My first real test of them came in Canada when I was able to really put them through their paces, and I can quite confidently say they proved invaluable.
As soon as you pick up these binoculars, you know they’re going to last you a long time! They are very solid, but extremely comfortable to hold for long periods.
They are fully sealed and nitrogen purged, thus preventing any water from getting inside and ‘misting up’ the inner lens, a feature that could come in very handy for my trip to Ecuador next year! On the couple of occasions I have found myself caught out in the rain with them, I have certainly had no problems. In addition to this they are apparently ‘shock-proof’, though this isn't a feature I wish to test out!!
Another thing I feel I should mention is how good these bins are for someone who wears glasses, quite why I am not sure, but these are a lot easier to align than other models I have used. For those who don’t wear them, they rubber eye cups are also very comfortable.
It certainly takes a while to get used to the Vanguard’s focus ring… it is very light, and very sensitive. This makes it very easy to ‘overshoot’ your desired focus at first, which can be frustrating. However once you become accustomed to it, this system becomes something of a blessing! It means you you can effortlessly switch focus from the resting dragonfly at your feet, to the distant raptor soaring above the horizon.
The focus ring itself is very smooth, and - being constructed out of metal rather than plastic - seems a lot more durable than other models I've seen. One particularly useful feature for me has been close focussing; although officially rated to 6.6ft I can quite easily focus on the top of my shoes, and so estimate mine are probably nearer the 6ft mark. This is great for entomologists, especially those like me with a keen interest in butterflies and dragonflies. For that, these bins are ideal!
Another nice feature is that of the diopter adjustment, it is lockable, and therefore once you have found the best positioning to suit your eyes, it can’t be moved by mistake. When calibrating however, the diopter ring moves smoothly (unlike on most other binoculars!) and so can be completed accurately.
I'm not going to go into all the nitty gritty optics information (there’s plenty of that already available online and, in the real world, is fairly irrelevant). What I will say is that these binoculars produce an impressively bright, vibrant and sharp image, which is maintained even in low light and right up to the edges. Chromatic aberration and colour fringing are kept to an absolute minimum, and unless you really go looking for it, will not be noticed in the field.
One feature often overlooked with binoculars is that of the strap, with many manufacturers providing extremely basic, uncomfortable ones that you end up replacing almost instantly.
Thankfully however, Vanguard provide a padded strap that feels durable and nicely spreads the 770g nicely across your shoulders and neck. Although definitely on the heavier end of the scale for 8x42 binoculars, after a couple of minutes you will forget they are even round your neck!
A number of reviews claim these binoculars to be the best for their price bracket, and that is certainly something I wouldn't dispute. With the Endeavor ED II range starting from just over £320, they offer terrific value for money, and are sure to last you a very long time.