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Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Review

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
vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review
Light transmission can make all the difference when cloud cover rolls in, or the sun is about to drop behind the horizon.
Credit: Abriah Wofford
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $640 List
Manufacturer:   Vortex
By Max Mutter ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 7, 2022
81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 16
  • Clarity - 45% 7.5
  • Brightness - 25% 9.5
  • Comfort - 10% 9.0
  • Field of View - 10% 8.0
  • Ease of Adjustment - 5% 5.8
  • Close Focus Range - 5% 8.0

Our Verdict

If you're looking for the best set of 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.
REASONS TO BUY
Very clear and bright
Easy to adjust
Comfortable
High-quality construction
REASONS TO AVOID
A bit heavy for the backcountry
Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 7th, 2002, to include updated testing data and product information.

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vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review
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Price $640 List
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Pros Very clear and bright, easy to adjust, comfortable, high-quality constructionGood clarity and brightness, smooth focus knobExcellent brightness, great clarity, comfortableInexpensive, good clarity and brightnessGood clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable
Cons A bit heavy for the backcountryMediocre close focus range, mediocre field of viewSlightly heavy for backpackingAverage construction quality, mediocre low-light performancePoor 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 tagThese perform well for the price, offering a smooth focus knob and decent brightness and clarityAn excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightnessThe most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatchingAn inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics
Rating Categories Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Nikon Monarch M5 8x42 Vortex Diamondback... Celestron Nature DX... Vortex Diamondback...
Clarity (45%)
7.5
7.1
6.3
5.8
5.1
Brightness (25%)
9.5
8.6
8.1
7.7
4.6
Comfort (10%)
9.0
8.1
9.3
5.6
7.0
Field of View (10%)
8.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Ease of Adjustment (5%)
5.8
8.0
6.4
7.0
5.5
Close Focus Range (5%)
8.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
8.0
Specs Vortex Viper HD 8x42 Nikon Monarch M5 8x42 Vortex Diamondback... Celestron Nature DX... Vortex Diamondback...
Glass Type HD ED HD Bak-4 HD
Multi - Coating FMC FMC FMC FMC FMC
Magnification 8 8 8 8 8
Field of View (at 1000 yards) 409 ft 335 ft 393 ft 388 ft 332 ft
Close Focus 6.0 ft 8.2 ft 5.0 ft 6.5 ft 6.0 ft
Eye Relief 18 mm 19.5 mm 17 mm 17.5 mm 18 mm
Prism Roof Roof Roof Roof Roof
Waterproof/Fog Resistant? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Measured Size (Length x Width) 5.6 x 4.9 in 5.7 x 5.1 in 5.7 x 5.1 in 5.3 x 4.9 in 4.6 x 4.5 in
Measured Weight 24 oz 22 oz 22 oz 22 oz 14 oz
Tripod Adapter Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Vortex Viper HD, with its high-density extra-low dispersion glass, is a premium quality optic for less than a premium price. A simple look is all you'll need to appreciate its quality and performance: an array of proprietary coatings results in multi-coated lenses and prisms that deliver exceptional brightness, at a level that is comparable to the multi-thousand-dollar models we tested. We also found the clarity to be exceptional, providing impressive resolution and color fidelity. The Viper HD earned appreciation amongst our test team for its overall performance in our binocular tests, especially with regard to its more approachable price.

Performance Comparison


vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - from those willing to spend, to those needing a more approachable...
From those willing to spend, to those needing a more approachable pair of binos, the Vortex Viper HD deserves everyone's consideration.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Clarity


The Vortex Viper HD 8x42's high-definition glass really shines when it comes to clarity. This pair of binos provides a nearly crystal clear view. In fact, the Viper is almost as good as some of the multi-thousand-dollar models we tested, which is an exceptional benchmark for this tier of optics. Only one other similarly priced model was able to provide as clear a viewing experience.


On the ISO 12233 chart test that our team used to score all of the models we selected for review, the 10 zone was seen clearly throughout the center. The clarity isn't as crisp around the edges, but only a minor amount of loss of clarity is perceivable. The horizontal and vertical lines of the test chart all looked crisp and clear.

vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - you can expect exceptional clarity, brightness, and color accuracy...
You can expect exceptional clarity, brightness, and color accuracy from the Vortex Viper HD 8x42.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Brightness


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. Vortex also incorporates a phase correction coating on the roof prism in combination with a dielectric coating. The result is a bright and clear viewing experience with great color accuracy and contrast. Only two multi-thousand dollar models with the same size objective lenses were able to gather more light than the Vipers.


The exceptional light transmission achieved by this model should help hunters watch their quarry as they bed down in the evening light, and help acquire targets in the early morning light. Or it will give the nature watcher, or birder, the edge to achieve a more enjoyable viewing experience as the sun rises and sets, without spending thousands.

Comfort


Eye strain, shaking hands, and poor ergonomics can really detract from field use and nature viewing enjoyment, so we scored comfort across a few different features of each model in our product lineup. We specifically took a look at the ergonomic grip of each model, as well as eye cup comfort, and an included neck strap.

Across the board, Vortex binos are at the head of the pack with regard to comfort, and the Viper HD is no exception. The Vipers are one of the most ergonomic models to hold, they have a great feel in hand, aided by a fairly light overall weight compared to its peers, and a texturized rubber coating ensures you'll never lose your grip.

vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - vortex offers some of the most comfortable optics we've tested...
Vortex offers some of the most comfortable optics we've tested, including ergonomic neck straps.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Soft and flexible rubber eyecups make it easy to maintain 18 millimeters of eye relief, but also make the Viper a comfortable pair of binos to look through for long periods of time. Our team also recognized how easy and comfortable this model is to use, for those with glasses.

The included neck strap has a soft, stretchy rubber section that goes around your neck and distributes the weight nicely, and makes resting the binos on your neck while not in use much more tolerable than most other models.


Field of View


We measured the field of view at 348 feet, which is a fairly significant amount smaller than the manufacturer's-specified 409 feet at 1000 yards for the Viper Vortex HD 8x42. This, like many models, is much less than the specs, but still amongst the best for the 8x models we tested, and much better than the average.


We really enjoyed the wide field of view on this model, as it makes finding objects an easier task.

vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - testing the vortex viper hd 8x42.
Testing the Vortex Viper HD 8x42.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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 locking diopter is not present on all of the binoculars we tested, especially cheaper ones, so it's nice to see it executed well in a relatively approachable pair.

vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - adjustments are easy with the viper hds.
Adjustments are easy with the Viper HDs.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Close Focus Range


Our team tested the close focus range of the Viper at 6.3 feet, which is slightly lower than the manufacturer-specified 6.0 feet, but also on the better side of the average recorded for the entire test group. 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 or a hummingbird hover near you.


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. However, the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 earned an Editors' Choice award for offering an experience similar to those very high-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 you will not only be very pleased with these binoculars, but recognize as our test team and editorial staff has, that the Viper HD offers buyers one of the best values available on the market today.

vortex viper hd 8x42 binocular review - the viper hd is worth your consideration before spending thousands...
The Viper HD is worth your consideration before spending thousands on a more premium pair.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

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 of binoculars, check out the Nikon Monarch M5 8x42. They offer great performance that may not be on par with the Vipers but is essentially the next best product on our list for an even more approachable price. Just behind the Monarch M5 was the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42, which also uses Vortex's HD glass but costs less than half the price of the Viper, and if you happen to like the superior ergonomics of the Vortex line of products that we tested, then the Diamondback HD is well worth your consideration.

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
 
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