Vortex Talon HD 8×42 Binocular Review

Vortex Talon HD 8×42: Short Review

Vortex Talon HD 8x42Pros: Bright, high-contrast image with vibrant colours and good detail across most of the wide field of view. Solid feel with good balance and ergonomics. Nice wide focus wheel with plenty of grip. Good close focus of under 2m combined with wide field of view makes it ideal for fast-moving insects like dragonflies. Unbeatable Vortex VIP no-fault warranty.

Cons: Focus a little on the stiff side at first but loosens up with use. Rain-guard attaches to opposite side of strap, which takes a bit of getting used to when trying to flick it off to look at something quickly.

Price: GB£449 (c. €565)

Value: Excellent

Rating: Highly Recommended

The Vortex Talon is an excellent binocular that combines many features you typically only find on much higher priced models. It’s a compelling package for the budget conscious birder and wildlife enthusiast looking for great value coupled with uncompromising performance.

View the Talon HD 8×42 binocular on the Vortex UK Website.

Vortex Talon HD 8×42 Binocular: Full Review

My first experience of Vortex Optics was testing the very impressive Viper HD binocular recently. The Talon shares many high-end features with its slightly pricier cousin, so I was keen to see how it shaped up in the field.

Vortex Talon HD 8×42 Binocular: What’s in the box?

Vortex Talon HD What's In The BoxThe Talon HD comes in a distinctively branded green box. As well as the binocular you get a padded neck strap, tethered objective lens covers, a rain-guard for the eyepieces and a lens cleaning cloth.

First impression: Binocular

The Talons certainly look the part. Their contemporary open-hinge design, green rubber armour and black counter-shading combine to deliver a striking appearance that makes a great first impression. It’s an impression that’s reinforced when you pick the binocular up. The Talon has a comfortable weight and solidity that hints at the quality of the underlying components and gives the overall impression of a very well made piece of optical equipment.

The green rubber armour is quite hard and lightly textured. It’s not as tactile as some, but does affords a comfortable and secure grip, something that’s further augmented by the open-hinge design.

They are a touch on the large side for 8×42 binoculars… but that’s more a factor of the open-hinge design than of unnecessary bulk, and they compare favourably with similar style binoculars from other manufacturers.

First impression: Accessories

The accessories are pretty standard and work well. I do feel that the wide padded neck strap would benefit from slightly more padding though. The Talon strap is comfortable and functional — but at this price point it wouldn’t hurt to offer something with a more substantial, quality feel.

Similarly, the objective lens covers and eyepiece rain guard do what they need to do.  They fit well, are easy to remove when you need to use your optics, and secure enough to stay in place when you don’t. But the design and material are not quite as “refined” as those provided with the viper.

The padded Cordura carrying case is perfectly functional and looks good, and the lens cleaning cloth does it’s job well.

Accessories are a small and relatively unimportant part of the overall package when it comes to buying optics, but they do add significantly to the overall impression of quality and attention to detail. I feel Vortex would be better served if they upped their game slightly in this department when it comes to the Talon HD.

Handling and Balance

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of the open-bridge design. I like compact and robust — and the dual-hinge tends to produce binoculars that are typically longer in the barrel to allow space between the hinges, the lower hinge can also get in the way, depending on how you grip your binoculars.

I was expecting the Talon HD to raise the same reservations, niggles and issues as I’ve experienced with open-bridge binoculars before. However, I was pleasantly surprised. While the Talon HD is longer in the barrel than standard 8×42 binoculars, it’s not excessively so, and while it did feel a little unfamiliar at first, it was very comfortable to use. The more I used it, the more I wanted to use it. I’m not an open-bridge convert yet… but using the Talon HD for an extended period has certainly made me re-evaluate my opinion on the ergonomics of the general design.

The textured rubber armour gives you a great grip, and the open-bridge means you can wrap your fingers around the barrel for an even better hold. The twist-up eye cups give you three possible settings (fully up, fully down with one intermediate step), and offer a very generous maximum eye relied of 18 mm, easily enough to present a full field of view to practically everybody with or without glasses. They twist into position smoothly, and are fairly secure on their stops — although you do have to take a bit of care not to unintentionally move them when removing the rain guard quickly.

Overall the Talon HD is a well designed, well balanced binocular that feels great in the hand and is a joy to use in the field.

Focusing

I found the Focusing on the Talon HD a little stiff at first, but with use it soon loosened up to become smooth and easy to turn.  The focus wheel is extremely broad — easily the largest focus wheel I’ve ever used — making it very easy to locate and operate even with gloves. It’s made of metal — aluminium I think, the same as the Talon HD body — and unlike many other binoculars it isn’t rubber-coated, which feels a little strange at first, but the knurled surface gives excellent grip and makes it easy to focus across a wide range of conditions.

One and three-quarter clockwise turns takes you from a decent close focus of around 1.8 metres to infinity. Good depth of field in the mid range means that you won’t need to keep readjusting focus as your subject moves. While almost two full turns of the focus wheel sounds a lot,  I found in practice that about half a turn accounted for the bulk of situations from nearby cover to distant hillsides. The rest of the focus range was ideal for fine tuning focus at closer distances . In general focusing the Talons is quick, easy and intuitive.

The dioptre adjustment lives in its usual place just under the right hand eyepiece. There is no locking mechanism on the Talon HD, but the ring is stiff enough to prevent unintentional movement once set.

Optical Performance

Vortex Talon HD 8x42When it comes to optical performance Vortex continues to impress with its Talon HD. Thanks to phase corrected, dielectric prism coatings and vortex proprietary XR lens coatings on all air to glass surfaces (fully multi-coated) the image is bright, with excellent contrast, vibrant colours and superb detail. High Density (HD) extra low dispersion glass at the objective end of the Talon HD reduce chromatic aberration (colour fringing) to a minimum, further enhancing the view through the binocular.

Colours are vibrant, clear and largely neutral (natural looking colour) with perhaps a very slight warm bias to the view that is actually quite pleasing and doesn’t reduce the binocular’s effectiveness in the field. It’s interesting that despite sporting the same glass and coatings as the Viper HD, the view through the Talon HD seems to be skewed ever-so-slightly on the opposite side of neutral. One for the optics boffins at Vortex to ponder, perhaps.

The Talons deliver consistently high optical performance across a wide range of viewing conditions. They’re not quite as bright as the very best, and in challenging conditions — extreme twilight for example — they can appear a little on the dark side when compared side-by-side. But at this price point they excel, delivering consistently high impact, high resolution views across the entire gamut of field conditions.

Field of View

The Talon HD offers a phenomenal field of view. At 8.1 degrees its field of view matches or eclipses much of the more expensive competition in the 8×42 category. It’s great for scanning large areas like estuaries, or scanning the horizon for whale activity, and means that the Talons are ideal for picking up and following the activity of small, restless birds like warblers, goldcrests and tits through dense foliage. It’s also great for tracking erratic and fast moving insects like butterflies and dragonflies.

The sweet spot in the middle of the field is also very good — staying sharp well out towards the edge with some gradual softening as you move towards the very edge of the field. I think there is sometimes too much obsession with edge sharpness, when in reality very little actual observation goes on right at the edge of the field of view. If you notice something you want to look at in the periphery of your view you’re quickly and instinctively going to move it into the centre to get a better look.

Overall the Talons offer an impressive and immersive view that shows you more of the action… and that’s what it’s all about.

Weatherproofing

The Talons are o-ring sealed and filled with the inert gas argon, which means they are completely waterproof and fog-proof. Waterproof also means dust-proof, which is a real boon for keeping foreign particles out of your binoculars and maintaining your pristine view.

Vortex’s proprietary ArmorTek coatings on the external lenses causes any water to bead quickly and drop off, which makes the Talons usable in extreme conditions when you simply wouldn’t be able to see anything through most binoculars. It also protects the lens surfaces from scratches, oil and dirt, and has a “non-stick” surface that makes them really easy to clean. Less wiping and less pressure when cleaning keep your lenses pristine for longer.

Warranty

The VIP Warranty offered by Vortex on all of its optical equipment is simply unparalleled. Basically it is a fully transferable,  unlimited, unconditional, no-fault lifetime repair or replace warranty. Regardless of who’s fault it is, if you have a problem with a Vortex product simply get in touch with them, return the faulty item and they will repair or replace it free of charge for life — no receipt, no warranty card, no hassle.

Summary

The Talon HD 8×42 is a very well put together package that delivers superb optical performance and a host of high-end features that make it a real contender for people looking for excellent value and uncompromising performance in a binocular. Add in the no-fault lifetime warranty and you have a very compelling product offering that’s worthy of anyone’s shortlist.

Vortex Talon HD 8×42 Product Specification

Taken from the Vortex website:

Magnification 8 x
Objective Lens Diameter 42 mm
Eye Relief 18 mm
Linear Field of View 425 feet/1000 yards
Angular Field Of View 8.1 degrees
Close Focus 1.8m / 6 feet
Interpupillary Distance 56-73 mm
Height 167mm / 6.7 inches
Width 125mm / 5 inches
Weight 765g / 27.4 ounces
Product Manual (PDF) Download

Acknowledgements

I’d like to thank the folks at Vortex Optics for submitting the Viper HD 10×42 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.

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 is also the tour leader and wildlife guide on our West Cork based Discover Wildlife tours.
Calvin is also co-author of bestselling digital marketing titles and offers digital business consulting services and training through Digital Marketing Success

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  1. […] Frontier ED looks almost identical on the outside to the Vortex Talon HD I reviewed last summer. It uses an open-hinge design with two narrow bridges connecting the two barrels. When you pick up […]

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