According to Barr & Stroud their Sierra range combines excellent optical quality as well as some rugged refinement resulting in a stylish series of binoculars that they say takes them to a higher level, both in performance and elegance.
With this very bold statement in mind, I was really looking really forward to testing and reviewing the 8×32 Sierra.
For those of you who are new to the Barr and Stroud brand, the company started making optics for the Royal Navy over 100 years ago and since then they have played a leading role in the development of modern optics and today apart from Binoculars they manufacture Microscopes, Monoculars and Spotting Scopes.
- Weight: 595g
- Length: 5in (127mm) Height: 1.9in (48mm) Width: 4.8in (122mm)
- 8x magnification:
- 32mm Objective Lenses
- 4mm Exit Pupil
- Twilight Factor of 16
- Field of View (FOV): 388ft wide at 1000yds
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 6.6ft (2m)
- Waterproof & Fogproof
Mid sized bins like these Barr & Stroud Sierra 8×32 Binoculars are for many people the ideal configuration for travel and safaris. This is because they have a greater light gathering potential than a full compact with smaller objectives and therefore, with all else being equal will perform better in low light. Yet they are smaller and far simpler to pack away and carry than a full sized 42mm binocular, but without sacrificing too much on performance.
What I also like abut most mid-size binoculars, including these Barr & Stroud Sierras is that they feel great to hold, being much less cumbersome than a full compact.
The soft rubber covering on the Sierra it a little thicker than on most that I have tested, which helped with grip and made for a very comfortable surface to hold onto. As well as this it protects the instrument, makes them less reflective and dampens down sounds, which if you are viewing birds and other timid wildlife on safari can be important.
Size & Weight
At 5in (127mm) long, with a height of 1.9in (48mm) and a width: 4.8in (122mm), the Barr and Stroud 8×32 Sierra binocular is about average in terms of it’s dimensions when compared to most other roof prism binoculars with objective lenses of around 32mm.
They are however quite a bit smaller than most 42mm binoculars and is why, if you are a little worried about how much you can pack in your holiday bags, a mid-side binocular like these may be the ideal compromise between size and performance.
Weighing 596g (21.0oz) they are also much lighter than a full-sized bin and fairly lightweight for a bin in this size class. Taking a few examples, the Minox BL 8×33 weighs 649g and the Swarovski 10×32 EL Binoculars has a weight of 610g.
Fog & Waterproof
Unlike many in this price range that are either totally unprotected, or only weather protected, the Barr & Stroud 8×32 Sierra is completely sealed and in the manufacturing process gets tested to a depth of one and a half meters for a full five minutes.
This sealing is not only important is ensuring that no moisture gets into the device, but also prevents any dust or other fine particles from entering in dry environments.
As well as being sealed, during their production, they have all the internal air inside them replaced with nitrogen. This stops the internal lenses from misting up, which can happen when you get a fast temperature change.
The large wheel that sits in between the two barrels that you use to focus with, takes two revolutions to go from the two extremes of near focus to far.
This amount is a little more than many and will take you longer to go from one end of the focussing plane to the other than those that take less turning, but it the advantage is that it makes it a bit easier to get the image completely sharp when it come to fine tuning your focus.
I thought that on the pair that I was testing, the wheel turned nice and smoothly, but did notice a very light "squeaking" noise caused by the rubber on the wheel touching the body armour, however after using a tiny amount of lubrication, this disappeared.
The Eye Cups
These have good quality metal with a rubber coating twist-up eyecups and come with a very impressive 17.8mm of eye-relief and one fixed stop in between fully extended and fully retracted. This should give those who wear glasses plenty of room and flexibility to enable them to see the full image without any vignetting on the edges.
For those who don’t uses glasses, you simply fully twist out the cup to get the full field of view.
I compared the Barr & Stroud Sierra 8×32 binocular against my control 10×28 compacts and my control 8x32s, both during the day and again at sunset when the light was getting poor.
As I expected, in poor light, the image was a little brighter than that of my higher powered compacts with their smaller objective lenses. In good light you could not see a difference.
Compared to my control 8×32, in terms of brightness, to my eyes, they looked the same in all conditions.
I also thought that the colours produced by the Sierra looked natural and not artificially tinted as I have seen on some in this price range.
As well as this, the picture was nice and sharp, with only a very small amount of softening, right at the edges of the view and is as good as or better then most in this class.
Colour fringing was also very minimal and once again about as good as it gets for this price.
Optical Components & Coatings
Prisms & Their Coatings
Barr & Stroud use a number of quality optical components and coatings to help achieve this quality image:
The roof prisms on the 10×25 Sahara are made from BaK-4, this is a better quality and more expensive glass than the BK-7 glass found on some bins in this price range.
As well as the glass quality, they have also added multiple layers of phase correction coatings onto the prism. As the name suggests, these coatings are designed to keep the light in their correct colour phases, preventing "phase shift" as it pass through the prism. The result is that they produce a sharper image. What is most impressive however is that these coatings and the process of applying them is fairly expensive and is therefore not always found on cheap binoculars.
As well as these phase coatings, the Sierra also has some "high reflectivity" coatings applied to the prisms. I have not been able to find out exactly which ones they use as some use aluminium, some silver and very expensive binoculars sometimes use die electric coatings. However the manufacturers do say that what they have used increases the reflectivity of the prism by 8%, which will on average give you around 1 hour extra of use at dusk and dawn in comparison to binoculars without them.
The Sierra is fully multi-coated, which means all the surfaces on the lenses that come into contact with air have been treated with multiple layers of a coating that is designed to limit the amount of light that is reflected away from the glass. The result is the amount of light lost as well as the amount of glare produced is highly reduced and as such they produce a better quality, brighter image than those without or with fewer coatings of this type.
The Barr & Stroud Sierra 8×32 has a field of view (FOV) of 129meters wide at 1000m away (388ft @ 1000yds). This is ok, but it must be said, is a little narrower than that of some of the best. For example the highly rated Minox BL 8×33 binoculars have a FOV of 140m @ 1000 meters
The closest you can focus on an object through these is at a distance of only 2m (6.6ft) which is very good and better than many other mid-size binoculars on the market.
The 17.8mm of eye-relief is excellent and as I have already mentioned should easily be enough to see the full FOV for those who wear glasses.
I thought that this Bar & Stroud binocular came with a fairly good quality soft carrying case, lightly padded neck strap and lens cleaning cloth. Whilst they may not be as luxurious as some, in this price range they are on par with the best.
I like that they come with tethered objective lens caps, which help to ensure that you don’t misplace them and they are always at hand to protect your lenses when not in use. The also fitted snuggly onto the ends of the barrels without being too tight.
Thy eye-piece cover or rainguard as it is sometimes called was made from a soft plastic and like the objective covers fitted very well.
Cost & Where to Buy
I think that if you take into account that these Sierras cost way less than £90, I feel that you are getting a really good value for money product:
As you can now purchase them for under £90, I can only say that the quality of the build, glass and the coatings used is impressive. This translates to a high quality and bright image, which in my opinion is on a par with the very best in this price range, making them a great buy.
This is why I have no hesitation in I recommending them to anyone who is after an inexpensive mid-sized entry level binocular that is perfect for taking on safari.
If you are looking for a slightly higher spec binocular, take a look at the review I wrote on the Minx binocular below and read why it is one that I highly recommend:
Fully multi-coated lenses and phase corrected Bak-4 prisms, waterproof, fog-proof, lightweight, with their ergonomic open bridge design that enables comfortable operation even with one hand.
In the Minox BL 8×33, you have a binocular with very high spec quality optics that produce an excellent quality image that are really bright for a mid-sized binocular. This combined with the very comfortable, robust and good looking body that is well balanced makes them one of the best mid-sized binoculars that I have ever reviewed.