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Rifle Magazine
September - October 2002
Volume 34, Number 5
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 203
On the cover...
The Marlin Model 1894SS is outfitted with a 2.5x Weaver scope and the Model 1894CBC .38 Special features a color case finish. Rifle photo by Stan Trzoniec. Aoudad sheep photo by George Barnett.
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Product Tests

Pentax 8x28 DCF MP Binocular

It used to be that light, compact - or subcompact binoculars, as some called ‘em – weren’t much more useful than opera glasses in the field. No more. As these new 8x28s from Pentax demonstrate, they have all the power, resolution, light-gathering ability and versatility of larger, heavier glasses - and all the bells and whistles too.

To begin with, it is the roof-prism type. That means all lenses are stacked in line, making for a more com- pact assembly. Each lens is given seven separate coatings to increase light transmission, reduce glare and enhance contrast. The result is a bright and detailed image.

The focusing knob is geared a bit on the high side, i.e., when trying to zero in on an object, it became apparent the difference between a series of fuzzy, illegible numbers and those that were clear-cut and readable was often no more than a slight nudge of the focusing knob.

To double check, the binocular was pointed at a building 438 yards away. There were two doors, one numbered 23 and the other, 25. At that range, differentiating between the three and the five is a lot easier said than done, depending on resolving power. As the focus changed, both numbers were suddenly clearly delineated - but only for a split-second. They were in and out of focus before the knob’s rotation could be halted. Reversing its direction no more than a millimeter’s worth brought both numbers sharply into focus, making it child’s play to distinguish one number from the other.

For a final test, the glasses were aimed at another door 423 yards from where I stood. Having learned my lesson, the focusing knob was rotated slowly, almost gingerly, until the number, 810, stood out bright and clear in the lenses images. Those numbers, by the way, are 3 inches tall, black on a white background.

A morning was spent in the local National Forest, spotting songbirds, a few squirrels, a chipmunk or two and some doves. Again, the focusing knob was treated gently, and even the fastest winging birds could be brought into focus with minimal time and effort after a bit of practice. At the same time, another lesson was driven home.

My chosen test ground is mountainous with little level ground. Altitude ranged from 6,500 to about 8,000 feet above sea level. Due to its handy size and light weight, it was easy to forget the glasses hanging from my neck when I shifted position from one slope to another. Whenever an opportunity to use the little 8s arose, I was reminded that 16.2 ounces have drawbacks as well as advantages.

Several times, after panting and gasping up a steep incline, I found that before I could use the glasses, my body, or at least my arms, had to be braced solidly against something firm and immovable. Otherwise, the feathery Pentax bounced and jiggled in time with my heaving chest and accelerated heartbeat.

Of course, all binoculars, even the heavier, full-sized models, reflect body movements to some degree. All their extra ounces add enough inertia to dampen movement and lend a sensation of stability. Because the bantam-sized 8x28s are almost weightless, they offer no resistance when jarred but simply react - and do so immediately. That presents no particular problem when panning a large area, but if it’s necessary to focus on a specific, distant target, particularly a smallish one, any tremors in the field of view will make close-focusing more of an impossibility than a challenge.

The 8x28’s optics compare favorably with those of much more expensive binoculars. When properly focused, everything in the field of view is clear, right out to the edges of the lenses. Eye relief - the distance between the viewer’s eyes, with or without spectacles, and the binocular’s eyepieces - is easily set with the assistance of adjustable eyepiece rings.

Waterproofing was accomplished by filling the binocular’s interior with nitrogen. According to the spec sheet, that allows the glasses to be submerged in as much as 3.3 feet of water yet remain dry inside. That claim was not put to the test.

Light-gathering ability of the little 8x was impressive. At first light or around sundown, it was possible to peer into distant shadows and make out plenty of detail.

Each binocular is supplied with rain-guard caps, a nylon neck strap and a nylon carrying case.

The new Pentax 8x28 offers big-glass optical quality in a palm-sized package that can be carried for days on end without any hint of fatigue. Its focusing knob demands a gentle touch and for clear viewing and close-focusing, a well-braced body is recommended. - Al Miller

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