May 31, 2011
By Scott E. Mayer
Your binocular must be easy to use, not just bright.
Many hunters judge optics by their size. Big mistake. You may be most effective with a small binocular. Note the singular: "Binocular" means two barrels, two sets of lenses. A pair of binoculars is just that:: two binoculars. You can't very well use a pair of binoculars unless you have four eyes.
A binocular with objective (front) lenses bigger than 32mm is helpful at magnifications of 10x and higher. But for hunting, I prefer an 8x32. High power helps you resolve more detail, but it also gives you a reduced field of view, and it magnifies your shakes as much as it does a distant animal. If you're glassing from a rest in calm conditions, steadiness comes easy. Not so if you're winded from a climb and must glass with only hand support into a 20-mph breeze. High power also demands big front lenses to deliver the same exit pupil as a smaller binocular of modest magnification. An 8x32 has the same 4mm exit pupil as a 10x42. That is, light transmission is the same. In dim light, they're equally bright.
My go-to hunting binocular is a Zeiss 8x32. I'm also fond of the superb Leica 8x32 Ultravid. The Swarovski 8x32 EL is in the same class, and that company just came out with a fine mid-priced 8x30. Besides their top-drawer optics, these binoculars are also easy to carry on a single strap, which I prefer to a harness. Binoculars that weigh much over 22 ounces can give a strap a knife's edge after a long day on the mountain. Compact enough to tuck easily into a coat during a storm, an 8x32 is less likely than a big glass to interfere with other activities. And because it's lightweight and compact, you'll almost surely bring it to your eye more often.
The more time you spend in your binocular, the more you see!