S IN MOST of life, deciding on the “best” binocular for your hunting is far more complex than it appears. While many hunters are convinced they already own the best, such folks are usually prejudiced toward one model of one brand. Why? Because when they finally decided to spend big money, they bought that particular binocular. It’s hard to convince someone who’s just spent $1000+ that they might not have made The Perfect Decision.
Admittedly, it is hard to go wrong when purchasing the best models among the top brands, though far too many people assume that only Leica, Swarovski and Zeiss are the only “expensive” binoculars that can be seriously considered. Anybody who’s looked through a 1950’s Bausch & Lomb Zephyr knows that high-class glass was made in places other than German-speaking Europe long before we ever heard of Nikon.
Some hunters also feel that spending anything less than $1000 is wasted money, but I can assure you it is not. Just as Europe is not the only source for great binoculars, today there are very good binoculars costing far less than $1000. In fact, today you can buy binoculars for $500 that are better than anything that sold for twice that much 15 years ago. This is due to a host of factors: computerized optics-design programs, industrial competition, and the global marketplace.
For decades, hunting writers have been stating that you get what you pay for in optics, implying that price is an absolute guide to quality. While there’s no doubt that the average $1000 binocular beats the heck out of the average $100 binocular, there are many gray areas in between.
As an example, let’s compare optics to automobiles. It’s no secret why Japanese vehicles are so popular in the United States: You can often buy a more reliable, safer and cheaper-to-drive Japanese vehicle for less money than a comparable-size American or European vehicle. (The fact that some of these Japanese vehicles are made in the U.S. does not negate my point.) The question, of course, is how do people know Japanese vehicles are better? Cars wear out, and those that give a lot of trouble get found out, by word-of-mouth or Consumer Reports, so over the last quarter of a century we have come to accept that Japanese companies make top-quality vehicles.
If this is so, why continue to believe that only Europe can make good glass?