Leupold Binoculars

Which binocular is best for me?

When choosing the right Leupold binocular for you, many things need to be considered. What you are doing, what you are watching, and where you are watching it.

It's also important to consider a few things about yourself. Do you wear eyeglasses? Do you have small or large hands? How old are you? Have you ever had trouble in the past fitting a binocular to your eyes interpupillary distance so that you saw one single picture rather than two partial circles?

With all this in mind, we've put together a few outlines of products you might want to consider based on the answers to these questions.

General Purpose Binoculars

Let's face it sometimes it's just nice to have a binocular on hand. It may not be for any specific purpose. It may simply ride in the vehicle glove box or sit on a home window sill. Once in a while it gets taken to a game or along on a vacation to the mountains. Often in such cases, the primary users of the binocular might not be what would be called intensive optic users, thus a lower magnification level will make it easier to use by those less accustomed to locating an object through an optic. As the binocular may not be frequently used, keeping the purchase price to a fairly modest level is often a factor in the choice. Therefore, something fairly straight-forward and easy to use by a wide range of people is the best idea.

Recommended models:

  • Olympic 8x42mm
  • Katmai 8x32mm
  • Katmai 6x32mm
  • Cascades 8x42mm
  • Cascades 8x42mm Internal Focus Porro
  • Mesa 8x42mm
  • Mesa 8x23mm Compact
  • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for birding

    Birders are perhaps the most technically demanding of all binocular users. There are many features that must all be found in a single binocular to allow it to be considered a truly great birding binocular. While there may be a dispute among some, most birders agree that a great birding binocular must have a close focus distance of no more than 10 feet. It must also allow the perception of the image with no perceptible alteration of color. Resolution must be very sharp (sharp enough to distinguish the difference between the tail feathers of Allen's and Rufous Hummingbirds). Field of view is also important, as identification on the wing is often necessary. While 8x is generally considered the appropriate magnification, conditions and terrain can alter this rule viewing off-shore from a sea cliff would certainly allow for use of more than 8x while close vegetation in a tropical jungle may render 8x too much.

    Recommended models:

    General field birding:

    • Golden Ring 8x42mm
    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Pinnacles 8x42mm
    • Olympic 8x42mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Cascades 8x42mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Coastal birding:

    • Golden Ring 10x42mm
    • Golden Ring 10x32mm
    • Pinnacles 10x42mm
    • Olympic 10x50mm
    • Olympic 12x50mm
    • Cascades 10x42mm
    • Cascades 10x42mm Internal Focus Porro
    • Mesa 10x50mm

    Tropical birding:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Bird counts and research - choose as you would by location of the count or project, but also consider the following if point count arrays are to be established:

    • RB800 8x32mm C

    Binoculars for hunting

    While there are some hunters choosing 8x binoculars, most instinctively lean toward 10x models for a greater enlargement of the animal and assessment of the targeted area... However, while this is a common choice, it may not always be the right choice. Too many hunters are carrying binoculars that are making the quick location of an animal more difficult than it needs to be due to too much magnification restricting the field of view. Resolution must be very sharp (sharp enough to distinguish the difference between branches and antlers). The ability to perceive small details in poor light is also a must. Color is not as important to hunters as it is to birders and close focus is generally not a topic hunters take into consideration when selecting their optics. (A handy tip: where lower magnification binoculars are recommended, additional magnification can always be available by carrying a small spotting scope, such as the Golden Ring 10-20x40mm Compact or 15-30x50mm Compact, in a gear bag.)

    Recommended models:

    General North American big game:

    • Golden Ring 10x42mm
    • Golden Ring 10x32mm
    • Pinnacles 10x42mm
    • Olympic 10x50mm
    • Olympic 12x50mm
    • Cascades 10x42mm
    • Cascades 10x42mm Internal Focus Porro
    • Mesa 10x50mm

    If the terrain is heavily timbered or the under-story is quite dense with vegetation, 10x or 12x models are not recommended as they have too little field of view at the closer distances common to this type of habitat.

    Consider these models instead:

    • Golden Ring 8x42mm
    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Pinnacles 8x42mm
    • Olympic 8x42mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Cascades 8x42mm
    • Cascades 8x42mm Internal Focus Porro

    Archers and those hunting in very dense forests (such as the Coast Range in Oregon or Washington) would do well to consider an even lower magnification model:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Turkey hunting may be the major exception to the idea that color is not a primary factor in the selection of a binocular for hunting. For turkey hunters hunting from the ground and seeking their cryptically-colored birds against a complex, foliage covered terrain, precision color resolution is crucial for the examination of the head color and the beard. As the ranges are close, lower magnification and a wide field of view is important. Keeping the size of the optic to a minimum is another factor to remember.

    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Cascades 8x42mm Camouflage
    • Mesa 8x42mm Camouflage
    • Mesa 8x23mm Compact
    • Yosemite 6x30mm Natural
    • Yosemite 6x30mm Dark Red (highly useful in peak of fall foliage)

    Of course, range estimation is also key to successful hunting. Rather than carry a range finder and a binocular, a hunter concerned about minimizing gear might want to consider a combination unit:

    • RB800 8x32mm C

    Binoculars for butterfly watching

    A crucial factor for selecting the right binocular for butterfly watching is close focus distance. N.A.B.A. indicates a maximum close focus distance of 10 feet; other experts insist on no more than 5 feet. As butterfly watching is done during mid-day, large objective models are not required. Lower magnification and larger field of view allow for faster location of the butterfly while it is flying.

    Recommended models:

    • Golden Ring 8x42mm
    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Pinnacles 8x42mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Katmai 6x32mm

    Binoculars for hiking and camping

    Light in weight, small in size, and durable are the primary desirable features of binoculars well suited for hiking and camping.

     

    Recommended models:

    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Golden Ring 10x32mm
    • Olympic 8x25mm
    • Olympic 10x25mm
    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Katmai 10x32mm
    • Mesa 8x23mm Compact
    • Mesa 10x23mm Compact
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for paddle sports

    Even on still water, viewing from a kayak or canoe is still tricky because of the inability to completely stop all movement. Lower magnification and larger relative objective diameter will produce a larger exit pupil and allow more forgiveness for movement. Of course, conservation of size is also important, especially if trying to wear the binocular over a PFD.


    Recommended models:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for general maritime use

    Most powerboats ply active waters that produce a continuous bobbing and rolling. Because of the inability to completely stop all movement, lower magnification and larger relative objective diameter will produce a larger exit pupil and allow more forgiveness for movement.


    Recommended models:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for stadium sporting events and performances

    Larger venues and greater distances from the action would make one think that a 10x50mm or 12x50mm model would be preferred. However, a choice should be made for a model that will offer a clear, sharp image, a wide field of view, and also be small enough and easy to manipulate through the crowds at a sporting event. Spectator binoculars should be lightweight enough to use for more than a few minutes and provide a quick focus to follow the action. In addition, when you are struggling through crowds holding a beverage or food the addition of a bulky pair of binoculars could be the last thing you want to take with you.

    Recommended models:

    • Golden Ring 8x32mm
    • Golden Ring 10x32mm
    • Olympic 8x25mm
    • Olympic 10x25mm
    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Katmai 10x32mm
    • Mesa 8x23mm Compact
    • Mesa 10x23mm Compact
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for theater concerts and performances

    Even though styles are more relaxed in many places, most people still tend to dress up for theater performances and concerts. Because of this, a small binocular that is easy and unobtrusive to carry, and that provides a good clear image, even after the lights are dimmed, is preferred.


    Recommended models:

    • Olympic 8x25mm
    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Katmai 8x32mm
    • Mesa 8x23mm Compact
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Binoculars for law enforcement

    Two of the extra uses that binoculars for tactical or law enforcement personnel must serve are estimation of range and correction of fire. Hence, some form of range estimating device must be present in their design. Standard estimation of range can be accomplished with a variety of range estimating reticles. Correction of fire is most complex. Ideally, correction of fire is made by a spotter working in conjunction with marksman, watching the trajectory of the bullet in flight, measuring its deviation, and relaying the necessary correction adjustment to the marksman. To accomplish this most effectively, the spotter and the marksman should be using the same design of reticle when viewing the target. An additional feature that is highly desirable in a tactical binocular is for the reticle to be correctible to the axis of the horizon after the binocular has been set for the interpupillary distance of the user (this negates the need for the user to turn the binocular on its side and use only one optic channel when using the reticle for measurement).

    Recommended models:

    • Mark 4 10x50mm
    • Mark 4 10x50mm Mil Dot
    • Mark 4 10x50mm TMR

    Optics for special visual difficulties

    There are many circumstances that occur in the normal course of human physiology that prevent full utilization of conventional binoculars. These may be as distinct as the loss of vision in one eye, or more subtle, such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or a non-tracking eye. They may even be the normal loss of pupillary dilation common with advancing age. In these circumstances, special consideration should be given to selection of an optic. From our experience here at Leupold, we would offer the following suggestions for some situations we have encountered for which the recommended optic has worked to either eliminate or greatly improve the visual difficulty.

    Recommended model for organic eye problems (macular degeneration, etc) lower magnification allows for larger exit pupil for maximization of the visual field:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Recommended model for loss of vision in one eye or non-tracking eye:

    • Golden Ring 10-20x40mm Compact spotting scope - lighter than a binocular with the added benefit of zoom magnification

    Recommended model for decreased pupillary dilation common with age - lower magnification with relatively large objective allows for maximum exit pupil diameter and can also help with any early tremor that may be present:

    • Katmai 6x32mm
    • Yosemite 6x30mm

    Thank you to John E. Riutta, Observation Market Development Leader for Leupold Sport Optics for providing this excellent tutorial on choosing the right Leupold Binocular for you.

    Ask The Experts

    Have questions about an item or need advice on selecting the right optic? Our team of experts is here to help! Avid outdoor enthusiasts themselves, they've tested gear in the field and can provide personalized product recommendations for just about any activity, from birding and hunting to sports and travel.

    You can reach our Customer Support line at 1-800-246-6285. We're open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

    After hours? Drop us an email at info@binocularsplus.com. We'll get back to you as soon as possible, usually within 1 business day.