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Minox binocs: Old World German quality shines.

If there's ever a golden age of optics, we're living in it. There have never been better riflescopes, spotting scopes and binoculars than those made right now. Never has your money bought so much quality or such amazing performance.

Just about the time I think optics manufacturers can't impress me any more, along comes a binocular like the Minox HG 8x33 BR aspherical. Manufacturer's suggested retail price is currently $839 (an internet search currently finds prices less than $700). It certainly isn't what I'd call an inexpensive binocular, but its performance rivals that of binoculars costing far more.

The Useful Class

The Minox 8x33 is an excellent example of what I have found to be a tremendously useful class of hunting binoculars. I suppose you could call this class mid-size, in between the mini pocket models (e.g. 8x20) and the full size models (e.g. 8x42).

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These mid-size models are typically 8X with 30 or 32mm objective lenses and a weight of around 20 ounces. For most hunting needs this class is "just right"--not too big, not too small. They are big and heavy enough to fit the hands and hold steadily, compact enough to tuck comfortably under a jacket when hiking or when it comes time to get down and crawl.

Hunter's Glass

Though they can't rival the low-light performance of true night glasses, they provide all the capability needed for any hunting situation (at least in North America, where we don't usually hunt at night).

For all-around use, including such non-hunting uses as spectator sports, birdwatching, boating and so on, I'd always recommend a full-size binocular, such as a 7x35 or 8x40. Of course there are certain hunting situations in which a 10X, 12X or 15X binocular is appropriate, or perhaps an 8x56 night glass for observing game or waterfowl.

But as a true all-around hunting binocular I think the mid-size 8X models are the answer. In fact I'll admit to a sneaking admiration for 10X mid-size models. They are a bit harder to hold steady, don't have quite the low-light capability, but in most situations I haven't found these to be serious drawbacks, and sometimes the extra power is useful. Still, make me choose one or the other for all-around use and I'll take the 8X model every time.

Honored Heritage

Minox has been a prestigious and innovative German optical company for many years. Old-time camera buffs may remember the high quality, subminiature Minox cameras of several decades back. The same commitment to quality is seen in their binocular line.

For hunters, probably the two most important binocular qualities are toughness and optical resolution. The emphasis on toughness can be a bit overdone--you aren't going to be pounding tent pegs with your binocular, or at least you shouldn't. Hunting isn't quite military combat, but it's more demanding than watching football. The HG 8x33 is built with magnesium in the frame for lightweight strength, rubber armored, filled with Argon gas and sealed to be waterproof to 16.4'.

Resolution is critical. The ability to resolve detail is the reason we carry a binocular. To compare resolution I like to use sheets of newspaper with letters of different size. Having to actually read the words sorts out different levels of quality.

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Whatever method you use, eventually you have to answer the question "compared to what?" I compared the Minox to a current premium 8x32 model costing nearly twice as much. (Incidentally checking resolution while handholding the binocular is a waste of time. Set it on a solid rest and don't touch it.)

I was amazed to find the Minox matched the resolution of the far costlier model. I could not see a difference. If I could read a word with one I could read it with the other. The Minox Web site notes the optical glass used is made in Germany by Schott AG, a subsidiary of Carl Zeiss-Stifung. Lens coatings get more sophisticated all the time. Minox calls theirs M* coating with up to 21 layers to modify light waves. Whatever they do, it works. These are simply outstanding optics.

Be It Resolved

Minox uses what it calls "MinoBright" technology to mirror the roof prisms with a special coating for increased brightness. Again, it works. In low-light conditions performance was superb, equaling or bettering any mid-size binocular I've ever used, and I've had some dandies.

As an eyeglass wearer, I appreciated the excellent eye relief and the retractable eyecups with four click-stop positions. Even if you don't normally wear glasses you'll like this feature when wearing sunglasses or shooting glasses. The binocular is comfortable to hold and handles well. One turn of the large knurled focusing ring takes focus from infinity to the closest focusing distance of 6.6'.

The more I used this Minox 8x33 the more I liked it. It may seem odd to call a binocular in this price range a terrific value, but with performance rivaling that of far more expensive models, that is just what it is. It's a perfect example of why these are such exciting times in the optical field.
HG 8X33 BR ASPH
Maker: Minox GmbH
Walter-Zapp Str. 4
D-35578 Wetzlar, Germany
www.minox.com
e-mail: info@minox.com

TYPE: Roof prism
MAGNIFICATION: 8X
OBJECTIVE: 33mm
FIELD OF VIEW: 394.6' at 1,000 yards
EYE RELIEF: .59"
MINIMUM FOCUS: 6.6'
DIOPTER: 2 diopters
HEIGHT: 4.92"
WIDTH: 5"
DEPTH: 1.97"
WEIGHT: 21.3 ounces
WATERPROOF: 16.4' depth
PRICE: $839
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:OUT OF THE BOX[TM]
Author:Anderson, Dave
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Words:919
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