The whole idea of the Best Binocular Reviews website is to help you to find the best optics for you and your particular needs. Choice is ultimately a good thing, but it can at times become confusing and as the amount of quality binoculars that I review increases, it can in a way make it harder to identify the really great from the very good.
Looking back at the many binoculars that I reviewed in 2010, there were many good ones, a few great ones and then even fewer ones that really stood out. These annual awards are a way for me to highlight the very best binoculars that I have reviewed during the past year and thus bring them into the spotlight and hopefully to your attention.
To be eligible for an award, I have to have personally reviewed the binocular. I would also like to make it clear that like my reviews, the awards have in no way been influenced by any manufacturer and are purely based on my experience with the binocular during the review. These awards are also not just handed out to any binocular and to win an award, the binocular has to have really impressed in that particular category.
Of all the binoculars that I reviewed in 2010, these Genesis XD Binoculars from Kowa were the most impressive. Scoring a perfect 10 for their optical components quality, image quality and for their attention to detail to give them a hugely impressive 90% overall on the Best Binocular Reviews Ratings scale, these really are special binoculars.
Highlights include the incredibly high quality Genesis Optics and the use of the excellent Prominar XD lenses to produce an image of the highest quality that is as bright as any binocular of this size on the market. This is backed up by producing a field of view that is comparable to most top end roof prism binoculars that only have a 10x magnification and they have an excellent close focusing distance as well.
Their attention to detail is also of the highest order and examples of this include a lockable diopter control and they come equipped with a one of the best neck straps I have ever used.
As with any binoculars with such high quality components and build quality these Kowa's don't come cheap, but having said that they are substantially cheaper than many other top of the range binoculars from the other high quality brands out there. Which for me makes them great value for money (in the top of the range category) and is another reason that for me they are my choice for the Best Binocular Reviews, Binocular of the year 2010.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these Kowa binoculars.
The main features that you are looking for in any Safari or Travel binocular is one that is compact enough to easily carry in your luggage, tough enough to withstand the rigors of travel and high quality bright optics that will perform well in low light conditions like early morning or late afternoon/evening when wildlife is at it's most active and when you will be going on safari. These Minox BL's tick all the boxes and more:
One of their strongest areas is the quality of the image produced, which for a binocular with 33mm objective lenses is very bright and sharp. Also very impressive is their very wide field of view that easily makes it onto my list of wide angle binoculars and thus are ideal for scanning the savannah in search of Africa's wildlife or indeed the canopy of trees in search of birds.
All aspects considered, including optical clarity, quality of components, build quality and value for money, these Minox 8x33 binoculars are definitely one of the best mid-size binoculars that I have ever reviewed and surely right up there with all that I haven't.
Scoring an outstanding 82% overall on the Best Binocular Reviews Ratings scale, which is made even more impressive when you take into account their very competitive price point.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these Mid-Sized Minox binoculars.
To be a really great bird watching binocular, you need to have a very high quality image to enable you to enjoy the bird that you are observing at it's best. Another important feature to look out for is a binocular that produces a bright image that will perform well in poor light conditions like daybreak or late afternoon/evening when most birds are at their most active.
These porro prism Swift 8.5x44 Audubon ED binoculars do just that and with quality features like BaK-4 Prisms, fully multi-coated optics and extra low dispersion glass (ED) that all add up to produce a very high quality and bright image.
Very Wide Field of View
Another really important feature for any birdwatching binocular is it's field of view. A wide field of view will make it easier to find birds, especially fast moving ones when looking through the binoculars. With a field of view of 430ft/143m at 1000 yds/m (8.2°), these are some of the widest that I have ever tested and easily make it onto my list of wide angle binoculars.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these Swift Audubon binoculars.
Not everyone has an unlimited budget, but that does not mean that you can't get yourself a decent pair of optics and in some cases there is the gem that goes far beyond just being "decent" and offer a truly excellent price to performance ratio. Enter the 10x42 Sierra Binoculars from Barr & Stroud:
They have many features that are only usually found on much more expensive optics including fully multi-coated optics and Bak-4 prisms with phase correction coatings on the prism glass. This is an expensive process that keeps the light in the correct color phases. The result is brighter images and higher edge-to-edge sharpness. According to Barr & Stroud these "high-tech phase coatings alone increase prism reflectivity by 8% and it give you on average an extra hour of visibility at dawn and dusk compared to standard binoculars."
I can't confirm this, but what I can say is that in their price range the image they produce is excellent, for an entry level 10x42 binocular extremely bright and definitely one of (if not the best) that I have ever tested in their class.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these Bar & Stroud binoculars.
This for me was one of the hardest awards to give in that everyone has their own perception of what a "good price" is for a pair of binoculars, so what I decided to do was take the middle ground and look for the binocular with the most features and highest quality image that was priced in between the Mid and High value categories, so from about $200 to $500 (£200 - £500)
Even after having done this, the choice was not an easy one as I have reviewed many great binoculars within this range, but I think my eventual winner the excellent Vanguard Endeavor 8.5x45 ED Binocular has a bunch of high quality features and all available at what I think is an incredible price (approx $400):
With an outstanding overall score of 87% on the Best Binocular Reviews Ratings scale, including a 9/10 for Image quality, body construction quality, optical components quality and for extras and attention to detail I think this Vanguard ED binocular is a very worthy winner.
Highlights Include, Extra low-dispersion, ED glass, Phase Coated BaK4 roof prisms, Fully Multi-Coated Anti-Reflection coatings on the lenses, all wrapped in a tough water and fogproof exterior that uses the ergonomic, open-bridge design that I really like.
Read full Review - Read my full review of these Bar & Stroud binoculars.
Whilst I know there can only be one winner, a few other excellent value for money binoculars that I could also easily have picked include:
Steiner 8x42 Merlin
Barr & Stroud 8x42 Series 4 ED
Canon 10x30 IS Image Stabilized
As I mentioned earlier, the Best Binocular Reviews Awards above are only based on binoculars that I have actually reviewed and so for another experts opinion, I have included the results of the Binoculars.com Binocular of the Year Awards 2010 below:
Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision Binoculars
"The clear-cut winner of the Binoculars.com Best of the Best Binoculars for 2010, the Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision Binoculars produced images unlike any other binocular we tested. New SwaroVision technology incorporates HD optics and optimized coatings along with field flattener lenses, which together yield impeccable resolution and clarity across the entire field of view. If that weren't enough, a new focusing wheel makes adjustments smooth and comfortable. Add a close focus of 1.5 meters, and you've got this year's Best of the Best."
The Swarovski 10x42 EL SwaroVision Binoculars cost about $2500 in the US.
Nikon 10x42 Monarch ATB Binoculars with Dielectric Coating
"With lightweight design, fully armored body, and a quick, central-focus knob, past Nikon Monarch models were already an outstanding choice. But with the all new dielectric multi-layer prism coating, the Nikon Monarch ATB Binoculars now deliver clearer high-contrast images with nearly flawless color reproduction, even in lowlight conditions. Together, these features make the Nikon 10x42 Monarch a worthy recipient of the Binoculars.com Binocular of the Year Award."
These Nikon 10x42 binoculars cost about $280 in the US.
Pentax 8x43 DCF SP Binoculars
"Birders understand the importance of making quick, easy adjustments and enjoying comfortable viewing over extended periods. The Pentax 8x43 DCF SP Binoculars deliver on both fronts and then some, earning them Binoculars.com's Best Birding Binocular honor for 2010. Hybrid aspherical lenses deliver crisp, sharp images all the way out to the edges of your periphery, even in lowlight conditions, thanks to fully multi-coated, high-resolution glass. To give you peace of mind in the field, these binoculars are waterproof up to 1 meter and they're encased in full-body rubber armor."
The Pentax 8x42 DCF SP binoculars cost about $570 in the US.
Leica Ultravid 10x25 Compact Binoculars
"Aircraft aluminum housing for a supremely light weight of 9.4 oz. Fully waterproof to an industry-leading 16.5 feet. A limited lifetime warranty and 3 years of Leica's unlimited Passport Protection Plan. These are just a few of the elements that make the Leica Ultravid 10x25 Compact Binoculars our choice for Best Travel Binocular. Leica's High-Lux System features a 42-layer prism coating to produce nearly 100% light transmission. The resulting high image contrast and full-spectrum color rendition is what you'd expect from a full-size pair of binoculars, yet this small wonder is ready to come along wherever your adventures take you."
The Leica 10x25 Ultravid binoculars cost about $750 in the US.
Leupold Camo 10x42 Cascades Binoculars
"When you're glassing the horizon at dawn or dusk for movement, you need maximum light transmission, contrast, and clarity, which is exactly what the 10x42 Leupold Camo Cascade Binoculars provide. But that's not the only reason we've named them this year's Best Hunting Binocular. These binos feature a simple, lightweight, ergonomic design that delivers a natural, effortless feel, even when held in one hand. Focusing is elevated to an art form, thanks to a steady center focus and a dial-mounted diopter, which eliminate unwanted adjustments. Wrapped in rugged, waterproof rubber armor printed in your choice of Advantage camouflage, these binoculars are destined to lead to more successful hunting."
The Leupold 10x42 Camo Cascade binoculars cost about $280 in the US.
Zhumell Tachyon 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars
"With giant 100mm objective lenses and a price tag that's tiny by comparison, the Zhumell Tachyon 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars are the absolute best value in astronomy binoculars. But they're more than just affordable. Fully multi-coated optics and BaK4 prisms produce uncompromising images, while filter-ready lenses and a rugged, waterproof construction ensure that these binoculars are ready for your next star party. They're also backed by Zhumell's 25-year warranty.."
Zhumell Tachyon 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars cost about $200 in the US.