Kahles Helia S 8x42 binoculars review

Review: Kahles Helia S 8×42 Austrian-made binoculars


For almost 100 years the Helia name has represented all the experience and quality of Kahles, and in the Helia S binoculars it represents simplicity as well, for these hunting binos are not overloaded with features, just designed to be strong, reliable and optically excellent.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that Kahles still makes the Helia S in Austria instead of outsourcing to either Japan or Myanmar as it has done with its other binoculars, its red-dots and its rangefinders; all Kahles scopes are still made in Austria, too.

Kahles Helia S 8x42 binoculars review
The unique colouring of the Kahles Helia S binoculars with orange highlights is unmistakable

Helia S binoculars look very much like a development of Swarovski’s discontinued SLC binoculars, which were highly regarded. Kahles is owned by Swarovski so the switch would make sense: why dump a perfectly good design just because Swarovski released new and different binoculars, when Kahles could carry on with them, making the most of a proven product?

Kahles has managed to put its Helia S out at the same price as the SLCs were, too.

The optics are undeniably good, providing a very sharp image, very good colour definition and the kind of contrast that helps bring out fine details, particularly in animals lurking in the shadows of a heavily wooded area. 

If you’re critical you could complain about the merest hint of blur and aberration at the very edges of the view but I doubt most people would notice and, besides, these are not $4000 binos. 

Kahles Helia S 8x42 binoculars review
This cropped shot of the view through the Helia S gives an idea of edge clarity and contrast, though being an image captured through a camera is doesn’t quite show the true clarity of these outstanding optics

The Helia S are well above the norm when you’re looking into the glare of a late-afternoon sun. That’s when the view through lesser optics will flare out completely. 

I can only suggest that the internal spec of the Helia S binos is high enough to kill internal reflections and so on, controlling difficult light.

That’s the kind of attention to detail that costs money in manufacturing and justifies the higher retail price.

The 8×42 binoculars have an exit pupil of 5.3mm, a significant advantage in low light compared with the 10×42 set with its 4.2mm pupil. On the other hand, the twilight factor is slightly in favour of the 10x, but I didn’t have the two of them to compare in those last few minutes of daylight when it can make the difference.

The optics are housed in a pair of magnesium-alloy barrels but if that material saves a few grams it doesn’t make the Helia S light, the 8x42s weighing in at 815g — about medium weight to match their size. 

The weight gives you faith in their solid construction, and it appears these can be expected to last a very long time. They have a 10-year warranty.

Of course, they’re nitrogen filled, waterproof, shock proof and so.

Kahles Helia S 8x42 binoculars review
Central focus knob also adjusts the dioptre focus

The rubberised outer coating is an attractive brown with two orange highlights curving along the barrels. The binoculars look striking and won’t be confused with the millions of black or green sets out there.

They sit well in your hands, with a nice swell and a couple of indents for your thumbs to sit in — standard stuff but it works well.

The focus wheel fits very closely between the barrels, maximising its diameter. It turns two full revolutions to wind from one end of the focal scale to the other, and with that large-ish knob it means you can very precisely set the focus, something that can make a real difference when you’re peering at an indistinct object and trying to find some detail.

The central knob also handles diopter adjustment, altering the right lens to match the left. You pull it out until it clicks, after which any adjustment you make affects the diopter and not the objective focus. Click it back in and you’re right to go.

The eye cups are tough and their multi-step adjustments are each on a very solid detent. You can use these binoculars with or without glasses on. The cups are designed to be unscrewed by simply turning them a bit harder anti-clockwise, allowing you to more easily clean the lenses and clear the mechanism of grit.

The Helia S binoculars come with a typical rubber cover for the eye pieces and a pair of rubber caps for the objective lens that are held on by rubber loops. It’s not my favourite way of attaching lens caps but they do the job.

The binos also come with a neck strap but no case to put them in. I guess Kahles expects that someone spending this much on binoculars will have their own bino harness, which is probably a fair call. Still, a case would be nice.

There’s no doubt a bit of a psychological barrier in paying more than $2000 for a set of binoculars, or for anything, for that matter. If it’s true that you should buy the best optics you can afford, and these are within reach of your budget, you won’t go wrong with them.

They might not be full of frills but they are very well made and the view is excellent. You know you’re putting your money into the things that really count.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Magnification: 8x (and 10x)
  • Objective lens: 42mm
  • Exit pupil: 5.3mm (4.2mm)
  • Twilight factor: 18.3 (20.5)
  • Field of view: 136m @ 1000m; 7.8° (110m; 6.3°)
  • Dimensions (L/W/H): 149 (144) x 120 x 63mm
  • Weight: 815g (785g)
  • RRP: $2090 ($2190)
  • More info: Kahles website

 

 

 


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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.

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