Chris Parkin tests a pair of binoculars from a brand better known for its ammo than its optics, but is pleasantly impressed with the quality of the Geco Gold
GECO is a name we most usually encounter with ammunition, and it dates back in our industry to the late 19th century. Roof prism binoculars in an 8×42 format are almost the benchmark when it comes to brand-versus-brand comparisons for the shooting and stalking world’s usage, so getting the standard and Gold specification from GECO allowed me to see what they could offer as good starting value compared to the company’s own premium specification. Hundreds of pounds are effectively buying extra minutes of visual capability at the start and end of the day.
The Gold binoculars have a full magnesium body to save weight over aluminium, and are completely shrouded in a firm rubberised armour coating. It feels less tactile and grippy than others, but the twin tubes are joined by a single-hinged bridge to accommodate interpapillary variation between users, leaving plenty of space for your remaining fingers to wrap over and between for grip. Focus is controlled through 1¾ revolutions from two metres to infinity via a large, rubberised, very grippy dial that is light to control and easily spun with index fingertip pressure alone, with or without gloves on. Clicking this control knob outwards disengages focus from both eyes and corrects dioptre imbalance between your own eyes in the same way you normally have to do with a separate ring around the body under the eyepiece. Here, do it once and click the knob back into place, and it can never get knocked or adjusted by someone borrowing your binos for a quick look!
Each aluminium eyecup has three twist-up positions adjusting eye relief, and I was especially pleased to feel strong spring detents between each stage to avoid the annoyance of them ‘collapsing’ every time you mount them towards your orbital sockets – well done GECO. The underside of each tube shows discreet indentations for thumbs. It’s a shame there isn’t a softer texture to the armour coating, but I suspect this will trade off in the long-term as the very grippy ones can get quite worn-looking, where the softer material wears more easily. The loops for the included neck strap have been kept minimal in size, so much so that I had to partially melt and flatten the nylon tips of the straps to thread them through, but this is only ever getting done once, and because they are very slim, and they don’t bind against your index finger knuckle when scanning for extended periods. There is a flexible rubber eyecup/lens protector threaded onto the neoprene strap that shows rubbersied lining to stop it slipping on your neck. The objective lenses have clip-in caps that will slot onto the strap as well, but designs like this always get in the way and I have to confess I lost them anyway. The lenses themselves are set 10mm into the armoured l tube wall, so they’re not too badly protected by that at it is.
Minute details of mechanics and ergonomics are striking in the way they can separate good binoculars from bad ones, and although few bad ones are out there, getting these tiny factors right can immediately lift a product higher among its peers in my mind. Although compact in size at 156mm long, there is a seemingly hefty, reassuring feel to the binoculars that leads to a feeling of stability when rested into your eye sockets with a central balance that points intuitively when raised. Mass equates to matter which in optical terms is glassware, be it lenses or prisms along with metal mechanics, so if lightweight magnesium is used for the gross part of the body, that seeming heft gives me confidence that plenty of glass, aluminium and steel lies within.
In daylight use I was greeted with a sharp image with pleasant colour rendition across the flat field of view with no vignetting toward outer areas. As the light diminished, I was pleased with how the Golds held their own against other, better-known brands. You know your optics are starting to struggle when you subconsciously spend more time ‘reaching out’ for more precise focus before you realise and must accept it’s just getting too dark to see. The GECOs were especially good here as the fingertip precise control of focus was a delight. Similarly, overly stiff, somewhat stocky controls, especially in the individual dioptre of the eyepieces, can restrict you getting a proper balance for your eyes’ own differences, where here again, the GECOs were excellent with their centralised dioptre control. Although in full daylight I tended to prefer the standard non-Gold model because of its wider field of view, as light fell the optical capability and fine control of the GOLD model justified it’s more than doubled price, yet that is not to detract from the regular 8×42’s performance at less than half the price!
A clamshell case is supplied for secure storage and the product is backed up by a 10-year warranty. I was impressed by these binoculars, and my only real critique was that I wish the moulded polymer casing for the magnesium body had been given a softer touch in a more stippled finish; against other binos that showed such features, they felt less secure in the hands. The focal control was one of the best I have used for precision when searching for detail, especially in very mixed focal length cover foliage where a metre of back and forth can make all the difference in parting the tree from the woods. All multicoated HD glass is GECOdrop coated for dirt and water repellence, and certainly shed dirt and blood from the outer casing on one occasion, so perhaps I’m being too critical on the ‘touchy feely’ elements, quite literally, as these are a great pair of binoculars that I will happily rely on.