Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 Review
Cons: Poor low-light performance
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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