Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Quick Review: Pentax XCF 10x50 Binoculars

I've been using a cheap no-brand pair of 10x50 binoculars for some time - both for general daytime terrestrial viewing, and especially for night-time star-gazing use. They're OK (well, actually, they're pretty rubbish!), but I really wanted an affordable pair of reasonable quality 10x50 binoculars. 

Hunting around on the internet, Pentax XCF binoculars seemed to come up over and over, with pretty good reviews. They're listed on many generic discount seller sites, but they're also carried by many more "reputable" optical specialists such as BinTel http://www.bintel.com.au/Binoculars/Pentax-Binoculars/Pentax-XCF-10x50/1656/productview.aspx who are offering them for AU$139. You can get them MUCH cheaper from US retailers, so I dived in and bought myself a pair of 10x50s on eBay, and I have to say I'm absolutely delighted. (They're also available in 8x40, 12x50 and 16x50, but I figured 10x50 was ideal for my needs.)



Warning: Don't confuse the Pentax XCF binoculars with the very common "Pentax Whitetails Unlimited" binoculars that you'll find all over the internet - reviews of the Whitetails suggest that while they may be made in Pentax factories, the Pentax name appears nowhere on the binoculars or packaging, so while they may well be perfectly acceptable for the price, presumably the quality is not in the same league as the branded Pentax XCFs.

The XCFs only cost about 30% more than no-brand 10x50s, but the build-quality and optical quality compared to my previous pair is chalk and cheese! The XCFs are so much brighter and sharper, and also have a much wider field of view (6.5 degrees actual / 65 degrees apparent eyepiece field of view compared to about 4.5 degrees actual / 45 degrees apparent for my old pair). The old binoculars feel like I am looking though a cardboard tube in comparison.

The coatings, lenses and prisms are clearly (pun intended!) far superior to my old binoculars, and it shows in the image quality. Everything is pin-sharp, right across the field of view, and the difference for star-gazing in particular is almost startling - they reveal a significantly wider expanse of night sky, and show much fainter stars and nebulae against the background. They are nicely weighted and balanced, and feel very good in the hand.

I would definitely buy the XCFs again, and I am happy to recommend them to others looking for good quality budget-priced binoculars - they are a great value buy!

Full specifications from the manufacturer's website http://www.us.ricoh-imaging.com/sport-optics/products/XCF_10x50#!product-specs :

The PENTAX XCF series combines outstanding optical performance with exceptional value. Ruggedly styled and providing excellent viewing comfort, the PENTAX XCF series binoculars are as easy to operate as they are to afford. High-quality BaK4 prisms and multi-coated optical elements ensure excellent image quality and light transmission. Soft but durable rubber eyepiece rings can be folded back for the convenience of eyeglass wearers. And a centrally-located, extra large focus wheel affords fast and accurate focusing. Sporting fashionable, black-finish bodies encased in full-body rubber housing, the PENTAX XCF series is ideal for almost any application from casual viewing to serious observation. Available in four different magnifications.

Focusing Range: 30 ft. - infinity
Prism: Porro
Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
Specifications: 10X
Apparent Field Of View: 65 degrees
Real Field Of View: 6.5 degrees
Field Of View At 1000m: 114m
Coating: Super-multi-coating
Binocular Type: Porro prism, center focusing