When it comes to optics for outdoorsmen and women, there are hundreds of options on the market for binoculars and scopes. I've spent a lot on my optics, and I've spent a little. With over 35 years under my belt, I've used a variety of styles and brands. And my best advice for choosing optics are to find the glass that fits your specific need, and your budget.
When I was ready to upgrade my binoculars, I dialed in on a pair that suits several activities - deer hunting and basic backyard bird and wildlife watching. My bino of choice was the the Sapphire ED 8 x 42 binoculars by Hawke Optics. The Sapphire ED is their top of the line, high performance binocular. The body is composed of high-grade soft touch rubber that makes them easy to grip, and have a non-reflective surface to keep reflection to a minimum, which is key to not alerting game when hunting. It also has built-in flip caps that protect the lenses from rain and snow until you are ready to view, then you can simply "flip" them open. The rubber coating is also waterproof, which is also a huge plus since I deer hunt in the toughest of conditions — rain, snow and cold. I need optics that will stand up to my high performance standards.
The field of view is exceptional, offering a 426 ft frame at 1000 yards. This is an important feature when game identification is critical. When deer hunting, I need to know 100 percent if the deer is a buck or doe as I usually have a buck or doe tag only. In these cases, the Sapphire ED has the magnification that enables me to get a clear look at the deer's head to make sure that is does not have antlers, which can be difficult at long distances.
They also have a twist-up eye cup on the eyepiece that provides optimal viewing for everyone, whether you wear glasses or not. Non-glasses wearers can simply "twist up" the eye cup that enables them to rest the eyepiece on their eye socket for a great, stable viewing experience. If you wear glasses, twist the eye cup down and the eyepiece can rest up against the lens of your glasses.
There is also an focus know on one side that allows me to adjust the individual lens for a perfectly balanced focus, as my eyes have a slight difference in vision. Using this feature I can be sure that each lens is balanced with the other, giving me perfectly balanced magnified vision (as opposed to one side being more "in focus" than the other. And the main focus knob is conveniently located in the center between the tubes — this allows me to easily focus on my target by simply using my middle finger and "rolling" the knob to focus on my subject.
The Sapphire ED 8 x 42 retails at around $450. For the money, this is the best pair of binoculars I own. And when I'm not hunting, I keep them hanging near the kitchen table so my kids and I can look out the window when birds are at our feeders in the back yard. With these, we can easily zoom in and identify any bird specie. There are 10 x (or 10 power) optics by Hawke, but I prefer the 8 power which enables a "steadier" field of view. Higher power optics are less forgiving with movement, so if your hand is shaky like mine, your field of view at long distances will be as well. Which is why I prefer the 8 power, they give a very nice, stable view at long distances.
The Sapphire ED also comes with a comfortable, adjustable neck strap and a gorgeous leather carrying case and lens caps.
I've owned cheaper binoculars over the years, but trust me when I suggest that this is one piece of gear where you don't want to cut corners. Hawke optics have given me the best glass for the best price. I've got Hawke scopes on all of my deer guns, and my sons have their shotguns tricked out with Hawke scopes as well. The combination of binoculars and scopes have helped us keep our freezer filled every year.
But the benefit of binoculars extend well past those of hunters — they are great for wildlife viewing as well. We keep a pair of Hawke binocs by our back door so they are handy to get a close look at unique birds on our feeder, or a Red Tailed Hawk that lands in our tree. You can even take great photos with your phone. No need for a camera with an expensive zoom lens. Simply place your phone camera lens over the eyepiece of one of the binocular lenses. Be sure your binocular is focused on the subject, then snap your photo. It helps to have a phone that takes great photos and can auto-adjust the settings, as the binocular will concentrate and pour in additional light which can cause "hotspots". But that's a topic for another day.
Check out their full line of optics including gun scopes, spotting scopes and binoculars at HawkeOptics.com.