Thanks to new technologies, some great 10x42s can be had for less than $1000

Technology is growing at an exponential rate. Examples of this phenomenon are all around us. The old record player and LP’s dominated the music industry for decades. Then came 8-track players and cassettes, kings for their own timeframes. The CD player reigned for even less time before it was replaced by the iPod. Now we can access any song, any time, anywhere via live streaming.

The same thing is happening in the optics industry. The technology and equipment required to build a top-level optical device 20 years ago is now readily available and at a much lower price. The result is there are more and more optical products in the $1000 range that are damn good and deserve some special attention.

The $1000 threshold is especially interesting when it comes to binoculars. It may sound crazy, but it’s well documented that there is a huge difference between selling a product for $999 versus $1049. There is a mental barrier when it comes to dropping more than a grand on a single item, and manufacturers know this.

So now we have multiple companies fighting to offer more features and better performance, yet keeping their price point below a grand, even if that means sacrificing some of their profit to do so. I’m a firm believer (especially when it comes to high-performance optics) that you get what you pay for, but that may scaled down a bit when buying a pair of 10×42’s in this price range.

Still, buyer beware. I’ve found there are as many binoculars at this price point that are way overpriced and don’t deliver near the performance you should expect. Suffice it to say, if you don’t see a pair of binoculars that sell in this price range included here, then it simply didn’t meet the criteria.

Sig Sauer coined a new term “electro-optics”. Maybe that term had been around, but it’s the best description for the fastest growing category of optics. By my definition, electro-optics includes laser rangefinders, electronic scopes, night vision, thermal vision, etc. – any optical device that needs a power source to work. The declassification of military technology and the miniaturization of electronics has opened entire new categories that were completely out of this price range just a few years ago.

The 10×42 binocular is just about the most universal piece of hunting equipment in a western hunter’s arsenal. The combination of size, magnification, and weight is perfect for just about all big game. So, it seems like a logical place to start. I had a team of hardcore hunters test each of these binoculars side by side. My comments are a compilation of their observations as well as mine. The order is totally random.

I believe it would be unfair to you and a waste of your time if we didn’t actually rate these binoculars. While optical perfection hasn’t been achieved, no one would argue that the Swarovski 10×42 EL would have to be a dang close. So with that in mind, we called the EL a 10 and compared against them. Keep in mind, these are the best in this category, so even the lowest-rated binocular in this article is better than those not listed.

Due to the near universal application of the 10x42mm binocular, it’s the most competitive category in the optics market. These manufacturers have worked hard to deliver binoculars of this quality for $1000 or less. As the battle continues, I fully expect to see more feature-laden binoculars at this price point.

Zeiss Conquest HD 10×42

When Zeiss introduced the Conquest HD line back in the early part of this decade, they were the first of the big three (Zeiss, Leica, and Swarovski) to engineer a product back down to the $1000 threshold. This move created a ton of buzz within the optics hunter world, as folks who previously wouldn’t spend the $1500 plus for the flagship binoculars flocked to see what compromises had been made to bring the price down. Were the Conquest binoculars worth the price? Those who had already spent the big bucks on the truly top-of-the-line binoculars were equally intrigued. By most standards, the Conquest introduction was a success and if nothing else, Zeiss literally set the bar for the competition and the customer.

The Conquest HD 10×42 is very well balanced in the hand, with a well-textured rubber housing. The image is good to very good, with a slight blueish tint relative to the others. The eyecups are comfortable, but they are either fully extended or bottomed out. I would prefer more options, especially when glassing from a tripod. The diopter adjustment is on the right ocular and is non-locking. Zeiss offers a limited lifetime warranty. During the first five years, they will fix or replace the product without fault.

Length: Width: Weight: Field of view: Price: Overall Score:
5.9″ 4.7″ 27 oz. 345′ $999 7.5

German Precision Optics Passion 10×42 HD

German Precision Optics (GPO) jumped into the performance optics market with both feet just a few months ago, and they are already turning heads. They are rolling out their product line in multiple phases and so far each product has exceeded expectations.

The U.S. division is led by industry veteran, Mike Jensen. In full disclosure, Mike and I have been friends, co-workers, and hunting partners for over 25 years. He is the guy who first showed me how and why to mount a binocular on a tripod. GPO doesn’t get any special treatment due to our relationship. In fact, I hold them to an even higher standard. As the saying goes, “You might fool the spectators, but you can’t fool the players.”

All of GPO’s products are engineered in Germany and then produced in Asia. This has become a more common practice in all facets of manufacturing. By sourcing the best manufacturer for specific parts and final assembly, a company can keep costs down. Of course, quality control can become an issue…like cell phones that suddenly burst into flames. So, GPO inspects every optical product in Germany before it enters their inventory.

For another level of security, GPO offers their exclusive “Spectacular Lifetime Warranty”. If a product isn’t functioning properly, they will repair or replace it at no charge, forever. They even authorize their dealers to replace a product on site if necessary!

The Passion 10×42 HD is the flagship binocular from GPO. The magnesium single micro bridge design keeps the mass of the binocular centered when mounted to a tripod. The center focus locking diopter adjustment is a feature usually reserved for high-priced binos. The aluminum eyecups are capped with a rubber ring for comfort and have a positive stop at the bottom, middle, and top of the adjustment.

GPO employs a double HD glass technology, combined with their proprietary GPObright lens coating to deliver excellent brightness and color control. The Passion 10×42 received the highest marks from our testers for over all image quality and resolution, and thus the highest overall score.

Length: Width: Weight: Field of view: Price: Overall Score:
6.25″ 5.1″ 30 oz. 336′ $999 8.3

Sig Sauer Zulu 7 10×42

Sig Sauer is legendary in the gun world, with unquestionable quality and performance. But building a pistol is just a little bit different than building high-performance optics. Thus, I wasn’t just a little bit skeptical; in fact, at first I didn’t even give them a chance. However, what I didn’t know was that the Sig executives spared no expense in finding some of the most talented engineers, designers, and manufacturing specialists in the world.

The Sig Electro-Optics Division has only been up and running for a few years, but they have already made the entire industry take notice by offering a wide variety of optical products that all perform beyond their price point.

The Zulu 7 10×42 is no exception to the above statement. At $839, it’s the least expensive binocular to make the cut. It outperformed multiple models that sell for closer to $1000. High definition and high transmittance glass, combined with their proprietary Spectra-coat lens coating, really does deliver excellent center resolution. The Zulu 7 warranty is simple – the Infinite Guarantee is forever and unlimited…period.

The dual hinge design fits nicely in the hand. It’s threaded for a tripod adapter, but the hole is on the leading edge of the front hinge, so the binocular tends to hang from the front. I was worried about vibration, but after two full days of glassing for javelina in Arizona, I’m convinced it won’t be a problem. The diopter adjustment is on the right ocular collar. It is stiffer than I prefer, but it’s sure not to move accidentally.

Length: Width: Weight: Field of view: Price: Overall Score:
5.8″ 5.0″ 29 oz. 341′ $839 7.4

Leica Trinovid HD 10×42

The original Trinovid is still revered amongst hunters who are a little more advanced in age. Whenever I see an old pair, I have to ask to handle them. Their sleek design, solid construction, and beautiful glass were like artwork! However, they were on the fragile side and were replaced for the more durable rubber-armored BN’s.

When Leica announced in 2015 that they were introducing a new line that would carry the Trinovid name, I was one of the first in line to hold a pair. True to the Trinovid name, the new model – at 5.5″ and weighing 26 oz., is the most compact and lightweight binocular to make the cut.

With modern manufacturing techniques and full-wrap rubber armoring, the new Trinovid is definitely more robust and durable than its namesake. Leica offers their five-year Passport Warranty, which carries complete coverage and a limited lifetime warranty after that.

My biggest gripe with the Trinovid was the lack of an easy-to-use center post tripod adapter capacity. The Outdoorsmans solved that problem this year with the re-introduction of the Bino Hand ($89.99, www.outdoorsmans.com), which makes it easy to mount literally any binocular.

Length: Width: Weight: Field of view: Price: Overall Score:
5.5″ 26 oz. 335′ $999 7.0