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Reviewed by Joe on 10/11/18
Kestrel, merlin and peregrine... all birds of prey, and all names of Viking binoculars. We might all have our favourite, but I'd think we can all agree the peregrine sits top of the podium for its physical prowess and unrivalled speed. It's no surprise then to find the Viking Peregrine ED is the most expensive of the three models, so in my latest review I'll be taking a look at whether it can live up to its namesake.
Autumn is in full swing, though it's unseasonably warm. The glorious sunshine, being lower in the sky than it is in the summer, provides challenging conditions for ED (extra low dispersion) glass. The role of ED elements within binoculars is to reduce colour fringing (or chromatic aberration [CA] to give it its proper title). With the sun behind me it's no surprise I couldn't notice any CA on the outline of an oak tree. Looking in to the sun is more of a test, one which the Peregrine binoculars handles admirably. With both the 8x and 10x models, I couldn't see any fringing in the centre of the view, with a small amount creeping in at the edge but nothing too distracting.
At 7°, the Peregrine 8x42 has a pretty average field of view, however it does achieve an excellent level of clarity across the entire image, with very minor softening at the edges. This is just as, if not more, pleasing in practical use than a wider field of view which is only sharp in the centre. Therefore I was pleasantly surprised by the 6.7° on the 10x42. If we look at the figures on both the Kestrel ED and Merlin ED series, the 8x42s have 8.1° and the 10x42s are 6.5°, so while the Peregrine ED 8x42 falls behind the others, the 10x42 actually tops them. In use then, quite remarkably, you can almost see as wide an image with the 10x42 Peregrine ED as you can with the 8x. A wood pigeon resting in the oak and three jackdaws on the church tower gave me a couple of decent opportunities to compare the 8x and 10x. Unsurprisingly I favoured the 10x42 in these instances as the extra magnification allowed me to make out more detail on the birds while barely compromising the field of view. Moving to look at the bird feeders which are just a matter of metres from the front of the shop and are in the shade, the 8x42 displayed its slightly superior brightness. This was even more apparent in the late afternoon, as the larger exit pupil allowed more light to reach my eyes. Although you'll also find BAK4 prisms, fully multi coated lenses, phase correction and dielectric mirror coatings on the Kestrel ED and Merlin ED, it's worth noting not all coatings are made the same. Viking don't provide light transmission percentages, but it's evident the Peregrine ED binoculars are sharper and brighter than their cousins. The colour of the overall image is neutral in tone yet vibrant, making them a pleasure to use even just to watch the blue and great tits on the feeders. Viking quote close focus on both models at 2 metres, which matched almost exactly with my own measurements. The eyerelief on the 8x42 is 20mm and the 10x42 has 15.7mm - I found the 8x42 most comfortable with the eyecups fully extended and the 10x42s best at the third stop.
When presented with all the new Viking models at the start of 2018, it seemed obvious to me that the Peregrine was the top of the range. While they're all made in China, that's not to say they look or feel cheap, in fact the same high quality, stippled metal focus wheel and dioptre can be found on all of the latest models. It's possibly due to their sleek appearance, the chassis narrowing at the top, all covered in a smooth, tactile rubber armour. The hinge tension allows for easy adjustment but stays firmly in place when the correct interpupillary distance has been set. The eyecups are covered in the same soft rubber armour, with 4 stop eye-relief. For me, I'd like a bit more rigidity at each stop. While they don't exactly slip down, it doesn't take much pressure to change which position they're in, unlike the Kestrel ED and Merlin ED which are more secure. The afore-mentioned focus wheel takes roughly 1 ¼ turns from close focus to infinity. As is to be expected, they are nitrogen gas filled to prevent internal fogging and are completely waterproof.
At 600g and 610g for the 8x42 and 10x42 respectively, the Peregrine ED binoculars are just about as light as you'll find from a 42mm objective glass. This makes them a pleasure to carry around on a long walk. Owing to their slender body, they also allow for a very firm grip on the barrels, which themselves have slight thumb indents on the under side. They are very balanced in the hand and the focus wheel is in a natural position for the index finger to operate, while I found my middle finger resting on the bridge and the other two wrapped around the front of the barrel. Though I generally use two hands to maintain a steady image, the Peregrine ED binoculars were almost as comfortable to use with just one hand.
Inside the nicely presented box you'll find a soft but not very padded, velcro-closing case, which doesn't have its own strap but rather allows for the binocular lanyard to hang outside should you wish to carry the binoculars inside the case. I actually like this arrangement, but of course it's a personal preference. The padded lanyard is the same as is found on the Kestrel ED and Merlin ED, while the provided microfibre cleaning cloth is much better than those found with the other models. Tethered objective lens caps and a good quality, albeit slightly loose fitting rainguard are also included. A 10 year guarantee is reassuring and Viking's service is exemplary.
Optical quality: 9/10
Build quality: 7/10
Value for Money: 9/10
I reluctantly gave the Peregrine ED binoculars a 7 for build quality as I feel the eyecups are inferior to those on similarly priced binoculars, but that's one minor niggle that is more than made up for by their excellent optical qualities and superlative comfort. I was most impressed by the Viking Kestrel ED binoculars I reviewed earlier this year and still strongly believe they represent fantastic value for money, and while of course you'll have to splash out another £100 or more for the Peregrine ED binoculars, there are times when they really are worth the extra cost. If you're looking for to upgrade your current pair or are just starting out birdwatching, I wholeheartedly recommend these bins.