Nikon 8x30 E2 second look - mini review
25-4-2017, last revision 9-7-2018
Sample 2: My own.
Origin of sample 1: Nikon demo pool Germany. Serial Nr.: 810057
Got a second sample of the Nikon 8x30 E2 in february 2017. Luckily, a better, sharper sample than the first one with much better ease of view. A great little glass, so I was having a good time testing it vs my Habicht 8x30. Anyone wanting to buy a premium new 8x30 porro today will face the same question - E2 or Habicht?
The good things - what the Nikon does better than the Habicht:
1. Field of view is much wider, 154m vs. 136m. Really a wonderful thing.
2. Flare is much better controlled in the Nikon. A big plus, but with severe trade-offs...
The bad things - what the Habicht does better
1. No way around it - the Nikon images are much darker and much redder than the Habicht´s, and this was my crucial point, I just missed that Habicht sparkle, despite extreme sharpness the Nikon is almost a bit depressing in comparison. Like in the EDG I suspect Nikon is making the images darker than necessary to crush the blacks and thereby increasing perceived contrast at the expense of brightness.
2. Contrast and sharpness: The Nikon is - typical for Nikon - brutally sharp, but if we look at finer details and textures, it cannot quite match the Habicht.
3. Build quality. 30 years of warranty for the Habicht. Bulletproof. The Nikon feels nice in the hands, build quality seems very good, but I would not want to drop it. I admit this is pure gut feeling.
The Habicht is about 50% more expensive, which I believe is totally justified - in fact, for a Swarovski product and premium quality it is a steal.
I returned the Nikon with a sigh, simply because I have this Austrian bird of paradise. But if price, flare control and field of view is more important for you than one of the most lovely glowing images in binoculars... the E2 will not disappoint you, and you should buy one while you can.
First look - 24-11-2015
I like porros. I totally love my Habicht 8x30, despite its bad flaring. I really enjoyed the Nikon 8x32 SE, the cheapest real premium binocular I ever owned. I later sold it simply because I chose to take the brighter, more sparkling Habicht with me most of the time.
I have been very curious about the Nikon 8x30 E2, among binocular fans it has an excellent reputation. It looks like the only living descendent of the beautiful Zeiss West 8x30 porro. Very similar shape and an extremely wide field of view (154 meters, the Zeiss had 150 meters in the non-B version). Very compact, high quality feel. Small definitely is beautiful, and the best binocular is like the best camera the one you can carry with you most of the time.
Above: the Zeiss West 8x30 porro.
My expectations were high, especially being used to the Swaro Habicht 8x30 and also the Nikon 8x32 SE. Both are real premium glasses. The only field where the Nikon E2 beats the Habicht is flare suppression. But the Nikon does flare a lot, so I am not sure this really helps.
Build quality appears to be very good, even if it does not feel quite as solid as a Habicht or SE.
The E2 offers an impressive view, but I quickly saw these issues:
- The high sharpness at the edges of coarse objects is nice, and the images look very sharp handheld, but at the level of textures (edges of finer details) the Habicht is so much better. From a tripod, the Nikon really feels a thin in that department where a Habicht or SE just shine with high contrast of finest detail.
- Ease of view is not what I expected, especially compared with the mentioned competition. Both the Habicht and the SE - when adjusted properly - are totally transparent and easy on the eyes, real premium out-of-the-open-window views. With the Nikon E2, I can´t immerse that way. It is a good view, but not with that addictive quality. I suspect the very wide field of view does not help in ease of view. The Nikon is very compact, and the trade off must be somewhere - a field that wide implies aberrations that cannot be corrected as well as in a smaller field of view.
- And, really, the E2 should be way brighter. Nikon does definitely not keep up with the competitors when it comes to transmission. That was my main quarrel with the 8x32 SE already, it looked darker than the Habicht with its 96% transmission, and it is also - and this really annoys me - my only quarrel with the otherwise fabulous 8x42 EDG. The colour reproduction is on the warm red side, whereas the EDG 8x42 is neutral. The look of the E2 is warm-high contrast, which is fine and probably helped making this binocular popular. Here is the white paper test - a white paper photographed through the binocular objectives - with the white pulled down to a midtone to make colour casts more visible (full method described here):
In the Swarovski Habicht, it looks like this:
The E2 started out as a solid affordable middle class binocular with great price-performance ratio, but the last years prices have risen enormously. Performance probably hasn´t, this one looks a bit neglected.
Now with the sad demise of the Nikon SE and the vanishing of quality porros, I do wish for this: Nikon, please at least update the coatings, bring them to Habicht level, insure tight quality control, and finally give us some decent plastic eyecups. Increase the price by 50% to cover for all this, and we will all be happy.
To put things into perspective, the Nikon E 8x30 is not marketed nor priced as a premium binocular. And in fact, I have yet to find a better binocular for in the 500 EUR/USD range.
On the other hand, a new Habicht or a used SE might be better choices for a little more money. The SE is hard to get these days though.