Binocular Advice Needed

On my just concluded hunt in the Eastern Cape I used my Maven B.3 8x30 binoculars. They worked fairly good and were light enough. However, the PH and my brother-in-law who had 10x binoculars were able to pick out some animals that I missed. This was especially true when we were searching for kudu on a conservancy where we had to look across a valley at 5-700 yards to see them.

I am considering taking advantage of some of the Father's Day sales to upgrade to 10x binoculars. While my PH suggested 10x42, I'm wondering if having a 10x30 or 10x32 would be handier. One that I'm looking at are the mid-range Kowa BD II's in 10x32 as well as 10x42. The 10x42's are about 4 ounces heavier. They get some good reviews from the birders.

I'd love to go the Swarovski/Leica route but they are out of my budget range. I'm open to suggestions on other brands.

Should I upgrade or make do? While I no longer have 20/20 vision, I still don't have to wear glasses except to read.
I have Swarovskis in 10x32 I know you said those particular ones are out of your budget, but that style has worked very well for me for years.
 
I have a set of 8x30 and barely use them. The size is a disadvantage as it makes it hard just to see through them and keep them still. I do use them for turkey hunting buy couldn’t imagine using them for any other big game
 
I have had my Geovids for over 15 years. I love them. I have Leiva 8x20 Ultravids for when I am going on a walkabout. I have had great deals on optics from Camera Land NY and Eurooptic after the shows when they have "open box" specials.

Safe shooting
How do you like those Geovids? They seemed to be a little heavier but I'm guessing that was due to the rangefinder in it.
 
In some circles Vortex gets a bad rap, but for binos and their price point I’ve been using the Vortex Diamondback series 10x38 and 10x42 the past couple of times to Africa and here in the south. I run a set of 15x56 Diamondbacks in Texas and out west. Their quality of glass is good and they have excellent customer service and a lifetime warranty.
 
For the Limpopo area where I am going back to this September, I will take my 8x30 Swarovski. If I were to go back to the eastern cape I would definitely want 10x42's.
 
Back when I was doing a lot of still hunting I used my binoculars almost more than I do now.

Every time that I would stop I would use them to glass ahead no matter how far I could see. I looked for legs or a ear twitching. I never 100% hoped that I would just chance on a animal and most if the times I would see them way before they saw me which enabled me to get into a postilion for the shot.
I bet you were hunting hardwoods?

I wear glasses. Messing with binocs means moving them out of the way. And setting my rifle down. Hassle.
 
10 x 42's are the way to go. Great options listed by members already.
 
I bet you were hunting hardwoods?

I wear glasses. Messing with binocs means moving them out of the way. And setting my rifle down. Hassle.
Never hunted hardwoods in my life. It was mostly dark timber here in the west.

Even when I wore glasses I never had a problem with binoculars, just turn the eye cups down
 
I'd add that you use your binos all day to find the game, your scope needs to be able pick it out, and the rifle needs to deliver...

The formula might be:
A $750 rifle;
A $1,500 scope;
But $3,000 binos...
 
How do you like those Geovids? They seemed to be a little heavier but I'm guessing that was due to the rangefinder in it.
I love them. They are a bit heavy, but I am a lot stronger than I look. :LOL: I can spot and judge animals long before legal shooting light and they allow me to see animals that I would not see without good glass. The range finder is very handy, and I never want to be without one. If I wasn't happy with them, they would have been replaced a long time ago. The new models look nicer and seem to be a bit lighter but not enough improvement for me to change. I have no interest in the latest and greatest with wifi, Bluetooth, ballistic program, espresso maker, etc.

Safe hunting
 
It seems like you're on the right track with watching ebay.

I've wanted a pair of Swarovski 10x42ELs forever but they were just too expensive for me to stomach and for some reason it never occurred to me to buy used. After watching ebay for a few months I was able to get a pair of them with Swarovision (1 gen old) for almost half price of new in nearly perfect shape. Now adding up all the other binos I have, I could have just done this a decade ago when I started accumulating optics. Buy once cry once is true. I also scored a used lightweight 50mm backpacking spotter with ED glass off ebay for 200 bucks.

As far as the 42 vs 30mm objectives, as others have said, 42s certainly have an advantage during the magic hour when light is tough. With a harness they never bother me with bulk. I prefer the cheaper clip in harness style, not the glasspack bag on my front.

I pretty much live inside them while I'm hunting, always scanning, get out of the pickup I scan, cross a new ridge I scan, sit down I scan. But I don't always use my 10x, but probably about 90% of the areas I hunt I do. In heavy timber/cover/treestand I opt for a wider bino, either 7x wides or even sometimes cheap but incredible 15* wide Visionking 5x25s if it gets really thick.
 
Does anyone have any experience with the Steiner Rocky binoculars? They seem to be a compact model in the 10x28 and 12x28 class. I've found some good deals on these at auction. I thought of them as a back-up set that could be kept in the car.
 
Does anyone have any experience with the Steiner Rocky binoculars? They seem to be a compact model in the 10x28 and 12x28 class. I've found some good deals on these at auction. I thought of them as a back-up set that could be kept in the car.
I think you'll find all of the micro bins lacking. Not unusable, I take some on vacation and carry a pair duck hunting for keeping track of cripples on the water but they're nothing like a full sized pair. No personal experience with the Steiners. I keep lower end full sized bins in all my vehicles though.
 
For a low budget top quality glass, lightweight, 10x42.... take a look at Stealth Vision.

@Just Gina got a pair thrown in on a custom rifle, 2 scope, and thermal clip on deal ;)

I think retail might be $550. Amazing for the money, compact and lightweight.
20240617_174334.jpg
 
Understanding the criteria that should drive the choice of a pair of binoculars...

Just as for about any other piece of hunting equipment (rifle, caliber, scope, etc.), there are technical criteria that SHOULD drive the choice of a pair of binoculars, and all binoculars are not best for all hunting, just as all calibers are not ideal across all species from PG to DG and from dense Jesse to open mountain ranges.

Criteria #1 - Glass & Coatings Quality
I can summarize this one easily: buy the best you can afford, even if it takes you 3 years to pay for your binoculars.

How do you know the best glass and coatings quality? Simple, you get what you pay for, and there are three market leaders that dominate all the rest: Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski.

Historically, the quality of the sand used to produce the glass made the difference, and Baltic Sea sands are the best in the world. Of course, nowadays, Chinese and Japanese companies can and do purchase Baltic Sea sand Schott glass, but the coating technologies perfected by Zeiss, Leica and Swarovski are the best in the world and remain technical secrets guarded with as much if not more care than nuclear weapons secrets. Of course glass is important, and it makes the difference between cheap "Coke bottle bottom binoculars" and quality binoculars, but coatings are what make the difference between 80% and 95% light transmission.

Yes, modern Vortex, Leupold, Bushnell, Burris, Nikon, etc. etc. have good glass; and yes, Meopta, Steiner, etc. source their lenses from the big three, but grab a pair of anything at dusk and compare it to Zeiss Victory, Leica or Swarovski, and you will shake your head in disbelief.

Also, beware of modern marketing and brand exploitation. For example, all Zeiss binoculars are not equal. There is a difference (and a $1,500 premium) between Zeiss Victory binocs and Zeiss Conquest binocs. Do you need the $2,500 Victory, or can you do with the $1,000 Conquest? To each their own, the $1,500 additional will buy you better coatings, metallic internal parts, assembly in Germany, stricter quality control, etc. But keep in mind that a pair of 2020's Conquest is optically better than a pair of 1980's Dialyt B/GA T* which was life-changing then when you could finally afford one. I underline optically, because mechanically, the 1980's Dialyt runs circles around the 2020's Conquest...

When I learned hunting in the 1970's in the French Alps, old hands used to say: spend your money first on the best binoculars, then on a good scope, then whatever money is left will buy you a rifle. I agree with the prioritization, if only because you cannot shoot what you do not see or cannot identify (e.g. male vs horned female, age class, trophy quality, etc.)

As to hunting without binocs, it baffles me. I would just as soon stay home... It breaks my heart when I see folks in Africa without binocs, milling around while their PH hunts with his binocs, and getting their role reduced to just shooting mechanically at something they did not find, did not identify, cannot judge, etc. etc. ... in so many words: did not hunt.

Criteria #2 - Magnification
The more magnification the better, right? Well, within limits. There is no doubt that 4x binoculars would be less useful than 8x, but why not 12x, or 16x?
The upper limit of magnification for hand-held binoculars is generally considered to be 10x. Most of us are not capable of holding STILL enough, long enough, off hand, a pair of binoculars with larger magnification for them to be useful in the field.
This is why 10x became, and remains, the standard for general-hunting binoculars. Unless one is hunting at close range, 10x is likely the best choice.
This does not mean other magnifications do not have a place in the hunting fields. If tracking Lion or Elephant, 8x is great. If guiding, or accompanying, and resting the binocs on top of the sticks when glassing, 12x and even 15x are fantastic to find animals others do not see, or more often, and this is the true value of such magnifications, judging trophy quality.

Criteria #3 - Objective Diameter
This one is a direct mathematical computation, and Zeiss had it right (as usual...) when they introduced the 10x40.
Since the human pupil is generally around 4 mm in diameter in full sunlight the goal is to have a 4 mm light beam reach the eye. The formula for the light beam diameter is objective diameter divided by magnification.
A pair of 10x40 binoculars produce a 4 mm light bean: 40 mm objective / 10x magnification = 4 mm light beam.
A pair of 8x30 binocs only produces a 3.75 mm light beam. This is just fine with younger eyes still benefiting from flexible pupils, but passed 50 years old you start to see the difference at dawn and dusk when the pupil dilate to about 7 mm and the eye could benefit from a 7 mm light beam. This explains while Zeiss has had two best sellers in binoculars: 10x40 for general hunting, and 8x56 for dawn & dusk hunting from miradors (tree stands). Why 8x56? Because 56/8=7 hence a pair of 8x56 produces the desired 7 mm light beam at dawn and dusk.
A pair of pocket 10x25 binocs only produces a 2.5 mm light beam. There are wonderfully light for hiking and literally disappear in a shirt chest pocket, but they are all but useless at dawn and dusk.

Note: I suspect that the only rationale for modern 10x42 or 8x32 binocs is marketing, to match the name of the quasi-universal variable 1.5-6x42 scopes in Europe. Why 1.5-6x42? Because 42/6=7. Not a coincidence...

Criteria #4 - Mechanical Quality
The best glass and coatings are completely useless if the two barrels of the binocs do not point in the same direction, the focus wheel does not adjust both barrels equally, diopter changes with magnification, dust speckles internal lenses, vapor fogs the internal surfaces, etc. etc. or lenses become loose after a knock. And there are few worse headaches than those caused from glassing for a few hours in optically divergent binoculars.

And no, lifetime, unconditional warranty is not the answer! What does it matter that Brand xxx will exchange for free and without question your broken, or mis-collimated, or astigmatic pair of binocs if they were useless 9 days out of your 10-day safari? What you lost in hunting experience is irreplaceable...

I am old fashion, I prefer lenses held and moved by metallic parts, but I easily admit that modern composite materials also work. As long as we are talking kevlar and modern polyamideimide, polycarbonate and high-density polyethylene materials, as opposed to cheap PVC.

Here too, the first advice stands: buy the best you can afford, even if it takes you 3 years to pay for your binoculars.



Zeiss 10x40 BGA.jpg


THE REFERENCE: Zeiss 10x40 B/GA circa 1980's. Still the best compromise in my experience between magnification, objective diameter, angular field of view, mechanical construction, volume and weight. There is better glass coating nowadays, boosting light transmission from 80%+ to 90%+, but as an overall package for general day hunting, it remains hard to beat. In fact, it is so good that 40-year old used pairs still change hands for $700 to $800...

Sawrovski SLC 15x56.jpg

If you can rest your binocs while glassing, and if judging trophy quality at distance is paramount, a best-quality pair of 15x binoculars, like these Swarovski 15x56 SLC are amazing. I use them when accompanying other hunters (wife, sons, friends I take to Africa...) and I rest them on top of the folded sticks.

Leica Geovid 10x42 HD B 3000.jpg

What has not been said about the amazing Leica Geovid 10x42 HD B 3000? I bought mine when I made the move to BDC (bullet drop compensator) scopes and the flawless integration of best-quality glass, laser range finding, and ballistic computer is incredible. These have become my defaults binoculars, replacing the Zeiss 10x40 B/GA T*. However, they are not without drawbacks: they are BIG (almost as big as the Swarovski 15x56 SLC), and heavy (almost 1.5 heavier than the Zeiss 10x40 BGA).

Leica Trinovid 8x32 HD.jpg

By contrast to the Geovid 10x42 HD B 3000, the Trinovid 8x32 HD are small and light. I consider them ideal for Lion or Elephant tracking.

Zeiss 10x25 B.jpg

The pocket Zeiss 10x25 are just that: best-quality binoculars that fit in a shirt pocket. They are great for casual glancing during a relaxed hike, but near useless at dawn and dusk, and lag far, far behind full size glass in viewing comfort and are ill adapted to the intense glassing hours on end. Mine now reside in my ... fly fishing backpack.

Steiner 20x80.jpg


As to Steiner 20x80, they are more accurately a binocular spotting scope than a pair of binoculars and are useless without tripod or total support. However, when the difference between a Class II and a Class III Chamois (difference sometimes as small as 1/2") and a 1,000 vertical feet climb are at stakes, they come in their own.

Steiner 20x80 in action.JPG


In Summary...

A pair of top quality 10x40 (but not necessarily the absolute very best - there is such thing as diminishing return) is likely the best choice for general hunting purpose. Right now, jpr9954, I would advise in descending order:

1718667826702.png


1718667486122.png


If you cannot afford to put the $700 into it, my second choice would be:

1718667592597.png


Parting words...

Do not go cheap on binoculars, otherwise you will just keep buying ;)
 
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For a low budget top quality glass, lightweight, 10x42.... take a look at Stealth Vision.

@Just Gina got a pair thrown in on a custom rifle, 2 scope, and thermal clip on deal ;)

I think retail might be $550. Amazing for the money, compact and lightweight.View attachment 614372
I just checked their website. These are not as low budget as you assumed. MSRP is $1500! If they were tossed in with the rifle, etc., you got a great deal.
 
I just checked their website. These are not as low budget as you assumed. MSRP is $1500! If they were tossed in with the rifle, etc., you got a great deal.
Well, the binos were still a very small percentage of the total;)

They are really great binos. Be going to Africa for the real test in a week:)
 
I consider myself to be a more than a novice birder, currently own Zeiss Conquest 8x and Victory TFL 8x. Probably due to not-so-great eyesight, I have a more difficult time discerning a strong difference between these two models, but the Victory model is really great for birding in thicker cover, so shorter range anyway.
I used both in the Eastern Cape several times now and found that 10x likely would have been better for distance. Both PH's were emphatic about 10X being the best choice. They both carried Swarovski.
 

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