Big-Bad Binocs 2008
September 23, 2010
Lots of choices means optics buyers can find what they want at the price they want.
The cornucopia of new glass available today makes some sifting necessary. Not all that's new is useful because sometimes competition on the marketplace encourages the release of new products just to get press coverage, but what seems redundant to me may not to you. This overview hits the new binoculars we could find, and while it's not an exhaustive list, it's a great way to begin your search for new glass.
For a full list organized by price CLICK HERE
A relative newcomer to the outdoors optics field, Alpen has won industry awards for value in both its binocular and spotting scope lines. New are compact versions of the top-shelf Rainier 42mm binoculars. At 25 ounces, the 8x32 and 10x32 are 20 percent lighter, but they're loaded with features: BaK-4 lenses and phase-corrected coatings, magnesium frames, locking diopter dial, and twist-out eyecups. The Teton 42mm binocular now has 8x50 and 10x50 siblings.
In the AlpenPro Porro prism series, a new 8x30 offers short interpupillary measure to make glassing more comfortable for folks with close-set eyes.
Nitrex has released four binoculars. The 8x42 and 10x42 are of roof-prism, center-focus design, with phase-correction coatings to boost image quality. The 10x42 Nitrex I examined delivered bright, razor images in flat fields that show virtually no color-fringing. The click-detent diopter dial makes more sense than the straight-pull eyecups. Best of all, the price is palatable (see chart). Compact versions, 8x25 and 10x25, weigh only 11 ounces. Like the full-size glasses, they have fully multicoated optics.
The current flagship model is the Epoch, a roof-prism glass with 43mm front lenses and magnification of 7.5X, 8.5x or 10.5X. It has all the features you'd expect in a top-end binocular. Brunton's 8-15x35 zoom Epoch earned a "Gear of the Year" award from Outside magazine. Like fixed-power models, it boasts lockable, twist-out eyecups and accepts a doubler to hike magnification. The less costly Eterna and Echo binoculars have done well too--Consumer's Digest gave the Eterna 8x45 and 11x45 a "best buy" rating. The 8x32 and 10x32 excel on the trail. Use the tripod adapter on the 15x51, and you'll get spotting-scope reach with both eyes open.
While changes to the FullField II line for 2008 are just cosmetic (now available in Realtree AP Green), the Signature Select series gets a new 8x56 model. The Signature Selects have BaK-4 prisms and broadband multicoatings on lenses, twist-up eyecups and more. The new 8x56 provides an exit pupil of 7.0mm and a 350-foot field of view at 1,000 yards. They weigh 36 ounces, not surprising given the large objective lenses, but they'll gather as much light as you can use and will allow extended viewing without strain.
The new Elite e2 binocular (8x42 or 10x42) is built on a lightweight magnesium chassis. It weighs 26 ounces and features locking center-focus and diopter dials, both on the hinge. Thin textured rubber armor looks good and affords a sure grip. The e2 has twist-up eyecups. The lens system is fully multicoated, phase-corrected and has a Rainguard coating.
Bushnell offers a pocket model too: a 7x26 e2. Also on the 2008 ticket comes the Excursion EX series. Priced lower, these binoculars still give you fully multicoated glass with PC-3 phase correction coating. Choose the new 36mm version or the 42mm standard, 8X or 10X, camo or black finish.
Cabela's two Euro models top the list--yes, they're built in Europe. Both the 10x42 and 12x50 feature fully multicoated optics in a rubber-armored alloy frame, twist-out eyecups and a diopter dial against the center focus wheel. At 30 and 35 ounces, these binoculars are not lightweight.
The Alaska Guide series comprises three full-size and two compact binoculars. All boast fully multicoated lenses and click-stop focus adjustments. The 8x42 and 10x42 weigh a reasonable 25 ounces; 10x28 and 12x30 compacts come in around nine ounces. You'll want a tripod for the 12x50. Cabela's offers a similar line, the XT, at lower prices. Pine Ridge models--8x42, 10x42 and 12x50 models--all go for less than $210. That stable includes Porro- and roof-prism models, both with fully multicoated lenses.
That's right, the sportswear company now imports several lines of binoculars--from 8x25 to 10x56. The Backcountry 10x32 is a 16-ounce roof-prism model with a metal chassis, twist-up eyecups and H2C lens coating that resist wear and water-spotting.
Last year, Merkel USA became the U.S. importer for Docter Optik, announcing 8x42 and 10x42 binoculars and a hefty but bright 8x58. All are center-focus, with four-layer achromatic front lenses and twist-up eyecups. A vernier scale on the central diopter dial helps you focus precisely. All models have aluminum/magnesium bodies. mer kel-usa.com, docter-germany.com
Yukon optics appeared a few years ago, and the brand is now part of Landmark Outdoors. Yukon has expanded its binocular line with new Rambler and Frontier series. Ramblers in 8x25, 8x32 and 8x42 are all black-rubber-armored roof-prism models with multicoated optics, twist-up eyecups. Frontier 8X and 10X binoculars have 42mm front glass.
This year, the Ultravid spawned the even brighter, sharper Ultravid HDs, with fluorite glass in every lens. Exposed surfaces wear proprietary AquaDura lens coating, a hydrophobic compound that beads water and aids cleaning. Ultravid HDs come in 8x32 and 10x32; 7x42, 8x42 and 10x42; and 8x50, 10x50 and 12x50. The latest Geovid laser-ranging binoculars are available in 8x42, 10x42, 8x56 and 15x56. Weights range from 33 to 39 ounces. Other recent developments at Leica: Duovid 8+12x42 and 10+ 15x50 binoculars that afford you a choice of power with the turn of a dial.
Leupold & Stevens
The top-drawer Golden Ring binocular now comes with a switch-power option. Choose 7/12x32 or 10/17x42. A switch ahead of the focus wheel changes power instantly. At 21 and 24 ounces, these binoculars are easy to carry, and they feature HD (ED, extra-low dispersion, fluorite) objective glass for bright, sharp images. Choose 8x32, 10x32, 8x42 or 10x42.
Also new are lower-priced Acadia and Mojave binoculars. Phase-corrected prisms ensure true colors. Available in 8x42 or 10x42, black or Mossy Oak finish.
The new Leupold 10x50 Tactical binoculars wear "coyote brown" rubber arm
or and can be ordered with an adjustable mil dot reticle.
Meopta's line of binoculars and rifle scopes is short on gadgets and long on quality. The Meostar binocular series comprises 7X, 8X and 10X center-focus, roof-prism models with twist-up eyecups and 42mm objectives. For extra-bright images, pick a 7x50, 10x50 or 8x56. The Meostar 12x50 paired with the company's 2X doubler gives spotting-scope capability.
The new BD 8x44 BP and BD 10x44 BP Porro-prism binoculars feature twist-out eyecups, argon-gas fog-proofing, center-mounted diopter dial. They weigh 24 ounces. For those who prefer roof-prism glasses, the HG or High Grade binocular comes in 8.5x and 10x magnification, with 43mm and 52mm aspherical objective lenses.
Nikon started 2008 with a new top-end binocular. The EDG (7x42, 8x42, 10x42, 8x32 and 10x32) boasts ED glass, open-bridge design and a locking diopter you adjust by pulling out the center focus knob. "The EDG is the best glass Nikon has ever offered," says marketing VP Jon LaCorte. Weights run from 23 to 29 ounces.
The ATB (All Terrain Binocular) is the workhorse of Nikon's binocular stable. A wide range of lenses suits just about every application. Choose 56mm objectives for dim conditions, in 8x5x, 10X and 12X magnification. On the trail, you'll want an 8x36 or a 10x36. All have click-stop eyecups, arsenic- and lead-free glass. There's also an intermediate-size trio: 8x42, 10x42 and 12x42.
New for 2008 is the 9x28 BCF LV roof-prism binocular. Twist-out eyecups with detents, a click-stop diopter and finger-grabbing finish make the 9x28 BCF LV easy to use. Fine resolution and a heft of only 13 ounces make it one of my favorite new products this year. pentaxsport optics.com
Master Series roof-prism binoculars in 8x42 and 10x42 configurations have all the features now expected on top-end glass. They come in black and Realtree finish. Wilderness and ProSport lines offer an array of lower-priced binoculars, 8x21 to 12x50, including two with zoom capability.
In the past, Steiner has hewed uniformly to Porro prism barrels in olive jackets with individual focus. Now it's different. A new sporting line is led by the Peregrine XP. This center-focus, open-bridge binocular delivers sharp images from 61â'„2 feet to infinity with just one and a half turns of the wheel.
The Peregrine's 30mm eyepieces have twist-up eyecups and flexible rubber light shields that can be folded out of the way to prevent fogging from face moisture. "NANO Protection" on exterior lenses beads water. The XP's Click-Loc strap is cleverly designed.
The latest news from Austria is an easy-clean coating. Dirt won't stick to the hard, slippery coating, which is less than 10 nanometers thick. Evidently it does not affect the image at all. Also new: a Pocket Tyrol 8x20B binocular with Italian leather on its barrels.
A broad selection of binoculars from Vortex includes 8x42 and 10x42 roof-prism Diamondbacks and 8x42, 10x42 and 12x42 Vipers. All feature fully multicoated optics and phase-corrected prisms. Vipers have ED glass and a locking right-barrel diopter ring.
New this year: a series of 50mm glasses with 8.5x, 10x and 15x magnification, plus 42mm 8x and 10x versions. The Razor group features ED lenses, argon gas fog-proofing and a locking, hinge-mounted diopter adjustment. Vortex catalogs nine other binocular lines, modestly priced.
Zeiss trots out new 8x45 and 10x45 T* Victory RF binoculars incorporating a laser unit that requires no "third eye" emitter and gives accurate readings to 1,300 yards on reflective targets. Press the right-hand button and the reticle lights up; release it, and yardage appears within one second. The LED display is easy to read and self-compensates for brightness. A scan mode accommodates moving targets.
The Victory RFs can be programmed to show recommended holdover for six standard trajectories. The 45mm objectives boost light transmission 15 percent over 42mm lenses, says Zeiss's Rich Moncrief. Twist-out eyecups have four detents. At a shade over two pounds, this binocular is easy to hold with one hand. LotuTec hydrophobic coating on exterior lenses beads water resists oils and wear.
QUICK-REFERENCE CHART BY PRICE *
|MAKE ||MODEL ||POWER x OBJECTIVE ||WEIGHT (oz.) ||PRICE |
|Simmons ||Master Series ||8, 10x42 ||23 ||$160-$180 |
|A low-priced optic with features expected of much more expensive binos. |
|Yukon ||Rambler |
|8, 8x42 |
|23, 25 |
|Black armored roof prism binos with twist-up eye-sups and multicoated lenses. |
|ATK ||Nitrex |
|8, 10x42 |
|22,11 ||$280-$290 |
|These binos exhibit bright, razor images in flat fields with virtually no color fringing. |
|Columbia ||Backcountry ||8, 10x25 ||16 ||$220-$400 |
|Imported by the sportswear company, every model has multicoated lenses. |
|Pentax ||BCF LV ||9x28 ||13 ||$320 |
|One of the author's favorite new binos for 2008. |
|Bushnell ||Elite e-2 |
|8, 10x42 |
8, 10x36; 10x42
|Built on a lightweight magnesium body with numerous great features. |
|Vortex ||Diamondback |
|8, 10x42 |
8, 10, 12x42
|Features modestly priced ED glass and fully multi-coated lenses. |
|Minox ||BD ||8, 10x44 ||23, 27 ||$300-$600 |
|Traditional porro-prism binoculars with cutting edge features and great glass. |
|Burris ||Signature Select ||8, 10x44 ||23,27 ||$300-$600 |
|The 7mm exit pupil gathers as much light as you can use and cuts fatigue. |
|Alpen ||Rainier |
|8, 10x32 |
|New-ish to the optics game, Alpen has already won industry awards. |
|Cabela's ||Euro |
|10x42, 10x50 |
|30, 35 |
|True european craftsmanship at reasonable prices. |
|Leupold ||Golden Ring, |
|8, 10x32; 8, 10x42 |
|$600-$750, $850-$900 |
|The excellent Golden Ring series now has switch-power capability. |
|Swarovski ||Pocket Tyrol ||8x20 ||8 ||$799 |
|Italian leather and light weight make this a classic compact with excellent performance. |
|Meopta ||Meostar ||7x42, 8x56, 12x50 ||30-39 ||$859-$1,070 |
|Old european quality, short on gadgets and long on performance. |
|Doctor ||Fernglas B/CF ||8, 10x42 ||30, 54 ||$1,088-$1,167 |
|German optics with a vernier scale. |
|Bruton ||Epoch |
|7.5, 8.5, 10.5x43 |
|The Epoch earned a gear-or-the-year award from Outside magazine. |
|Nikon ||EDG ||8x32 to 10x42 ||24-29 ||$1,750-$2,000 |
|ED glass and an open bridge design provides the best binos Nikon has ever offered. |
|Leica ||Ultravid HD |
|8x32 to 12x50 |
8, 10x42; 8, 15x56
|Top-notch binoculars, world-renown for exceptional glass. |
|Peregrine XP ||8, 10x44 ||30 ||$2,299-$2,399 |
|A new, open-bridge center-focus design with notably sharp images. |
|Zeiss ||Victory RF ||8, 10x45 ||33 ||$2,900-$3,000 |
|A ranging bino with LED display and computed holdovers, this ain't your daddy's |
|* Price ranking based on average for all items listed. |