It’s the most wonderful time of the year—at BinocularsPlus.com HQ, that is! For the past few weeks, our experts have been busy comparing a dizzying array of sport optics. We had one simple goal: help our customers identify the best binoculars at the best prices. We put each product through its paces with a variety of tests, from glassing out our office windows to intense field excursions in the toughest weather conditions. We also noted each optic’s unique manufacturing processes, optical technology, and warranty.
If you’ve browsed our award winners in the past, you’ll immediately notice that the 2016 winners are head-and-shoulders above past years. The industry stepped up both performance and value to provide the sharpest, brightest views ever at even more affordable prices.
So, without further ado, we’re very proud to present the 2016 Binocular of the Year Awards.
Binocular of the Year: ALL-NEW Vortex 10x42 Diamondback Binoculars
The Vortex 10x42 Diamondback binocular already enjoyed a stunning 4.9 out of 5 star rating from BinocularsPlus.com customers—and that was before Vortex completely redesigned and upgraded it for 2016. The latest version combines the original’s razor-sharp optics with a new housing that feels super secure in your hands, not to mention weighing 3 ounces less! Needless to say, we couldn’t be more impressed with the improvements, which earned the Diamondback the prestigious Binocular of the Year award.
If you’re a newcomer to the optics world, you may not be familiar with Vortex, but this brand has been a mainstay for serious hunters and outdoorsmen for years. And there’s a reason: the Vortex 10x42 Diamondback is just about as close to indestructible as binoculars come. But sometimes, life happens—your dog thinks your optics are his new chew toy, you drive away with binoculars on the roof of your car, or you just lose a lens cap. That’s why Vortex offers their VIP Warranty, a promise to repair or replace your optic for as long as you own it, no questions asked.
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 locate your subject quickly and track it as it moves. 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 new Vortex 10x42 Diamondback to cost a lot more—but we’re not complaining.
Learn more about the ALL-NEW Vortex Diamondback 10x42 Binoculars >>
Best of the Best: ALL-NEW 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.
The name Swarovski is synonymous with meticulous attention to detail, and the brand certainly delivered on that expectation with the new, upgraded 2016 EL Swarovision line. You’ll appreciate fine details like a wear-proof attachment where the neck strap meets the binocular body, a quick locking diopter, and a smooth, easy-to-adjust focus knob. An open hinge body design with thumb indentations makes the binocular comfortable to grasp and hold with one hand. Simply put, Swarovski’s 10x42 EL Swarovision binoculars are a pleasure to use. There isn’t a single thing we’d change about them.
Learn more about the ALL-NEW Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision Binoculars >>
Birding Binocular of the Year: Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars
Celestron is best known for its telescopes, but this manufacturer has made a big splash in the birding world 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 sport optics for the beginner to intermediate birder.
Learn more about the Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars >>
Hunting Binocular of the Year: Steiner Predator 10x42 Binoculars
A laundry list of specs and features is nice, but at the end of the day a hunter has one thing in mind when it comes to binoculars: spot more game. Steiner is laser-focused on that goal with the Predator 10x42 Binocular, our pick for Hunting Binocular of the Year. Looking at the front objective lenses of your Predator binocular, you’ll notice a green tone on the lens coating. That’s Steiner’s proprietary CAT (color-adjusting transmission) coating. It slightly filters out the green and blue light from vegetation, fog, and mist to reveal the brown and red tones of hidden wildlife. Compared a similar binocular not designed for hunting, the Predator helps you see more of what you want to see—your next target.
In addition to its innovative CAT coatings, the Predator offers the elite performance we expect from Steiner, one of the longest standing binocular brands out there. In those critical moments when every second counts, you’ll appreciate the Predator’s “Fast Close Focus” system, which takes you from close focus to infinity with fewer turns of the focus knob.
When you’re hunting under dim conditions at dawn or dusk, this binocular delivers increased light transmission, which translates into additional hunting time. The durable, waterproof/submersible polycarbonate frame stands up to tough conditions. But just in case, the Steiner Predator 10x42 also carries a rock-solid lifetime warranty.
Marine Binocular of the Year: Steiner 7x50 Marine Binoculars
You might be a little hesitant to invest in a high quality marine binocular. After all, the open ocean can be a rough place. Saltwater, choppy seas, and unexpected bumps and drops don’t seem to mix well with precision optics. But actually, it’s in these tough conditions that the Steiner 7x50 Marine Binocular truly excels. Steiner is a prestige brand known for never backing down from a challenge. In fact, the United States military selected elite Steiner binoculars for the battlefield in Iraq. After one pair was hit in an IED explosion, soldiers recovered the optics blasted and burned, but in working condition. (That ought to put your worries at ease!)
Steiner’s classic marine binocular is the ideal choice for boating, sailing, sportfishing, or any activity on the water. Inside, you’ll find fully multicoated optics and a floating prism system that uses a flexible silicon lens mount to absorb shock. Like most high-end marine binoculars, the Steiner 7x50 offers individual focus eyepieces, so you can set them for any target from 20 yards to infinity and not adjust a focus knob again. On the exterior, the non-slip, rubberized coating provides a firm grip when wet. Thanks to its German engineering and extra-rugged design, you won’t want to set sail without the Steiner 7x50 Marine Binocular.
Learn more about the Steiner 7x50 Marine Binoculars >>
Astronomy Binocular of the Year: Zhumell 20x80 SuperGiant Astronomy Binoculars
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 offers 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. A metal brace between the binocular lenses keeps everything secure. They’re perfect for scanning the Milky Way, viewing the Moon and planets, and even long range terrestrial use.
Although they offer enormous aperture for bright images, the Zhumell SuperGiants weigh just 4.4 pounds, so you can choose between holding the binoculars and mounting them on a standard tripod. If you need a stable foundation for your Zhumell 20x80, considering bundling it with the Zhumell Tripod for even more value. Get stunning views of the nighttime sky, ease of use, and a limited lifetime warranty with this top-rated binocular.
Learn more about the Zhumell SuperGiant 20x80mm Binoculars >>
Best Compact Binocular: Bushnell 10x28 Trophy XLT Binoculars
Never miss a detail with a compact binocular that’s always by your side. Weighing just 12 ounces, Bushnell’s 10x28 Trophy XLT Binoculars are light enough that you can take them anywhere, but they offer a little more aperture for a boost in brightness compared to 22 or 25mm models.
Whether you’re trekking through mountains or exploring the rainforest, a great compact binocular is there when you need it, but doesn’t get in the way. The Trophy XLT is designed with these situations in mind because it’s easy to hold and carry in the field. Bushnell’s new Dura-Grip rubber exterior feels comfortable and secure in your hands, while the objective lens caps feature an easy flip design that won’t fall off or get lost. Of course, the Trophy XLT is also waterproof and fogproof, so there’s no need to worry about a sudden downpour.
Tailored to rugged outdoor situations, the Bushnell Trophy offers top features not normally found in grab-and-go models: fully multicoated optics and BaK-4 prisms. For the price you pay, this optic rates far better than optics meant for casual use at concerts or ballparks, but is just as lightweight and convenient. With the Trophy XLT, you’ll never have to leave your binocular at home due to size or weight concerns. So, get out there!
Learn more about the Bushnell 10x28 Trophy XLT Binoculars >>
Best Binocular Value: Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED Binoculars
Top-tier optical performance, extra-low dispersion (ED) glass and the Zeiss name usually top the wish list of anyone shopping for optics. We were amazed to find all three in a binocular under $400: the Zeiss 8x42 Terra ED. These binoculars compete with others costing twice as much, so they were an easy choice for Best Binocular Value.
If you haven’t tried Zeiss ED glass for yourself, you might wonder what all the fuss is about. But with your first look through the optics, you’ll immediately notice bright, lifelike images and rich, vivid colors that are simply unmatched by other brands. Thanks to the superior extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, you’ll experience zero color fringing, making images crisp and contrast sharp, especially when viewing targets like a white egret on a dark lake. Zeiss’ MC optical coatings further enhance the ED glass for maximum light transmission. In dim or foggy conditions, you’ll be amazed how much more detail you can discern.
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. The binocular is small enough to carry comfortably and is easy to customize to your exact viewing preferences. A full 18mm of eye relief with twist-up eyecups helps you position your eyes properly with or without eyewear. And Zeiss aficionados love the large, lightning-quick focus knob that helps you spot your target in a flash. Like all Zeiss products, Zeiss Terrra ED is waterproof and fogproof, including hydrophobic coatings on the optical surfaces. This model features a fiberglass-reinforced casing for added strength and durability.
Learn more about the Zeiss Terra ED 8x42 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 less than 24 ounces, the Zhumell Short Barrel is perfect for tossing into your pack for bird walks, travel, hunting trips, concerts, and sporting events. Powerful 10x magnification makes the Short Barrel the easiest and most affordable way to get close to the action.
Learn more about the Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel Binoculars >>
Staff Pick: Bushnell 10x42 Legend L-Series Binoculars
Every year, new binoculars come onto the market, and every year we keep coming back to the Bushnell Legend. In fact, 2016 marks the sixth straight year that a member of the Bushnell Legend family has appeared as an award winner! The 10x42 Legend L-Series was a natural fit for this year’s Staff Pick; our call center experts are constantly recommending this binocular to customers looking for a solid, all-around performer that’s ready for anything.
The 10x42 Legend L-Series provides an outstanding level of light transmission and clarity. 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 other binoculars 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.
Innovation of the Year: Celestron Hummingbird Micro ED Spotting Scopes
Forget about the labels—and limitations—of traditional sport optics. Celestron has created a whole new category with the Hummingbird, the world’s first “micro” spotting scope. This one-of-a-kind optic lives in the space between a monocular and a traditional spotting scope, while providing the best features of both. Available in two apertures, a 50mm and 56mm, this spotting scope offers serious optical performance thanks to ED glass and fully multicoated optics.
The Hummingbird is ideal for travel. The 50mm model is just 8” long and weighs less than 20 ounces, making it portable enough for your carry-on bag, day pack, or even a cargo pocket! The zoom eyepiece makes the Hummingbird so versatile, it can serve as your only optic on an excursion. Use it at low magnification (7x or 9x) as you would a monocular, or mount it on a tripod for high-power extended viewing sessions. Missing out on breathtaking views because your spotting scope was too bulky and heavy is now a thing of the past.
Monocular of the Year: ALL-NEW Hawke Nature-Trek 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 Hawke’s all-new 10x50 and 15x50 Nature-Trek series as the Monocular of the Year because of they provide remarkably crisp views, plus comfort and ease of use.
Optically, Nature-Trek monoculars are identical to Hawke’s binocular series of the same name. You’ll find high resolution phase corrected BaK-4 roof prisms, fully multicoated optics, and a lightweight magnesium alloy housing—all for under $100. Yes, you heard that right.
When you pick up the Nature-Trek monocular, it has a unique feel. Your hand instinctively grips the barrel securely and the raised focus knob moves smoothly and quickly for one-handed use. It’s the most convenient and comfortable way to carry a 50mm optic with you in the field. The Hawke Nature-Trek monocular is tripod adaptable, waterproof, and fogproof.
Learn more about the Hawke Nature-Trek Monocular >>
Spotting Scope of the Year: Vanguard Endeavor XF 15-45x60 Angled Spotting Scope
A great spotting scope is your companion in the field, and there isn’t a better one for the money than the Vanguard Endeavor XF. This medium to long range spotter is lightweight and durable with a magnesium alloy construction and a convenient built-in tripod adapter so it’s always ready to go. Once it’s on your tripod, the mounting foot rotates in a variety of viewing angles so you can position yourself perfectly—a great bonus for shooting sports or when using a window mount.
In criticial situations like wildlife viewing, you need a scope that is quick and responsive. The large, smooth focus wheel helps you zero in on your target fast. A wide field of view helps you follow your target as it moves. The Endeavor XF comes with an extendable rubber covered eyecup so you can quickly adjust the eye relief. Whether you wear eyeglasses or not, you’ll find there’s plenty of eye relief for comfortable views, even when the scope is zoomed in tight.
But it’s the optics inside this scope that truly set it apart from the competition. You’ll find phase coated BaK-4 prisms, a premium feature not normally found on budget-friendly scopes. The optics are fully multi-coated and the entire scope is waterproof, fogproof, and submersible for the ultimate in worry-free use.
The Vanguard Endeavor XF includes a built-in sunshade to block glare, molded carry case, and shoulder strap. If you’re looking for a spotting scope that can do it all without weighing you down, this is it.
Learn more about the Vanguard Endeavor XF 15-45x60 Spotting Scope >>
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 switch between daytime observation and 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 the 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 >>
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 across your shoulders, not your neck. 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.
Learn more about the Bino-Pac Suspension Harness >>
Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed the article and can't wait to bring you a new slate of award winners in 2017.