2015 Binoculars of the Year Awards

BinocularsPlus.com proudly presents the 2015 Binoculars of the Year Awards. We're always excited to get our hands on the very best optics from the finest manufacturers and provide our feedback. This year, more than ever, the optics industry amazed us with stunning views at virtually every price point and for every application.

As always, we brought in a slew of sport optics for both casual and rigorous testing. Our experts used them to gaze out our office windows, took them out into the field, and monitored their performance when up against the elements. Their decisions are based on how each optic is manufactured and how it performed under a variety of conditions. This year, we were so impressed that we added several new award categories. So whether you’re a hunter, birder, stargazer, or bleacher bum, there’s something to fit your hobby and budget. Without further ado, here are the 2015 Binocular of the Year award winners!

Binocular of the Year: Bushnell 10x42 Legend L-Series Binoculars

For five straight years, Bushnell Legend binoculars have taken top honors as BinocularsPlus.com's Binocular of the Year. New for 2015, the Bushnell Legend L-Series offers even better performance than the award-winners of years past. This cutting-edge binocular provides a level of light transmission and clarity that’s otherwise unseen at this price point. High-quality ED glass and Bushnell’s proprietary Ultra-Wide Custom Band Coating combine to provide vivid, accurate colors and high contrast views, even in dim conditions. The specs and technical features are impressive, but at the end of the day, the views are simply brighter in the Legend L-Series than any other binocular in its class. They’re also built to withstand the elements: RainGuard water-repellant coatings keep moisture off lenses while a rubber-armored magnesium housing protects from just about everything else.

Learn more about Bushnell 10x42 Legend L-Series binoculars >>

Best of the Best: Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision Binoculars

With so many amazing binoculars at the top end of the spectrum, a lot comes down to personal preference. But during our testing, we felt that the Swarovski EL Swarovision offered a few extra features that really set it apart as this year’s Best of the Best. First, Swarovski goes beyond ED glass and delivers unrivaled edge-to-edge crispness with Swarovision field-flattening lenses, similar to the ones used in observatory-grade telescopes. The result is optical perfection: flawless image quality with true color and sharp resolution, even at the far edges of the field of view. The 10x42 model also offers an impressive close focus of just 4.9 feet, a must for serious birders.

Thanks to Swarovski’s meticulous attention to detail, the EL binoculars are a pleasure to use. An open hinge body design with thumb indentations makes the binocular comfortable to grasp and hold with one hand. One of our favorite features is the smooth, easy-to-adjust focus knob with hidden diopter. Set it once, lock the focus wheel back into place, and you’ll never have to adjust the diopter again. All in all, there isn’t a single thing we’d change about the Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision binoculars.

Learn more about EL Swarovision binoculars by Swarovski Optik >>

Best Birding Binocular: Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars

Celestron is best known for its telescopes, but the manufacturer made a big splash in the birding market last year with Nature DX, named best binocular under $200 by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It’s also our pick for Best Birding Binocular because it packs so many high-end features into one lightweight, rugged package. You’ll find phase coated BaK-4 prisms, fully multi-coated optics, and a close focus of 6.5 feet. Since Celestron specializes in nighttime optics, they know a thing or two about light transmission. With Nature DX, you’ll get bright views from dawn to dusk. We recommend the Nature DX 8x42 as a great first step into the world of serious sport optics for the beginner to intermediate birder.

Learn more about Celestron Nature DX birding binoculars >>

Reviewer’s Choice: Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel Binoculars

Our wonderful BinocularsPlus.com customers have spoken! Once again, the Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel is the hands-down favorite for all-around use. This high performance binocular offers a unique edge; although it sports full-size 42mm objective lenses, the short barrel design makes this feel more like a compact to midsize optic. Weighing under 24 oz, the Zhumell Short Barrel is perfect for tossing into your pack for bird walks, hunting trips, vacations, travel, concerts, and sporting events. Powerful 10x magnification brings subjects up close, making the Short Barrel the easiest and most affordable way to get close to the action.

Learn more about Zhumell Short Barrel binoculars >>

Best Compact Binocular: Steiner Safari 8x22 Ultrasharp

Never miss a detail with a compact binocular that’s always by your side. Weighing just 10 oz, Steiner’s 8x22 Travelite Binoculars are light enough that you can take them just about anywhere. Of course, they’re waterproof and fogproof, so there’s no need to worry about a sudden downpour. We selected the Safari as the Best Compact Binocular two years running because it offers top features not normally found in grab-and-go models. You’ll find high contrast UV optical coatings and BaK-4 prisms for Steiner’s signature “ultrasharp” images. This binocular also offers ergonomic rubber eyecups that fold down to accomodate eyeglass wearers. Finally, a texturized rubber armored exterior makes the Steiner Safari Ultrasharp 8x22 easy to grip and protects it from minor bumps. With the Safari, you’ll never have to leave your binocular at home due to size or weight concerns. So, get out there! 

Learn more about Steiner Safari binoculars >>

Best Marine Binocular: Bushnell 7x50 Marine with Illuminated Compass

Don’t set sail without it! The classic Bushnell 7x50 Marine binocular is the ideal choice for boating, sailing, sportfishing, or any activity on the water. We named it this year’s Best Marine Binocular because you truly won’t find more advanced nautical features or better performance on the open ocean. In addition to bright, sharp views from dawn til dusk with BaK-4 prisms, you’ll enjoy a built-in illuminated compass and reticle for estimating the size and distance of objects. Like most serious marine binoculars, the Bushnell 7x50 offers individual focus eyepieces, so you can set them at infinity and not adjust a focus knob again. Best of all, these binoculars are tough. They’re 100% waterproof, floatable, resistant to saltwater corrosion, and purged with dry nitrogen gas to prevent fogging. If you encounter unexpected waves or storms, the non-slip, rubberized exterior provides a firm grip when wet. 

Learn more about Bushnell 7x50 Marine Binoculars >>

Monocular of the Year: Zhumell 10-25x42 Waterproof Zoom Monocular

Everything you need, with half the size and weight: that’s what you get with a monocular. These handy, sometimes underrated, outdoor tools are perfect for backpacking, hunting, outdoor surveillance, or any time you need a quick glance over long distances. We selected this Zhumell 10-25x42 as the Monocular of the Year because its unique zoom feature gives it an edge over the competition. While 10x magnification is fairly common, the ability to zoom up to 25x really helps you punch in on important details. Although it’s extremely affordable, this monocular is packed with top features like BaK-4 prisms for brighter views, multi-coated optics, and a fully waterproof housing.

Learn more about the Zhumell Waterproof Zoom Monocular >>

Spotting Scope of the Year: Vortex 20-60x85 Razor HD Spotting Scope

Vortex Optics has changed the spotting scope industry with their Razor HD spotting scope. It competes with scopes costing twice as much, and checks off every feature on a serious sportsman’s wish list. This scope is a great companion in the field with its lightweight magnesium body and quick dual focus mechanism. A locking collar allows you to position the scope at your preferred viewing angle. Inside, the triple apochromatic lens system made with extra-low dispersion HD glass provides ultra-crisp images free of visual defects like chromatic aberration. The scope is fully waterproof and Vortex has purged the tube with argon gas to prevent internal fogging. Plus, they’ve added their proprietary ArmorTek coating to prevent buildup of dirt, oil, and other impurities on the lenses and XR coating to reduce internal reflections. If you’re looking for a spotting scope that can do it all without weighing you down, this is it.

Learn more about Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scopes >>

Night Vision of the Year: ATN BINOXS-HD 4X Smart Optics Day/Night Binocular with GPS

Our pick for Night Vision of the Year combines powerful digital night vision technology with a host of other features to create a "Smart Optic" that can take you from day to night. With the push of a button, you can go from daytime observation to night vision, so this binocular will work for you 24/7. The images are crisp and sharp thanks to a built in gyroscope and image stabilization. In addition, you can record your observations in 1080p HD video or capture still images. Geotagging imprints your exact time, date, and GPS location onto all media. When you're out in the field, this handy, compact unit also functions as your electronic compass and altimeter. At the end of your day, connect to your binocular via WiFi using your mobile device or computer and enjoy all of your photos and video on any screen.

Learn more about the ATN BINOXS-HD 4X Smart Optics Day/Night Binocular >>

Best Hunting Binocular: Vortex 10x42 Diamondback Binoculars

Vortex’s bestselling binocular and a clear favorite among hunters worldwide, the Vortex 10x42 Diamondback Binocular is just about as close to indestructible as binoculars come. The signature textured, rubberized armoring allows a secure grip, even when you have gloves on or conditions are wet. And when it comes to optical performance, you won’t find more bang for your buck. Inspired by the diamondback rattler’s superior ability to detect movement, this bright, crisp binocular offers one of the widest fields of view in its class so you can spot more game. Fully multi-coated optics allow maximum light transmission so you can discern subtle detail, while phase coated prisms correct visual defects for sharp edges. Finally, Vortex seals the binoculars with O-rings and purges them with argon gas, making the Diamondback 100 percent waterproof and fogproof. With all these features, we expected the Vortex 10x42 Diamondback to cost a lot more—but we’re not complaining.

Learn more about Vortex Diamonback Binoculars >>

Best Binocular Value: Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED Binoculars

For top-tier optical performance, extra-low dispersion (ED) glass and the Zeiss name usually top the wish list. We were amazed to find both at a price point under $400 in the Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED. One look through these binoculars and you’ll see why we chose them as this year’s Best Binocular Value, since they easily compete with other binoculars costing twice as much. The popular 8x42 size is well suited to a variety of applications. Birders in particular will love Terra ED thanks to its close focus of just 5.25 feet—a number that’s pretty much unheard-of in this price range. For viewing at greater distances, Zeiss MC optical coatings enhance the ED glass for amazingly bright, sharp views and true, vivid color.

Learn more about Zeiss Terra ED Binoculars >>

Best Binocular for Stargazing: Zhumell 20x80 SuperGiant Astronomy Binoculars Package

If you’re looking to get started with astronomy—or supplement your existing telescope—there’s no easier way than with a pair of binoculars. The Zhumell 20x80 SuperGiant binocular package includes everything you need to have a great experience under the stars. For years, customers have loved the Zhumell SuperGiants for their high power, quality fully multi-coated optics with BaK-4 prisms, and bright images. They’re perfect for scanning the Milky Way, viewing the Moon and planets, and even long range terrestrial use. Although they offer enormous aperture, the Zhumell SuperGiants weigh just 4.4 pounds, so you can choose between holding the binoculars and mounting them on the included Zhumell Professional Tripod. A metal brace between the binocular lenses keeps everything secure. Get stunning views of the nighttime sky, ease of use, and a bonus tripod with this incredible astronomy package.

Learn more about the Zhumell 20x80 Astronomy Binoculars Package >>

Must-Have Accessory: Bino-Pac Suspension Harness

The Bino-Pac Suspension Harness is simply the most comfortable way to carry your binoculars in the field. This harness system provides a custom, adjustable fit that works perfectly over everything from a tee shirt to your thick winter gear. Unlike other harnesses, Bino-Pac’s straps tighten high across your shoulders, distributing the weight of even 56mm binoculars for all-day comfort. Your binoculars lay flat across your chest and stay out of your way while hiking or hunting. When you’re ready to use them, it’s easy to move the binoculars up to your eyes in one fluid motion. At the end of a long day in the field, you’ll notice the difference a great harness like the Bino-Pac makes. Forget about neck strain and pick up this Must-Have Accessory.

Learn more about the Bino-Pac Suspension Harness >>

Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed the article. We can't wait to bring you a new round of awards in 2016!
Shop all the award winners >>