New Full-Size Brunton Eterna Binoculars
We last reviewed the Brunton Eternas in 2003. Since then, Brunton has
come out with a substantially revamped Eterna line. The old Eternas were
somewhat heavy and rather large binoculars, but very solidly built with
high optical quality for the price. They were available in 7x and 10x42
models that would focus down to a minimum distance of about 6 feet. The
new Eternas look a bit different, with more stylish barrels and the Brunton
logo prominently displayed on the sides, but how different are they? The
answer to that is mixed: they're quite different in some ways, and notably
similar in others.
For starters, the new Bruntons
come in unusual configurations: 8x45, 11x45 and 15x51! We received only
examples of the former two models for review, so the 15x51 model isn't
discussed herein. The new Eternas feel smaller in the hands, partly because
of the ergonomically-shaped barrels, which feel more comfortable. Actually,
they are only slightly smaller than the originals at 6" by 5.1". They
have the same hefty feel, and they come by that honestly: our postal scale
measured the 8x model at 31.2 oz. and the 11x model at 31.6 oz. Some of
the other Eterna features remain comfortably the same. The new Eternas
are made with BaK-4 glass prisms, and are completely sealed and nitrogen-filled
to be fogproof, waterproof and dust-proof. Like all Brunton binoculars,
the optics are secured with an extra set screw, to render them more resistant
to being knocked out of alignment by little bumps in the field.
Much of the rest of the optical
package has been upgraded. Brunton incorporated state-of-the art phase
coating, and a new AL reflective coating for the prisms. The aluminum
in this coating provides not so much better reflection or higher light
throughput than the silver more commonly used by other manufacturers.
Rather, the aluminum ages better than silver does, particularly if the
waterproof seal is ever lost. These Eternas also have the Emerald Fire™
full multi-coating although this coating has been improved. All of this
may matter little to the average technophobe, but it translates to a very
bright and true image. They show the same amount of edge distortion as
the old models, and it’s about average for good quality binoculars
in general. There was a slight suggestion of color aberration when viewing
high-contrast objects under very bright light. In our hands, this tendency
was more pronounced in the 11x than the 8x model. This manifests as a
blue-shift at the edge of the field when viewing a particularly bright
object, but it’s not something you would notice under normal viewing
conditions. Brunton lists the new Eternas as having a minimum close of
8 feet, which would be a slight loss of functionality. We measured close
focus at just 6.5 feet, which is about what the old ones did! Sadly, the
new Eternas have a more limited field of view than the old ones, with
315 and 305 feet at 1000 yards on the 8x and 11x models, respectively.
Eye relief is 20 mm on the 8x model and 19 mm on the 11x model, very comparable
to the old Eternas. This makes them good for eyeglass wearers who need
longer eye relief.
different are they?
So where then are the differences?
Well, they’re largely in design features. The focus knob is no longer
enclosed in the bridge, where it was slightly less accessible to the fingers.
Instead, it sits on top of the hinge, and coupled with another design
difference, the texture of the rubber armoring, this is a significant
improvement. The new armoring is a little more pliant, and has a pebbled
texture, where the old armor was smooth and rather hard, so it didn’t
provide the most secure grip. Couple this with the larger diameter of
the older barrels, and this design was harder for many to hold securely,
particularly those with small hands, such as children. Not so the new
Eternas, which have a nice surface that grabs the hand and feels better.
So the grip is better, and the focus is somewhat easier and faster. The
diopter adjustment is now a more traditional ring on the right barrel
just below the eyepiece, a continuous adjustment with no click stops or
locking mechanism. However, compared to the slider mechanism of the old
Eternas, this is still a significant improvement. The eyecups on the new
Eternas adjust with a counter-clockwise twist, and feature two click-stop
intermediate positions in addition to all-in or all-out. This is a significant
of view at 1000 yards
* Brunton is very restrictive
with pricing and they strongly defend MAP (minimum advertised price) so
these are about as low as the prices get.
The ergonomic optimization
includes several other items. The slotted outer barrels and flaring shape
to the barrels (as opposed to straight tubes) are a big improvement relative
to the old Eternas. Brunton also moved the posts for strap attachment
more around the sides of the barrels where it contacts the hands less,
increasing comfort of handling. Speaking of which, the strap is now very
similar to the one found on the higher end Epoch model. The old Eterna
strap was okay; the new one is better. In the case and lens cap areas,
Brunton has retained the neoprene Bino-Glove™ though we hear this
has been substantially re-designed in the new ones. We can’t comment
since we didn’t receive the new case for review. The old Eternas
had completely attached lens caps. The ocular lens caps swung out on hinges
and could be positioned to block stray light, though many found this more
irritating than advantageous. The objective lens caps were attached on
tethers, which did prevent their getting lost, but again, were potentially
a nuisance. The new Eternas don’t have lens caps per se. The re-designed
Bino-Glove™ takes care of that function. Brunton also made the new
Eternas tripod adaptable, which is likely to be needed more on the 11x
and 15x models than on the 8x models.
One other thing has remained
largely the same: the price. The new Eternas have an MSRP of
for either model, but they can be found for as little as
meaning that the Eterna still delivers optical performance more characteristic
of a high-end optic in the lower middle end of the price spectrum. This
is the real trick: on the whole, the new Eternas are an improvement on
the old ones, in some areas quite significantly, but they still retain
the distinction of being a superb value in terms of optical performance
obtained at a very reasonable price.
Brunton has discontinued all their binoculars. Fortunately, both Zeiss and Vortex have developed similar priced
alternatives with even more advanced designs. Checkout Vortex
and Zeiss alternatives.