January 2013

Range-Finding Binoculars: Zeiss, Steiner, Bushnell, and Swarovski

Bushnell ekes out ahead of well-established Teutonic brands, but there is some compromise on price, features, and quality.

Adding a rangefinder to binoculars seems like a logical combination of technology. Not only does it mean carrying less equipment, there’s less fumbling between binocs and range finder when a target comes into view. All things equal, we initially thought the only downside would be a heavier set of binoculars. We did find the combined technologies added about 11 ounces on average to the binoculars. A pair of Swarovski EL 10x42 binoculars used as the control in our test weighed 29.6 ounces.

The combination of technologies does increase the price, but if you were to purchase a comparable laser rangefinder and binoculars separately, you would approach the same cost. If you are frugal, you could purchase each piece of equipment separately at a significantly lower total cost, but the quality and durability may be compromised. If you are on the fence about paying more for a pair of quality binoculars, then look at any guide who knows his stuff. That guide will be using the best optics he can afford because hunting game means finding game, which is where the binocs come in. The rangefinder feature provides the distance to the beast quickly, so a shot can be taken.

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