Alpen Wings ED Binoculars
- Affordable ED glass
- Great image brightness
- Stylish double-hinge
In 2009, Alpen released the Wings binocular line. Wings binoculars are a significant
departure from previous Alpen binoculars in two ways. First, they make use of a
structural design that is becoming increasingly popular these days: the double-hinge
or “open bridge” frame. Second, the Wings were the first ED glass binoculars down
in the affordable price range of about $400. Alpen Wings binoculars also come in
non-ED glass versions, though we won’t be reviewing those here. Alpen did a great
job with the development of the Wings ED binoculars and we really like them.
Alpen Wings ED are full-sized, 42-mm roof prism binoculars available in 8x and 10x
magnifications. Wings binoculars are fairly compact at just 5.9 inches tall (with
eyecups fully extended) and 4.9 inches wide across the barrels. Our postal scale
measured the weight of the 8x42 at 24.2 oz without the objective lens caps on, while
the 10x42 was a tad lighter at 23.7 oz. The objective lens caps add another 0.7
oz. Anything under 25 oz on a full-sized, 42-mm binocular is excellent. The barrels
are covered in Alpen’s customary forest green rubber armoring, with the eyecups,
hinges and focus knob providing black accents. As with most roof prism binoculars
today, the Wings are completely sealed and nitrogen-purged to be waterproof, dust-proof
and internally fog-proof. Eye relief on Wings ED binoculars is a comfortable 17
mm on the 8x model, but only 15 mm on the 10x version, which may be a bit short
for some users who wear glasses.
One of the first things to notice about the Wings ED binoculars is their startling
clarity. Somehow, you just don’t expect this kind of brightness in a $400 binocular.
It would be tempting to ascribe this just to the ED glass, but it’s more than that.
Wings ED binoculars have fully multi-coated lenses and the prisms receive Alpen’s
proprietary PXA™ phase-coating for superior resolution and better color fidelity.
We found the image of the Wings ED binoculars to be completely color neutral, which,
along with their excellent contrast, helps generate that clean, bright image. Comparison
of Wings ED binoculars to non-ED binoculars in the same price range (and even a
few that were more expensive) reveals that they are consistently brighter than the
non-ED competition. Wings ED binoculars do show some edge effects or field curvature.
This is particularly evident in the amount of pin-cushioning they show – the tendency
for straight edges to bow inward at the outer edges of the field of view. There
was some chromatic aberration visible, again primarily limited to the field edges,
but not more than we would expect. Alpen lists the Wings ED binoculars as having
a 393-foot field of view at 1000 yards on the 8x version, while the 10x model comes
in at 330 feet. Relative to other 42-mm roof prism binoculars, this is a slightly
above average field of view for a 10x and significantly above average for an 8x.
Wings ED binoculars have a broad central focus knob that is covered with strips
of rubber armoring that improve the grip. The focusing action is smooth and easy
without being loose. We measured the minimum close focus on the 8x model at about
7 feet, and about 7.5 feet on the 10x model. To get from minimum close focus to
infinity takes about 1.7 turns of the focus knob, which is a bit longer than average
for edge-to-edge. But part of this comes down to where you are in the range. Starting
at the minimum close focus, it takes a ¼ turn to hit a focal distance of 8 feet,
and another ¼ turn to hit 10 feet. Continuing this, you get to about a 20-foot focal
distance at not quite one full turn. In other words, from 20 feet to infinity occurs
in about 0.7 turns. Put another way, most of your nature viewing is going to occur
in a distance range that is covered by relatively minimal focal adjustment, which
is just how it should be.
The diopter adjustment mechanism on the Wings ED binoculars is very basic: a simple
twist-ring located at the base of the right ocular lens. A white dot on the ring
lines up with a raised vertical line in the rubber armoring to indicate the position
for equal eyes. The ring also has a series of notches on either side of the white
dot, which will help you remember the approximate correct position of any setting
for unequal eyes, which is a nice little refinement. The eyecups adjust with a helical
twist mechanism; counter clockwise to raise them and clockwise to lower them. There
is one fully stable position between fully in and fully out. It’s simple, and elegantly
efficient. Alpen Wings binoculars have an unusually broad interpupillary distance
range of 54-73 mm. This means they will be comfortable for most people, especially
those with narrower faces.
Rainguard and Lens Caps
The rainguard is made of soft black rubber and is comprised of two deep cups
linked by a flexible bridge. It fits easily and snugly over the eyecups and doesn’t
dislodge accidentally. There are brackets on each cup to thread the binocular strap
through, with the left one being gapped so that it may be detached from the strap
if one prefers. This is an excellent rainguard, completely functional without any
major drawbacks in design. The objective lens covers are made of the same soft black
These are tethered lens caps with the caps joined by a short linker to rings that
fit over the barrels of the binocular. The caps themselves have a shallow groove
running around the inside of the cap; the rim of the objective lens barrel fits
tightly into the groove, which makes the cap stay on the binocular. It works quite
well, with one slight flaw: Alpen made the ring that fits over the barrel too loose,
with the result that the entire lens cap assembly can come off the binocular fairly
easily. We presume they are working to fix this; in the meantime, Alpen is very
good about shipping out replacement lens caps when they are lost.
Case and Strap
The soft case is kind of an interesting departure from usual, being a sort of clamshell
design with a double-zipper closure. The case has its own cordura strap. Inside
the case is a removable “holster” that can be used as a belt carrying case. The
holster features an elastic snapping closure to secure the binocular inside it when
it’s not in use.
is way larger than needed to hold just the binocular and holster, so it easily accommodates
even a harness-type strap as well. The strap supplied with the Wings ED binoculars
is Alpen’s “premium, wide” strap, a hybrid of cordura ligated to a stretchy, broad,
foam-padded neck section with wide leather patches. This strap is more than comfortable
enough to support the lightweight Wings EDs, but Alpen sells a harness-type strap
separately for those who prefer it. Also included in the box with Wings ED binoculars
is a soft lens cloth for use in cleaning the binocular.
Overall, we really enjoyed using the Alpen Wings ED binoculars. The minimal weight
of the optic and its double-hinge design make it very comfortable to use. The image
was bright and sharp. Focusing was smooth and precise. Most of the peripheral features
were generally simple and functional, while some exceeded expectations. On the whole,
Alpen Wings ED binoculars deliver a lot of performance at a relatively low price.
We think the Wings will really take off (sorry!) for Alpen once the word gets out.
Alpen Wings ED Binoculars
- current price and availability