New Optics Test 2010

Happily, the optics industry has come to understand this curious dynamic of hunters and has given us a variety of pretty good binoculars, riflescopes and spotting scopes at a decent price. And, for those of us who aren't concerned with cost, the industry has also given us some remarkable hunting optics at equally remarkable prices. This year's Optics Test features not only the largest field of full-size binoculars and riflescopes ever, but also the richest middle ground of value glass, or optics that offer a lot of performance at a fair price. With so much choice, this is a very good year to be in the market for new hunting optics. Behind the Scenes Video:
Binoculars >>
Spotting Scopes >>
Rifle Scopes >>
Innovations >>
Most hunters select optics by looking through them at a sporting-goods counter or glassing out the window at mid-day, neither of which tells you much about how the product will perform in the field. Outdoor Life's comprehensive test measures hunting optics' ability to perform the tasks we most value. We look at how they resolve distant details and illuminate game at first and last light, and we rate them on dependability, ruggedness and affordability. We test only new products, and invite all manufacturers to submit only one product per category. (Full-size binoculars are those with objective lenses larger than 32mm; mid-size binos have lenses between 25 and 32mm.) First, optical resolution is measured on an official 1951 Air Force Resolution Target. Resolution, or the ability of an optic's glass to render fine detail, is recorded in seconds of angle. Because large objective lenses and high magnification tend to increase an optic's resolution, each submission is scored relative to its theoretical resolution limit. Optics that perform near their theoretical limit get higher scores than those that perform well below their potential. This resolution score is half the objective score for binos and spotting scopes, and a third of the score for riflescopes. Bill McRae holds the low-light target (left) in the Montana evening. Other tools are used to assess resolution and eye relief.
Our low-light test measures an optic's ability to perform at what are arguably the most important times for a hunter: dawn and dusk. We send one team member out in the twilight with a black-and-white resolution target, then time how long we can resolve the target's detail as night falls. The best-scoring optics are those that remain brightest and clearest longest in the evening. The low-light score makes up the other half of the objective score (reflected in the Optical Quality Ranking) for binos and spotting scopes, and a third of the riflescope score. Each riflescope is scored on its ability to maintain its point of aim as its magnification is zoomed up and down. Additionally, riflescopes' windage and elevation precision is measured by tracking a 10-minute-of-angle grid. Crosshairs that return to their starting point get full scores; turrets that don't track precisely are penalized. The riflescopes' mechanical precision makes up a third of the objective score. The cumulative objective score (Optical Quality Ranking) makes up 60 percent of the final score.
Our test panel considers each optic's fit and finish, and features such as focus, eyecups and ergonomics (cumulatively considered Design) and value for the price. Panelists also assess each optic's image quality, giving higher scores to optics that render accurate colors, rich contrast and clarity to the edge of the image. These subjective considerations contribute 40 percent of the final score. The coveted Editor's Choice award goes to the optic with the highest overall score in each category. Our Great Buy award goes to the highest Price/Value score. OL Optics Test members spent four days assessing optics, measuring resolution and clarity and entering sheaves of data.
OL's Optics Test Team Andrew McKean: Hunting Editor of Outdoor Life, McKean also serves as the magazine's Optics Editor. He captains the optics test and brings his worldwide hunting experience to optics evaluation. Mark Copenhaver: Copenhaver is a Western big-game hunter and lent his considerable technical expertise to the panel, compiling mountains of optical data. Dale Manning: Manning, an acclaimed taxidermist from Missoula, Montana, has hunted birds and big game around the West, and evaluated optics with an experienced eye and attention to detail.**** Bill McRae: Editor Emeritus of OL's optics desk, McRae developed many of the testing methodologies we use. He lives in Choteau, Montana, and is an accomplished big-game hunter. John Taranto: Outdoor Life's gear guru and Senior Editor, Taranto is a hard-core outdoorsman who grew up hunting deer and turkeys in the Eastern woodlands. Where We Tested
A working livestock ranch located in the heart of one of the great big-game ranges on earth, the Boone and Crockett Club's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch overlooks Montana's stunning Rocky Mountain Front. The ranch's expansive lodge provided vistas and comfort for nearly a week of optics testing. The mission of the TRM Ranch (boone-crockett.org/conservation) is research and demonstration of integrated wildlife/livestock conservation. The ranch's 6,000 acres are home to wildlife as diverse as ruffed grouse, elk, trout and grizzly bears. Located west of Dupuyer, Montana, the ranch also houses the world-class Rasmuson Wildlife Conservation Center, which provides hands-on resource education to students from pre-school through grad school. Available for group rental, the lodge features a commercial kitchen and room for two-dozen guests.
Swarovski Z5 - 3.5-18x44 Graceful as a dancer's leg, the cutting-edge glass in this top-drawer scope almost obscures the scope's sophisticated internal engineering. The Swarovski won our low-light test and posted the top resolution score of the field. Fitting the huge 5.1X zoom range in such a trim 1-inch tube is a remarkable feat of optical design. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 1st
Image: A+
Design: A+
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $1,610, swarovskioptic.com ]
Meopta MeoPro 3-9x42 Testers correctly called Meopta's entry into the riflescope category a "killer value." Optically, it performed like a scope twice its price, and panelists noted its clarity across its magnification range. The geometry of the 1-inch tube is a bit boxy, but that's a minor criticism for a marvelous, fairly priced scope. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 4th
Image: B+
Design: B
Price/Value: A [ Price: $400, meopta.com ]
Alpen Apex 4-16x44 Alpen's debut riflescope is a versatile 1-inch model that just about any shooter can afford, and which fits nearly any shooting situation. It has its share of issues--the side focus isn't very precise and panelists noted slight ghosting around images--but its optical quality scored above that of scopes costing four times as much. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 8th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $269, alpenoutdoor.com ]
BSA Boss 1.5-4x32 Designed for turkey hunting and shotgun or muzzle-loader deer hunting, this low-power scope has some thoughtful features, including optional illumination of the circular reticle that acquires targets quickly. The scope's point of aim shifted significantly as we zoomed up the modest magnification range. Still, the 1-inch tube is a smart buy. Overall Rating: 2 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 15th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $80, bsaoptics.com ]
Bushnell Trophy XLT 3-9x40 A raging bargain, this value-priced scope from Bushnell has surprisingly crisp optics, even on the edge of the image. It lost significant points, however, by shifting its point of aim more than a minute of angle across the magnification range. Adding to its value, the versatile 1-inch scope ships with Butler Creek lens caps. Overall Rating: 2 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 14th
Image: B+
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $170, bushnell.com ]
Cabela's Caliber Specific 3-9x40 Cabela's joins a new trend in riflescopes with this caliber-specific model, which features a reticle dedicated to the ballistics of the .17HMR. There are no frills in this 1-inch tube, but testers appreciated the bright glass and impressive low-light performance. Mechanically, it demonstrated imprecision in windage and elevation tracking. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 13th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: A [ Price: $100, cabelas.com ]
Carson 3D 3.5-10x44 A newcomer to the riflescope market, Carson's value-minded submission turned in solid optical-quality scores, and testers liked the oversize rubber power-changing ring and generous eye relief on the 1-inch tube. Though the model we tested was a prototype, it demonstrated adequate clarity for the price. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 11th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $290, carsonoptical.com ]
Kahles Helia CSX 2.5-10x50 From the subtle illuminated aiming point to the precisely machined windage and elevation gears, the Helia is built like an old-world clock. But it's the gem-bright glass that caused testers to covet this serious scope built around a 30mm tube--if only any of us owned a rifle worthy of being topped by this world-class optic. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 3rd
Image: A+
Design: A+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $2,469, kahlesoptik.com ]
Leupold VX-3L 3.5-10x50 This robust scope packs many of Leupold's previous innovations in a single feature-filled package. From the cutout objective lens that allows for low mounting to the generous eye box and reticle illumination system, the 30mm tube is stuffed with amenities. The glass is good, but it doesn't quite match the scope's features. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 7th
Image: A+
Design: A
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $875, leupold.com ]
Minox ZA5 3-15x42 Lately, riflescope designers have competed to extend the magnification range to ever-wider ratios. Minox packs an impressive 5X range in an economical 1-inch tube, though testers dinged its underwhelming resolution and dim image, and wanted an external focus to fine-tune the image at higher magnification. Overall Rating: 2 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 16th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $499, minox.com ]
Nikon M-223 3-12x42 This cartridge-specific offering from Nikon features a reticle that conforms to the ballistics of the .223 Rem., making it a good choice for a dedicated AR optic. The 1-inch scope's features include flip-up lens covers, tactical Rapid Action Turrets and precise side focus. Optically solid, it lost points in low-light performance. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 9th (tie)
Image: B+
Design: C
Price/Value: B [ Price: $449, nikonhunting.com ]
Nitrex TR One 4-16x50 This big scope, configured for big-game hunting, offers abundant mounting distance fore and aft of the too-small windage and elevation turrets. The objective bell focus is tight and precise. Optically, the image through the 1-inch tube is crisp and bright, but the scope lost points with a 1-minute point-of-aim shift. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 12th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $409, nitrexoptics.com ]
Redfield Revolution 3-9x50 Leupold's goal to own the budget-scope class gains momentum with this solid optic built on a 1-inch tube. The windage and elevation knobs felt a bit mushy, but the Redfield was a top finisher in our low-light test, and the Accu-Range reticle combines ballistic reference points with fast target acquisition. Good value, too. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 9th (Tie)
Image: B+
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $199, redfield.com ]
Vortex Viper 4-16x50 With all the bells and whistles, the middling optical performance of this tactical 30mm scope is almost an afterthought. Features include an illuminated first-plane reticle, oversize turrets (which turn too easily) and a raised power scale that makes reading the magnification a cinch. The Viper had a top low-light score. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 6th
Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $850, vortexoptics.com ]
Weaver Super Slam 3-15x42 This high-performance scope rivals the best European brands in terms of optical clarity and style. The oversize locking windage and elevation turrets are an acquired taste, but the side focus is precise, the eye relief is liberal and the giant 5X zoom ratio is gracefully contained in a 1-inch tube. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 2nd
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $870, weaveroptics.com ]
Zeiss Victory Diavari 6-24x72 At nearly 3 pounds and built around a behemoth 34mm tube, this is a pricey specialty scope that is tailored primarily to target and varmint shooting. Optically solid, thoughtful features include spring-loaded locking turrets, illuminated Rapid-Z reticle, custom mounting hardware and precise focus to 1,000 yards. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 5th
Image: A+
Design: B+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $3,500, zeiss.com/sports ]
FULL-SIZE BINOCULARS: Swarovski EL 42 Sworovision 10x42 Swarovski has further pushed the envelope of optical perfection with this high-performance binocular. The optic renders a world-class image stylishly and comfortably, and even small details--such as the locking center diopter wheel, redesigned focusing system and twist-in eyecups--are elegant and functional. If price is no object, the well-balanced open-bridge Sworovision won't disappoint. But if the gem-bright image and stunning definition are breathtaking, so is the stratospheric price tag. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 1st
Image: A+
Design: A
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $2,754, swarovskioptik.com ]
Pentax DCF CS 8x42 This big, beefy binocular continues Pentax's long legacy of crisp optics in an affordable package. The bino earned a great resolution score, but scuffled a bit in our low-light test. It won high praise for its clicking center diopter wheel, big eyecups and light weight. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 7th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $279, pentaxsportoptics.com ]
Alpen Wings 10x42 One of several contenders for our Great Buy award, this solid binocular from a budget-minded line boasts thoughtful features, such as a weight-shaving open-bridge design and locking eyecups. Optical performance was adequate, in keeping with the very accessible price point. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 15th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $192, alpenoutdoor.com ]
Bushnell Legend Ultra-HD 10x42 Testers appreciated the edge-to-edge clarity, bright image and comfortable hand feel of the Legend, though all commented on the noticeably stingy eye relief. The redesigned binocular boasts wavelength-correcting fluorite glass, a premium on an optic at this price. Locking diopter adjustment, a beefed-up harness and semi-hard case round out the amenities. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 4th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $300, bushnell.com ]
Cabela's Alaskan Guide 8x42 For under $500, you get remarkably crisp glass in a durable, no-nonsense package. The image has a slight ivory cast and the armor is slippery, but this workmanlike binocular won't disappoint, even if it doesn't necessarily wow you. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 11th
Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $480, cabelas.com ]
Carson 3D 8x42 A new entry in Carson's value lineup, this binocular has few frills. Instead you get solid craftsmanship and an optic designed for long-glassing comfort, from its deep thumb detents to its grippy armor. Optically, it turned in a solid performance, though some panelists noted a slightly dark image. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 12th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $290, carsonoptical.com ]
Celestron Nature 10x42 If manufacturers had put the same amount of work into the optical system that went into the flashy housing, this might have been the buy of the year. Instead, the image was flat and murky. Externally, this open-bridge bino has a lot going for it, from the textured armor to the oversize focus knob. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 13th
Image: C+
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $120, celestron.com ]
Minox BL 10x44 This is a big, classy European optic at a price many testers felt should be much higher. Features include easy-holding open-bridge design, a cleverly protected (too cleverly, some panelists thought) diopter ring and big, light-gobbling 44mm objective lenses. Minuses include a sloppy focus knob and barrels that recorded significantly different resolution scores. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 14th
Image: B+
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $499, minox.com ]
Nikon Monarch ATB 10x42 The solid, fairly priced Monarch produced a crisp image, right up to the edge of the field of view. But it disappointed in the low-light test, and the diopter setting on our model was out of adjustment. Still, for $300, you get remarkable Nikon quality. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 9th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $299, nikonhunting.com ]
Steiner C5 Predator 10x56 Weighing more than 2 1⁄2 pounds, this muscular optic renders a sharp, high-contrast image. But the Predator surprisingly lost points on low-light performance, considering the huge objectives. Few of the testers could imagine packing this behemoth either long or far. The winged eyecups and threaded tripod adaptor are nice touches. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 8th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $1,000, steiner-binoculars.com ]
Vortex Viper R/T 10x50 Testers could find only one flaw with this bright, lightweght, big binocular: its ranging reticle (designed to subtend human- and deer-size targets at various ranges), which obscures images and tends to distract the eye even in bright light. It gets worse in low-light conditions. The Viper's image is crisp, even on the edges, but it turned in middling low-light and resolution scores. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 5th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $680, vortexoptics.com ]
Weaver Super Slam 10.5x45 This is not your father's Weaver. The first giveaway is the hip two-toned armor and serrated eyecups and focus wheel; the second is the dazzling optical clarity; and the third is the premium price. The binocular won our low-light test and was no slouch on the resolution range. The clicking, locking hinge got mixed reviews. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 2nd
Image: A
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $1,114, weaveroptics.com ]
Yukon Frontier 8x42 A decent optic at a decent price, this binocular produced some flaring and edge distortion, and nearly every tester reported eye fatigue after extended glassing. But testers liked the generally bright image and robust armor. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 10th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $180, yukonopticsusa.com ]
Zeiss Conquest 10x56 If you're looking for a binocular to extend your twilight viewing, this is a good choice. The Conquest, with its huge 56mm objective lenses, tied with Weaver for low-light honors. But it didn't fare as well on our assessment of its features--focus was a bit rough, finish feels almost too slick and balance is forward-heavy--especially considering the premium price. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 3rd
Image: B+
Design: B+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $1,499, zeiss.com/sports ]
Zen-Ray Vista 10x42 The panel was divided on the optical talent of this budget-priced entry. Some testers admired the resolution and lack of color aberration. Others noted significant flaring and edge distortion. Either way, there's a lot of value in this basic roof-prism binocular Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 6th
Image: C+
Design: C+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $139, zen-ray.com ]
Zeiss Victory 10x25 Weighing a scant 8.6 ounces and folding elegantly into a tidy package scarcely bigger than a deck of cards, this marvelous binocular turned in remarkable resolution and low-light scores. There are some detractions: The off-center hinge seems a tad flimsy and the push-pull eyecups were not as well designed as some. But if you're in the market for a world-class optic that looks (and acts) larger than it is, this Zeiss is a great choice. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 1st
Image: A
Design: A
Price/Value: B [ Price: $700, zeiss.com/sports ]
Redfield Rebel 8x32 This new entry from a venerable name in optics does everything a mid-size binocular should: It gathers more light and boasts sharper resolution than a compact, without the dimensions and heft of a full-size optic. There's little flair to this workmanlike binocular, and it seems a bit heavier than necessary, but it has a generous exit pupil and a good image for the price. The Rebel is a good entry-level bino, sized for a turkey vest or tree stand. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 7th
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $130, redfield.com ]
Bresser Condor 8x32 This new entry into the hunting optics field offers a durable chassis but disappointing glass. Though panelists considered it a solid value at $90, they nonetheless noted the dim image and some peripheral distortion. Testers felt the housing was too bulky and heavy for a mid-size binocular, and it tended to be slippery. Still, if you're looking for a trim binocular that fits in a hunting pack as easily as it fits a budget, this Bresser is a good choice. Overall Rating: 2 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 8th
Image: C
Design: C
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $90, bresser.com ]
Celestron Nature 8x30 A lightweight entry-level optic in a classic porro-prism configuration, the Nature has some nice features--positive locking eyecups and a reference scale on the hinge for interpupilary distance, for example--but ultimately that doesn't compensate for a dim image and a focus knob that slipped. The bulky geometry of the porro prism is a better fit for the full-size category, where size isn't quite such a critical consideration. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 4th
Image: C
Design: C
Price/Value: C [ Price: $70, celestron.com ]
Nikon Travelite 10x25 If you're looking for a lightweight binocular to slip into a turkey vest or take on your next vacation, this 9.4-ounce bantam from Nikon is a good choice. Optically, the reverse-porro-prism binocular has solid resolution, but our testers noted the eye-fatiguing exit pupil and some flaring caused by non-image-forming light. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 3rd
Image: C
Design: C+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $109, nikonhunting.com ]
Steiner Wildlife Pro 8x30 This porro-prism binocular wowed us with its crisp image and low-light performance. Ergonomically, it didn't make many friends. Big and boxy, the Wildlife Pro is at home in a boat or a vehicle, but because it has full-size dimensions with fairly small objective lenses, it's not the best choice for a hiking hunter. Steiner's new rapid-focus system won points. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 2nd
Image: C
Design: C+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $399, steiner-binoculars.com ]
Vortex Viper 8x28 In a case of "more is less," the panel found the ranging reticle in the left barrel of this bright, trim binocular distracting. The otherwise nimble optic is a good choice for bowhunters and anyone who needs to deploy a compact binocular in tight quarters with a single hand. You can make a case for the reticle if you are spotting for a friend or need to make a quick range estimation and don't have a rangefinder. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 5th
Image: B
Design: C
Price/Value: C [ Price: $400, vortexoptics.com ]
Weaver Classic 8x32 Built around a full-size chassis, this new offering from Weaver is a little large for a mid-size binocular, but it turned in a solid optical performance. A straight-ahead binocular at a value price, this optic is a worthy addition to the Classic line, which previously was limited to riflescopes. A good entry-level optic or choice for a hunter who doesn't need a 10X. Overall Rating: 2.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 6th
Image: B
Design: B+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $246, weaveroptics.com ]
Zeiss Diascope 15-45x85 With optically superior glass in a surprisingly lightweight chassis, this big scope won our low-light test and had a top resolution score. The two-speed focus and wide-angle eyepiece sparkled, but the image was a bit grainy at higher power. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
**Optical Quality
:** 1st**
Image:** B+**
Design:** A**
Price/Value:** C+**** [ ****Price: $3,000, zeiss.com/sports ]
Leupold Kenai 25-60x80 (w/30X eyepiece) This versatile spotter ships with two eyepieces, a 25-60X zoom and a fixed 30X. The objective lens features ED glass, but testers noted some blue fringing, and its metallic housing is surprisingly heavy. The Kenai tied for first in our low-light test. Overall Rating: 3.5 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 3rd
Image: B+
Design: B
Price/Value: B+ [ Price: $709, leupold.com ]
Bresser Dachstein ED 20-60x80 A good value in a porro-prism scope, this entry from a company better known for celestial observation features color-correcting ED glass and a velvet-smooth focus system. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 5th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $600, bresser.com ]
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 15-45x60 This unit is light and compact enough for backpacking, but the panel expected a brighter image from the premium ED glass. Testers noted an eye-fatiguing exit pupil at higher magnification. The coarse/fine focus system won points. Overall Rating: 3 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 4th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: C+ [ Price: $650, bushnell.com ]
Cabela's Euro Premium 20-60x75 Optically, this rebranded Meopta is a superstar, posting the highest resolution score in the field and second in the low-light test. The mid-barrel focus knob is a bit coarse, but testers appreciated the value in this high-performance scope. Overall Rating: 4 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 2nd
Image: B
Design: B
Price/Value: B [ Price: $1,200, cabelas.com ]
Yukon Firefall 25x70 Optically disappointing, this fixed-power scope focused reluctantly, and its image was a bit murky. But the scope is light and compact enough to add to a backpack. Overall Rating: 2 stars Report Card:
Optical Quality: 6th
Image: B
Design: C+
Price/Value: B [ Price: $80, yukonopticsusa.com ]
Innovations - The marriage of optical engineering and digital technology Made of glass and glue and metal tubes, optics are fundamentally analog instruments. But a new generation of binos and scopes combines digital technology--circuits, wireless signals and silicon chips--with the ancient human need to see farther and better. A whole family of new optics capably marries these two divergent technical traditions. A digital riflescope enables shooters to electronically range targets, and then shows them the precise holdover for their specific load. A binocular combines a sophisticated laser rangefinder with affordable glass. A spotting scope includes a digital camera, so you can capture distant images, however fleeting. Burris Eliminator Laser Scope 4-12x42: More streamlined than the inelegantly bulky scopes that previously incorporated rangefinding, the Eliminator provides a lighted aiming point on the reticle's elevation post that corresponds to the target distance and the shooter's specific caliber and load. Remote switch and low-mount rail included. ($849; burrisoptics.com)
Bushnell Fusion 1600 10x42: The idea of combining a laser rangefinder with a binocular isn't new, but the hybrid has never combined this much performance in this compact a package at this price. The rangefinder is fast, responsive and customizable, but the display is hard to read against bright backgrounds and optical quality is average. ($899; bushnell.com)
Bresser Spectiv Digital 15x60: Optically, there's nothing new about this basic, surprisingly lightweight porro-prism scope. But add a 3-megapixel digital camera, and the scope transforms into a fun, useful recording device. Review scouting images, photograph sports or take it anyplace an inexpensive telephoto lens is useful. ($350; bresser.com)
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This year's class features a wide variety of budget glass.