The hunting/sporting optics market in the 21st century is highly competitive. New manufacturers and brands seem to crop up regularly and even established companies with long histories are continually updating their product line. In this competitive marketplace it's easy to get lost in the variety of products out there. Keeping this in mind we were a little skeptical when we were approached by Vanguard of Whitmore Lake Michigan to take a look at their flagship Spirit 10x42 binoculars. In a crowded optics marketplace, why bother with yet another manufacturer? It turns out the Spirit line of binoculars is worth your consideration.
Vanguard is a global company that has been around since the mid-1980's. Coming from a background in photography accessories, they are perhaps best known for their line of tripods and carrying cases. Vanguard is also dedicated to the hunting and shooting sports and offers a line of binoculars, spotting scopes, and shooting rests.
The Vanguard Spirit 10x42 are a relatively compact set of binoculars.
Our review model is a Vanguard Spirit 10x42 (model #1042) in dark green, which is also offered in Mossy Oak Break Up (model #1042MO). This model has a fixed 10x magnification (8x is also available) and weighs in at 21.2 oz. Vanguard claims a 314 ft field of view at 1000 yards, which works out to a 6.0-degree view angle. Objective as well as eyepiece covers are included with the binoculars, along with a standard neck strap and carrying case. Street price on our review model is right at $199 before tax and/or shipping.
Vanguard Spirit 1042 binoculars, with carrying case & neck strap
Given the price point of the Spirit, we were surprised at the quality. The rubber finish is supple and fully wraps around the brows of the objective lens to protect them in the event of an unexpected fall. The fuselage of the binoculars is contoured to fit the hands well.
Underside view. Diopter setting on the right eye. Notice also the molding for the
thumb. Vanguard appears to have spent time molding the binos to better fit the hand.
The rubber molding extends over the "brows" of the objective lens in
order to offer a degree of protection from bumps and falls.
Metal eyelets for attaching a strap or bino system are molded into the binos.
Eye relief and optical quality is good. Eye relief comes in at about 0.6 inches, which gives an un-occluded view with the eye cups fully twisted out. The view through the glass is clear and crisp enough to easily pick out heat convections rising off a hot surface inside a few hundred yards. The colors appeared to be accurate and there was no appearance of edge effects near the circumference of the objectives. Clarity and color did not appear to degrade appreciably in shade or low light conditions.
Eye cups rotate outward and lock in place.
Like most binoculars, the Spirit has a diopter adjustment on the right eye. The adjustment is stiff and allows you to set it and forget it without worrying too much about it getting bumped or shifted.
Vanguard offers a limited lifetime warranty on the Spirit line of binoculars. Like other warranties this will not cover accidents and abuse, but will cover flaws in workmanship. We have no experience with Vanguard's warranty claims and there was nothing in our review model that would indicate it would have a short service life.
On the packaging of the box, Vanguard has the label "Incredibly Lightweight." Our review model came in at 21.2 oz, which is not particularly heavy or light compared to other models from other manufacturers. However this weight is probably as light as you want to go in a field binocular. Going much lighter in a 10x is going to increase hand jitter at long range, thus increasing eye strain on a long scouting trip. So in other words, while they are not "incredibly lightweight" they are probably as light as you reasonably want them to be.
So what's not to like about the Spirit? Mostly just minor nit-picky issues. First is the focus dial had a very small amount of play when rotating the dial, this play was only a degree or two in either direction. The second issue is the description of the coatings used by Vanguard. They use "Emerald coating" and "P2 phase coating," which is not particularly descriptive. However neither of these issues is that big of a deal, particularly their coating terminology since the binos were bright, clear, and crisp. So the coatings must be good regardless of what the marketing folks decided to call them.
In conclusion, based on our experience with other binoculars in the marketplace, the Vanguard Spirit 10x42 offers a good deal of bang for the buck. For $200 you're getting binoculars that rival comparable binoculars in the $300-$400 range, in terms of optical quality, ergonomics, and weight. In other words they offer middle of the market quality at a price $100-$200 less than most other offerings. This means if you are considering a new set of mid-range binoculars, don't skip over the Spirit simply because of the lower price tag.
For more information about all of Vanguard's products, please visit www.vanguardworld.com .