on the market to date.

To begin with, let’s take a look at the exterior of the binoculars. The Minox BV 8×42 BRW is constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, keeping the product lightweight without compromising strength. The body is coated with a tough, rubber armor on the exterior which provides excellent grip, even in the wettest conditions.

The center knob has a rubberized grip and focuses smoothly. After a few years of use the binoculars may need to be serviced to adjust the knob and tighten the screw inside. The procedure is usually a quick and hassle-free ordeal.

The Minox BV 8×42 BRW is fully weather sealed and submersible to up to three meters. The binoculars are filled with nitrogen to reduce corrosion and prevent fogging due to sudden fluctuations in temperature.

Eyecups twist up and offer 15mm of eye relief, essential for those who wear glasses.

The Minox BV 8X42 BRW weighs more than most competitors in its class, coming in at around 780 grams. They are slightly heavier than the Nikon Monarch Series 3 which weigh in at around 710 grams, and the Pentax DCF series which weigh 640 grams.

Before we start complaining about the added weight, let’s be reminded that most top-tier brand binoculars weigh about the same or more than the Minox; the Lecia Trinovids weigh around 810 grams, while the Zeiss Conquest HD series start at 793 grams a piece.

Those with an eye for fashion will be interested to know the body was designed by Volkswagen. – Not that it would make any difference to the “untrained” eye!

Optics

The optics on the Minox BV 8X42 are not lacking. – In fact, they are surprisingly impressive.

The optics are very bright and clear; colors are clean and chromatic aberration (CA) is well controlled. Despite being classified as Sport Optics, the binoculars are free of any form of UV coating, allowing colors to be rendered in their truest form. Color tones are neutral, making it very suitable for viewing birds as well as other wildlife.

CA is present but well controlled in most cases, thanks to a special coating which the lenses received. For the price you pay, these optics are among the best in their class.

The Minox BV 8X43 BR uses an eco-friendly glass which is free of arsenic and lead, much like other name-brand binocular and lens companies use for their products. All glass elements are multi-coated to eliminate reflections and to help reduce flare.

Since this is not a premium-level product, the binoculars are not equipped with Extra-low Dispersion (ED) or High-Definition (HD) glass. To get ED or HD glass you’d need to upgrade to the BL or HG series.

Warranty

The warranty on these binoculars is among the best in its class. Minox offers a 30-year warranty on all their entry and mid-level binoculars, while the high end series are fitted with a limited lifetime warranty. Compare that to warranties from Nikon or Pentax products in the same class and the Minox suddenly looks very, very attractive.

On the downside, some smaller countries in Asia do not have Minox dealerships. This can pose issues for Minox patrons living in those countries. Since the cost of shipping is not included in the warranty, this can prove to be costly in some instances, due to import-export taxes and handling fees.

Asian countries with Minox dealerships include Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, China and Hong Kong.

Bundled Accessories

The Minox BV 8X42 BRW comes bundled with a neoprene strap. It’s a pleasant upgrade from normal nylon or rubber straps which most brands bundle with entry-level binoculars. This stretchy padded material reduces the weight of the product and alleviates the strain on the neck, and almost makes me forget I’m lugging a 0.8-kilo pair of binoculars around. It is comfortable around the neck and breathes with the skin. It is very comfortable to use.

A small nylon pouch (Minox calls it the “ever-ready” case) comes with the package. While it is perfect for storing the binoculars, it lacks a strap, making it less than ideal to carry about. The nylon pouch is padded and well constructed with a higher level of quality than what I’ve seen coming from other brand names.

Front and back lens caps are included in the box.

The box also contains a small Minox-branded lint-free cloth for wiping the lenses, an instruction manual and a warranty card.

In the Field

Handling

The Minox BV 8X42 BRW is a full-size binocular and is a joy to handle in the field.

The size and design of the binoculars allow for excellent handling no matter the size of the palm. The rubberized coating offers excellent grip for those with sweaty hands or under wet conditions. It isn’t soft to the touch, but it is easier to grasp than the plasticized coating found on other brands like the Nikon Monarchs, Bushnell Legend or Pentax CS series. I still consider the grip on the Lecia Trinovids to be among the best on the market to date.

The focusing knob is well-damped and focuses smoothly and quickly. The diopter ring on the right eyepiece could use a little attention though as it seems to be quite tight and difficult to adjust. I did read somewhere that it was purposefully made this way to eliminate the risk of it being moved accidentally due to bumps or nudges.

Eye relief is generous and should be enough to please all who decide to use these binocs.

The binoculars are well balanced and easy to use in the field. The weight of the binoculars can be bothersome for those who are not used to carrying high-end glass and can take some time getting used to if you are graduating from featherweight options like the Nikon Prostaff series binoculars. The addition of the neoprene strap was a fantastic decision by Minox as it really makes a difference in the field. The strap helps to alleviate the strain on the neck and distributes the weight nicely. I am very happy with the quality and design of the strap.

Strength and Durability

– Worried about durability issues? These binoculars are built tough.

Let’s begin on the issue of resistance to the elements. Having a good pair of waterproof binoculars is essential when birding in Southeast Asia where the monsoon season often lasts six to eight months out of a year. Showers tend to come swift and unannounced and will often dissipate as quickly as they began.

While these binoculars are classified as being waterproof down to three meters, the company failed to specify their JIS class level. From personal experience, I would put it at a 7 or 8. Here’s why:

– In 2010 my daughter left the binoculars in a bucket outside after a trip to the beach. It rained hard that night and by the next morning they had been soaking for over 8 hours.

– In 2011 while on a trip to the Similan Islands my binocular strap broke and the binoculars plummeted down a 20-foot ravine over rocks and boulders where it sank into four feet of seawater.

On both occasions, I fished them out, dried them and immediately continued to use them without any issues.

Next is the issue of build quality. Minox states that these binoculars are constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum. While this may sound good, one must be reminded that it is still aluminum nonetheless. Since I first received this pair of binoculars, I experienced a number of incidents which potentially could have sent them to permanent retirement in the wastebin such as:

– Fell off the roof of a vehicle moving at over 40 KMPH onto a concrete road,

– Forcefully flung into a rocky embankment after losing my footing on a slippery trail,

– Thrown it down a flight of steps after slipping on a wet day,

– Punched a Rottweiler in the nose with it.

Apart from the scratches on the body and a slight dent on the right eyecup, they are still about the same as the day I pulled them new from the box. -All that to say, I think they’ve passed the QC test.

Another aspect I am quite pleased with is the durability of the coatings on the glass. I’ve noticed other brands where the outer coating wore off after only a dozen or so cleaning sessions using a damp lenscloth. I usually try to be gentle when cleaning the optics on my bins but when I’m experiencing wet or damp conditions I often find myself with nothing other than my shirt sleeve to wipe my soaked binoculars. After a few years and hundreds of cleanings, some of the original coating has worn away but not to the point where flare starts to be an issue – as I experienced with my former love, the Pentax CS 10X42. It seems to me the coating on these binoculars is made to withstand hundreds of cleaning.

For Birdwatching

In everyday birding situations, the binoculars offer a clear, bright image. Colors are rendered beautifully and offer a clear range of vision, even in twilight. Minox did an excellent job with the glass selection.

Another aspect I love about these binoculars is how bright they are. I compared them with a pair of Nikon Monarch 5 8X42 and found them to be on par if not better in terms of brightness.

The only issue I’ve faced is a disturbing amount of chromatic aberration (CA) when used in very bright sunlight. I’ve only found this issue to occur in cases when the subject is at a distance and viewed under harsh, direct sunlight, such as on mudflats, saltpans, open plains or riversides. In some cases the CA affected the image, causing colors to be rendered incorrectly. However, CA is hardly noticeable under most circumstances.

The binoculars also don’t work very well in low light situations, and I wouldn’t recommend them for owling with less than ample lighting as it becomes very difficult to focus on the subject correctly. I tried spotting a Barred Eagle Owl in a tree less than 50 yards away and even with 700 lumens of light directed at it, I simply could not focus on the bird.

In Conclusion

While they will never become as popular as the famed Nikon Monarch or Bushnell Trophy series, the Minox BV series are binoculars which deserve recognition from birders.

The Minox BV 8×42 BRW is a terrific option for novice birders and naturalists who are looking for dependable, sturdy and bright optics at an affordable price. They exceed their value in money and are strong, durable and reliable and come with an impressive 30-year warranty.

While the binoculars do not include ED glass or offer HD optics, they are still quite impressive. Personally speaking, I would take over the Nikon Monarch 3 series. I consider them to be among the best engineered binoculars offering the highest quality of craftsmanship and optics within their class.

Downsides include their lack of ED or HD glass and minor issues with CA when used in direct sunlight.

Hopefully with time other birdwatchers will come to realize the quality and reliability this brand has to offer and will turn to Minox to supply their optical needs.

Links

The Schmidt Marketing Asia Company is the main distributor for Minox, with dealerships in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. However, clients in Thailand will find it easier to purchase their binoculars from the Fotofile Group as they have dealerships in a number of locations in Bangkok and have a reputation for taking good care of their customers.

Minox Homepage: An overview of the Minox BV 8×42 BR
Minox Review: A review of the binoculars on Best Binoculars website
Birdforum: Taking on the BV 8×42 BR

Categories: Gear Reviews

2 Responses so far.

  1. Paul Hunter says:

    Hello.
    I am intending to buy a pair of minox 10 42 or 44 but it is difficult to find out if they are actually made in Germany. Do you have any information regarding.
    Many thanks,
    Paul Hunter.

  2. Ike says:

    Hi Paul,
    This pair which I reviewed are made in China. It does not say it on the actual binocular but research on the web shows it is produced there.Truth be told, its hard to find anything NOT made there nowadays.
    The top end flagship models are produced in Germany or Slovakia if I can remember correctly.
    If you have the opportunity I would recommend you look into getting a pair with HD glass – it really makes a big difference.

Leave a Reply


  • Noteworthy

    Special Thanks to Peter Ericsson, Ian Dugdale, Weine Drotz and Hermann Drotz for contributing their photos to this website. All photos displayed in this website are used with permission from the owner.
  • Contact

    Phone: (66)081-535-5014 Email: phuketbirder@gmail.com