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Pentax DCF BR 9x42 Binocular

Pentax DCF BR 9x42 Binocular

Review Highlights

  • Pentax’s new, 9x42 binocular
  • Light, ergonomically-optimized open-bridge design
  • Tremendous optical performance
  • Minimum close focus of just 5.3-feet

Pentax introduced two brand new binoculars in 2011, both aimed at the low-priced end of the market. The 9x42 DCF BR is the larger one, (the smaller DCF BC is reviewed here) and it is the subject of this review. The 9x42 binocular has a lot of features in common with Pentax’s popular DCF SP lines but at just under $350, is priced significantly lower. The 9x magnification is an interesting compromise that we don’t see too much in sports optics. The DCF BR is very lightweight, and ergonomically optimized to be very comfortable and stable in the hands. After spending some time with it in the field, telling you what we really like about the DCF BR 9x42 is a genuine pleasure.

Physical Properties

To put you on the map, the Pentax DCF BR 9x42 is a roof prism binocular, fully sealed and nitrogen-purged to be dust-proof, internally fog-proof and waterproof to a depth of 1 yard (JIS Class 6). This binocular is of average size for a 42-mm roof prism, measuring 6 inches long with eyecups fully extended (5.75 inches folded down) and 5 inches wide with the hinges all the way open. DCF BR binoculars are made with fiber-reinforced polycarbonate chassis covered in forest green rubber armoring with black accents of the focus knob and eyecups. Weighing just 24.2 oz, the DCF BRs are lighter than most 42-mm roof prism binoculars of any magnification. There is ample room between the hinges for three fingers to easily fit, making for a comfortable secure grip. Pentax further optimized the DCF BRs with a subtle ridge in the armoring that enhances the grip, and some shallow thumb grooves perfectly placed under the barrels. As a result, the binocular fits into the hand with great precision, dropping the focus knob right under the index fingers. We think the ergonomics of the DCF BC binocular are great. The 9x42 DCF BR binocular has 18 mm of eye relief, meaning virtually all users can find a position of minimal eye strain. The interpupilary distance range is 58-75 mm, which means that people with particularly narrow faces may not find this binocular to be as good a fit.

Optical Performance

Pentax DCF BR thumb grooves Pentax DCF BR binoculars are made with BaK-4 glass prisms and are phase-coated for maximum resolution and contrast. The lenses are fully multi-coated for superior light transmission, and a special silver coating is applied to the prisms to enhance this further. How well does it all work? The 9x42 DCF BRs have a 321-foot field of view at 1000 yards which is a bit narrow compared to 10x42 binoculars, which average a bit larger. Compensating for this are two important factors: the size of the “useful” field of view or “sweet spot” and the performance at the edges of the visual field. In both these characteristics, the Pentax outperforms much of its competition with the area of sharp focus being comparatively large, and the unusable distorted portion at the edge of the visual field being relatively small. The 9x42 DCF BR has excellent flat field performance in general: straight lines tend to stay straight out quite close to the margins of the field, and the edge is still bright even when slightly out of focus. We found that the Pentax DCF BR also had pretty good depth of field. All these features combined mean that you have a better chance of having what you want to look at be in focus when you look at, and that just means better viewing in general. When we tested the sharpness and resolution, we were pleased to discover that this 9x42 outperformed all other binoculars in its price class that we could put up against it. Overall, we thought this binocular delivered excellent optical performance, especially at this price point.

Focusing

The focus knob of the DCF BC is large and covered with grooved, soft rubber for excellent purchase. The focus mechanism is a bit stiff but not troublingly so, and the action is still pretty smooth. The DCF BR goes from minimum close focus to infinity in about 1.5 turns of the focus knob, which is about perfect for this character. More turns than that, while conferring great precision, often makes the binocular too slow to respond, so you miss things. Less turns than that means you tend to blow past the desired focal point, so you lose time micro-adjusting the focus. Minimum close focus on the Pentax DCF BC was a mere 5.25 feet with virtually no field collapse, which is really excellent performance. Overall, this is a well-designed and executed focus mechanism.

User Adjustments

Pentax DCF BR Eyecup and Diopter Rollover image with mouse

The Pentax DCF BR 9x42 binocular has eyecups that adjust with a counter-clockwise helical twist to raise them. There are 2 fully-stable positions between fully out and fully collapsed, and all four positions are marked by firm detents so they don’t collapse inadvertently. Pentax has always had great helically-adjusting eyecups, so these are just a continuance of that tradition. The diopter adjustment is a twist-ring mechanism on the right ocular tube. A raised ridge on the ring lines up with a similar line on the armoring that indicates the position for equal eyes. Grooves around the twist ring provide a way of estimating how far it has been adjusted. The ring movement is intentionally stiff so it won’t move easily but the mechanism does not lock. There are no marks on the mechanism, so we recommend that users who require a setting other than equal mark the correct position on either the ring or the armoring to save themselves time in the event the diopter setting is lost.

Strap, Covers and Case

Pentax DCF BR Peripherals

The strap on the DCF BR is very basic: a ¾-inch wide length of cordura with some leather trim, the Pentax logo and no padding at all. This strap has potential to chafe and be uncomfortable, so we recommend purchasing a more comfortable strap. We typically recommend a harness of some type, and Pentax does sell one (see it here). The rainguard is a pair of hard plastic cups joined by a linking portion that fits very loosely over the eyecups. There is a gapped bracket on the left-hand side that allows it to be affixed to whatever strap you get. The objective lens covers are made of soft rubber and fit into the barrel ends, adhering to the armoring. These are tethered lens caps, attached to the outer hinge. Again, this is a feature preserved from the DCF SP and DCF ED lines, but it actually works better on the DCF BR than on its more expensive cousins. This is because the double hinge design allows the lens caps to dangle off the front of the binocular. They never get caught between the barrels and they don’t blow up and obscure the view or close accidentally against the chest. The case is padded cordura with leather trim. The case is a little snug, but the binocular fits in even with the eyecups fully extended, which is good. The case has no strap or belt attachment loop, but the gap at the top permits the binocular strap to double as the case strap if left hanging out.

Conclusions

We really enjoyed evaluating the DCF BR 9x42 binocular. We think that Pentax has hit a nice medium in optimizing the optical performance at a relatively low price point of just $319.00 making them a great value. The binocular is very comfortable in the hands, and the combination of better-than-average depth of field with the large sweet spot, all at this kind of image sharpness makes them a real pleasure to use. We predict a bright future for the Pentax DCF BR 9x42.

Buy Pentax DCF BR 9x42 Binocular


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