Most helpful critical review
12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
outlandish price for poor optics and flawed alignment
on January 5, 2011
I bought these at the same time as a Steiner 7x50 Marine model. The Commander XP's use the same case but for triple the price have better eyepieces, coatings and optical specifications and a few additional or better accessories than the Marine model.
I compared them in terrestrial and celestial viewing but the easiest comparison is done with astronomical subjects since they really define performance clearly. The images in the Marine model merged effortless. In the Commander XP, I have difficulty merging the images. They're obviously badly out of collimation. I don't care to fix this myself on binos in this price range.
I evaluated the real and apparent fields of view as well as the sharpness near the edge of the field.
In the Marine model, the real field of view is reasonably wide but apparent field is quite narrow. It's not bad but it's not a spectacular vista either. In the Commander XP, the real FOV is only barely perceptibly wider. Steiner's website lists the specifications. The apparent field is about the same. The almost indiscernable extra width of real FOV does not contribute much to the value for triple the price.
On the Marine model, I put Sirius and Jupiter in the center of the field. They look nice. Moving the binoculars so that the objects were farther from the center of the field I could see the image degraded about half-way to the edge of the field of view. Near the very edge, the image was appalling. Much more than half-way out of the center of the field of view, the star or planet turns from a bright point to just a smear. Near the very edge it's a dim smudge. I tried the same with the Commander XP. It was every bit as bad.
Are the XP's better on dim objects? The optics are supposed to transmit 96% light compared to the Commander V's 95% and the Marine's 90%. I saw very little difference on dim objects like the Orion nebula or the background of the Pleides or Jupiter's moons. Again, I can't see the justification for triple the price.
Both have generious eye-relief, 20mm for the Marine and 22mm for these XP's. They also have the same weight and dimensions. They're heavy but still reasonable if you're wearing a thick coat to pad your chest and a harness to keep them from swinging all over if you're moving. Also, at 7x they're reasonable for handholding. For me, 7x50 is about the limit for handholding. Heavier or higher power would be too shakey. 6x56 might be nicer if they were more common.
Where the XP is clearly better is with small details like the click-loc strap attachments (for use with Steiner straps and harnesses only), the better eyepiece covers, lens covers, focuser grips, shading eye-cups, and various doo-dads that come in the case. It comes with a flotation strap which the Marine doesn't, but I would still rather prefer a harness which neither comes with.
I bought these Porro prism binos because I thought for the high price they should be outstanding. While roof prism binos might require fifteen hundred dollars or more to achieve optical exellence (or so I've heard), it should be easier with porros. With these, it's possible they lost collimation after leaving the factory but the optical quality is lacking nontheless. To be honest, I have nothing to compare them to. I've never seen better, but I was still totally underwhelmed by the performance which was only slightly better than I would expect from binoculars in the hundred dollar range.