Alpen’s image-stabilised Apex Steady 14x42HD binoculars are a revelation, providing incredible clarity of view from a compact set of handheld optics.
Testing these binoculars, it’s the first time I’ve used image stabilisation in anything other than a camera and it is now frustrating going back to regular binos and their inherent shakiness.
The key point with stabilisation is that your ability to see things clearly and in detail improves dramatically, especially in poor light and at longer distances.
It permits you to use higher magnification without having to resort to using a monopod or tripod to keep things steady, and you have the freedom of handheld use that screw-in supports like tripods rob from you.
I’d suggest that stabilisation is worth more than the quality of the lenses when it comes down to it.
Either way, Alpen Optics uses good quality, high-definition glass — BaK-4 prisms with multiple coatings to maximise light transmission, clarity and contrast, along with a water-beading outer coating to shed moisture efficiently.
The 42mm objective lenses let in plenty of light, and Alpen states a decent twilight factor of 9.
The effect is what you expect, with a great image, the only thing giving away the fact that they may not be Alpen’s best lenses being a hint of edge blur on the outside of the picture.
The stabilisation system inside the main body of the binoculars, though, would overcome far greater criticism than that.
A two-axis gimbal inside the body does the work. A switch on top of the body, easily reached by your forefinger while looking through the binoculars, turns it on and instantly the shaky view becomes smooth.
It’s like the world suddenly turns calm and you realise how much shakiness you were subconsciously putting up with beforehand. When you pan with the binoculars the stabiliser produces a bit of a floating effect that you quickly get used to, but once you stop to look at one point it settles down.
If you look closely you can see the merest hint of vibration in the view but, to put that in context, it’s like saying you can feel the vague pressure of a pillow through the anaesthetic after being hit in the head by a hammer.
With that immense stability and 14x magnification, you can glass distant hills, or look into thick forest, and see things you’ve never noticed before.
Everything becomes easier: finding game, identifying targets, judging trophies, etc.
The higher-than-standard magnification reduces exit pupil size compared with, say, 10×42 binos — from 4.2mm to 3mm in this case — but in low light at the end of the day I couldn’t pick any reduction in my ability to make out what I was looking at when doing side-by-side comparisons; again, the stabilisation makes up for any difference.
There’s no thread for attaching the Apex Steady binos to a tripod, for obvious reasons. Consider yourself free to roam without the burden of a tripod.
The stabilisation runs on a single AA battery which I did not flatten during the test. I made a habit of switching off the gimbal every time I wasn’t looking through the Alpens.
Apart from the uni-body design, the Apex Steady binoculars are pretty standard in other ways: twist-out eye cups, adjustable inter-pupilory distance, a focus wheel, and individual diopter focus.
The shape makes them slightly more compact than regular binoculars and they weigh a handy 668 grams with a battery installed.
Alpine rates tham as splash proof, so don’t drop them in the creek but don’t worry about rain. They have a five-year warranty.
At a RRP of $2046, these Alpen Optics units are priced competitively against other well-known and respected brands.
More information is available on the Australian Sporting Agencies website.
- Magnification: 14x
- Objective lens diameter: 42mm
- Field of view: 70m at 1000m
- Exit pupil: 3mm
- Twilight factor: 9
- Prism type: BaK-4, roof type
- Stabiliser: 2-axis gimbal
- Power: 1 x AA battery
- Dimension: 185 x 114 x 75mm
- Weight: 668g with battery
- RRP: $2046 (2023)
- Distributor: Australian Sporting Agencies