If you're looking for top-ranked binoculars for less than a grand, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 should be at the top of your shortlist. These binoculars strike a great balance between price and performance. In fact, they aren't that big of a step down in quality from the multi-thousand dollar pairs we tested. With a supple focus knob and good in-hand comfort, these bins offer the kind of performance you need for all-day nature walks and birding festivals. If you're serious about birding or wildlife viewing, these binoculars are well worth the money.Editor's Note: This review was updated on January 11, 2022 with more information on our testing and updated photos. It was previously updated in November 2021 with info on some minor cosmetic and design changes.
Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Review
Cons: A bit heavy for the backcountry
Compare to Similar Products
Vortex Viper HD 8x42
$481.10 at Amazon
|$383.60 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
$238.98 at Amazon
$98.22 at Amazon
$158.50 at Amazon
|Pros||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||Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable|
|Cons||A bit heavy for the backcountry||Heavy for backpacking or carrying long distances||Slightly heavy for backpacking||Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance||Poor low-light performance|
|Bottom Line||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||An inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics|
|Rating Categories||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Ease of Adjustment (15%)|
|Construction Quality (15%)|
|Close Focus Range (7.5%)|
|Field of View (7.5%)|
|Specs||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Multi - Coating||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC|
|Field of View (at 1000 yards)||409 ft||362 ft||393 ft||388 ft||332 ft|
|Close Focus||6.5 ft||8.2 ft||5.0 ft||6.5 ft||6.0 ft|
|Eye Relief||18 mm||16.5 mm||17 mm||17.5 mm||18 mm|
|Size (Length x Width)||5.8 x 5.3 in||5.6 x 5.1 in||5.7 x 5.1 in||5.3 x 4.9 in||4.6 x 4.5 in|
|Weight||24.2 oz||24 oz||21.8 oz||22.2 oz||14.0 oz|
Our Analysis and Test Results
There have been some minor cosmetic changes to the outer of the Viper HDs, as well as updated optical systems. The eye relief has also shortened slightly, from 20mm to 18mm (though this should still be plenty of relief for those who wear glasses). Compare the versions below; the model we initially tested is shown on the left, followed by the updated model on the right.
Vortex says that with the Viper HD with (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass, one look is all you'll need to appreciate its quality and performance. Add XR fully multi-coated lenses and you have a bino that delivers bright, crisp details with impressive resolution and color fidelity. It's no mystery why the Viper HD is one of the best binoculars.
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42's high-definition glass really shines when it comes to clarity. This pair provides a great clear view. The Viper is almost as good as some of the multi-thousand dollar models we tested. On the ISO 12233 chart test, the 10 zone was seen clear throughout the center. The clarity fades around the edge a bit, but only a minor amount. The horizontal and vertical lines all looked crisp and clear.
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 has high-density glass, and the lenses are multi-coated with what Vortex calls their XR anti-reflective coating, which helps to reduce the scattering of light inside the binoculars. Combined, these features make for a bright view. Only the multi-thousand dollar models and those with huge objective lenses were able to gather more light.
Ease of Adjustment
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 has one large central hinge to adjust the interpupillary distance. The hinge moves smoothly and easily like on other top-scoring binoculars.
The diopter on the Vortex Viper HD is located on the right lens and is operated by pulling up on the diopter to adjust it. While in the down position, the diopter is locked in place. The diopter was easy to adjust the first time with no stiffness.
The Vortex Viper 8x42 feels solid in hand. All the hinges and joints move smoothly, so you can tell the tolerances are tight in the manufacturing process.
Everything just works smoothly and feels comfortable, and we've been impressed by Vortex's products as a whole.
The neck strap has a soft, stretchy rubber section that goes around your neck and distributes the weight nicely. Indentations for your thumbs and a rubberized coating on the barrels make it easy to hold onto.
20mm of eye relief made the Viper comfortable to look through for long periods of time and made it easy for those with glasses.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The field of view is 409 feet at 1000 yards for the Viper Vortex HD 8x42. This put it towards the top of the field of view chart for the 8x models we tested.
The close focus range is 6.5 feet, which is slightly on the better side of average. In day-to-day use, it's very unlikely you're going to want to focus on anything closer than 6.5 feet unless you're lucky enough to have a butterfly land on your shoe.
Should You Buy the Vortex Viper HD 8x42?
You can easily spend multiple paychecks on a premium pair of binoculars, and they'll likely look fantastic. The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 earned an Editors' Choice award for offering an experience similar to those loftily priced models at a fraction of the price. Yes, that fraction is still a relatively large number, but if you're looking for high-quality optics, we think these binoculars are both likely to please and offer one of the best values available.
What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?
Though we love the Vortex Viper, we understand that it's still outside of some folks' budgets. For a less expensive but still impressive pair, check out the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42, which uses Vortex's HD glass but costs less than half the price of the Viper. Another even more affordable pair is the Celestron Nature DX 8x42, which doesn't stand up to the quality of the top-tier products but is a great basic pair of binoculars that won't break the bank.On the other hand, if money is no object and you want the best pair possible, we'd point you in the direction of the Swarovski EL 8.5x42. These surpass all other models in our review with their top-of-the-line performance and have family heirloom written all over them.
— Max Mutter
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More