Viking Kestrel ED Compact Binoculars Review

Viking Kestrel ED Compact Binoculars Review

The Viking Kestrel ED Compact is a brand new set of compact binoculars from one of our favourite brands here at liGo. There are two different models: an 8x25 version, and a 10x25 one. Both come with ED glass, and they're both small enough to easily take out and about with you. But are they any good? And are they worth the price tag? Our experts put them to the test in another of our in-depth reviews. Read on to find out what we thought of them!

Related: Top 10 Best Compact Binoculars 2024

Design & build

While they bear the Kestrel name, these binoculars more closely resemble Viking's compact Badger binoculars. They're the same general size as those, however there are a few crucial differences to highlight.

The most notable of these is the dual hinge design. Some people prefer single hinge binoculars because they're a bit easier to adjust, and they tend to stay in place a bit more. However, this design lets them fold up smaller, so you could more easily fit them in your pocket. Quite a few dual-hinge binoculars we've tested in the past have been a little bit flimsy in terms of holding their position. With the Kestrels, though, that's not a problem- once you've adjusted them to the spacing of your eye, they stay in place nice and securely while you're using them.

The design also means that the focus wheel can be located slap bang in the middle, rather than in between the eyecups as you tend to get with single hinge binoculars. This is perhaps a little more convenient with compacts because of where your hands naturally sit. The focus wheel is also metal and textured, unlike cheaper binoculars which tend to have a plastic focus wheel. The 8x25 model can be focused down to around 2m, so it can also be used for looking at things close up.

Both the Kestrel 8x25 and 10x25 weigh in at 312g. That's fairly standard for compact binoculars. Naturally, you'll want them to be lightweight since they're meant to be easier to carry about with you than full-size models. As with the larger Kestrels, though, these compact models feel extremely robust despite their low weight.

This is also the place to mention the padded strap which you also get with the Kestrel compacts. For something that you get free, it's very nice indeed, and a bit more comfortable than some of the other free straps that you get with binoculars. There's also a padded nylon case as well, with a belt loop. This is again good quality.

Quality of optics

Despite not looking all that much like the other Kestrels with their design, they share what really counts: the superb quality optics. While compact binoculars are naturally going to be smaller than full-size models, you'll still want them to offer the same kind of image quality- and the Kestrels don't disappoint here.

The thing to mention here is that the Kestrel compacts come with ED glass. This stands for "Extra-low Dispersion", and as the name suggests, it aims to keep light dispersion to an absolute minimum. In practise, that means the image that hits your eye is more true to life, with brighter colours and less chromatic aberration. Those lenses are dielectric coated, and fully multicoated too.

The field-of-view on the 8x25 model is 6.8°, so nice and wide, while it's naturally a bit smaller on the 10x25s, at 5.5°. Both those figures are about standard for binoculars of this sort of specification.


So that's all the technical stuff out of the way. But how to these binoculars perform in practise? Well, our experts weren't disappointed!

We found these really comfortable to use one-handed- so much so that we'd probably recommend that's how you use them all the time. As we mentioned earlier, the focus wheel is in a very handy position, and if you're using the Kestrel compacts one-handed, then your middle finger will sit right on top of it. So, if you're using the binoculars to track moving objects, it's really easy to adjust that focus quickly to keep your subject clear.

The smaller lens diameter compared to the full-size Kestrel obviously means that it lets in less light. For that reason, it's not so effective in low-light conditions such as dawn or dusk. Even so, the ED glass goes a long way to offsetting that, so while it's not as bright as the larger version, it's a cut above other compact binoculars. If you're using them in the daytime, then even if it's a bit overcast, there's really hardly any drop in brightness from a larger set to these.

Those lens coatings also do an excellent job of keeping chromatic aberration to a minimum. We only noticed a very slight amount with backlit subjects, but when you're looking away from light sources, there's none.

This is also the place to mention the eyecups. Like all Viking binoculars, the Kestrel compacts have twist-down eyecups. We mentioned in our review of the Badger 8x25s that the eyecups on that model can sometimes press back down if you apply too much pressure to them. That's not the case here, though; with the Kestrels, they stay in place very securely. If you twist them down to use while wearing glasses, you'll get pretty much all of the field of view- maybe a bit cut off depending on your glasses, but still, really good for compacts.

Viking Kestrel ED Compact Binoculars: The Verdict

The Kestrel compacts are a fantastic pair of binoculars, that manage to shrink down the size without compromising on quality. While it's not quite as good value for money as our best buy compact binoculars, it's a very close second to the Badger compacts.