GPO Evolve binoculars - an eye for detail

Don Caswell

German Precision Optics (GPO) hit the sporting optics industry scene in 2017, owned and managed by people with solid commerce experience who’ve worked in the established top-tier optical businesses. Their product line includes binoculars and telescopic sights intended to compete with the best brands. GPO performs the design, engineering and quality control at its German headquarters but, like many other networks, the actual production is done in Asia under strict control from Germany.

GPO offers two lines of binoculars, the Evolve ED glass range with 8x32, 10x32, 8x42, 10x42, 8x56 and 10x56 and the more expensive Evolve HD glass range with 8x42, 10x42, 8.5x50, 10x50 and 12.5x50 binoculars. Australian distributor Raytrade provided Australian Shooter with two pairs for review, the Evolve HD 12.5x50 and Evolve ED 10x42.

Quality optics are essential for outdoor enthusiasts whether for hunting, investigating distant terrain or simply observing wildlife in vivid detail. For game stalkers the prevailing wisdom has been that relatively compact 8x binoculars were ideal, while for long-range work or bird-watching 10x and higher were recommended. In recent years with improvements in lens design and build quality that’s no longer a hard and fast rule and in my circle of hunting friends and acquaintances I’m seeing more people moving up to 10x. I often carry 10x42 binoculars on twilight stalks where I need superior light gathering and opt for my compact 10x25s during the day.

Higher powered binoculars, especially those with larger objective lenses for superior light gathering, are naturally larger and heavier than less powerful models. Still, the most productive hunting times are around first and last light when you want the best light gathering binoculars you can, especially for trophy hunters who need every advantage in assessing a stag in lowlight forest shadows.

GPO binoculars feature magnesium alloy barrels filled with nitrogen and are fogproof and waterproof, the optical design of the Schmidt-Pechan roof type. The Evolve HD 12.5x50s are coated with a firm rubber skin with textured inserts that provide excellent grip. Both surfaces are black in colour and have a thumb indent under each barrel, a la Swarovski, which I really like.

The ED 10x42s have similar textured rubber grip areas but the main body of the barrel is not rubber skinned. There’s a slight difference in the colour of the two surface areas - the grips are described as anthracite and the barrel black. Both feel solid to the touch with a finish that’s smooth and pleasing to the eye, the ergonomics excellent, handling well and completely comfortable in use.

Side by side there’s a distinct difference in colour of the objective lenses, the ED 10x42s giving off a distinct reddish-gold reflection while the 12.5x50s have a faint blue-grey hue. ED stands for Extra-Low Dispersion glass which reduces chromatic aberration in the viewed image. Chromatic aberration is apparent as a slight colour fringing to viewed objects and is often more noticeable towards the edge of the viewed area.

HD is for High Definition glass which gives clearer, more vivid image than standard glass, the benefits particularly noticeable in lowlight situations. In terms of the difference between ED and HD glass, in GPO products I couldn’t find it specified in the available technical information. From my observation it’s a safe bet there are different coatings, maybe even different glass composition and it’s possible there are also some geometric variations in lens design. Certainly the HD glass carries a significant price premium.

I took my tape measure and determined the minimum focus distance, an irrelevance to hunters but important to birdwatchers who need to observe the fine detail of birds at close range. Both GPO binoculars achieved minimum focus distances a little better than their specifications indicated, the ED 10x42s 2.05m from objective lens to the reference object, the HD 12.5x50s at 2.72m.

Another important aspect of binoculars is the number of turns of the focusing knob required to take focus from closest to infinity. I have a mountain range with a distinct peak 16.6km from my study window which I treat as infinity. The ED 10x42s went from closest distance to infinity in 1¼ turns of the knob, the HD 12.5x50s a smidge more at close to 1.3 revolutions.

I also measured the dimensions and weight and found a few minor differences from the specifications and have used my numbers on the date table where there’s a difference. I put the ED 10x42s beside my Swarovski 10x42 ELs and found the GPOs about 15mm shorter and 115g lighter, the field of view pretty much the same for both sets.

GPO binoculars come nicely packaged, the presentation box containing a sturdy zippered hard case with detachable carry-strap. There’s also a neck strap, lens covers, cleaning cloth and a small guide booklet on set-up and use. The binoculars have solid, integral lugs for attaching the carry-strap.

Centre focusing was smooth and precise with just more than one full revolution taking focus from less than 2m to infinity while the dioptre adjustment was different between models. The HD 12.5x50 offers a range of +/-4 via the centre focusing knob. Pulling the focusing knob back towards you engages the dioptre adjustment for the right eye, defined by precise click adjustments over its range. The ED 10x42 has the more conventional dioptre ring of +/-3 around the right eyepiece and the adjustable eyepieces gave the impression of being heavy duty, unlike some other models. They were firm but smooth to operate with definite detent points.

The internals of both binoculars were well blackened to remove any light catching distractions with no evidence of dust specs or other internal blemishes. Optical clarity, sharpness and colour were everything I’d expect of binoculars in this price range. My perceptions of chromatic aberration were minimal to negligible - in a laboratory situation with test cards and the like I’m sure that could be quantified but looking at the real world of lake, paddock, trees and hills I found nothing to be concerned about. Colour rendition looked fine as well.

Likewise there was minimal geometric distortion and loss of brightness towards the edges of the image, which might be a bit more noticeable if you spend a lot of time looking at architectural structures but nature has few straight lines to make that apparent.

Overall the GPO binoculars looked good, presenting an image of precise German engineering and finish. They felt good too, solid and precise in their moving parts and comfortable to carry and handle, focusing fast and exact with high-quality images delivered. For anyone looking to move up a tier or two in their choice of field optics, GPO is a name to include with the other renowned brands in that league. Visit raytrade.com.au.

Specifications

Model

Evolve ED 10x42

Evolve HD 12.5x50

Magnification

10x

12.5x

Field of view (m/1000m)

113

95

Objective lens diameter (mm)

42

50

Glass technology

ED

HD

Lens coatings

GPObright

GPObright

Exit pupil diameter (mm)

4.2

4.0

Eye relief (mm)

16

16.5

Housing

Magnesium alloy

Magnesium alloy

Closest focus (m)

2.05

2.72

Focus knob turns from closest to infinity

1.25

1.30

Interpupillary distance (mm)

56 to 75

58 to 76

Dioptre adjustment range

± 3.0

± 4.0

Prism type

Schmidt-Pechan

Schmidt-Pechan

Daylight transmission (ISO 14490-5-2005)

90 per cent

91 per cent

Waterproof rating (Mbars)

200

200

Length fully extended (mm)

145

190

Width fully extended (mm)

130

135

Depth (mm)

55

64

Weight bare (g)

725

975

Distributor

Raytrade

Raytrade

RRP

$755

$2055

 

National E-newsletter

The SSAA National E-newsletter is a subscription email service available FREE of charge to SSAA members. It includes current and upcoming news, views and events about firearms ownership, sport shooting and recreational hunting issues, important SSAA news, special offers and time-sensitive news.

Facebook Feed

National Membership

[email protected]

+61 (0) 2 8805 3900

PO Box 282, Plumpton NSW 2761