Docter 8×42 ED Binocular: Short Review
Pros: High quality optics deliver a very sharp, clear image with excellent resolution, contrast and colour fidelity. Excellent edge sharpness and no sign of colour fringing (chromatic aberration). Handles glare well in difficult light conditions. Clean, understated design and lightweight construction makes for a compact and comfortable package.
Cons: Somewhat constrained field of view for a top-end 8×42. Strap could be a touch wider. No tethered objective lens covers and no cleaning cloth included.
Value: Very Good
Docter is a brand of high quality German optics produced by Analytik Jena, drawing on the almost legendary optical heritage of Carl-Zeiss Jena. The ED (which stands for Extra Low Dispersion glass) is the flagship model in the Docter range, and this 8×42 incarnation is a very capable all-round binocular with a compelling feature set that makes for a great viewing experience. The Docter ED is a robust performer and would be an excellent choice for demanding birding and wildlife watching applications.
View the Docter 8×42 ED Binocular on the Analytik Jena website.
For info on buying the Docter 8×42 ED Binocular in Ireland click on the link and contact Irish distributor J. & A. Joyce and Son.
Docter 8×42 ED Binocular: Full Review
Docter is the consumer optics brand of Analytik Jena, a German company with a proud optical heritage that stretches back to the early days of Carl-Zeiss Jena. I won’t get into the history of the company in this review — but you can find out more about where the Docter brand came from on the Docter website .
German optics are among some of the finest produced anywhere in the world — so I was anticipating good things when I picked up the Docter 8×42 ED.
Docter 8×42 ED Binocular: What’s in the box?
First Impression: Binocular
The Docter ED employs a dual-hinge or open-bridge design that seems to be increasingly popular with binocular manufacturers (and presumably with binocular owners) today. Typically open-bridge means long barrels to allow a big enough gap between hinges for a wrap around grip. That’s not the case with the Docters though — which are easily the most compact full-size open-bridge binoculars I’ve ever used, and are as small or smaller than many single hinge designs.
At 670 grammes they’re light too for a high-spec full sized binocular — making them easy and comfortable to handle. The body is covered in a hard yet tactile black rubber armour, with ribbed contours on the outer side of each barrel to help with grip, and subtle thumb indents on the underside to help with the handling. The understated design is simple and elegant, and hints at an instrument that’s more about quietly getting on with the job than making ostentatious design statements. I like the Docter ED a lot.
First Impression: Accessories
The Docter ED comes with a standard suite of accessories.
The fabric / cordura-style padded case is strong and well made, and should do a good job of protecting the binoculars when they’re in there. The strap is a padded neoprene-like affair that’s nice and thick, cushioning the weight of the binoculars nicely, but it is only a couple of centimetres wide, without the customery flare in width you get with most padded binocular straps at this level, and which I prefer. That said, the strap is both functional and comfortable in use, so it’s a minor niggle.
The rubber / plastic rain guard for the eyepieces is a good one — it is articulated to accommodate different settings of the binocular’s central hinge, it fits easily onto the eye-cups and, perhaps more important, it’s just as easy to pull off again when you want to use your optics. The objective lens covers are not designed to stay tethered to the binoculars, as you might expect from a modern roof prism binocular of this quality. They are the old-fashioned style caps that you take off and throw in the case when your binoculars are in use. Many binocular users find tethered objective lenses irritating and remove them anyway, but at this level I’d prefer to be offered the option.
Very unusually, it appears that there is no cleaning cloth included with the Docter ED — unless it just missing from the review sample I was sent.
Handling and Balance
The Docters are small for open hinge binoculars. They feel very light and easy to handle, but with enough “heft” to let you know they’re solid and durable at the same time. They handle beautifully and are superbly balanced in my relatively average sized hands. They are very comfortable to carry and use all day out in the field.
The body is covered in a hard but relatively tactile rubber armour that gives an excellent grip even in wet weather, aided by the ribbed pattern on the outside edge of each barrel and convenient thumb indents on the underside. Twist up eye cups offer four possible positions (fully up, fully down with two intermediate stops) and a huge maximum eye-relief of 19.5 mm, which should be more than enough to give glasses wearers a full field of view through the binoculars.
All in all the balance and handling of the Docter ED is excellent.
The central focus wheel is large and rubber-coated with a ribbed surface that affords excellent grip. It is smooth and easy to turn, with a moderate amount of resistance. The wheel takes about one-and-a-half anti-clockwise turns from close focus to infinity. According to the specs the Docter has a minimum focus distance of 2.5 metes, but in reality I could focus on subjects well within 2 metres — which is excellent. The first full turn of the wheel takes you from that impressively close-focus out to about 4 metres. The other half-turn takes you from 4 metres out to infinity. That gives you plenty of fine-focus control in close, but still allows you to shift focus very quickly at the sorts of distances you’re likely to be using your binoculars at most of the time.
The right eye dioptre adjustment is located in the standard position on right hand eyepiece. It doesn’t lock into position, but, while it moves smoothly, it is stiff enough not to get dislodged once set.
With an optical heritage that evolved from the legendary Carl-Zeiss Jena brand, you’d expect the Docter 8×42 ED to deliver on the optical performance front, and by and large it doesn’t disappoint. The image is bright, clear and razor sharp. The binocular resolves fine detail very well indeed. Contrast and colour fidelity are very good too, making for a very pleasant viewing experience.
Lens and Prism Coatings
All air to glass surfaces on the Docter ED are fully multi-coated with multiple layers of proprietary high-tech coatings (dubbed DOCTER®multitop broadband coating by the marketeers). There are no real details about the nature of these coatings, other than the fact that they are designed to improve light transmission through the binocular, making for a brighter image; enhance colour fidelity, contrast and resolution; and reduce glare. The quality of the image also suggests that a phase correction coatings (which can play a major role in improving the sharpness of roof prism binoculars) have been applied to the prisms, although I couldn’t find anything in the spec to confirm it.
The high quality coatings and premium glass does its job well, and it’s hard to fault the quality of the image the Docter ED delivers. In the centre of the field it is super-sharp and detailed, and that sharpness extends across almost the entire field of view, with only a very marginal fall off right towards the edges. When you’re looking at a subject in the centre of the field you never notice any softness at the periphery.
Try as I might I found it almost impossible to find any sign of chromatic aberration or colour fringing along the edges of high contrast subjects through the Docters. The combination of ED (extra low dispersion) glass in the objective lens elements and the high quality coatings practically eliminates any sign of fringing.
Another thing the Docters do extremely well is deal with unwanted glare and stray light. They work very well in strong directional light, and while you can induce flare in extreme conditions they perform at least as well as the best binoculars out there in this regard, cutting through glare to show you the hidden detail even in situations where the unaided eye gives up.
Low light performance
The view through the Docter ED is very bright and clear, and it performs well as light fades, delivering consistently detailed views. But while you can still see plenty of detail, the image is perhaps a shade darker than some premium grade binoculars on the market, and is perhaps an area where Docter could improve things slightly. That said, these binoculars remain extremely usable in low light, and you’re unlikely to miss anything — they’re just not quite as bright as some top end optics.
Field of View
This is perhaps the area where the most improvement could be made with the Docter 8×42 ED. While the statement on the box boasts a “large visual field” the reality is that the field of view through the Docter ED 8×42 is a distinctly pedestrian 6.6° or 115 /1000 metres. That’s very average for a pair of 8×42 binoculars, and less than you’d expect at this price point, where you’d usually get at least a 7° field of view, with the very best best performers pushing or even exceeding 8°.
A super-wide field of view isn’t always necessary — but an adequate field of view that doesn’t sacrifice image quality is a real boon when watching wildlife, and particularly birds. It helps you to scan large areas quickly and allows you to locate and track rapidly moving subjects more easily.
At this price it would have been better if Docter could have squeezed a little more wide angle performance out of their optical design. As it is the binoculars are perfectly serviceable, but I can’t help feeling that I want just a little bit more to look at.
The Docters are, as you’d expect from this class of optical equipment, fully waterproof and nitrogen purged to remove any trace of moisture from inside the sealed body. That ensures that internal glass surfaces can’t fog up with sudden changes in temperature (when you take your binoculars out of a warm car or house into sub-zero winter temperatures, for example).
While I didn’t submerge the Docters, i have no doubt they would come through the experience unscathed, and I did use them in typical Irish pouring rain several times with no ill effects whatsoever.
The Docters are tough, waterproof and are as capable of coping with the vagueries of the Irish climate as any wildlife enthusiast.
Another testament to the quality of Docter optics and the company’s belief in the longevity of the materials and coatings is the fact that all Docter binoculars come with a 30 year warranty covering defects in materials and workmanship. That’s as good or better than the warranty offered by most premium European optics brands today.
The Docter 8×42 ED is a very capable high performance binocular that delivers a superb sharp image and excels across a wide range of environmental conditions. The contrast, resolution and colour fidelity are up there with some of the very best binoculars I’ve ever used, and I love the simple, functional design. Docter have taken the open hinge trend and have made it their own, coming up with a compact full size binocular that’s comfortable, lightweight and very easy to handle.
It’s just a shame that they couldn’t have worked on getting a slightly wider field of view from the optics, and maybe improved the brightness of the image in low light just a touch. While the old maxim “you can’t have everything” generally holds true with optics, when your paying close to €1,000 for a pair of binoculars I think it’s fair to expect them to come quite close.
That said the Docters really are a very good wildlife and birding binocular that deliver stunning images in a robust, comfortable and lightweight package that is very appealing. I liked the Docter ED 8×42 a lot, and would certainly recommend adding it to your short-list if you’re looking to buy a premium binocular in this price range.
Docter 8×42 ED Technical Specs
(From the Docter Website)
|DOCTER® 8×42 ED||DOCTER®10×42 ED|
|Ø Exit pupil (mm)||5.3||4.2|
|Close focus range (m)||2.5||2.5|
|Field of view (m/1000 m)||115||105|
I’d like to thank Analytik Jena for submitting the Docter 8×42 ED 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 wildlife related product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.