By David Link
Recently the Vortex Crossfire 8×42 roof prism binoculars received a makeover from the Vortex Optics team. It was previously known as the Vortex Crossfire II 8×42, and although this distinction can be confusing, the new Vortex Crossfire series (devoid of the II) can easily distinguished by its new looks. The old Crossfire II had an all-green rubber housing, and the focusing knob was positioned at roughly halfway between the eyepieces and the objective lenses. The new Crossfire on the other hand has moved the focusing knob closer to the eyepieces and more importantly the viewer. This allows for easier focusing, and more grip space for your hands down towards the objective lenses. The new Crossfire has also changed its look, and a darker green and black design is found in the rubber armor vs. the lighter green color of the Crossfire II. Finally, the new Crossfire is slimmer in design than the Crossfire II, and this also improves grip and handling of the binocular while in the field.
Now that we’ve outlined these differences, let’s look that the Crossfire 8×42 roof prism binocular in more detail.
Before we go any further, let’s outline the basic specs of this binocular:
Fresh out of the package, the Vortex Crossfire is sleek, compact and easy to handle. The objective lens caps are affixed via rubber tethers so you won’t lose them, and the eyepieces have a removable one-piece cap that has a flexible bridge. This is a nice feature for those with smaller faces like mine as you can put the caps back on without having to flatten out or put the binocular back at maximum interpupillary distance to store them. As I mentioned above, there is a wide range of interpupillary distance, and I found myself using it about halfway or at 65mm or so. Rubber armor is the norm in binoculars these days, and as expected the Crossfire fit comfortably in my hands. The narrow roof prism design and wide grip area would make these desirable for those who have small hands as well, although I imagine larger users would encounter no problems. There are also flattened grooves for your thumbs on the underside of the binocular, and while they help you bring the binocular to your eyes, I found myself moving my hands further up the binocular towards the objective lens when they were leveled at my face.
Before I headed out for a field test, the biggest impression I noticed was just how light these binoculars really were for the size. Naturally this is an important feature every backpack hunter or outdoor adventurer pressed for space will appreciate, but they felt very manageable around my neck or just in my hands. Certainly these would be a good fit with children and the elderly as well. As I mentioned, there are lighter binoculars available in the Vortex line at this magnification, but they are not available at this price point.
The strap has a comfortable foam neck, and I never felt like an upgrade was needed. I was also impressed at how easily accessible the focusing knob was, and the binoculars are a snap to focus for every level of user. The included case is nice too, and the binoculars fit tightly in the pouch without much room for anything else. A drawback of this is that the objective lens caps are usually opened as you take it out of the pouch. I found myself wishing for a better fit of the objective lens caps, but this certainly wasn’t a deal breaker.
I had the opportunity to field test the Crossfire 8×42 binoculars on two separate occasions in the late summer in the Rocky Mountains. The first test was in a sunny foothills meadow. The Crossfire performed admirably in the bright glare of the sun, and I was immediately impressed with the clarity and ease of operation the binoculars provided right out of the box. I could scan quickly with the lightweight design, and focusing was a snap with the large, easy to grip dial in the middle of the bridge. It was immediately apparent that use of the eye cups was vital to getting a full image with the binocular, but here again, the adaptability of the eye cups was a welcome feature. I do find myself wondering how eye glass wearers would fare with the eye cups dialed all the way back in, but I was not able to have anyone else test them as such. The impression of depth that these entry-level (albeit higher-end entry-level) binoculars provided was also impressive. I was able to pick out various objects at different distances and grasp the perceived distance of them in relation to my position easily. I imagined that this would be very valuable for the hunter watching a buck move through brush, and I was able to pick out some local birds and enjoy a quality viewing experience of them.
The crisp impression of depth that these binoculars provided was even more evident in my second field test. This time I took the Crossfire to a high alpine meadow at 10,000ft. The meadow was rich with scrub brush and as fall approached they were turning various colors from yellow to red to brown. With the naked eye, the expanse of meadow and river bed blended together and made the area seem like a small patch of land, but once viewed with the Crossfire, the landscape really popped. Again, I believed that on a hunt with the Crossfire binoculars, I would be able to determine the relative distance of a buck much easier than with the naked eye. I couldn’t help but wish an elk showed up at the time of the test to prove it. As the afternoon wore on, the usual afternoon rain storm rolled off the mountains, but I still received a bright picture from the Crossfire. I imagine any hunter or birder would be pleased with the performance of these binoculars in relation to their price.
The Vortex Crossfire 8×42 binocular currently has an MSRP of $219.00, and I believe that is a steal for the value you get out of these binoculars. They are the ideal magnification for most hunters, but I did find myself wishing for 10x magnification at times when I was in the Rockies. However I think that was partly due to the good field of vision these binoculars provided. Certainly those who hunt smaller expanses or deciduous forests should stick with the 8×42, but I could see the 10×42 models working just fine for Rocky Mountain hunters and birders who want a little more power.
The drawbacks were few, but I must admit these weren’t the easiest binoculars to obtain a picture through right away. They did take a little adjustment over the eyes, but as I said the eye cups made this problem far less of an issue once I had everything dialed in. The objective lens covers aren’t the best either, and I felt like they were too loose right out of the box, but they can always be replaced or upgraded. All in all, I can’t imagine spending less on a binocular if I was serious about getting something that wasn’t going to cheap out on me. You really can’t beat the value of these binoculars. Vortex has done a great job with the redesign.
As part of my field tests, I gave the Vortex Binocular Harness Strap a look as well (see product image below). It is composed of tough nylon harness straps and a stylish center piece with the Vortex logo burnt into it. They were easy to put on, and you can actually swap out the strap of the Crossfire (or other binocular) and replace it with two rings that clip easily to the harness. This allows for easy attachment and removal of your chosen binoculars to the strap. As I stated, the Crossfire was pretty light to begin with, but with the harness on it felt like I was wearing nothing at all. The added support would be a welcome addition to any long hike or hunt, but what I really liked about the harness was how it controlled the binoculars when I was not using them. I could hike in rough terrain, swing around, or use my hands for other tasks, and the binoculars stayed right against my chest with very little movement at all. In thick bush, these would be a lifesaver vs. the strap when it came to protecting your binoculars.
Long story short on the harness, it’s a wise extra for anyone who plans on hiking for a long time but wants their binoculars at the ready. I feel like eventually you’re inviting damage on your binoculars if you hike with them and they swing around your neck.
Interested in more? Check out: Vortex Diamondback 20-60x60mm Spotting Scope Review.