These binoculars are easily up to the demands of most casual nature watchers. If you are looking for a pair of bins that are lightweight, compact and easy to pack on any adventure, then the Opticron Explorer should be at the top of your shortlist. The Opticron Explorer WA ED-R + 8x32 delivers an exceptionally impressive image in low light – far better than we expected given its 32mm objective lens. They proved to be a joy to use, and I found myself packing them ‘just in case’ long after I’d finished testing them. The best all-round binoculars for people who want to combine nature watching with more adventurous pursuits.
Impressive wide-angle viewing and great image
Small, light and easy to pack on any adventure
Smaller objective lens won’t gather as much light
Not sufficiently close focusing for butterflies, etc
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I wasn’t expecting great things from the Opticron Explorer WA ED-R + 8x32 when I first opened the box. Lighter and smaller than most on test, there had to be some compromise in performance. But by the end of a month of testing 15 pairs side-by-side, I’d grown strangely fond of the Opticron Explorer.
They sit in the saddlebag of my audax bike, pack neatly into my running belt and I hardly notice them in my rucksack. The fact they slip into a waterproof jacket pocket or even the side pocket of my walking trousers, means they are always handy when you do see something of interest. That might seem a small point, but over the course of a month, I saw more birds and wildlife with these than the rest of the binoculars I tested put together.
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What’s more, they are a joy to use. They feel good in your hands, the eyecups twist open smoothly and the central hinge is easy to adjust so you can get a clear, single image. They are joyfully engineered and a delight to use.
• RRP: $329 (USA)/£219 (UK)
• Size: 120mm length; 116mm width/ 4.7inch length; 4.6inch width
• Weight: 440g/15.5oz
• Magnification: 8
• Objective diameter: 32mm
• Field of view at 1000m: 136m
• Close focusing distance: 2.5m/8.2ft
In the field
Size alone isn’t enough for us to recommend these binoculars. The smaller objective lens should mean that they don’t perform as well in low light conditions. So very early on, I sat over the Avon Gorge with five different pairs, the majority of which had larger objective lenses that – all things being equal – should gather more light.
Watching a climber scale a route on the other side of the gorge, I was impressed with just how well these performed. There was very little to set them apart in terms of performance from other larger pairs at a similar price point.
They also offer a much wider field of view than others we tested. A few weeks later, I just happened to have them in my pocket when I spotted three bats circling overhead at dusk. The image was little more than a silhouette, but the wide-angle view allowed me to track them as they pinballed between trees hunting for flying insects.
I found these easy to use with a pair of glasses – with the eye cups wound back down – which was really handy for days when I was moving from binoculars to field guide to try to ID a bird. And less weight also means there was noticeably less image wobble, when I was trying to focus on something at a distance.
So if you are looking for a pair of binoculars in this price range and you value lightweight and easy to pack on any adventure, then these are definitely worth the full five stars on this review.
Former Editorial Development Director for Lonely Planet, editor of Trail and BBC Wildlife magazine, and editor-in-chief of Trail Running magazine, Matt got the outdoor bug as a teen on gruelling UK Ten Tors events around Dartmoor. He has hitch-hiked to Egypt, cycled through India, enjoyed the delights of the High Atlas, slept on volcanoes while living in Central America, climbed in the Alps and tackled some of Scotland’s really big routes, from Tower Ridge and the Cuillin to the Aonach Eagach. He’s got a passion for butterflies and ukuleles. If you see him in a campfire situation… approach with caution.