Barr & Stroud Sahara 10x25 Binoculars
- Barr & Stroud
- Safari Guide Opinion
- Main Features
- Cost & Where to Buy
- Similar Binoculars
I often get asked why I differentiate between a good Safari binocular and one that is good for wildlife observation, surely they are the same thing? For me the main difference between them would be size. For most people who are traveling to all the way to Africa, it just makes sense to travel as light as possible and therefore most often compact and mid size binoculars are ideal.
Whereas a good wildlife observation binocular need not necessarily be compact although they can be. Other than that a binocular for safari and general wildlife observation will have the same features.
Now that I have cleared that up, Barr & Stroud kindly sent me one of their compact Sahara 10x25 FMC waterproof binoculars to review, that they describe as "a rugged go anywhere compact binocular", that is "equally at home on the majestic plains of the Serengeti, the beach at Bognor or a day at the races."
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.
I like the way the Sahara's feel in your hands both when carrying them and holding them up to your eyes. The rubber armor that covers them has a number of benefits that you may not have thought of:
- It provides a comfortable gripping surface for making them easier to hold on to
- It helps protect the binocular from the bumps and scratches that come with day-to-day use
- It's easy to wipe clean after a tough day in the field
- It dampens down any noise from bumping them that could frighten away skittish birds and other wildlife as I often do with my wedding ring.
The dimensions (4.6x4.4x1.7in / 116x111x42mm) of the Barr and Stroud Sahara 10x25 binoculars are fairly standard for a roof prism compact binocular and as you would expect are far more compact than a full size pair.
Their weight of 13.1 oz (370g) is a little heavier than most compacts that I have reviewed and for comparison one of my favorite safari compacts, the Steiner 10.5x28 Wildlife Pro Binoculars weigh 11ozs (312g) and they have slightly larger 28mm objective lenses. But to be honest we are only talking about 58 grams here!
Waterproof & Fogproof
As the Sahara 10x25's are O-ring sealed they are fully waterproof (Immersion tested to a depth of 1.5 meters for three minutes).
They have also been "nitrogen purged" which means that the air inside the binocular has been replaced with nitrogen gas, this prevents the interior optical surfaces from fogging. Important in places where you get rapid temperature changes or in areas that have high humidity.
To focus you use the central wheel on the binocular, which on the pair I reviewed, the mechanism was a little tight for my liking, not excessively so, just a little.
What is impressive is it only takes 3/4 of a turn to go from near focus which is an excellent 2m (6.6ft) to infinity. Many binoculars that I have tested take at least a full turn of the wheel and sometimes many more.
If you think about it this would make it harder to fine tune your focusing compared to a binocular with a less aggressive focusing mechanism, but I did not have any problems getting correctly in focus and very quickly at that. Whilst this may seem like a small point to some, quick accurate focusing can mean the difference in correctly identifying that once in a life time bird or forever wondering what it was!
The Eye Cups
The eyecups on the Sahara's have 3 click stops - flush against the eyepiece, half-way out or fully extended. Non-eyeglass wearers will just use the eyecups in the fully extended position and for people who wear glasses there is 14mm of eye relief, which is pretty good for a compact binocular. In most cases an eye relief of around 14 to 15mm is needed for the average eyeglass wearer to be comfortable.
To me the image produced by the Barr & Stroud Sahara 10x25 was really good especially when compared to other compacts that I have reviewed.
For a compact binocular, the view through them is sharp as well as bright and I could not see any colour fringing and there was only the slightest hint of softening of the image on the periphery of the view.
When I very carefully compared them to a pair of Steiner 10x26 Wildlife binoculars, I really could not tell the difference in brightness and if anything I would say that the Steiner's did have a tiny bit more image softening round the edge of the view. You must also remember that the Steiner's have slightly larger objective lens diameter (26mm vs 25mm) and the Steiner's are about 3x the cost of the Barr & Stroud 10x25 Sahara's, which is what makes their performance even more impressive.
Lens & Prism Coatings
The 10x25 Sahara's have BaK-4 roof prisms which means that they are made of superior optical glass that will help in ensuring you get a high-contrast and sharp picture over the full field of view.
The lenses on them are also fully multi-coated, so all air to glass surfaces have received multiple layers of antireflection coatings which again will ensure that more light gets to your eyes by reducing the light loss and glare due to reflection for a brighter, higher-contrast image.
When choosing a compact binocular over one that has larger objective lenses, the biggest compromise is the brightness of the image produced and whilst the difference is not huge, it is more noticeable in poor light conditions where you can notice it if you compare a full size binocular and compact one side by side.
10x25 binoculars like these Barr & Stroud's have an Exit Pupil of 2.5mm and a Twilight Factor of 15.8, both of which point to the fact that they are not ideal for poor light conditions. But remember that they will be better than no binoculars at all and that is what compacts are about - taking them with you where ever you go. I would rather have a pair of binoculars that don't perform that well in poor light conditions, than no binoculars at all because I didn't have the space or didn't want to carry them!
It is also important to remember that whilst these figures do not take into account the quality of the prisms, lenses and their coatings, they do make it possible to compare the performance of different configurations of binoculars in low light conditions.
As mentioned the close focusing distance is an excellent 2m (6.6ft) making them in this area, one of the best compacts I have reviewed.
The apparent field of view for the Barr & Stroud Sahara 10x25 is an excellent 105m at 1000m (314ft @ 1000yds) and beats most compact binoculars in their price range and even beating top of the range binoculars like the Swarovski Pocket 10x25 B Binoculars (95m at 1000m) and Steiner 10.5x28 Wildlife Pro's (264 at 1000 yards).
- Magnification: 10x
- Objective Lens Diameter: 25mm
- Exit Pupil: 2.5
- Twilight Factor: 15.8
- Weight: 13.1ozs (371g)
- Length: 4.6in (11.7cm) Height: 1.7in (4.3cm) Width: 4.1in (10.4cm)
- Field of View: 314ft at 1000 yards
- Close Focus Distance: 6.6ft (2m)
- Waterproof: Yes
|Barr & Stroud 10x25 Sahara Binoculars on Amazon.co.uk||Not available in the US|
To sum up, I would say that the Barr & Stroud 10x25 Sahara is a great pair of compact binoculars and considering that they cost far less than £100, they make excellent value for money and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for an entry level safari compact that far outperforms their price tag.
They make great traveling companions, good for camping if space is a factor and therefore also make ideal compact safari binoculars.
Other compact safari binoculars that you may be interested in:
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