Have you noticed that hunting optics have been increasing in quality and decreasing in price over the last few years? And this year's newest models continue that trend. Who would have thought, for example, that you could get a high-quality Zeiss bino for under $1,600, a German-engineered Minox for less than $500, and a decent Bushnells for well under $200?
When you do go shopping for new binoculars for 2014, don't even bother looking through them at the gun counter. The minor details that separate the high-end binos from the lower-end are slight, and hard to detect looking at the rafters of a Bass Pro Shop. You'll want to get outside, preferably during low-light times, and check out that glass. That's one of the only ways you'll really make heads or tails of the differences in optical resolution, color and clarity.
Here, Rich Moncrief shows us the Zeiss Conquest HD out on the floor at SHOT Show 2014.
Of course, at the counter you can get a good feel for ergonomics, diopter and adjustment knobs. And they are important. Either way, we can be glad that optic companies continue to innovate. Leica, for example, upped the bar with their second-generation Geovid laser-range-finder bino. It's loaded with features, and, as you'd expect, has excellent glass.
BUSHNELL EXCURSION HD
MSRPs: 8x42 -- $179.99
10x42 -- $199.99
Bushnell's new Excursion HD's have a cool locking focus wheel among other features that make them a good buy. Prisms are BaK 4, they have PC-3 phase coating are fully multi-coated.
LEICA GEOVID-HD B LRF BINOCULAR
MSRPs: 8x42 -- gallery=202,945
10x42 -- gallery=202,995
Leica's Geovid-HD B laser-rangefinder binocular lets you create your own custom ballistics info for your specific weapon. The ballistic function, called Advanced Ballistic Compensation, gives information on hold over, turret adjustment or drop-down reticle aiming point. Trajectory, distance, angle, temperature and air pressure are all taken into account.
MEOPTA MEOSTAR 10x42 HD
This is a rugged bino, built in Europe, and boasts fluoride objective lens elements to get rid of chromatic aberration and color fringing. Unique lens coatings also help eliminate reflections and glare. It has a rubber armor coating and an aluminum frame.
MINOX BL 8x33
Price: About $499.99 retail
Minox went with new glass for their BL 8x33s in an open-bridge design. The German-made bino offers a wide field-of-view (421 feet at 1,000 yards), is nitrogen-purged and has twist-type, retractable rubber eyecups that have individual click stops.
NIKON MONARCH 7
MSRP, $379.99, $399.99
Nikon has added two scaled-down models to the Monarch 7 product line, an 8x30 and 10x30. At 4.7 inches long and 4.8 inches wide, they are compact yet offer a wide field-of-view and Nikon's Extra-Low Dispersion glass. The frames are made of fiberglass reinforced with polycarbonate resin and fitted with rubber armoring.
STEINER NIGHTHUNTER LRF BINOCULAR
Steiner Nighthunter 8x30 LRF binocular look different because they are Porro prism rather than roof prism. Porros are generally bulkier because they are not straight tubes, but they also known for better 3D perception. Steiner's new Nighthunters weight a solid 28 ounces but you are getting that instant laser-rangefinding ability as well. Another cool feature it the Sports Auto-Focus: focus to your eye — from 20 yards to infinity — and never turn a focus knob again.
MSRP: [imo-slideshow gallery=202],921.99, [imo-slideshow gallery=202],999.99
Swarovski's SLC line has been around awhile and is a proven high-quality hunting optic. Now Swarovski is adding an 8x42, 10x42 and 15x56 to the line. SLC's have a super strong magnesium housing and 91 percent light transmisison. The 8x42 has a 408-feet field-of-view at 1,000 yards, while the 10x42 offers 330 feet at 1,000 yards. Swarovski is also announcing a 15x56 bino addition to the SLC line.
VANGUARD ENDEAVOR ED2
Price: Under $500 retail
These binos have many of the features you'd find on more expensive models but will sell for about $500 retail. The ED2s have a large focus adjustment wheel, good eye relief and quality ED glass, which reduces color dispersion and gives good colors and clarity. The ED has BaK4 roof prisms, is nitrogen-charged and o-ring sealed.
ZEISS CONQUEST HD
MSRPs: $1777, $1666 and $1611
Zeiss added three new 56mm binos to its Conquest HD. Now there is a 15x56,10x56 and 8x56. The idea behind the larger objective lens to help Western or mountain hunters, Joel Harris of Zeiss told Game & Fish/Sportsman magazines. But it's really good product for anyone who needs higher magnification with the detailed resolution and color contrast for viewing game over long distances. Zeiss uses selected HD glass types to increase brilliance and resolution. They have T* multi-coating on the optics and LotuTec protective coatings on the housing.
If you're familiar with Redfield's TAC-MOA riflescope reticle, you'll like the new Battlefield 10x42s. The new binos have the TAC-MOA reticle style, which makes it easy to range with one and move over to the other during a hunt or at the range. Fully multi-coated lenses, BAK4 prisms, desert-digital finish with a MOLLE case.
What's your favorite glass? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!