All binoculars are not created equal. The price varies dramatically between models, and so does the image quality and user experience. If you are serious about bird watching and photography like we are, investing in a quality pair of binoculars is essential.
We waited far too long before making this pivotal upgrade to our bird photography gear, and are now realizing the incredible difference quality binoculars make to the birding experience. The best birding binoculars are the ones you use most, and to earn that title, they must perform well in all weather conditions.
In this article, we review a top-of-the-line optical instrument for birding, the Pentax ZD 8×43 ED roof prism binoculars. The Z-series binoculars are the pinnacle of sport optics from Pentax, using the companies finest components and coatings.
Pentax ZD 8×43 ED Review
The Pentax ZD 8×43 ED Binoculars are a premium optical aid for birding. Pentax is one of the biggest names in the world of optics, and the ZD 8×43 ED binoculars are a part of their flagship series. They are waterproof, fog-proof, lightweight, and use ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) lens elements for a breathtaking, up-close view of our favorite birds.
In this review, we’ll take the Pentax ZD 8×43 ED binoculars for a test drive in one of the most incredible birding locations in the world, Point Pelee National Park. Not only is this location an amazing place to spot migrating songbirds in early spring, but we visited the park at the most active time of the year (May 9-12).
Best Binocular Reviews rated the Pentax ZD 8×43 ED Binoculars their best wildlife and hunting binoculars in 2015.
As you may already know, we tend to focus mostly on bird photography at Point Pelee. However, we have started getting into the hobby of bird watching (birding) using binoculars a lot more and observing the amazing species of birds we see each spring.
For this reason, we have started taking birding more seriously, and are thrilled to be testing a high-end pair like the Pentax ZD 8×43 binoculars. Our goal was to observe and record more species of birds than ever before, with the advantage of being able to find birds faster and easier.
We recorded our highest-ever number of species in a single birding trip (including this male Kentucky warbler) using the Pentax Z-series ED binoculars.
Features of the Pentax 8 X 43 ED Binoculars
The Pentax 8×43 ED binoculars are the most advanced binoculars we have ever used for birding. They include high-end features to deliver the ultimate bird watching experience including being completely weatherproof (submersible up to 1 meter), lightweight, and sharp.
- Hybrid Aspherical lens elements for edge-to-edge sharpness.
- Phase-coated roof prisms for maximum light transmission
- Waterproof and nitrogen-filled for extreme weather conditions
- Magnesium alloy construction for durability, without adding extra weight
- Multi-layer coatings for maximum light transmission
The difference in image quality through the Pentax 8 X 43 ED binoculars was immediately experienced on our first view. Our last binoculars were a pair of Swift Reliant 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars, so this is what we are comparing our experience with the Pentax pair with.
- Best for viewing: Birding
- Magnification: 8x
- Optical diameter: 43mm
- Field of view: 6.3°
- Apparent field of view: 50.3°
- Eye relief: 22.0mm
- Exit pupil: 5.4mm
- Near focus: 7 ft.
- Coatings: Fully multi-coated
- Focus style: Center focus
- Waterproof: Yes
- Tripod adaptable: Yes
- Diopter adjustment: Yes
- Weight:1.6 lbs.
- Height: 5.7 in.
Why Staying Lightweight is so Important
The Pentax Z-series ED bins are lightweight due to their small overall profile and the materials used. Roof-prism binoculars are a smart choice if you value comfort and practicality in the long run.
Birding trips can often go longer than expected, and it’s in these moments when the weight of your binoculars can become an issue.
Even if your pair does not feel heavy or uncomfortable at the start, these qualities have a way of revealing themselves after 8 hours of birding.
Larger binoculars may offer an increased magnification, but their uses are more limited due to their size and weight. In turn, your heavy pair of bins will likely stay on the shelf for long, bird watching adventures on foot.
The Pentax Z-series ED binoculars are compact and comfortable.
An Impressive Finish and Feel
The Pentax 8 x 43 ED’s get their strength from a magnesium alloy body. This material is only found in premium binoculars that aim to find a balance between weight and durability.
This rugged construction is wrapped in a soft and durable rubber material that provides adequate grip in all weather conditions.
The thumb indentations on the underside of the body are a subtle and appreciated reminder that these binoculars were designed for a comfortable ride in the field.
The focuser knob is smooth and secure. It’s no problem to quickly shift the focal plane from a bird right in front of us to one that is 50 feet away in the brush. This can easily be accomplished using your index finger while staying locked on your target.
Ashley using the binoculars to locate birds on a dreary day.
The Difference Quality Optics Make
We were able to test the Pentax Z-series ED binoculars in poor lighting conditions, as much of our trip was in the rain and in the early morning hours.
Despite the damp and dull weather, the Pentax bins delivered a bright image that blew the views through our camera’s viewfinder out of the water.
These binoculars provide a vivid, clear image in all weather conditions – a trait we experienced first hand with impressive views of a Ruby-throated hummingbird through the dense brush of a dark forest.
These bins would be great for those that often go birding in a dense, shadowy forest. Birds that prefer to hide down low in the shadows will be revealed in detail for a positive ID.
Overall Opinion of the Pentax Z-Series ED Binoculars
Overall, the Pentax Z-Series ED binoculars absolutely blew us away. As I mentioned earlier, we have never used a pair of high-end binoculars before. The ED optics make an incredible difference to the image, and it must be seen in first hand to truly appreciate.
Observing birds in the early morning on a rainy day was possible thanks to the phase-coated roof prisms in the Pentax bins. We spotted several species during times of poor lighting conditions.
Most importantly, the Pentax Z-series binoculars are comfortable to use.
We are carrying around enough weight with our DSLR cameras and heavy telephoto lenses. These binoculars are compact and light enough to wear alongside our camera gear and give us the ability to find more birds and enjoy birding on another level.
In the end, you’ll have to experience a bird-watching session with these binoculars for yourself to truly appreciate the user experience. The most helpful recommendation we can give you as that our experience with the Pentax Z-series 8 x 43’s have given us a new appreciation for birding, not just bird photography.
These bins are an absolute pleasure to use and deliver exceptional results. We highly recommend the investment of a high-quality pair of binoculars like this.
- Lightweight, Compact and Comfortable
- Unmatched Image Quality
- Incredible Low-Light Performance
- The included strap is very basic
The Bottom Line
A high-quality pair of binoculars make birding more enjoyable.
They allow you to observe more species, in all weather and lighting conditions. We missed countless birds for our checklist by limiting ourselves to the viewfinder of our DSLR cameras.
It may seem overkill to wear binoculars around your neck while photographing birds with a telephoto lens, but they actually make locating birds to photograph much easier. The Pentax ZD 8 x 43’s are compact and lightweight, which means that they did not feel cumbersome or get in the way.
Because of these binoculars, we observed and logged our highest-ever species count at Point Pelee National Park in 2019.