The New Kid on the Block
Knowing I spent my career working in optical instrument repair, a friend asked me to offer an opinion of some new Styrka instruments he had just acquired. With Styrka being a relative newcomer to the American market, I was pleased to help, and knowing I would probably end up trying to market it to magazines catering to hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, decided to offer that opinion as if I were writing an engine for a magazine article.
The binocular, an 8×42 S7 Series instrument, comes packaged in a more robust and professional fashion than many other instruments in the same price range which, with an Internet search, I found to be $719.95. It was, however, indicated that the wary shopper could find lower prices.
The first thing I noticed was that the company’s binocular advertising was wanting, in that the first reference to binoculars was 23 entries down from the head of a Firefox search. There were certainly references to Styrka binoculars amid those entries. However, while clicking on those sites did take me to binoculars, none were from Styrka, and all the other sites were dedicated to Styrka riflescopes.
The instrument’s weight of 23 ounces might deter some bird watchers, as so many seem to be looking for a binocular filled with helium. But then, it should be remembered Styrka is first trying to make inroads into the hunting market. That being the case, the weight will probably be inconsequential. Although I am a bird watcher myself, and prone to hiking around a bit as a result, my experience in instrument repair tells me a couple of extra ounces can mean a lot relative to ruggedness and longevity.
Before checking a binocular’s optical performance, I instinctively check for problems in its mechanical features; using a binocular that must continually be adjusted for slippage in either focus or IPD (interpupillary distance) can be annoying. Consequently, I was pleased to see the movements of the hinge, center-wheel focus, and diopter adjustment were top-of-the-mark, as if manufactured and lapped by an aerospace machinist. [‘Sorry ‘bout that; I lived near Boeing for 35 years.]
At first glance, I thought there might not be adequate separation between the telescopes to accommodate some observers. Looking online for the IPD specs I had seen published there, my search left me empty handed, as did the specifications page in the user’s manual. Measuring the maximum IPD to be 74mm, I concluded the binocular would accommodate all but a sliver of the population.
Most people think this is the most important aspect of a binocular; I consider it a 50/50 proposition. If collimation (alignment), rigidity, and mechanical elements are lacking, the observer’s overall experience will be less than pleasing.
Here, too, the 8×42 S7 more than measured up. Rather than waste your time, however, with talk about “tack sharp,” or “crystal clear” images, and other such subjective nonsense, I hope to offer a somewhat more scientific analysis.
First though, let me say the instrument in my care displayed no greater chromatic aberration than many of the so-called “Alpha” level binoculars discussed by aficionados and had a brightness and clarity in the same league.
Okay, so much for my own subjectivity: let’s do the test.
SETTING THE STAGE
The instrument has an eye-relief of 18 millimeters, an exit pupil of 5.25 millimeters, a rear eye lens of 23 millimeters, and with twist-up eyecups, eyeglasses may be superimposed with the observer still being able to see the full field of view.
THE RESOLUTION TESTS
I used the 1951 US Air Force Resolution Chart (high contrast, one line per millimeter) at 15 feet with subdued indoor lighting (simulating light in bush country), using only my dominant eye, and performing the test three times—focusing anew for each. Of course, the chart grew dimmer and was beginning to go gray at the edge of the field. However, individual lines were resolved to the edge, which was impressive considering the field subtended 7.8 degrees.
The same test was performed outside in the same manner, with the only differences being the natural lighting and the distance, which was doubled to 30 feet.
As one might expect, the resolution chart started getting soft a little farther from the edge of the field. However, owing to better lighting (my assumption), the chart only went gray at the very edge of the field. Impressive.
Conclusion: With the way the binocular market has being evolving these last twenty-five years, the individual instrument, and the company’s customer service, means a great deal more to the observer than the name on the side of the box. This is especially true considering many European giants are merely rebranding some Asian products and using their reputations to keep prices in the stratosphere.
THE STYRKA WARRANTY
In reading about the Styrka warranty, I came across the following:
“. . . in the event of damage or malfunction, we will repair or replace your STYRKA product free of charge. No questions asked. No registration required. No receipt needed. No matter who bought it. The only caveat? The warranty doesn’t cover theft, loss or intentional damage.”
Pleased with what I had read, I continued to:
“It gets better. Send us your Styrka product and we’ll clean and tune it up once per year. Regular maintenance helps keep your STYRKA performing like the day you bought it.”
So, with a superlative product, neck strap, harness, case, removable objective and eyepiece covers, cleaning cloth with pouch, and a warranty second to none, do I have any complaints? Yes, I do; their owner’s manual needs a major tune-up and their advertising (binoculars, anyway) leaves a great deal to be desired. However, the next time you bring down a 10-point with an owner’s manual or sales flier … give me a call!
William J. Cook, Chief Opticalman, USN-Ret.
View the full line up of STYRKA Binoculars here: