With so many whispers here and there about what’s good and what’s bad on a binocular, it’s hard to determine who to listen to – the expert? the fellow hunter? the Amazon reviewer?
Well, don’t you worry yourself anymore.
We have written this article to help make you an informed binocular buyer about all those fancy trappings.
We’ll go over the ups and downs of zoom binoculars, the pros and cons of rangefinding binoculars, and even image stabilization features. And, we’ll also discuss a very controversial and not so fashionable feature to be aware of.
But, if you’re already shaking your head and “tsk-tsk-tsk”-ing at me with finger wagging and all, I have five words for you – don’t be such a critic! You’ll never know what you’re missing out on if you don’t give it a try!
And, if you have and you didn’t like it, try a better brand this time.
Why Are These Binocular Features Often Avoided?
Usually, it’s the high-end binoculars that are going to sport additional features that often raises the price significantly, and why? Because it means more advanced technology, more expert engineering, and more manufacturing processing steps.
The sad thing about it is, some optics manufacturers attempt to provide extra features with the lowest cost possible and it usually just ends up being a mess of an optic. This is usually what scares away most hunters from any additional features and why premium optics often get a bad rep as soon as “zoom” or “laser rangefinding” is mentioned.
This creates a very “in the box” attitude that deters hunters from being able to truly maximize their potential for success while out in the field. Are you one of them?
But, if you’re brave and willing to venture out into the unknown, you might find that you’ve been missing out on some cool and nifty optic perks all this time. Here, we’ll give you all the specific tell-tale signs to be aware of when looking to purchase quality binos with these features.
Now, let’s get into correcting the avoidance attitude…
If you’re considering a zoom binocular, then you’re certainly going to appreciate the ability to glass a wide, open area, find your target, and then zoom right on in for fine details.
You can immediately spot a variable/zoom power bino just by the model name – a number followed by a dash then by another number.
For example, 10-30X – 10X is the lowest magnifying power and 30X is the highest magnifying power.
Keep in mind that there are variable power binos that are not zoom binoculars. By using different eyepieces, you can have a different, fixed magnification.
These are identifiable by the hyphen, for example, 25/40X – one eyepiece has 25X power, and the other has 40X power.
How do Zoom Binoculars Work?
Without getting way too technical, let me explain it as simply as I can in step-by-step form.
Benefits of Zoom Binoculars:
- Versatile and convenient
- Ability to move from high power to extremely high power in one device
- Ability to see in-depth, intimate, and close-up details
- Zoom found on all sizes of binos, from compact to full-size
Drawbacks of Zoom Binoculars:
- Reduced field of view
- Fuzzy images the higher the power
- Collimation problems; both eyepieces are never quite on the same power range
- Steady picture is compromised the higher the power
- May require extra accessories, such as tripod for steady glassing
- Binos with zoom are often heavier in weight
Tips for Buying a Zoom Binocular:
Laser Rangefinding Binoculars
This is a feature that’s very popular with hunters, especially when accurate distances must be known.
With these, hunters can combine their binoculars and laser rangefinders into one device. Now the only other optic you should be toting around is the scope on your rifle.
You can find rangefinding binos with the basic distance measuring feature or with more added capabilities.
Rangefinding binoculars can also be found on binos that have an internal compass, a GPS, or even a digital bubble level. This information can also be displayed on LCD screens.
Some rangefinding binoculars may be illuminated.
How do Laser Rangefinding Binoculars Work?
Benefits of Rangefinding Binoculars:
- Provides you with distances to your target
- Can provide angles for uphill and downhill shots
- Can provide adjusted distances for a true distance to the target
- Can provide a reticle to estimate distance and size of target
- Convenient and easy to use
- Combines laser rangefinder and binocular into one device
- Saves time glassing
- Can provide ballistic functions
Drawbacks of Rangefinding Binoculars:
- Requires a battery source
- Is often very expensive
Tips for Buying a Rangefinding Binocular:
Image Stabilization Binoculars
Skip the tripod and just pay for image stabilization! Why fix yourself to one spot if you can still stalk and have a steady image at the same time?
Image stabilization binos can be electronically or mechanically powered.
This feature is only seen on very expensive binoculars.
How do Image Stabilization Binoculars Work?
Benefits of Image Stabilization Binoculars:
- No tripod needed
- Steady images for clear viewing instantly
- Convenient for use for all sorts of outdoor activities
- Can reduce the shaky image for viewing moving targets
Drawbacks of Image Stabilization Binoculars:
- Very expensive feature
- Adds on more weight
- Often found on marine, astronomy, and aviator binoculars
- Hunters that range sub-250 yard targets don’t need it
Tips for Buying Image Stabilizing Binos:
Ruby Coated Binoculars
If you’re specifically shopping the binocular market for features that minimize glare, reflections, and foliage haze, then you’re definitely going to come across ruby coatings at some point in your research.
But, is it a fad or does it have optical legitimacy?
Ruby refers to the colored coating applied to bino lenses and not to the actual gem.
This Gladiator 7-21X40 variable binocular has Barska’s Ruby UV Lenses Technology.
Rumor has it that Steiner started off the Ruby Coating fad.
Not all ruby coatings are made equal.
How do Ruby Coatings Work?
Benefits of Ruby Coatings:
- Minimize glare, reflections, and haze
- Enhance wildlife colors
- Filters out red from the color spectrum
Drawbacks of Ruby Coatings:
- Filters out red from the color spectrum
- Can be used to disguise optically poor binos
- Often used as a marketing gimmick versus any actual optical benefits
- Mostly found on low budget binos
- Produces a blue and green tint while glassing
Tips for Buying Binocular’s with Ruby Coatings:
Don’t Write Off These Bino Features…
While ruby coatings are usually something that most hunters will want to steer clear of, zooming, laser rangefinding, and image stabilization features are all there to make your hunt a successful and enjoyable one.
Too many times they’re given a bad rep because some amateur didn’t know how to use it right or it was purchased from a less than reputable brand.
Sometimes, those extra trappings are exactly what you need to make the most of your hunt. You don’t always have to be the bare-basics and practical kind of hunter, you can splurge and give those fancy bells and whistles a run for their money.
You might just find that you’ll be hooked for life.