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 hikers and beginning birders alike. The one big sacrifice you make for this inexpensive/lightweight option is brightness. The small lenses and average glass that make these so portable and affordable also 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.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on January 11, 2022 with additional product comparison info.
Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 Review
Cons: Poor low-light performance
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|Pros||Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable||Very clear and bright, easy to adjust, comfortable, high-quality construction||High-quality construction, very comfortable to use, great clarity||Excellent brightness, great clarity, comfortable||Inexpensive, good clarity and brightness|
|Cons||Poor low-light performance||A bit heavy for the backcountry||Heavy for backpacking or carrying long distances||Slightly heavy for backpacking||Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance|
|Bottom Line||An inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics||This model is our first choice and offers just about the best clarity and brightness you can get from a binocular without a quadruple-digit price tag||Good optical quality, but not the best in the price range||An excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightness||The most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatching|
|Rating Categories||Vortex Diamondback...||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...|
|Ease of Adjustment (15%)|
|Construction Quality (15%)|
|Close Focus Range (7.5%)|
|Field of View (7.5%)|
|Specs||Vortex Diamondback...||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...|
|Multi - Coating||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC|
|Field of View (at 1000 yards)||332 ft||409 ft||362 ft||393 ft||388 ft|
|Close Focus||6.0 ft||6.5 ft||8.2 ft||5.0 ft||6.5 ft|
|Eye Relief||18 mm||18 mm||16.5 mm||17 mm||17.5 mm|
|Size (Length x Width)||4.6 x 4.5 in||5.8 x 5.3 in||5.6 x 5.1 in||5.7 x 5.1 in||5.3 x 4.9 in|
|Weight||14.0 oz||24.2 oz||24 oz||21.8 oz||22.2 oz|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28 impressed in most of our binocular test metrics, 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 could 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 of minor weak points to the Diamondback HD 8x28's clarity, the first being that it presents 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 makes the image feel 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 may notice that the image has become significantly duller, but you'll likely still be able to make out most features on whatever you're viewing. 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 equally noticeable. 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 while also offering 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 eyecups offer three settings that are easy to switch between.
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 challenging to make small and precise adjustments. Adjusting the diopter is a rare chore, so this isn't a dealbreaker. 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 were barely touching their eyebrows. This quickly felt natural and didn't ruin our experience at all, but if you like to bury your eyes in a binocular's eyecups, you may want to look elsewhere.
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 — you'll barely notice them hanging around your neck, and you're 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, which is a tradeoff because they 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.
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.
Should You Buy the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x28?
Most compact binoculars fall at either end of a spectrum. On one end are the models that opt for low-quality materials to deliver enticingly low price points—but also deliver inferior optical quality. On the other end, you have models geared toward binocular enthusiasts that are willing to pay 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.
What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?
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 and beginner birders. If you've got a bigger binocular budget, the Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 will offer a step up in optics and even more weight savings — they're only 9.4 ounces. If you don't necessarily need a super lightweight model but are just looking to save a few bucks, check out the Celestron Nature DX 8x42. For increased brightness and just a bit more cash, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 could be the ticket.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell
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