2007 Outdoor Life Binocular Test

Alpen Rainier 8x4
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $890
Contact: 909-987-8370; alpenoutdoor.com The only complaint the team had with this Alpen Rainier is that it is a bit large and heavy. That's fine, though""optical and mechanical excellence require weight and space. Contributing to the high quality of this glass are its sturdy magnesium body construction, extra-large phase-corrected BaK-4 roof prisms, large-diameter fully multicoated optical elements throughout and tough rubber armoring""not to mention the best four-position twist-up eyecups that we've ever seen. In short, the Alpen Rainier 8x42 looks and feels like it will last for generations. Testers' Comments:
_Tight, fluid focusing
Nice compact feel in the hand
I was surprised at the quality of this glass
Rather heavy
I like the diopter adjustment
_
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Bushnell Elite 12.5x50
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,700
Contact: 800-423-3537; bushnell.com This is what we call a "Wow!" binocular, because one look through its wide and bright field of view will have you saying just that. And for shaky-handed duffers like me, who have trouble steadying a 12.5X glass, there are 8x43, 10x43 and 10x50 models in the line. As for image brightness, the Elite tied the superbright Zeiss Victory 10x56 in our low-light test (although having 25 percent more magnifying power than the Victory did give it a boost in twilight factor). Need­less to say, this binocular and its Elite brethren are being heralded as Bushnell's best-ever binoculars. We agree. Testers' Comments:
Very lightweight, thanks to magnesium frame
Wonderful tree-stand glasses
Light-thirsty glass
Good for twilight glassing
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Cabela's XT 8x42
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $260
Contact: 800-237-4444; cabelas.com This mid-level Cabela's binocular is definitely a good buy. The focusing knob is fast and takes a little getting used to. Apart from that, the unit functions smoothly and feels good in the hand. Its fully multicoated optics and phase-corrected roof prisms do much to prevent eyestrain, especially during long periods of intense glassing. The XT received high marks in image quality, low light and design, and got an excellent rating for price/value. Testers' Comments:
Nice lightweight glass
Focus knob is a bit touchy
Some peripheral fuzziness
Not a bad buy
Very good binocular""good beginner's glass
Reasonably priced
I wish the field of view were wider
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Carson XM-HD 8x32
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $350
Contact: 800-967-8427; carson-optical.com As outdoorsmen, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about getting the ideal binocular for a particular purpose""anything from hunting at dusk to brush hunting to ultra-long-range glassing to backpacking to spectator sports to bird-watching. But wouldn't it make more sense to think about finding the ultimate all-around binocular? One that, though not perfect, would be good for any of these uses? I've thought about it, and my candidate is the humble and unobtrusive 8x32, of which this Carson XM-HD 8x32 glass is an excellent example. Testers' Comments:
Decent image; nice compact size
I'd take this on a long hike where weight and size are important
Some blurred edges
Surprisingly bright
Some rough finish details
Good buy
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Celestron Ultima DX8x32
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $233
Contact: 310-328-9560; celestron.com Of the 19 binoculars tested, this is the only Porro-prism model. I'm saddened to realize we might be living in the twilight era of Porro-prism optics. Among our test team members, there were mixed emotions, ranging from "ergonomically primitive" to "What a good glass!" The primary advantages of the Porro prism""better stereoscopic depth perception and none of the phase interference that plagues roof-prism binoculars""are clearly demonstrated in this Celestron 8x32. Testers' Comments:
Good buy; great stereopsis
Big and bulky with poorly fitting eyecups
Nice, bright glass and excellent depth perception
This would be a good tree-stand or ground-blind glass in brushy cover
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Zeiss Victory 10x56 T* FL & Pentax 10x50 DCF ED
Zeiss Victory 10x56 T* FL (Top)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $2,175
Contact: 800-441-3005; zeiss.com/sports If you want the ultimate in low-light binoculars, look for those with 56mm objective lenses, especially if you don't mind a little extra bulk and weight. Of the two common configurations""8x56 and 10x56""this 10x56, with its 5.6mm exit pupils and twilight performance factor of 23.7, is arguably the best for hunting at dawn and dusk and, law permitting, even in the dead of night. However, this is also a super daylight binocular, thanks to its superb resolution and large exit pupils. Adding to its optical greatness are Zeiss's Superachromatic objective lenses with fluoride-containing glass (FL), phase-corrected Abbe-König roof prisms and Zeiss T* multilayer coating on all glass-air surfaces, which combine for a fabulous light transmission of more than 90 percent. Testers' Comments:
Tack-sharp clarity, good contrast and wonderful low-light performance
Well-thought-out combination focusing/diopter-adjustment knob
I could look through these all day
Makes my heart beat fast
Fabulous
Pentax 10x50 DCF ED (Bottom)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $1,049
Contact: 800-877-0155; pentaxsportoptics.com "Wow! Look at the color of those flowers through this Pentax glass," said tester Clay Crawford as he viewed a poinsettia about 10 feet away. A similar "Wow!" followed as he glassed the iridescent colors of a cock pheasant strutting in the yard. The ED in this binocular's description stands for extra-low-dispersion glass, which nearly eliminates chromatic aberrations, greatly enhancing the color, clarity and contrast of viewed objects. Beyond that, this Pentax 10x50 has everything you could want in a hunting optic: aspheric lens elements, super-reflective mirror surfaces, magnesium-alloy body, locking diopter ring with click stops, extra-long eye relief and more. Can a thousand-dollar binoc­ular be a Great Buy? Yes, we think so. Testers' Comments:
Locking focus knob is handy
Relatively lightweight for its size
Bright glass
Good twilight tool
Nice hand fit
This bino is great
Very eye-friendly
Excellent color reproduction, due to the ED glass
Great low-light
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Konus Audax 10x42
Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 2 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $170
Contact: 305-592-5500; konususa.com Our verdict on this Konus Audax hinges on its probable street price, which we assume will be less than the suggested retail price. The Audax 10x42 lacks phase-correction coating, which is seldom found on binoculars of this price, and it appears not to be fully multicoated. On the other hand, at one time or another we've used binoculars that weren't nearly as good as these. Perhaps after looking through so many high-class binoculars costing hundreds or thousands of dollars more, we've become bona fide optics snobs. Testers' Comments:
Significant ghosting/flaring
Eyecups fit poorly
Focusing is soft
Bargain price, but underwhelming value
The size is nice
Lens caps are distracting and frequently obscure objective lens
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Meopta Meostar B1 12x50
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,159
Contact: 631-436-5900; meopta.com Twelve-power binoculars are best thought of as special-purpose optics, reserved for long-range glassing off a tripod or by people with very steady hands. An unfortunate side effect of hand tremors is that the frustrated viewer is apt to attribute the apparent lack of sharpness to poor optical resolution. It's analogous to the flinching shooter who blames his firearm. The truth is that this 12x50 Meopta Meostar is very sharp and very bright. For those who'd be better served by less magnification, Meopta offers the Meostar in 7X, 8X and 10X. Testers' Comments:
These glasses feel solid and familiar in my hands and come naturally to my eyes
Bright glass
Great color correction
Good low-light optic
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Minox HG 8x33
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $839
Contact: 866-469-3080; minox.com This Minox HG is a very sweet midsize binocular at a high but justifiable price. As noted by the team members, the focus-based range-finder system doesn't work well beyond 50 yards. But since it consists of nothing more than some yardage numbers embossed on the focusing knob, it doesn't detract from this binocular's otherwise superb performance. Its sweetness stems from its petite size. For my tired old eyes, it was love at first sight. Testers' Comments:
The range-finding feature is good for close-in (under 50 yards) but not for long-range use
These are solidly built, bright optics
Like the diopter adjustment
I love this glass
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Nikon Monarch 10x56
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $581
Contact: 800-645-6687; nikonsportoptics.com For those who want the light-gathering power of 56mm objective lenses but can't afford to spend $2,000, this Nikon Monarch is for you. It's not as classy as its highborn European cousins, but it came within one minute of tying the Zeiss 10x56 in our low-light test""an impressive performance. At 41 ounces, it feels a bit heavy in the hands or hanging from the neck, but, unfortunately, binoculars with 56mm objectives don't get much lighter. An excellent value. Testers' Comments:
Good pickup or benchrest glass
Huge objectives make it perfect for low-light glassing
You won't want to pack it very far
Not badly priced
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Steiner Peregrine XP 8x44
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 4 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $1,550
Contact: 800-257-7742; nikonsportoptics.com Steiner has been working on the development of this flagship Peregrine XP for more than six years, and on an antelope and mule deer hunt in Wyoming this past October, I finally had a chance to test a prototype. It performed very well. A few of its noteworthy features include a magnesium body, Steiner's water-repellent Nano coating on exterior lens surfaces and superreflective dielectric coating on the mirrored surfaces of the roof prisms. Testers' Comments:
Excellent design features, from the eyecups to the smooth and light focus controls to the gel grips
Very bright glass
Really well-made
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Viper 8x42
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 3 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $600
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com The glass on the Vortex Viper 8x42 has all the right features: phase-corrected roof prisms to eliminate interference from light bouncing back and forth on the roof surfaces, extra-low-disper­sion glass to reduce chromatic aberrations, multilayer antireflection lens coatings to improve light transmission and an optical system that provides a 347-foot field of view and a generous 20mm eye relief. Testers' Comments:
Really useful four-position twist-up eyecups
Decent image but the focus was a little sloppy, with peripheral blur and just a bit of flaring
There are better values out there
Easy to adjust lockable diopter
Feels good in my hand
The more I used it, the better I liked it
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Canon 10x42 L Is Stabilized
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 4 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 4 out of 4
Retail: $1,399
Contact: 800-652-2666; usa.canon.com We were so impressed with this Canon stabilized binocular that we're recognizing it separately. This is the first stabilized binocular we have seen that fully qualifies as an all-around hunting glass. In previous models, the magnifications tended to be too high and the objective lenses too small, resulting in undersize exit pupils. Here, however, the 10x42 optics and 4.2mm exit pupils are what many hunters consider ideal. The stabilization feature makes hand-holding a 10X binocular possible for anybody.
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Steiner Wildlife Pro 10.5x28 & Bushnell Excursion 8x28 WP P-Coated RP
Steiner Wildlife Pro 10.5x28 (Top)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $299
Contact: 800-257-7742; steiner-binoculars.com We're not fans of compact binoculars with magnifications above 8X, but this Steiner 10.5x28 conducts itself very well. Going for it are a number of features borrowed from larger, more expensive binoculars, such as fully multicoated optics, phase-corrected roof prisms and waterproof and shockproof construction. It fits easily in a pocket, measuring just 5 by 3.5 by 2 inches. Weighing 11 ounces, it has 13mm of eye relief and a field of view of 264 feet at 1,000 yards. Drawing considerable criticism was the fact that the individual diopter setting is located on the left eyepiece instead of the right, which is standard throughout the optics industry. But once you get accustomed to using the binocular, it doesn't really matter. Testers' Comments:
Crisp glass, really compact
At 10.5X this is a relatively powerful compact binocular
Good contrast
Focus knob is a bit too small, making it harder to adjust
Nice ergonomics
I don't like the left-eye diopter adjuster; think it should be on the right eye like others
Nice, sharp image
Overall this is quite a good binocular
Bushnell Excursion 8x28 WP P-Coated RP (Bottom)
Image Quality: 4 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $140
Contact: 800-423-3537; bushnell.com Bushnell's Excursion family of binoculars is only in its second year, which means that new models are still being added to the lineup. This year's newcomers include an 8x28, which we tested, and a very similar 10x28. Our test showed that the resolution was much better than needed at 8X, and the low-light performance, which is never great with compact binoculars, came within two minutes of the Steiner 10.5x28, with its considerably higher twilight factor. Given that this binocular will probably have a street price somewhat lower than the suggested retail of $140, it has a surprising number of desirable features, including fully multicoated optics, phase-corrected BaK-4 roof prisms, 100 percent waterproof/fogproof protection and a wide-angle, 417-foot field of view at 1,000 yards. It is indeed a great buy. Testers' Comments:
A solid, well-made binocular
A little bulky for compact glasses
Eyecups are a little ill-fitting and came off during testing
Decent glass, but a bit dark
I like how the eyecups snap into place when you turn them out
Nice diopter adjustment
A good, solid buy
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Cabela's XT 8x25
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 2 out of 4
Retail: $160
Contact: 800-237-4444; cabelas.com Cabela's is a quality brand, but the XT 8x25 binocular fell a bit short of what we've come to expect from this great outdoor outfitter. The resolution is adequate and the low-light performance isn't bad for a compact binocular. The XT's greatest shortcoming is its miserly 10mm eye relief, which is extremely short for eyeglass wearers and even difficult to use with the naked eye. The purported 430-foot field of view is great, except that it is impossible to get your eyes close enough to the eyepieces to see it all. Testers' Comments:
Would be great in my turkey vest
Fit and finish well done
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Konus Titanium 8x25
Image Quality: 2 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 1 out of 4
Design: 2 out of 4
Price/Value: 2 out of 4
Retail: $55
Contact: 305-592-5500; konususa.com We've learned not to expect much from low-priced binoculars, so we were pleasantly surprised to find that this Konus Titanium 8x25 was still quite useful, particularly in bright light, which is where compacts are at their best. Despite claims to the contrary, the optics don't appear to be fully multicoated, which explains why this glass was the first to wink out in the low-light test. But if you have only $55 to spend, go for it. It is, after all, eight times more powerful than the naked eye. Testers' Comments:
Lightweight
Crude fit and finish
Too much flare
Poor clarity, especially in low light
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Fury 8x28
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $300
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com There is much to like about this compact Vortex Fury. It measures just 4.7 by 4.5 by 1.5 inches and weighs a mere 11.8 ounces. The four-position twist-up eyecups are very sturdy and well made. Eyeglass wearers will like the generous 20mm eye relief. As advertised, the roof prisms are phase-corrected and the optics are fully multicoated, providing very good image quality and good low-light performance. We believe that the quality is easily commensurate with the price. Testers' Comments:
Very lightweight
Focus knob turns too easily
Great eyecups
Image not bad
Outdoor Life Online Editor
Vortex Fury 8x28
Image Quality: 3 out of 4
Low-Light Rating: 2 out of 4
Design: 3 out of 4
Price/Value: 3 out of 4
Retail: $300
Contact: 800-426-0048; vortexoptics.com There is much to like about this compact Vortex Fury. It measures just 4.7 by 4.5 by 1.5 inches and weighs a mere 11.8 ounces. The four-position twist-up eyecups are very sturdy and well made. Eyeglass wearers will like the generous 20mm eye relief. As advertised, the roof prisms are phase-corrected and the optics are fully multicoated, providing very good image quality and good low-light performance. We believe that the quality is easily commensurate with the price. Testers' Comments:
Very lightweight
Focus knob turns too easily
Great eyecups
Image not bad
Outdoor Life Online Editor

Our annual shakeout of the newest scopes, binoculars, and more reveals the best of this year's crop