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Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Review
Cons: On the expensive side, short field of view
Bottom line: Just about the best clarity/brightness you can get without a quadruple digit price tag
Multi - Coating: FMC
If you're looking for the best image quality you can get for less than $1000, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 should be at the top of your short list. 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.
RELATED REVIEW: Best Binoculars for Birding and Hiking of 2018
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Vortex says that with the Viper HD with (High Density) extra-low dispersion glass, one look is all you'll need to appreciate why the Viper HD is an award-winning bino. 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 an award-winner in our test as well as others.
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 high definition glass really shines when it comes to clarity. This pair provides a great clear view. The Vortex Viper is almost as good as the Swarovski EL 8x42. On the ISO 12233 chart test the 10 zone was seen clear throughout the center. The clarity fades around the edge, and this is more noticeable than on the Swarovski, but is better than with the Nikon Monarch 7. When comparing the Vortex Viper HD to the Diamondback, we could see the difference in the clarity of the image. Where the Vortex DiamondBack have purple fringing around the edges there is no noticeable fringing or chromatic aberration on the Vortex Viper HD. 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 $2000+ dollar models, and those with huge objective lenses like the Nikon Monarch 5 8x56, and the Celestron SkyMaster DX 9x63 were able to gather more light. Both the Nikon and the Celestron have a larger diameter objective lens and are specifically made for low light conditions. Comparing the Vortex Viper to the Vortex Diamondback 8x28, we could see the difference in the XR coated lens of the Vortex Viper in increased brightness, though the larger diameter objective lens also helps.
Ease of Adjustment
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 have one large central hinge to adjust the interpupillary distance. The hinge moves smoothly and easily like on other top scoring binoculars such as the Nikon Monarch 7 or the Swarovski EL. In comparison, the Vortex Diamondback which felt stiff. This could be because of the high tolerance in the Viper and/or higher quality parts, the Vortex is a higher-end product line. 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.
Field of View and Close Focus Range
The Field of view is 347 feet at 1000 yards for the Viper Vortex HD 8x42, which is the one field that the it scored low. The only 8x magnification pair of binoculars that scored worse was the Nikon Monarch 5 8x56, which is made more for distant low light viewing. The close focusing ability of the Vortex Viper HD is 5.1 feet, which is almost on par with the Swarovski EL 8.5x42 that can focus down to 4.9 feet. Though not a top scorer in either of these categories, the Vortex Viper HD make up for it in the quality of craftsmanship and superb lenses and prisms used.
The neck strap has a soft, stretchy rubber section that goes around your neck and distributes the weight nicely. The Under Armour harness that came with the Zeiss Terra ED 8x32 was the only strap that was more comfortable. Indentations for your thumbs and a rubberized coating on the barrels makes it easy to hold on to. The design of the Swarovski with the open bridge was found to be more comfortable to hold by most testers. 20mm of eye relief made the Viper comfortable to look through for long periods of time and made it easy for those with glasses.
The Vortex Viper 8x42 have a nice solid feel to them. All the hinges and joints move smoothly so you can tell the the tolerances are tight in the manufacturing process. Plus Vortex backs up the Viper HD line with their VIP Warranty. Just like with the Nikon Monarch line and Swarovski EL, everything just works smoothly and feels comfortable.
The Vortex Viper HD 8x42 is a great all-around binocular that will excel at most tasks. Beside those looking for a lightweight compact pair or those with a specialty use in mind, you couldn't go wrong with the Vortex Viper. We wouldn't use them as a pair of beater binoculars to throw in the car, but considering the Vortex VIP Warranty, you could. This would make an excellent pair of binoculars to keep in the car or boat or take them hiking if you're looking to do some wildlife viewing. If the 8x42 aren't big enough for you, the Vortex Viper HD line has everything from 6x32 to 15x50.
The Vortex Viper HD x42 are the 4th most expensive binocular in our review with a MSRP of $649. Coming in at only 8 points below the Swarovski EL 8.5x42 in our evaluation and at more than a $2100 price difference, the Vortex Viper 8x42 are an excellent value in the high-end binocular market. If you are trying to keep it under $500 take a look at the Nikon Monarch 7 line with the 10x42 retailing for around $499. Don't forget for the extra $50 dollars you are getting the Vortex Lifetime VIP (Very Important Promise) Warranty. Vortex says: it doesn't matter how it happened, whose fault it was, or where you purchased it. We will repair or replace at no charge to you. If we cannot repair your product, we will replace it with a product in perfect working order of equal or better physical condition.
In the Vortex line-up, the Viper HD are the next step down from the top-of-the-line. The top tier Vortex model is the Razor HD, with a price point closer to the Swarovski. Just like the Nikon Monarch 7 is a step down from the Nikon EDG, which also costs about the same as the Swarovski. At the start of this test we were quite curious if there was going to be a big difference between the Swarovski EL 8.5x42 and the Viper HD and/or the Nikon Monarch 7. Every tester could notice the difference between the Swarovski and the Viper, but when we told them the price difference everyone took a second look through the Vortex Viper HD. At some point, the gain in quality vs. the increase in price will turn most people off. If that doesn't describe you then by all means buy a Vortex Razor HD, Nikon EDG, or Swarovski EL to get the best of the best. They are nice and you will enjoy them. For the rest of us, the Vortex Viper HD is nearly as excellent. You will enjoy the crisp and bright image. They will be comfortable to carry and hold. With the high quality of manufacturing and the VIP Warranty you will get many years of enjoyment out them. All of this is why the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 earned our Editors' Choice award.
— Michael Payne
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