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Troubador's Review of GPO Passion 8x42 HD

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/24/2017 at 12:39
Troubador View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Joined: January/03/2017
Location: UK
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Points: 54

German Precision Optics (hereafter GPO) is a newcomer on the scene with a base in Germany and an agent in the USA called GPO, USA. Both German and American companies are owned and run by guys with many years of experience in sports optics working for, amongst others, Zeiss, and one of whom started his sports optics career machining parts for binoculars. GPO has organised distribution in the States via GPO, USA while in Europe distribution is not yet finalised although part of the market will be handled via the RUAG Group under the GECO brand name. No distribution agreements have been reached in the UK at the time of writing this.

The binos currently offered are the EDs (lower priced) and HDs (upper-mid priced) and it is the HD 8x42 that is being reviewed here. HD models are made in Japan and it is clear that GPO has put considerable thought into the design as will become apparent when I describe the eyecups fitted to this model.

When I first took this unit out of its box I was immediately struck by the extremely high standard of fit and finish. I know that some of this can be regarded as a subjective judgement but the precise fit of the armour, the feel of precision of the eyecups as they are adjusted and the depth of lustre of the paint on the bridge all impressed me greatly. This is possibly the best-finished bino I have come across.

I have complained on Bird Forum often enough about Zeiss eyecups and those fitted to the GPO, while not quite perfect, really do put some eyecups from better-known brands to shame. They are specially designed by GPO and made from machined aluminium incorporating a brass pin as a positive ‘stop’ to make the positions easily detectable by feel even wearing gloves and to be absolutely reliable. Moreover to prevent the eyecups being inadvertently loosened or even unscrewed when they are backed out to the non-spectacle wearer’s position, they actually unscrew from the binos in a clockwise direction. It is gratifying that this level of careful thought has been given to a component that some more established brands regard as trivial. Are they perfect? Not quite because I would like to see 2 stops available at both the spectacle and non-spectacle positions but guess what? These eyecups don’t wobble and flop loosely as you screw them up and down, they glide with a tight precision which means if you leave them in a place other than one of the click-stops, they don’t move.

The rainguard isn’t quite the success of the eyecups because although it shrouds the eyepieces very well, it grips them too tightly so that getting them on and off quickly in the rain isn’t easy. In addition the split ring on one side for temporarily attaching that side to the strap to keep it out of the way and not flopping around rotating the strap, works as well as on most other rainguards i.e. not at all. Almost any movement of the strap causes the rainguard to free itself and using it to attach the guard to the other end of the strap doesn’t work either because it very soon becomes detached from there too. Far better to thread the guard through the two lengths of strap by which you adjust the overall length of the neck strap and it stays put. Forgive me if I don’t comment on the objective covers as I never use these myself and they are subject to many different personal preferences so I will refrain from going there.

The neck strap is nicely padded but is of the old-fashioned kind that hangs from the back of your neck instead of the type that is tailored to fit around your shoulders. Personally I find this uncomfortable unless I am wearing clothes with a high collar that the strap can rest against but there are plenty of after-market straps to solve this one if needed. The carrying case is of the semi-hard clamshell design and I found no problem in putting the bins inside with the neck strap wrapped around them.

The armour is specially made from TPE or ‘thermoplastic rubber’ as this was the only material that would provide the high level of finish that GPO required. The surface of the armour is divided into smooth and textured areas and I find the latter to be reminiscent of the ‘leatherette’ covers of classic Leicas and Zeisses of the past. The armour endows the GPO with an appearance simultaneously classic and modern. I am enclosing some photos with this review and I hope they convey this appearance adequately.

A quick glance over the specifications demonstrates that the GPO is competitive on FOV and close focus, and that the weight is towards the top end of 42mm models although at 830g / 29.3ozs it is pretty much the same as Swaro’s EL 8.5x42 and not too many people have trouble carrying those around. So not a class-leader by these parameters but up there with the competition.

The dioptre adjustment is accessed by pulling up the focus wheel and you would think that this arrangement was sufficient to prevent unintended movement of the dioptre but GPO have gone for a belt and braces approach because the action of the adjustment moves in tiny increments with a detent between each. I did wonder if this would allow me to get precisely the adjustment I required but actually I did.

Getting down to business, how do the optics perform? Actually they are really, really nice. Stepping outside to view black overhead cables against white clouds revealed no CA in the centre-field and I had to search for it in the extreme field edge, while a look across the valley to where a metallic blue car and a metallic red car usually park delivered rich colours from both, verifying that the opposite ends of the spectrum are well transmitted.

A walk across a local piece of open land and scattered woodland gave a surprising opportunity to test for glare as the sun suddenly appeared on an otherwise unpromising day. I could see a small semi-circular milky area in the lower part of the FOV but only when I was much closer to the sun than I would normally dare view. Following a request on Bird Forum to go into more detail than simply saying ‘closer to the sun than usual’ I went outside in bright sunshine to test this once again and then posted the following: “With the bins viewing horizontally I could rotate my view until directly under the sun with no glare. Lifting the bins up until I was in danger of the sun creeping into the field of view provoked a small area of glare in the lower portion of the field of view but ensuring my eyes were centred on axis meant this didn't appear until it was dangerous to proceed any further. I came indoors with my vision dazzled by the brightness for a minute or two. In terms of degrees how close did I get to the sun? I don't know but hey, I sure as hell didn't want to get any closer and wouldn't normally view anywhere near as close as this”

Visiting a local nature reserve with a fellow Bird Forum member gave a view over a lagoon covered in choppy waves resulting from the breeze and populated by dozens of Black-headed Gulls, while in the back-ground the leaves on trees were wafting to and fro with the breeze. The GPO reproduced this scene with excellent contrast. The white plumage of the gulls contrasted nicely with their dark heads, while the shining sides of the wavelets of the water contrasted with their other, darker sides, and the same thing was happening with the leaves being wafted in the trees as they displayed first a shiny side wet with rain and then a dark underside that wasn’t catching the light. But it wasn’t just that the borders between extremely contrasting regions were emphasised but also less obviously contrasting regions too. Lifting my Zeiss SF’s to view the scene it was apparent that they didn’t have quite the same nuance of contrast and this made the view through the GPO’s a little punchier and a tiny bit more ‘alive’. I am not talking night and day differences here but enough to make me view the HDs with additional respect.

On the following day I visited my traditional test site with a wide variety of waterfowl and other subjects. Examining the plumage details of an aggressive male Mute Swan as it sailed along with wings arched over its back confirmed the GPO’s ability to deliver detail down to the finest vanes and filaments. The GPO also revealed the many subtle tones of browns on a Canada Goose’s flanks and wing coverts at close range and at longer distances the barring effect was stunning. I shall never look at a Canada Goose again in quite the same way and it is surely the sign of a good bino that it can make you take a second and third look at such a familiar bird and find new aspects to enjoy.

The GPO’s smooth focus is a good balance between speed and precision. Using my standard measurement of the number of turns to focus from a distant target (that’s a farm 4km or 2.5 miles away) down to a very close object (2.0m or 2.19yd away) it accomplished this in 0.9 turns so a little faster than Zeiss SF at 1 turn but not as fast as my favourite butterfly-bino, Zeiss’s Conquest HD 8x32 with 0.5 turns. The focus works in an anti-clockwise fashion from near to far and I hope that this idiosyncrasy doesn’t put anyone off from trying out this fine instrument. My wife and a fellow BF member tried them and didn’t notice or comment on this.

At the GPO’s price level (€980 in Europe and $980 in the USA and an estimated £825 when it reaches the UK) there are many good models from both established brands in Europe/UK like Kowa, Leica, Meopta, Minox, Nikon, and Zeiss as well as more recent entrants such as Kite and Vortex, while in the States there are all these brands plus Maven. Quite simply there are too many models in this frame to discuss them all here, and to pick out one or two would be unfair on the rest.

What you get with the GPO is a stunningly finished instrument that delivers crisp, satisfying images that exceeded my expectations at its price point.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 05:29
Whitefire View Drop Down
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Wow, what a review! Excellent description of instrument and intended purpose.
Wf
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 06:24
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Outstanding review, Lee! Thank you for posting!

Given the price points and review comments of both, I'd really like to see someone with access to both do a head-to-head comparison of GPO HD vs Maven.

Edited by RifleDude - March/31/2017 at 09:31
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 09:17
Troubador View Drop Down
Optics Apprentice
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Thanks for your kind words Whitefire

Lee
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 09:19
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Thanks Ted and I would love to see that comparison too. Mavens haven't arrived over here in the UK yet so its down to one of you guys to give it a whirl.

Lee
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 12:31
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Outstanding review, Lee! Thank you for posting!

Given the price points and review comments of both, I'd really like to see someone with access to both do a head-to-head comparison of GPO HD vs Maven.


As I have both, that is i progress Big Smile
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: March/31/2017 at 13:33
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Very cool, Steve! I look forward to reading your observations!
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