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Reviewed by Joe on 08/10/20
These latest Diamondback HD models, introduced by Vortex in 2019, may at first glance appear unchanged from the previous 2016 version, but surely there's more to it than initially meets the eye? Let's take a look.
The most obvious improvement to the latest Diamondback models is the addition of HD glass. HD (high density) glass, to all intents and purposes, has the same effect as ED (extra-low dispersion) glass, in that it reduces chromatic aberration or colour fringing. When you reduce colour fringing, edges have greater clarity, with no green or purple haze. With the Diamondback HD, when compared to the older model, the overall definition appears to have improved. It's not something that jumped out at me, but after some careful comparison, the colour and contrast were more punchy, for want of a better word. Chromatic aberration hasn't been completely eliminated, in fact it would be unfair to expect as much from a binocular in this price bracket, but it's a marked improvement. As before, the 10x42 struggles to control colour fringing more than the 8x32 or 8x42, as is the nature of higher magnifications. Compared to similarly priced ED binoculars, for me, the Diamondback HD binoculars still don't handle colour fringing as well as the competition, but in practical use, it's not an issue.
The Diamondback HD binoculars have of course retained all the other welcome properties from the previous generation, such as BAK-4 prisms, fully multi-coated glass, phase correction and dielectric mirror coatings. Altogether, these elements create a crisp, vibrant, bright image, even on a typically wet and miserable autumnal day like today. A male house sparrow, sheltering from the rain in the holly bush outside the shop, offers a perfect opportunity to try the binoculars out in real-world conditions. Each of the 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42 provide me with a thoroughly enjoyable view, illuminating the shadows nicely so I can absorb all the colours in the picture, such as the chestnut brown on the sparrow and the vibrant orange-red of the holly berries. A minor adjustment on the focus wheel takes my attention to the oak tree further in the distance, where I find a great spotted woodpecker clinging to the tree trunk. I change from the 8x32 to the 10x42, the extra magnification offering me an improved view given the greater distance, and can clearly make out the vibrant red underbelly but no sign of any red on the back of the head, identifying this bird as a female. With all 3 models, there is some softening on outer 20% of the view, but sharpness in the centre is excellent. The field of view figures are quoted at 8.1°, 8° and 6.3° for the 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42 respectively. The especially wide field of view on the 8x32 and 8x42 is amongst the very best in this price bracket.
Close focus on the Diamondback HD 8x32 is 1.4m (4.6ft) according to the Newpro (UK Vortex distributor) website. The Vortex USA website and box quote it at 1.52m (5ft). Personally, I could focus down to 1 metre; perhaps there is a variation among units. The 8x42 and 10x42 are both listed with a close focus of 1.52m, but the closest I could achieve was nearer 1.8m. Regardless of the disparity, anything under 2 metres is considered very good. If all copies of the 8x32 can actually achieve 1 metre like I could, this is exceptional. Although not too important for birds, many nature lovers will find this helpful for insect watching.
Internally, the binoculars have been Argon gas purged, which prevents internal fogging in almost any usable temperature. Being O-ring sealed also means the binoculars are completely waterproof, so don't fret if you get caught out in the rain. This is something I'd expect from a ~£200 binocular, but the added bonus with the Diamondback HD models is what Vortex call ArmorTek coating on the exterior lenses, which repels unwanted build up of water, dirt or oily finger prints.
Externally, the Diamondback HD appears almost identical to the previous model. The rubber coated magnesium chassis looks and feels good. The central hinge, focus wheel and dioptre may feel particularly tight when first taken out of the box, but they'll all ease in after some use. The focussing action is pleasantly smooth and takes roughly 1.5 turns from one end to the other. The eyecups feel well made and have 3 positions: down, half way up and fully extended. Eye-relief is 16mm on the 8x32, 17mm on the 8x42 and 15mm on the 10x42. I found the fully extended position perfectly suited for me, while with the eyecups down they should suit anyone wearing specs. The addition of high density glass has increased the weight ever so slightly vs the 2016 model, but with the 32mm objective binoculars coming in at around 450g, and the 42mm models a fraction over 600g, they're still some of the lightest binoculars around. The thumb indents in the rear of the binoculars allow for comfortable hand placement, which combined with the low weight ensure the Diamondbacks are well balanced in the hand and won't feel like a burden around your neck.
On to the accessories; the same padded strap is supplied for each model. You can purchase a Vortex harness should you wish, but the supplied lanyard should provide adequate comfort for most people. You also receive a rainguard, tethered objective lens covers and a basic cleaning cloth as standard. The Diamondback HD 32mm models have retained the same case as their predecessor - a nice quality, semi-rigid carry case with its own strap. The 8x42 and 10x42 now come supplied with a Vortex 'GlassPak', which is a padded beige case with numerous pockets and its own harness. This concept, in my opinion, is more targeted at the hunting market rather than the nature market, but the case still provides good protection for your binoculars when not in use. Vortex are well known for their 'VIP Warranty', which covers their binoculars and scopes against even accidental damage. In the UK, your purchase will be covered by this warranty so long as you buy through an authorised dealer, so just watch out for prices that may appear too good to be true.
Optical quality: 8/10
Build quality: 8/10
Value for Money: 9/10
Given the modifications made to the latest generation of the Diamondback series were relatively modest, the overall score has ultimately remained the same. The HD glass has improved the definition, but not so much as to place them leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. The new case provided with the 8x42 and 10x42 may be an advantage to some, but I had no issue with the hard case as is still supplied with the 8x32. With the upgrades came a small increase in the RRP, so they still rank for me as very good value for money. Over the years, the 2016 Diamondback series proved very popular, so Vortex quite wisely didn't change the whole recipe, but just added a few new welcome ingredients. As always, which model you go for will depend on your priorities: the 8x32 is a beautifully lightweight, compact binocular with impressive performance; the 8x42 is the best performer in low light; while the 10x42 obviously provides a little bit more reach for those who need it.