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The Vortex Viper HD Binoculars are Vortex’s midrange binocular series. They feature Vortex’s HD optical system, which has better resolution, color, and edge-to-edge clarity than non-HD glass. They are available in 8×42, 10×42, 10×50 and 12×50.
When the Vortex Viper HD 10X42 Binoculars were on a screaming good sale at Cabela’s last year, I snapped up a pair. After deer hunting with them last fall, as well as spending some quality time evaluating their performance, this is what I learned:
Vortex Viper HD 10×42 Review
The Vortex Viper HD series of binoculars has been around for years. Vortex updated the line in 2018, which primarily increased the Field of View from 319 to 341 feet at 1,000 yards. The newest version also includes the Vortex GlassPak Chest Harness, which is a handy inclusion if you don’t already have a chest pack.
Personally, I use the excellent Alaska Guide Creations MAX Pack Bino Harness, so this isn’t particularly important to me. It is, however, a benefit worth noting. Once you start hunting with a good bino chest pack, you will always hunt with one. I’m very happy to see Vortex start including this sort of pack with their binoculars. Frankly, the included chest packs give Vortex a small competitive advantage. It’s approximately a $50 value and turns the case in something you can actually use in the field.
As it turns out, the brand-new Vortex Viper HD Binoculars I purchased in late 2020 are the pre-2018 version. While I’m mildly annoyed at Cabela’s for not making this clear in their sale/marketing materials, I would have purchased them anyway because the differences are very minor and the deal was too sweet to pass up. (Clearly Cabela’s and Vortex were moving out the last bit of inventory.)
Back to the Viper HD bins. Let’s talk about the quality.
Vortex Viper HD 10×42 Optical Quality
The Vortex Viper’s use high-quality extra-low dispersion glass with fully multicoated lenses. Vortex’s anti-reflective coatings increase light transmission through the glass lenses, delivering bright and crisp images. Each optics manufacturer has their own special recipe of coatings, glass and barrel construction. The challenge is to optimize the results to find a quality blend of color rendition, contrast, edge-to-edge clarity and low-light performance.
The results might lean toward edge-to-edge clarity over color or favor color-accurate images that might seem less saturated compared to the competition. Or vice-versa.
In my experience, the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 binoculars deliver crisp, clear and color-accurate images — at least to my eyes. The focus wheel is smooth and delivers reasonably fast focus acquisition. There is a bit of blur at the outside edges of your sight picture, but nothing unexpected at this price range. Compared to entry-level binoculars, the edge-to-edge clarity is very good.
There is a bit of chromatic aberration, but again, nothing out of the ordinary. It, too, is very good compared to entry-level binoculars. How can you see chromatic aberrations? You can sometimes notice a lightly colored tinge to the edges of sharp, high-contrast lines.
For instance, if you’re looking at a USAF-1951 test chart, you can sometimes notice a chromatic aberration more readily. The easiest way to look for chromatic aberrations is to find a pole or tree branch and look at it against a bright sky. Bright white clouds work great to provide sharp contrast, but blue skies can sometimes work, too.
If you see a purplish tinge along the sharp edges of a pole or branch, that’s a chromatic aberration. It has to do with how the different wave lengths of light don’t converge at exactly the same spot after passing through a lens. The point is, less chromatic aberration is desirable, but it’s hard to eliminate. Even so, my brain has a tendency to filter it out and show me just the tree branch — I have to pay close attention and try to relax my eyes to see the chromatic aberrations.
For most hunters, in most situations, you don’t have to worry about chromatic aberrations in decent glass. If you’re a birder, looking at finely colored birds against bright skies, you might be more sensitive to chromatic aberrations. Either way, the birds look pretty cool to me through the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 Binoculars — and I’m not just talking about turkeys and pheasants.
The Vortex Viper HD binoculars that I have, the previous generation, were made in China. Newer versions might be made in the Philippines, but it’s likely that Vortex works with multiple factories and might change them. Is being made in China a drawback to the Vortex Viper HD binoculars? In terms of performance, it’s not a drawback at this price point. At higher price points you’re generally going to get some improvements in optics that are produced in Germany and other European nations, in Japan, or even in a hybrid situation like the Maven B.1 Binoculars, which use Japanese glass but are assembled in Wyoming.
Inside, the barrels are clean, which usually indicates a quality construction process. The focus wheel is precise. The rubberized exterior armor is grippy, and the ergonomics of the thumb groves on the back side is quite nice.
Vortex improved the eye cups in the latest Viper HDs, but I’m still a fan of the older version eye cups. They fit my face and eyes well. One of the key indicators for a good eye fit for me has been the relative thickness or thinness of the edge of the eye cups. The Vortex Viper HD binoculars have thin rubber rims. (Thicker rims, which are often found in cheaper binoculars, have a tendency to make centering a full image a bit harder and slower for me.)
Overall, the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 binoculars are rugged but reasonably light for the quality level. At 24.9 ounces, they’re heavier than cheap entry-level binoculars but lighter than many high-end bins. I must admit, on some elk hunts with long miles on the ground, I’ve swapped out heavier binoculars — with slightly better image quality — in favor of lighter options. The 24.9-ounce weight represents a good compromise out on the trail.
The Legendary Vortex Warranty
Many great optics companies will repair binoculars that break or leak over time. Vortex’s VIP warranty, which stands for ‘Very Important Promise,’ takes customer service to another level. How? If you accidentally break your Vortex optics, Vortex will repair or replace it at no charge to you. If you drop them out of your pickup window while glassing a hillside . . . and another pickup truck runs them over, Vortex will replace them. If your kid drops them off a cliff, Vortex will replace them — as long as you’re able to get down the cliff to retrieve them and send them in. Vortex doesn’t replace lost or stolen gear.
This is also a fully-transferrable warranty. You don’t need to register your optics or have a receipt. That’s serious peace of mind when it comes to your investment. What’s also great is that this warranty extends down to Vortex’s entry-level optics. The price point doesn’t matter.
I haven’t had to use Vortex’s warranty, but I know guys who have — and they rave about how easy and awesome the Vortex customer service people are. This is a key reason why Vortex has such a loyal following among hunters.
Of course, Vortex isn’t the only company to offer such a warranty, and all the good glass companies offer warranties for most any product failure.
The Vortex Viper HD Verdict
All-in-all, the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 binoculars are hard to beat at their midrange price point. They will more than satisfy all but the pickiest of optics experts. The contrast and edge-to-edge clarity is very good, as is the color rendition. The overall build quality is super solid, and the Vortex VIP Warranty and customer service is hard to beat. There aren’t any real drawbacks in the product itself at this price point. Very highly recommended.
Once you break past $200 for binoculars, the overall quality makes a big leap forward over cheaper entry-level binoculars. Most people will have a hard time seeing the differences between binoculars in the $200-500 range. Most will thoroughly enjoy almost any decent binocular. Sure, you can tease out some differences between them, but you’ll be splitting hairs for most people. Still, if you’re not sure about the Vortex Viper HDs, which are a good deal and deliver a great experience, here are a couple other options worth considering:
Vortex Diamondback HD — Vortex’s lowest-priced line is the Crossfire, but for just a bit more money, the affordable Diamondback HD line is worth it. If you’re not ready to pay for the Vipers, you’ll very likely love the Diamondback HDs. In fact, the only real drawback to the Vipers may be that the Diamondback HDs are so good at their lower price point.
Maven C.1 Binoculars — Maven is a much smaller company than Vortex, but they have a similar no-fault warranty. Sales are direct through Maven only, which eliminates some markup. That lets Maven offer higher quality glass at lower prices. I tested the C.1 10x42s side-by-side with the Viper HDs . . . and I was hard pressed to tease out any major differences in optical quality. My eyes have a slight preference for the Maven C.1s optically, but I prefer the narrower rimmed eye cups on the Vortex Vipers.
Nikon Monarch 7 — The Nikon Monarch 7 binoculars are appreciated around the world, and the FOV — 351 feet at 1,000 yards — is impressive.
Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD — If you’re a Leupold fan, there’s not much call to stray. We like the sweet open bridge design, which helps shave a bit of weight. The BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10×24 binoculars weigh just 24 ounces, which is even lighter than the Vortex Vipers.