BINOCULARS

Two days of glassing from dawn to dusk and a battery of tests in the lab. Here's how we rated this year's binoculars, riflescopes and spotting scopes.

The binocular field included three 8×32 models, signaling a resurgence of interest in easily carried, medium-size glasses. The headliner, however, was Leica’s Duovid 8+12×42 binocular, which gives users the equivalent of two high-performance binoculars (8×42 and 12×42) in one simple yet masterfully engineered package. If the Duovid doesn’t send the engineers from other optical manufacturers scurrying to their drawing boards, I’ll be amazed.

Bausch & Lomb Discoverer 8×42
($454; 800-423-3537)
Magnification/objective: 8x42mm
Exit pupil diameter: 5.25mm
Prism type: Porro prisms, w/BaK4 glass
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated, w/Rainguard
Weight: 26.6 oz.
Length and width: 5.7 x 7.4 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All-around hunting
Having mourned the demise of many high-quality Porro-prism binoculars, I was pleased to see this new Bausch & Lomb 8×42 glass, which will be a very good buy at a street price of around $325. It has very long eye relief, a wide field of view, fully multicoated optics with Rainguard and guaranteed waterproofing. One tester complained that the focusing wheel is hard to reach, which is typical of full-size Porro-prism binoculars. Others didn’t like the diopter adjustment, which works fine but does take some getting used to.

Extra Comments

  • Diopter setting is hard to turn & adjust. Focusing knob is also hard to reach. Too f for my fingers. Four-position eyecups are very good.

  • Love the glass. Would like to own one. Very comfortable in my hands.

  • Hard to use diopter dial, especially with cold fingers. Nice eyecup system.

  • I really like the 4-position eyecups. They lock positively into place. Nice and bright!

Burris Landmark 10×42
($214; 888-228-7747)
Magnification/objective: 10x42mm
Exit pupil diameter: 4.2mm
Prism type: Roof prisms, not P-coated
Lens coatings: Partially multicoated
Weight: 29 oz.
Length and width: 6.7 x 5.2 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Medium- to long-range hunting Our test sample of this Burris binocular was a pre-production model, which may account for its shortcomings. First, its resolution of 6.5 SOA (seconds of angle) was short of the 6 SOA needed to produce an acceptably sharp image at 10X. Second, an alert tester noticed that the diopter setting changed whenever the right eyecup was twisted all the way in or all the way out, which is unacceptable. If and when these problems are corrected, this could be a very useful bargain-priced binocular.

Extra Comments

  • Pop-up eyecups work great. Diopter is a little stiff, but words fine. Resolution is not as crisp as Tasco’s for about the same price. Compass is neat. Great objective lens covers. Focusing knob is a little too far forward for my hands. Nice feel, good grip. Bad…when you twist the right eyecup in and out, it moves the diopter setting.

  • Like the adjustable eyecups-easy to adjust and they stay locked out. I like the attached objective lens covers. Fit well in my hands.

  • Stiff diopter setting. I like the eyecup operation.

  • Nice ergonomics. Has a compass built into the focus knob that’s kind of slick. Objective lens covers are attached to binocular so you can’t lose them.

Bushnell Legend 8×32
($430.95; 800-423-3537)
Magnification/objective: 8x32mm
Exit pupil diameter: 4mm
Prism type: P-coated roof prisms, w/BaK4 glass
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated, w/Rainguard
Weight: 23.8 oz.
Length and width: 5.2 x 5 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: All-around hunting, except in extremely low light
As previously noted, 8×32 glasses are becoming increasingly popular with hunters interested in saving weight. This new Bushnell model exemplifies the good things that are happeninin this size category-not the least of which is better optical quality, due to the wider use of phase-corrected (P-coated) roof prisms. One tester said, “This is the best Bushnell binocular I’ve ever looked through.” With the exception of its 8×42 and 10×42 siblings, which also have P-coated roof prisms, I agree.

Extra Comments

  • This binocular seems nice and bright. Great field of view. Good resolution. The P-coating helps. Eyecups pop out beautifully…nice and solid. Diopter is difficult to adjust. Not much to grip when turning it, plus it is very stiff. This glass focuses like a dream. Smooth and easy, nice thumb groves. The weight is wonderful.

  • This is the best Bushnell binocular I’ve ever looked through. Nice, small glass.

  • Eyecups twist up easily. Not easy to hold comfortably. Smooth focus ring, the diopter setting a little too stiff.

  • Comfortable little glass to hold.

Cabela’s Pine Ridge 10×42
($159.99; 800-237-4444)
Magnification/objective: 10x42mm
Exit pupil diameter: 4.2mm
Prism type: Roof prisms, not P-coated
Lens coatings: Single layer
Weight: 24.2 oz
. Length and width: 6.3 x 5 in.
Waterproof: No
Sadly, this unit got the lowest final score of any binocular tested. Cabela’s is certainly a reputable company, and its Cabela’s-brand products tend to be exceptionally good buys, as was the case with the Cabela’s Outfitter 4-12×40 riflescope we tested (see page 113), which earned a Great Buy rating. The company is also famous for its “100 percent satisfaction guarantee.” So, if you get a lemon (as perhaps we did), you can return it for a refund.

Extra Comments

  • This glass is not very crisp. There e no extras on this binocular…but the price reflects that. Nice feel. The rubber coating & grip e pleasant to the hand. Attached lens caps e nice feature. Diopter setting-only adequate. Eyecups…not good. Focusing knob…good grip, easy to adjust.

  • Noticeable flare (ghost images). Easy to set diopter. Ridges on body would help when wearing gloves. Like attached objective lens covers.

  • Not easy to hold comfortably. Do not like rubber eyecups. I like the lens caps.

  • Plain, straightforward performer. Not a bad buy, but for a few dolls more I prefer the Burris, which has twist-out eyecups instead of fold-down eyecups on the Cabela’s 10×42.

Kowa 10×42 DCF
($670; 310-327-1913)
Magnification/objective: 10x42mm
Exit pupil diameter: 4.2mm
Prism type: P-coated roof prisms
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 26.3 oz.
Length and width: 5.7 x 5 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Medium- to long-range hunting
This is a very handsome binocular, whose good looks are equaled by its excellent optical performance. The resolution, at 4.6 SOA, was considerably better than it needed to be, and its low-light performance was among the best. There was a divergence of opinions regarding the eyecups, which, since they lock firmly in place both at the low and high positions, proves how persnickety our test team really was.

Extra Comments

  • Eyecups rotate out nicely but there e no intermediate stops. Nice feel…thumb notches e nice. Focusing knob is great. Good grip, easy to turn. Nice color…bright, crisp, nearly out to the edges. Diopter is in a nice location. Easy to adjust to personal eyesight.

  • Very smooth lines, easy to hold. I like the locking eyecups. The diopter setting is slightly stiff. The light gray color is pleasing to the eye.

  • Nice ergonomics, but the retractable eyecups aren’t as well engineered as some of the other models.

Leupold Wind River 10×50 P1
($567.90; 800-929-4949)
Magnification/objective: 10x50mm
Exit pupil diameter: 5mm
Prism type: P-coated roof prisms
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 25.7 oz.
Length and width: 7 x 5.2 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Medium- to long-range hunting
Leupold was slow to use P-coated prisms in its roof-prism binoculars, but it has now done so in two models. The Wind River 8×42 CF P1 and the 10×50 CF P1 (which we tested) were excellent. Especially impressive is the fact that Leupold was able to incorporate fine 10×50 optics into a relatively compact binocular weighing just 25.7 ounces.

Extra Comments

  • A little unsharp around the edges of the field. Kowa seems clear at the edges. Focusing knob is nice. Turns really easy, nice balance. It just feels good in the hand. Eyecups adjust nicely and lock into place. Diopter adjustment is excellent…good location and turns smoothly.

  • Great Glass. Like locking eyecups. Good contrast and depth of field.

  • Very sleek and nice looking. Fairly easy to hold. I like the eyecup system. Focus ring very smooth.

  • Pretty good value. Comfortable to hold. Foldout eyecups aren’t as well engineered as some of the others-no intermediate settings.

Minox 15×58 ED
($1,249; 800-631-1584)
Magnification/objective: 15x58mm
Exit pupil diameter: 3.9mm
Prism type: P-coated roof prisms
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 52.7 oz.
Length and width: 8.8 x 6.3 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Long-range hunting and low-light viewing
Though 15X binoculars are not for everyone, a select cadre of open-country hunters has long prized them. Big glasses like this are ideal for Coues deer hunters who like to set big 15-powers on a tripod and pick the country apart. The testers complimented this Minox 15×58 ED with adjectives like “best, perfect, beautiful and sexy.” Its above-average ratings in every category brought its final score to within two points of tying for the coveted Editor’s Choice designation.

The letters “ED” following the specification numbers denote the use of Extra-Low Dispersion glass to virtually eliminate chromatic (color) aberrations. The primary criticism by the panel was that the focusing knob is too smooth and therefore needs a better gripping surface.

Extra Comments

  • Eyecups are the best of the bunch. They click into place at different stages. Diopter setting is nice. Focusing knob is harder to turn…needs more gripping surface. Heavy, though. A perfect birding glass but you’d need a tripod.

  • The diopter adjustment, next to the focus ring, is not in a good place. When wearing gloves, the diopter adjustment may be inadvertently moved. I like the adjustable eyecups.

  • Very nice eyecups, crisp focus. Nice diopter system, focus ring smooth. Obviously too heavy to cry all day.

  • Best click-stop diopteroof prisms
    Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
    Weight: 25.7 oz.
    Length and width: 7 x 5.2 in.
    Waterproof: Yes
    Best for: Medium- to long-range hunting
    Leupold was slow to use P-coated prisms in its roof-prism binoculars, but it has now done so in two models. The Wind River 8×42 CF P1 and the 10×50 CF P1 (which we tested) were excellent. Especially impressive is the fact that Leupold was able to incorporate fine 10×50 optics into a relatively compact binocular weighing just 25.7 ounces.

Extra Comments

  • A little unsharp around the edges of the field. Kowa seems clear at the edges. Focusing knob is nice. Turns really easy, nice balance. It just feels good in the hand. Eyecups adjust nicely and lock into place. Diopter adjustment is excellent…good location and turns smoothly.

  • Great Glass. Like locking eyecups. Good contrast and depth of field.

  • Very sleek and nice looking. Fairly easy to hold. I like the eyecup system. Focus ring very smooth.

  • Pretty good value. Comfortable to hold. Foldout eyecups aren’t as well engineered as some of the others-no intermediate settings.

Minox 15×58 ED
($1,249; 800-631-1584)
Magnification/objective: 15x58mm
Exit pupil diameter: 3.9mm
Prism type: P-coated roof prisms
Lens coatings: Fully multicoated
Weight: 52.7 oz.
Length and width: 8.8 x 6.3 in.
Waterproof: Yes
Best for: Long-range hunting and low-light viewing
Though 15X binoculars are not for everyone, a select cadre of open-country hunters has long prized them. Big glasses like this are ideal for Coues deer hunters who like to set big 15-powers on a tripod and pick the country apart. The testers complimented this Minox 15×58 ED with adjectives like “best, perfect, beautiful and sexy.” Its above-average ratings in every category brought its final score to within two points of tying for the coveted Editor’s Choice designation.

The letters “ED” following the specification numbers denote the use of Extra-Low Dispersion glass to virtually eliminate chromatic (color) aberrations. The primary criticism by the panel was that the focusing knob is too smooth and therefore needs a better gripping surface.

Extra Comments

  • Eyecups are the best of the bunch. They click into place at different stages. Diopter setting is nice. Focusing knob is harder to turn…needs more gripping surface. Heavy, though. A perfect birding glass but you’d need a tripod.

  • The diopter adjustment, next to the focus ring, is not in a good place. When wearing gloves, the diopter adjustment may be inadvertently moved. I like the adjustable eyecups.

  • Very nice eyecups, crisp focus. Nice diopter system, focus ring smooth. Obviously too heavy to cry all day.

  • Best click-stop diopte