The best hunting binocular
If you're looking for first-rate hunting binoculars, you can't pick up just any pair. They need to offer good magnification and a clear view, but they also need to be compact so they don't keep getting in the way.
To learn more about hunting binoculars, keep reading our buying guide, which includes our recommendations at the end. Our top pick, Carson's 3D Series, offers excellent magnification and high-definition optics in a tough package, which makes them ideal for all kinds of outdoor pursuits.
Considerations when choosing hunting binoculars
When choosing hunting binoculars, it's tempting to go for maximum magnification to bring the target as close as possible. The problem there is that lenses can end up pretty big. It's better to find acceptable magnification in an easily manageable package. Palm-size models are 8 x 25 millimeters or 10 x 25 millimeters, but most experienced hunters tend to choose 8 x 42, 10 x 42, or 10 x 50 millimeters.
What do those numbers mean? The first is the magnification: eight times bigger than normal, 10 times bigger, and so on. The second is the size of the objective lens (the one farthest from you). In general, the larger the lens, the more light it lets in, so the brighter the image you see.
Also, consider the field of view (FoV), which is the width of image you would see if measured at 1,000 yards distance. It's usually above 100 feet, but good hunting binoculars exceed 300 feet.
Magnification does the job of bringing your target closer, but that alone doesn't provide a sharp image. The quality of glass used to make the lenses is a major consideration, but how do you know without trying them? Buying from recognized manufacturers is always recommended -- they have the experience and the production standards.
One or more coatings may be applied to the lenses. These can affect color balance and reduce reflections. It's a complex area, but, in general, each layer produces an improvement. From lowest standard to highest, they are described as: coated, multi-coated, fully coated, and fully multi-coated.
Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass and high-definition (HD) glass are both designed to combat the way images can split up around the edge of the view (called "haloing"). Currently there is no standard for this, so while it can definitely work, it's of secondary importance.
Light coming in through the lenses is transferred back to your eyes via prisms -- there are two types in use: BK-7 and BAK-4. The latter is considered superior, and invariably what you find in high-end hunting binoculars.
You might be out in all weathers, and fluctuations in temperature can cause fogging on the lenses. If it happens on the outside, a careful wipe with a soft cloth can clear it. If it happens on the inside, there's not much you can do. Trapped moisture can be a long-term problem. Good binoculars are both waterproof and fog-proof. The best are sealed with O-rings and nitrogen purged, which is the most effective means of preventing condensation.
You want a good rubberized outer casing. Not only does it provide better grip if your hunting binoculars get wet, it also helps protect the delicate internal components from those occasional knocks that are bound to happen.
Buying inexpensive hunting binoculars is false economy because the optics will almost certainly disappoint. However, that doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune. There's a wide choice of quality models from respected brands at anywhere from $50 to $100. Even the very best for hunting are under $300.
Q. What's the difference between roof prism and porro prism binoculars?
A. On roof prism binoculars, eyepiece and objective lenses are in line, so they can be made much more compact. Porro prism is the more traditional style, where objective lenses are wider than the eyepieces. Roof prism binoculars are usually more expensive, though not necessarily better optically.
Q. Is it important to have a camouflage pattern on hunting binoculars?
A. Though others may disagree, we'd say no. As long as the body of the binoculars is matte so they don't cause reflections that might spook your target, they should be fine.
Hunting binoculars we recommend
Best of the best: Carson's 3D Series 10x42 High-Definition Waterproof Binoculars
Our take: Premium quality and performance for the avid hunter or birdwatcher.
What we like: Fully multi-coated lenses with ED glass and BAK-4 prisms make for a clear, bright image. Robust housing. Adjustable eyecups. Waterproof and fog-proof. Nice neck strap and shoulder harness.
What we dislike: Not much. Camo finish is expensive compared to plain black.
Our take: Powerful, tough, and with good optics at a budget price.
What we like: Strong magnification with excellent clarity thanks to big, multi-coated lenses. Rugged rubber hosing can take occasional knocks. Good direct focus adjustment. Fold-down eyecups.
What we dislike: Not fully waterproof. Poor strap and case.
Our take: All the features you'd expect of a top brand in a very compact package.
What we like: Good low-light performance despite the relatively small objective lens. Impact-resistant rubber coating provides good grip. Waterproof and fog-proof. Lifetime warranty.
What we dislike: Very little. Some would like more comfortable eyecups.
Bob Beacham is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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