Pros: Superb optics in a very compact, striking and ergonomic body that’s a joy to hold and use… Minox demonstrates its optical pedigree with a bright, sharp, wide image that has great contrast and excellent colour.
Cons: Individually focussing dioptres are far from ideal for wildlife. In fairness this is obvious before you ever get the binocular in your hands, but it does severely limit its utility if you’re frequently watching things at different distances.
Price: c.€245 (GB£199) RRP — although you’ll find better prices online
Rating: Average (for wildlife and birdwatching, based purely on the focus mechanism — optically they are excellent)
The Minox BD 7×28 is a unique binocular… and that’s not a distinction many can claim. Designed by Volkswagen, the slimline barrels linked by a narrow but very solid metal bridge high on the instrument makes it look incredibly sleek and modern. It leaves almost the entire barrel exposed for a really comfortable wrap-around grip (what Minox calls its “Comfort Bridge” design). Optically it’s excellent… with one caveat… you can’t focus both barrels at the same time.
If you’re looking at things that generally stay within a fixed distance range (watching a sports game or horse racing, for example) these binoculars are ideal. They’re can be useful in some wildlife watching situations too: I find them very handy, for quickly checking birds at the feeding station outside my office — at a fixed distance. They’re not so good for general purpose wildlife watching though, because you simply can’t move quickly from viewing something distant to looking at something close up.
Minox BD 7×28 Binocular: Full Review
Minox is a name most people are familiar with, if only for the tiny “spy” cameras the company was famous for producing back in the day. However the German company has been producing high quality optical equipment, including binoculars, for decades, and has a solid reputation for producing high quality, well engineered products.
The Minox BD 7×28 is an intriguing compact binocular unlike anything I’ve reviewed before.
Balance, handling and build quality
The first thing you notice is the build quality — this is a premium product and no mistake. It just feels incredibly solid and well made, and the finish is flawless. It’s unique single-hinge design exposing almost all of the barrels is down to the Volkswagen design team… and at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking the hinge would be too flimsy to adequately support the barrels. But don’t be fooled… that narrow central hinge is incredibly strong.
I’m not sure what the chassis of these compact binoculars is made of… and couldn’t find any details on the Minox site… but they are metal — so probably high-grade aluminium alloy or possibly even magnesium alloy, although at this price point I suspect aluminium is more likely. Either way these are very robust binoculars for a compact unit.
The barrels are covered in a hard black rubber armour that looks good, is tactile and affords excellent grip. It also provides some degree of protection from knocks and scrapes in the field. The binoculars are very comfortable to hold and carry in the field, and are a joy to use once you get used to their focus system. The compact size means that these binoculars are very light (340 g) compared to full size binoculars, but perhaps not as light as you might expect given their slimline design. This is a good thing for two reasons… firstly it hints at the quality of the optical components and construction, and secondly a bit of “heft” in binoculars means that inertia dampens out tiny hand movements, helping you keep the instrument steady. Because the individual dioptre focusing means that you twist each eyepiece to set the focus on these binoculars, the retractable eyecups are of the push in, pull out variety, rather than the more usual twist-up eyecups you see on most contemporary roof prism binoculars today. The eyecups are covered in hard rubber with a knurled grip around the edge to help with focussing, but which also make the binoculars more comfortable to hold to your face.
Compact binoculars typically come with either a single hinged bridge (like this one) — or with a hinge attaching each barrel to central bridge, allowing each barrel to be adjusted independently. A single hinge is often stronger, and is more convenient when using the binoculars, but the double hinge (like that found in the Opticron Aspheric LE WP) allows you to fold the barrels together, making for a much more compact and “pocketable” package.
So while the BD 7×28 are certainly compact, they don’t really fold down, so I’d hesitate to class them as truly “pocketable”.
Waterproofing / weatherproofing
As you’d expect from binoculars of this calibre the BD 7×28 is completely waterproof and is nitrogen purged to avoid fogging of the internal glass surfaces with sudden changes in temperature and humidity. According to the specification they can withstand submersion in up to 5m of water — which means if you accidentally drop them (or fall) into a stream or lake your binoculars will emerge unscathed.
Of course being sealed against water also keeps dust, sand and other debris out of the delicate internals… which can be an important consideration if you want binoculars that last.
The optical performance of the BD 7×28 is very impressive. It delivers a crisp, bright image with a satisfyingly wide field of view for a compact of 129m @ 1,000m (7.3°). Within the focal range (see focusing) the image stays very sharp right out towards the edge of the field. Colour and contrast are both excellent, and there’s no sign of chromatic aberration (colour fringing) when looking at high-contrast subjects.
For binoculars with relatively small objective lenses the BD 7×28 performs very well as light fades at dawn and dusk… certainly holding its own with other compacts and rivalling some mid- and full-size binoculars I’ve tested.
In terms of the coatings Minox use on these binoculars there’s precious little information available. The Minox literature specifies that they use “high tech optical glass with multi-layered coatings” — which doesn’t mean a whole lot. However, given their performance and their price point I think it’s safe to assume that the optics are what’s known as fully-multi-coated, which means that all air-to-glass surfaces in the instrument are treated with special anti-reflective coatings to maximise light-transmission, contrast and resolution.
Overall the viewing experience through the BD 7×28 is very pleasant, and when in-focus the image they deliver is excellent.
This is the part that really lets down what could be an outstanding little binocular. You focus each barrel of the BD 7×28 independently by twisting the eyecup. The manual recommends setting the focus for each barell to a fixed point about 70 m from your viewing position. Once that is done, according to the literature, everything from 20m to infinity should be in sharp focus.
That’s fine, as long as what you want to look at isn’t closer than 20m away. But with wildlife, and particularly with birds, you tend to want to shift your focus from near to far and back again frequently and quickly. That’s something you simply can’t do with this binocular.
As befits a product that feels as “premium” as the BD 7×28 the accessories provided are very good — the binocular comes with a high-quality neoprene neck-strap and a lovely neoprene pouch-style case. There are also caps for the ocular and objective lenses should you wish to store the binoculars for any length of time.
In Europe the Minox BD 7×28 comes with a 5 year warranty that covers manufacturing defects and functional failures.
The Minox BD 7×28 is a very capable little binocular that is somewhat hamstrung as a wildlife and birding optic by the lack of a central focusing mechanism. Being able to switch quickly between subjects at different distances is an essential feature for wildlife observation. If Minox could somehow squeeze a standard central focussing mechanism into a similar design this could be a winning binocular.
The other point I’d make is that, because of the central hinge and the fact you can’t fold them up, while the Minox BD 7×28 is clearly a compact binocular, it isn’t actually that much smaller than the new breed of mid-size binoculars with objective lenses of 30-32mm. As a general purpose / lightweight travel binocular, especially one you want to use for wildlife observation, you’d be better off choosing one of those. As a compact / take anywhere binocular, again the fact that you can’t fold the barrels in means that while the BD 7×28 is small, in practice it’s still pretty bulky. I’d be more inclined to look at a compact where the barrels can fold in to make the overall package more compact and pocketable.
That said, optically the BD 7×28 is excellent, the design is very innovative and contemporary, and the binoculars are very comfortable to use. If you can live with the quirky focus, and are looking for a lightweight take anywhere binocular then they’re certainly worth a look.
Taken from the Minox website:
|Front lens diameter||28 mm|
|Exit pupil||4 mm|
|Field of view||384 ft. at 1000 yds. / 128 m at 1000 m / 7.3°|
|Pupil distance||more than 58 ~ 72 mm|
|Eye relief||15 mm|
|Diopter adjustment||+/- 5 dpt.|
|Operating temperature||14° to 122° F / -10° to 50° C|
|Waterproof||yes, down to 16.4 ft. / 5 m|
|Dimensions||4.41 x 4.21 x 1.40 in. / 112 x 107 x 35,5 mm|
|Weight:||12 oz. / 340 g|
I’d like to thank the folks at Minox UK for submitting the BD 7×28 for review on Ireland’s Wildlife.
NB. Ireland’s Wildlife has no specific affiliation to any optics or gear manufacturer and all reviews on the site are completely independent and objective. If you’re an optics or gear manufacturer and would like to submit your product for review on the site please drop us a line using the contact form and we can take things from there.