Pentax DCF ED Binoculars
The DCF ED binoculars are Pentax’s latest
update to their previous best binocular line. The DCF ED binoculars come in three
different models: the 8x32, 8x43, 10x43, and 10x50. The most popular 32 and 43 sizes
will be compared and contrasted in this review. Like their predecessors, the EDs
are designed to compete in the high-end optics market at a lower price. Relative
to the SPs, the price is significantly higher, but so is the performance. The EDs
cost $799 for the 32-mm version, and $899 and $999 for the 8x43 and 10x43 versions
respectively (all prices are Optics4Birding prices). This puts them right in the
middle of binocular prices… yet their performance, weight, and other design qualities
compete with some of the most expensive optics. At this price level these are hard
As with all DCF binoculars, the EDs are a roof-prism design, fully sealed (JIS class
6 = submersible to 1 meter) and nitrogen-purged to be water-, dust- and fog-proof.
DCF ED binoculars are made with magnesium alloy chassis to minimize the weight,
and are slightly more compact than the DCF SPs. Their dimensions are: 5.5 inches
high by 4.9 inches wide on the two 43-mm models and 5.0 inches high by 4.9 inches
wide on the 32-mm model. The corresponding weights are 25.3 oz on the 8x43 model,
25.6 oz. on the 10x43 version, and 23.9 oz. for the 8x32 binocular. One thing interesting
about the DCF ED line is that the 43- and 32-mm models all have an identical interpupillary
distance of 58-74 mm. That is actually a fairly narrow range, meaning that these
might not be a comfortable fit for people with particularly wide or narrow faces.
In fact, the dimensions and overall look of the EDs is very similar to the DCF SPs:
both have the same dark green rubber armoring with black accents, the same broad,
shallow thumb grooves on the ocular tubes and the same focus knob. Visually, the
EDs are almost indistinguishable from the SPs.
The significant differences are all in the optics. The EDs may well be the brightest
binoculars we’ve seen in the under $1000 price class. The ED glass contributes to
the superb light transmission (part of it is in the coatings of course), but also
helps the image sharpness and clarity. We also appreciated the high contrast of
the image. Overall, the image quality was excellent. The flat-field performance
with the DCF EDs was pretty good. The EDs showed relatively little pin-cushioning,
although there was a very slight tendency towards color aberration on bright high-contrast
edges both at the field edges (where some is usually seen) and in the middle. The
optics of the EDs improve on the already good performance of the SPs in the minimum
close focus: the two 43-mm models focus down to about 5 feet, which is significantly
better than industry average in this character. The 8x32 has an even more impressive
close focus of 3.5 feet, though it should be noted that this occurs with significant
field separation at anything less than 4 feet. Not surprisingly with such good close
focus capability, the depth of field is a little shallower relative to other binoculars
in this class. The field of view (FOV) at 1000 yards is identical to that of the
corresponding DCF SP models for all three DCF EDs. The 32-mm binocular has a 393-ft
FOV, with the 8x43 and 10x43 models at 330 and 315 feet respectively. This would
rank them a little below average for the 8x43, and right on average for the other
Mag x Obj
Field of view
393 ft/1000 yds
5.0" x 4.9"
330 ft/1000 yds
5.5" x 4.9"
315 ft/1000 yds
5.5" x 4.9"
A lot of the rest of this discussion is going to sound a lot like the DCF SP review,
because the two lines are very similar in a lot of their peripheral characteristics.
Both lines have high-resolution, phase-coated prisms, multi-coated (Penta-Bright™)
optical elements, and water-repellant coatings on exposed lens surfaces. The lenses
are of the hybrid aspherical type, which requires less glass and reduces certain
optical distortions. The result is great light transmission, and image sharpness
and resolution. The color fidelity is excellent. The focus mechanism is, for all
intents and purposes, identical for the two lines. All three EDs went from minimum
close focus to infinity in about 1.6 turns of the knob, which makes them just a
bit slow relative to other binoculars. Eye relief is 17 mm on the 8x32 and 10x43
models, but 22 mm on the 8x43 model. That is slightly better than average on the
8x32, almost exactly average on the 10x model, and well above average for the 8x43!
The DCF EDs have the same excellent eyecup adjustment mechanism as the DCF SPs.
The eyecups adjust with a helical twist through 3 positions stabilized by detents.
The diopter adjustment is a twisting rubber ring on the right ocular, but the mechanism
is fully locking. To adjust, pull the ring out towards the ocular to unlock it and
twist in either direction to achieve the desired focus. Push it down to lock it
securely in place. This is an excellent diopter adjustment mechanism. In these two
important properties, Pentax has done quite well.
The rain guard is a pair of loose-fitting, hard plastic cups joined by a flexible
bridge region. The strap threads through a bracket on the left side; the right-hand
bracket is gapped so the guard can be slipped onto or off the strap at will. This
is basically a sound design, but the rain guard fits way too loosely on all three
models. Thus, if the rain guard needs to be kept in place, we recommend threading
the strap through the right hand bracket as well. The lens caps are quite well designed.
They are soft rubber caps that fit snugly into the armored ends of the barrels,
each attached to a tether that allows it to swing down out of the way of the field
of view. The tethers attach to a screw-in plate that when removed, reveals a tripod
attachment site. This design is pretty good, though it could be improved by making
the tethers a little longer on the 32-mm model; the two 43-mm models have slightly
better tether lengths.
The case is padded, dark green cordura with a black leather bottom and black trim.
The Velcro closing flap has openings through which the binocular straps fit, so
the whole assembly can be worn over the shoulder. This is the exact same case as
used for the DCF SPs, which is fine, because it’s an excellent case. One thing we
like is that it is large enough to admit the binocular with the eyecups all the
way up, so they don’t have to be twisted down every time the binocular is put away.
The strap is also the same as on the SPs: a black nylon web strap, about an inch
wide behind the neck and completely unpadded. Admittedly, on a 23-oz. binocular,
not a whole lot of padding is required for comfort. The strap attachment poles will
allow easy substitution by virtually any other kind of strap if desired.
Frequent readers of these pages will remember that we really liked the DCF SPs (we
still do!). The DCF EDs average about $300 more each than their corresponding SP
models. The reason to consider laying out the extra money is performance. The optical
performance of these binoculars competes favorably with the best offered by any
manufacturer in the under $1200 price class. The DCF SP line is still a great value
at their price level but the EDs clearly outperform them optically. Choosing a binocular
remains a very personal thing and there are a huge number of binoculars available
on today’s market. All the same, we expect a lot of birders to begin choosing the
Pentax DCF EDs.
Pentax DCF ED Binoculars - current price and