Quality optics in the palm of your hand

Thomas Tabor

It was a time of demolished infrastructure for the German people. World War Two had reached its conclusion leaving in its wake devastation, destruction and a collapsed economy that promised to take decades to recover.

Nevertheless, an individual by the name of Karl Steiner had a vision that would not be deterred by such impediments. Driven by a passion and a desire to create high-quality optical products that would outshine the mass-produced post-war era of inferior designs, in 1947 Steiner embarked on his dream of becoming a premier optics manufacturer.

At the outset he worked from a one-man workshop but within six years he was employing 50 skilled staff. Now, more than seven decades on, Steiner Optik has become a major player in the manufacturing of top-rate products available in 65 countries.

I had the chance to see for myself how a couple of the latest Steiner binoculars would perform - the Predator AF 8x30 and a mini-sized model called BluHorizons 10x26. I chose these particular binoculars to test and evaluate because, as a hunter, I sometimes find myself weighed down with gear and I was keen to lighten my load. But while my initial attraction was based on size, I soon discovered both models had a lot more going for them than simply being small in stature.

Predator AF

There are two models of the Predator AF available: Model 8x30 which weighs a mere 19 ounces (.54kg) and the 10x42 weighing 30.3 ounces (0.86kg). For this review I chose the 8x30s.

The ‘AF’ in the name stands for Automatic Focus, a convenient feature when time is short and an accurate and quick evaluation is called for. Simply bring the binoculars up and everything through the lenses from about 27m to infinity is in perfect focus. For closer distances I could still obtain great clarity on a target image by adjusting the focus using the diopter adjustment rings.

I have a few hunting companions who insist all their binoculars have dual diopter adjustments like those on the Predator AF. The advantages of binoculars designed in this way lies in the fact that most people’s eyesight is different from one eye to the other, and being able to adjust the clarity individually makes for better overall viewing. But while a boycott on single diopter adjustable binoculars might be a worthy objective, in my opinion that would limit your options as dual diopter adjustable units are far rarer than their single adjustable counterparts.

In order to blend into their natural environment most game species match the colour of their environment. That benefits the animals greatly when it comes to avoiding predation but also makes them harder for hunters to spot. Steiner took that issue into consideration when designing the Predator AFs by applying their special Color Adjusted Transmission coating to the lenses.

What this does is make deer, roos and other game species stand out more from their similar coloured background, resulting in the view through the lens having a slight pink or reddish tinge . While some may prefer natural colouration through their optics, for hunting purposes this clearly makes spotting and evaluating game easier. I tested this claim on a herd of deer that had taken up residency around my home and found the view through the Predator AFs did exactly what Steiner intended. Switching back and forth between the Predator AF and other more traditional-styled binoculars I found the deer showed up considerably better when using the Steiner optics.

While I like many of the features on the 8x30 Predator AFs there was one thing I found not so appealing and that was how the front lens cover caps were attached to the body of the binoculars. A small rubber strap secures them so they don’t get lost and while this general concept is a good one, I occasionally found the caps had a tendency to partially block the full view through the lenses. If this should become a problem the lens covers can be easily and completely removed.

The body of the Predator AF comes coated with a highly protective IPx4-rated rubber armour which is textured for a secure, non-slip grip, a durable protection that will be great in rough field conditions. The Predator AF is covered by Steiner’s Heritage Warranty, good for the life of the binoculars, and each unit comes with a neck strap, neoprene carrying case and lens cloth. RRP will be about $480* for the 8x30s and $640* for the 10x42s.

BluHorizons

These 8x30 mini binoculars fit my needs for small and lightweight hunting items perfectly but they have a lot more going for them. Light conditions can vary sometimes dramatically from dawn to high noon and beyond and those conditional changes result in significant challenges for optic makers and, in particular, how effective the user’s view is through the lens. Steiner has addressed those issues in a big way with their breakthrough sunlight adaptive binoculars - the BluHorizons with Autobright.

This system was designed around all light conditions including those times of low light and harsh glares frequently encountered while hunting. The sunlight adaptable lens technology of the BluHorizons automatically adjusts brightness through the lenses to best compensate for those conditions. Whether the sun is directly overhead and shining brightly, bouncing off a body of water or snow-covered ground, the BluHorizons lenses are engineered to gather just the right amount of light while reducing glare to produce optimum viewing opportunities.

The BluHorizons are built to survive hard handling with a semi-soft protective covering on the binocular tubes. They come with a single diopter adjustment ring on the left eyepiece and fast-focusing wheel in the centre between the barrels. Each eyepiece has a slightly oval-shaped eyecup which can be easily rotated to provide the highest degree of both comfort and viewing potential. Two models are available - the 8.8-ounce 8x22s and 10.6-ounce 10x26s - both of which are small enough when folded to fit inside most shirt pockets. I chose the slightly larger 10x26 model for this review.

I had the chance to do a side-by-side comparison of the light gathering abilities of the BluHorizons 10x26s with the older, similarly sized Oshman’s 8x27s. I’d used this unit for many years and while never all that satisfied with its light gathering abilities, I accepted that was the price I had to pay for light weight and handy size. I could not have been more wrong! I never realised how much I’d been handicapping myself until I looked through the BluHorizons.

The difference was incredible. There will always be sacrifices if you choose not to carry full-sized binoculars, but in this case those concessions are nowhere near as earth-shattering as I once thought them to be. With Steiner’s Autobright feature the user can have the best of both worlds - lightweight and small enough to fit in your shirt pocket yet with impressive light-gathering capabilities. RRP for the 8x22 BluHorizons is $220* and $230* for the 10x26.

The way I see it

While it’s nice to enjoy the features inherent with larger optics sometimes ‘small’ just makes more sense. If, like me, you appreciate the advantages of compact and lighter weight binoculars, I’d encourage you to consider the Steiner Predator AF and the BluHorizons. You just might find the advantages of ‘bigger’ may not carry quite the same weight they once did.

* All prices in USD

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