The Viking Kestrel ED is the latest in the range of binoculars recently released by Viking Optical, and is available in in three focal ranges: 8×32, 8×42 & 10×42. They are intended as a mid-price offering at just over £200 in their latest ED (Extra low Depression) glass range, which also includes the Peregrine ED & Merlin ED.

Related: Top 10 Best Binoculars for Bird Watching

To find ED glass and dielectric coatings in a sub £250 pair of binoculars is amazing, so we were keen to put the Viking Kestrel EDs to the test and find out how they performed.

Design & Build

Our first impressions of the Kestrel ED were very good. They have a nice solid build and the rubber armoured polycarbonate body gives a rugged feel to the binoculars whilst keeping it to a comfortable weight (under 700g for the 42mm models and just a fraction over 500g for the 8x32). The focus wheel and dioptre are of a ribbed metal construction, adding to the the overall premium build quality and appearance.

Viking Kestrel ED binoculars are waterproof tested at 1.5m for 3 minutes and nitrogen gas filled, so will be able to withstand anything our weather can throw at it, however, I’m not sure I’d want to fully submerge them.  The only minor complaint regarding the design would be that during our tests the separate lens caps at the end sometimes got in the way, especially in windy conditions (they can be taken off, however I would’ve preferred a single attachment as with the eye-cups).

Optical Quality

This is where these binoculars truly excelled as the optics on the  Viking Kestrel ED are excellent with bright, sharp images. We found no binoculars in its price range with better optics and they are on a par with some far more expensive models that we’ve tested, which is why they’ve been awarded our Best Buy.

The ED glass adds to the quality by producing a crisp and sharp image with colour, contrast and definition all excellent. We experienced only minor colour fringing and found the 8x32 probably handled the most admirably out of the 3 models. Even in low-light, overcast and drizzly weather conditions these binoculars were capable of producing a fantastic image.

Buy now: Viking Kestrel ED 8x42 from £204.95

Performance

The focus wheel takes 1 ½ turns from close focus to infinity and is very smooth, in fact, one of the best I've used on a binocular in this price range. The dioptre turns in one motion, without any click stops, and isn't lockable. The eye-cups feel very well made, twisting in to place with a pleasing click and staying firmly where you want them. Eye relief figures are 15.6mm, 17.2 and 15.2mm for the 8x32, 8x42 and 10x42 respectively, and as a glasses wearer I found them comfortable to use. And my non-glasses wearing colleague can attest to their quality with them twisted up all the way!

We wanted to test in poor weather conditions to see how well the extra low dispersion (ED) glass performed and given the price of the binoculars, we were pleased with how they handled it . There was some softening at the edge of the field of view, but sharpness was retained very well for most of the image. Benefiting from dielectric coatings and fully multi-coated BAK4 prisms, the Kestrel ED were bright and provided superb detail thanks to the phase correction. We also conducted a close focus test (each model is quoted at 2m) and  found we could get near to 1.55m for the 8x32, 1.95m for the 8x42 and 2.15m for the 10x42.

Verdict

The Kestrel ED are an impressive pair of binoculars from Viking Optical offering incredible value for money with the high-quality ED lenses. Solidly constructed these are a robust choice that will last for years and impress users with amazing optics that are ideal for wildlife and bird watching. You won’t get better binoculars at this price!

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