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Binocular Buying Suggestions

Last updated 2010-01-19 - Send Feedback
Related: binocular, binoculars, video
Swarovsky EL 10X42 SwaroVision, 20mm eye relief
Click to see price at B&H

Our hands-down winner (so far) is shown at right— the Swarovsky EL 10X42 SwaroVision (the 8.5X42 model should perform the same).

Comparing binoculars can be like comparing shoes: there can be a different right answer for everyone!

I’m not going to put price into the discussion here, that’s your headache to figure out. But if you need binoculars, don’t screw around with something you’ll end up replacing.

The Swarovsky EL SwaroVision 42 binoculars just do everything right. As I write this, I haven not yet tried any of the Nikon EDG binoculars, so they might also be a very good choice.

  • For one binocular that I’d enjoy, be willing to cary, and use the most, it would be the Swarovsky EL 8.5X42 SwaroVision.
  • Second choice: the Nikon EDG line, less expensive, very promising, but I haven’t yet reviewed them.

Binoculars at B&H Photo:

Suggested models

Here are the binoculars I suggest looking at to start with, taking particular note of eye relief.

I haven’t yet used the Nikon EDG line as of this writing, but it shows considerable promise in the eye relief area.

See my B&H wish list for pricing on the Nikon EDG and other brands.

Name
Click for relevant review page
Eye Relief (mm) Weight Exit pupil (mm)
Fujinon FMTR-SX Polaris 7X50 23 3.35 lbs / 1520g 7.1
Nikon EDG 8 X 32 18.5mm 23.6 oz / 4.0
Nikon EDG 10 X 32 17.3mm 23.6 oz / 3.2
Nikon EDG 8X42 19.3 28.6 oz / 811g 5.3
Nikon EDG 7 X 42 22.1 28.6 oz / 6.0
Swarovsky EL SwaroVison 8.5X42 20 28 oz / 794 4.2
Swarovsky EL SwaroVison 10X42 20 27.5 oz / 780g 4.2
Zeiss Victory FL 8X32 15.5 19.75 oz / 560g 4.0
Leica Geovid 8X42 w/ rangefinder 18 33.3 oz / 945g 5.25

Discussion

Compact binoculars

I have yet to find a compact binocular that’s worth bothering with, compact meaning 8-10 magnification and up to 25mm objectives. They all have serious compromises, especially poor eye relief. I’d rather just do without. I’ll keep looking.

Mid-size binoculars (32mm objectives)

After reviewing the binoculars discussed here, I’m just not going to bother with less than 18mm eye relief. It’s too much of a pain in the neck, literally.

The 32mm objectives almost always have poor eye relief, but Nikon has one what looks like a very good option in its 8X32 EDG model, with 18.5mm eye relief (according to Nikon’s web site). The Zeiss Victory FL 8X32 would also fit the bill, but with just barely enough eye relief.

Event viewing

If you’re going to an opera or show or hockey match or football or soccer match, the Fujinon 7X50 repesent great value— carry them the short distance and enjoy the wide angle view along with the deep field of view afforded by the porro prism design.

On the flip side, the Fujinons are so damn big and heavy that maybe even a short carry is too much, so take a close look at Nikon’s EDG 7X42 model (22.1mm eye relief, not yet reviewed).

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Car and boat binoculars

The Fujinon 7X50 binoculars are huge and heavy, and not suitable for any pack and carry situation, unless you’re a mule. So I call them “car and boat” binoculars, and they represent an incredible value for such uses.

Hiking/backpacking

At close to 2 pounds with caps and case, any 8X42 or 10X42 binocular might be out of the question for real excursions, particularly for backpacking, where every ounce counts. But the solution there is easy: don’t take binoculars at all— take a camera!

For short day hikes, I do not consider a 1.5-2 pound binocular too much to carry, an 8X32 or 8X42 or 10X42 binocular is still a reasonable size too. If you really want to use them, then carry a good view, or go without.

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