I recently had the opportunity to look though a set of IOR Valdada B/GA 7×40-R Range finding binoculars. At the time I did not have a chance to do more than a cursory mental evaluation. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the glass. The image quality was such that I knew instantly that I needed to review this product. I asked the importer to send a set and less than two weeks later they arrived. Some of my first impressions needed reevaluation while others were validated with a vengeance.
IOR has been making quality optics since the mid 1930s. This Romanian manufacturer, located in Bucharest, began production in 1936 and was drafted by German forces in WWII. During the war they produced a wide range of optics from reflector gun sights for aircraft, artillery ranging devices, telescopic sights and binoculars. When Romania was absorbed into the Warsaw Pact after the end of 1939 to 1945 pleasantries, IOR became a major supplier to the military forces of the East. Along with the Carl Zeiss firm, IOR supplied military grade optics throughout the cold war era. As you would expect from its East block origins, IOR’s products have a certain feel and look to them. In short, they appear to be over built and rock tough. This Old World, bank vault type construction has a price.
Weighing in at 34 ounces, I would not call the IOR B/GA 7×40-R binoculars lightweights. They are hefty. They are very solid and settle nicely in the hand. The weight is less than ideal when compared to some of the competition but they are certainly tough. The body is made of steel and has a heavy rubber armor covering. Interestingly, with some work, this covering could theoretically be removed from the body. I would not recommend doing so as reinstallation might prove problematic. I only bring it up because it is so different from what we westerners have become accustomed to in the modern Japanese optics that has flooded our markets. The IOR binoculars instantly gave me a feeling of holding a piece of history. They ooze a strong military bearing of days gone by. That is not to say they are not perfectly serviceable in our modern times. They just have a character reminiscent of a quality set of WWII era field glasses, combined with the soldier proof philosophy of the Soviet regime. In an era of streamlining and space age looks, these binoculars appear a throwback to simpler times.
As indicated above, the IOR 7×40-Rs are not light. To give you something to compare them to they are equal in weight to my pistol – a steel framed CZ-75 clone. You are going to have to decide whether you want a solid, “no-breakum” made of steel viewing device or a more modern and lightweight unit. I prefer my binoculars to be as light as possible for their size, but there is something equally enjoyable about the solid feel one gets with a heavier set. It all comes down to how much you have to carry in addition to your optics. If your load is bordering on painful, the IOR 7×40-Rs might not be for you. Look for something in a space age casing with quality clear glass. Expect to pay a premium. If on the other hand you are able to live with the weight, there are very good reasons to seriously consider these binoculars. What they give up to more modern construction methods in weight, they make up in optical quality and affordable price. The glass appears to be on par with other European offerings. This is not altogether surprising as it is made by the German firm, Schott Glasswerk, GmbH. The lenses have a T3 Magnesium Fluoride, anti-reflex multi-coat which IOR claims to provide 98% light transmission. The bright image appears to be slightly yellow-amber. This provides good contrast for normal lighting and cuts down on eyestrain when viewing in bright conditions. IOR provides a set of amber filters that Included with each set of IOR binoculars is an amber filter found in each lens cap. This filter is best used on extremely bright days and whiteout conditions.are stored in compartments built into the objective lens caps. When snapped into the ocular lens housing, the amber filters provide a very high level of contrast for hazy and harsh bright-light conditions. The lens caps are permanently attached to the objective body via a leather strap. The caps press firmly into the rubber armor surrounding the objective barrel, effectively sealing out moisture. No covers are currently provided for the ocular lenses. The handbook indicated one had been part of the kit at one time but it appears it is no longer standard equipment. This was made in the same fashion as the Steiner or Tasco one-piece ocular cover. The lack of this cover bothers me very little as I have managed to lose every cover of this nature ever known to man. When in place, these single covers always seem to migrate off of the ocular barrels so I guess I just do not miss them. Still, any cover would certainly be better than nothing.
IOR utilizes BaK4 Porro prisms. The binos are nitrogen filled and guaranteed not to fog internally. They are waterproof. The ocular lenses are a large 22mm. The eye relief is 20mm and can be considered to be a long eye relief design. When wearing glasses you will have little problem viewing a good portion of the field of view, which is 485 feet at 1000 yards. The individually adjusted oculars have contoured soft rubber eye cups that form fit to your face, sealing out external light right to the outer edge of your eye, where a small gap allows a small amount of side light to enter. In my opinion this is much better than the typical round eyecups found on other sets. The cups effectively eliminate external and distracting light from impacting the ocular lenses.
Once focused to the individual, the IOR will need little tweaking. Images from approximately 100 feet to infinity seem to stay in focus. You can fine-tune the image as needed, but for general scanning this should prove unnecessary. Jot down the diopter reading and record it in your data book for future reference. The diopters may be adjusted from -3 to +5. The exit pupil tested out right under a quarter of an inch, or 6mm’s. IOR claims it is precisely 5.71mm but my eye can not break it down that much! What this means to the operator is that there is plenty of exit pupil for low light viewing. A 50mm objective might gather more light but transmission is dependent on the exit pupil of the binoculars in question. At 6mm, there should be plenty of light coming though. IOR claims a twilight capacity of 16.3 and a geometrical luminosity of 32.5. You’ll have to compare that to the competition and make up your own mind. I would rate this set as comparable to other optics of this quality level and price range. On a night of about moderate luminosity, I could make out objects not visible to the naked eye out to about 200 yards, the limit of the particular range on which I ran the test.
An interesting feature of the IOR 7×40-R is its seemingly three dimensional view. It was interesting to note that when I viewed an object midway between other objects, I had a definite feeling of three dimensionality. You could literally “see” the depth of the viewing area. When scanning a wood line I found this very useful for “entering” the woods with my gaze by simply shifting my area of observation deeper into the tree line. I did not need to refocus. I simply looked at an object further into the field of view and those in front of it remained clear and took on a 3D effect. Individual objects stood out clearly and were quite detailed. This should prove quite useful in picking out semi-hidden objects in the terrain as you get a definite “feel” of the surroundings. I can not exactly put this in words. You have to see it to understand. I can maybe compare it to the way you view things through a pair of Blue Blocker type sunglasses. You get a definite sense of increased depth perception as though you are seeing farther into a tree line than you could with out them.
The Range finding reticle
The IOR 7×40-R is equipped with a mil scale range finding reticle. It consists of nine hash marks spanning the width of the right field of view. This is loosely similar in use to the mil scale found in the Mk19 binoculars used in the US. The gap between two ticks is 10 mils. The ticks are staggered in height and these heights can also be used for ranging. The tall central tick is 5 mils high (18” @ 100 yards). The medium ticks are 2.5 mils and the short ticks are 1.25 mils in height. There is no horizontal base line. I found this a little disconcerting but this is more a matter of what you are used to. I prefer a base line to help me mentally level the reticle. Having never used one, you’d not miss it. Having used one, you can do without it once you realize it makes no real difference. The mil scale only runs horizontally. There is no vertical scale in the traditional sense. Instead, IOR employs a subtension scale along the bottom of the image area. This consists of four individual ranging brackets for targets from 200 to 800 yards. These use the normal bracketing method and consist of two horizontal lines stacked vertically. The distance between the lines equals 24” at the indicated range. In use, you would bracket the target by lining up the bottom line with the target’s waist and the top line under his chin, then read off the indicated range. You can estimate intermediate ranges by how the target relates to the scale, example: not quite 600, but larger than 400 thus equals approximately 500 yards. As in all mil scales, you will have to play with this one to find what works for you and what methods will net the most accurate ranging. You will have to measure out objects and log their heights. The bracket scale is relatively versatile in that you can halve the increments when looking at 12” high objects. Example: if you know an object is 12” and it fits into the 400-yard bracket, you know it is 200 yards away. Bracketing can be used in a variety of ways and it is up to the operator to find the best method for himself.
If you focus these binoculars with glasses and then try to view without them, the ranging reticle will appear out of focus. The images will remain surprisingly crisp, but your eye will not be able to focus the reticle onto the same apparent plane as the image. My vision is not what it used to be. While I can dial in these binos for my corrected vision and then use them without my glasses or contacts, I can not effectively use the reticle in this condition. Is this relevant? Maybe not, but it is something you need to be aware of if you wear eye glasses.
As noted above, the IOR is quite solid. Tank-like in fact. In keeping with this hard core construction, IOR has done one thing I truly commend. On some of the less expensive binoculars I have owned, the tension of the bolt between the two barrels was found to be anywhere from slightly loose to ludicrously floppy. I prefer to set the distance between the barrels for my eyes, and have it STAY there. Sure, you are supposed to record the distance as read on the provided scale, but it is nice to have a set of glasses that actually stay in that position during hard use. Short of sitting on these binoculars, that relationship will not change. The movement is very stiff. Just as it should be. You can reposition this interpupilary distance for a total of about 20 degrees. More than sufficient for the widest eye spacing possible. Even Jacky O’Nassis would not have had a problem. At their closest setting, you can not even fit your nose between the oculars! The 7×40-R is truly one size fits all.
The Optics was tested against a Zeiss Test Pattern set at 30 feet in good lighting. The ZTP consists of 13 progressively smaller blocks. Each block is numbered and can be used for optical comparisons. I could resolve down to 10 on the ZTP, which is 5 blocks from the smallest square. Surprisingly this reading was not as good as the Tasco Offshore’s I reviewed in my last article, which went down to 12.5 on the ZTP. At the same time, I must say that I have been having a little problem with my contacts, so this could have been part of the problem! With the IOR B/GA 7×40-R I could make out some of the lines on the number 12.5 block but not clearly enough to rate it this number. The no. 10 block measures slightly over a 1/4″ and I could resolve most of the individual lines (there are approximately 22!) I have to question my own results here. When I was outside I was most impressed with the image and apparent resolution of these binoculars. The 3D affect and crisp image would indicate that the set would do much better than 10 on the scale. For instance, when observing a circling Buzzard I was able to resolve its small feathers quite nicely. I could easily see individual “pins” on the feathers and make out all of the missing segments in the wing structure.
When moving the ZTP to the edge of the field of view there is some indication of spherical aberration. In other words the image loses focus. The image is in perfect focus to about 1/4 of the distance from the edge. This is good but not perfect. I had higher hopes but I will say that Bargain optics fall apart much sooner, usually around one third of the distance from the edge. Generally speaking high quality glass will allow you to observe much longer with less eye strain. Having more of the image area in crisp focus is always desirable, even in areas you are not directly looking at like the outer portion of the field of view. This aberration is minor and will have little effect on the utility of the binoculars, but you should be aware of its presence. Every optical instrument will exhibit some level of aberration near the edges but the better offerings limit this fault. The IOR 7×40-R ranks up there with some very popular and expensive optics but it is not perfect. Like rifle accuracy, you have to pay a high premium to totally eliminate this small error. Even glasses twice as expensive can exhibit a similar loss of focus at the edge. Collimation between the barrels appears to be good to go. There was zero error present in the test pair. This is a must for long-term viewing. Having your eyes each looking in a slightly different direction will cause strain in short order.
In summation, if you want a good pair of binoculars and do not mind the weight, the IOR Valdada B/GA 7×40-R is a very good option. If weight is an issue you had best look elsewhere. The optical quality of the glass is excellent for the money. You can do better – but often at twice the price. The IOR 7x40R is compact and handy. They will not take up much space in your kit, but they will certainly add additional weight. I am uncertain as to how to rate them. I like them quite a bit, but at the same time there are more modern designs that weigh less but cost more. The glass is very good and when I consider other companies have gone to 50mm lenses to make up for poorer quality glass, I have to give these binoculars the nod. For their price you can not go wrong. But before purchasing a set, try to find comparisons for the more expensive European glass. It would be nice to say these were the equal of a $600 pair of binos, but until I can test them side by side, all I can offer you is my opinion. I will say that viewing with the IOR 7×40 is a pleasure and for the price, I have few complaints. My wife was most impressed, which is saying something. She wants me to keep them, which is REALLY saying something considering I blow money on items she often thinks frivolous.
All current versions of IOR brand binoculars now come with an ocular cover. Products constantly undergo improvement and at the time of a Sniper Country review, we report on them as they are. However, when we are informed up a product improvement or update, we will try to incorporate it into the old articles.