Best High-End Binoculars 2020: We Check Out The Most Powerful, Highly Rated & Longest Range Bino's
Last Updated: June 16, 2020
The secret to buying a premium binocular is to cash in on one without buyer's remorse.
For the kind of money you'll be shelling out, we can promise you no rock will go unturned, every brand will be tortuously scrutinized, and every hundred dollars will be well-spent.
Just be warned, these binoculars aren't for the faint of heart.
If you dare to venture on, do so with safety clips around your wallet if you want to make the best buy!
QUICK LIST: 7 Best High End Binoculars In 2020
- Swarovski EL Range 10X42
- Swarovski EL 42 10X42
- Steiner HX 15X56
- Meopta Meostar B1 10X42 HD
- Leica Ultravid HD Plus 10X50
- Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 15X56
- Zeiss Victory SF 10X42
Best Premium Binoculars (Over $1000) for 2020
Now the competition in this category is downright cutthroat. And, unfortunately there's only enough word count and enough money to pick the best of the very best.
Only the very impassioned and dedicated hunters will buy in this price range because simply stating these binoculars as expensive is an understatement. These beauts shouldn't be handled by inexperienced clumsies, but instead, they should be revered and handled with the utmost respect in a seasoned hunters leathered hands.
So, what should you expect to see with these good-enough-to-sell-a-kidney-for binoculars?
The best glass, unrivaled coatings, a provocative build, and a well-made and intuitive additional feature or two.
The Best Binocular Brands
|Swarovski EL Range 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
|Swarovski EL 42 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
|Steiner HX 15X56||CHECK PRICE|
|MeoStar B1 10X42 HD||CHECK PRICE|
|Leica Ultravid HD Plus 10X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 15X56||CHECK PRICE|
|Zeiss Victory SF 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
Our 7 Top High-End Binoculars
1. Swarovski EL Range 10X42
Who other than the best to claim the #1 spot in this category? The Swarovski EL Range 10X42 is certainly more than what mere words can describe.
With SwaroBright, SwaroAim, and the FieldPro package all wrapped up in a svelte package, you'll have no choice but to bend your knee to this beauty. You'll probably have more than what you will ever need, but what heck, you may as well have it anyway.
And, with a built-in inclinometer, you know what this means right? It's a laser rangefinding binocular too! To see how this $3000+ device integrates both rangefinding and binocular technology into one, feel free to take our review as seriously as you want.
2. Swarovski EL 42 10X42
And again, Swarovski snags another spot in the top 3 with the Swarovski EL 42 10X42.
With SwaroVision, SwaroClean, and SwaroBright technologies, it's every part the above-mentioned EL Range non-laser rangefinding counterpart.
At only $2600 - yes, I said "only", you know you're getting premium quality right here. Claiming the #1 and #2 spot for this category, I think you're now ready to read the entire collection of our Swarovski binocular reviews.
3. Steiner HX 15X56
The largest of the HX series is the 15x56 model. It's been widely recognized as a premium binocular for its optical quality. Having a price tag much cheaper than other comparable binos, does it really belong in the high-end class?
- High power
- 56 mm objectives
- Schott glass
- Made in Germany
- No ED glass elements
Shocking? For such expensive taste, do you dare buy a binocular with no ED glass? Honestly, for a $1000 binocular German-made with Schott glass, you have nothing to worry about. In fact, never should you dismiss a high quality optic made with the best materials just because it lacks what can be a hyped-up feature.
The HX bino has only normal and not "extra" low dispersion elements, but because the raw materials, grinding and polishing process, and quality control are A-class, the foundation of the optics often proves to be of higher quality than inferior optics with "ED elements."
To prove a point, the HX binos have excellent image quality with little to no color fringing even as a non-ED binocular. Factors that contribute to its excellent optical system are the multiple glass coatings it has: phase corrected and dielectric prism coatings and a Nano-Protection coating that is a hydrophobic molecular coating that is similar to other exterior repellent lens coatings.
One divergent feature worth mentioning is the diopter adjustment found on the left eyepiece instead of the right as on all other binoculars. The correct focusing method remains the same except you start with the right eye and central focus and then you focus the diopter for the left eye.
The integrated winged eye shields are designed to keep as much peripheral and stray light out. Fold them down if you don't like them. The twist up eyecups do not have multi-stop positions, but they have enough resistance to stay in place during use.
After all that, and knowing there's more to this HX model than what meets the eye, it definitely belongs here among the champs of premium binoculars.
4. Meopta MeoStar B1 10X42 HD
The MeoStar B1 is not a new binocular to the field, but it's still an award-winning optic still topping the charts to this day.
- ED glass
- Schott glass
- Aluminum chassis
At 31.7 ounces, its heft may have been a non-issue in the past, but when 10x42 models are coming in around 8-10 ounces lighter today, the MeoStar could stand to lose a few. However, its poundage is only part of the overall equation.
European optics have long been held as the gold standard for optical quality, and the Meopta is another player in the game. Schmidt-Pechan prisms are made with the same Schott glass that Zeiss binoculars are made with. To get the pristine, crisp, and brilliant image quality that Meopta is known for, the objective lenses have fluoride elements for HD glassing with zero color fringing.
An ion assisted coating, MeoShield, is layered onto the objectives for protection against scratches and to repel fingerprint marks, rain, and debris. MeoBright coatings contribute to the high transmission of light within the system for a bright, clear picture while reducing glare and reflections that distort image quality.
With quality of this kind, it's not uncommon to find Meopta compared to world-class brands such as Swarovski and Zeiss. Even though it's less than half the price of other big kahuna binos of the same caliber, it every bit belongs in the high-end section. Its low price point is to your advantage.
5. Leica Ultravid HD Plus 10X50
Almost everyone would understand if the review ended here with just one word - Leica. This one word stands for world-class quality, luxury glass, and priceless experiences. But, if you've been under a rock somewhere, here's what you've been missing out on.
- Schott glass
- Integrated focus/diopter
- Ergonomic features
- Wide field of view
- Specialized coatings
It's not unusual to see variations of diopter designs in premium binoculars, and these Leicas are no exception. The locking diopter can be found on the center focus wheel. Pull it out to set and then push it back in to lock your setting in place. This design also allows for a much larger surface to make focusing fast and easy. By the way, this focusing system is built with titanium and will stay smooth, fast, and easy to use despite temperature conditions and exposure to the elements.
For a 10x50 binocular, it's not too bad when it comes to size, 7 x 4.9 x 2.7 in, and weight, 35.3 oz. With Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms, the overall length is kept compact and short. With thumb indents placed high and directly below the eyepieces, an ergonomic fit is guaranteed.
The Ultravid HD Plus series of binos have been built with specially formulated Schott HT glass. No technology was spared when it came to fitting this Leica with the very best. Multiple glass and prism coatings include Leica's phase correcting P40, HiLux System HLS, and AquaDura. You'll see the first-rate glass quality when you see every detail of the wide 352 ft of the FOV - which is quite generous for a 10x50.
We can go on about the Ultravid all day long, but we only need to say three words, "It's a Leica." That, my friend, says it all.
6. Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 15X56
What are big objectives typically known for? Low-light glassing. What do Abbe Koenig prisms allow you to do? Glass in low light. If seeing details during the most difficult times of day is your ultimate goal in a pair of binoculars, stop shopping. You've found it.
- Open bridge
- ED glass
- Specialized coatings
- Abbe Koenig prisms
15x56 binos - yeah, they're going to be heavy, almost 3 lbs kind of heavy (45 oz to be exact). But, the extra weight may help to stabilize hand movement during free-hand use out in the field. Of course, it's better if you can mount it to a tripod to get the best glassing experience to prevent a quick onset of fatigue.
With high power of 15x and large 56 mm objectives, it's being considered as a replacement for spotting scopes by many hunters. Leave the spotting scope poundage in the truck and take the benefits of extra-low dispersion glass with HD quality with you instead. The phase correction, DiamondCoat2 coatings, and Twilight Max Light Management System will more than make up for any loss of magnification from a spotter.
But, what is Leupold's Advanced HD Lens System? It consists of not only the objectives having fluoride elements, but Leupold eludes to the idea that the oculars may have an organic, specialized coating, too. All this fancy stuff promises increased resolution, true color fidelity, and zero chromatic aberration.
A side effect of Abbe Koenig prisms are the longer tubes, but with an open bridge design and tripod mounting, the extra length is of no consequence. Besides, this type of roof prism design is made by a very small handful of manufacturers in the world and that includes Leupold. It has less internal reflections which results in less light loss, they're made to be paired with high power and large objective configurations, and they're designed for low-light use.
By the way, these binos are well under two grand. Now that's incredible value!
7. Zeiss Victory SF 10X42
You must notice the model name - this is the Victory SF series and not the Victory HT. The Victory SF stands for Smart Focus. What is it? Let's find out.
- ED glass
- Schott glass
- Phase coating
- Eye relief
- Field flattener lenses
Extremely expensive is an understatement, but we admit there is little to complain about, so we'll get on with it. Let's start with the name: Smart Focus. The SF feature means you can dial in for the best sight picture at a minimum close focus distance of 5 ft to maximum distances with less turning of the center focus knob. It takes 1.8 revolutions compared to the 2.5 revolutions of other binos -a claim by Zeiss. Faster focusing means being able to keep up with fast-moving targets such as birds in flight.
And, watching birds and wildlife is exactly what the Victory SF binos are recommended for. With a wide 360 ft (@1000 yds) FOV and field flattener lenses made with Schott glass, you'll have a crisp and sharp sight picture from one side to the other.
Adding to optical performance is the source of the glass, Schott AG, ED fluoride glass elements, and a prism phase correction coating. LotuTec keeps your exterior glass surfaces free and clear of obstructions that includes oils, dirt, rain, and debris.
The Victory SF is able to keep up with today's competing weight class for the 10x42 configuration which is in the 20-ish ounce range. Weighing in at 27.5 ounces, it fits the bill. Combine the light weight with the ErgoBalance Concept that shifts the binocular's center of gravity and you have an ergonomic, comfortable-to-hold unit that will allow maximum glassing however long and whenever the mood strikes.
Living life with the best is certainly going to cost you.
What to Look for in a Binocular Over $1000
It might sound controversial, but the truth is, it's less about magnification and more about quality glass when it comes to the gut-wrenching price ranges for peerless binoculars. The good news is, most luxury brands source their glass from world-renown glass authorities. It's then processed through excruciating procedures that are top-secret and only known to them - trust me, I've tried to pry their lips open.
Getting the most practical binocular in this price range means high-end glass, premium glass coatings, and dual focus systems for those very fine adjustments for pristine image quality. Specifically, here's what you're going to want to look for when shopping amongst these exceptional binoculars:
- Quality glass: Includes premium glass elements Ex. ED, HD, etc.
- Quality glass coatings: Includes layered coatings, mirror and phase-correction coatings, and weather, scratch, and debris repellent coatings.
- High-end focus system: This includes dual focus, fast-focus, and IF systems.
- Eye relief 15-20 mm: Without decent eye relief, your bino is useless to glass with.
- Tripod adaptable: Expensive can sometimes mean bigger. Mount for the moments you need it most.
- Quality warranties: Have the assurance that your premium bino is fully covered for any unforeseen damage.
Go Broke or Go Home!
Since we're obsessed with optics, we'd give our last dollar to own a premium binocular that the majority of our hunting peers can only dream about. Are you just as obsessed?
These world-class brands with their refined reputations will eliminate every shadow of that doubtful buyer's remorse.
Looking for the right features that maximize your activity-specific needs will be the key to buying successfully. However, you don't shop around these luxury brands unless you've got the cash to lay down on one. Be prepared to go broke, or go home!