Pentax 8X32 DCF-SP Binocular
By Rick Ryals
Asahi Pentax is a Japanese optical company that has been producing high quality optics for many years. Pentax is a long time producer of high quality SLR cameras and lenses. This enables it to bring its experience in quality optics to its sports optics line.
Pentax markets both rifle scopes and binoculars for use by hunters. The models available cover the range from budget level to high end. When introduced a few years back the DCF SP was at the top of Pentax's binocular line. It can be purchased for less than $500 discount retail price.
Pentax recently introduced a new binocular at the top of its line, the DCF ED. It incorporates all the features of the SP with the addition of extra low dispersion glass elements.
Pentax's web site describes this model thusly:
"The DCF SP series of binoculars . . . has all the quality features you’d find in higher-priced European models at a fraction of the cost. The exceptional image quality and edge-edge sharpness comes from a long list of outstanding features including an inner-focus optical design incorporating hybrid aspherical eyepiece lenses, high-resolution phase-coated roof prisms, hydrophobic coating on exposed objective and eyepiece lenses, and multi-coated optical elements. Coupled with a magnesium-alloy body with JIS Class 6 waterproof construction, these high-performance models are the only choice for discerning users with uncompromising standards. Perfect for a wide variety of applications such as close-up viewing and use in less-than-ideal weather conditions."
I purchased the 8x32 model after researching several mid-priced brands. I was looking for a good quality binocular, but did not want to spend $1000 or more. After reading reviews of many binoculars in the $300 to $600 price range, the Pentax DCF SP seemed to be one of the better values.
One factor that inclined me towards the Pentax was the company's excellent reputation for quality optics. I was looking for a company that had a solid record of quality.
Another thing that influenced me was finding favorable reviews from several sources. Some of Pentax's lower priced models received mixed reviews, but the DCF SP received uniformly excellent reviews from every source that I could find. In fact, many reviewers stated that this binocular compared favorable to optics costing much more.
I also wanted a binocular that was reasonably compact and light weight. A large heavy load around the neck is not conducive to regular use. For this reason I chose the 8x32 model. The lenses are large enough for reasonable optical performance without excessive weight.
Specifications for the Pentax DCF SP 8x32 binocular:
Like most modern optics, it is fully sealed, nitrogen filled and fog and water proof. It is built on a magnesium alloy chassis and covered by an attractive forest green rubber armoring. The prism is a BaK4 type with high resolution phase coating. The optical elements are aspherical and all lense surfaces are multi-coated. In addition the lenses have a hydrophobic coating to repel rain and mist.
I tested the hydrophobic coating by deliberately fogging the lenses with my breath. I could still see through them, but the view was a bit fuzzy. By contrast, I tried this with a Bushnell Elite 4200 rifle scope with RainGuard coating, and it was much less fuzzy. Neither is quite as clear as with unfogged lenses, but the Bushnell coating works noticeably better.
The binocular has a very solid feel in the hands. Balance is neutral. The eye pieces, focus knob and lense covers are matte black for a nice contrast with the forest green body. The objective covers are attached to the binocular body. The eyepiece cover is one-piece plastic with slots at each end for attachment to the straps.
A one inch wide nylon strap is supplied. I replaced it with a 1.5 inch neoprene strap which I found more comfortable. The carrying case is forest green padded nylon with a black leather base and velcro closure. It is a bit tight with the strap inside the case, but is fine if you leave the strap outside. Since there are no belt straps or handle on the case it is probably wise to leave the strap outside.
The eyepiece shades twist up for eye relief adjustment. They have four click stops to fit most any eye and eye-glass requirements. The single eyepiece focus adjustment is on the right eye piece and allows an adjustment range of +/- 4 diopters. To adjust, pull the ring away from the binocular, twist to focus and push down to lock.
The center focus knob is positioned for easy access by the index finger. It turns easily yet is very precise with no slop or free play. The knob requires 1.5 turns from closest focus to infinity. However, more than a full turn of this is for the close focus feature (5 to 20 feet). I have found that, for practical field use, only about a quarter turn is required to adjust focus from around 20 yards to several hundred yards away.
The view through this binocular is very crisp and clear. Looking around my neighborhood I can easily see individual bricks, roof shingles and leaves at over 100 yards. It is not quite the image quality of a top of the line Zeiss or Swarovski, but its cost is a third of those. Perhaps if I were going to spend hours glassing I would save up and buy one of those. However, I have found the Pentax more than clear enough for my hunting purposes in the southeast.
In summary, the Pentax DCF SP 8x32 is an excellent value. It may not be the best you can buy, but it is a very good binocular at a reasonable price. It is small enough and light enough to be carried regularly and it is weather proof. If you are caught in the rain it won't be damaged. It is sturdy enough for everyday use and it will do all that most hunters need most of the time. If you are looking for a quality binocular that won't use all of your annual “hunting gear” budget, take a look at the Pentax DCF SP.
Copyright 2007 by Rick Ryals. All rights reserved.