By now firmly acknowledged as a manufacturer of sports, hunting and observation optics, the German company Minox has made its name for providing an excellent balance between quality, technological content and price.
The BL-HD sports, hunting and observation binoculars are no exception to this rule, and in fact are part of the highly successful BL series from the competitive middle-market segment, selling for between 600 and 700 euros. In this market segment a trend has been taking hold, including amongst the top brands, to develop and design products with a high technological content “in house”, which are then contracted out to be assembled or even produced entirely in Asian factories. That is why it is no longer unusual to find “Made in China” on binoculars that are unmistakably European. This is not the case for Minox BL-HD series binoculars, which are entirely designed and built in Germany, with a similar strong build, technological content and lens quality to that of competitors' products available in a higher price range, giving you truly enviable value for money
Minox BL-HD binoculars have a lightweight polycarbonate, open-design body, which helps keep the cost down compared to other materials such as Magnesium alloy, while offering similar performance in terms of strength and light weight.
The body is entirely armored in non-slip rubber and each pair of binoculars is purged with argon gas, the molecules of which are larger than those of nitrogen, so less likely to leak over time.
Every joint is sealed by an O-ring and the manufacturer guarantees the binoculars are waterproof down to a depth of 5 m. The binoculars were designed by the Volkswagen Design Center, the result of a continuous, long-lasting and successful collaboration between the two companies, and are characterized by simple and sober lines, with burnished metal highlights, dominated by the ergonomic grey metal focus wheel with its rubber grip.
The extra low dispersion glass elements are a new feature compared to the previous BL series. Specifically, a type of ED (extra-low-dispersion) glass is used, known as anomalous partial dispersion glass, providing a significant reduction in terms of chromatic aberration (colour fringing).
All the optical elements have a fully multicoated anti-reflective coating, while the lens surfaces are protected by Minox's M* coating: 21 layers on each surface of the lens. The roof prisms used in the BL-HD series have phase correction coatings as well as reflective (probably dielectric) coatings.
BL-HD series binoculars come in the 8 and 10x magnification ranges , available with three different lens diameters, for a total of five models: 8x33, 8x44, 8x52, 10x44 and 10x52.
The 8x33 model is the super-compact model in the range, while the versions with a 52 mm lens are designed for those who need the best low-light performance; the two models with a 44 mm diameter lens are the “multipurpose” binoculars in the BL-HD series. We tested the 8x44 model.
The lens diameter of the binoculars in the BL-HD line is slightly larger than average; for example, most manufacturers would use a 42 mm lens in the range our test model is part of. The 44 mm design Minox adopted therefore costs a little more to produce and also weighs more (as there is more glass), although the diameter of the exit pupil is also larger (5.5 mm).
The field of view of the binoculars we tested is 136 metres at 1000 m, which is excellent considering the lens diameter.
At 740 g, the BL 8x44 HD binoculars are reasonably lightweight thanks to the polycarbonate body, and quite compact: the 150 x 130 x 53 mm dimensions are with eyecups closed and without lens caps.
The open bridge design with two hinges and a central focus wheel is extremely ergonomic, as long as the distance between your eyes is not overly close, as this would mean having to close the binoculars excessively, making it hard to get your fingers between the two parts of the body.
LThe focus wheel has a diameter of 32 mm, and is well braked making it extremely precise, without any play. Just one and a half turns of the focus wheel are enough to focus from the minimum 2.5 m to infinity; the Minox logo at the center of the wheel is fixed and does not turn with the wheel. The diopter adjuster is a finely knurled metal ring on the right lens, which does not have a lock but is heavily braked; the adjustment range, from -4 to +4 diopters, is clearly shown and easy to save and reset if the ring is moved accidentally or if someone else moves it when you lend them the binoculars. The eyecups are extendible to three positions plus the fully closed position. The lenses have an eye relief of 19.5 mm.
We tested the BL 8x44 HD binoculars in a variety of conditions, both in good and poor light, at dusk, in mist and rain. The quality and brightness of the image produced by the binoculars is excellent, with very natural color rendering.
Sharpness and definition are excellent at the center of the field of view, while they tend to drop off towards the edges, starting from 75% of the field of view. Color fringing also starts to be noticeable at the margins of the field of view, with quite evident fringing at the edges when observing high contrast objects such as branches backlit against the sky. While the reduction in brightness at the edges is almost imperceptible, some geometric aberration with pincushion distortion is noticeable, especially when fast panning, producing a slight “rolling ball” effect.
To sum up, the Minox BL 8x44 HD binoculars are an excellent choice for hunting, safaris or bird watching, being excellent value for money, offering great performance with high quality construction, all at a recommended price of 672 euros.