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Kowa SV II 8×42 Binoculars: Our Review

A good, crisp image but with narrower field of view and less close focus than competitors. We rated them as a Middle Ground choice.

At A Glance

Kowa SV II 8x42 binoculars
Kowa SV II 8×42 binoculars. Image by Hugh Powell.


  • Very crisp, clear image
  • Good performance even in backlit conditions
  • Nice neck strap


  • Stiff focus wheel
  • Substantially longer body than most other binoculars
  • Narrow field of view


  • Price: $259 MSRP at press time. Prices often fluctuate, so check with retailers
  • Close focus: Listed as 13.1 feet (399 cm). In tests, we could focus these a bit closer, to about 10 feet (305 cm)
  • Field of view: 6.3° (331 feet at 1,000 yards). More about field of view 
  • Weight: 24.4 oz (691 g)—that’s about 1.1 oz (38 g) lighter than the average for 8×42 binoculars in our review
  • Eye relief: 19.5 mm

Viewing Experience: These binoculars are brilliantly crisp, although they are hampered somewhat by a narrow field of view and less than ideal close focus. Looking across a field at a feeder more than 150 yards away, we made out a chickadee’s black bib and the pink blush of a male House Finch in conditions where many binoculars would show only gray, grainy blobs. And in a harshly lit treetop at closer range, a Downy Woodpecker was a crisp mix of sharp black and white contrasts as it curled its body around a twig, tiny bill pointing out like a thorn. A nearby titmouse’s big black eye stood out from its gray face, despite the backlight. The narrow field of view is offset somewhat by the quality of the image you do see.

Feel and Build: These binoculars have a stylish look with olive-green armoring and long, gracefully flared barrels. A sculpted ridge swoops down the length of the barrels offering a place to grip with your thumbs. The long barrels (a solid inch or 25 mm longer than most other 8×42 models) mean these binoculars take up more space and can feel less well balanced. The eyecups click firmly through four preset positions, but on our demo model one of the eyecups seemed fragile and became very loose. The objective lens caps do not have tethers—a feature that has become widespread in recent years—so you’ll need to keep them in your pockets while you’re out birding.

More on Binoculars

Comments From Testers: 

  • Very crisp image but narrow field of view
  • Very sharp image all the way to the edge of the field
  • Focus knob was difficult to turn
  • Binoculars are very long/tall
  • Slow, stiff focus
  • Nice firm action to eyecups, but extremely stiff focus wheel
  • Fit hands well, not slippery, liked the texture
  • Love the color
  • Lens covers don’t attach

This article is one in a series of mini-reviews. To see how these binoculars compare to others we’ve tested, see our full review of affordable 8×42 binoculars.  

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