I love my binoculars – almost as much as my F-150 or maybe even my wife. Please don’t tell her I said that!

If you’re around a bunch of hunters don’t mention binoculars. Hunters are experts on everything hunting or fishing. Binoculars and rifle scopes are topics hunters afford no common sense.

Sound patronizing? It ain’t. I’m a hunter, and I take exception to these “know-it-alls.” Maybe they know more about hunting, firearms, bows, tree stands, boats, trucks, fly rods or this season’s game, but they DO NOT know more about sight and optics than I do. Okay!?

I used to hunt with a longbow: another thing I love. They’re romantic. You stalk silently in a nostalgic 15th century dream with no one else in the woods. Bumped noses with a she-bear once. What a rush!

More recently, facing mortality and morbidity, I’ve replaced certain parts of my body with such things as titanium, ceramics, a shoat volume-flow governor, and microchip-semiconductor technology. I now reduce distances with a long-gun, nitro express, and a good pair of binoculars.  

There are, I suppose, those who’ve binoculars from all the major players: Zeiss, Leica, Nikon, Steiner, Bushnell, Swarovski, and maybe some nice stuff from recent risers: Vortex, Vanguard, even Pentax and others. If so, well good for you. Family Eye Clinic is never resentful of good fortune, but you may be reading the wrong blog.

I’ve tried as many binoculars as I can and studied the information available. When a maker discusses achromatic doublets, ABBE values, metallic oxide coatings, aperture stops, entrance ports, exit pupils, focimeters, lenticular design and oblique astigmatic aberration, it’s stuff I work with every day.

All the top features

Binoculars selection is formidable. All tout multi-coated optics, dielectric coated prisms, spectacle relief designs, nitrogen filled, argon purged, hermetic seals, aircraft quality aluminum, magnesium construction, rubber armor, polycarbonate housings, and ED, FL, & HD lenses.

Lens quality

ED means extra-low dispersion meaning reduced color distortion (chromatic aberration): sometimes called HD (high definition) or FL (fluoride lenses). ED doesn’t guarantee excellence with lens systems otherwise compromised. High def is also questionable anyway in short optics systems like binoculars.

Political correctness is also an issue. Formerly flint glass (lead glass) was used with crown glass for achromatic doublets.  Now that lead glass is considered hazardous, ED, HD, FL glass is all the rage.


Porro-prisms vs. roof-prisms is also an issue. Because porro-prisms make wider bulkier binoculars roof-prisms are in vogue. Roof-prisms are more complex and more expensive.

Although harder to find anymore, I prefer porro-prisms. Roof-prisms reflect five times while porros reflect only four providing better image quality and depth perception.

My bias 

I have a company bias. Bushnell is frequently labeled as cheap and inferior. It was founded by David P. Bushnell who made binoculars affordable to the common man during WWII in 1948.

Those who knock this American sporting optics company are wrong! Pound for pound and dollar for dollar, Bushnell may make the best binoculars in the world. That’s not to say that if you spend over a $1000 you can’t get something better.

Bushnell has won numerous awards for its binoculars. In 2017 Binoculars.com rated the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X42 as binocular of the year. Others like Consumersearch.com rate these the best hunting binocular. You will find others rating a list of $1000 to $2000 binoculars such as Leica, Zeiss and Steiner as the best binoculars, but right in the middle of those ratings are $300 Bushnell’s, seemingly out of place. They’re not!

Bushnell’s durability is unsurpassed. I treat my Bushnell Legends like hunting boots. Rough. They take it. I’ll put’em against a Swarovski SLC 42 – not that the SLC’s aren’t better. They’re just not $1500 better. The Swarovski will outshine the Bushnell, possibly, for something like bird watching because colors may be more vivid. It’s splitting hairs, and it won’t get me a larger muley deer.

Bushnell has one feature trumping all others. It’s RainGuard HD, a patented, permanent, hydrophobic, oleophobic lens coating which breaks up condensation, raindrops and snowflakes preventing them from obstructing your view. Only Bushnell has RainGuard, and it can help me find a larger muley buck. Replications are flimsy excuses.

Our best wishes

So, buy whatever binoculars you want, but don’t lie to yourself. Your Swarovski 8.5×42 EL42 ($2500 Amazon) does not make you see more than your buddy’s Bushnell Legend M Series 8×42 mm ($215 on Amazon). You’re living in a price tag fantasy.

And hey, we here at Family Eye Clinic hope you have a good hunting season regardless of your binoculars because the rifle, bow, binoculars, scope, pickup truck –even the kill—do not make the hunt. The hunt is in the heart and mind of the hunter.