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Binoculars review

Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)

Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)
8 May 2021
Optyczne.pl 
The Vortex Viper series was launched in 2006 and its 1042 representative was one of dark horses of our big 10x42 instruments test.

In 2011 that series got a successor in the form of the Viper HD line and one of binoculars belonging to it, namely the 1042 device, we've already tested. I admit we described it in superlatives only.

2018 saw another change – the binoculars got a new optical construction and the number of models in the line decreased to four, with the following parameters: 842,1042, 1050 and 1250.

In the case of the 1050 model you can notice both positive and negative changes. What's the most important, though, the field of view increased from 5.3 to 6.6 degrees and finally that value befits a good 10x50 class instrument. Unfortunately the eye relief distance decreased from 19.5 to 16 mm and the minimum focusing distance increased from 2.7 to 2.9 meters. Still, the producers didn't increase the price of new models. The following chart presents a comparison between all versions of the Viper 10x50.

What else? Producers boast of low dispersion HD glass and XR Fully Multi-Coated optics on all air-to-glass surfaces. Apart from that, the Schmidt-Pechan prisms are coveredy by phase correction and dielectric multi-coatings and outer elements are protected from scratches, humidity and grease by hydrophobic ArmorTek coatings.

The chassis of the binoculars is waterproof and argon-purged. Buyers get in the box with the device: a set of caps, a strap, a stylish case, and a harness. The product comes with a lifetime warranty from the producer.
Pictures
  • Lornetka Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)
  • Lornetka Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)
  • Lornetka Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)
  • Lornetka Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018)
Manufacturer data

Manufacturer:

Vortex
web site

Distribution / Sales:

Kolba.pl
web site

Magnification Lens diameter Angular field of view Prisms Eye relief Weight Price
10 50 115/1000(6.6o) BaK-4/roof 16 mm 805 g 2469 PLN
Results of the review
Real front lens diameter Left:   49.93+/- 0.05 mm
Right:  50.02+/- 0.05 mm
8 / 8.0 pkt
Real magnification 9.74+/- 0.05x 3/3.0
Transmission 84.5+/- 1% 12/25.0
Chromatic aberration Slight in the centre, noticeably higher than medium on the edge. 5.8/10.0
Astigmatism Moderate. 7.3/10.0
Distortion Distance between the first curved line and the field centre compared to the field of view radius: 46% ± 3% 5/10.0
Coma Starts in a distance of 55% of the field of view radius and is a bit lower than medium on the very edge. 4.5/10.0
Blurring at the edge of the FOV Blur occurs in a distance of 81% ±3% from the field of view centre. 6/10.0
Darkening at the edge the FOV Negligible 4.3/5.0
Whiteness of the image The highest transmission in the red part of the spectrum so images are slightly orange. 3.8/5.0
Collimation Perfect. 5/5.0
Internal reflections
Left: Right:
Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018) - Internal reflections - Left Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018) - Internal reflections - Right
A noticeable arc near the pupil. At night you see distinct spikes and a small halo when you look at bright lampposts.
3/5.0
Housing Solid and comfortable to hold and to look through. Good quality rubber armour that sticks to your hands properly well. Still it sticks out near the objectives a bit. Thumb indentations positioned in good places. Rubberized eyecups with four detention stops. An inscription on the bridge informs that the binoculars are made in the Philipines. 7.5/8.0
Focusing Huge central wheel that is comfortable and works properly well. It has a significant resistance when turned. The full range amounts to about 520 degrees. A sliding-out ring for dioptre correction is positioned on the right eyepiece; it moves the outer element. 4.5/5.0
Tripod A quite accessible tripod exit. 3/3.0
Interpupilary distance from 57.3 to 73.3mm 4/6.0
Closest focusing distance 3.10 meters. 2/2.0
Eyepieces FOV Apparent field of view of 65.4 degrees (according to the simplified formula) and 59.5 degrees (according to the tangent formula). 14/20.0
Field of view Measured by us amounted to 6.71 +/- 0.04 degrees and it was even a tad wider than stated in the official specifications. A significantly big field for this class of equipment. 7.5/8.0
Quality of the interior of the barrels Inner tubes are densely ribbed, dark and quite sensibly matted. A dark bottom but you can notice a narrow ring around the prisms which is a tad too bright. Clean, you can spot just several specks of dust. 4.2/5.0
Vignetting
Left: Right:
Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018) - Vignetting - Left Vortex Viper HD 10x50 (2018) - Vignetting - Right
OL: 0.40%, OR: 1.40%
6.5/8.0
Prisms quality High quality BaK-4. 8/8.0
Antireflection coatings Green-purple on the objectives, green-purple on the prisms and green-purple on the eyepieces. Low intensity. 5/5.0
Warranty [years] lifetime 6/6.0
Final result
73.6%
139.9 / 190 pkt
Econo result 0pkt.

Summary


Pros:
  • solid and stylish chassis,
  • wide field of view,
  • good control of astigmatism,
  • slight coma,
  • very low brightness loss on the edge of the field,
  • good quality BaK-4 prisms,
  • proper blackening and cleanliness inside the instrument,
  • good quality anti-reflection coatings that cover all air-to-glass surfaces,
  • lifetime warranty.
Cons:
  • too low trasmission for a pair of binoculars at this price point,
  • a bit too high chromatic aberration on the edge of the field of view.

Vortex Viper is a well-known brand name and their binoculars have fared in our tests of 32 mm and 42 mm class devices quite well. Still, we deliberately didn't test any Viper 10x50 models – all because of the field of view, mentioned in the introduction, that amounted to just 5.3 degrees. Such a result befits ill a 10x pair of binoculars so we were not especially keen on performing a full testing procedure of such an instument. We felt that, even if its optical properties were good (not a difficult task with such a narrow field of view) we wouldn't be able recommend it anyway.

The situation changed diametrically in 2018, when the new Vipers were presented. The 10x50 model got a field of 6.6 degrees (or even 6.7 degrees according to our measurements), an excellent result. What's more, all the optics came inside a very shapely chassis which weight exceeds slightly 800 grams. After learning that much we wanted to take a closer look at the Viper HD 10x50 without any objections.


Vortex Viper 10x42 HD and Vortex Viper 10x50 HD.

You can say the Vortex Viper HD 10x50 didn't disappoint us. It is perhaps not an ideal pair of binoculars but, with such physical dimensions and weight combined with a wide field of view some compromises were necessary. Too low transmission bothered us the most – at this price point you should expect a result of 89-91%.

In our 10x50 binoculars ranking the Viper is on the same level as the Meopta Meostar B1 10x50 and different porro Fujinon clones. Still, the latter are not real rivals - they weigh almost two times as much as the Viper and they feature individual focusing. Such instruments would be good for astronomic or marine observations but you certainly wouldn't like to take them on any walking trips. Meanwhile the Viper, with a weight comparable to that of heavier 10x42 instruments, can be easily described as a mobile pair of binoculars.

As you see, the Viper HD 10x50 fits a certain market gap – it is an interesting option for those who want to buy a roof prism 10x50 pair of binoculars with 'normal' parameters and good optical properties but they don't want to spend more than about 1000 USD. So far, the choice in that segment was really poor and, as the Meopta Meostar is no longer produced in the 10x50 version, the Viper really doesn't have many serious rivals.

By the way, it's a pity the 10x50 class has been so neglected lately. While you see many new 8x42 and 10x42 models launched by many different producers the 10x50 binoculars are kind of forgotten, even though their parameters are the most universal ones. Vortex didn't make such a mistake and, as they offer the well-put-together and optically efficient Viper 10x50 HD, we don't doubt they will reap the fruit of their labour.