Alpen Wings ED HD 8×42 Compact Binoculars Review
All the way back in 2009, Alpen came out with their Wings series of binoculars. This line was a major change from the conventional designs for primarily two reasons. The first is the open bridge or two-way hinged construction style built into this brand of optical tools.
And the second is that these were the first line of binoculars outfitted with ED glass and being sold at an affordable price of $400. Read the rest of our Alpen Wings ED HD 8×42 Compact Review to find out more.
Physical Features and Build Quality
Alpen Wings ED is a standard sized, 42mm roof prism set of field binoculars which are also available in two variants. One comes with an 8x magnification option and the other comes with a 10x magnification option. The binoculars in this series are very compact compared to the older designs and stand at a height of just 5.9 inches with their eyecups fully elongated.
In terms of width, it is also a fairly compact instrument with a width of just 4.9 inches. The binoculars weigh around 24.2 ounces which is good because for a set of binoculars of 42 mm any weight under 25 ounces is considered light. The barrels are coated with the iconic Alpen forest green rubber coating, with black hinges, focus knob, finger cups, and eyecups.
Like all the other roof prism binoculars today on the market, even the Alpen ED is completely sealed with nitrogen to keep it dustproof, waterproof, and fog proof on the inside of the lens barrels. The Wings 8x model comes with a very comfortable eye relief of approximately 17mm while the 10x model comes with just 15mm which might be considered a bit low for people who wear eyeglasses.
Alpen Wings ED HD 8×42 Compact Review
The binoculars also come with a set of rain guards which are made out of soft black rubber which are linked together by a bridge made out of the same black rubber. This rain guard does an amazing job and fits so comfortably over the eyecups that it won’t come off, even by accident. Alpen has installed brackets on each of the cups to allow the binocular strap to be installed with the rain guard on as well.
The left bracket has a gap so that the user can unstrap the binoculars if he or she wishes to do so. This is an impressive rain guard and it is extremely efficient at what it is supposed to do. It has no obvious flaws in its design.
The main lens covers are also constructed out of the same black rubber used for the rain guards. The lens covers come with caps connected to the barrels via a short tether. Each of the caps has a groove made on the inside into which the rim of the lenses snugly fit and gives tight protection to the lenses.
This generally works very well. However, it has one drawback in the ring that is supposed to fit into the rim. Alpen made them too loose, and the entire lens cap assembly could be toppling off at any time.
It is presumed that Alpen has been developing their product to remove this flaw. However, a fact that should be mentioned is that Alpen spares no expense when it comes to providing its customers with replacement caps if the original ones are lost.
Case and Strap
The case that Alpen provides with the Wings ED set of binoculars is a fresh change from the traditional old-fashioned designs. Now it has a more sophisticated design with lightweight rubber and comes with a double zipper enclosure system. The case comes with a Cordura strap attached to it.
Along with the binoculars, the case comes with a removable holster which can be used as a belt accessory. It can be used on hikes and treks while offering ample protection from external threats to the binoculars. The holster has an elastic snapping lock system to hold the binoculars when not in use.
The strap provided by Alpen is their premium lightweight Cordura strap which comes fitted with large patches of leather around the neck with comfortable foam padding to maximize comfort. For those who prefer it, Alpen also has a harness strap which can be bought along with the binoculars. Along with all these extras, the Alpen ED 8×25 case comes with a lens cloth for maintenance and cleaning of the binoculars.
Optical Features and Image Reproduction
The first thing that can be noticed when looking through the Wings ED binoculars is the startling quality of optical resolution and crystal-clear clarity of the images. It is sometimes so good that it is almost impossible to believe that it only costs $400. It is normal to give all the credit to the newly installed ED glass, but these binoculars have incorporated many other features which contribute to the superb clarity and it is well worth mentioning them.
The binoculars come fitted with lenses that have been multicoated and also have the Alpen trademarked PXA coating which is a fundamental component in producing such superior quality optics and better color reproduction.
It has been found that the image generated is completely color neutral and coupled with the superior level of contrast helps in generating a clean and clear image.
The Wings ED binoculars, however, show some signs of field curvature or edge effects. This generally happens with objects which are situated too far away from the field of view and cause these objects to appear to be curved towards the inside of the binoculars. This phenomenon is also called pin cushioning and it is seen in significant amounts in this device.
Some degrees of chromatic aberration were also noticed, but these were in negligible quantities. According to the company, they claim that the 8x magnification variant has a 393-foot field of view at 1000 yards of distance and the 10x version is just 330 feet. The 10x version has a slightly higher than average field of view for a 42 mm binocular among its competitors.
However, the 8x version completely decimates its competitors with its staggering field of view numbers.
Alpen’s Wings ED binoculars have a very generously sized focus knob that is covered all over with uniformly cut thin strips of black rubber which basically enhances the stability of the grip. The whole process of focusing is super smooth, very efficient, and happens quite fast. The minimum close focus of the 8x variant has been measured to be around 7 feet while it is 7.5 feet for the 10x model.
It has been noted that the transition from minimal focus to infinity can be made in approximately 1.7 turns of the focus knob. This is a bit higher than binoculars of the same variance. However, with its exceptional focal capabilities, the binoculars can show crystal clear images for objects up to distances of 20 feet with just 0.7 turns of the focus knob.
This covers most of the objects that the users, birdwatchers to be specific, would be interested in seeing as the object would be thoroughly covered by the minimal focal length. This attribute is perfectly implemented in this model which improves a user’s experience exponentially.
The framework used to adjust the diopter on the Wings ED line of binoculars is a very user-friendly and easy to use mechanism. It consists of a single twist-ring fitted to the base of the right eye lens. The position for equal eyes is marked by a white dot on the ring which on lineation with a raised vertical line on the rubber case marks the position for equal eyes.
A very subtle but innovative and helpful addition to the model is a set of raised markings on either side of the dot which can assist people with the approximate markings in case of unequal eyes. A helical twisting mechanism is what adjusts the eyecups according to the requirements. One can accomplish this by rotating them clockwise to extend the eyecups and counterclockwise to retract them.
This binocular only possesses one completely balanced position between fully extended and fully retracted eyecups. The Alpen Wings ED binoculars also have an impressively large inter-pupillary distance starting from 54 mm and ranging up to 73 mm. This basically means that it is going to be a very comfortable fit for anyone in the eye and especially for people with less broad faces.
Lightweight, compact binocular which makes it easier for carrying on long treks and hikes or for longer durations.
Has a really durable and efficient construction which maximizes ease of use and comfort.
The lens barrels are dustproof, waterproof and fog proof from the inside.
Superb protection is offered to both lenses by sturdy lens caps and rain guards.
A sophisticated and lightweight case that comes with a holster.
Comfortable strap made out of Cordura, foam padding, and strips of leather around the neck.
Superior optics used in these binoculars provide clear images.
Excellent color reproduction due to trademarked PXA technology.
The generous field of view is provided by both variants.
Provides a minimum focal distance of 7 feet, which is ideal for outdoor uses like bird watching and other adventure activities.
User-friendly and surprisingly efficient focus adjustment mechanism.
Large inter-pupillary distance within a range of 54 to 73 mm which ensures comfortable to use for everyone.
The 10x magnification variant falls short in its performance when compared to its younger kin, the 8x, in some very pivotal points.
Significant instances of pincushioning are seen around the edges of the lenses which results in making images look like they are bending inwards.
Negligible amounts of chromatic aberrations are also noted around the far limits of the field of view.
The lens ring that is supposed to fit into the lens cap is made loose, which can make it possible for the whole lens structure to fall apart.
Something that was common among all Alden binocular customers was their levels of satisfaction being extremely high starting from the time they started using the Alpen Wings ED binoculars. They have all reported being very happy with the product’s ergonomics and build quality. Customers even highly praised the image clarity and on comparison with their own older binoculars found this pair to be more user-friendly.
However, some people also complained about the strap being too bulky for a binocular this compact, but since this model comes with a detachable strap, there was no major objection from the customers towards this attribute. There were mixed reactions regarding the screw in the mode of the lenses. However, something that most customers appreciated was the surprisingly light weight of the binoculars.
The customer segment which was particularly happy with this attribute was found to be mostly travelers and bird watchers. This makes it obvious that this binocular is perfectly suited for the job that it was tasked to do.
The Alpen binoculars also come with an Alpen Lifetime No-Fault Warranty which covers manufacturing defects, which are probably internal damage due to wrong assembly or mechanical failure due to the breakage of the component. However, the Alpen Lifetime No-Fault Warranty does not cover the damage caused to the product due to rough handling or dropping of the product. Neither does Alpen cover for defects like scratches on the lens because of improper cleaning methods, nor for the normal wear and tear the product undergoes over time.
Nonetheless, it is always advisable for customers to ensure proper maintenance for maximum utility and satisfaction while using these binoculars over their lifetime.
With a very sturdy and compact build, Alpen has definitely come out with a traveler’s, trekker’s or birdwatcher’s ultimate friend at a very reasonable price. Judging by the image reproduction generated by this line of binoculars, it is sure that the Wings of Alpen are all set to take off as soon as this product starts to become better known among the relevant circles of prospective customers.