During last year’s deer season I had a chance to watch 7 bucks at the last of last light come out below me in a small bowl at 186 yards. Of the 7 bucks I could actually only tell that one had antlers while my hunting partner could see that 7 of the 11 deer below us had antlers on their head. It was at this time that I realized that had I not had already filled both of my tags this would have meant that a potential legal buck could have walked just because of my glass, so a new pair of binoculars where in order.
Like some I started out with what I could afford. Coming from a “road hunting family” we used the old porro prism 8x32 bushnell’s, then as a teen I started to venture into other hunting styles and changed my binocular choice. I went from a Nikon 10x25, to a Bushnell H20 10x42, to a Vortex Diamondback 10x42, then Vortex Razor 10x42 and currently am using a Zen-Ray Prime HD.
My quest like most of use began with the Internet. There are many binoculars available today with lots of reviews from biased and un-biased experts, birders, and average Joes. Sifting through all the reviews can be a challenge. One suggesting that would pop up from time to time was that everyone’s eyes are different and we need to let the binocular pick us. So, this is the route I took. I just spent $10k on a variety of “high end” binoculars from Cabela’s, knowing that I have 60 days to return them (I double checked that in the store too) in hopes of finding which ones work best for me and returning the rest. One thing to keep in mind is that I have the money to buy any one of these, so $$ is not an issue and I have zero loyalty to any brand.
I am no expert when it comes to binocular terminology. So this review will be from an average Joe who plans on just telling you what I see through them with my eyes. It should be noted that I wear glasses. I am not blind and barely passed the DMV vision test, but I always have my glasses regardless.
As I have been playing with them for the last 48 hours I have been noticing a lot and I figured it would be best to write up what I see each night as I compare them in different situations instead of writing one review.
So I will start with how I selected my binoculars. First obviously they had to be at cabela’s. When I went into the Reno store I had the associate pull out all 10x42 binos of the following: Conquest HD, Ultravid HD, Razor HD, El Swarovision, SLC HD, Cabela’s Euro HD. I got both elbows on the counter and picked out a small sign hanging inside of a wooden canoe they had on the wall. The sign was on the upper half and was in the shadow and I was focused on the writing. It was about 50 or so yards and I wanted to see if I could eliminate any of them right out of the gate. Going back and forth I found the Razor HD would not focus well and I could not get the diopter to adjust right. I had him pull out another pair just to see if it was the bino and my eyes or just that bino. It turned out to be that bino and the next pair adjusted fine. The Conquest HD and surprisingly (at least to me) the Ultravid HD would not focus well despite how much I played with the diopter and going back and forth from them to others that did adjust well. I had him take those two away and we then took the remaining four outside to see if I could remove any from the list. It was sunny outside and a little breezy. I sat on the ground and put my elbows to my knees and proceeded to glass up a power tower that was about 1 mile away (that is what the associate told me). At the base of the tower were three small metal boxes and the middle one had a yellow sign on it. I did my best to focus on that sign. Immediately I could tell that the Razors were picking up the heat waves really bad compared to the other three. The others showed little to no heat waves while glassing. The three were very close in focusing on the sign as far as clarity of the sign and clarity of what was around it. I then went to looking under a tree that was on the same hill and tried to focus on a large bolder in the shade under the tree. Again all three were very good and with a little more adjusting I got the Razors to work ok, but they still showed the heat waves. With that I decided to purchase all of these and take them home to do some real testing in low light and hopefully on some game. While in Reno I also went to Scheel’s and was able to check out the Victory HT. In the store I was impressed with them, so when I went back to Reno on my way home I had them order me these as well.
---note--- 99% of the time I glass putting the binos on a stick, my elbows on my knees or standing. This is how I am testing the binos..
Night 1- behind my yard there is an oak tree (I am facing west) at about 80 or so yards away. I sat on my deck and as light faded I went from bino to bino looking at a small twig in the middle of the tree that was skylined as there was a hole through the leaves. The performance was impressive from all of them. The El impressed me most as not only was could I see the twig well, but I everything around it was crisp and clear too. The others (Victory’s should arrive on 5/10) could focus well on the twig, but did not show the surrounding leaves as crisp as the El’s.
Night 2- I decided to put all of the binos on a tripod and make sure the diopter was set the best I could get it. Due to rain and cloudy weather I could not get out to a local hill to do some long distance outside glassing. I elected to use the same tree again, but this time I found a small grey colored branch closest to me with the remaining of the tree behind it, giving a nice dark back drop. Going back and forth with the binos the razors performed better than the night before (I did make a diopter adjustment on them) and probably performed as well as the SLC and El. Again, just through my eyes and focusing only on that one light colored branch. Surprisingly the Euro’s performed the best and when I could barely make out the branch with the others, I could still see it looking through the Euro’s. The El’s kept everything around the branch very clean and crisp looking, but when I tried to just stare and focus on the branch it faded with the other three bino’s.
Some of my initial thoughts thus far are:
1-You can make out a difference in bino's at a store, but last and first light tell a new story.
2-You will never know how good or bad a bino is unless you have others to compare it to at the same time.