The Vortex Diamondback 8x42 Offers great clarity and good brightness for a sub $300 pair of binoculars. However, the similarly priced Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 offers just as much clarity and more brightness, making these bins a better choice for most people shopping with a $300 budget. In fact, the only reason to get the Vortex Diamondback over the Monarch 5 is the shorter close focus range and wider field of view. While these things may make a difference if you're going insect watching or scouting distant landscapes, most people won't notice limitations in close focus range in day to day use. Therefore, we would recommend the Monarch 5 over the Vortex Diamondback for the vast majority of people.
Vortex Diamondback 8x42 Review
Cons: Stiff middle hinge, slightly on the heavy side for an 8x42
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vortex Diamondback 8x42 is a great pair of bins, but they are slightly outperformed by other models in the same price range. This makes them a great buy if you can find them on sale, but probably not the best choice if you're buying them at list price.
The Vortex Diamondback 8x42 performed quite well in our testing, moving towards the top of our leaderboard. However, it wasn't able to beat out all of the models in its price range, so it missed out on an award.
For all intents and purposes the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 is clear enough. The glass is of a high enough quality that in most conditions it feels like you're looking at a high definition image. You can notice some slight blurring around the edges, which makes the image noticeably less vibrant and engrossing than what the absolute top tier models can produce, but it is still crystal clear where it really counts. In our testing we had no trouble picking out the minute markings of our model birds with these bins. This performance earned the Diamondback 8x42 a score of 8 out of 10.
When compared to other models in this price range the Diamondback 8x42's clarity is even with that of the Nikon Monarch 5, and has significantly less edge blurring than the Athlon Midas 8x42.
We would consider the Diamondback 8x42 almost bright enough for any situation. Most people will find these bins plenty bright enough for 95% of situations. the one time you might be less than pleased would be very early morning or very late afternoon on a particularly overcast day. On those days the birds (or whatever you're looking at) may lose some detail and start looking more like silhouettes. This warranted a score of 7 out of 10 in our brightness testing.
This is one significant area where the Diamondback 8x42 falls short of its main competition, the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42. The Monarch 5 has that extra critical boost of brightness that provides decent looking images, even on the dreariest of days.
Ease of Adustment
The Diamondback 8x42 is easy to adjust where it counts, but does have some small difficulties, earning it a score of 7 out of 10. The focus knob has a smooth action that allows for easy and precise adjustment. The eyecups twist out and have three hard stops that accommodate most preferences (the competing Monarch 5 has four stops, which is slightly nicer). The diopter knob moves easily when being adjusted, but is stiff enough that it would be very hard to accidentally throw it out of wack. The only thing that is slightly hard to adjust is the main hinge, which dictates how far apart the eyepieces are. this hinge is a bit stiff, which is actually nice if the same person will be using the bins over and over, but it can be a bit of a drag if you're passing the bins around.
Vortex is known for making quality bins at relatively low prices, and the Diamondback 8x42 is a prime example of this. From the rugged rubber to the smooth moving parts to the ED glass, everything about the bins feels high quality. The only bins we've come across with higher quality materials cost hundreds of dollars more. All this earned the Diamondback 8x42 a construction quality score of 8 out of 10. When compared to the main competition we would call the Diamondback 8x42's construction quality even with that of the Nikon Monarch 5 and noticeably better than the Athlon Midas.
We found the Diamondback 8x42 to generally feel comfortable in hand, earning them a score of 8 out of 10. The rubber on the barrels is grippy but not sticky. There are to thumb indents on the bottom side of the barrel, lending a more ergonomic feel. We do wish that the thumb indents were a bit deeper, but they still allow for a comfortable hand position for all but those with very large hands. Overall the Nikon Monarch 5 feels slightly more ergonomic, but we certainly wouldn't count that as a point again the Diamondback 8x42.
Close Focus Range
The Diamondback 8x42 boasts a top notch close focus range of just 4.5 feet. That means most people will be able to focus on a lovely butterfly that decides to land on their shoes. This is also a closer range than pretty much all of the competition.
Field of View
The Diamondback 8x42 can also brag about its 420 foot field of view at 1000 yards. Again that is greater than the vast majority of the competition.
Listing for $269, the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 certainly packs a lot of optical quality into a relatively affordable package. If you decide to go with these bins, it will be money well spent. However, if you can afford just another $10 the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 has slightly better low light performance, and thus a better overall value for those shopping in the $300 range.
We love the Vortex Diamondback 8x42, but if you're shopping on a $300 budget we would give the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 a slight edge over these binoculars. Both models are very similar, but the Nikon has better low light performance, giving it a slight leg up.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata