2020 vision.

January 09, 2020  •  1 Comment


Happy new year to all my reader.

I thought I'd kick off this year with a review.

A binoculars review.

Well... it is 2020 after all, so this optical equipment review is certainly apt!


I'm sure the regular reader of this blog will know I've never been comfortable with people calling me a "birdwatcher" or worse still... a "birder". (shudder).

Sure, I've been watching birds since I can remember (4 or 5 years old?) but then again I've been watching everything since that age.

Not just birds.

But insects too.






Planes even.



You get the picture. Pretty-well anything outside … that moves.

So I'm more of an "outsider" (in every sense) than a "birdwatcher".

From quite an early age, when I thought of your typical "birdwatcher" or "birder" (shudder), I thought of some middle-aged (or older) bloke (almost always a man), white, often called Nigel (apologies to any nice Nigel reading this), who spoke using his nose more than his mouth and often banged on about how many birds he'd seen in his life and why his £1000 pair of binoculars or spotting scope was so much superior to my second-hand TASCO rubbish.

I also often got the impression, after coming across these Nigels all the time, that they weren't really interested in the birds they professed to be interested in, missed a lot of other wildlife and sights and sounds whilst "birdwatching", bored me rigid... and to be frank they weren't the sort of people I wanted to associate with. At all.

The snobby optical equipment thing was a real stumbling block for me when I met "the Nigels".

I have never owned a pair of expensive binoculars. I couldn't possibly justify spending so much money on something like that. I couldn't afford them even if I could justify the expense!

So I lugged around my Grandfather's beaten up, old, heavy 20x50 whatever-they-weres for years... and basically got sneered at by the Nigels with their Leica or Zeiss binoculars.

For the last decade or so, my wife and I have been sharing a dirt-cheap pair of TASCO 10x42s, which were at least new when I bought them.

But now, after a little research, I decided to buy a new pair, as those TASCO binoculars have got badly scratched over the years and filled with all kind of gunk.

The pair I decided to buy is a (wait for it... you may not have heard of the brand before) pair of CARSON RD 8x42 binoculars.

I know. I know. I hadn't heard of them (Carson) before my research, either.

Look... the whole point of this blog post is to quickly review these EXCELLENT binoculars and demonstrate that you DON'T have to spend north of £500 or even north of £150 to get a decent, a very decent pair of binoculars - despite the protestations of the Leica and Zeiss Nigels, banging on about their ED glass.



Why did I choose this pair - and what do I like about them?



  • I wanted a pair of good light gathering binoculars.  When you're looking at the light-gathering capabilities of binoculars, remember to divide the diameter of the objective lens (42mm in my case) by the magnification (8 in my case), giving you a figure (of 5.25 in my case). This is the effective exit pupil figure (EPF) of the binoculars in millimetres.  I didn't want this EPF to drop below 5.25 (even 5.0 would have been too low, so 10x50 for example would have been out for me). I actually think this is the MOST important figure to consider when looking at technical specs of binoculars for watching wildlife. Especially in dull old Britain. Wildlife tends to be most apparent at dawn or dusk (or night of course!) and without a good light-gathering capability in your pair of binoculars (so yes, an EPF of at least 5.25 if possible), then it doesn't matter that you have a 12X magnification or a 20X magnification in your binoculars - you won't be able to see that owl in the gloom, as you'll have an image that's too dark to see anything much and too shaky (more magnification means MUCH heavier binoculars).


  • I didn't want to spend more than £130 (I know, I know... I have a large amount of Scottish blood in me - what can I say).


  • I wanted the ocular lens diameter (the lens which you look through) to be at LEAST 20mm, if not more like 24mm. This makes looking through the binoculars and lining your eyes up to "get" the image, far easier for you - and also easier for kids who aren't used to binoculars. These Carson RD 8x42s have an ocular lens diameter of 23mm. MUCH better than my old TASCO binoculars.


  • I wanted all the lenses to be multi-coated, rather than some single coated. The Carson RD 8x42s are all multi-coated.


  • I wanted the prisms to be silver coated, making the efficiency of light reflection within the binoculars to be maximised. Tick there also.


  • I wanted them to be relatively light, easily adjustable and have lens covers which can remain attached to the binoculars. Final tick!


  • Finally... which wasn't on my list... these Carson RD 8x42s come in a very well-made, sturdy hard case - which will be GREAT for packing in  suitcases etc if we ever go abroad again - but not so good for putting in the driver's door compartment of my car I'm afraid. I drive a gurt big estate car which I call "the hearse". It's a big black Octavia Scout and generally it has plenty of space to store things. I always have my binoculars in my door cubby hole - but I'm afraid the rigid Carson RD case won't fit in that space. So they now go in, nekked. So to speak. That said, I think the Carson case is a plus point generally - like I say, I'm sure I'll be very happy about the sturdy case when I bung my binoculars in a suitcase.


I ordered these binoculars from Amazon and paid £120. 

So... no... these aren't cheapy cheap binoculars like ohhhh I dunno… Celestron or yes... Tasco.

But they are INCREDIBLE value for money I think. 

They arrived yesterday and I've already tested them out in the field.


  • Chromatic aberration and fringing is superb (for non ED glass), close focusing is great too, field of view isn't too bad (it's never going to be too bad at 8x magnification though - much more problematic at 10 or 12 or 20x magnification) and compared to our old TASCO 10x42s, it's like shining a torch on the subject. Chalk and cheese.


  • I'm blown away by the large ocular (where you put your eyes) lenses too. I am aware that as I get older and older, like everyone, I simply won't have the ability to open up my pupils as much as I could when I was 18 for example, (maybe I could've opened up my pupil to 7mm at 18yo, it will be more like 5mm now I'm past 45!), so perhaps 8x50 binoculars (with an EPF of 6.25 (that's 50/8 remember) would be wasted on me these days). Something around 5.25 is perfect (like my new Carson RD 8x42s) but also with a nice big ocular lens (of 23mm in this case).


  • Finally the eyepiece adjustment is great (I've started wearing reading glasses, or varifocals to be precise) since I turned 45, so it's handy to have 17mm of clearance for when I'm NOT wearing my glasses (most of the time in the field as my long range vision is still UNSURPASSED at present!) or when I am.


Grapple fans. The point I'm trying to make here is that these relatively cheap (you can probably pick them up on ebay for £100) binoculars are honestly SUPERB.

If these binoculars were available in the 1980s or 1990s, they'd have cost closer to £1000 than £100, believe me.

So no... you really don't have to spend many hundreds of pounds to get a nice set of binoculars that do the job really, REALLY well.

Oh sure, the snobby Nigels may still sneer. 

But I'm too old to care these days and even if I  did care, I'd honestly think it was they that had wasted their money, not me.


Right then. That's all for now.

If you get a chance, do read THIS review of these (award-winning I now see!) binoculars, which is far more detailed than my review above.

And do consider buying these excellent jobbies, if you're looking for a cheap(ish) new pair.

Or if not my Carson RD 8x42s, might I also recommend (even though I've not bought them, these also ticked all my boxes above):

Helios Nitrosport 8x42. Even cheaper than my Carson RD 8x42s at £80! With phase corrected lenses too! And no, I don't suppose you've heard of Helios binoculars either? Again... I'd not either - until I looked into the subject in detail over Christmas.


Of course... you could still consider buying these binoculars instead, especially if your name is.... Nigel.









Filbert Cobb(non-registered)
Great review. I'm not in the market for bins but the Carson website is a revelation. I really should have followed up the notion of acquiring a binocular microscrope to further my interest in bryophytes and fungi & the Carson goodies give me ideas. Not sure that Dearly Beloved would approve with all the outstanding decorating gardening & de-cluttering to be done.
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