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GearTools & Tech

Which binoculars work best in low-light conditions?

I’m in the market for new binoculars that are waterproof, rubber coated, and show excellent contrast and light-gathering ability in low-light conditions (like when viewing sbur deer in the Victorian high country in winter). I have considered Browning 8x42s and Nikon Monarch 8x42s. Any advice? Bryan Point Cook, Victoria, Australia

A: I think you’re in the right ballpark, Bryan. Nikon’s 8x42 Monarch ATBs (US$340, A$450; and Browning’s 8x42s (US$260, A$345; are lightweight, durable, waterproof, and have above-average optics for clarity and good performance in moderately low light. I’d probably give the Nikon a slight nod for optical quality, but I’m not sure you’d notice that much difference unless you were trying to count nose hairs on said sambur deer. For the uninitiated, sambur are large deer with a three-point antler introduced into Australia and similar areas by settlers.

Nikon Sports and Marine 7x50 Binoculars

Sports and Marine 7x50 Binoculars

You might benefit from either a little more pull or better light-gathering. For the former, Nikon’s 10x42 Monarch ATBs (US$380, A$505) are only a few dollars more and offer 25 percent better magnification than the 8x42 model. Browning makes a similar binocular, again for only slightly more dough. And, interestingly, the 8x42 models actually are slightly heavier. Binoculars with a 50mm objective diameter will gather a bit more light than those with 42mm, so Nikon’s 7x50 Sports and Marine binocular (US$368, A$489) offers that attribute in a waterproof set. I’d also look at the new 10x40 Predator Pro by Steiner (US$400, A$532;, which are waterproof and have optics designed to make wildlife stand out against green backgrounds. I really like Steiners—they’re well-made, with excellent glass.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest digital cameras and GPS units.

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Filed To: Binoculars and Telescopes
Lead Photo: courtesy, Nikon