Whether you're an experienced bird watcher looking to maximize optical performance per dollar or are seeking your first pair of binoculars and want something high-quality that won't break the bank, we think the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 is a fantastic choice. Vortex really knocked it out of the park with their relatively low-cost yet crystal clear HD glass, and these binoculars are potentially the most attractive model to sport that game-changing glass. Combine that optical quality with the rugged yet comfortable-in-hand construction that Vortex is known for, and you have a pair of binoculars that is almost sure to please. These binoculars get our whole-hearted recommendation for almost anyone.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on January 11, 2022 with further recommendations and comparisons.
Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 Review
Cons: Slightly heavy for backpacking
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Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42
$239.00 at Amazon
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|Pros||Excellent brightness, great clarity, comfortable||Good clarity and brightness, smooth focus knob||Good clarity, easy to focus||Inexpensive, good clarity and brightness||Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable|
|Cons||Slightly heavy for backpacking||Mediocre close focus range, mediocre field of view||Dimmer than competing models||Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance||Poor low-light performance|
|Bottom Line||An excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightness||These perform well for the price, offering a smooth focus knob and decent brightness and clarity||A good pair of binoculars, but is easily outdone by other models in the same price range||The most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatching||An inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics|
|Rating Categories||Vortex Diamondback...||Nikon Monarch 5 8x42||Athlon Midas G2 8x4...||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Ease of Adjustment (15%)|
|Construction Quality (15%)|
|Close Focus Range (7.5%)|
|Field of View (7.5%)|
|Specs||Vortex Diamondback...||Nikon Monarch 5 8x42||Athlon Midas G2 8x4...||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Multi - Coating||FMC||FMC||XPL||FMC||FMC|
|Field of View (at 1000 yards)||393 ft||335 ft||426 ft||388 ft||332 ft|
|Close Focus||5.0 ft||8.2 ft||6.5 ft||6.5 ft||6.0 ft|
|Eye Relief||17 mm||19.5 mm||17.2 mm||17.5 mm||18 mm|
|Size (Length x Width)||5.7 x 5.1 in||5.7 x 5.1 in||5.7 x 5.2 in||5.3 x 4.9 in||4.6 x 4.5 in|
|Weight||21.8 oz||22.2 oz||23.3 oz||22.2 oz||14.0 oz|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 offers a near-perfect balance of optical performance and price, providing an experience that feels high-end yet falls squarely into the middle of the price range.
Outside of the uber-expensive, multi-thousand dollar binoculars we tested, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 provided one of the clearest images we experienced throughout our testing.
In all of our tests, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 consistently provided crystal clear images. Even in less than optimal lighting scenarios, we easily picked out small distinguishing features of finches and chickadees at upwards of 30 feet. Perhaps most importantly, that clarity stayed consistent from the center and nearly all the way out to the edges of the image. This produced a very immersive viewing experience that nearly conjured a David Attenborough voice-over every time we found a new critter to look at.
It's hard to come up with any downsides regarding the clarity of the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42. If we were to really split hairs, we'd say that the very extreme edges of the image lose a bit of clarity, but this never negatively impacted our viewing experience. Additionally, when looking towards the sun (and "towards" is the operative word here, we feel obligated to state the obvious that one should never look directly into the sun, especially when using binoculars), the lens produced red glares on the edges of the image slightly more readily than some others. Here again, however, we never felt like that glare significantly impacted our experience using these bins.
This is where the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 truly shines (pun intended). These binoculars provided some of the most impressive brightness we've seen in this price range.
The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 were essentially the low-light champions of our testing. When using them in the dawn and dusk hours, only the much more expensive pairs we tested provided brighter images. Even with the sun barely peeking over the horizon, we were able to make out the different subtle blue tones on a Steller's jay.
Perhaps more noticeable is the Vortex Diamondback's relative performance in medium light, such as midday in a shaded forest. When comparing these bins to the main competitors in their price class, it felt like the images had the contrast cranked up a few notches in these situations. We were able to notice much more detail at these times thanks to the brighter image. Especially for bird watchers, this translates into a far more enjoyable experience.
Ease of Adjustment
Everything about these binoculars feels easy to adjust. The focus knob moves freely yet has just enough resistance to easily stop it at the desired point. The diopter knob is slightly stiffer but still relatively easy to adjust when needed, and that extra stiffness makes it less likely you'll accidentally throw the diopter out of whack during normal use. Sure, some other models have slightly more creative diopter designs that are a bit more user-friendly, but overall these bins are just fine.
The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 are some of the most comfortable binoculars we've used.
One thing that can make a pair of bins so much more comfortable in hand are thumb indents. These little grooves in the bottom of the barrels can be the difference between an awkward beer-can-like grip and a comfortable, relaxed pinch. Perhaps there is some cost-prohibitive engineering hurdle to making these indents that we're unaware of because they seem to only be present in the most expensive binoculars on the market. The Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 is a refreshing exception to this rule, as the bins sport ergonomic thumb grooves that make them very comfy to hold. That is complemented with a Goldilocks, not-too-sticky, not-too-slippery rubber coating that allows you to easily change hand position while focusing, yet provides a secure grip when needed.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
Offering a field of view of 393 feet at 1000 yards, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 is a bit better than average. Some of its closest competitors provide slightly wider fields of view, but the difference is not stark enough to be noticed by any but the most attentive binocular users.
The impressive close focus range of just 5 feet is one of the best in the field. Sure, some pairs provide a slightly closer focus range, but 5 feet means you'll probably be able to get a butterfly in focus if you're lucky enough to have one land on your shoe, and it's hard to ask for much more than that.
We usually don't discuss binocular accessories because they're typically just the standard neck strap and carrying case, neither of which tend to differentiate one pair from another. However, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42 offers a unique dual shoulder strap for its carrying case that places the case securely on your chest/stomach (think a baby carrier but for binoculars). Two more straps connect the binoculars to the case, so you can remove the binoculars and use them while they remain attached to you.
This design is unique, and we like what they're going for. However, we personally did not find the design all that useful. The main advantage of a double shoulder strap for binoculars (often affectionately referred to as a binocular bra) is that you can sort of lean your hands against the straps as you peer through the bins. In fact, many of these straps are elastic for that very reason. Leaning gently against this tension can go a long way towards reducing handshake, resulting in a better image. However, the design of Vortex's case doesn't provide this advantage. Additionally, while it might be nice to have your binoculars pinned securely against you and in a protective case while bushwacking, we think all of the extra straps would be a hindrance in such a situation. Again, this is just our opinion, and for some, this may be exactly the accessory you've been pining for.
Should You Buy the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42?
The Vortex Diamondback offers incredible optical quality and brightness at a relatively reasonable price, making it one of the best values of all the many binoculars we've tested. We think most casual users will be thrilled with the quality of this pair — especially for the price.
What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?
We found few reasons to complain about these binoculars. We think they will please pretty much everyone, from those looking for their first pair of binoculars to those that have been geeking out about good optics for years. However, if you're on an even tighter budget, you might like the Celestron Nature DX 8x42. If you're looking for a lightweight pair to take on a backpacking trip, the Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 should fit the bill.
— Max Mutter
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