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Thread: Review: Pentax PCF WP II 10X50 Binocular

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    Default Review: Pentax PCF WP II 10X50 Binocular



    Pentax PCF WP II 10x50 Binocular Review:
    purchased from bhphotovideo.com
    $135, $9 ground shipping, $25 bhphoto gift card included with purchase

    Notes:
    A few important notes... Ironically, I have recently had an eye exam and have 20/20 vision. Anyhow, this is currently only regarding testing under the environmental conditions available so far. I will update with more information once I can try them in other conditions, especially stargazing.


    REVIEW:

    Packaging:
    The box for the binoculars is fairly typical. They came with the lens-caps, strap and binoculars in separate semi-plastic bags all contained within the nylon binocular carrying case. This was housed with the instructions and warranty card within a typical thickness cardboard box shell, which was within a thinner cardboard outer layer (graphics).

    I would not expect this box to hold up to any crushing forces. The shipping box was in fact somewhat crushed (go UPS!) but the pentax box was barely creased, because it was within a layer of styrofoam filler pieces. So despite reasonable damage to the shipping box, the binoculars were unscathed. (shipped from bhphotovideo.com via UPS)

    Carrying Case:
    This is a simple nylon, medium thickness case (stiff enough to keep it's shape, but somewhat flexible) with a rubber pentax logo. There is no case strap nor loops for a strap, however, with the binocular straps connected to the binocular there is just enough clearance for them to completely exit the sides of the case. I have been using the case in this manner, essentially the binocular supports the case, and I believe it was designed to be used in this way. Amazing case, no. Will it protect the binocular? In most cases it will protect from debris and whatnot, but not from crushing forces or high impact. Despite the binocular itself being rugged, I wouldn't suggest you drop them in this case.

    Lens Caps:
    Ugh. Not very good. Somewhat frustrating in fact. I find the objective lens caps stay on 'fairly' well. They probably won't 'fall' off with the binocular hanging around your neck under normal movement, however they are constantly 'pulled' off when removing the binocular from the carrying case or if anything rubs them.
    The eyepiece cover is even worse. This is a long single cover that goes over both eyepieces. It literally 'hangs' on the eyepieces even when the binocular is fully spread apart. It is just a little too large to grip them, and therefore doesn't stay on unless by gravity. However, I have been placing the binocular in the case and then putting the eyepiece cap on. Shutting the case keeps it from falling off. So it works reasonably well protecting the eyepieces while in the case, but wouldn't be useable out of the case at all. The bottom line is that I will be looking for new caps.

    Strap:
    I've seen thinner, more painful straps and thicker, more comfortable straps. This somewhere in the middle. There is a 'slightly' wider portion for the back of your neck with a softer material on the back. No real 'padding' per-se, but the binocular isn't very heavy, so I don't find them uncomfortable. Perhaps on long outings I might recommend a thicker padded strap, but for general use this should suffice.

    Warranty:
    Yee-Haw! Lifetime "no-fault" warranty. You break them, they fix them. Seriously. The only catches that I'm aware of (from pentax information): You need to have bought them from an authorized dealer after March 2006, and you must pay $20 for shipping and 'handling'. Works for me.

    Build Quality:
    OK, OK, on to the actual binocular!
    These feel incredibly good in your hands. They have slight ergonomic depressions as though someone squeezed their hands into them so hard it left a slight imprint. They are a very good weight (just over 2 pounds). This makes them light enough for most situations and right in the sweet spot (in my opinion) for hand-holding. Not too heavy to be tiresome and not to light to be ultra sensitive to shakes.

    These are everything-water proof (snow, rain, water, fog) JIS Class 6 (1 meter). They are nitrogen sealed with O-Rings to prevent internal fogging (to prevent external fogging you simply need to adapt them to the ambient temperature like any pair). They are made some sort of aluminum die-cast metal according to the site. This is encased in a tough rubber shell. They feel like they could take a good bang and not be affected. I still wouldn't drop them, as they have lenses and whatnot, but they're probably as durable as they can get without being in an even thicker inconvenient rubber shell. The lenses have typical recession from the body casing, so they probably don't scratch too easily.
    The eyepieces click to three positions: closest, medium and farthest. I don't wear glasses, but I keep them in the closest (flush) position. They rotate and click very nicely into each position and don't feel like they would slip unless intentionally rotated. They don't block external light from your eyes like some binocular (nikon action series for instance), however, it seems that this style of eyepiece is typical on higher quality models. I don't seem to notice this being a concern with my use so far.
    Also, in regards to build quality, these seem to be be collimated properly with no quality issues.

    Coatings:
    For those interested in the finer details, the coatings appear to be greenish purple in color, leaning towards greener. They have very little reflection. I can't see myself in them under any lighting so far. They appear to be very smooth coatings with no noticeable variation across the lens.

    Field tests:
    So, far I have tested these in a few conditions. First was close to sunset after a rainfall. The sky was cloudy and somewhat bright with the trees and land being somewhat darker in contrast. Second was during and after sunset looking skyward at venus and saturn with full cloud cover (at my first star party!). Overall, I found that the images were excellent. I was surprised to find that these cut through the cloud cover to find Saturn. The planet wasn't visible to the naked eye but could clearly be seen as a yellowish orange star in the Pentax. I was able to use them to point someone's (Mike) spotting scope towards it for my first time! He had a nice Dob and we got to see a good clear view of the planet. Anyhow...

    Note:Let me start by stating that first, I am very very sensitive to chromatic aberration. Second, these are fairly inexpensive in the scope of available binoculars. I've compared these binoculars directly with the 10x50 Nikon Action EX series ($150-$200), as well as a pair of 8x42 Swarovski binoculars that I was told were purchased years ago for $1400 at LL Bean. I've also compared them to a 7x35 Bushnell (unknown model) and a 10x25 Celestron series. Also worth mentioning, is that generally, the more you pay for binoculars the smaller the difference in quality. For instance, going from a $30 binocular to a $100 binocular might be a 75% leap in quality. Going from a $100 to $200 pair might be 40% better. Where as going from $200 to $500 might only be 20% better, and everything over $1000 is closer to 5 or 10%. This isn't 'always' the case, but in general seems to be true with most binoculars. (these percentages are simply made up values) Anyhow...

    Chromatic Aberration:
    Being sensitive to this, I definitely notice chromatic aberration with these, as well as every other pair I've used. If you're not familiar with this, it is typically a bright purplish 'fringing' around objects with high contrast edges, such as a very dark forest against a brightly lit sunset. In this instance you may see that the edges of the top of the trees appear to have a purple glow around them. It varies greatly between binoculars, but I'm "fairly sure" it is even in some of the most expensive binoculars, but at much much more lower amounts that may be imperceptible to most people.
    The good news is that compared to all of the other binoculars tested 'except' the Swarovski, the aberrations were much less. I would guess that someone who isn't familiar with this phenomenon wouldn't notice it at all. I haven't tested them in every condition, but the worst I've seen was in fact during a sunset behind a dark forest, and they performed well. I even noticed this in the Swarovskis, but at lower amounts than the Pentax.
    Compared to the similarly priced Nikons, the levels were almost identical. Fringing appeared about 5-10% less on the Nikons, but only because they are about 5-10% dimmer. So, in reality, there was about the same thickness of fringing and coloring, but proportionately dimmer with the overall lower brightness.
    Overall I would rate the amount of chromatic aberration of the Pentax as average to above average, especially considering the cost. There are better lenses out there, but I don't think you'll find many (or any) in this price range.

    Overall Quality:
    Oh, the beauty. These puppies really bring in light and detail. They are very very sharp and detailed, while at the same time appearing very smooth and silky in quality. Colors are just as silky and well presented. The focus adjustment knob is smooth, but tighter than most non-waterproof binoculars. Waterproof binoculars such as the Nikon and Pentax are much more firm than the non-waterproof models. This does take some getting used to, but it doesn't reduce the ability to focus smoothly in my experience. I do prefer the 'faster' focus knobs of non-waterproof binoculars. You can focus very quickly and smoothly with them, however at the cost of non-waterproofing. Then again, once you get used to the waterproof style focusing tension, you can become much faster. Typically, because of the tight seal, as you first move the knob there is almost a slight stickiness to the movement. So, I personally slide the knob further than is needed to focus and then slide it smoothly back to where it is in focus. This may not be the case for everyone, but I have found that it works very well for me. On the plus side, the knob and focusing mechanism feel very durable and solid and there is no apparent 'slipping' of the focus even when adjusting the binocular inter-pupillary distance. Another huge plus is that they have a focus lock! You simply slide the focus knob forward and it locks in place. Very cool. This wasn't on any other models tested.

    Compared to the other series, these were the sharpest. The Swarovskis might be just as sharp, but the 2x more magnification of the Pentax made it difficult to really compare them. The Nikons were close, and all other pairs are 'noticeably' not as sharp. The Nikons are a bit 'different' however. The Pentax uses a flatter lens system which effectively makes all of the field of view you see very sharp. The Nikon is sharp for about 50% of the inner lens field of view and then starts degrading further out. However the Nikons have a larger field of view (6.5 vs. 5 degrees). They also have a different 'depth of field' than the pentax. The pentax seems to have a smoother 'change' in field of view. So as you look at an object far away compared to something close, the focus gradually changes across the distance. This is somewhat less in the Nikon. This isn't a bad thing really, but more of a subjective matter. I find that the Nikons almost make the object you focus on 'seem' more in focus, because everything in front of and behind the object blurs quicker. This make the object appear as though it were on a plane of its own. This is a very artistic benefit, but at the loss of being able to see more detail all around. The difference between the two is fairly minimal, but it is still noticeable to me. The Swarovskis were even more in focus to further distances in front of and behind than the Pentax. The other pairs were all to such a short focal distance, that I find they never really seem to be completely in focus. I'd say the bushnell were the 'best of the rest' however.

    Brightness:
    The Pentax are very bright. They were the top of all models tested. To be fair, the only pairs that should be similar in brightness are the Swarovski, Nikon and Pentax, as they all have similar exit pupil size and objective lens sizes. The Pentax and Swarovski were almost identical, but the Pentax appeared to have better contrast, while the Swarovskis had a flatter look to them. These are smaller objective lenses diameter and older Swarovskis, so changes in coatings and lenses may have made it into the cheaper binoculars over the years as well? Perhaps his coatings have worn over the years? Either way, they were very very close. And to give the Swarovskis credit, they are physically half the size of the Pentax! But not half the binocular! And they are capable of a smaller inter-pupillary distance as well, so more people and children can use them.
    As for the Nikons, they were also very close, but about 5% dimmer. The difference was only noticeable viewing certain things like bright clouds or dark trees. Very very close in overall quality though. I would be happy with either pair for 'general use', however these are primarily for astronomical use, and the slightly brighter optics and sharpness over the entire field of view of the Pentax would be better in my opinion for astronomical viewing.


    More to come soon...
    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    Another note about the focus adjustment; On the right eyepiece the focus adjuster has very fine 'clicks'. This is another very nice feature, as you don't have to worry about the eyepiece focus slipping. Also, it makes it easier to remember the setting for your right eye.

    Also,two quick corrections:

    1: The neck strap isn't 'slightly larger' at one part as stated in the review, it felt that way, but when I inspected it closer it simply has the soft material on the back of the neck.

    2: The logo on the bag is actually leather upon closer inspection. haha

    Here are some photos of the binoculars. The lens coatings appear to be fully green, and they are in most lighting, but sometimes they show signs of purple as well.
    Last edited by luisdent; 06-06-2010 at 04:19 PM.
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    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome

    The clicking eye focusser sounds like a snazzy feature. I find it very strange that you're so sensitive to chromatic abberation. You've mentioned it a few times now. I'm not even sure what it looks like. Either our eyes are that different or I've just never seen it.

    You mentioned the difference in "depth of focus" between Nikons and your Pentax's. The Celestrons fall in the Nikon category, especially at close range, and the effect really is kinda cool.

    I like that the eyepiece's delicate focussing parts are housed. That's something always featured on higher end binoculars.

    Nice detailed review. Now you should check out some DSOs and definetely Jupiter, and of course you should lay on your back and scan the Milky Way, and Andromeda, and bla bla blabl.
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    Well done luisdent, great review!

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    I've finally had a clear night. Some rogue clouds hovering around, but almost completely clear. I don't know what magnitude I can see with my naked eye, but I can easily see the stars of ursa major and about 2 layers or so more of fainter stars... I think. I'm new at this. :-p
    Anyhow, I simply searched the sky with no real targets in sight. After staring a while I caught a glimpse of a grey blob in view. I thought at first it was my eyes or something weird, but then it definitely appeared to be anchored in the sky. I stared a while and finally using averted vision it became more definitely a grey blob. No details per se, but definitely not a normal star. I memorized the surrounding star pattern based of of the proximity to ursa major's stars and checked stellarium when I got back it. It was exactly as I remembered in location. I saw m51 tonight! My first messier. ha.
    I don't know if this is typical or not, and again, I'm new at this , but I think it would have been better if it were darker out of the city.
    I did notice one problem that quite frankly is bothering me a lot. My pupils are apparently very close together (you couldn't tell looking at me), and while stargazing I definitely cannot merge the two barrels of the binoculars. I noticed this during the day, but it I think my brain compensated being able to see everything in daylight. So I assumed they were ok. At night however the effect is more obvious. This is NOT a defect of the binocular. My wife has no problem and can merge the barrels perfectly and then some. I can see however that they would merge if I could bring them in about another 2 or 3mm. However this seems to be the smallest 10x50 binos get (26-27mm Inter-Pupillary).
    I may have to return them. I went out twice, and although I was able to get great quality views, it took some effort getting my eyes just right and trying to ignore the effect. It didn't help that there was light from some distant lamp posts. I would say this is a downfall to the binos, not blocking ambient light from your eyes. However, it seems most "higher end" binos have this style eye piece. Interesting. So, I'm at a loss. I'm torn between the great quality, and the very difficult night time usage with my eyes. :-( Should I return them? I have been waiting a week for a clear night, and now I only have one or two days to return them. Ugh......Logic tells me return them, but I'm not sure I'll find 'any' 10x50 or larger with a close IPD....
    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    Good call on M51 but that's too bad about your pupils. If you're thinking about returning them, then clearly you should shop around about pupil width first.
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    Well, it's fairly clear tonight, so I'm gonna give it one more go around. I was at the camera shop today and tried the nikon action extreme 12x50 and was pretty impressed. Not as clear across the field as the pentax and a little dimmer, but I found them easier to focus and just as durable. Not perfect for my pupils, but even the slight 1mm difference in pupil distance and the slightly smaller plastic surrounding the eyepieces makes them better. I've done a 'lot' of research, and there really aren't many binoculars out there with even the 56mm nikon specs (pentax are 57mm).
    We'll see how it goes tonight though.
    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    I've added a post under "First stargazing binocular choice?" about my gazing tonight with images....
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    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    This is a repeat post from another area:

    Well, the verdict is in. Without being able to merge the barrels of my pentax binoculars, I feel that they are much less than optimal for me. I visited a local ritz camera shop and purchased a nikon action extreme 12x50. Long story short, I'm much happier with them for the following reasons:

    1) I can merge the barrels
    2) I can merge the barrels :-p
    3) They have a better location and ergonomics of the center focus knob. This makes it much quicker and easier to focus them, especially in awkward stargazing positions.
    4) I compared them tonight in fairly clear skies, and I find that they are very very close to the pentax. I would say the pentax are a little brighter, and more consistent across the field of view in terms of sharpness, but the 12x50 nikon aren't as bad as the 10x50 nikon (not that either are 'actually' bad).
    But I find it easier for me to focus quickly and to a more sharp point in most of the field of view with the nikons. This may be in part due to the fact that I can merge the barrels...
    Anyhow, I'm a proud new owner of the nikon action extreme 12x50, and I'm not looking back!
    As long as you are familiar with the difference in field of view, anyone looking to purchase the pentax won't be disappointed. They are very high quality for the price. And they feel a little more rugged than the nikons as well. The nikons seem a bit smoother however in overall movement of knobs and parts.
    ~Sean
    Atlas Intrepid 10x42 (Roof Prism)

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    Much thanks for the excellent review. I am in the market for the same.

    Bottom line seems to be that you prefer the 12x50 Nikon over Pentax. Are the 12's about the same as the 10's when hand held?

    Do you recommend any accessories with the bins - e.g., better strap, harness, etc.?

    Richardi

 

 
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