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Decide what specification you want;


8 x is good for general purpose and has wide angle and brightness, 10 x gives slightly more magnification at the expense of a little brightness loss and narrower field of view.  12 x more magnification, but shake can become a problem as can low light use.  Personally I prefer 8 x but 10 x is OK and I don't like 12 x as much.

Objective size

20 is about the smallest practical.  Small in size and light in weight, cheapest to buy and work pretty well in good light .... but lose light pretty quickly in twilight and field of view is less than bigger sizes.  40 is heavier and bulkier - and more expensive, but work a bit better in low light (see bit below on exit pupil size).  50 and 56 are BIG, bulky, heavy and expensive.  They give the best performance in low light, but weight and size can be a real pain under good light conditions.

Exit pupil size

This is the Objective size divided by the magnification - and is a measure of the diameter of the light circle that is available at your eye pupil.  (i.e. 10 x 50 = 5mm, 8 x 20 = 2.5mm etc.).  Most peoples pupils in low light can open to 5 or 6mm at maximum.  Tends to be less in older people.  If this value is exceeded, no additional benefit is obtained because the light cannot enter the eye (pupil in your eye is too small).  Generally, our pupils are quite small when light is good, so a value of 2.5 works fine in good light whereas 5 or 6 will be much better (and as good as you can get) in low light.

Eye relief

The eye relief is the figure (in mm) that the eye can be from the eyepiece.  10mm or so is OK for non glasses wearers, but glasses wearers need about 15 mm or they will not see the full field of view.


The most expensive makes (Leica, Zeiss, Swarovski) use expensive coatings (to prevent reflection from the glass surface) that give a slightly brighter image and of course they have very well designed/made optics.  Cheaper makes have coatings, but are usually slightly less bright, and very cheap budget optics will be noticeably poorer.

I like 8 x 20 for good light use - light and convenient.  8 x 40 are good in low light.  Some years ago I bought an (expensive) pair of 10 x 50s.  They are superb, but a bit of a white elephant because they are heavy and cumbersome and have virtually no advantages other that a short additional usable period at dawn/twilight.  Of course if you are needing twilight performance (as many sporting needs may) then they are the ideal thing, but to carry all day ........ no.

I hope this helps.


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Keep an eye out in your local auctions. (Don't know why I tell people this it will put prices up for me) I got a pair of used but optically very good Leitz trinovid 10 x 40 for £28.

Lots of other stuff there as well. Saw some 8 x 40 Pentax in mint condition go for £35 the other day. (All prices don't include buyers premium whch varies.)



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7 minutes ago, Kalahari said:

Keep an eye out in your local auctions. (Don't know why I tell people this it will put prices up for me) I got a pair of used but optically very good Leitz trinovid 10 x 40 for £28.

Lots of other stuff there as well. Saw some 8 x 40 Pentax in mint condition go for £35 the other day. (All prices don't include buyers premium whch varies.)



Older good quality stuff is excellent value, but check availability of things like rubber eye cups if these are perished as some are hard to get.

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What's your budget?

What will they be used for?

A good make second hand will be better value for money than cheap + new.

My best and favourite binos to date are Hawke Frontier Eds 8x43, £260 2yrs ago.used for birding+deerstalking.

There's a bargain on fleabay at the moment; Hawke frontier ed 8x36, new, £126inc p&p......billy bargain!

Both binos were/are from Clifton cameras, I even got a bird book as a free gift.

Haven't tried minox but they get good feedback. Ideally you need to try before you buy and compare with 'alpha' binos like zeiss,swarovski,leica.

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Vortex or Steiner for budget to mid price imho. Steiner make some stunning optics for half the cost of the top European makes like Swaro and Zeiss.  Check out their Skyhawk 3 and Ranger series, they're stunning optically. I did an in depth test a few years ago on a big range of new optics which I gathered, begged, borrowed and evaluated in the field under various lighting conditions.

Higher up, Swaro without a shadow of a doubt and for most stalking duties their 8 x 32 are ideal.

I came to a few conclusions which hold true for anything out there now:

  1. the difference between Minox, Vortex, Endeavour and similarly specified glass was less important than how they fit your eyes and depending on what type of coatings are used;
  2. coatings make a big difference to light transmission, contrast, colour temperature and in some cases, perceived resolution;
  3. Porro-type glass is and always will better equivalently priced roof prism binos
  4. Cheap "big names" of yesteryear (and still big today) like Kowa aren't worth even looking at.  Most "cheap" Kowas are Chinese manufactured and are utter carp imho
  5. Avoid cheap Hawkes.  I don't give a fig for marketing BS but not one pair that was tried up to £250 imho was worth a damn more than most sub £100 Opticrons
  6. Makes which have been used for years for ornithology like opticron produce some excellent binos sub £200
  7. you can now buy well made, precisely aligned fibreglass bodied roof prisms.  I wouldn't have touched them years ago, but using a pair of Endeavour ED 8x42 binos in field conditions altered my prejudices.
  8. Good used buys always beat good new buys.  For example, I picked up a less than one year old pair of Swaro CL 8 x 25s for less than £400

With makes like Vortex and Swaro you'll get the best customer service and after sales service on the planet.  Obviously with Vortex, if you drop your bins and drive over them, all your own daft fault, send the crushed lumps back to Vortex for a no quibble free replacement. That's some warranty.

Generally, the best advice I can give without going into long winded technical detail is avoid at all costs most bins under £150.  You get nothing much under that worth a damn, with a few exceptions including Opticron Discoveries, the odd pair of Endeavours and some budget Minox which are ok but nothing special.  You simply wont get a pair which will withstand years of abuse and be optically good under that amount.  Buy used if you can't stretch to more than that.  Up to £300, the Steiner Skyhawke 3.0 are about the best specified and optically about the best I have ever come across with direct low light work in woodland comparible (easily) with a mate's £1100 Zeiss bins.  The Zeiss were better edge to edge, but you'd expect that.  In all other respects, those Steiners are stunning.

If you want to take a risk on old pairs of porros, Zeiss Jenoptem are what to look for.  HOWEVER, many at that age may suffer lens fungal bloom or need servicing so it's always caveat emptor.  Get a good pair and they're on par with I'd say most £200 to £250 sets of roof prism bins in some areas but don't expect the same flare control or coating quality.

Edited by Savhmr
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  • 3 weeks later...

If you can find a second hand pair of these at a good price buy them. I have had for many years and they are excellent I bought a second hand pair of Leica's ultravids as an upgrade but after a bit of comparison testing I sold on and kept the swifts.  https://www.urbannaturestore.ca/swift-828-premier-hp-audubon-8-5x44-roof-prism-binocular/

Also have the Nikon 8X25 travelite ex only had a couple of weeks they are OK for a small bino but nowhere as good as the above but good enough for popping in pocket when bigger ones not practical. £100 paid for these.

Edited by Andra
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I keep a Hawke 12x25 in my smock chest pocket for work (shepherd) checking ewes out on the hill. They are perfect size - sit in the palm of my hand - and weight for carrying around every day. Very cheap, too - £15 or £20, I think. Had them 3-4 years and no problems.

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Im watching this with interest. I shoot with a fixed 6x42 scope mostly around dusk or under the lamp so wanted some binos with similar magnification and lots of light gathering. I ended up with a £20 set of 7x50s, they avoid using the scope for target identification and are very helpful for scanning for bunnies before it gets quite dark enough for the lamp but I have been after something  a little more refined. I have been rather tempted by the steiner 7x50s. 

Edited by Wb123
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