Binoculars and Telescopes


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Headed on safari? Here’s what to pack.

With a sleek and lightweight design, plus superb clarity, these binoculars are great for wildlife enthusiasts

The Nikon Monarch 8x42 is the best buy for glassing birds, fireworks, or the people in the building across the street

The performance gap between mid-tier and high-end optics is closing. Here are our favorite pairs of binocs to see you through any situation, including the Leupold Hawthorne 7x42, with its roof-prism design to cut size and weight, and the Bushnell Legend Ultra-HD, which are impressively bright and sharp—especially in low light.

I’m looking for new binoculars for hiking and climbing. I want some optical power, but they can't be too big or heavy. What do you suggest?

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Pentax DCF BC 9x32 binoculars.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Nikon EDG 8x32 binoculars.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Leupold BX-3 Mojave 10x42 binoculars.

Outside reviews the best gear in the 2011 Summer Buyers Guide, including the Carson 3D Series 8x42 binoculars.

There are certain skills every Outside guy should possess. For this, the first installment of our four-part fundamentals series, we address the basics of adventure.

Mountain Stalking Rugged, comfortable in-hand, and damn near hurricane-proof, the Legend Ultra is a mountain man’s binocular. The glasses are outfitted with Bushnell’s ED Prime Glass, which offers impeccable light transmission and color resolution, allowing them to excel in low-light conditions. That, combined with their ample field of view for…

These pocket-size compacts deliver impressive optical performance for such a small package. Serious birders might want more power and clarity, but amateurs won’t be disappointed—or burdened (they weigh just 11.8 ounces). 8×28; vortexoptics.com…

Great glass on the cheap. The Echo’s clarity and color ren-dition are impressive in all light conditions. But we especially like these all-purpose binocs for the grippy, rubber-coated housing and ergonomic feel. 10×42; brunton.com…

The Talon delivers images as sharp as binoculars twice the price, plus it’s easy to use, 100 percent waterproof, and backed by a lifetime warranty. 8×42; www.vortexoptics.com…

Why They’re CoolForget hedged kudos like “pretty sweet for tiny binos.” These glasses offer sharpness, clarity, and even darn good light transmission—all superior to many midsize models that cost a whole lot more. » They’re also the brightest 8x20s I’ve used—a tribute to Nikon’s expertise in grinding and coating glass.

The fold-up design of the DCF saves space and weight. At 2.5 inches wide, it’s the smallest here. One nit: We weren’t crazy about the forward placement of the focus wheel. But tight, clean images make up for it. 8×25; pentaxsportoptics.com…

Why They’re CoolThey’re smaller than the Pentax and the Olympus 8x’s, yet the Katmais offer superior low-light vision—better to my eyes than anything else here, save the Steiners and Leicas. » They’re powerful enough to render detail, yet they sweep across an impressive 335-foot field of view. » The glass…

Get superior optics in a pocket-friendly package with this super-sleek palm-size model, updated this year for improved light transmission at dawn and at dusk. 8×20; www.zeiss.com…

Why They’re CoolThe Magellans are hermetically sealed and nitrogen-filled, thus dirtproof, waterproof, and ideal for, say, river-trip camping, where they’re likely to get dunked and gunked. » Sub-$300 binos usually guarantee a degree of eyestrain, but these embody optical features such as BaK4 prisms—fine, high-density glass that minimizes light scattering—and…

Whether you’re spying landmarks while at sea or just finding your bearings, the Navigator’s compass leads the way. This 20-ounce marine binoc took on stream dunks and foggy conditions with aplomb. 7×30; steiner-binoculars.com…

A couple years back, Brunton bagged its first Gear of the Year award with the burly, waterproof, scalpel-sharp Epochs. For 2005, greatness gets an upgrade. The new Brunton Epoch Zoom invites you to view the whole horizon, then drill in tight with the touch of a lever. Result? Another trophy…

Why They’re CoolWhat do you get when you shell out a few more shekels than you would for the Olympus? A sharper image (thanks to phase-coated prisms), better low-light viewing (credit a slightly larger objective lens), and a broader field of view. » You also get a close-focus distance of…

Why They RuleA company that satisfies legions of birders—some of the fussiest buyers—obviously knows its optics. Focusing is superfast and precise, but not overly sensitive. You see it, you nail it. » The image is breathtakingly sharp, like an Ansel Adams glass-neg enlargement. » Though Steiner spec’d the Peregrines for…

Ideal for backcountry scoping, the Infinity features rugged, powerful optics. With a durable yet light-weight chassis, it’s primed for all conditions. 8.5×45; bushnell.com…

SUPERSIZE MELast year’s Peregrines scored Gear of the Year by delivering sharp images and brilliant color rendition. By cranking the big objective lenses up to 50 millimeters—generally the upper limit for handhelds—and dialing back the magnification just a hair, Steiner is improving on greatness in a 26-ounce package. Bound for…

If you care about visual perfection (price be damned!), move up to this deluxe unit. The Golden Ring offers superior crispness, images brighter than those in other models, and a smart focus lock that keeps sharpness immune to clumsy fingers so that you can, well, focus. 8×32; www.leupold.com…

Why They’re CoolOK, the prisms in the new Conquest line don’t quite match the light transmission of four-figure Zeisses, but these suckers cost $600. You still get anti-reflective lens coatings that deliver terrific brightness and dead-on color rendition. » For 10x binos, they’re exceptionally easy to hold, even during prolonged…

This little Napoleon (think small but powerful) packs high-performance optics into a lightweight, compact package that feels balanced and substantial in hand. 10×25; minox.com…

MIRACLE LENSThose clever Germans have done it again: The FLs boast the first binocular lenses infused with fluoride. The chemical, commonly used in telescope lenses, reduces the tendency of glass to disperse colors, and, as billed, these barrels seduce with stunningly bright and crisp images. I tried them at dusk,…

These bargain binos are priced to move but still tough enough for hard use. They’re protected against falls and klutzy friends and come with a lifetime prism-alignment guarantee. 10×25; www.carson-optical.com…

Why They’re CoolThe body is magnesium, the center axis shaft is titanium, there’s not a scrap of plastic in the focusing mechanism, and the whole works is rubber-armor-coated. » They’re good to go from minus 13 degrees all the way up to 131. Binoculars don’t come any more durable, and…

An upgrade to Minox’s proven, staff-favorite HG line, the powerful APOs deliver great edge-to-edge color quality in a tough but lightweight magnesium package. But that don’t come cheap! 8.5×43; minox.com…

Let there be light transmission! Kowa’s new 44mm lenses use patented multi-coating technology to enhance brightness. Ideal for glassing wildlife at twilight, this brute produces exceptional color and detail. 10.5×44; kowa-usa.com…

Why They’re CoolThe 10×25 configuration is tricky—it’s a lot of magnification in a small package—but Brunton gives the XC10 the most solid, ergonomic, tactilely pleasing body in the field. The rubber-clad housing grips just right, with flat spots on the underside for the thumbs. The barrels stay just where you…

SPORTSTERAt a paltry 23 ounces, the Pinnacles are three to six ounces lighter than many full-size binocs, making them delightfully quick on the draw when chasing down skittish scrub birds. At 5.5 inches long, they’re also a little smaller than many competitors, and thus easier to pack. Light transmission and…

This versatile polycarbonate binoc has an upgraded, open-bridge design, creating a grip more comfortable than on previous Excursion models. The 400-foot-plus field of view is ideal for spotting game out in the wide open. 8×36; bushnell.com…

These “green” binocs use lead-free glass and non-chloride rubber, plus the case is made with eucalyptus pulp. And they’re both water- and fog-proof, a claim verified after we dropped them in a stream. 10×25; nikonecobins.com…

The Pro’s aircraft-grade aluminum housing was unfazed by snow and a stream dunk. And the slick “fast, close” focusing system makes it easier to find—and follow—your subject. 8.5×26; steiner-binoculars.com…

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