PROS / The aluminum housing is very resistant to thermal expansion.
CONS / Aluminum is heavier than the other common housing materials.
VERDICT / It is a great competitor in the market of full size binoculars and is quite popular.
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.
Steiner has been in the business of optics and binoculars for quite a while now, well over 50 years. They're based out of Germany but work closely with many birding organizations to always maintain the requirements of people who do bird watching. They are a company that promotes interest in the environment to help people appreciate what we have. This is in hopes of getting people more aware of the environment, to therefore help nature conservation and habitat preservation.
Even though their focus is birding, Steiner's can be used for whatever you want. Full-size binoculars are meant to be used for a variety of hobbies and activities. A great example from this company would be the Steiner 8x42 Merlin binoculars. The 8x42 magnification and objective lens size is a nice happy medium between birding and hunting binoculars. That position allows them to be used for about everything except maybe stargazing which requires much higher magnification and objective lens size.
The Merlin binoculars do pretty well in the area of optics. It's not surprising since Steiner specializes in that area. However, the Merlin series is a step down from their Peregrine series, which is what they're most known for. Peregrines have fully multi-coated optics and HD (High Definition) coatings on the lens and the Merlins only have multi-coated lens and no HD. Although these binoculars may be slightly inferior to Steiner's flagship, they are also half the price.
Compared to the competition, the Merlins do just fine. They could still use multi-coatings on all the glass-to-air surfaces but that isn't necessarily a deal breaker. They could use a little more field of view but most others could as well. The close focusing distance is only 2 meters, which is above average and the diopter compensation has a convenient +/- 5 adjustment range.
It is good to see that these Steiner binoculars have phrase correction coating. Polarization is a problem for roof prism systems, both Schmidt-Pechan and Abbe-Koenig (these are two different roof prism designs). Phase correction coating is applied to recombine the two different light paths (left and right) without allowing the "phase shift" or geometric phase to occur. It's like someone with a stigmatism in their eye and they get glasses to correct the dual image that is blurring their vision.
The Steiner Birding website was lacking in exact specification information. Their specs page consisted of close focus distance, exit pupil, eye relief, field of view, the dimensions, the warranty, included accessories and option accessories like tripods. That is a pretty short list compared to other manufacture websites but thankfully Steiner was quick to answer our email and get the additional information that we were seeking.
It may be a little pricey but the Steiner 8x42 Merlin binoculars are a solid well-built piece of equipment. They are missing a few things that would make them much more competitive. Hopefully the next Merlin series or the equivalent of it will have fully multi-coated lenses, a little broader field of view and a handful of little things like an upgrade from 10 year warranty to a lifetime one and perhaps a wider range of interpupillary adjustment. After a few improvements like that, all they'd need is a more competitive price.