When I received a pair of Vanguard Endeavor ED 10.5×45 binoculars to review, I quickly guessed that these were new competitors in the high-end binocular market. I was impressed with their solid feel and bright, sharp image, even in a side-by-side comparison with my own top-of-the-line optics. I was then astounded to see that the retail price for them at most outlets was only $399—about a fifth the cost of most high-end binoculars. Surely I was missing some obvious flaw that would show up after some more rigorous testing. I decided to take them along on a family trip to Florida and try them out in a variety of tough birding situations.
Weighing in at 27 ounces the Vanguards are well-balanced and comfortable to look through. The twisting eye-cups have three intermediate stop points, which gave me excellent eye relief with my glasses on when I put them all the way down. These rubber-armored roof prisms are nitrogen-filled and fully waterproof and fogproof. The large focus wheel is easy to use and fast, moving from distant trees to close bushes in less than a full turn. Another turn brings them to a very close 8 feet.
None of these features would matter much, though, if the image were unsatisfactory. But I could not find an “obvious flaw” in the image, which appeared sharp from edge to edge and did not show any noticeable color-fringing or other abnormalities usually found in less-expensive binoculars. I enjoyed the slightly higher magnification compared with my 10x binoculars, and the 45mm objective lenses compensated nicely without extra size or weight, so the image is also very bright.
I must say I loved looking at birds through these binoculars, and I found myself reaching for them even after my “testing” was complete. They had no trouble turning quarter-mile specks into graceful Magnificent Frigatebirds over the ocean horizon and resolving the distinctive silhouette of a Loggerhead Shrike on a distant backlit snag. And I continuously marveled at the exquisite feather detail revealed on ultra-tame herons and a close-perched Red-shouldered Hawk. Even a lowly American Coot was transformed as crisp water droplets rolled off its back after each dive.
In my years of reviewing all the latest binoculars, I have always been wary of inexpensive 10x models, but I have no hesitation recommending the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10.5x45s, even for serious birding. My only criticism (relatively minor) is the combination of very shallow depth of field and very fast focus, which made me want to constantly fine-tune the focus to get it just right. Considering the vast difference in price, however, even other minor differences in image quality would not necessarily justify making the leap to an expensive top-of-the-line model. With such high quality now available at such an affordable price, I suggest giving the Vanguard Endeavors a try and saving the big bucks for a spotting scope.
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