PROS / Due to the higher magnification and larger lenses, the twilight factor is also higher.
CONS / They don't have much interpupillary range and are pretty heavy.
VERDICT / They work great if you want a little more magnification than the 8x models.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from viewing as part of this site because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
We decided to throw in these Leupold Northfork 8.5x45mm as a twist in the comparison. Although there isn't much difference between 8.5x45 and 8x42, there are some interesting trade-offs. Both sizes fall in the general use full-size binoculars category and that was the base idea behind our lineup. Just looking at those two numbers, the magnification and objective lens size, you may automatically assume that the 8.5x45 is better. More magnification and wider objective lenses is better right? Well, not necessarily. In some cases and for certain activities sure but it is not always the case. Sometimes you want binoculars that can see farther and sometimes you don't.
Optics & Viewing
With 8.5x magnificationm, you're obviously going to get a little closer view than the 8x. The problem you get as you increase the magnification you have to increase the objective lens size in order to maintain the same field of view. It's true that Leupold did that in this case but 3 millimeters larger doesn't make enough difference. With a slightly large lens, these binoculars would have been more competitive in the area of field of view. As it stands though, they didn't have the smallest but sat about in the middle of the competition we compared it to. Those that have less and are 8x42 really have no room talk since this 8.5x45 out did them. A good example of that is the close competition of the Ranger SRT from Eagle Optics, which is about 5 meters less.
These European style Leupolds have fully multi-coated lenses. The reason for that is to allow more light through the lenses. Binoculars that are multi coated or don’t have all the lenses coated don't allow as much light to enter which therefore limits the color and contrast of what you're viewing. This is one of the more important things to look for in a pair of binoculars because of the high degree of added image quality.
To go along with those lens coatings Leupold gave us 60 layers of high reflection coatings on the prisms to reflect all that transmitted light. This is a great quality for binoculars because light is not only what makes binoculars work but is also a key component to high definition image viewing. SHR or super high resolution is the name that Leupold uses to call those 60 layers of brilliance and is comparable to Bushnell's XTR coating which is on a few of their models, like the Elite series.
Aside from the narrower field of view that we mentioned, there are a few other drawbacks to these binoculars. One of those is the farther close-focusing distance and the short range of interpupillary adjustment. The close-focusing distance isn't a huge deal but it is nice to have the option to focus on something closer than 3.3 meters away. The interpupillary range is the bigger concern because it limits the people that can use them perfectly effectively. If your pupils aren't between 60 and 70 millimeters apart then you will be one of those people that can't fully enjoy the Northfork. Most of the competition has around a 20-millimeter adjustment range rather than 10 and that's a pretty big difference.
Design & Usability
The biggest feature on these Leupolds is the housing. The most common material to use is polycarbonate because it is cheap and very lightweight. The problem with it is that it is somewhat susceptible to thermal expansion. Aluminum is the least susceptible but it weighs the most. Magnesium is light and is almost the same as aluminum when it comes to thermal expansion and that is what the Leupold Northfork has. The one drawback is that it is more expensive which explains the price of these binoculars.
These binoculars are also armor coated with rubber to be more rugged as well as give you a better grip. This is a pretty common attribute with most binoculars but is no less important. The rubber will keep the binoculars from slipping out of your grip as well as protect them from impacts better just in case they get dropped anyway. Hopefully that isn't the case though because rubber only absorbs so much of the shock and even then sometimes-minor jolts will still move something inside that isn't supposed to be moving.
Help & Support
Even though magnesium is lighter than aluminum, that doesn't mean it's light. Of the products we reviewed, these are by far the heaviest comparatively. At 765 grams, they weigh about 100 or more grams over all the others. Thankfully that only, converts to about 3.5 ounces which isn't much really but it is in this lineup of binoculars. That extra weight is probably due to the added size in housing for the 45mm objective lenses.
There really aren't any major flaws to these binoculars. Yes, the extra magnification and objective lens size does change a few things around but they aren't all bad. The difference is actually fairly balanced which makes the Leupold Northfork 8.5x45mm binoculars a great buy for anyone interested in quality set. Leupold is a popular manufacture that has been delivering quality products and services for over a century and that hasn't really changed.