Which Binoculars Are Best?

Advice on how to choose between binoculars

I received an e-mail today from someone who is having some difficulty in deciding which binoculars are best / right for them to buy. They have narrowed their shortlist down to two pairs that is great, but still wanted some advice from me as to which one between the two is best and thus go for:

Have A Question For Me?Question:

I am considering a new pair of Binoculars, and not knowing much about them, I went searching for a review site. I’m so glad I came across your site, because the knowledge and reviews you share have been excellent in educating me. (Thanks v.much, glad I could help!)

I am seriously tempted by the Vanguard Endeavor ED 1045, and have read your reviews of other similar Vanguard bins which has been really helpful, but the other brand I’m interested in is Hawke, and I can’t see any reviews of their Frontier ED 10x43 bins, so I’m not sure which binocular is best.

The Vanguard sound really good, but I like the idea of buying from an British brand like Hawke, although they are a bit pricier, especially with the Vanguard cash back offer. Do you have any experience of the Hawke bins or have any plans to review them which would really help me?


Which Binoculars

I get this type of question sent into me very often as it is a common problem with readers not knowing which binoculars are right for them and so rather then just replying to this and all the other similar emails individually, I thought I would share my ideas on the blog and hopefully this can help many more of you to make your own choice if you are in a similar situation.

It seems like you have good grasp of binoculars already, but if you are a newbie, a good place to start is this guide on What To Look For When Buying Binoculars.

Reviews & Testing

The problem for me in giving advice in this as well as many other situations similar to yours, is there are times where I have not actually reviewed or even used the binocular(s) in question.

However for the purpose of this exercise, it is actually a good thing as most people out there shopping for binoculars online would not have tested the ones that they are interested in either. So here I will go through the steps that I take and hopefully that will help you and the other readers who face this same dilemma.

In this case, I have actually fully reviewed two Vanguard Endeavor ED models, the 8.5x45 and the 10x42, but not the 10x45, so for the Vanguard binoculars I can at draw a lot from these experiences.

Likewise with the Hawke Frontier ED, whilst have not tested the 10x43, version, I have fully tested and reviewed the Hawke Frontier ED 8x43 Binoculars and so once again I can take a lot of what I know from this model and apply it to your question.

Hint: You can see all the binoculars I have reviewed here: Browse Binocular Reviews by Brand.

So What to Do Now?

However what if you cannot test or find a review of the exact model you are interested in on my site or any other for that matter? (please make sure it is a real and fully independent review and that the person has actually used the binoculars in question as there are MANY fake review sites out there.)

1) Read Reviews of the Same Range

Firstly
look out for reviews of the same line or range of binocular but not the exact model.

So to take this example and as I have said, I have already fully reviewed a couple of Vanguard Endeavors and a Hawke Frontier HD, so be sure to read them.

This will give you a very good feeling of what to expect in regards to the design, build quality of the chassis, optical components, the coatings used and indeed the extras like the neck strap, carry case and lens covers.

Performance wise as well, you will at least get an idea as to what kind of quality you are lightly to get from the model that you are specifically after.

2) Compare the Main Features & Specifications

Now once you have gathered as much information as you can find on the binoculars you are interested in, compare their main specifications and features against each other.

Most of the specs you can get from the manufacturers websites or by working some of them out.

Once you have them, I find the best way is to create a simple table to make it easy to compare one against the other.

If I have reviewed the pairs that you are interested in then you can Compare Binoculars and there main features here or Try out my Features Search to return a list of binoculars that I have reviewed that match your requirements.

In this way you will often get a much clearer understanding of each of their particular strengths and weaknesses compared to each other and thus get a clearer picture of which binoculars are best.

So lets do this for this particular example and see what turns up:

  Hawke Frontier ED Binoculars Vanguard Endeavor ED Binoculars
  Hawke Frontier ED 10x43 Vanguard Endeavor ED 1045
     
Magnification: 10x 10.5x
Objective Lens Diameter: 43mm 45mm
Weight: 743g 760g
Length: 16.7cm 15.6cm
Width: ? 13.0cm
     
Exit Pupil: 4.3 4.3
Twilight Factor: 20.7 21.7
     
Field of View@1000m: 113m 105m
View Angle: 6.4° 6.0°
Close Focus: 2m 3m
     
Eye Relief: ? 17mm
     
Water & Fogproof: Yes Yes
ED Glass Yes Yes
Lens Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated Fully Multi-Coated
Prism Type: Roof Prism Roof Prism
Prism Glass: Bak-4 Bak-4
Phase Correction Coatings: Yes Yes
     
Lockable Diopter Setting Don’t think so Yes
Tripod Adaptable Not Sure Yes
Body Construction: Magnesium Magnesium
     
Approx Price UK: £299 £280 & £40 Cashback = £240
Approx Price US: $450 $399 & $50 Cashback = $349

 

Optical Components & Coatings

The first thing that stands out for me from these stats and features is that these two binoculars are fairly evenly matched.

This is especially the case in the quality of the optical components and coatings used:

Both use extra-low dispersion glass (ED) in their lenses. Many high end optics these days use ED glass because it can reduce the amount of chromatic aberration (color fringing) and thus improve the sharpness of the image even further when compared to those made from standard glass.

Both have fully multi-coated lenses, which basically means that the lenses have received multiple layers of anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces which helps to increase light transmission to produce a brighter image and therefore better low light performance.

Both the Vanguard and the Hawke binoculars use roof prisms made from BaK-4 glass. This superior optical glass helps to produce clearer images will outperform the BK-7 prisms found on cheaper optics.

Both sets of optics have phase correction coatings added onto their prisms. Phase correction coatings counter the “phase shift” that occurs at the opposite faces of a roof prism resulting in a small amount of deterioration in sharpness and therefore produce images that have better contrast, a higher resolution and improved color reproduction.

 
 

Chassis & Body

Like the optical components and coatings, they are also very similar in their outer design and components used:

Both devices feature an open bridge design with a body made from magnesium.

Their weights and dimensions are also relatively similar and both are fully waterproof and fog proof.

One small difference is that the Vanguard Endeavor ED’s have a lockable diopter adjustment ring which is used to correctly set up and focus the binoculars to your particular eyesight. The fact that it is lockable is a nice touch and an indication to the amount of attention to detail shown.

Main Specifications

Apart from their price, the biggest difference between the two is in their main specifications.

The Vanguard has a slightly more powerful magnification. This means that you get slightly more detail in the image and because they also have larger objective lenses (45mm vs 43mm) they still produce the same size exit pupil as the Hawke binoculars (4.3mm) which is excellent because it means that you get the higher magnification without sacrificing any low light performance.

Because of the higher magnification and equal exit pupils, the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10.5 x 45 also has a higher Twilight Factor rating, meaning that you get a better resolution image through them at twilight or in very poor light conditions.

However, the one downside to the larger magnification that larger objective lenses can’t overcome and is one area where the Hawke Frontier ED 10 x 43 does outperform the Vanguard is that it has a slightly wider field of view and a slighter shorter minimum focusing distance. The differences are not huge, but may be something to keep in mind if either are very important to you. However if a really wide field of view is important, you should also consider the 8 or 8.5x versions of these binoculars.

Conclusion

As we have seen in most areas these two binoculars are very close and where there are differences and where one excels, the other makes up for it in the opposite areas.

So personally I would choose the one that best suits my individual needs:

Basically you are looking at a very slighter wider field of view and close focusing distance versus a potentially higher definition image, especially in lower light conditions. But to be honest the differences in both cases will be very minor and hardly noticeable unless you are REALLY looking for it and comparing the view next to each other.

So if you are still not swayed by comparing the stats and features between two or even more binoculars, I would just go on price and choose the one that offers better value for money:

Price Comparisons
Take a look at my Where to Buy Binoculars page that lists many of the best online optics retailers in the USA, UK as well as a few from Canada, Australia and Germany. Find the binoculars you are interested in and compare their prices – always take into account current deals and rebates etc.

For this example, you can either just take a look on Amazon both in the UK and USA:


Or you can compare prices at a number of different online retailers including Eagle Optics, Binoculars.com and Cabela’s in the US or Warehouse Express (WEX) and the Binocular Shop in the UK:

I hope this helps and as you can see, you can use this method when choosing between any binoculars.

Further Reading

Have A Question For Me?Need some Advice?

If you have a question regarding a pair of binoculars, or want to know about a particular technical term or feature that I have not already answered or written about, I will do my best to answer it for you: Ask Your Question Here

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  • Ken

    I think one of the reasons it is difficult to decide which binoculars to buy is, that there are so many on offer these days that appear to have most if not all of the atributes that require them to be good glasses, it seems that every month there appears a new name in binoculars, sporting Fully Multi Coated, Bak4 prisms and waterproof. I can remember the days when there there were just a handful of binocular makers/suppliers that you could depend on to sell good optics. with £200 in my pocket I would be hard pressed to decide which one to go for.