Well I've always wanted an amazing pair and the chance is coming up now that I have to watch a race for a few days at a distance. Here are some top choices, but here are some facts:
- Most of these come in 8x or 10x zoom. The main issue with 10x is that you get a narrow field of view and you oftentimes have a lot of shake
- 42mm vs 32mm lenses. The 42mm are much better at light gathering, but the 32mm are much lighter and more practical if it isn't dark.
- In general, quality comes with price, so if you are a birder or you want it to last spend as much as you can. That being said, the value really falls off when you go from $1K to $2k.
Allaboutbirds.org has a great list and they have semi-objective reviews done by the Cornell Ornithology Lab. The most interesting thing is that you can spend $2-3k (?!!) on some amazing binoculars rated at 4.8/5.0:
- Zeiss Victory T*HT 8x42
- Zeiss Victory T*FL 8x32
But in the midrange of $1K or so there is some glass at half the price rated at 4.7/5.0:"
- Zeiss Conquest HD 8x42
- Zeiss Conquest HD 8x32. This one really feels like a sweet spot being light and high quality.
Then in the lower end of $500 or so, I've always been lusting after at these 4.5/5.0
- Nikon Monarch 7 8x42
- Opticron Bonaro BGA HD 8x42
Another review site, creatively named BestBinocularReviews doesn't have objective criteria, but gives some other things to consider:
- Swarovski Swarovision EL 10x32. Well this one really have zoom as was also highly rated by Allaboutbirds, but was just a touch under the Zeiss (97/100 on the BBR scale). something to consider because he found them as bright as 8x42 and it has a very wide fov because of large exit pupil of 6.9 degrees
- Hawke Sapphire ED 8x42. The main thing is the wide field of view. 8 degrees fov which is excellent for 8x.
Here are some sources for the Zeiss Conquest HD
- Staples (of all places). $970. This is 5x points from Chase Ink Plus (10% off effectively) or 3x points from Bank of America (22-30% off effectively) and this works.
- Bass Pro Shops. $999. This is 4x points from Bank of America (32% effectively valuing points at 8%) but I've not confirmed this link actually works.
- Rakuten. $900 with 3x points, of (24% off effectively) from BoA.
Then there is Outdoor Life, focused on hunting, they provide a similar perspective:
- Zeiss Victory T*HT 10x42. Probably the brightest binoculars in the world (?!)
- Nikon Monarch 7 8x42. Their best buy
- Zeiss Conquest HD 8x32. Like the birders, this was the winner inthe mid range