FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Friday's are a fun day in the Madero household, as new products tend to arrive pre weekend, and this past Friday did not disappoint. The Cronus arrived packaged stoutly from Athlon as expected, after a long wait and much anticipation. The Cronus come standard in a nice, but bulky, black hard case, along with a neck strap attachments, soft carrying case, and expected eye cups. Upon unboxing and first glance, these bino's feel a little heavy in hand and fractionally longer compared to my Meopta 15x56 (more on those later), but the body of the device is well built. As a long time user of Athlon, I have had a minor gripe with the stoutness of the eyecups in the Midas and Cronus lines, and these pair are no different. They function fine, but the eyecups feel a tad cheaper material wise when compared to others I have seem in similar competitive offerings. The focus rings function well, are tactile, and seem to be well built and handy.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS RATING: 8.0
The Athlon Cronus is the companies flagship bino line, and as such it is comes standard with their E2ES edge to edge sharpness system, ED high def glass, and ABBE prisms. I wanted to give these a fair shake with my Meopta Meostar 15x56 binos. I have used the Meopta's for about a year and regularly can glass up Coues deer in the most difficult terrain with relative ease. The Meopta's are regarded by many as the "sleeper" European optic in the 15x56 game, at a much more affordable price ($1400 retail) compared to the industry leading Swarovski 15x56 binos. So how did the Athlon's compare? First I took both out and set them up side by side in my home stomping grounds in unit 21 north of Phoenix. In bright daylight, the Cronus held their own from a clarity and brightness perspective. When comparing, which is crucial in finding movement while hunting Coues deer the edge to edge clarity is better on the Meopta, but the Cronus held its own for such an inexpensive optic. Overall there was some minor distortion around the edge of the picture frame, but all and all I was pleased with what I saw out of the Cronus. Depth of field was also very similar, and this nice to see as I value the Meopta's ability to help me navigate different types of terrain over varying distances. What I also noticed was the Cronus had a ever so slight darker color palette than the Meopta's. So this begged the question, would this affect low light performance?
Well, on to the following night, from my back porch, overlooking the McDowell Mountain Regional Park preserve, I set these two binos side by side on seperate tripod's and spot checked for clarity, crispness, and loss of glassing time as day turned to dusk. Here is what I saw:
15 minutes prior to sundown = No difference, both bright and crisp and indistinguishable on targets ranging from 600 yards out to 2 miles.
Sundown = See above, no change.
15 minutes after sundown = To my shock, no noticeable difference. At all.
To say I was surprised by how closely these two performed would be an understatement. I fully expected the ever so slight darker palette of the Cronus to have an affect on low light performance, but it just didn't happen. They held their own with the much more expensive Meopta's just fine.
GLASS QUALITY RATING: 9.0 (They aren't Swaro, but they get the job done just fine)
The Athlon's come in at a retail price point of $699. This is in the lower third of all passable 15x56 setups like the Vortex Vulture, Viper, and the Nikon 16x56. I think this is a tremendous optic for the price point given what else is out there. My only knock is that they do not come with a tripod adapter, and the the one that does work on this model is a little cumbersome to attach. (update, Athlon Optics may be changing this down the road to include the tripod adapter with the 15x56 Cronus) Compared to other optics in the price range, the Cronus are a fantastic value. As a frequent user of the Vortex Kaibabs, I would stand firm in saying these provide BETTER clarity, and MORE glassing time, for about HALF the price of the Kaibab's.
PRICE RATING: 10
In my opinion, these are the perfect Coues hunting companion for those folks not wanting to break the bank, but also have quality glass up to the challenge of finding these little bastard deer. These aren't Swarovski caliber, but for $699 retail, These blow away anything that I have seen under $1000, and you could include the Vortex Kaibabs ($1200 street price) on that list as well.
OVERALL VALUE RATING: 9.5
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