Optics Review: OL Ranks the Best New Full-Size Binoculars for 2012

Zeiss Conquest HD 10×42 This entry raises the bar on Zeiss’ Conquest line. Billed as a “premium entry-level” optic, the HD is made entirely in Germany and boasts a five-year no-fault repair policy. The Zeiss dominated the low-light test–and is adequately crisp. Our 10×42 had a marvelously full and balanced hand feel and precise focus. Our only gripes: some blue fringing and edge distortion in this otherwise solid, affordable European optic. See video for the Zeiss Conquest HD 10×42. Test Restults
Score: ★ ★ ★ ★
Price: $1,000
Optics: A
Perceived Image: A
Price/Value: A-
Contact: zeiss.com/sports
Swarovski El Range 8×42 There’s nothing new about integrating a laser rangefinder into a binocular, but no one has done it nearly as competently or as elegantly as Swarovski. The EL’s rangefinder includes an angle-compensating feature, making it ideal for mountain hunters and archers. Our 8×42 model acquired targets as distant as 2,000 yards. Optically bright and crisp, and ergonomically balanced, the EL is a joy to use. It’s expensive, but its performance justifies the price. See video for the Swarovski El Range 8×42. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ★ Price: $2,770 Optics: A Perceived Image: A Design: A Price/Value: B Contact: swarovskioptik.us
Leica Trinovid 10×42 From a purely optical perspective, the 10×42 Trinovid we tested was nearly flawless. It turned in the second-best low-light score in the category, and its resolution was near the top of its class. Panelists praised the rich blacks in its image, nearly effortless viewing thanks to its big, bright exit pupil, and smart center-wheel diopter. On the downside, testers noted some yellow color fringing and complained that the focus control was spongy. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ★ Price: $1,500 Optics: A Perceived Image: A Design: A Design: A Price/Value: B+ Website: En.leica-camera.com
Alpen Apex XP 8×42 The sporting optics world has a secret: Some companies don’t make the products they put their names on, but simply rebrand generic optics. Alpen is one of those outfits, but it’s a testament to the company’s judgment that it puts its name on products that are useful, durable, and represent tremendous values. The 8×42 XP joins a family of priced-right Alpens: very good glass and hunter-friendly amenities at a fantastic price. See video for the Alpen Apex XP 8×42. Test Results
Score: ★ ★ ★ ½
Price: $300
Optics: B
Perceived Image: B+
Design: B+
Contact: alpenoptics.com
Carson 3D 10×42 Want proof of the Alpen’s generic heritage? Look no further than the 10×42 Carson. Inside its textured, piano-hinged housing is the very same glass and lens arrangement as the Alpen’s, made in the same Chinese factory. That doesn’t detract from the Carson’s assets: excellent edge-to-edge clarity, good contrast, grippy armor, a precise focus, and ergonomic thumb detents in a package that’s both affordable and durable. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ ½ Price: $310 Optics: B Perceived Image: B Design: B Price/Value: B Website: carsonoptical.com
Oculus 7.0 Series 10×42 At first glance, this 10×42 is better suited to a sports stadium than a treestand. The finish is slippery, the innovative metallic half-open hinge is game-spooking shiny, and the focus control on our sample was mushy. But this submission from Oculus, a new brand in the category, features better-than-average glass and hand-filling balance. It turned in adequate low-light and resolution scores, and earned high marks for its value pricing. Test Results Score: ★ ★ ★ Price: $350 Optics: B Perceived Image: B Design: B- Price/Value: B Website: Oculusoptics.com
Each year OL runs the most rigorous optics test in the industry, putting the screws to the latest scopes, binoculars, and spotting scopes. Check out the results from -size binoculars, and brace yourself, the winner of our Editor’s Choice award might surprise you. More from the 2012 Guns and Optics Test
Best New Rifles 2012
Best new Shotguns 2012
Best New Rifle Scopes 2012
Best New Mid-Size Binoculars 2012