Vortex Viper 6×32

 

 

Vortex Viper 6×32
This review has been a long time coming and I apologize for the wait.  I have been playing with the 6×32 Viper for months now.  It has also made a couple of trips around the country to be looked at by other people.
First off, I liked the binocular enough to buy it from Vortex.  I can honestly say that since this binocular ended up in my hands, I’ve been using it more than any other binocular I have.  I believe it to be the finest 6x/6.5x binocular currently available.
One of the problems I found in reviewing this binocular is that it does not have much competition currently on the market. 6x and 6.5x binoculars are not especially common, and the ones that are on the market generally stick to the lower end of the market segment.  The closest competitor price-wise is the Leupold Katmai 6×32 which runs ~$130 less than the Viper. Vortex Fury 6.5×32 is ~$170 less.  Vortex Raptor 6.5×32 is 4 times cheaper, while the Yosemite 6×30 hits your wallet with ~6 (!) times less vigor. Hence, this is really not a comparison in a traditional sense of the word.
In terms of both image and build quality, Viper is the best binocular out of these, but considering the price, it better be.  Hence, I am mostly trying to explain why I bought the Viper 6×32 and why I think it is worth the money.
First of all, here are some numbers for you to peruse.
Vortex Viper 6×32 Leupold Katmai 6×32 Leupold Yosemite 6×30 Vortex Raptor 6.5×32 Vortex Fury 6.5×32
Prism type Roof Roof Porro Porro Roof
Weight, ounces 19.4 18.2 17 17.3 22
Height, inches 4.9 4.1 4.6 4.5 5.3
Width, inches 4.8 NA NA 5.7 5.4
Field of View, ft @1000 yards 420 425 420 410 445
Close focus, ft 3 4.9 16.4 15 4.9
Interpupillary Distance, mm 59 – 75 57 – 72 50 – 70 50 – 70 55 – 76
Eye Relief, mm 19.5 19.2 20 20 21
Exit Pupil, mm 5.33 5.3 5 4.92 4.92
I currently have two of the binoculars in the table above: Viper and Yosemite.  In the past I have played with the Katmai and Fury enough to be confident of their abilities.  I have yet to see the Raptor outdoors.
Just looking at the numbers, a few things stand out:
  • If you are looking for a binocular to give to a kid, go with a porro design.  Both Yosemite and Raptor can go to much smaller IP distances.
  • If you need close focus go with a roof prism binocular (or an inverse porro, like Pentax Papilio).
  • Leupold does not list width numbers, but Katmai is about as wide as the Viper, while Yosemite is similar in width to the Raptor.
  • 6.5×32 Fury is a fair bit bigger and heavier than the other binos here and is getting close in size and weight to the smaller 8×42 binocular out there (Vortex’ own 8×42 Viper, for example).
  • Leupold Katmai is the most compact binocular in the table, while the two porro designs are the lightest (likely owing the light weight to simpler prisms and housing used in porro vs roof approaches).
Field of View numbers are adequately similar across the board.  Ditto for eye relief.  Another important comment about field of view is that it is comparatively narrow for all of these.  Many good quality 8×42 binoculars achieve fields of view in the 400 to 450 ft@1000 yards range and the apparent field of view on them is wider.
Leupold Yosemite 6×30 and Vortex Raptor 6.5×32 look so similar on paper that I suspect one was a design target for the other.  I’ll try to get my hands on the Raptor for another comparison.
Here is a picture of the Viper 6×32 and the case it came with:
However, the binocular is so light and handy, that I barely use the case at all.  It is not quite small enough to shove into a pocket, but it is barely noticeable hanging around my neck.  The case itself is fairly conventional, but it is well made and protects the binocular quite thoroughly.  Tethered lens covers fit well as does the rainguard.
Now, here is snapshot that properly illustrates one of the main reasons why I like 6×32 binoculars.  Here Viper 6×32 is next to a Vortex doubler and Hawke Frontier ED 8×43:
Next to a full size 8×43 binocular the 6×32 Viper look positively diminutive.  The main question is the the following: “what kind of a performance hit do you get for this diminutive size?”
The answer is that you do not get nearly as much of a performance hit as most people think.  There is indeed a little less magnification, but the image is very easy on the eyes.  Despite the light weight, the 6×32 Viper is incredibly easy to hold steady and eye fatigue is minimal.  Also owing to the moderate magnification, the glass looks good.  It is plain easier to build a high quality optics of moderate magnification.  Exit pupil is also quite respectable despite smallish 32mm objective lenses.
Because of this ease of use, it is often easier to extract every little bit of performance out of a decent 6×32 binocular than out of a higher magnification model.
Optically, the 6×32 Viper is a gem.  Viper is advertised to have phase coatings, dielectric reflective prism coatings, extra-low dispersion glass and argon gas inside the seals.  The image looks bright and very contrasty.  Edge effects are minimal.  Sweet spot is huge, and most aberrations are hard to track down.  Chromatic aberration is pretty much the only one that is not difficult to induce, but it is quite mild.  I suspect that this lack of aberrations is an artefact of keeping the Field of View comparatively narrow, but whatever the reason, the image is remarkably “clean”, for lack of a better word.
Higher magnification Viper binoculars that I have looked all had rather shallow depth of field.  That is not a problem with the 6×32, likely due to lower magnification.
I have tested the Viper extensively in low light and, once again, found little to nitpick on.  In the most extreme cases I could generate a faint ghost image and VERY faint veiling glare, but that is really it.  In a binocular this short you can sometimes get light that is strongly off-axis to produce some stray reflections, but the Viper turned out to be quite well baffled.
Eye relief is quite generous and I had no problem using the Viper regardless of whether I was wearing glasses or contacts.  Eyecups have a few detents, and I suspect that most people will have nor problem getting just the right setting for them.
I own a Vortex doubler which I originally bought to use with the 8.5×50 Razor binocular.  Put together, that made for a pretty decent 17×50 monocular that I could occasionally use instead of a spotter.  However, that was often a shaky proposition without a tripod.  Without a solid rest I really did not see all that much additional detail compared to simply using the excellent 8.5×50 as a binocular.
When attached to the 6×32 Viper, the doubler makes for a 12×32 monocular which is much easier to hold still and that allows for a much closer examination of whatever looks interesting through the binocular.  Now, a 12×32 monocular is not going to compete with any spotters any time soon, but at an additional weight of a couple of ounces or so, it is much easier to lug around.
Mechanically, the binocular is superb.  Focusing knob is buttery smooth and very precise.  I did not find any hysteresis in its operation.  I would love to find something to nitpick on, but there was really nothing.  Mechanically, this binocular is executed about as well as any binocular I have ever spend any serious time with.  I have accidentally dropped it a few times, but it did not show any ill-effects.  Collimation is still spot on.  Diopter adjustment is on the right ocular and is of the locking variety which is nice feature on a binocular that spends very little time inside its case.
Now, the next natural question is “how does it compare to similarly configured competition?”.  As I elaborated above there is no truly direct competition in the same price range.  Based on using the Viper side by side with Yosemite 6×30 and based on my earlier experience with other similarly configured models, I can comfortably state that the 6×32 Viper is the best binocular of this configuration on the market.
Compared to Yosemite, Viper is noticeably better in every way I can think of aside from price.  The only 6x binocular I can think of off the top of my head that had better glass than the Viper is the now defunct Fujinon Polaris FMTR-SX 6×32.  That was a top notch individual focus porro binocular made to military toughness standards.  It was also quite a bit bigger and heavier than the Viper (and similarly priced).
In terms of bang for the buck, Yosemite 6×30 (and probably Raptor 6.5×32) is unquestionably a better buy  than all the other binoculars in this group.  The price differential is so significant that there is really no contest.
However, if you want more performance in a compact binocular of similar configuration, you pretty much have to go with the Viper.  Leupold Katmai is very compact, but does not represent a significant performance improvement over Yosemite.  Vortex Fury 6.5×32 gives you a more perceptible performance boost, but then the binocular is already getting larger and beefier.
In that regard, I can probably make a stronger case for the Yosemite/Raptor and for the Viper, than I can for the Katmai and Fury.
The only other 6×32 binocular I have spent any serious time with is the EO Platinum Ranger and that one is not in the same league with the Viper either.
In most other market segments, I usually favor a middle of the road offering of some sort, but with 6x/6.5x binoculars I find myself taken a very different position.  I see less reason for midpack offerings than I do for both their cheaper and more expensive competitors.
To wrap up, here are a couple of snapshots of 6×32 Viper together with 6×30 Yosemite for size comparison, with some comments from another reviewer immediately below them:
Rifledude’s Take on 6×32 Viper:
“To sum up my opinion…I love the 6X32 Viper!  I can’t say I’ve ever used 6X binoculars before.  I was pleasantly surprised by the view that awaited me through these binos!  They are relatively compact, yet have a very solid feeling, reassuring heft to them that balances well in the hands.  The “not too light,” moderate weight, combined with the 6x magnification results in a very steady image that, in concert with the fine image quality, doesn’t cause eye fatigue after extended viewing.The view through the 6X32 Viper is very relaxed.  Image quality is excellent, with a relatively flat field, good resolution and contrast, large “sweet spot,” vibrant colors, and excellent light transmission!  The focus knob is silky smooth and the ergonomics felt just right to my hands.

The only negatives I could find to this binocular is the slight tunnel vision and slight presence of yellowish CA when looking at the edge of objects contrasted against bright backgrounds.  I found neither to be objectionable or detract from my enjoyment of these binoculars, though.

I can enthusiastically recommend these little binoculars to anyone looking for a high quality, moderate magnification compact binocular.  I’m reluctant to send them back to Koshkin, in fact!”

 

 Posted by at 10:30 pm