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Minox HG Series Binoculars

Minox HG Binoculars Anyone with a passing familiarity with the European optics market will recognize the historical name of Minox. At least in the U.S., Minox is probably more famous for their miniature cameras than their binoculars. This is an unfortunate bit of colloquialism because these optics deserve a much broader audience than they have. At Optics4Birding, we first became familiar with the Minox product line at the 2007 SHOT Show, where they made a great first impression. Minox binocular line designations are a bit confusing. The HG (for “high grade”) series is their top-of-the-line birding binocular. The BD line falls in the middle, and the BL line is designed to provide high performance at a low price. Don’t be confused: every Minox binocular model ends with a “BR” designation. The HG line is available in 8x33, 10x43 and 8.5x43 configurations as well as 8.5x52 and 10x52. The first three models are reviewed here.

The Minox HGs are a roof prism design, fully sealed and argon-purged, to be waterproof dust proof and internally fog proof. The use of argon rather than dry nitrogen is thought to be advantageous in that argon is less chemically reactive, and several manufacturers are switching to this more inert gas. The 8x33 model is very compact at 4.8 inches high and 4.75 inches wide, while the 8.5 and 10x43 models are slightly larger at 5.6 by 4.75 inches. All have a fairly distinctive look and feel being covered with matte black rubber armor with bright chrome accents. The armoring has a micro-particulate surface that makes it feel like it almost sticks to the hands, a feature that has benefits beyond the how secure they feel. Due to their magnesium chassis, the HGs are quite light. The 8x33 model weighs 21.1 oz. while the 8.5 and 10x43 models weigh 22.7 oz. and 23.1 oz. respectively. While the 33-mm model is about average for its class, the two 43-mm models are significantly lighter than binoculars of this class. The HGs are also superbly balanced and feel very comfortable in the hands.

Mag x Obj
Eye relief
Field of view
Close focus
Prism
Weight
Dimensions
8x33
15 mm
394 ft/1000 yds
6.6 ft
Phase-coated BaK4
21.1 oz.
4.8" x 4.75"
8.5x43
18 mm
321 ft/1000 yds
8.2 ft
Phase-coated BaK4
22.7 oz.
5.6" x 4.75"
10x43
15.5 mm
321 ft/1000 yds
8.2 ft
Phase-coated BaK4
23.1 oz.
5.6" x 4.75"

Our first experience with the HGs was inside a noisy crowded convention hall, where, staring up into the shadowed recesses of the dark ceiling, we were impressed by their light-gathering capacity. That first impression has held up substantially; you’d have to spend a great deal more money to find a brighter binocular (more on this later). Next we tried focusing them on objects near and far, and were quite impressed with how rapidly the HGs snapped into focus – much more on this later! At this point, we did exactly what you’re probably doing now: we asked, “How much do these things cost?” The answer to that impressed us even more. The 8x33 model has an MSRP of $899, but is discounted to $719. The 8.5 and 10x43 models retail at $1039 and $1089 respectively, but are available at $829 and $869 through Optics4Birding. This puts them in the upper half of the mid-price range at a performance level that clearly rivals more expensive optics. Now they should have your full attention!

We are pleased to report that closer acquaintance with them hasn’t lessened our appreciation of them. It isn’t so much the brightness of the image that we like as it is the contrast and color fidelity. Many binoculars seem to have a slightly yellowish cast to the image, which heightens the sense of contrast, but is revealed when one uses them to view a perfectly white object. The Minox HGs deliver the optimum contrast while providing crisp clean whites without detectable bias. How they do this remains a question. Like all optics manufacturers, Minox has their own proprietary coatings for mirrors and prisms, like the Minobright® coating on the prisms and the M coating, as well as the aspherical lenses, which improve the phase resolution. Minox gets their optical glass from Schott AG, a renowned German glass-maker. Whatever the causes, the effects remain great!

Minox HG BinocularsThere are a lot of great features to the HGs, but the one that really catches your eye is the focusing mechanism. The Minox HGs go from minimum close focus to infinity in just one full turn of the focus knob. They are able to do this because they use a differential focus mechanism, one that shifts focal plane at variable speed depending upon your distance from the object in view. We know of only one other modern binocular that does this, and we love the mechanism! On top of that, Minox added a small refinement that is so simple it is elegant: they put a graduated scale of distance on the focus knob, allowing the viewer to estimate (in yards) their distance from the object being viewed. Little silver numbers line up with a silver dot on a scale from 1.7 to 50 yards, and then infinity. This little feature is of tremendous utility for gauging the distance to a subject.

In other optical properties, the Minox HGs present rather a curious mix. The 8x33 model has a tremendous field of view (FOV): 395 feet at 1000 yards. This is a good 10% higher than average FOV for a 33-mm binocular, based on Optics4Birding data. By contrast, the two 43-mm HGs do poorer in FOV, with both models advertising a 321-foot FOV at 1000 yards, below average for an 8x binocular, but just slightly above average for a 10x. In minimum close focus, the HGs fare quite well. We had little difficulty getting the 8x33 model to focus sharply down to about 3.6 feet, which is about 25% better than average performance for a 33-mm binocular. This is all the more surprising since the Minox literature lists this feature at 6.6 feet. It should be noted that this is one of the most user-dependant properties, and the performance of any given binocular in this particular category will vary from user to user. Nonetheless, this is a big difference between advertised and actual! Minox lists both the 8.5 and 10x43 models as having a minimum close focus of 8.2 feet. Again, our measurement of this feature found them to be better, as both focused down to 6.0 feet. This is a bit better than average performance in this regard. It is well that the focal mechanism is as precise as it is, for the depth of field is fairly shallow on the HGs. We often find this to be the case: optimal performance on depth of field usually translates to poor performance on minimum close focus, and vice versa.

In terms of their flat field performance properties, the 33-mm HG is significantly different from its larger cousins. We found that the 33-mm HG had considerably greater curvature of field than the larger models, such that there is notable loss of clarity away from the visual field center, where the 43-mm models stay clear much closer to the edges of the field. This is also seen in their “pin-cushioning”: the tendency for straight lines to bow inward at the visual field edges. On this character, all three models are better than average, which seems somewhat counter-intuitive for the 8x33, where we would have expected worse. All three binoculars had minimal chromatic aberration; all displayed a bluish tinge to the outermost portion of the field and none in the center. Shifting gears slightly, the eye relief is 15 mm on the 8x33 model, and 18 and 15.5 mm on the 8.5 and 10x43 models respectively. This puts all three a millimeter or two below average for their individual classes. All three binoculars have an interpupilary distance of 58-74 mm, which is a little narrower than usual on both ends, though not as much for the 33-mm model. In any case, this means that if your face is wider or narrower than the average person, the HGs might be a bit less comfortable for you to use.

Minox HG Diopter AdjustmentWith the user-adjustable properties: eyecups and diopter adjustments, the HGs outperform many a more expensive binocular. The eyecups adjust with a helical twist through four different static positions, with two hard stops between fully in and fully out. When we say “hard stops”, we mean that the positions are sharply delineated by feel and show no tendency to shift or collapse inadvertently with normal field use. These are as good as any out there. The HG diopter adjustment is a knurled metal twist-ring on the right ocular tube. It is fully-locking; to adjust, you pull the ring up toward the eyecup to expose a series of hash-marks on the underlying tube surface. A thicker and longer mark designates the point for equal eyes, which lines up with a notch on the twist ring itself. The ring twists in either direction to adjust, and then can be dropped back down, covering the scale, to lock it in virtually any position selected. This is, quite simply, a beautiful, very functional mechanism for this.

The rainguards are nice flexible rubber cups joined by a bridge region. They fit loosely enough on the oculars to be easily put in place, but the “grip” of the rubber armoring makes them stay in place, even when the binocular is inverted and shaken! These aren’t going anywhere by accident. Interestingly, there were no objective lens covers with any HG model we received. The strap provided is pretty normal – a hybrid of cordura strap with leather connections on a flexible foam rubber section that encircles the neck. The case is genuine leather, well-padded, with a magnetic closure. We have a minor quibble here: had they made the case just a tiny bit bigger, it would have been easier to slide the binocular in with the eyecups fully extended and rainguards on. As it is, you need to twist the eyecups down, and re-seat the rainguard after placing the binocular in the case. But that’s a pretty minor objection.

There is no hyperbole necessary to sum things up here. The Minox HG is a wonderful binocular, better than average in virtually every important category. The optical performance is excellent, at a price that leaves you wondering how they did it. We really expect these binoculars to sell well, and can heartily recommend them to anyone for outperforming virtually everything in their price class along with quite a few above them. These are just great binoculars.

Minox HG Binoculars - current price and availability