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Hands-on Gear Review
Vortex Diamondback 8x28 Review
Cons: Don't work well in low light conditions
With the compact Vortex Diamondback 8x28, small size doesn't mean small performance! Like its namesake, the Diamondback rattlesnake, this pocket roof prism binocular packs a lot of wallop into a slender (an inexpensive!) package. This binocular is argon filled with fully multi-coated lenses and a phase correction coating. Overall we feel that the performance by this under $200 pair of binoculars is excellent, earning it our Best Buy Award.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Binoculars of 2017 for Birding and Hiking
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Many buyers want to know what product gives them the most performance for their money. When it comes to binoculars, we think the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 is the answer. This is a compact binocular with excellent clarity, comfort, and construction quality. We give it our Best Buy Award, recommending it for those on a budget but who still want a top performing binocular.
The clarity of the optics for the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 is really good, in part due to the phase corrected coatings. In our clarity test on the ISO 12233 chart, zone 9 was clear in the center but we could see defocusing around the edges. Chromatic aberrations were apparent with purple fringing noticeable in white or bright backgrounds. No distortion was noticeable in any horizontal or vertical lines. Again, in this category the Diamondback scores far above the other budget models in our selection.
The Vortex Diamondback 8x28 is not made for low light conditions and scored lower in this category than our other award winners. However, compared to the Eagle Optics Shrike 10x42, the other binoculars in a similar price range, the Vortex Diamondback scored way better. We still think these are best used in bright natural lighting. The 28mm objective lens limits the amount of light that enters the system. The fully multi-coated lenses do help with keeping what light enters the system from scattering.
To learn more about different lens coatings and factors that affect brightness, be sure to reference our Buying Advice Article which also includes a complete glossary of terms to bring you up to speed on binocular terminology.
Ease of Adjustment
The Vortex Diamondback 8x28 started off with stiff adjustment mechanisms, like several of the binoculars that we reviewed. The hinge to adjust the interpupillary distance, the focus knob, and diopter all felt stiff before they broke-in. At first we thought the diopter had a locking mechanism, it was so difficult to move. After some use everything loosened up and was easier to adjust. The diopter has no locking mechanism after all. All of the adjustment mechanisms are well placed and easy to use after the break-in period.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The Vortex Diamondback 8x28 can focus in on objects that are 13.1 feet away, which puts it towards the bottom of the list for close focus range. For comparison, the Swarovski and Zeiss models can focus on objects just 4.9 feet away. The field of view of the Vortex Diamondback is 360 feet at 1000 yards, which puts it in the middle of the list. It scores the same as the Eagle Shrike in this respect.
As with most compact binoculars, some people find them difficult or awkward to hold. However, the rubberized coating on the barrels makes the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 easy to hold onto. The eyecups are made of a soft rubber that is comfortable but not tapered like on i's cousin, the Editors' Choice winning Vortex Viper HD 8x42. There is excellent eye relief so you don't feel like you need to strain to stare at objects.
The build of the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 feels solid and looks good. No alignment issue could be seen. The outside of the binoculars has a rubber coating. We did have an issue with the objective lens cap coming off. Usually this occurred as you were pulling them out of the carry case, but this is minor.
The Vortex Diamondback 8x28 is best used in bright conditions where size and weight are important. Since these are compact and lightweight you can comfortably bring these on backpacking or sea kayaking trips. The Vortex Diamondback is waterproof and fogproof which makes them great for the various weather conditions you will find in the backcountry.
At under $200, the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 is an outstanding value. At just about any price range under $500, quality compromises have to be made in order to keep the cost down. Vortex steps up to the challenge and produces a good product for the price. Vortex does a good job of balancing those compromises out. Notably, when compared to the Eagle Optics Shrike 10x42, which costs only $30 less, the Vortex Diamondback blows it away in clarity and brightness, proving its mettle as a top tier product. We give this pair our Best Buy award for its excellent balance of quality, performance, and price. Budget shoppers (or any shoppers really!) will not be disappointed. You also get the Vortex VIP (Very Important Promise) warranty along with your purchase. Vortex says that: it doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it, we will repair or replace at no charge to you. If we cannot repair your product, we will replace it with a product in perfect working order of equal or better physical condition. The addition of this excellent warranty further increases the value of this purchase.
Though the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 scored in the second half of our test group, it is not a bad pair of binoculars. They will work just fine for most people who want a pair of compact binoculars and don't want to spend a lot. They also proved to have much better brightness and clarity than other low cost binoculars. That's why the Vortex Diamondback earns our Best Buy Award.
When compared to our Editors' Choice winner, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42, the Viper has noticeably better brightness and clarity as a result of higher quality glass, smoother adjustment mechanisms, and a higher quality construction but a shorter field of view than the Diamondback. That higher quality pair also costs around $500 more than the Diamondback, so it is a much larger investment. We find the Diamondback to be completely adequate for most people as an every day pair.
Other Versions and Accessories
If you want a larger pair of binoculars, the Vortex Diamondback line comes in multiple ranges from this 8x28 to 12x50 and everything in between.
Vortex Razor HD 8x42
Vortex Viper HD
— Michael Payne
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