By: Ted Karr
We have researched and tested to find the best for you!
Binoculars are perhaps the most used piece of tech we own. That’s why it’s super important to pick binoculars that best fit your needs. There are many factors to consider, from magnification, objective size, lens quality, weight and cost. In this guide, we share with you the factors to consider when purchasing a pair of binoculars. We also start with boiling things down for you and provide you with our top pick as well as a couple fallback options for those that are trying to stretch their money. If you choose right, this might be the last pair of binoculars you will ever need to purchase.
There is much debate about magnification, objective size, and image quality associated with the vast number of binoculars available on the market for hunting. Some believe a 10X is better than an 8X. Some want the lightest option they can get without sacrificing quality and performance. Others are motivated primarily by price. After reviewing just about every detailed binocular review posted on the web, and then testing the available options out at sportsman shows, in the stores, and in the field, we landed on the EL 42 by Swarovski as our top pick for the best binoculars for hunting; though, for our Vortex fans, the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 is also a great option. We also provide some great options for those of you looking for a great pair of bino’s but don’t want to go above $500. Here’s why the EL 42 Swarovski is our “Top Shelf” pick, and our picks for other binocular categories.
Best binoculars for hunting
- Swarovksi EL42: Best binoculars overall
- Viper HD: Best Vortex option
- Swarovski SLC: Best value Swarovski
- Vortex Vipor HD42: Best binoculars on a budget
Swarovski EL 42: Top Shelf™
Why you should select this bino: It’s an investment for life. You get a razor-sharp image, with high contrast and an ergonomic experience paired with top shelf quality. This is about as good as it gets for an all-around bino for most big game and predator hunts.
Swarovski EL 42
*A top of its class binocular that outperforms the competition and is sure to give you an edge in spotting prey.
Who needs this bino: The hunter who only wants to purchase binoculars once in a lifetime.
Cost: $2,954 MSRP
Why we picked the Swarovski EL42:
Swarovski binoculars are the best binoculars we have ever used. They are the reliable choice at first light, when the sun is glaring, and during the evening hunt when light is low. They are extremely comfortable to hold, and they are a fantastic balance between weight, quality, and optical performance. But, these binoculars are not cheap. In fact, they are priced well above the competition. The Swarovksi components are the best innovation can buy and you have to pay for the best.
The EL 42 provide edge to edge sharpness. And when using the 10×42, the ergonomic wrap-around grip allows you to keep them steady when viewing long distances. The EL 42s also easily mount on a tripod for sitting on top of a ridge spotting wild game. The Swarovision, Swarobright and Swaroclean technology make these binoculars stand out above the rest. The EL 42’s have field flattener lenses which provide peripheral definition. They also have fluoride-containing HD lenses which enables maximum color fidelity and leads to a significant improvement in resolution and contrast. The only way to really appreciate these features is to look through them in the field.
The EL 42 is waterproof up to 4 meters and the lens covers are attached, making it less likely to lose a cover and more convenient for protecting the lenses while they binoculars are not in use.
You can order the EL 42 binoculars with two different fields of view: 8.5×42 and 10×42. The 10×42 will provide more magnification for long distance viewing, while the 8.5×42 will provide a large field of view, making them slightly more versatile to use. They weight 29.6 ounces in the 10×42 model.
The EL 42 comes with a field bag, eyepiece cover, object lens cover and lift carrying strap. If you are patient, these binoculars go on sale occasionally.
Option: Swarovski EL Range
The EL 42 Range binocular offers all the benefits of the EL 42 with precise range and angle measurement. The only downsides are cost and weight. You add $700 to the price tag and an additional 2 ounces (they weight 31.6 ounces). But, if you want to be able to leave your rangefinder in the truck, you won’t be sorry with this choice.
Razor HD: Best Vortex option
Why you should choose the Razor HD 42: You want a high quality, performance binocular with a lifetime warranty that will not break the bank.
Razor HD 42
Vortex Optics is quickly becoming a “go to” solution for hunters wanting hiqh quality binoculars without paying the price tag of Swarovski. The Razor HD is one of Vortex’s top rated hunting binoculars and they are taking the hunting industry by storm. If you cannot stomach the Swarovski price tag, but you still want a high performing, high quality binocular, you will not be disappointed by this choice.
Who it’s for: The hunter who only wants to purchase binoculars once in a lifetime and doesn’t want to drop the extra $1,950 required to purchase the Swarovski HD 42.
How much it will cost: $1,299 MSRP
Why we picked the Razor HD:
Tons of hunters are jumping on the Vortex bandwagon and they are getting it done in the field. These binoculars are performing well in the back country and they only weight 26.4 ounces, which is slightly less than the Swarovski EL 42. Vortex Optics offers the best warranty available, known as the VIP warranty, which is lifetime, unlimited and unconditional. How can you go wrong when a company makes that sort of statement with its warranty.
The Razor HD 10×42 weighs 24.8 ounces and boasts a linear field of view of 362 ft/1000 yards. The HD uses a high quality prism and premium HD extra-low dispersion glass. These binoculars are fog proof and waterproof. They also have an ultra-hard, scratch resistant coating which protects the exterior portion of the lens from scratches.
The Razor HD comes with a rain-guard eyepiece cover, tethered objective lens covers, comfort neck strap, and deluxe padded carrying case.
Option: Vortex Fury HD5000 Rangefinder 10×42
The Vortex Fury HD5000 Rangefinder binocular offers many of the benefits of the Vortex Viper with precise range and angle measurement. The only downsides are cost and weight. You add $300 to the price tag and an additional 6 ounces (they weight 32.3 ounces).
Swarovski SLC 42 – Best value Swarovski
A top of its class binocular that outperforms the competition and is $1,000 less than the EL 42 binocular.
Who it’s for: The hunter who only wants to purchase binoculars once in a lifetime, wants Swarovski quality and performance but doesn’t want to pay the EL 42 price.
How much it will cost: $1,943 MSRP
Why we picked the Swarovski SLC:
As noted above, Swarovski binoculars are the best binoculars we have ever used. They are the reliable choice at first light, when the sun is glaring, and during the evening hunt when light is low. They are extremely comfortable to hold, and they are a fantastic balance between weight, quality, and optical performance. But, these binoculars are not cheap. In fact, they are priced well above the competition, but less than their relative the HD 42. The Swarovksi components are the best innovation can buy and you have to pay for the best.
The SLCs are multipurpose binoculars. Their optics and coating systems are optimized for contrast and focus. They are very comfortable to hold for long periods of time when glassing.
The SLC is waterproof up to 4 meters and the lens covers are attached, making it less likely to lose a cover and more convenient for protecting the lenses while they binoculars are not in use.
You can order the SLC binoculars with two different fields of view: 8×42 and 10×42. The 10×42 will provide more magnification for long distance viewing, while the 8×42 will provide a large field of view, making them slightly more versatile to use. They weight 27 ounces in the 10×42 model.
The SLC comes with a field bag, eyepiece cover, object lens cover and lift carrying strap.
Vortex Viper HD 42: The best binoculars on a budget
Why you should buy this: You want high quality glass and feature rich binoculars, but you want to stay in the $500-$700 range.
Vortex Viper HD 42
The Vortex Viper HD 42 is a great value.
Who is this bino for: The hunter that wants trustworthy binoculars at a value price
Cost: $650 MSRP
Why we picked the Vortex Viper HD 42 for our “value” bino:
There are tons of binos that could fit into this category. As you drop down in price you can find some great binoculars made by Leica, Leopold, Nikon, etc. However, the Vortex was our budget pick because these glasses are getting incredible reviews by those that purchase them. They perform extremely well in low light, they are waterproof, fog proof and they come with a lifetime warranty. They MSRP for $649.95, but you can often find them on sale in the $500 range, which is tough to beat. These binoculars use premium optics and rugged construction, yet are compact and lightweight. They only weigh 24.9 ounces. Also, they are tripod adaptable, making it more convenient for long days of glasses or trips to the shooting range. They also come with a chest harness!
For a much deeper dive review from a crew of hunters that field tested several hunting binoculars, see the report provided by Steve Speck of S&S Archery at Optics Shoot-Out .
Below is a list of other binoculars you may want to check out. We plan to review these in more detail in the near future.
- Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 [NOTE: we plan to review this product in the near future]
- Leica Ultravid 10×42 HD Plus
- Maven B2 11×45
- Nikon Monarch HD 10×42
- Leopold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10×42