Opticron Aurora BGA VHD 8x42 Binoculars
As soon as you pick these binoculars up they ooze quality, just what I would expect from a Japanese-made Opticron model. As with all their range from Japan, Opticron have extreme confidence in the Aurora, so much so it has a 30 year warranty. They are sturdy and have a solid, well-made feel to them. The rubber armouring is grippy and tactile making the binoculars easy to hold and use, allied with the good balance in the hand. The solid feel of these bins belies the 725g weight, which places them at the lighter end of the quality 8x42 equipment. The magnesium alloy and polycarbonate construction of the Auroras gives them this combined strength and lightness. Whilst some ‘top-end’ rivals have recently gone for a long barrel design the Auroras are shorter and therefore more compact both in use and when being transported around.
In use the quality again shines through with crisp, clear images and a sharp edge to edge field of view. The depth of field is impressive and the flat field technology used in these bins gives a three-dimensional feel to the image which is very pleasing to the eye. The focus wheel movement to focus from near to far is minimal, making real world usage extremely easy. I can’t think of another binocular that I have used actually being this easy to use in the field. This is further aided by an impressive 8.1° field of view allowing more easy location of a subject even a rapidly moving one. Close focus is quoted as 2m but as with most claims this probably undersells the Auroras as I felt that I could focus down to 1.8m comfortably, making this binocular perfect for insect ID as well as for birding.
The tech spec of the bins is as you would expect from a top-end product, it has plenty of eye-relief, a good dioptre range and a click-lock dioptre adjustment, four-stage eyecup adjustment and a good range to its inter-pupillary distance adjustment. One feature that I advocate in a binocular is them being easy to keep clean, although birders who have seen the state that my bins get into probably wouldn't believe that! Being nitrogen filled and immersible down to a depth of 5m keeping the Auroras spotless is child’s play. They can be run under a tap or even washed in a bowl to remove surface dust and silt and even deposits that have got into awkward access places like around the focus wheel.
The Auroras were simply a delight to use and my previous reservations about a ‘non-European’ brand costing over £700 were dispelled right at the beginning of my test. The majority of my usage was in bright conditions which are sometimes more of a problem than low light and the bins coped admirably with views over a lake with the inherent reflections and heat haze. A recent drake Ring-necked Duck was searched for and plumage subtleties could be checked against the Tufted Ducks to determine the birds presence…. or not in this case! To get an idea of performance in lower light viewing was done at dusk and again the bins performed superbly, allowing plumage details and colours to be picked up at mid-distance at least, this being where the birds were at this time. Rapidly moving birds, in this instance gulls, were easily picked out and tracked and features clearly seen, but on this occasion no Med Gulls amongst the Black-headeds! The advantage of the bright conditions was that a few early butterflies were on the wing, an opportunity to test the close focus. The 3D feel to the image was very noticeable on these colourful subjects and every detail was pin sharp, I couldn’t find fault at all. I could be very demanding and say I would have preferred a 1.5m close focus when I start to look at the ID conundrum of the blue damselflies later in the year, but that would just be nitpicking. As most Auroras will be bought for birding I may be in a very small minority that requires ultra-close focus.
With just a few other binoculars around this price point, and having tried them all, I can say that these are the best sub £1000 binoculars on the market. Given a three-figure budget then pushing the boat out to buy the best will pay you back with a lifetime's use, especially given that 30 year warranty!