Vortex Viper Binocular
- High-priced optical
performance in a mid-priced binocular!
- Excellent minimum
- Light weight and comfortable
in the hands
The Vortex Viper is yet another binocular line from this prolific optics manufacturer.
The Vipers fit in between the top-of-the-line Razor series and the Furies, running
for the 10x42 model and
for the 8x42 model. This makes them a lower mid-priced binocular in today’s binocular
market, easily the hottest segment of the market. When we first reviewed the Vipers,
only the 42-mm objective size existed, and we didn’t look at the 12x42 model. Since
then, Vortex has expanded the Viper line to include 6x32, 8x32 and 10x32 models,
in addition to 8.5x50, 10x50 and 15x50 versions. All Vortex Viper binoculars are
affordable, high-quality roof-prism binoculars, fully sealed and argon-purged to
be waterproof and internally fogproof.
Mag x Obj
Field of view
347 ft/1000 yds
5.8" x 5.3"
314 ft/1000 yds
5.8" x 5.3"
The 42-mm Vipers are of typical size for a roof prism binocular: 5.75 inches tall
(6” with eyecups fully extended) by 5.0 inches wide, and both weigh about 24 ounces,
with the 10x slightly heavier at 24.3 oz. and the 8x lighter at 23.9 oz. Both are
lighter than average for binoculars in their class. The Vipers are attractively
coated in a pale olive green rubber armoring with black accents. The armoring is
smooth to the touch, but still sits in the hands without slipping. Vortex provided
shallow thumb grooves to guide the hands, and when used, the weight distribution
is just barely front-heavy, but still, the binoculars feel comfortable and secure
in the hands. We give the Vipers good marks for style and ergonomics.
The optical performance of the 42-mm Vipers is quite impressive. Both Viper models
have average fields of view at 1000 yards: the 8x model comes in at 347 feet while
the 10x has about 319 feet. We measured the minimum close focus on both models down
at about 4.7 feet, which is better than the 5.1 feet in the Vortex sales literature,
and considerably better than average for this character. Eye relief is an excellent
20 mm for the 8x model and a more typical 16.5 mm for the 10x model. The Vipers
go from minimum close focus to infinity in about 1.7 turns of the focus knob, which
is a bit on the slow side – average performance here is about 1.5 turns and less
would be better.The focus is very smooth and precise – objects just seem to snap
into focus. We found the Vipers to be as bright as anything in the mid price-range
price bracket, which is actually saying a lot since there are some hot binoculars
out there these days. The flat-field performance was better than average with pin-cushioning
being minimal (the tendency for straight lines to bow inward at the edge of the
visual field) little to no chromatic aberration at the field edges and with the
image staying quite sharp right to the edge of the field. In this regard, the Vipers
are exceptional among mid price-range binoculars.
Rollover image with mouse
Two important user-variable properties of all good binoculars are the eyecup and
diopter adjustments. In both cases, the Vortex Vipers handle it well. The eyecups
adjust with a counter-clockwise twist mechanism through four positions, fully in
or out, with two intermediate positions marked by solid detents that don’t collapse
inadvertently. More and more manufacturers are making these today, but most don’t
employ this good a mechanism on them. The diopter adjustment is a twist ring on
the upper right barrel, just below the eyecup. The rubber-armored twist ring has
a nice knurled surface to improve the grip. Little triangles on the ring and the
barrel line up between the plus and minus marks to denote the position of equal
focal length for both oculars. The great thing about this mechanism is that it locks.
Pull the ring out toward the ocular to unlock, twist smoothly to the desired position,
and then push it to lock it in place. This is actually better than many we’ve reviewed
on the more expensive binoculars!
Coatings and Glass
The Vortex literature describes the “X-factor” – XD glass (extra-low dispersion
glass) and proprietary XR coatings, refinements designed to improve clarity, brightness,
sharpness of image, color fidelity and minimization of distortion and aberration.
The Vipers really do deliver a very sharp and bright image, with excellent color
fidelity and, as noted above, better than average flat-field performance overall.
For a mid-priced binocular, the Vipers are pretty special. One thing they advertise
that we did pay attention to was the XP engineering for extra durability. The eyecup
assemblies are metal-reinforced for example. We’ve had some eyecup assemblies from
other companies come apart in our hands, so this is worth touting.
Caps, Strap and Case
Other features that we always take a look at in these reviews include the rainguards,
lens caps, strap, case and so on. The rainguard is the standard one we see often:
two pliable rubber cups about an inch deep that are joined by a flexible tether.
The strap loops through a fixed bracket on one side and a gapped (detachable) bracket
on the other. It’s a fine system. Both objective lenses have soft rubber caps that
fit snugly over the ends of the barrels and are attached to the barrels by flexible
rings and short tethers so they can’t be lost. Thus, you always have them in the
field when you need them. This design is becoming more common in the market, and
it’s a very good one. The neck strap is a fairly standard design of neoprene-like
material welded to soft leather and a foam rubber type material, and it’s comfortable
enough without being particularly cushy. The Viper case is actually really nice!
It’s big enough to fit the binocular and folded strap and probably water resistant
if not waterproof. It has loops on the back for belt attachment if the shoulder
strap isn’t what you want. You could carry a field guide in it when you have the
binocular out. This is a great case.
Warranty and Conclusions
The VIP warranty policy on the Vortex Viper binoculars is worthy of note too. Should
they ever require service, Vortex will repair or replace the Vipers absolutely free
except for deliberate damage, theft or loss. The warranty has no time limit and
is completely transferable.
So there you have it: high-priced binocular performance in a medium-priced binocular
with excellent warranty backing. The 42-mm Vortex Viper has one of the best performance-to-cost
ratios we’ve seen in some time. We are very impressed with the Vortex Viper overall
and we expect to see many out there in birders’ hands.
Vortex Viper 42-mm Binoculars
- current price and availability