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Reviews of the Best Binoculars for Hunting in 2017

  • October 1, 2016 /

It’s no secret that if you want to be successful as a hunter, you need to find animals. Spotting deer, elk, or any other animals across long distances can be nearly impossible with the naked eye, which is why most hunters rely heavily on binoculars.

The right pair of binoculars has an enormous impact on your chances of a kill this season. Our guide will detail the many things you should consider when making an investment in optics, and will give you some recommendations on the best binoculars for you to buy. Use the table of contents to jump around, this article is long!

Key Factors to Consider When Shopping For Hunting Binoculars

A binocular basically comprises of two telescopes. Each of the two telescopes features a prime focal length, an eyepiece, exterior front objective lens, focusing unit and an exit pupil. In their working, binoculars refract light through prisms, which magnifies the image of the object being viewed. A pair of binoculars that has a larger objective lens allows more light into the binocular. To buy the right binocular, based on your hunting needs, you should consider the following aspects:

Magnification

Many people are for the opinion that the bigger the magnifying power of a binocular, the better it is. This is not always true when working with binoculars. An increase in the magnifying power of a binocular will affect the size and steadiness of its images. The higher the magnifying power of a binocular, the less steady and smaller its images are. If you are buying the larger observation binoculars, you may also need to invest in a tripod stand for them. This use of tripods may prove to be a tedious task for some hunters.

If you are looking forward to investing in zoom binoculars, there are a few things that you need to bear in mind. The vast majority of zoom-binocular manufacturers do not make durable units. As such, most of the zoom binoculars in the market today are not waterproof and are not suitable for hard use. To increase the magnification you get while using hunting binoculars, you do not have to invest in binoculars with more magnifying power. Instead of investing in 10x magnification binoculars, you should consider buying a spotting scope. To make an informed decision, with regards to the magnifying power of these units, you should weigh the magnification against the objective lens diameter of the binoculars.

Hunting Binoculars Prisms

Hunting binoculars apply two main types of prisms; the roof prisms and porro prisms. Which of the two is the best? Well, this will also depend on a few things. Here is an overview of the two main binoculars prism types.

  • Roof Prisms – This type of arrangement requires the use of straight pipes on the binoculars. In this case, the objective lens must be in line with the ocular lenses (the objective lens is the front outer one while the ocular lens is the lens at the back of a binocular). This type of prism arrangement is commonly used in compound binoculars and often features two focal points for the straight pipe. The binoculars with roof prisms are comparatively hard to adjust to the right eye spacing. Additionally, the images delivered by such units are of low clarity.
  • Porro Prisms – Contrary to the roof prism arrangement, the promo arrangement uses offset tubes. As such the objective and the ocular lenses of the binoculars are not in line. Hunting binoculars with this prism arrangement are easier to adjust because they have one pivot point—the one that joins the offset pipes.

The Field of View

In most cases, the binocular field of view is expressed in FOV at 1000 yards. This ratio expresses the area of ground (in feet) the viewer will be able to see through the binoculars while at distance of 1000 yards. Purchasing a unit that offers a larger field of view will allow you to view a wider area. However, if you apply magnification, the area you are viewing will definitely appear smaller. This implies that the magnification of a binocular affects the field of view of the unit. If you will be using the binoculars in wide and open environments, you may need to buy a unit that has a higher field of view. However, many hunters prioritize binocular image quality over the field of view. This makes the standard FOV hunting binoculars a perfect choice by such hunters.

Binoculars Exit Pupil

The size of exit pupil used in any pair of hunting binoculars is primarily determined by the magnifying power of the binocular, coupled with the diameter of its objective lens. Situated next to the eyepieces, the exit pupil allows light through the viewer’s eyes. To see the exit pupil used in your binocular, you may hold it at arm’s length and observe it through the eyepieces. In such a case, the exit pupils will appear as shafts of light. It is possible to calculate the size of exit pupil used in any binocular. This is done by dividing the diameter of the objective lens used in the binocular by its magnifying power. This being the case, a 7×50 pair of binoculars will have exit pupils measuring about 7.1 mm.

The size of exit pupils used in any pair of binoculars will affect the amount of light reaching the viewer’s eyes; larger exit pupils allow more light to reach the eyes of the viewer. As such, hunting binoculars that have smaller exit pupils are not ideal for use in dim light conditions. Your choice of the right exit pupil size should be influenced by the amount of light in the environment you will be using the binocular. As a tip, you should compare the exit pupil in your preferred binoculars with the human eye. In this regard, the best choice is an exit pupil size that is more or less the size of your eye pupil. In young people, the pupils may dilate up to 7mm and to about 4 mm in the elderly.

Relative Brightness Index

Commonly abbreviated as RBI, the relative brightness index is an expression of how a pair of binoculars is bright—in relation to its objective lens size and power. This value is calculated by squaring the size of the exit pupils used in the microscope, for instance, the size of the exit pupil in a 7×35 binoculars is about 5 mm. The RBI, in such a case, will be 25. A relative brightness index of 25 or more is considered to be ideal for use in dim light conditions.

Anti-reflective/Optical Coatings

In order to enhance light transmission through binoculars, most of the binoculars manufacturers use anti-refractive coatings in their units. If you look into a coated binocular through the front objective lens, you will see green, blue and red reflections. These multi-colored reflections are as a result of the anti-reflective coatings used in that pair of binoculars. Binoculars optical coatings may be classified into five broad anti-reflective coating levels, including:

  • Fully Coated – in this case, all the glass surfaces in contact with air within the binoculars are covered in a single anti-reflective layer.
  • Coated – binoculars in this category have only one anti-refractive coating. This coating is normally applied on the last and the first lenses in the unit.
  • Fully Multi – Coated – in this case, all the lens surfaces—inside the microscope—that are in contact with the air are covered in several anti-reflective coating.
  • Ruby /Red – Coated – the binoculars under this category use a red anti-reflective coating. This type of coating is used to minimize glare when the microscope is used in bright light.
  • Multi – Coated – in such microscopes, only some of the lens surfaces inside the equipment will have multiple anti-reflective coatings.

Buying a binocular that has a good optical coating will eliminate glare and light loss. In this regard, binoculars with good optical coating are known to deliver brighter and clearer images. If your preferred binocular model is available in two models, a coated model and another model that does not have anti-reflective coating, it is highly advisable to opt for the model that has the coating.

img_0974Hunting Binoculars Objective Size

The size of the objective lens used in a binocular affects its image detail. Objective lenses of between 40 and 42 mm are considered to be ideal for any type of hunting today. While increasing the size of objective lens in a binocular will improve its image detail, units with larger objective lenses are more expensive and heavier. If you are looking for binoculars to use for hunting at night, you may need to get one with a large objective lens, preferably a 40mm lens.

The size of the objective lens used in the equipment will also affect its weight; the larger the lens, the heavier the binocular will be. In this regard, you also need to weigh your preferences—do you prefer a heavier unit with high quality images or a lighter one with images of lower quality? If you prefer a portable unit, the 32mm objective lens size is recommended. Again, you also need to consider your hunting hours in this regard, objective sizes below 30mm may only be used during the day. While many manufacturers today are making a wide range of binoculars with larger objective lenses, these tend to be comparatively heavier. The ones with smaller objective lens are lighter, but will not be as precise as the heavier units.

Binoculars Focus Type

The types of focus used in hunting binoculars today may be grouped into two categories:

  • Center focus
  • Individual eyepiece focus

If you are looking for a pair of binoculars to use for medium to long distance observations, the centre focus type of binoculars is the best. Binoculars with an individual eyepiece focus have tubes focusing every eye. To view objects at different distances using this type of focus, you will need to adjust the eyepieces accordingly. This option may be time-consuming and awkward in some cases. Most of the hunting binocular models using individual eye focus do not require any form of focusing for them to deliver excellent results. This is one of the aspects that make such binoculars popular among hunters today. Additionally, some of the binocular brands using the center focus are known to be very durable and waterproof.

Image Quality

If your hunting expedition takes long and you need to have your binocular on your eyes most of the time, you need to get a model that will not strain your eyes. As such, you should opt for the models that deliver images of high quality. A pair of binoculars that offers a fair image quality may be used for occasional spotting while hunting, but not for prolonged viewing. Getting a pair of binoculars that delivers a good optical quality and is highly dependable is not easy today. This is particularly the case when shopping for a unit that is also waterproof and durable. If these are some of the qualities you are looking for in your hunting binocular, you should stop contemplating on units prized below $150.

Over the years, some binocular brands have established their place in the industry–with regards to producing units with high image quality. Such binoculars brands include Leica, Zeiss and Nikon. With hunting units produced by these manufacturers, you will not strain your eyes in the field. Such units will not strain your eyes or cause fatigue, regardless of the period you use them.

Eye Relief

This is one of the considerations that some hunters tend to overlook. The eye relief factor is particularly important for hunters who use sunglasses and eyeglasses. The eye relief is the distance that you can hold the binoculars from your eyes, when observing, and be able to see the entire image. If you use sunglasses or eyeglasses, you should consider purchasing a unit that has an eye relief of not less than 14mm. Binoculars that do not have the eye relief or have a poor eye relief tend to reduce your field of view.

Waterproof Binoculars

Most of the binocular manufacturers today use rubber coating in their units to make them waterproof and fog proof. Additionally, this rubber coating makes the units easier and more comfortable to hold. Waterproof hunting binoculars are also resistant to dust and grime, aspects that enhance their durability. You can use the waterproof hunting binoculars in foggy conditions for extended periods, without worrying about the moisture penetrating into the unit. If you are currently shopping for hunting binoculars, you should get one that is waterproof.

Binoculars Weight and Size

The larger, full-size hunting binoculars are known to be very capable and effective. However, such units are also heavy—with some weighing up to two pounds. With regards to the weight of hunting binoculars, the amount of glass and other materials used to build the unit will affect its overall weight. When shopping for hunting binoculars, you should consider their portability as well. If you want a model that is portable and light to carry around, you should avoid the larger hunting binocular models. In this case, you will also have to sacrifice the performance and image quality.

Binocular Accessories

In some cases, manufacturers include a limited number of accessories in their binocular packaging. Some of the accessories that are commonly included in hunting binoculars packaging include body harnesses, cases and straps. The strap is used to hang the binocular around the neck, making it easier to carry around. The casing is useful in protecting the unit from scratches and damage. As such, you may use the casing to store your binoculars when not using it. The harness will also help you ease the weight of the unit on your body. In this regard, the harness spreads the binocular weight across your shoulders and upper body—making it feel lighter and easier to carry around. If you would like to buy a larger binocular model, you may need to buy from the provider offering such accessories for free with each purchase.

Design and Usability of the Binoculars

Different binocular models today are designed to be used in a myriad of conditions and for different purposes. As such, the different binocular makes and models have varying designs and features. For instance, the larger and heavier binocular types are too heavy to carry around. The design of such binoculars is specifically meant for use on tripod stands. If this is your preferred hunting binocular type, you should ensure that its design allows for easy use on a tripod stand.

Again, you need to select a binocular design that is suitable for the environment you will be using it in. As such, it is advisable to buy a unit with features that can protect it and allow for easy use within that environment and condition. If you want a binocular with variable eye relief, you should buy one with twist-up eyecups. By twisting these cups, you can alter the eye relief required. This feature is beneficial if you will be using sunglasses while hunting. In such a case, you will require different eye relief distances when wearing and when not wearing the eyeglasses.

Binoculars Brand

While this is not very important, it is advisable to review the various brands in the market and their countries of origin. When it comes to the quality of the binocular you are buying, there is no good or bad brand. However, some brands are known for their consistency in manufacturing reliable and highly efficient units. Other brands are new to the market, hence the reliability and durability of their binoculars is not yet established. Just as it is the case with other products and services in the market, it is safer to buy from the renown manufacturers with a proven track record—with regards to producing high quality products.

Customer Help and Support

In addition to warranties on the product you are buying, you may also need to look into the support system offered by the company you are buying from. Some manufacturers will offer you a lifetime warranty on damages–other than the ones caused by wear and tear—but are hard to reach when you need to file a complain. This being the case, it is advisable to buy from the suppliers with numerous contact methods. This way, it will be easier for you to contact their support team, if anything happens to the equipment.

Understanding the Numbers Used On Hunting Binoculars

There are various numbers that may be used to illustrate binocular features and capabilities. As a beginner, you can have a hard time shopping for hunting binoculars—if you do not know what the numbers mean. Some of the numbers used on binoculars depict the diameter of the objective lenses used in the units and their magnification. In most cases, these two aspects are expressed as one unit, in the order of magnification and then diameter of the objective lens. For instance, you may come across a unit labeled 7×50. For this pair of binoculars, the 7x indicates its magnifying power and 50 is the diameter of the objective lens in mm.

Another issue that can arise with the numbering is the fact that zoom binoculars and variable power binoculars have a magnification degree that varies. For instance, you may find a pair of zoom hunting binoculars labeled 7-21×50. In this case, the magnification is given as a range. It means that the magnifying power of the binoculars is between 7 and 21 times closer. The last figure, in this case, is still the diameter of the objective lens.

Some of the Best Hunting Binocular Models

Mentioned above are some of the aspects you should consider when shopping for the perfect hunting pair of binoculars. This being the case, the ‘best binoculars’ is a relative term. This is because different users will have different binocular needs and preferences. For instance one hunter may prefer a lighter and smaller binocular while another one may be in need of the heavier, high-performance binoculars. Regardless of your preferences and hunting needs, it is always advisable to purchase a pair of binoculars that has high quality optical features and capabilities. Currently, there are some manufacturers and binocular models that are more popular than others, in the hunting binoculars industry. Mentioned below are some of the recommended binocular models, based on various attributes:

_dsc3571Upland Optics Perception HD 10x42mm Hunting Binoculars

As far as great binoculars for a middle range price go, you’ll have a hard time beating Upland Optics. Their binoculars are very high quality, and are perfectly suited for hunting. The company focuses exclusively on hunters, a rarity in the optics world. Like many high end binoculars, the Perception HD offers ED glass, which has exceptional clarity and light transmission. They also have a carry case, neck strap, lens cloth, and flip up covers included. They’re built from incredibly durable materials that will withstand the stresses of a hunting trip, and have a lifetime warranty in case something goes wrong. I personally carry these binoculars in the field, and highly recommend them to others.

Leica 10×42 Geovid HD-B Hunting Binoculars

Leica BinocularsThe popularity of the Leica 10×42 Geovid HD-B binoculars may be attributed to the fact that the manufacturer produces some of the best and high quality lenses across the globe. Leica is also renowned for producing some of the best microscopes and cameras across the world. In addition to the high quality build of the Geovid HD-B, the unit also features most of the features and qualities needed by hunters today. Some of the features found in these hunting binoculars include a barometer, an inclinometer, a thermometer and an advanced ballistic compensation. In addition to these extra features, the unit is also fog and waterproof—attributes that make it more durable in such harsh conditions. And of course the headline feature of these binoculars is their rangefinder capabilities, eliminating the need to carry multiple devices in the field.

Eagle Optics Shrike 8×42 Shk-4208 Binoculars

If you are looking for a pair of binoculars that is reliable, efficient and relatively affordable, you should consider buying the Eagle Optics Shrike 8×42 Shk-4208 pair of binoculars. Priced below $200, these binocular is precise and durable. The Eagle optics shrike also features a rubber band, which makes the binocular waterproof and comfortable to handle. These binoculars are some of the affordable units with optical coating on their lenses. In this regard, the Eagle optics shrike Shk-4208 has fully multi-coated lens, which is one of the reasons why it delivers high quality images. Additionally, the binoculars have adjustable eyecups and can withstand harsh weather conditions. The availability of eye cups on the binoculars means that you can adjust the eye relief.

Such features suggest that these binoculars are specifically designed to offer comfortable vision and deliver high quality images. As a result, a considerable number of hunters are buying these units today. Another benefit associated with these binoculars is that they may be used with a tripod stand. In this case, you will be required to use an adapter. However, you will have to buy the tripod and the adapter separately. According to the users who have purchased these units, the binoculars offers a good value for price, has the right weight and size and delivers impressive image quality and clarity.

Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42

The Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 is one of the top rated units in its line. The popularity of the unit among hunters today may be attributed to the many features it has to offer. For instance, the binoculars are fitted with an O-ring, which helps prevent water and debris from penetrating the unit. This feature not only makes the unit water and fog proof, but also prevents it from damage caused by those elements. Another impressive feature offered by these binoculars is a rubberized body, which makes the units easy and comfortable to handle. With regards to image quality, the unit delivers high quality and clear images. This is partly because the binoculars are fully multi-coated and feature extra-low dispersion, high-density glass.

The unit has received numerous positive reviews from its users, most of which touch on its impressive grip. While some of its users claim that the unit is a bit heavier than other models within this category, the manufacturer includes a comfortable neck strap in its package. This helps with weight distribution, making the unit feel lighter than it actually is. Other extras included in the packaging of this unit include a rain guard and a carry case that is deluxe padded.

The Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 beats the game when it comes to customer reviews, as there are many buyers who claim that the rubberized body and comfortable grip of this alternative cannot be matched by any other one. Some individuals have mentioned that this model might be a little heavier than expected, and that it has a smaller field of view compared to others.

Vanguard Endeavor ED 8×42 Binoculars

The Vanguard Endeavor Ed is one of the best 8×42 binoculars today. Many buyers love these units because of the vast array of features they present. For one, the units are water and fog proof. Additionally, the units have 3-stage twist eyecups. This feature allows the units to offer one of the longest eye relief distances in the industry. It also features fully multi-coated lenses, which play a significant role towards delivering high quality images.

With a magnifying power of 8x and objective lens measuring 42mm in diameter, the model can deliver a field of view of 367 feet/1000 yards. The weight of the binoculars is about 25.8 ounces and can deliver a variable eye relief distance of up to 19 mm. with regards to the clarity and quality of images; this is one of the units that will offer you impressive results. As a matter of fact, most of the hunters who have used the system in the past praise its optical capabilities.

Vanguard Spirit XF 10×42

The Vanguard Spirit XF 10×42 binocular is perfect for nearly all forms of hunting, ranging from stalking white tails to duck hunting. The binoculars are fairly priced and can deliver impressive image quality and clarity in various hunting environments. The binocular features a body design that is appealing and is light enough to carry with one hand. Although this binocular is light weight—weighing about 23.5oz—it delivers outstanding performance. Some of the spectacular aspects of this unit include a wide field of view at 332 feet. When hunting for a deer, you should be able to scan a wider area because these animals can be elusive sometimes. In this regard, the Vanguard Spirit XF 10×42 binocular will come in handy. The binoculars are specifically made for the hunters who spend much of their time stalking their prey and move a lot within their hunting environment.

The Nikon 8248 ACULON Hunting Binocular

This is another hunting binocular that is very popular among binoculars buyers today. Many of the available reviews on the Nikon 8248 ACULON A211 10×50 praise the optical capabilities of the unit. At an affordable price, you will have a 50mm objective lens—which is better than what most of its competitors are currently offering. As such, the Aculon may be used in low light conditions and still deliver images of high quality. Although these binoculars are some of the best hunting binoculars today, they are comparatively heavy. As such, you may need to purchase a harness and a neck strap to use with the unit. The unit is ideal for hunters who spend much of their hunting time hiding and stalking their prey.

Steiner Predator Premium Binoculars

This is a premium class of binoculars made in Germany. As such, you should expect to pay more for these units. However, they are actually worth every penny; they are light weight and deliver some of the best images in the binoculars industry. The binocular is perfect for big game hunting in the west and trailing white tails. The Predator binocular is ideal for low light viewing and features a focusing wheel that is extremely easy to handle. In this regard, the binocular may also be used for such activities as turkey hunting and bow hunting. The unit also uses the CAT (colour adjusted transmission) type of coating by the manufacturer. This technology allows the prey to ‘stand out’ from its surrounding as soon as it comes to view. If you are willing to pay the high price, this binocular is one of the best hunting binoculars in the market today.

Conclusion

Prior to buying any binoculars model in the market today, it is highly advisable that you go through user reviews on the product. This will give you insight into how good or bad the unit is. You may also need to look at the manufacturer’s terms and conditions on your preferred binocular before buying it. With such considerations in place, you will be in a better position to buy a binocular that will meet your requirements and serve you for a log period. Regardless of your preferences, the hunting binocular models mentioned above are some of the best for your hunting expeditions.