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Pentax ED or SP binos

Started by heliophile, 11/03/2009 08:11PM
Posted 11/03/2009 08:11PM Opening Post
I am looking for any user experience with the Pentax DCF ED or SP line of binoculars. Please share any experience with both birding and stargazing if able. Thanks.
Posted 11/04/2009 12:45PM #1
Having been a binocular nut for a long time, I've owned one or more examples from every major manufacturer, of various types and sizes, and still have around a dozen bino's on hand. I've been partial to higher end porro prism binoc's, being rather disappointed with early examples of Nikon and Leitz roof prism models, which only seemed to be sharp in the center of the field of view.

Back in 2001, I decided to buy my wife a larger/better binocular to replace her little pocket sized Nikon. I wanted to get her a good binocular (well made, good optics, user friendly, not too big) but not go overboard on price. After weeks of searching and hands-on comparisons, I settled on the Pentax 8x42 DCF WP with full multi-coating and phase-coating (forerunner to the later, improved WP II, SP and ED models). This binoc cost me about $350 at the time but in a 30 minute side-by-side comparison to a similar $1000 Zeiss binoc, I could not tell the difference in daylight viewing, indoors or out. (This was at a time when phase coatings were becoming common in higher end roof prism binoculars and the image quality was getting much better.)

I was so impressed with the Pentax DCF WP, I started looking for an even better, similar binocular for myself. I purchased a Fujinon CD 8x42 (about $650 in 2001) and spent a weekend camping trip in high mountains, comparing the two, during both daytime and at night. I ended up sending the Fujinon back for a refund, as the Pentax were noticeably sharper and much lighter. (The Fujinon was unusually heavy for its size.)

I continued searching for the perfect 8x42 roof prism bino that could finally beat the Pentax and eventually settled on the Swarovski 8.5x42 EL, for a lot more money. They are quite similar in daylight performance but the Swarovski has the edge at night, with stars being a little more pinpoint, as best I can tell with my older eyes. The edge to edge sharpness in both is about as good as it gets with roof prism bino's.

The bottom line is that the Pentax DCF line of binoculars has changed little since their introduction, with mostly minor cosmetic and internal changes and constantly improved optics. They are compact for an 8x42 (or 8x43), not too heavy, focus quickly and smoothly, have good eye relief and have the convenient extendable eyecups (like the Swarovski). Having experience with other Pentax binoculars and Pentax medium format camera lenses, I don't know how they manage to produce such good optics for the price.

Although I haven't tried any lately, I would think that the current versions of the Pentax DCF binoculars would easily meet or exceed your expectations. I'd guess that you would have to do a careful side by side comparison between the SP and ED versions, looking at stars, to see any difference. Other than the glass in the more expensive ED version, they are pretty much the same, optically.