Atlas Strike Eagle
peatmoss from New England
I'm a big fan of low power bins for casual nature walks. What caught my eye about this model was the 10 degree actual FOV listed in the spec sheet and also the low price. While the actual specs may be slightly different from the official spec sheet, I was nevertheless very impressed with this model.
First impressions: This is actually a very nice body. It seems solidly made and quite sturdy. I was half expecting them to feel small in my hands similar to the Yosemite or the Vortex Raptor, whose small prism housings make them well suited to children's hands. By contrast, the Strike Eagle's prism housings are rather bulky, and closer in size to the prism housings of my 8x32 Foresta porros. There's plenty of real estate to get a nice grip here, and the rubber armor's coarse texture provides a good tactile feel. There is a gentle curve to the outer surface of the prism housings that fall nicely into the palms of my hands, and, overall I found the ergonomics to be pretty comfortable. The all-metal prism bridge and focuser are dead ringers for the components used in my Foresta, except that they reversed the direction of the focuser, which is now counter-clockwise to infinity. Full travel on the focuser is about 1 2/3 revolutions. There is more play in the focuser than I would like, but, having used this focuser in the Foresta, I'm confident that this excessive play is probably only an issue with my particular sample. One difference between the Strike Eagle and the Foresta: the ocular bridge on the Strike Eagle is metal, unlike the plastic ocular bridge of the Foresta. The diopter adjustment is located on the right ocular and is non-locking; however, it is relatively stiff and I have not had any problems with the diopter drifting.
The only component of the body that betrays the bin's low price is the eyecups. There's nothing wrong with the eyecups, it's just that the fit and finish will remind you that this is a $115 bin. That is to say, one cup is a bit tighter than the other, and the intermediate detents are not too distinct. Again, something like this can be chalked up to sample variation. Another issue with the eyecups is that the eye lenses are recessed quite a bit relative to the eyecups' outer surface. I would estimate that at least 5mm is lost off of the eye relief because of this issue. A lower profile eyecup might have been better.
Optics: The multicoatings on the objectives are greenish, and of medium intensity. Looking past the objectives, I can see similar greenish coatings on the prisms too. There are no baffles between the objectives and the prisms, but the interiors seem clean and painted dark, except for a spot of light colored epoxy. The coatings on the eyepieces are yellowish-green and also of medium intensity. I can also spot some magenta, probably from an internal element. Looking at the exit pupils, they seem relatively round, maybe not perfect, but with no obvious obstructions or lack of illumination.
I am an eyeglass wearer, and, lifting the Strike Eagle to my eyes, the first thing I notice is that the eye relief seems a bit tight. I can still see the whole field, but the edges are a bit dark. Part of this is probably caused by the design of the eyecups, which I mention above. However, the spec sheet says that the eye relief is 21mm, and in my experience I've found that if this figure is accurate, then I ought to have enough eye relief even if I lost 5mm because of the eyecups. My guess is that the actual eye relief is actually a few mm shorter than the 21mm stated in the specs. That, plus the 5mm lost to the eyecups, is enough to cause the edges to darken for my eyes.
The second thing I notice with the Strike Eagle's view is the so-called "ring of fire" around the field. This sort of thing doesn't bother me, and actually, since the eye relief is a bit tight for me, a lot of times I don't even notice the "ring". But for what it's worth, the ring of fire is there; so if it bothers you, well now you know…
And now for the good news: I find the optics to be pretty impressive for the price. Decent brightness and good contrast. Very good resolution on-axis. Sweet spot maybe around 50% (not bad for a wide angle eyepiece). Gentle softening towards the edge of the field. CA is hardly noticeable within the sweet spot, and light as you approach the edge of the field. There is some pincushioning, but I don't find it bothersome in use. Flare control is decent, although it probably would have been better if they had put in baffles. There is a slight warm color caste, more red than yellow, but it is not overpowering, and the overall impression to me is that it is just a nice vibrant image.
One thing I noticed while comparing the Strike Eagle to another 6.5x bin was that the Strike Eagle's magnification seemed a bit higher. This led me to pull out a pair of Nikon 7x35 AE bins for comparison. In fact, in comparing the Strike Eagle and the AE's, I discovered that the Strike Eagle's magnification is almost the same as the AE's. Moreover, the size of the actual FOV's are also nearly identical. My conclusion has been that the Strike Eagle is more accurately described as being 7x32, rather than 6.5x32. And furthermore, I believe that the actual FOV is actually 9+ degrees rather than 10 degrees.
Further comparison between the Strike Eagle and the AE's shows many differences, but overall they seem well matched against each other. The AE's prism housings seem more streamline than the Strike Eagle, but the Strike Eagle's armor provides better grip than the AE's relatively slippery rubber. The Strike Eagle has more pincushioning, but the AE has more field curvature. The AE yellowish caste image seems a bit brighter, but the Strike Eagle's reddish caste seems to have more "snap". On-axis resolution is similar. Edge softness is also similar. The only area where I feel that the AE distinguishes itself from the Strike Eagle is in the QC issues I mentioned above: the AE's focuser has a lot less play in it (and it focuses clockwise to infinity, too!); and the AE's eyecups beat the Strike Eagle's eyecups in terms of even tightness, precise detents, and preserving eye relief (the AE's eye relief spec says 17mm, and I can see the entire field just fine without any edge darkening).
Personally, I prefer the Strike Eagle's view over the AE's by a very, very slim margin. I just wish the Strike Eagle had another millimeter or two of eye relief.
Accessories: The rubber rainguard and objective caps are all tethered. The rainguard is a tad tight, but overall, I have no issues with any of these. They work as they should. The binocular strap is very basic: nylon, about 1" thick, no padding. Again, it works as it should. The case is actually rather nice. It is good quality cordura with inserts in the front and back that give it a bit of rigidity. The flap closure is Velcro, which, while not as nice as a zipper or clasp, is still functional. The case also has an adjustable nylon shoulder strap; no padding, but it gets the job done.
Bottom Line: I like these bins a lot. After a bit of research, I've concluded that these bins come from the Kunming United Optics BW-13 series of porros. Moreover it appears that Eagle Optics is also importing the 8x42 and 10x50 versions under to Atlas label too. I find it heartening that someone is expanding the choices of porros available in the marketplace. While I am disappointed that the Strike Eagle didn't turn out to be a 10 degree pair of wide angle bins, I believe that they deserve consideration from anybody who is looking for a low power wide field pair of binoculars.