The Eden Quality XP 10x42 binoculars
by Martin Birch
"Oooh, nice" I comment to myself as I lift them out of the box, draw in a deep breath and raise them to my eyes. Let's hope they're as good on the inside as they look on the outside. "Blimey", as I almost take a step back. These budget bins are seriously impressive, as the brightness and clarity of image was beyond anything I was expecting from a budget binocular. Could this be true? I dashed back into the house and grabbed my much-loved, albeit ageing, Leica Trinovids and then a more recent acquisition; a pair of Zeiss Victory FL.
Compare and contrast; wow, these budget bins really are good. But this was not possible? I had not even heard of Eden, yet I was now looking through a pair of their binoculars that were arguably as good as the supposedly "best on the market". And at around £250 they are a fraction of the cost.
But I have discovered it is not just me that is similarly glowing in commendation. This is what Steve Campsall wrote on the Wild About Britain website:
"First impressions were more than good: the binoculars looked well-built, classy and expensive. In the hand, they fell into place perfectly, felt sturdy and seemed well constructed with restrained but up-to-date styling."
And Mike Alibone agrees, writing in a review in Birdwatch magazine about the Eden range.
"Stylish, robust and seemingly well-constructed these were my first impressions. I really like their overall look and feel to them."
Most reviews of the Eden range have focused on the 8x42ED or XP. I made the choice many years back never to drop below 10x magnification; birds aren’t big beasts after all and they rarely come close enough to fill the field of view, so for me magnification is all important. And with lens coatings and lens quality improving all the time, the days of trading magnification for image quality are long gone. Hence this review field tests the Eden Quality XP 10x42.
And despite the extra magnification these binoculars still feel incredibly light; apparently the result of using a new carbon-fibre-reinforced Polyphenylene Sulphide (PPS) compound in the construction of the body, a compound that combines high mechanical strength and stiffness with a lower weight.
The effect is to create a pair of binoculars that are a delight to hold, are well balanced and indeed so light and compact that they feel like a natural extension of your hands as you raise them to your eyes - incredible. In this respect they knock the socks off my older heavy-barrelled Leica's and the over-stretched milk-bottle look of the Zeiss.
Coupled with a close focus down to a metre these are surely near perfect binoculars for viewing fast moving birds in a closed environment such as a forest, jungle or mangroves, or for watching butterflies or other insects at close range.
The body of the binoculars is covered in smooth but hard rubber armouring giving them a modern look and feel. The PPS construction promises a 100% waterproof as well as fog proof experience; filled with nitrogen, these binoculars should perform at very low temperatures without condensation building up on the inside of the lenses.
The ridged focussing wheel was so smooth as to defy belief and compared again with my fading Leicas with a focussing wheel that's like driving a tractor and the more recently acquired Zeiss with a focussing wheel that is sloppy and loose, it's quite incredible really that top manufacturers still struggle to get these features right.
The twist-up mechanism on the eyecups works nicely with the flexibility to stop them at almost any point in-between fully extended and fully retracted. Compare this with my Leica's, with their clumsy, grit accumulating push-pull mechanism (with only two positions; fully extended or fully retracted) or the Zeiss which have truly horrendous eyecups that frequently disengage from their mountings as you extend them, leaving you fiddling about trying to put them back on the binocular body whilst the bird has long since flown.
The diopter adjustment can be found on the right barrel near the eyepiece. The diopter adjustment ring is tight enough to prevent it from being moved accidentally and there are markings on both the barrel and diopter ring so you can easily see where the neutral point is.
The shape of the binoculars with a very stable base also ensures the binoculars stand on their end without fear of toppling over an important feature given how often I seem to pick up my bins from the floor of the hide.
The image quality is likewise excellent, with a bright, clear image. Other reviews have commented on some colour fringing around the edges of objects; not on the pair I reviewed - nor any peripheral softening.
The colour reproduction was excellent; as good as the Zeiss. Compared to the Leica's both the Eden and the Zeiss produced a greener image, but this may simply be a reflection of the much brighter image that both these binoculars produce over the Leica. The Leica appear to produce a more natural but slightly duller image. But these differences are marginal and birders will experience or not experience these differences in different ways.
Indeed the brightness of the image was the most striking feature of the Eden bins - so often a reason for birders choosing the lower magnification 8x42, but these days you can have magnification without compromising on brightness as these bins demonstrate.
I am told that the BaK-4 prisms come with phase correction coatings that have the effect of producing a sharper and high-contrasting image over the full field of view. On top of this they use special dielectric coatings on the roof prisms which can provide a reflectivity of more than 99% across the visible light spectrum. This reflectivity is much improved compared to either an aluminium or silver mirror coating and this technique provides almost the same brightness as that perceived by the naked eye, and clear, high-contrast images that display accurate colour reproduction.
The sharpness of the image was near perfect at close range. At distances of 30 metres or more, the pin-sharp image appeared to deteriorate slightly but was still good. It was not however as perfect as the Leica or the Zeiss lenses over this range; the Zeiss have quite astonishing sharpness of image. But I think you would struggle to notice the superior performance of the Leica or Zeiss unless you were purposefully testing one pair against another. And given the Eden binoculars retail for about a fifth of the cost of the Zeiss, you either need to be a perfectionist or have 'money to burn' to walk away from the Eden bins.
The black Eden branded neck strap is nicely shaped and padded to provide a comfortable fit around your neck with a rubberised strap that helps to reduce the weight of the binoculars.
The binoculars also come with a rain guard, lens caps and a well-padded nylon carrying case with belt attachment.
Eden - the company
The Eden Quality range of binoculars is covered by a 25-year warranty on defects in material or workmanship.
These binoculars are only available in Eden's online shops. There are no British stockists, which probably goes to explain how such a good pair of binoculars can retail at a fraction of the cost of better known brands.
UK customers can buy these binoculars at http://edenwebshops.co.uk/en/ct/eden-quality-binoculars.htm
These are quite simply, great binoculars at a price accessible to many. As these binoculars demonstrate you don't now need to pay "through the nose" for quality optics. And that's good for your wallet and good for opening up birding to a wider audience.
Visit Eden at http://www.edenwebshops.co.uk/en/ct/binoculars.htm