Binocular-buying 101: raise a glass

Ask any hunter what they consider to be their most essential piece of outdoor equipment other than their gun or bow and you’ll get a wide variety of answers. For me it’s my compact 10 x 25 binoculars. I don’t go deer or turkey hunting without them because they allow me to easily identify a buck or doe in the deer woods or the size of a spring gobbler in a field.

When trailing wounded deer, a pair of binoculars can save a great deal of time by identifying if that white patch down below is the trunk of a fallen birch tree or the belly of the deer you’re after. Sure, you can hunt without a good set of binoculars, but without top-quality optics, I feel you will never be as efficient or successful as someone who constantly glasses their surroundings.

Before purchasing just any set of new binoculars, several things should be taken into consideration. In my opinion, size matters. I find my Leupold compact 10 x 25 binoculars are perfect for the type of hunting I do. They’re lightweight, fit easily into my shirt pocket and have plenty of optical power. Keep in mind that compact binoculars that fit into a shirt pocket are convenient to carry around, but to some, the 25mm objective lens limits their effectiveness at dawn or dusk when game is most active. However, I’ve never found that to be a problem because if it’s too dark to see, I’m well on my way back to my truck.

For that reason, some advocate a binocular with a larger objective lens because models with larger objective lenses, say 40 or 50 mm, provide a brighter image simply because they let in more light than those models with smaller objective lenses. However, when it comes to optics, there is no such thing as a free lunch because, to accommodate larger objective lenses, the binocular must be bulkier and thus heavier than a smaller unit with similar power.

Binoculars come in either a roof prism or porro prism configuration. If the eyepiece of the unit is offset from the objective lens, then it features a porro prism configuration, making the unit heavier, bulkier and usually less expensive than those with a roof prism design. Roof prism models have the ocular (the lens closest to the eye) and the objective lens in a straight line, thus allowing them to be lighter in weight and more compact.

Lens coating is important when choosing binoculars because when light strikes an air-to-glass surface, a small percentage of that light is reflected away and does not transfer through to the eye. To combat this loss of light, manufacturers coat the lens surfaces with a thin layer of refractive material like magnesium fluoride. This coating limits the amount of light lost and thus makes the image brighter. The best binocular models feature fully multi-coated lenses where all air to glass surfaces are treated with multiple layers of refractive coating that minimize this reflection. Cheaper models have only a single layer on one lens surface or a single coating on all air to glass surfaces.

Before considering purchasing a new set of binoculars, remember that when it comes to optics, you get what you pay for. Good binoculars have precisely ground glass lenses and come with the best lens coatings. The internal prisms are securely fastened with a special cement and metal fasteners that will allow them to take a lot of abuse. Rubber O-rings seal the internal parts against moisture and they are fogproof. Don’t consider any model that claims it is simply water resistant or anything less than waterproof. Finally, read the guarantee that comes with the unit. Mine are guaranteed for life against any leaking or mechanical failure. In my opinion, anything less would be a waste of money.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, New York – Mike Raykovicz

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