Introduction

This time I have decided to compare two affordable pairs of binoculars suitable for all who are buying their first set of binoculars. If you are among those who want to own a good pair of binoculars but don’t want to spend a fortunate on it then Steiner Observer 8×42 or Vortex Diamondback 8×42 are a good choices for you.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Both binoculars are a good all-rounders suitable mostly for hunting and bird-watching but can also be easily used for sports, hiking or traveling. 8×42 binoculars are small in mass and size and therefor perfect for taking on a trip – they are a bit heavier and bigger than 8×32 models but they can still be carried around. Both binoculars have the same roof prism design which gives barrels straight and smooth shape.
Steiner is a company with long tradition of building binoculars. Observer is a series known for its distinct design and long-life rugged armoring made of rubber. Binoculars of this series are well build, scratch resistant and can withstand even bad weather conditions. All Steiner binoculars are made/assembled in Germany and Observer series is no exception. They are available at affordable price under 250 €. There are three different models accessible in this series: 8×42, 10×42 and 8×56.

Steiner Observer 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex is an American company that manufactures optical equipment since 1986. Diamondback is one of the most popular series made by Vortex – it is providing good optical properties at an affordable price. The series was updated in 2016. Vortex is known for their unlimited Lifetime warranty – Vortex will repair or replace your product at no charge. Providing VIP warranty is very smart move because it has made Vortex famous and recognizable around the world. Diamondback binoculars are in the same low-price range as Observer binoculars but unlike Steiner this series is made in China. Diamondback is a low-cost alternative for Vortex’s top-performing Razor series. There are eight different models available in Diamondback series.

Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

TL;DR

  • Both binoculars are good all-rounders suitable for different activities
  • Observer and Diamondback have roof prism design → straight shape of barrels
  • Good optical performance for very low price – both are listed at around 220 €
  • Observer is made in Germany while Diamondback is made in China
  • Vortex is known for their Lifetime warranty

Size & Weight

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Weight:

739 g

643 g

Width:

128 mm

129 mm

Length:

148 mm

147 mm

Max interpupillary distance:

57-73 mm

57-73 mm

Observer is around 100 grams heavier than Diamondback but they are almost the same in size. The difference in weight probably occur because they are build of different materials. Observer’s housing is made of Makrolon while Diamondback is made of magnesium which is much lighter than poly-carbonate Makrolon.
When comparing both binoculars we quickly realize that they have completely different designs. Steiner has more old-fashioned, robust and masculine look – style suitable for hunters. It is completely made of green rubber which is a shame because I think that some black details would really improve its appearance. Diamondback is also made of green rubber but the rubber is much harder and have smoother surface. Unlike Observer it has a lot of black details which make Diamondback look very modern and stylish. I really prefer Diamondback’s look over Observers’. It is much more trendy and fashionable. I also think that it is nicer and more precision-built, the details are very beautiful and you can tell that designers at Vortex put some thought into it.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Although both binoculars have single bridge design they have different bridge length. Observer has longer bridge which makes holding and adjusting the focus on it a little harder. There is more space on Diamondback to wrap your hands around barrels. It is much easier to hold Diamondback in just one hand – it is almost impossible to hold Observer and adjust the focus at the same time using only one hand.

TL;DR

  • Observer and Diamondback are almost the same in size but they have housing made of different materials → Observer is a little heavier
  • Observer has more traditional, old and robust look → suitable for hunters
  • Diamondback is more modern, stylish and has better details
  • Diamondback has smoother surface and the rubber is harder than on Observer
  • They both have the same single bridge design but Diamondback has a shorter bridge – because of that holding Diamondback is more comfortable and easier

Optical Properties

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Prism type:

Schmidt/Pechan

Schmidt/Pechan

Lens Diameter:

42 mm

42 mm

Magnification:

8 x

8 x

Variable Magnification:

No

No

Coatings:

Multi-coated

Multi-coated

Close focus:

2 m

1.5 m

Field of View:

116 m / 1000 m

131 m / 1000 m

Observer and Diamondback both have 42-mm lens diameter and 8 x magnification which is a combination preferable for many people. 8×42 binoculars are a good choice for all who need a binocular for different activities. The 8 x magnification provide wide field of view which is important when we are observing animals at close range. Binoculars with 42-mm lens diameter collect enough light so that we can observe even when light conditions are not ideal – such as dusk and low light of dawn. Both binoculars have Schmidt/Pechan prisms in their optical construction. Because of that they have very straight, compact design and are less responsive to impacts and fretting. Compared to Porro prism binoculars the image on Schmidt/Pechan binoculars is darker and less sharp. Observer and Diamondback are both fully-multi coated. Steiner uses hydrophobic nano-protection and special Steiner High-Contrast Optik coating. Those coatings provide maximal light transmittance, sharp edges and accurate colors. Vortex is using anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces and also dielectric multi-layer prism coatings.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

For observing objects at really close distance Vortex is more suitable. It has close focus of 1.5 m meaning that this is the closest distance that binocular can still focus on. Field of view is stated to be bigger on Vortex and when we look through both binoculars we noticed that this is true.

TL;DR

  • Both have 8x magnification and 42-mm lens diameter – binoculars are providing wide field of view and collect enough light
  • Because of Schmidt/Pechan prisms both have straight and compact design → both are also less responsive to impacts
  • They are fully-multi coated for better light transmittance and accurate colors
  • Close focus and field of view is much better on Vortex

Focus Properties

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Focusing System:

Central

Central

Central Wheel Grasp:

8/10

7/10

Central Wheel Rotation:

8/10

8/10

Diopter Setting:

Left eye-piece

Right eye-piece

Diopter Range:

Not listed

Not listed

Central Wheel Diameter:

30 mm

29 mm

Central Wheel Length:

24 mm

26 mm

Total Revolution:

540 °

540 °

Bridge Length (Without the Central Wheel Length)

48 mm

30 mm

Both binoculars have central focusing system, their central knobs are almost the same in size but the grip is better on Observer. Both knobs are made of rubber but the one on Observer is less slippery and softer. Central knobs also have completely different surface shape. Observer has nine big vertical bars on central knob while Diamondback has a larger number of less pronounced indentations on its surface. The rotation on both wheels is good, not to quick and not to slow. They both rotate a total of 540 ° degrees.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Binoculars have different diopter setting position. Steiner has diopter ring located on left barrel while Vortex has it on right barrel. When setting the diopter we have to be careful on which barrel diopter ring is located. If it is on the left side then the procedure to set the diopter is exactly the opposite as if it is located on the right barrel. The rotation of diopter ring on Vortex is very fast and smooth. On Steiner it is harder and produces audible clicks. Harder rotation is much better because we don’t have to worry about unintentionally changing the diopter adjustment.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

As I said before, both binoculars have single bridge design but the bridge on Vortex is 18 mm shorter than on Steiner. This means that holding Vortex is more comfortable and easier. There is enough room to easily wrap all of our fingers around barrels. Steiner on the other hand, has only enough length to wrap last two fingers around the end of the barrel. If you hold Vortex in one hand you can still quite easily turn the focus knob but with Steiner it is almost impossible.

TL;DR

  • Central knob on Steiner has better grip, the surface is not slippery and there are big bars to even enhance the grip
  • You can hold and use Vortex with just one hand but handling Steiner binoculars with just one hand is much more difficult
  • Diopter rings are located on opposite barrels → diopter adjustment is better on Steiner

Eyepiece Properties

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Eyepiece type:

Multi positioned

Multi positioned

Number of Click-stops:

3

2

Eye relief:

17 mm

18 mm

Exit pupil:

5.3 mm

5.3 mm

Firmness:

8/10

7/10

Quality:

6/10

7/10

Suitable for Eye Glass Wearers:

Yes

Yes

External Diameter:

44 mm

41 mm

Internal Diameter:

31 mm

29 mm

Both binoculars have multi positioned eyepieces with different number of click-stops. Steiner has three click-stops but it is quite hard to get the eyepieces to first and second position. The rotation of eyepieces is very hard and sturdy and sometimes you get the feeling that they are stuck. When eyepieces are in the third position they stand firmly in place. Eyepieces on Vortex have much better rotation, the movement is smooth and swift. When moved to desired position eyepieces move around and don’t rest very securely in place.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

If you are planning to use binoculars for a longer period of time then Steiner is a better choice because its eyepieces are softer. They have nicely rounded edges and the rubber is very comfy. On the other side, Vortex has eyepieces made of more rigid rubber, the edges are sharp and feel very uncomfortable when pressed to the face. I still think that eyepieces on Vortex are made nicer – because of that I evaluated them with higher grade than Steiner. Firmness of eyepieces is better on Steiner so I gave Steiner higher grade in that category.
Both binoculars have around 17-mm and 18-mm of eye-relief which means that people who are wearing glasses shouldn’t have any problem using them – for comfortable viewing through binoculars while wearing glasses the eye relief should be between 16 mm and 20 mm.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

TL;DR

  • Binoculars have different number of eyepiece positions; Steiner’s eyepieces are more firm and suitable for longer use
  • Both binoculars have enough eye-relief meaning that people with glasses can use them without a problem

General Properties

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Housing Material:

Poly-carbonate Makrolon

Magnesium alloy

Armoring:

Rubber

Rubber

Quality of Armoring:

7/10

9/10

Build in Rangefinder:

No

No

Waterproof:

Yes

Yes

Float-able:

No

No

Filled With:

Nitrogen

Argon

Number of Colors:

1

1

Tripod Adaptable:

Yes

Yes

Made in:

Germany

China

Introduced in:

Not listed

2016

Warranty period:

10 years

Lifetime warranty

MRSP Price

229 €

219 €

I have already mentioned that binoculars have housing made of different materials. Steiner has armor made entirely of rubber while Vortex has some plastic details on the inner and outer side of barrels. Plastic details in black color nicely complete the whole look of binocular. When holding in hands I got a feeling that Vortex is more quality build that Steiner. The edges are better finished and the whole look seems nicer. The grip on Vortex is good, the rubber is rough and provide some friction. To even enhance the grip there are several cuts and bumps on the outer side of each barrel. To make holding binoculars even more comfortable small nook is located on the bottom of barrels. The grip on Steiner is better than on Vortex. The rubber is different than on Vortex – it is less slippery and provide more friction. Big vertical bars are arranged around entire barrel surface which even enhance the grip of binoculars.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Binoculars are filled with different gasses, Steiner is purged with nitrogen while Vortex is purged with argon. There is no significant difference between fillings except that argon molecules are bigger and are less likely to leak out. In the end both gasses made binoculars fog-proof.
Both binoculars are tripod adaptable but it is much easier to loosened the screw on Vortex. To unwind the screw on Steiner you would need a coin but on Vortex you could do it with bare hands.
When buying Diamondback you get Vortex Lifetime Warranty which means that no matter how damaged your binocular will be replaced. Steiner Observer is fully guaranteed to the original purchaser for 10 years.
When contacting Steiner company they assured us that all of their binoculars are made in Germany. Vortex binoculars on the other hand, are mostly made in China, including Diamondback series. Both binoculars are in the same low priced range listed at around 220 €. Both offers good optical properties for low price.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

TL;DR

  • Diamondback has nicer design with some plastic elements and it is more quality build
  • Because of big vertical bars on barrels Observer provides better grip
  • Both binoculars are tripod adaptable; it is easier to loosened the screw on Vortex
  • Both are waterproof and for-proof; Steiner is filled with nitrogen, Vortex is filled with argon

Group Test

How we made a test

We made a test with a group of 6 people with very diverse knowledge about sports optics. Some had previous experiences with binoculars and other almost none. We compared central and edge sharpness, glare, real FOV, eye-box and overall impression. Everyone in the test group tested binoculars individually without being influenced by other people. We also covered down any brand signs on binoculars, so no one was influenced by knowing which company manufactured which.

Steiner Observer 8×42

Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Central sharpness:

1/6

5/6

Edge sharpness:

3/6

3/6

Glare:

3/6

3/6

Real FOV:

0/6

6/6

Eye-box:

1/6

5/6

Overall impression:

0/6

6/6

All in total (total of 36 points)

8/36

28/36

As we can see in the upper table the absolute winner of our test is Vortex, it got 28 out of 36 points. 6 people participated on the test and everyone of them would rather buy Vortex than Steiner. We can see that Vortex won in 4 out of 6 categories. In categories of edge sharpness and glare the results were inconclusive – both got 3 out of 6 points.
After the test was over we discussed why Vortex won so strongly. All agree that optical performance of Vortex is better but they also stated that nicer and more pleasant design played a big role. They also said that FOV on Steiner can not compare to FOV on Vortex. This is the category in which Vortex won the strongest.

Conclusion

Both Vortex and Steiner are good binoculars that provide solid optical performance for excellent price. They are good all-round binoculars for adequate observations even in lower light conditions. Because of good lens materials and multiple different coatings the brightness is also good. Steiner and Vortex are both great binoculars for everyone who just decided to buy their first pair of binoculars. According to our test Vortex offers much better optical performance than Steiner. Also the appearance of Vortex is much nicer but this is more personal decision and it depends on your taste.
When buying Steiner you will get a blue/gray soft carrying bag, neoprene neck strap, cleaning cloth and plastic eyepiece cover. Vortex comes in a nice, elegant hard case with comfort neck strap and rain-guard eyepiece covers made of rubber.

Steiner Observer 8x42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8x42

Steiner Observer 8×42 VS. Vortex Diamondback 8×42

Disclaimer

This review wasn’t sponsored and is unbiased however the article features affiliated links to Optics-trade. As a wildlife enthusiast interested in sports optics I made this tests because I would like to see how binoculars perform and if they meet the advertised expectations. With this test, I also hope that it will help people choose the right binoculars for their personal use. I am not in any way connected with the manufacturers of sports optics and I’m not personally in favor of particular brand.In the end, I would like to thank Optics-trade.eu to lend me these binoculars for this test. I also thank them for letting me use their videos.

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Hunting Binoculars

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