The Fujinon 8x42 HC occupies a unique position within sports optics inasmuch as it is now the only product I’ve ever reviewed twice. Back in January, with the trees still bereft of leaves and the local stubble fields hosting their seasonal finch flocks, I took a fairly brief look at the HC along with two models from Fujinon’s stabilised range. That review can be found here:
I tried to give adequate coverage to all three binoculars but, when the time came to return the trio to Fujinon, I was particularly sad to wave goodbye to the 8x42 HC.
Over the next few months, somewhere in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, thoughts of the 8x42 HC persisted. The binocular had left me somewhat taken aback by what seemed like a remarkably high level of performance and build quality for the asking price. I couldn’t help feeling that I could really do with spending more time with it in the field.
Eventually, I could bear the nagging doubts no longer and openly enquired if it might be possible for me to borrow the HC again - but this time on its own and for a longer period of time so that I could either confirm or disprove my first impressions. I asked, the good people at Fujinon said yes, and we were good to go!
I covered most of the technical spec. in the first review but, for anyone who doesn’t want to go flicking back and forth between the two, here’s a synopsis with a few extra details thrown in.
Grip to last all-day
Straight out of the box this looks and feels like a quality roof prism. Robust without being overly heavy (786g), the binocular feels like it was made to last – which, in my experience, is something you tend to get with a ‘made in Japan’ label.
The magnesium alloy body is both waterproof and fog proof – both very important features, particularly for those of us who reside in the UK – and both objective lenses and eyepiece lenses benefit from water-repellent coatings.
The body armouring feels a bit different to that found on most of the competition’s offerings - very smooth in texture but strangely ‘grippy’ at the same time. I’ve delved into this in some depth and it appears that Fujinon has employed what it refers to as ‘a slip-resistant elastomeric material and ergonomically engineered easy-grip body style’.
This is a bit of a mouthful but certainly seems to work as I found that the binocular was always easy to hold and balanced nicely in the hand.
Top eye relief
The HC sports one of the nicest and most positive eye relief adjustments I’ve seen on any binocular. Use the eyecups at their lowest setting to accommodate glasses or wind out to either of two raised positions, both of which are confirmed by a very solid and satisfying click.
I used the binoculars with eyecups wound all the way out and I can now happily confirm my previous assertion that when in use, they simply do not move from that position at all….not even slightly! Eyecups which move can be a real bugbear with some binoculars and something which I find quite irritating so this, for me, is a real feather in Fujinon’s cap.
What’s in the name?
The ‘HC’ in the product title stands for Hyper-Clarity. This is quite a bold statement that more than hints at outstanding optical performance, so what has Fujinon done to achieve this?
Well, as it happens the company appears to have done quite a lot. The binocular sports nine lens elements in seven groups. Super EBC Fujinon multi-coating has been applied to all light-transmitting surfaces in order to maximise light transmission, and ED (extra-low dispersion) lenses are employed to combat chromatic aberration, i.e. colour fringing around the edges of a subject.
The binoculars also feature phase correction and dielectric coatings to allow for optimal contrast and maximise the quality of visible light.
One feature which is worthy of note is that this is one of relatively few binoculars which comes with a filter thread on each objective. A filter size of 46mm, this feature is useful if polarizing or nebula filters are required – which may well be of interest to anyone looking to use the binocular for astronomical observation. Alternatively, simple protector filters could be used if desired.
Everything in the box
As we’d all expect these days, the binoculars come with a case, padded neck strap, rainguard and objective covers. The model on test was the 8x (which is my preferred magnification) but a 10x version is also available if more power is required.
So that just about wraps it up with regard to the spec. sheet. Now to explore optical performance in real-time use. More specifically, did the 8x42 HC wow me for the second time or had I been viewing my first stint through rose-tinted spectacles?
The woodland test
As it happened, the loan period couldn’t have been better timed. A long-planned holiday was looming large and, in addition to deploying the binocular at my usual haunts in the Forest of Dean, I was also able to take it with me on a week-long trip to the Scottish Highlands and Isle of Skye. This, in prospect, looked like an ideal combination as I was able to use the binocular under very varied conditions with regard to habitat, weather and lighting.
My first outing with the 8x42 HC involved a local trip to the Forest of Dean. I always like to test an optic in mature woodland because this can be quite a challenging environment, particularly at the height of summer when full leaf cover serves to block out light and cloak much of the woodland floor in dense shadow.
The first time around with this binocular I commented on its apparent ability to illuminate a subject and I was gratified to find that, in this regard at least, I had not been mistaken. A group of moulting Mandarins lurking under overhanging branches at the edge of a woodland pond served to illustrate this perfectly.
What appeared to be uniformly dark shapes to the naked eye were revealed in intricate detail through the binoculars: the orange ‘sails’ on the males and the females’ white ‘spectacles’ all thrown into sharp relief despite the surrounding gloom. So far, so good.
Up to sunny Scotland
A few days after the woodland jaunt it was off to Scotland. I had already decided that using the Fujinon for the duration of the trip would be no hardship so, for the first time in years, my trusty (and rapidly ageing) Leica binoculars stayed at home.
Our first stop was the Isle of Skye and, within 30 minutes of arriving on the island, the Fujinon was in action as a truly enormous juvenile White-tailed Eagle circled lazily overhead. The bird was in no hurry to move on and, as it wheeled above us, a huge dark shape against the bright morning sky, I was once again impressed by the way the HC handled chromatic aberration – to the degree that only the tiniest amount of colour fringing was visible around the bird’s outspread primaries.
Chromatic aberration really can detract from the viewing experience (for me, at any rate) so it was nice to have confirmation of how well the optic copes in this regard.
Field of view is quoted as 136 meters at 1000 meters. These days there are some top-end binoculars which exceed that but the Fujinon easily beats most of the competition within its price band.
A ferry trip from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Harris gave me ample opportunity to scan for seabirds and the aforementioned field of view (very slightly wider than I’m used to with my own bin) really came into its own as I picked up shearwaters and skuas, some very close to the boat, as they flapped and glided just above the waves.
There was definitely moisture in the air and heavy rain set in as we neared Uig on the return journey but I’m pleased to report that Fujinon’s waterproofing and fog proofing proved equal to the Hebridean challenge and I was able to keep viewing all the way into the harbour.
Remarkable depth of field
The ferry trip also served as a timely reminder of one of this binocular’s most impressive features: depth of field. Back in January, I discovered that once focussed on a subject some 20 meters away, it was then possible to go all the way to infinity without having to change focus.
Marine binoculars tend to do this as a matter of course but it’s quite rare to find this feature in a conventional optic. Whilst scanning the waves from the ferry I was able to use that impressive depth of field to my advantage; one-minute watching Manx Shearwaters coasting along close to the boat then panning out and across to a Pomarine Skua beating its way determinedly (and much more distantly) across the ship’s wake without having to change focus at all. A very, very useful feature, in my view.
Having mentioned focus within the sphere of depth of field, I need to revisit the focus mechanism itself. The focus wheel is neither loose nor tight but turns with what, for me, is pretty much right on the money in terms of resistance.
Three-and-a-quarter turns of the wheel are required to go all the way from close focus to infinity. As I intimated in the first review, there are some very ‘fast’ focus wheels out there and some readers may throw up their hands in horror at the thought of more than three turns being required to travel all the way through the focus range.
As I mentioned, however, I don’t really like a focus wheel to be too ‘fast’ and twitchy as I sometimes find that this actually makes it more difficult to achieve and maintain focus. It doesn’t always make for the most relaxed viewing experience; particularly important if you’re in the habit of using your binoculars for extended periods of time.
Close distance testing
From Skye, we crossed back onto the mainland and made our way eastwards into Speyside. Once again I found myself using the binoculars in a woodland environment but this time in the Caledonian Forest – a very different environment from the Forest of Dean.
I wasted no time in deploying the 8x42 HC to view the local wildlife and great views of Osprey, Crested Tit and Red Squirrel were all had on the first day. The forest is also very rich in insects and other invertebrates and a close focus distance of 2 meters allowed for effective viewing of some of these smaller woodland denizens.
Room for improvement?
It's probably clear that in terms of overall optical performance – light transmission, field of view, depth of field, close focus – Fujinon’s offering performed with aplomb once again. But what about the downside? What didn’t I like?
In all honesty, I’m being a bit picky here but the lack of a locking diopter adjustment was slightly disappointing. Not that the diopter wheel ever moved during use but, given the overall quality of the instrument in question, it would have been a nice touch.
The HC doesn’t employ field flattener technology so there is some curvature towards the periphery of the field but that’s true of all non-flattener binoculars and you really only notice it if you look for it. As I said, I’m being a bit picky here, mainly in an effort to produce a balanced review, but it’s good to have the overall picture.
So, what conclusions were to be drawn from the binoculars’ extended sojourn? First time round I loved this model, overall optical performance coupled with what felt like bombproof build quality made it a winner in my book.
Having the opportunity to use the HC over a longer period and in different locations served only to cement further my earlier conclusions. This really is a great optic which is very easy to live with and, in my view, represents very significant ‘bang for your buck’.
When the binoculars first arrived in the office I handed them to a colleague to try. The colleague in question isn’t a birder or astronomy enthusiast but he’s been here for a very long time and has looked through all manner of optics (including a lot of very high-end ones) so has a pretty good idea of what’s what. The comment I had was ‘that’s one of the best bins I’ve ever looked through’ so I’ll leave you all to draw your own conclusions from that.
Ah, just remembered: I didn’t want to give the binoculars back this time either!
As always, thank you for reading and…happy birding!
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