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FenlandPaul

Vixen SG 2.1x42mm binoculars

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I bought these back in April after reading of the immersive views they give. "Like having supercharged eyesight" stated one review. It sounded like they were going to be an awesome addition to any dark site adventure. They certainly weren't something I needed, but this was a treat - something relatively frivolous that would entertain on holidays or on night walks.

I bought them from The Widescreen Centre near Ely, now conveniently located 12 minutes drive from my front door (a worrying development for my wallet). They came neatly packaged in classic Vixen livery. The case is well padded and of good quality - like an old compact camera case and easily be slipped into a coat pocket. There's a loop on the case made of webbing, presumably for all you commandos out there.

First impressions on handling were very good indeed. There is a real quality about the engineering and they are surprisingly heavy for such a small unit (although in no way too heavy to hold for long periods). The front of the objective holders appear to be threaded; I assumed this was for 2" filters (how cool would that be?!) but in fact they're a slightly different size. If anyone knows what the threading is for please advise!!

The eye lenses are very exposed and I would prefer twist up cups on them to allow easier adjustment of eye position. Mine have only been used a few time and I can already see minor smeary deposits from my eyelashes on the lens - nothing some Wonder Fluid wouldn't sort, but you'll need to take care with them. Each eye is individually focussed via a knurled focus wheel around the eye lens - it's got a lovely solid feel to it.

Holding these bins in the field takes a bit of getting used to. They are very slim, so you can't grab them as you would a "normal" pair of binoculars. I found pinching them between thumb and forefinger was the most comfortable and secure way; there's a strap for added security, which I assume is designed to go round the neck rather than wrist as it's quite long.  I have heard of some people design headgear to hold the binoculars in place hands-free - it wouldn't surprise me if a commercial aftermarket solution becomes available at some point. 

So, enough of that. How did these fellas perform where it matters? I'd been waiting until now to evaluate them properly as it's the first time I've been able to get under really dark skies since I bought them, and it's dark skies that these things are really designed for. 

Well I'm sorry to say that overall I've been really disappointed. But before you rule them out of your prospective purchases, read on because I'm pretty sure the problem is me, not them.

Now let me set the scene by explaining that I'm quite shortsighted (roughly -4 and -3 prescription) and I also have astigmatism. I don't usually wear my glasses at the eyepiece, but I wear them when using the telrad and RACI finder.

Without my glasses on I could barely get the Vixens to focus. At best, I had a central field of maybe 20 degrees AFOV at best that was reasonably sharp and then blurs round the rest of the field. Those blurs were usually short lines, shooting out radially from the centre of the field. It reminded me of the old star field simulation screensaver from Windows 3.1. In the central part of the field the view was sharp and significantly enhanced from naked eye, but the view didn't feel immersive because off-axis the image quality was terrible. Had the off-axis image been as good as the central image it would have been spectacular - the extra light gathering power coupled with the minimal magnification gives a genuine sense of superhuman eyesight, but for me that was limited to such a small portion of the field as to be pointless.

When I wore my glasses it was a different story. I could reach focus and the view was sharp across the field. But because my eyes were several mm from the eye lens the AFOV was restricted and so the experience wasn't immersive. Laying on my back looking at the northern part of Cygnus was very enjoyable, but not the "falling into the view" experience I'd hoped for based on the reviews I'd seen.  To be honest, from such a dark site, the naked eye view was a lot better.

So what went wrong? Well, from having a read around it appears that the optical system employed (the same as is used for opera glasses, not that I've ever been!) has limitations if you're short sighted like me. Mild shortsightedness seems to cope well, but my prescription seems to be just over the edge of what the system can cope with. I don't know the details - perhaps someone can explain - but if you have perfect vision these aberrations and limitations wouldn't hinder the experience. I didn't know this before I bought them and I would certainly have been wary of doing so if I'd known. 

I really really wanted these to deliver. The build quality is superb and the concept - of seeming to have superhuman sight - is very cool indeed. Having recently acquired a small set of Naglers the immersive experience has become something I've fallen in love with. But for my eyesight these novel binoculars completely failed to deliver. I can't say I wasn't very disappointed indeed!

So would I recommend them? Well that might seem like a strange question to ask given what I've already said! But actually, if you have good eyesight then yes - there are plenty of very complimentary reviews out there and the build quality is superb. As a totally unnecessary but really enjoyable (and fairly pricey) toy, I think they'd be great, especially if you have access to dark skies. If you're unsure how your eyesight would fare with them, then I'd strongly recommend trying someone else's at a star party or borrowing someone's for a while. But if you're eyesight is as bad as mine (and really, I don't think mine is terrible!) then I'm afraid I'd steer well clear. That's a real shame, but it's my unavoidable conclusion. Mine will be going up for sale very soon. I'll miss the concept, but I won't miss them.

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A very interesting read Paul. Your experience almost exactly mirrors mine. My eyes are not perfect either- short sighted and different astigmatism in each- but I don't wear glasses at the eyepiece. I too did not get the immersive experience that I expected. To me there seemed to be halo around each FoV which gave a sort of tunnel vision experience. Like you, I put it down to the fact that the binoculars did not suit me because there were so many positive reviews around. On the other hand it is clear that there is a minority that do not get on with them.

I was prepared to keep trying and I took them with me on a trip to the US - and, ironically, I lost them ( I think I left them in the hire car.) I claimed for them on my insurance so it was as if I had sold them, which I would have done anyway.

As I said in another thread, I think anyone thinking of getting some should try them first particularly if they have any eyesight problems. 

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Interesting review. It really does seem as though binoculars are a far more personal preference thing than other optical aids such as telescopes.

 

I am one of the very positive reviews out there but I also have 20/10 vision (well I did last time I was tested. I can tell age is beginning to have an impact) but I did try to simulate loss of field of view by trying them with cosmetic glasses to get the eye to lens spacing correct. However, nothing I could do about actual eye prescriptions.

 

Having lent them to several people, over half readily like them and many purchased their own pair, but clearly leaves many who were less than impressed.

 

As you wrote, try before you buy if you can is the best advice!

Edited by DirkSteele
Typo
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I've just bought a pair of these, but mine are Omegon. I do wear glasses but never while observing. I'm awaiting their arrival. Reading the comments here has me a little worried. 

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I saw a pair branded Kasai for €166 and have been tempted - I wear contacts most of the time.

https://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p8937_Kasai-WideBino-28-Wide-Field-Galilean-Binoculars-2-3x--40-mm-aperture.html

Anyone have any comments re Vixen vs Kasai?

Will be interested to hear your experience Paul!  I'm hoping they could be fun down say West Cork/Kerry on a dark night for spotting Messier objects, when naked eye is breathtakingly stunning.

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Mine are arriving on Monday. I'll probably get to try them out on Tuesday 10th April 2019.

LOL.

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Posted (edited)

The Kasai I believe can accommodate a larger diopter focus range.  I’m quite short sighted and I can almost but not quite reach focus without my glasses in the vixens.  

 

Edit: should say it’s the updated version of the kasai’s that have the extended focus range

Edited by TheMightyKong

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Same experience as me. I am also short sighted with astigmatism, borrowed a pair at a star pary and couldnt reach focus with or without glasses. Was disappointed as I really like the idea. 

Mick

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Without my glasses on I could barely get the Vixens to focus. At best, I had a central field of maybe 20 degrees AFOV at best that was reasonably sharp and then blurs round the rest of the field. Those blurs were usually short lines, shooting out radially from the centre of the field. It reminded me of the old star field simulation screensaver from Windows 3.1. 

An interesting and informative read! Thanks for putting it up...I had exactly the same experience with a very expensive ES 25mm 100 degree eyepiece..only those radial lines you mention were actually spectra when you looked closely. The problems largely disappeared with corrected eyesight, and I don't have a lot of astigmatism. It seems that even good manufacturers are capable of failing to model what happens to the ray trace for all reasonable ranges of people's eyesight. It should be part of the product testing before these things get to market!

I was thinking of getting some of these,but with a prescription of -6 in each eye I don't think I will bother! Many thanks ...

RL

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On ‎03‎/‎04‎/‎2018 at 15:48, LukeSkywatcher said:

Mine are arriving on Monday. I'll probably get to try them out on Tuesday 10th April 2019.

LOL.

Really interested to hear what you think, Paul.  I need to get mine back on the market - I don't usually like selling things that I'm not personally happy with, so I'll be directing people to this review in the interests of transparency!

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Posted (edited)

My little bins arrived today. First impression is that they are of fantastic build quality. Heavier than I expected. Had a quick play by observing the house across the road. Bins didn't come to perfect focus. I put this down to being too close and observing during the day which really isn't what the bins are for. Also I have a nasty virus atm and it's affecting my eyes. They are very photosensitive. 

So not really a fair first light. 

*Update*

I have just tried the bins with my gasses on and observing the same target. I get perfect focus. Not totally emersive view while wearing glasses but still good. Should work well at night

DSC_0201.JPG

Edited by LukeSkywatcher
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