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Kahles Helia 10X42 binos - Revisited

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RifleDude View Drop Down
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    Posted: January/01/2019 at 10:45
The subject of this brief in-scientific mini “review” is a very unheralded, seldom discussed, seldom seen binocular - the Kahles Helia. This will not be a thorough review, only a user’s impressions while spending time with them this fall during deer hunting season.

I bought a 10X42 version off the Sample List in 2008, and have had it ever since. I don’t recall what I paid for it, but i remember I got a pretty good deal given what they retailed for at the time. Originally, mine had the camo armoring, but the camo wore off very quickly and easily, whereupon the bino looked like crap. So, I sent them in to Swarovski Optik North America (SONA) to get the rubber armor replaced. The only option they offered was the solid gray armor, so I went with that. To my surprise, SONA didn’t charge me anything to replace the armor, even though it was a Kahles product, not Swarovski. This is what she looks like today at the conclusion of a morning spent deer hunting with it.



For most of the 10 years I’ve owned the Kahles 10X42, it has seen very little use. I considered selling it multiple times. I’ve always been fairly critical of it whenever the subject of Kahles binoculars has come up on this forum, not because it’s a “bad” optic - far from it - but because of the comparative performance of other binos you could get for the same or less money. The drastic improvements in the mid to upper mid range binos during the past decade had simply made it tough for me to recommend Kahles binos. I always thought they were decent optically, but they exhibited pretty prominent yellow CA at the edge of high contrast objects, had a fair amount of veiling flare when looking toward sunrises and sunsets, and they have comparatively narrow FOV compared to some other 10X42s.

I’m not even certain Kahles makes these binos anymore or whether they offer something comparable. I’d heard they still offer binos, and even a bino with built in rangefinder. I’d heard rumors that they discontinued the Austrian made binos for replacements outsourced from Japan and elsewhere in Asia, but cannot confirm. Looking on their website today, they mention they still offer binos, but I don’t see images, descriptions, or specs of any binos anywhere on their site. I also don’t see any new stock of Kahles binos for sale anywhere. Regardless of the production status of their binocular line(s), I’m fairly certain that the version of 10X42 bino I own has long been discontinued.

So, why am I posting about binos that have been long ago discontinued? I’m here to admit I didn’t give these binos a fair assessment and was overly critical of them. Shortly after I bought the Kahles 10X42, I bought a Leica Ultravid HD 8X32. That bino was so optically incredible while also being so light and compact, I simply saw no reason to ever carry my other binos again. However, mid-way through this deer season, I dropped my Leica 8X32, dislodging something internally in the focus mechanism. After the drop, the left side could not be focused with the right. So, I sent it in to Leica for repair where it still remains.

I will report back on Leica Service once it returns to me.

Meanwhile, with my Leica out of commission, the Kahles 10X42 was pressed into service, and I’ve been using it very heavily for a month now. This is really the first time I’ve used it extensively in all lighting and environmental conditions that I normally use binos for in the first place. I’m here to tell you these binos are way better than I ever gave them credit for! Yes, I can induce CA and flare if I try. Yes, I wish they had wider FOV. But under normal usage, those nitpicks really don’t mean much. The Kahles doesn’t have quite the resolution of my Leica, and it doesn’t have the enhanced contrast that I love about a Leica’s optics. It shouldn’t, given the large MSRP delta. Nevertheless, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the excellent resolution these things deliver! I didn’t attempt to quantify the resolution with comparative resolution chart analyses, but I’ve been able to resolve some very fine detail on things like deer antlers at long distance. Low light performance has been very respectable as well. It’s also remarkably compact for its magnification and objective size. It has a decent sized “sweet spot” comprising maybe 70% of the FOV before becoming gradually softer in the remaining 30% near the field edge. Field curvature is very mild, with only slight pincushion. The focus wheel is also butter smooth and very precise. The winged eye cups are very comfortable for my eye sockets and they are very effective in blocking light from the side. All in all, I have been quite impressed with this optic, and I never gave it the love it was due. I would roughly put it on par with other good binos in the $700-$900 price range or thereabouts.

Besides the CA and flare that don’t really factor in most viewing, and the FOV that is a bit narrower than other competing binos, my only other real criticism of the Kales 10X42 is the as-supplied objective lens caps. They refuse to stay put and are completely worthless, so I threw them away and will try to find replacements.

While it would seem kind of pointless to post a quasi-review of a bino that you cannot buy new anymore, I’ve noticed you can still find these binos used on the big auction sites for very reasonable prices. If you find one that is optically and mechanically in excellent condition, I think they are an excellent buy at the current used prices ($500 range) I’ve seen.

Edited by RifleDude - January/02/2019 at 09:56
Ted


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Scrumbag Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/01/2019 at 18:51
Hi Ted, good review! A friend of mine has Kahles binos he swears by and i can see why, great performance.
Was sure I had a point when I started this post...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote RifleDude Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2019 at 10:06
My take: Kahles binos from this era aren’t “alpha”-level good, and perhaps at the original MSRP, there were better values to be had. But they are still quite good even by today’s standards for mid-range binoculars. Given current used prices you can sometimes find them for, I think they now represent an excellent buy and should not be overlooked if one is in the market for “upper mid-level” binos. Even with uncertain or no warranty coverage, they are well made, quality units.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tahqua Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2019 at 12:02
Nice briefing Ted. I never used them but I had heard negative things in the past. It is good to read something positive.
I am a bit of a Kahles fan boy as I have four Helia C scopes. I always considered them to be the equal of the Zeiss Diavari scopes I was looking into at the time.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mike650 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/02/2019 at 15:12
Nice review Ted, ditto on what Doug said about Kahles, I have one older CL rifle scope and love it.



I had a similar experience with SONA about 10 years ago with very old SLC binos I purchased in the early 1990's. I sent then back for a PM (preventive maintenance). I got them back a couple of weeks later, SONA updated the external amour, eye cups, a few other external parts, checked the internal parts, cleaned what was needed, etc. etc. (there was a check list included of parts replaced and what was done). All free of charge, the only cost was my shipping the binos to them.

I've had a couple of reticle changes on scopes in the past and they've always had quick turn around times.

Recently I've called needing to replace a cosmetically scratched turret cap, needing a second ballistic adjustment tool, etc. and they've shipped them to me quickly and at no charge.

I can't say enough about how amazing Swarovski's customer service is. Thumbs Up

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