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Minox BL 8×44 HD Binocular Review

MinoxBL8x44HDPros: a good looking pair of binoculars with excellent build quality and superb optical performance. Very bright, crystal-clear view with plenty of fine detail, wide field of view with large central sweet spot and minimal edge softening. Good colour and contrast. Very good low-light performance.

Cons: accessories could be a bit better. Strap and case perhaps don’t quite reflect the high quality of the bins. Rainguard a bit tight and can be tricky to remove quickly. Nothing to really criticise in the binocular itself.

Price: c. €635 for the 8×44 model reviewed here up to €793 for the 10×52 model
Available in 8×44, 10×44, 8×33, 10×33 and  8×52 and 10×52 configurations

Value: Excellent

Rating: Highly Recommended

Check out the Minox BL 8×44 HD on the Minox website.

With their revamp of the BL Line to incorporate HD / ED glass elements in their optical design, Minox is aiming to bring premium grade, German-made optics to the masses at a much lower price point than you’d expect to pay for top tier binoculars. By and large they’ve done a very good job — the BL 8×44 HD is an excellent all-round binocular. Rugged and stylish, with an excellent finish and premium “feel” this is a very nice binocular indeed, and while optically it isn’t quite on a par with the big guns, it really isn’t very far behind them either.

These are well worth a look if you want top notch European optics without shelling out big bucks for the top-tier triumvariate.

You can buy the Minox BL 8×44 HD from Wex Photographic here, or from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com using the affiliate links below:

Minox BL 8×44 HD: Full Review

While I have tried a few of Minox’s compact binoculars before (the quirky BD 7×28 IF and BV 8×25) this is the first full-size binocular I’ve tested from the German manufacturer. Minox is positioning the BL HD line as offering premium quality German-made optics at a sub-premium price point. At €635 for the 8×44 model they’ve certainly cracked the sub-premium price point part of the equation (while you can’t exactly say they are low-cost, they are around 1/3 the price of top-tier Alpha class binoculars). But how well do they fulfil the other side of the bargain? How good is the view through them?

First Impressions

MInox BL 8x44 HDThe BL 8×44 HD arrives in a very smart compact black box with silver and red Minox branding — inside is a padded cordura style case, a padded neoprene neck strap, a microfibre cleaning cloth, and of course the binocular itself, inside the case, fitted with tethered objective lens covers and an eyepiece rainguard.

It’s a neat package.

Taking the binoculars out of the case I was immediately struck by the sleek, contemporary look — the design is lovely and understated, classy rather than showy. The contrast between the smooth black rubber armour and the exposed grey metal detailing around each eyepiece and on the focus wheel lends the binocular a premium look — and that’s matched by the comfortable heft and weight when you pick it up. It feels like its built to last.

Balance, Handling and Build Quality

Body construction

One of the areas where manufacturers can keep costs down without impacting the optical quality of a binocular is in their choice of body material. While Minox don’t publish details of the body material in the BL HD, I suspect this is one place where the company has elected to compromise to keep the cost of the binocular down. I’d be fairly confident the binocular is made of either a high-strength polycarbonate or possibly an aluminium alloy, rather than the more expensive cast magnesium-alloy housings typical at the higher end of the market.

It’s a sensible place to make savings — both polycarbonate and aluminium-alloy bodies are extremely durable, so it’s a compromise that’s unlikely to have much impact on either the performance or longevity of the binocular.

Body design

The BL HD was designed by designers working for German vehicle company Volkswagen and employs a dual-hinge or open-bridge design that has become so popular today. I have to say I’m not a huge fan of this two-hinge trend — preferring single hinge binoculars myself, all other things being equal. In this case though the position of the two hinges here works well, and offers a secure wrap-around grip of the centre of the barrels — which makes for a steady view. My main gripe with dual-hinge designs is that the bottom hinge always tends to feel “in the way” of my little finger — but that’s a purely personal foible, and doesn’t really detract from the use of what is a very comfortable binocular.

Both barrels are covered with a smooth, hard rubber armour that looks fabulous, and while it doesn’t offer as much grip as a textured rubber surface would, it still gives you plenty of purchase, especially if you take advantage of the wrap-around grip offered by the dual hinge design.

Mechanics

No surprises here — all of the moving parts work as expected, are very smooth, with a fit-for-purpose level of resistance. Everything from the central hinges to the focus wheel and dioptre adjustment to the main focus wheel feels faultlessly engineered — top marks to Minox here — this certainly feels like a premium product in the hand.

Focus

The focus is very smooth and fluid… and for me moves with just the right amount of resistance with no slack or play in the mechanism. The large focus wheel is metal, with raised rubber ridges to give grip. It turns through one-and-a-half anti-clockwise turns from a close focus of 2.5 metres (c. 8ft) to infinity. In most cases that close focus distance will be more than adequate — but may be a bit on the long side if you spend a lot of time watching butterflies and other insects at close range.

Dioptre Adjustment

The dioptre adjustment on Minox BL HD is a metal ring in the customary position beneath the right hand eyepiece. It isn’t lockable (perhaps another concession to keep cost down) but has plenty of built-in resistance to avoid unintentional adjustment. There’s also a really handy scale so you can note your ideal dioptre setting and change it back quickly if you lend your binoculars to somebody else or inadvertently change the setting.

Eye-cups and eye-relief

The twist up metal eye-cups on the BL HD are coated in a hard rubber. They offer a very long eye relief of 19.5mm — which means they’ll offer practically all glasses wearers an uncompromised field of view with their eyewear still in place. Four possible positions (fully up, fully down, with two intermediate click stops) means their’s plenty of scope to set them so they are just right for you.

Weatherproofing

As you’d expect the BL HD is nitrogen purged and fully sealed, making it waterproof, dust-proof and fog proof.

Optical Performance

BL HD Line from MinoxImage sharpness and field of view

The BL 8×44 HD delivers a very sharp and detailed view with an impressively large sweet spot across almost the entire field of view, with only very slight softening right on the periphery. That’s particularly impressive given that the field of view we’re talking about is fairly wide — at 136m / 100m (7.8°) it matches or beats most of the competition — delivering an immersive viewing experience that’s very pleasing.

Colour fidelity, contrast and chromatic aberration

Colours through the BL 8×44 look natural and contrast is very good, allowing you to discern subtle colour hues and shades easily. This is particularly important in a birding binocular, where the ability to detect subtle variations can be so vital to accurate identification. While the image doesn’t quite have the “pop” that some alpha class binoculars deliver it is certainly very impressive, and well above average.

Thanks to the HD / ED glass chromatic aberration (colour fringing) is very well controlled… in fact you never really notice it in normal use, and it’s a struggle to find even when you’re actively looking for it.

Low light performance and coatings

Low light performance of the BL 8×44 HD is very good. It is helped here by having a slightly larger objective lens that allows more light to enter the binocular, but the brightness of the image and the performance as the light fades is testament to the quality of the lenses, prisms and coatings Minox has used in the optical system.

All air-to-glass surfaces on the BL HD are fully multi-coated with special anti-reflective coatings to maximise light transmission and minimise glare and stray light. The prisms have a phase-correction coating applied to improve resolution and from the level of low-light performance I suspect the mirror coatings on the prisms are either silver or dielectric (the best currently available) to improve light transmission across the colour spectrum.

When you put the BL HD 8×44 toe-to-toe with high-end alpha class binoculars as the light fades they perform very well, but can’t quite match the higher spec binoculars in the very poorest light conditions. Still, they are very impressive.

In the field

Using the Minox BL 8×44 in the field was a real pleasure. The view they offer is excellent, the field of view is comfortably wide and I never found them wanting in terms of image sharpness and detail across a wide range of conditions. They were comfortable to carry for extended periods, easy to use, and always delivered a superb view of whatever I pointed them at. You can’t really ask for more than that.

Accessories

Minox pack the usual assortment of accessories with the BL 8×44 HD.

The case is a relatively standard black padded polyester / cordura affair with a plastic clip to close it. It’s fine, as far as cases go — but it is a tight squeeze… so much so that you can’t actually close the case with the eyecups of the binocular in the “up” position most people would use them in. That makes it only really useful for storage and transport of the binoculars, rather than day to day use. By the time you have your binoculars out and ready to use whatever you wanted to look at will invariably be gone.

That’s one of the reasons my binoculars rarely see the inside of a case once they leave it for the first time.

The neoprene neck strap is comfortable and adequate — it does its job well, but it does feel a little “light” given the premium feel of the binocular. A slightly more padded / thicker strap would add a more premium feel to the whole package for relatively little cost.

The tethered objective covers are good quality, fit well and do their job admirably — and are tight enough on the barrels that they’re unlikely to fall off accidently. The rainguard is also good — although I did find that it fit a little too snugly over the eyepieces, making it difficult to remove quickly at times when I wanted to look at something in a hurry.

Warranty

MinoxWarrantyMinox offers a comprehensive 30 year warranty covering any defects in materials or workmanship for a duration of 30 years from date of product registration. They call it their “Comfort Service” — and, on paper at leasr,  it’s one of the best warranties currently available in the European optics market.

Conclusion

Minox had some pretty big plans with their revamp of the BL Line. Choosing the right compromises to reduce the cost of a pair of German made binoculars without sacrificing either that premium quality feel or, even more importantly, that premium quality view, was always going to be a tall order. Have they managed to pull it off? I have to say that I think they pretty much have.

No, they are not quite as good as top of the line offerings from other European manufacturers (or indeed, I suspect, Minox’s own top end offering, the APO HG Line) — but they do push remarkably close to the periphery of that optical, mechanical and aesthetic excellence. I have to say I was very impressed.

For me the acid test with any binocular is to ask the question “would I be happy to use this binocular as my main birding and wildlife binocular for the foreseeable future?”.

My answer to that question with the Minox BL 8×44 HD is a resounding yes!

You can buy the Minox BL 8×44 HD from Wex Photographic here, or from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com using the affiliate links below:

 

Minox BL 8×44 HD Specification

Taken from the Minox website:

BL 8×44 HD BL 10×44 HD
Objective lens diameter 1.73 in. / 44 mm 1.73 in. / 44 mm
Exit pupil 0.21 in. / 5,25 mm 0.17 in. / 4.4 mm
Field of view 445 ft. / 1.000 yds. / 7.8°
136 m / 1.000 m / 7.8°
377 ft. / 1.000 yds. / 6.5°
115 m / 1.000 m / 6.5°
Eye relief 0.77 in. / 19,5 mm 0.67 in. / 17 mm
Close focus 8.2 ft. / 2.5 m 8.2 ft. / 2.5 m
Diopter adjustment +/- 4 dpt +/- 4 dpt
Twilight number 18.8 21
Operating Temperature 14° to 122° F / -10° to 50° C 14° to 122° F / -10° to 50° C
Waterproof Yes, down to 5m Yes, down to 5m
Dimensions (HxWxD) 5.9 x 5.1 x 2.1 in.
150 x 130 x 53 mm
5.9 x 5.1 x 2.1 in.
150 x 130 x 53 mm
Weight 26.1 oz. / 740 g 26.1 oz. / 740 g
Design VOLKSWAGEN DESIGN VOLKSWAGEN DESIGN
Order number 62048 62049

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank Minox UK for submitting the BL 8×44 HD for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.

NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.

Calvin Jones About Calvin Jones

Calvin Jones is a freelance writer, author, birder and lifelong wildlife enthusiast. He is founder and managing editor of IrelandsWildlife.com. He lives in West Cork, and spends as much time as possible getting closer to Ireland's wildlife, and sharing it with others.

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