Pentax DCF SP Binoculars
and comfortable to use
minimum close focus
The DCF SP binoculars were
originally designed to compete in the high-end optics market but at a
significantly lower price for that performance. The Pentax DCF SP series
are all roof prism binoculars. We evaluate all four models: 8x32, 8x43,
10x43 and 10x50 in this review. Pentax DCF SP binoculars cost between
$540 and $800, which puts them solidly in the middle range of binocular
cost these days. The DCF SP binocular line was one of the first we ever
reviewed, and it remains one of our favorites to this day, particularly
as these binoculars deliver such great performance and value.
For starters, all DCF SP models
are fully sealed, nitrogen-purged, water- and fog-proof roof prism binoculars.
Sizes and weights of the DCF SP models are shown in the table below. Pentax
DCF SP binoculars are made on magnesium alloy frames and covered in forest
green, rubber armoring. Due to this, most are lighter than average for
binoculars of this size, with the exception of the 50-mm objective size
models, which are of about average weight for that class. The rubber armoring
is soft and slip-resistant for a secure, comfortable feel. There are shallow
circular depressions under the barrels for the thumbs to fall into, thus
positioning the hands so that the focus knob falls comfortably under the
fingers. These are broad enough that for those with larger hands, the
thumbs can be offset in the grooves without banging knuckles. The interpupillary
distance range on DCF SP binoculars is fairly narrow, especially on the
smaller side. This means that people with particularly narrow faces may
not find these comfortable and they should check them for fit before purchasing.
|Dimension (in inches)
||5.0 x 5.0
||5.7 x 5.0
||5.7 x 5.0
||6.7 x 5.2
|Interpupillary Distance Range
Pentax DCF SP binoculars are
made with BaK-4 glass, which is pretty much industry standard these days
for quality binoculars. The objective lens is comprised of 4 elements,
while the ocular lens is made of 5 elements, including the hybrid aspherical
type found in many high-end binoculars today. Hybrid aspherical lenses
require less glass (and thus weigh less) and reduce certain optical distortions.
All DCF SPs have high-resolution, phase-coated prisms, fully multi-coated
optical elements, and water-repellant coatings on exposed lens surfaces.
The quality of glass and coatings
is evident in the optical performance. Pentax DCF SP binoculars are bright,
with crisp image quality that stays sharp to the edge of the field. The
colors are bright and true, even under very low-light conditions. We noted
only the slightest hint of a chromatic aberration on high-contrast objects
under very bright light at the field edges, and virtually no edge effect.
Since nearly all binoculars show these effects, the minimal nature of
the ones exhibited by the DCF SP’s is strong evidence of their high
optical quality. The table below compares vital performance characteristics
for the four models of DCF SP reviewed here.
|Field of View @ 1000 yards
|Minimum Close Focus
How do you evaluate all these
data? That depends upon which of them are most important to you. Field
of view is a useful characteristic, and wider is typically better, so
long as it isn’t accompanied by a higher degree of image distortion.
In this regard, the 8x32, 8x43 and 10x43 models clearly outperform the
50-mm model. Relative to their class, the DCF SPs have pretty much average-sized
fields of view. Eye relief varies across the four models of DCF SP but
isn’t an issue: 17 mm will be comfortable enough for most users so 22
mm is more than adequate. The extra-light-gathering power of the larger
objective lens may be important if you are frequently out and about at
dawn or sunset.
The focus knob on all the models
is the same: large, covered with grooved, soft rubber for a good grip,
and featuring very smooth action even on brand new binoculars. Minimum
close focus on the three smallest DCF SP models was better than average
for this property, and in fact, better than Pentax claimed it to be. The
10x50 model has a longer minimum close focus than the other three, though
it should be noted this is frequently the case with 50-mm objective lens
binoculars. Further, we found that the minimum close focus on the 10x50
DCF SP was better than published. We had little trouble getting a sharp
image at about 9 feet, albeit with some collapse of the visual field.
The DCF SP focus mechanism requires 1.5 turns to go from minimum close
focus to infinity. This is about average for this property.
Rollover image with mouse
Pentax went first class for
the adjustable features: eyecups and diopter setting. For example, the
eyecups are positioned with a helical twist, but instead of the typical
all-or-nothing mechanism, these binoculars feature four positions stabilized
by detents. As a result, virtually any user can find a position that maximizes
viewing comfort and field clarity. The diopter adjustment is the usual
twisting rubber ring on the right ocular, but it is a lift-and-click locking
mechanism. To adjust, pull the ring out towards the ocular and twist in
either direction to achieve the desired focus. Push it down to lock it
securely in place. This is the best diopter adjustment mechanism. It is
unusual to find fully-locking diopter adjustments on mid-priced binoculars,
so we give Pentax full marks for it.
Caps and Case
The rain guard on all DCF SP binoculars 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 bracket is gapped so the guard can
be slipped onto or off the strap at will. This is basically a sound design,
although the rain guards are a bit too loose and can be dislodged too
easily. Thus, we recommend threading the strap through the right hand
bracket as well when you aren’t actively using them. The objective lens
caps are 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 site for a tripod attachment
bracket. The case is an attractive, padded, dark green cordura affair
with a supple black leather bottom and black nylon trim. A Velcro closing
flap has openings through which the binocular straps fit, allowing the
whole assembly to be comfortably worn over a shoulder. This is actually
an excellent case! The strap itself is the only disappointment: it is
a bare black nylon web strap, barely an inch wide behind the neck and
completely unpadded. The strap attachment poles are of a design that permits
easy substitution by virtually any other kind of strap.
Overall, the Pentax DCF SP
binocular line is very impressive. The optical performance of these binoculars
competes well on today’s binocular market. And at these prices, the
DCF SP line is a fabulous value, period. These are serious binoculars
for serious nature enthusiasts; we already see a lot of these in the field
and we expect that to continue.
DCF SP Binoculars