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Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 Review

A small, packable model that offers surprisingly good optics
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $190 List | $139.00 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable
Cons:  Poor low-light performance
Manufacturer:   Vortex
By Max Mutter and Michelle Powell  ⋅  Sep 24, 2019
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69
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#13 of 16
  • Clarity - 25% 8
  • Brightness - 20% 5
  • Ease of Adjustment - 15% 7
  • Construction Quality - 15% 8
  • Comfort - 10% 7
  • Close Focus Range - 7.5% 8
  • Field of View - 7.5% 5

Our Verdict

If both weight and cost are at a premium, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 offers impressive optical quality in a small, cost effective package. This makes it a great choice for both backpackers and beginning birders alike. The one big sacrifice you do make for this inexpensive/lightweight option is in brightness. The combination of small lenses and less than top-notch glass, which allows these binoculars to be so small and cheap, also means that they struggle to gather enough light in darker scenarios. If early dawn or late dusk nature walks are your thing, these probably aren't the optics for you. However, if you're looking for some binoculars that you can toss in a backpack for a day or even multi-day hike, and don't expect too many low-light situations, we doubt you'll find a better pair for the price.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award  
Price $139.00 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$2,659.00 at Amazon$2,400 List$489.00 at Amazon$446.85 at Amazon
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Pros Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortableIncredible clarity, brightness, comfort, and construction qualityExcellent clarity and brightness, great construction quality, quite comfortableVery clear and bright, easy to adjust, comfortable and qualityHigh quality construction, very comfortable to use, great clarity
Cons Poor low-light performanceProhibitively expensiveVery expensiveOn the expensive sideHeavy for backpacking or carrying long distances
Bottom Line A small, packable model that offers surprisingly good opticsThe best all around bins that we tested, but they also carry a high price tagHigh-end bins that are nearly as good as the Swarovskis, but not quiteJust about the best clarity/brightness you can get without a quadruple digit price tagGood optical quality, but not the best in the price range
Rating Categories Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 Swarovski EL 8.5x42 Zeiss Victory HT 10x42 Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 10x42
Clarity (25%)
10
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8
10
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10
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10
10
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9
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8
Brightness (20%)
10
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5
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
8
Ease Of Adjustment (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
10
0
9
Construction Quality (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
Comfort (10%)
10
0
7
10
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10
10
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9
10
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10
10
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10
Close Focus Range (7.5%)
10
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8
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9
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8
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8
10
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7
Field Of View (7.5%)
10
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5
10
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9
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10
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9
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9
Specs Vortex Diamondback... Swarovski EL 8.5x42 Zeiss Victory HT... Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Nikon Monarch 7...
Glass type HD HD HD HD ED
Multi - Coating FMC FMC FMC FMC FMC
Magnification 8 8.5 10 8 10
Field of View ft/yards 332/1000 399/1000 330/1000 409/1000 351/1000
Close Focus 6ft 4.9ft 6.2ft 6.5ft 8.2ft
Eye Relief 18mm 20mm 16mm 18mm 16.4mm
Prism Roof Roof Roof Roof Roof
Waterproof/Fogproof? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Size (length x width) 4.6 x 4.5 in 6.3 x 4.8 in 6.3 x 5 in 5.8 x 5.3 in 5.6 x 5.1 in
Weight 14 oz 29.5 oz 28.4 oz 24.2 oz 26.3 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 impressed in most of our tests, offering great clarity and performance, especially considering the low price and compact size. Just don't expect any miracles if you're using them in low-light situations. Like with pretty much any other 28mm lens on the market, things can start looking dark fast once the sun touches the horizon.

Performance Comparison



Clarity


This is the area where the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 punches above both its price and weight class the most. In good lighting conditions it can achieve near perfect clarity at the center of the image.


In our testing we were able to easily make out small identifying features on warblers sitting 30 feet away, and could even make out the head plumes on a Great Blue Heron from over 200 feet away. There are only a couple minor weak points to the Diamondback HD 8x28's clarity, the first being that it does present some distortion and blurriness around the edges of the image. While this doesn't limit your ability to get a clear view of your subject, it does make the image feel a bit less immersive. It will also bring on a feeling of eye strain more quickly than models that boast edge-to-edge clarity.

Vortex updated the glass on this newer version of the Diamondback 8x28  and it shows.
Vortex updated the glass on this newer version of the Diamondback 8x28, and it shows.

The second downside is the fact that the clarity tends to degrade quickly as the light dims. You can't really expect much more from a 28mm objective lens, but keep this in mind if you often find yourself using binoculars in low-light situations.

Brightness


Compact binoculars with 28mm objective lenses are only going to get you so far when it comes to brightness. While the Diamondback HD 8x28 impresses in bright situations, you quickly see deterioration in image quality as the sun goes down.


On sunny days with little to no clouds, you'll likely not even think about the Diamondback HD 8x28's relative lack of brightness. If it gets particularly overcast, you'll probably notice that the image has become significantly more dull, but will still be able to make out most features on whatever you're looking at. Once the sun starts hitting the horizon, or you hit fully gray skies, most subjects will be reduced to little more than silhouettes.

The smaller objective lenses do make for a dimmer image  but the higher quality glass still lets in more light than many other 28mm models.
The smaller objective lenses do make for a dimmer image, but the higher quality glass still lets in more light than many other 28mm models.

While this lack of brightness is noticeable, the weight savings of the smaller lenses when compared to full-sized binoculars is just as noticable. You'll have to weigh (literally) which is more important to you.

Ease of Adjustment


For the most part these binoculars are quite easy to adjust and get into focus. We found the focus knob to move smoothly but also offer enough resistance that it's easy to stop it right where you want it. The hinge between the barrels acts similarly: easily moving when you want it to but generally staying put when you don't. The eye cups offer three settings and one can easily switch between them.


We have two complaints about the Diamondback HD 8x28's adjustability. The first is the diopter. It is quite difficult to get moving, but once you get over the initial inertia it tends to slide quite quickly, making it somewhat difficult to make small and precise adjustments. As adjusting the diopter is a relatively rare chore, this doesn't feel like too much of a downside. Possibly more significant is the fact that it seems our eyes wanted to be further away from the eyepieces of these binoculars than with other models. For most of our testers this meant that, even when in their longest setting, the eyecups where barely touching their eyebrows. This quickly felt natural and didn't ruin our experience at all, but if you're one that likes to bury your eyes in a binocualr's eye cups, you may want to look elsewhere.

We have some minor complaints about the Diamond HD 8x28's adjustability  but nothing that we'd consider a dealbreaker.
We have some minor complaints about the Diamond HD 8x28's adjustability, but nothing that we'd consider a dealbreaker.

Field of View and Close Focus Range


Sporting a close focus range of 6 feet, you can get pretty much anything in front of you in focus with these bins. A gorgeous butterfly would pretty much have to land on your foot for that close focus range to feel limiting at all.


The field of view of 332 feet at 1000 yards is around average. We never felt like the field of view was noticeably narrow, but it doesn't feel particularly spacious either.


Comfort


In our opinion, the Diamondback HD 8x28 is about as comfortable to hold as a compact pair of binoculars can be. At 14 ounces they are very light, so much so that you'll barely notice them hanging around your neck and are very unlikely to get arm strain when holding them to your face for long periods.

Even toting these bins along on longer hikes we never ran into any real comfort issues.
Even toting these bins along on longer hikes we never ran into any real comfort issues.

The 28mm objective lenses make for some small barrels, so you'll have to choose between a dainty pinch grip, or the classic 'full-hand' grip and deal with your thumbs being mashed together and your fingers being intertwined. Neither style is ideal, as the former feels more spacious but makes it harder to adjust the focus knob and the latter allows for easy focusing but feels quite cramped.


Despite the fact that these binoculars feel a bit too small to be ergonomic in most people's hands, all of our testers were able to find a hand position that started to feel natural after a couple of birding sessions. Also, the only real alternative is using larger barreled binoculars that fit in hand more comfortably, but will inevitably be heavier. In most cases we find the small sacrifices you make in comfort with the Diamondback HD 8x28 are well worth the weight savings.

Value


Most compact binoculars fall at either ends of a spectrum. On one end you have models that opt for low quality materials in order to deliver enticingly low price points, but that deliver very poor optical quality. On the other end you have models geared toward binocular enthusiasts that are willing to pay incredibly high premiums to milk every last bit of optical quality out of a small pair of binos. The Diamondback HD 8x28 hits a near perfect and somewhat rare balance between the two, offering good optical quality while keeping the price in a very reasonable range. For everyone from backpackers to beginning birders, we think the Diamondback HD 8x28 offers a great value per dollar.


Conclusion


Combining lightweight construction, good optics, and a relatively low price, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 is a great option for weight and price conscious backpackers that want to do some wildlife observation on the trail, as well as beginner bird watchers.


Max Mutter and Michelle Powell