Categories Shooting Best Binoculars for Deer Stalking in 2020 12th July 2020Author The Yorkshire Gent The saying goes that you should buy the best quality optics you can afford to make your deer stalking as enjoyable and as successful as possible. We 100% agree – good glass makes a world of difference when you’re out there in the field. It literally does allow you to see more, especially as the light fades, and it could mean the difference between a successful and a not so successful stalk. If you adopt the mentality of ‘buy once, cry once’, you could end up with a set of binoculars that will last you for years. However, you don’t always need to spend the earth to get something of good quality. If you do have the budget for top end glass then in our opinion it makes sense not to make any compromises, but if you are on a budget, there are still options available to you. It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what’s on the market right now, what might suit your requirements and then trying to sort the good from the bad. Fear not though, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. We’ve spent hours researching specs, gathering opinion and establishing availability to bring you the ultimate guide to the best binoculars for deer stalking. We’ll start with our top picks those for those of you who are in a hurry, but we’ll then take a look at the different options available at various price points. By the end of this guide you’ll have a good idea about how much you should spend, what you get for your money, what size and strength binoculars you need for different stalking scenarios, and what some of the best models are on the market right now. One thing to note though is that it’s important to understand what all the technical jargon means (and more importantly, what it means for your stalking) to ensure that you have all the information you need to select the best pair of binoculars for your particular needs. To help you with this, you’ll find at the end of this buying guide a full run down of what it all means. For those of you who are already comfortable with bino terminology, feel free to get straight into the recommendations below. In most cases, we have included 8 x 42 models, but most are available in other magnification strengths and/or objective lens sizes. Please note that as an Amazon Associate, we may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. Best Overall Our overall winner is the Swarovski 8.5 x 42 Field Pro EL. These are the stalking binoculars we recommend if you’re looking for a high performance, premium model and you want to invest once in a pair of bins that will last you for years to come. If you’re on more of a budget, skip to the next section where we reveal the winner of our best budget pair of binoculars. If you’re interested in learning more about the Swarovski’s though, here’s the detail you need to know and the reasons they came out on top. Swarovski 8.5 x 42 Field Pro EL When you buy into the Swarovski brand, you know that what you will get in return is not only a premium quality product but also fantastic customer support and with the EL’s, a 10 year worldwide warranty. The EL’s are the company’s top-end model of field binoculars so as you might expect, the spec reflects that. When it comes to the build quality and the sharpness of the image, many believe these to be the benchmark for all other models. The field of view is very good (399ft at 1,000yds) and Swarovski uses it’s SWAROTOP, SWARODUR, SWAROCLEAN and SWAROBRIGHT optical coatings to achieve the final image. The EL’s are nitrogen filled to avoid fogging issues and they’re also watertight thanks to the fully sealed design. Other nice features include a rain guard for the lenses, a pull-out focus wheel for diopter adjustment and a very well-designed mounting system for the carry strap (although for stalking, we recommend a harness). What’s in the box Field bagCarry strapObjective lens coversCovers for the eyepieces Key details Magnification 8.5x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 4.9mm Eye relief 20mm Interpupillary range 56 – 74mm Field of view 399ft at 1,000 yards Weight 835g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Swarovski 8.5 x 42 Field Pro EL binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Best Budget As mentioned at the start, you don’t have to spend the earth to get a quality pair of binoculars and the Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42’s which are our budget range winner absolutely prove that. Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42 The HD’s are the upgraded version of Vortex’s older Diamondback bins and are definitely the ones to go for as the image is a lot sharper thanks to the various coatings which are applied throughout the prism system and all air to glass surfaces. The field of view is good at 393ft at 1,000yds and they’re fog and waterproof thanks for the argon purged, o-ring sealed unit. With the rubber coating on the magnesium chassis body, you get a pair of binoculars which are robust yet lightweight at only 618g. They also come with Vortex’s Glasspak binocular case and case harness too which makes them even better value for money. What’s in the box Glasspak binocular case and case harnessNeck strapLens clothRainguard eyepiece coverObjective lens covers You can see the box contents in this quick video: Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.25mm Eye relief 17mm Interpupillary range 55 – 73mm Field of view 399ft at 1,000 yards Weight 618g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Best Runner Up Our runner up is the ZEISS Victory SF 8×42 binoculars. Described as “…the best all-purpose binoculars ever built by ZEISS…”, the Victory SF are light at 790g and have an incredible field of view at 444ft at 1,000yds. ZEISS Victory SF 8×42 It’s probably no surprise that two of the most renowned optics manufacturers in the world have come out on top. Like with Swarovski, you know that you’re buying into a quality product when purchasing something from ZEISS. It’s worth mentioning at this point though that if you want binoculars from one of these brands but don’t have the budget to stretch to their top of the line models, have a look at our ‘best under £500’ section a bit later as it features a model from ZEISS which represents amazing value for money. Going back to the Victory SF’s, ZIESS talk a lot about the ergonomics which is of course important to the stalker with the different scenarios we find ourselves in. A big part of the ergonomics of the Victory SF’s are down to the prism system which moves the centre of balance more towards the eyepiece end of the binoculars. That combined with their light weight means that you’ll be able to glass for longer periods without the fatigue kicking in so soon. The ‘SF’ in the model name stands for ‘smart focus’. By smart, it doesn’t act differently to any other focussing ring, but it has been designed with ergonomics in mind. It sits nicely under your finger and even it soggy conditions, it’s none slip which makes it accurate and fast. Optically these binoculars are known for being superb. The ZEISS’ T* coatings and the use of Ultra FL glass from Schott AG ensures good colour and contrast, and with light transmission levels of 92%, a bright and sharp image. What’s in the box Rain guardObjective lens capsCarry strap and caseLens cloth Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.3mm Eye relief 18mm Interpupillary range 54 – 76mm Field of view 444ft at 1,000 yards Weight 790g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the ZEISS Victory SF 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here so see ZEISS binoculars on the US version of Amazon. Best Under £250 Our best budget pick, the Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42’s come in under £250 so they would be our choice for this category. However, there are other excellent options in this price bracket as detailed below. Vanguard Endeavor ED 8×42 There are different models of Vanguard’s Endeavor ED’s available – the standard, the ED II and the ED IV. Only the standard however can be included in this category as the other two exceed £250. The difference between all three models is the glass used to produce the lenses and the prisms – the standard model uses BaK-4 glass with ED glass whereas with the ED II model, the glass used is Japanese HOYA ED glass. The ED IV goes one step further than the ED II with the prism made from SK-15 glass (if this is confusing, have a look at our ‘binocular terminology’ section towards the end of the article where it’s all explained). Although the ED standard model is at the bottom of this line-up, it still represents fantastic value for money which is why it has made our list. The image is sharp, the contrast is good, the colour crisp and vivid, and the brightness levels high thanks to the fully multi-coated design. Even at this price point, you get an o-ring sealed unit making it waterproof and it’s also nitro-charged to make it fogproof. The body is magnesium alloy with a rubber coating which gives it good gripping properties. The bridge design is nice and weighs in at just 730g. Vanguard offer a 5-year warranty, so you have peace of mind for the first few years of their life. What’s in the box Carry caseNeck strapLens covers for both the objective lenses and the eyepiece lensesLens cloth Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.2mm Eye relief 19mm Interpupillary range 58 – 74mm Field of view 367ft at 1,000 yards Weight 730g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Vanguard Endeavor ED 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here to visit the Vanguard store on the US version of Amazon. Nikon Prostaff 7S 8×42 Nikon may not be the first brand you think of when it comes to binoculars but their heritage in optics positions them perfectly to produce high quality bins and in the case of the Prostaff 7S’, at a very reasonable price point. In fact, they’re one of the lowest priced pairs of binoculars in our roundup and many consider them to punch well above their weight. The image is sharp with good levels of brightness and clarity. The lenses are fully multi-coated, and the prism glass used is BaK-4. Like with all other models we’ve covered, the unit is waterproof and fogproof. The field of view is narrower than most others in this guide but it’s still a very usable 357ft at 1,000yds. The Prostaff’s are nice and light but one niggle some people have with them is that they don’t feel as robust as some of the other models we’ve covered. For the price though, they offer excellent value for money. What’s in the box CaseNeck strapLens caps (front and rear) Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.3mm Eye relief 19.5mm Interpupillary range 56 – 72mm Field of view 357ft at 1,000 yards Weight 650g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Nikon Prostaff 7S 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Hawke Endurance ED 8×42 Hawke are a company whose optics have come along way in recent years. You may still think of them as an air rifle scope manufacturer but they’re now producing scopes and binoculars that offer the deer stalker a budget yet good quality option and the Endurance ED bins are a reflection of that. What’s more, Hawke offer a lifetime warranty which makes these even more attractive. They’re fully multi-coated and use extra low dispersion glass which results in a nice clear image with minimal colour fringing. They’re fully sealed and nitrogen purged which takes care of the water and fog proofing. BaK-4 glass is used in the prism system. What’s in the box Neck strapCarry caseLens clothLens covers Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.3mm Eye relief 18mm Interpupillary range 56 – 75mm Field of view 388ft at 1,000 yards Weight 652g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Nikon Prostaff 7S 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Best Under £500 If you have a little more to spend, our next price point is up to £500. For this budget, you start to see the names of premium manufacturers appearing. At this price point you could find yourself with a set of binoculars which deliver exceptional value for money and are likely to last you well and grow with you as a stalker. Here are our top picks under £500. ZEISS Terra ED 8×42 ZIESS glass, under £500? It’s true and they can be found for quite a bit under £500 too. The Terra range is ZEISS’ budget line-up so there will of course be differences between them and higher end models like the Victory’s we covered earlier. Don’t let that put you off though because the Terra’s perform brilliantly and represent fantastic value for money. Like the Victory’s, the lens glass used is from Schott AG although it’s their ED glass as opposed to the Ultra FL glass used on the Victory model. However, it still benefits from the same ZEISS T* coating to ensure bright, high-contrast images with natural colour. The unit is nice and compact and lightweight at just 725g which is down to the fact that the body is constructed using glass reinforced polyamide – a lightweight yet robust material. The unit is nitrogen filled for fog proofing and although the water resistance levels are only 25% of that of the Victory model, they are still waterproof. The focus wheel is very smooth and delivers a crisp focus when you need it. The field of view is good at 375ft at 1,000 yards. There is a clear difference in the two ZEISS models in this round-up, especially at low light (88% light transmission levels vs 92% on the Victory SF model) but if your budget only stretches to the Terras, they’re still a great buy. What’s in the box Eyepiece capsLens capsCarrying strapBagLens cloth Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.3mm Eye relief 18mm Interpupillary range 58 – 75.5mm Field of view 375ft at 1,000 yards Weight 725g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the ZEISS Terra ED 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Vortex Viper HD 8×42 A step up from our budget category winner in Vortex’s range are the Viper HD’s. The main differences between the two are in the glass and coatings which of course are the things that make the most difference when it comes to how they perform. Another difference is that the Viper’s have a locking diopter but that’s about all there is to mention when it comes to additional features – it really is all about the optic performance when comparing these two models. The Viper’s use premium extra low dispersion glass and Vortex’s proprietary XR anti-reflective lens coatings. This combination delivers excellent low light performance with a clear, crisp image from edge to edge with minimal chromatic aberration. The unit is very light at only 695g and the combination of the rubber coating along with thumb indents on the underside of these binoculars make them a pleasure to hold. What’s in the box Eyepiece coverObjective lens coversNeck strapGlassPak harness Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.25mm Eye relief 18mm Interpupillary range 56 – 75mm Field of view 409ft at 1,000 yards Weight 695g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the ZEISS Terra ED 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Meopta Meopro HD 8×42 If you’re a keen deer stalker, you’ve probably at some point owned a Meopta scope or know somebody who has one. They’re known for delivering superb optical performance without the premium price tag. The Meopro HD’s are no exception. Meopta’s fluoride HD glass combined with its ion assisted lens multi-coatings delivers a sharp, bright image with almost no colour fringing present. At only 700g, the magnesium rubber coated chassis makes them comfortable to carry with a nice, balanced feel to them. The unit is fully sealed and purged with nitrogen making them water and fog proof. The field of view is good too at 384ft at 1,000yds. What’s in the box CaseStrapEyepiece lens coversObjective lens covers Key details Magnification 8x Objective lens size 42mm Exit pupil diameter 5.3mm Eye relief 20mm Interpupillary range 56 – 74mm Field of view 384ft at 1,000 yards Weight 700g Watertight? Yes Fogproof? Yes To learn more about the Meopta Meopro HD 8×42 binoculars, check out the full spec and reviews over at Amazon where you can also check the latest price. If you’re visiting us from the US, click here for the US version of Amazon. Best High-End Binoculars Both our overall winner and runner up sets of binoculars were at the premium end of the scale. However, if you are looking for a high-end set of bins which have features such as range finding technology, check back soon as we’re planning to cover those in the near future. If you’re in a rush, the recently released Leica Geovid 3200.COM have a whole host of cutting edge features for the deer stalker and are definitely worth a look – see more at Amazon UK or at Amazon US if you’re in the States. Binocular Terminology Magnification When shopping for binoculars you’ll see some numbers at the side of the make and model name. Those numbers will look something like this ’10 x 42’ or ‘8 x 32’. The first number (in these examples 10 or 8) refers to the magnification strength. 10 would be 10x the magnification of the human eye and 8 would be 8x the magnification of the human eye. Other common magnification numbers you’ll see on binoculars include 12 and 15. You can also get zoom binoculars which have a variable magnification. See the end of this article for some guidance on what magnification you might need for different stalking scenarios and whether you should consider a pair of zoom bins instead. Objective Lens size We’ve already established that the first number is that of the magnification but what about the second number? This refers to the size of the objective lenses. The objectives are the larger lenses on the end of binoculars, and they are measured in millimetres. Using 10 x 42 which is one of the examples above, the objective lenses in this case would be 42mm in diameter. The larger the diameter of the objectives, the brighter the image will be as more light can enter through them. With a lot of deer stalking taking place at first and last light, this is a great advantage. The downside is that the bigger you go, the heavier the binoculars will be and for the stalker, this can be an issue. A good balance between the two needs to be found and there are other factors which contribute to a brighter image. Prism Systems A prism system is there to essentially turn an upside-down image into one which is the right way up. It also makes the optical path shorter which delivers a more compact set of binoculars for the user. There are two types of prism systems – porro and roof. Porro prism binoculars are more affordable and have a wider field of view but because the objective lenses are further away from the eyepieces, they tend to be less compact. It also takes less to knock them out of alignment. Roof prism binoculars are more compact and robust in design. For the deer stalker, this is important. The downside is that they’re more expensive to produce as manufacturers need to apply coatings to the system because less light is transmitted through the system than in porro designs. Contrast can also be lower than in porro system binoculars. The pros tend to outweigh the cons though and roof prism binoculars are more popular for deer stalking. Prism Glass The glass which prism systems are made of can differ model to model. There are two common types of glass used, BK-7 borosilicate flint glass and BaK-4 barium crown glass. BaK-4 glass transmits more light and is considered higher quality than BK-7 glass. There is another type of glass used to produce prism systems called SK-15 but that is much less common. Performance wise, it sits between the two mentioned above. Resolution Resolution is essentially a measure of how clear and well defined the image is. Other factors that play into this are how sharp the image is edge-to-edge, the level of chromatic aberration and how the colours are rendered. Optic Coatings Binoculars use multiple lenses to render the final image you can see through them. As light is reflected from lens to lens, some of it is lost which is why manufacturers apply coatings to the lenses – to reduce the amount of light lost. Coatings also improve the sharpness and contrast of the image. Water and Fog Proofing The last thing you want is for water to enter your binoculars. Manufacturers looking to waterproof the binoculars they produce tend to use o-ring seals which help to keep out water as well as dust and dirt. Fogging is caused by sudden temperature changes and it can be a real nuisance. When shopping for your binoculars, you may see the term ‘nitrogen purged’ or ‘argon filled’. This means that the air inside the barrels is replaced with either nitrogen or argon, both of which are gasses with no moisture content (meaning that they won’t condense and cause fogging). Exit Pupil If you hold your binoculars up to the light and about 30cm away from your eyes, you should see a small bright circle in the centre of each eyepiece. This is known as the exit pupil and the size of it can be calculated by dividing the diameter of the objective lens by the magnification of your binoculars. For example, using 10 x 42 bins as an example, 42 / 10 = 4.2. That means that the exit pupil will be 4.2mm in diameter. Why does this matter? The larger the diameter of the exit pupil, the brighter the image will be which is an important consideration for stalking especially if you do a lot of woodland stalking and/or at first and last light. The pupil of the human eye expands and contracts depending on the light levels, normally from anywhere between 2 and 7mm. If the exit pupil of your binoculars is smaller than the pupil of your eye, you will perceive the image as dark. Binoculars with a small exit pupil perform no differently in bright conditions to binoculars with a large exit pupil but in darker conditions, a larger exit pupil is a real advantage. Diopter Adjuster The diopter adjuster is usually found on the right barrel close to the eyecup. It’s used as a fine tune adjustment to compensate for the differences between your right and left eye. The diopter adjuster should be used in conjunction with the central focussing control which controls the focus in both barrels. Field of View The field of view is the side to side distance measured in feet or metres at 1,000 metres or yards. The FOV can be expressed as the actual measurement of the distance or in degrees. The higher the magnification, the lower the FOV. Interpupillary Distance The interpupillary distance is very simply the distance between each of an adult’s eyes. Binoculars tend to be adjustable to accommodate the interpupillary distance of most adults but it’s worth checking the spec before you purchase to make sure there is enough adjustment to ‘fit you’ properly. Eye Relief Eye relief is the distance from the eyepiece lenses to your eye where the full field of view can still be seen. This number is particularly important for people who wear glasses as glasses increase the distance from your eye to the lens. Eyecups are the cups over the eyepiece lenses which generally twist in and out to set the correct amount of eye relief. Frequently Asked Questions Which is better 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars and What strength do I need? Both 8 x 42 and 10 x 42 are common sized bins and they have the same sized objective lenses so will let in a similar amount of light. However, everything else being equal, the 8 x 42’s should perform better in lower light conditions due to the exit pupil being larger at 5.25mm as opposed to the 4.2mm exit pupil of the 10 x 42’s. There’s also the magnification to consider. 10x mag will be harder to stabilise if handheld and might actually be too powerful if you’re stalking at close range. If you’re stalking on the open hill though, you might feel a bit under gunned with 8x mag. Both of these things considered, it points towards 8 x 42 binoculars being more suitable for close quarter, lower light woodland stalking and 10 x 42 being more suitable for longer range stalking on the open hill in brighter conditions. Zoom Binoculars vs Fixed A variable magnification sounds very appealing and why wouldn’t you want to give yourself the versatility and adjustment needed to get the magnification exactly right in every scenario you encounter? The problem is that there are some major drawbacks of zoom binoculars. They weigh more, they tend to be much more expensive for similar optical quality of an equivalent fixed mag set of bins and the field of view is smaller. The options available on the market are also much more limited. We recommend investing in a good quality set of fixed mag binoculars once you know what you need for the type of stalking that you’ll be doing. How can you tell a good pair of binoculars? The most important thing when it comes to the performance of binoculars is the quality of the optics. Lens coatings are also play a big part but it’s important to cut through the marketing noise to really understand the quality and extent of the coatings being used. Fully multi-coated bins tend to perform the best. Build quality is also important as is the water and fog proofing properties. How much should I spend on binoculars? Are expensive binoculars worth the money? In our opinion, they definitely are. As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, spend as much as you can afford. Do your research, decide the spec you need, choose the model wisely and you are likely to get a pair of bins which will look after you for years to come.