Vortex 8.5x32 Spitfire

Posted by david elosser   03/26/2007 07:00AM

Vortex 8.5x32 Spitfire

You can’t use your telescope on a cloudy night. On the other hand, you can use your binoculars on a cloudy day! I searched the various websites for a compact pair of binoculars selling for under $150. There were certain features I was looking for. I wanted them to be rugged and weatherproof, since I would be taking them out into the great outdoors in search of flora and fauna. I wanted them small but with enough aperture for a bright image. I was also hoping to find a pair that would have a close focus, preferably less than 10 feet. I found all I was looking for in the Vortex Spitfire 8.5x32. I was not familiar with the Vortex brand so I gave them a thorough testing when I purchased them, with the understanding that I could return them if I was not happy.

Fit and finish: excellent. Everything is well made and tightly put together. The front caps, in fact, fit almost too tight, as I have a bit of difficulty getting them off. But I have the assurance that they will not accidentally be knocked off and lost while walking around in the woods. You also get a rear cap that attaches to the neck strap. It fits well, and can be pulled off easily for quick viewing. The Spitfire is nitrogen purged and sealed against the elements. I am confident I can take these binoculars out in any inclement weather that I would not mind being in myself.

Size: They are compact, but the 32mm objective gives a brighter image than the 25mm range, and the weight and balance make them comfortable to hand-hold. They weigh just a little over a pound. I choose the 8.5 power over the 10x32 version because it is easier to steady the image, and with more exit pupil you get a brighter image.

L-R: Nikon Sprint 8x21, Vortex Spitfire 8.5x32, Sears 7x35, Nikon Action 10x50. In this lineup, only my Action beats the Spitfire in image sharpness.

Ergonomics: The Spitfire is fully armored with a rubber/plastic material that is easy to grasp and hold onto. I really like the center focus wheel. It has ridges and when I put an index finger on either side, I can use the wheel like a rocker and focus quickly as I move the binoculars around. I can focus from 15 to 50 feet with the flick of a finger. You get twist-up eye cups, and eye relief is excellent. I can easily use these binoculars with my eye glasses on. The color of the body is a dull green so that it won’t attract attention in the forest. You get a neck strap for the binoculars, and a soft case with its own strap and belt loop. I would think that even a fully loaded sports hunter would easily find room to carry the Spitfire.

Image quality: Very good! Sharpness is as good as or better than the other brands of compact binoculars that I have. According to Vortex, BaK4 prisms are used and all optics are fully multi-coated. The Spitfire is a little larger and heavier than my Nikon Sprint 8x21, but there is a definite improvement over image brightness and quality. Compared to my “vintage” pair of Sears 7x35, the Spitfire is brighter, sharper, with much more field of view and focuses much closer. The only pair I have that outperforms the Spitfire in sharpness is a pair of Japanese-made Nikon Action 10x50, which are much bulkier and heavier. Field of view is wonderfully wide. It looses sharpness at the edge, but this is more of a slight blur rather than a total loss of resolution. Sharpness is excellent over most of the field. Colors are very accurate. Looking at distant trees in autumn, reds are red, yellows are yellow, and the blue sky maintains its identical hue. The delicate differences in the browns, grays, oranges, and yellows make identifying the different types of sparrows on my bird feeder very easy. When I look at the full moon through the Spitfire, I see very little chromatic aberration in the optics.

Close focus: The 8.5x32 Spitfire focuses down to 5 feet. I had to get used to looking “cross-eyed” to get the images to merge, and the interpupillary distance won’t quite squeeze down to get a fully 3-D view at 5 feet, but backing off a bit gives a very nice close-up 3-D view of tiny bugs and flowers right at my feet. The magnification and close focus feature make this binocular a very versatile tool for me to take into the field. It also makes it easy to view birds or animals through my patio door or window that come up close to the house.

Anything bad about these binoculars? Well, yes. The focus wheel makes for rapid focusing, but it can be hard to “nail the focus”, especially at a distance when I have to rock the focus back and forth. I have already mentioned the issues with focusing at its minimum distance. Finally, they are not well protected against internal flaring. If you have sunshine on your shoulder, you will probably have some in your binoculars as well. I have to wear a cap or position myself away from the sun to get rid of the stray sunlight. This is the only shortcoming I wish Vortex had corrected.

Overall, I am very happy with the Vortex Spitfire 8.5x32. They are a very versatile pair of binoculars that I find myself using more and more often.

David Elosser
Kernersville NC

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