Looking for a premium performance, premium-build pair of binoculars for bird and wildlife watching, that can cope with a bit of rain and have fully multi coated optics to optimise light transmission to boot? Enter the Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 binos, which come with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price tag of £449.99 for the UK, $344.99 for the USA and circa $589.95 for AUS. They are, by our reckoning, some of the very best binoculars for birdwatching on the market today.
Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars: specs
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1000m: 142 metres
Closest focusing distance: 2 metres
Eye relief: 19mm
Dimensions: 140mm in length
The core specifications to focus on here are contained in the product name itself – namely a respectable 8x magnification, which is enough to get us up close and personal to a subject without incurring a wobbly image when hand holding, coupled with a generously large 42mm objective lens. The broad rule of thumb here is a larger lens aids light transmission, meaning a better view, and especially so when light levels begin the fall at the end of the day, or if we’re using when it’s overcast.
US manufacturer Bushnell, as a brand, can generally be relied on to provide a high quality construction and performance for less than an equivalent pair of Leica or Swarovski optics. This particular Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 model is one of its pricier options, however, being aimed at serious birders who need the best binoculars rather than just the casual observer who wants a compact pair to stash in the car glove box for occasional use; and so must be judged on those terms.
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Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars review: features
A certain peace of mind is provide by the fact that these Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 binoculars are being pitched as a ‘best in class’ option, in terms of the integral elements that affect and enhance its overall performance. These are encased in and protected by a tough magnesium shell, which, in combination with Bushnell’s ‘EXO’ barrier lens coating, is claimed to make them suitable for use in all weathers. In practice raindrops will roll off, while the multi coated optics also aid in maximising brightness and clarity, especially in combination with the ED prime glass utilised in the build and signified by the ‘EDX’ in the model name. A dioptre is provided on the right eyepiece for further fine-tuning of our viewing should we need it.
As well as protective coatings on the outer lenses, special coatings have also been applied to the internal prisms which transmit light within the unit itself, in order to deliver vivid colours, enhance resolution and contrast for the viewer. It feels like we are very much getting a precision engineered pair of binoculars here, and one on which all the ‘I’s have been dotted and ‘T’s crossed, which accounts for the slight premium we’ll be paying to purchase them. A neck strap, cotton pouch and external carry case with Velcro closing mechanism and strap are also provided out of the box.
Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars review: design
Matte black in colour with rubberised surface and non-slip leather-effect padding on the sides of both lens barrels, plus familiar ridged focus wheel sitting in between possessing just the right amount of ‘give’, these roof prism design Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 appear pretty standard at first glance. That includes its central folding mechanism, which allows us to adjust and control the inter-pupillary distance of the eyepieces in order to match up exactly with our own eyes and produce a perfectly formed viewing circle.
Individual slip-on rubber lens caps protect the front lenses, and can be left permanently affixed. This means the caps hang down still attached when the binos are in use, while a conjoined pair of eyepiece caps at the rear can be threaded through the provided neck / shoulder strap, so they also don’t get lost or misplaced. The design here feels both tactile and practical without much if anything to find fault with.
Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars review: viewing quality
The Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 binoculars feature a ridged focus wheel that is one of the most tactile and pleasant to use we’ve come across. A lot of these mechanisms are restrictively stiff to the touch, but on this device operation feels fluid enough via a flick of the forefinger to enable us to quickly arrive at a focus sweet spot.
If we’re being picky we did notice instances of purple fringing when viewing high contrast subjects, such as the branches of a tree against a bright featureless sky.
However, when compared to similarly specified but less expensive Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars we were testing at the same time, we found the image quality of these Bushnell binos edged it for us. In fact they deliver such a life-like view that we almost forgot we were using binoculars, which is quite the complement. It goes without saying therefore that they’re also comfortable to use, which is equally important, meaning they’re likely to get more use.
Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars review: alternatives to consider
There is a wide range of 8x42 binoculars on the market as it’s a fairly standard specification for compact binos. Alternatives to the Bushnell EDX Engage 8x42 of which we’ve personal experience, however, include the slightly wider porro prism design of the Celestron Ultima 8x42 binoculars we mentioned above, which is an affordable competitor, even if the Bushnell is our preference if budget allows. Another very fair all-round option from Celestron is its Outland X 8x42 binoculars, which will be good enough for most casual observers.
By contrast if we really wanted to blow the monthly allowance, however, but at the same time still get plenty of bang for our buck, we’d also direct you to the Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD binoculars. This, again, is a relatively compact option for ‘twitchers’ and birders, as well as being commendably fuss free in operation. The Leica is also almost indestructible too, being not only water resistant but additionally impact resistant, not a feature commonly found when assessing binoculars.
Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars review: verdict
The Bushnell Engage EDX 8x42 binoculars are very well made, solid feel, bordering on heavy-for-their-size binos capable of being used in all weathers for outdoor pursuits to include wildlife and bird watching in particular. The decent magnification coupled with large-ish objective lens and fully multi-coated optics – to enhance brightness throughout the light transmission process – ensures they deliver a performance best described as life-like.
In short, using the device is like your subject has been brought closer to you, to the extent that it’s all too easy to forget there’s a pair of binoculars between yourself and your subject. Though the mid-range price is not inexpensive, arguably these Bushnell ‘bins’ are the only ones most of us would ever need, and therefore budgeting a bit extra could well be justified. If you’re wavering at all, further peace of mind is provided by a 20-year warranty.