Best Hand-Holdable Low Light Performance Binoculars

This question comes from Rob, a new BBR Patreon supporter who is looking to get a high quality, good value for money binocular for hand-held use in a variety of situations, but which must have an excellent low light capability:


I have done a lot of research, on your excellent site as well as others, and many manufacturers’ sites as well. 

After much research, I thought I knew what I was looking for until I read your article Binoculars for Hunting & Target Shooting in Low Light. That changed everything.

After reading and thinking about that article, I decided my new main parameter for binoculars would be based on an Exit Pupil range of between 6 to 7mm (I learned from your Exit Pupil article that adult humans are in the 5-9mm range, with young adults averaging approximately 7mm.

I assumed I was less than 7mm but did not know how low a 65-year-old man might be). Utilizing an EP range of 6-7, after much more research I came to understand I was looking for 8x power and Objective Lenses 50mm or greater.

Let me give you some background. I am an active 65-year-old, recently retired. I do several, week-long hiking trips (day hikes only, never overnight) per year, have done several sailing trips in the Caribbean, and in the past lived and worked in Africa for ten years have done several safaris. That all being said, these binoculars are likely to be used approximately 21-35 days per year. And being 65 years old, I expect at most ten years of regular use.
After reading the above-mentioned article, and seriously thinking about my needs I developed the following criteria listed in order of importance.

  1. Low Light performance – This is the highest priority for me without question, and there is a large gap to the other criteria. I hike in the western US/Canada and am interested primarily in big game (bison, moose, elk, deer, bears, wolves). I believe I need optimal performance at dawn and dusk. If I spend several thousand dollars on a hiking trip, but save several hundred on a binocular purchase but don’t have the low light performance and miss the game, what have I saved. I generally sail in the Caribbean in the winter (lower light conditions as compared to summer), and need low light performance for late afternoons entering mooring areas looking to see buoys and floating obstructions. And of course, if on a safari, there is a cat out there that has been spotted at dawn or dusk, and I can’t see it, saving a few dollars will be very frustrating. This is something I cannot judge by reading reviews, especially comparing several different sets, so I need your professional experience and advice here. When I was younger I was a very amateur photographer, and used Nikon and Canon cameras and glass. When I used equipment review sites, they would regularly enlarge and crop photos looking for differences in the quality of the photos, I think this was called Pixel Peeping. In terms of binoculars I am not interested in “Pixel Peeping”. If I as a rank amateur, when using more expensive binos can’t/won’t see or notice or understand the difference, I prefer not to pay for the upgrade (see Value below).
  2. Field of View – not much to say here. As a criteria by itself, obviously bigger is better. My thinking was something in the 375-400 range would be ideal, and I doin’t think I want to go below 350 feet. Again this is something I need your view on.
  3. Value – Theoretically, I see value as Quality divided by Price. So you will note I am not particularly price sensitive, i.e. I am not looking for the lowest price, but am looking for the highest Value. I believe Quality has multiple aspects: the Quality of components/construction; the Quality of the glass, and the Quality of the coatings. The Quality aspects contribute directly to the number 1 criteria: Low Light Performance. As an example in regards to Value, if a $2000 pair of binoculars has materially better Low Light Performance but is similar in all other areas to a $500 pair, I would see the more expensive pair as having higher value. But using the previous example, if the more expensive pair was somewhat better in all areas, I might rate the lower priced pair as having higher value. These quality values I mentioned above are not something I can evaluate and here I must rely on your experience and judgment.
  4. Weight – lighter is better obviously. Since my needs revolve around day hiking, sailing and safaris, weight is not the same importance as it would be if I was doing multi-day hikes. Still I do not want to use a tripod, so hand held. I am 65 years old, and my hands don’t shake now, but over time that will become a factor. Originally I was thinking my upper limit would be 24 ounces, then I revised it to 32 ounces and now I am looking at glasses up to 40 ounces. I think 40 ounces may be too heavy, but open to your thoughts on this.

I would weigh the criteria: 35% Low Light performance; 25% each for FOV and Value; and 15% for weight.
I have reviewed several dozen binoculars, and have revised the list down to these four. The last two I eliminated were the Kowa BD56-8XD (low FOV) and the Snypex Knight 9850D-ED (low BBR Review score & BBR review that low light performance was no better than 8x42).

BrandModelRWS RankSizeExit Pupil (mm)Weight (ozs)Vol     LxWxDFOV (feet)Price (US$)BBR Review ScorePositivesNegativesLow Light ScoreValue RatingQuality RatingBBR ReviewWeight RankFOV RankTotal Rank
ZeissVictory HT18 x 546.736.5105390$2,600Not Ratedweight, Very good FOV, industry-leading optics quality & low light performancePrice, Price/value?1         assumed22
SteinerShawdow- Quest28 x 567.038.5189482$96083Excellent FOV! BBR Industry-leading low light performance,Parro, Large size/volume, in very short supply, could only find 3 vendors online331
Bresser PirschED38 x 567.034.698374$55682 BBR Low light comparable to SSQ, BBR high image quality, low weightnot available in the US except on eBay (will be imported from Germany or Italy)414
GPOPassion ED48 x 567.040.991389$750Not Rated, ED 8x42 rated 85BBR High value for money, BBR high image/low light qualitydoes not have ELD glass!, very heavy/high weight, out of stock except eBay (only 2 sellers)243

In the table above, green shading indicates the best in that category, yellow shading indicates second best. The red, bolded font indicates the worst in that category.

So where I am today?

I live in the Houston, Texas area and I could not find any of the four above in a store within 100 miles, so I have no way to touch, feel, use these binoculars.

The ratings above make no attempt at a Value score or a Quality score (except the BBR Review score is a proxy for quality, but also includes many other factors).
The Zeiss is readily available and can be acquired within a few days. Expensive, but I perceive high quality, and the easy answer (but may not be the highest value). Do I need to spend $2,600 to meet my criteria to be used for 21-35 days per year? If they are materially better, and I will notice the improvement in Quality and Low Light Performance, then the price is not an obstacle. But I need convincing.

The Bresser Pirsch is not available in the US directly (I contacted BP in Germany and in the US, both responded, but the glass is not available). There are two resellers on eBay that appear to be reliable. They import from Germany or Italy and the process takes 4-6 weeks.

These appear to be a very good all-around pair of glasses, may not be the highest quality, but possibly the highest value. Warranty may be an issue.

The GPO is currently out of stock and not currently available online, except from two large eBay resellers. I suspect if I order from either of these I will find out they are out of stock. I really wanted to like these, especially if they are directly comparable to the ED 8x42s (and your review score of 85). The big drawback is the weight, not to mention lack of availability.

The Steiner Shadowquest is also not readily available. There is one large online retailer, and two eBay resellers (one of the eBay resellers is the online retailer and also one of the eBay resellers claiming to have the GPOs). I suspect that, unlike the GPOs, these may be available but I am not sure. Based on your review, these are the low light performer, but the size is a huge issue to me. The weight isn’t unbearable, but the volume is I think.

Your review score for the Nighthunter and the GPO was very similar, but I was surprised that the GPO was slightly higher (1 point higher for both Optical Stats and Body Stats). If it came down to a choice between the Steiner and the GPOs, my current perception is it would be the GPOs (assuming they can be acquired)?
I have gone on long enough.

My questions to you are:

  1. From your perspective, what are the Low Light Performance, Quality and Value scores for the four I have listed above
  2. Are there other Binoculars that I have missed that you would recommend I review
  3. For my criteria and intended use, what binoculars would you recommend

Jason, thank you for your time and assistance. I appreciate it.


Hi Rob, 

Firstly, many thanks for becoming a supporter of BBR, it really means a lot to me and genuinely helps support the continuation of the website and YouTube channel going forward. 

As to your questions, I also have to praise and thank you for all the hard work and research that you have already put into it, it not only helps me get a good idea of your specific requirements but because you already understand many of the concepts (like exit pupil size for example), it also makes it much easier for me to offer some advice and recommendations without having to go over the very basics first, helping us to cut to the chase.

Configurations: Low Light Performance

8x56 Binoculars
With low light performance being your top requirement, but at the same time still wanting an instrument of reasonable size and weight, I think you are spot on with going for a configuration like an 8x56 with its very large 7mm exit pupil.

8x54 Binoculars
I also really like the 8x54 offered by Zeiss, but this is a pretty rare combination, in fact, I don’t know of any offhand, so I doubt we will come across any others which is a shame.

8x50 Binoculars
I also think it may be worth considering 8x50 binoculars as I am pretty sure the 6.25mm exit pupil they create will be sufficient for you and assuming the same level of optics and coatings, I doubt you would notice much… if any difference in brightness in low light between an equivalent 8x56 and an 8x50 – this is assuming at our older ages, our eyes cannot dilate to their max size anymore.

7x50 Binoculars?
Another configuration that you may not have considered which may be of interest is that of 7x50 – You mention that one of your intended uses is sailing and by far this is the most popular setup for marine binoculars.

Not only does this produce a very large exit pupil, but the lower power usually results in a wider field of view (which is another important feature you a looking for) and on top of this, the lower power also really helps with image stability., which as you say may become a factor in the future.

Compared to the 56, the smaller 50mm lenses can result in a smaller, more lightweight binocular, however, as most 7x50’s use Porro prisms, the shape of these instruments is often not as small as a roof prism with the same or even slightly larger lenses. A good example here is the Steiner Shadowquest, which apart from their volume, would, I think be my top recommendation for you.

However, do keep in mind that most 7x50 Porro prism binoculars will be smaller and more lightweight than a 7x56 Porro prism.

The slight downside to the 7x magnification is that you will get less image detail at distance – so if you often view objects at a long distance these will not be ideal, however, the difference in detail that I notice between 8x and 7x over short and medium ranges is not massive.

Your Shortlist

I really like all the instruments on your list and as your research and included table clearly shows, they each have their own particular strengths and weaknesses over each other, however, I don’t feel any option would be a bad one for you, so it is just about finding the one that most closely matches your needs.

Steiner Shadowquest (Nighthunter) 8x56 Binoculars

Steiner Nighthunter (Shadowquest) 8x56 Binoculars

If it is an excellent low light performance that you are after, unless you go into extra large and giant-sized instruments that need to be mounted onto a tripod, these Steiner binoculars are in my experience as good as it gets.

They also have a very wide field of view and are as tough as nails.

However, as you highlight in your table, the one downside is the added volume, which is largely down to the fact that they use Porro prisms over the roof prisms used by the others on your list.

On the plus side, I love the shape, which I feel is very comfortable to hold, but if you are going to be out walking all day in the field, these may not be the ideal option. But having said that, no 56mm binocular will be ideal for this so it just depends on how far away from ideal you are prepared to go in order to achieve the best low light performance. For me, binoculars like this work best when used in a mostly static location, so for example a hide or from a game drive vehicle or even your sailing boat.

GPO Passion ED 8x56 Binoculars

I think, all things considered, these would probably be my top recommendation to you from those on your shortlist if you are going to be using your binoculars mostly on long walks as apart from being a little heavier, they really don’t have any major weaknesses.

There is no doubting that the Zeiss is at another level, but then again so is their price, so taking into consideration the amount you will be using them, these I feel still offer excellent performance, but are more affordable.

Bresser Pirsch ED 8x56 Binoculars

Bresser 8 x 56 Pirsch ED Binoculars

At about $650 / £449 / €449, the 8x56 Bresser Pirsch ED is much like the GPO Passion ED 8x56 above in many ways and offers an excellent performance-to-price ratio, but as you say, they can be very difficult, if not impossible to find in North America.

But if you can find them or if others are reading this are in Europe, I certainly highly recommend them as another much lower-cost alternative to the Zeiss below as whilst there is no doubting the Zeiss is a step up from these, the size of the step is not as massive as the price difference and so for me, this makes a more logical option for users like yourself who will only be using your binoculars infrequently.

Zeiss Victory HT 8x54 Binoculars

No doubt a stunning pair of binoculars from one of the alpha brands and so in terms of optics and build quality, depending on your allegiance these are as good as it gets.

However, at around $2,600, they are not cheap, and as you will only be using them around 21-35 days a year unless it makes them a very expensive option, for what I believe is probably only a very minor improvement over something like the GPO Passion HD and Maven B2 (see other options below) which are less than half the price, which unless you plan on using them every day as a professional, I feel makes them far better value for money in your case.

Other Options

Below are some other options that I have looked at for you:

Maven B2 7x45 Binoculars

Maven is a brand that often flies a little under the radar because I don’t think they are stocked by many/most of the big brick-and-mortar outlets. Rather they focus on selling direct to the customer, which helps cut out the middle man and passes the savings onto you, and thus in terms of quality and performance, in my experience, they easily compete with and often surpass far more expensive instruments.

Now, I have not tested the 7x version, and they also make a 9x model which may also be of interest, but I urge you to take a look at my review of the Maven B2 11x45 Binoculars.

In terms of the optics, a particular highlight is that they use the Abbe-Koenig design of roof prism and not the much more commonly used Schmidt-Pechan ones, which is not the most compact or lightweight option, but they are able to reflect all internal light and thus do not need to highly reflective mirror coatings and can achieve a 100% internal reflection, which is obviously great for light transmission.

The 7x45 configuration is very interesting in that you still get an excellent 6.4mm exit pupil but also a smaller, more lightweight instrument to carry about in the field.

Price:  $1000 – when you consider the optical and build quality – these are excellent value for money. Much like the GPO Passion HD below, the drop in quality & performance will be very minimal (if at all noticeable) compared to the Zeiss, yet you will still be able to keep more than $1000 in your pocket.

Field of view: 388 ft @ 1000yds is excellent, but not the best on your list

Weight: 33.25oz – more lightweight than those on your list

Dimensions: 5.7x7.1x2.1 = 85 cubic inches -making them more compact than all the others we at considering thus far.

GPO Passion HD 8.5x50 Binoculars

GPO 10 x 50 Passion HD Binoculars

Whilst I have not tested the 8.5x version, I have fully reviewed the GPO Passion HD 10x50 Binoculars and the 10x42 GPO Passion HD – both of which are truly outstanding and so I have no hesitation in recommending this 8.5x50 version and I feel offer an interesting alternative to the GPO Passion ED.

As I say, I like the 50mm option for long days in the field, which combined with the 8.5x magnification it still delivers a very ample 6.25mm exit pupil, which combined with their excellent optics and coatings will certainly deliver in low light.

Weight: 33.2oz – these weigh less than the other 56mm options on your shortlist.

Dimensions: 2.5x 6.9 x 5.3 in gives us a volume of 91.4, which is only matched by the GPO Passion ED on your list.

Field of View: For me, this is the only negative. At 315 ft wide at 1000 yds, it does fall short of the others on your list but it is still not bad and so unless you specifically need a wide field of view (like for viewing fast-moving birds at close range), I don’t feel it has to be a deal-breaker.

Price: Selling for around $990 / £1100, these are more expensive than the GPO Passion ED on your list, but are an improvement and much more on a level with the alpha Zeiss binoculars and yet still cost less than half of them. So I feel these, much like the Maven’s above could offer you the ideal compromise between all-out quality and performance versus dollars spent.

Steiner 7x50 T750 Binoculars

Earlier I mentioned the 7x50 configuration as a potential option for you and an initial idea would be something like the Steiner 7x50 T750 Binoculars – costing around $440, they have a weight of 20.5oz / 581g and dimensions of 8.2 x 5.5″ / 20.83 x 13.97cm making them substantially more lightweight than the Steiner 7x56 Shadowquest (38.4oz /1090g) and whilst about the same length, they are a lot narrower: 8.3in/21.2cm x 7.87in / 20cm.

If you are interested in a 7x50, let me know and I can take a look at some more options for you.

Minox 8x56 X-lite Binoculars

Lovely looking set and whilst I have not tested these, in general, I have always been very impressed with the Minox binoculars that I have reviewed and so am pretty sure these will be likewise.

At 34.22 oz / 970g they are one of the more “lightweight” 56mm binoculars with a magnesium chassis – note that you can get more lightweight options, but these will usually be on the cheaper end of the scale and incorporate a polycarbonate chassis and many more plastic parts like the focus weel and eyepieces.

Dimensions are 6.57 x 5.83 x 2.64″ (16.7 x 14.8 x 6.7 cm) – giving them a relatively small overall volume of 101.

The field of view is 337ft @ 1000 yd / 112 m @ 1000 m, which is good, but compared to the others on your list falls a little short.

Eschenbach Trophy D 8x56 ED Binoculars

Whilst I have not tested this configuration, I have fully reviewed the 8x42 Eschenbach Trophy D ED Binoculars, which I thought were excellent, and scored 80%… However, as I write this, I have just noticed that whilst the 8x42 model has an extremely wide FOV (408ft at 1000 yards), interestingly and quite disappointingly the 8x56 has a much narrower one of 304.5ft @ 1000 yd / 101.5 m @ 1000 m and whilst this is still not bad, perhaps it is now too narrow for you?

Response 01 – With My Comments

I have been out and just got back today and reviewed your response to my inquiry. Thank-you. Very concise and in-depth.

I am in agreement that the Zeiss doesn’t provide the best value and have eliminated them from consideration.
I understand that you are recommending either the GPO 8x56 Passion EDs or the Steiner Shadowhunter as my best options.

I note you did not comment on the Bresser Pirsch ED 8x56? Is that because you do not consider them comparable to your recommended pair above?

Sorry, as you can see, I have added them now, with my thoughts. As you can see, I do highly recommend them, I only left them off initially because of the difficulty in sourcing them in the US.

I am now reviewing the others you recommended will I look at Minox; Maven; and GPO HD.

I had previously looked at the GPO HD but eliminated them because of their FOV. If my target range is 100-200 yards, do you think a FOV of 315 feet is acceptable? I am not a bird watcher. And if the answer is yes, why would I go with the HD over the ED?

Whilst it is almost always nice to have a wide FOV, at 315 ft wide at 1000 yds, the FOV is not bad… it is just not excellent and thus I would say for most users unless you specifically require or want a particularly wide view, this amount is perfectly acceptable.

In my review of the GPO Passion ED 8x42 Binoculars, I do go over the main differences between the Passion ED and Passion HD binoculars. However, in a nutshell, the Passion HD has a number of quality-to-life improvements, for example, the diopter adjuster being integrated into the focus wheel.

Incorporating features like two higher grade fluorite containing ED elements within each lens and having Hydrophobic exterior lens coatings, the Passion HDs also have better quality optics, which I felt results in a very minimal improvement in optical performance which I indicate in my reviews. But having said this, I do feel it important to keep in mind that the difference is very minimal and so as with the difference between the Zeiss and the GPO HD or the Maven’s, there is certainly a case of diminishing returns here, it just depends how far back you wish to go from the very best… which is always a tough decision and I don’t feel a right or wrong option, and probably just depends on your personal financial circumstances?

The Maven looks interesting, but if the choice was between the Maven 7x45 and the GPO HD, what would your recommendation be? The Maven’s FOV is much greater, but the GPO is 8.5x power. How do you rate relative quality between the two?

I general terms and in most areas, I would rate the relative quality as being pretty much equal between these two – For me it basically boils down to the GPO Passion HD 8.5x50 Binoculars offering you a little more image detail at distance but at the cost of having to carry about a larger instrument. Whilst, on the other hand, the Maven B2 7x45 Binoculars will present you with a wider view and a more stable image and will excel at mid to close ranges.

So if I had to choose between these two and indeed all the others, it would be as follows:

If I was mainly going to be using the binoculars from a static location or perhaps in a vehicle or boat/yacht with slightly longer viewing distances and wanted the very best low light performance, I would go for the Steiner Shadowquest (Nighthunter) 8x56 Binoculars.

For a little more carrying comfort, the 56mm roof prism options of the Zeiss, GPO Passion ED, and Bresser Pirsch ED 8x56 Binoculars would come into play, but just keep in mind that whilst minimal, there will be a drop off in performance for the two the lower-costing options.

Then lastly with a still excellent, but slightly lesser low light performance than the 56mm options, but with more flexibility, ease of use in the field and I would say a more all-round option, I would go with either the GPO Passion HD 8.5x50 Binoculars or the Maven B2 7x45 Binoculars, with the choice between these two boiling down to what I mentioned above.

Thus one of these two would be my choice if I wanted an excellent low light performance binocular and was not mostly viewing from a vehicle, boat, or static location, rather walking about in the field more.

I expect to further review your recommendations over the next week or so, so will likely have more questions.
Thank you for your time and efforts on my behalf.

Regards Rob

Response 02 – With My Comments

I appreciate the quick and thorough response. I have digested what you recommended and did some further research. Here is my list now with my comments related to your recommendations.:

BBR: If I was mainly going to be using the binoculars from a static location or perhaps in a vehicle or boat/yacht with slightly longer viewing distances and wanted the very best low light performance, I would go for the Steiner Shadowquest (Nighthunter) 8x56 Binoculars.

ROB: I have eliminated the Steiner Shadowquest from consideration as my use will be at least 75% during hiking trips.

BBR: For a little more carrying comfort, the 56mm roof prism options of the Zeiss, GPO Passion ED, and Bresser Pirsch ED 8x56 Binoculars would come into play, but just keep in mind that whilst minimal, there will be a drop off in performance for the two the lower-costing options.

ROB: I have eliminated the Zeiss due to cost and on my perception of low value (others will have somewhat less quality & performance, but at much less cost).

ROB: If the Bresser Pirsch were available they would be my choice based on Value (low cost/high performance). However, they are eliminated due to availability (I called BP USA again and they confirmed they are not available) and low warranty coverage.

BBR: Then lastly with a still excellent, but slightly lesser low light performance than the 56mm options, but with more flexibility, ease of use in the field and I would say a more all-round option, I would go with either the GPO Passion HD 8.5x50 Binoculars or the Maven B2 7x45 Binoculars, with the choice between these two boiling down to what I mentioned above.

ROB: As you recommended I have reviewed and have added the Maven B2 9x45 to my list to be considered. I also re-reviewed/considered the GPO Passion HD 8.5x50, but rejected them as both of the Maven’s have higher EP, significantly better FOV, are several hundred dollars cheaper without sacrificing quality or performance.

So here is my current list:

EP (mm)
Weight (ozs)
Vol     LxWxD
FOV (feet)
Price (US$)
BBR Review Score
BBR Review
EP Rating
Value Rating
Wgt/Vol Rating
FOV Rank
Total Rank
7 x 45
Not Rated, B2 11x45 rated 87
Wyoming company, Japnese components, assembled in USA, lifetime warranty, Maven B2 11x45 BBR 2018 Binos of the Year
Lower EP
9 x 45
Not Rated, B2 11x45 rated 87
Wyoming company, Japnese components, assembled in USA, lifetime warranty, Maven B2 11x45 BBR 2018 Binos of the Year
Lowest EP
Passion ED
8 x 56
Not Rated, ED 8x42 rated 85
Virginia company sourcing products from Japanese counterpart, Lifetime warranty, BBR High value for money, BBR high image/low light quality
Heaviest, out of stock except eBay (only 2 sellers)

As you have previously stated, any of these three would be a great choice and I am leaning in a specific direction. But I have two more technical questions for you.

1. The three choices above are all different powers: 7; 8; and 9, but the FOV are within 3%. Will the differing powers have a significant impact on the image since the FOVs are almost the same? For instance, if you compare an 8x against a 10X, you will have a wider FOV with the 8X but more detail with the 10x. But if the FOVs are all the same will there be a difference?

Yes, they will be slightly different, but as to if they are significant, this depends:

Image Detail: The image you see on the lower 7x power will be very slightly less magnified (so objects will be smaller) than the higher 8x and 9x magnifications. Having said this, the difference between 8 and 10x is to for me very minimal, and even smaller between 7x and 8x.

So in many or even most normal/general use cases at close or even mid-ranges (like you get when general backyard birding, woodland/forest birding & wildlife viewing) this is not at all an issue for me and I have to say whilst 8x is by far the most commonly used, I often prefer a 7x binocular for the increase in exit pupil size, image stability and usually wider view in these types of use cases.

But if I specifically need the extra reach or image detail and want or need to view objects further in the distance, like for example birding at the coast, at a lakefront, or viewing wildlife on distant hills, then I would opt for at least a 10x binocular and thus the drop from 10x to 7x will be very relevant – so it just depends on the way you usually use the binocular as to whether it is of major importance or not.

Field of View (FOV)
Usually, what you “see” is depicted in the image above, however, as you say, because the FOVs of this selection are all similar, the “picture” you see will all be roughly of the same area.

So in this particular case, in terms of the amount of area you see at any one time, there is no real downside to opting for the higher powers in terms of FOV, which is usually not the case and I feel is largely down to the 9x Maven B2 Binoculars having a relatively wide FOX for a 9x instrument, the 7x version has a one that is a little underwhelming (but still far from bad) and the GPO Passion ED 8x56 having a fairly average FOV for an 8x instrument.

Therefore in your instance, I would not pay too much attention to this aspect, rather put more weight in your decision-making towards getting the magnification right for your particular needs.

2. The Exit Pupils are 6.0, 6.4, and 7.0.
In your comments, you state in reference to the lens sizes less than 56mm: “Then lastly with a still excellent, but slightly lesser low light performance than the 56mm options”. Is this accurate in my case? If my pupil diameter is 6mm when fully dilated in low light conditions, will I be able to perceive the extra light being provided by the 7.0 EP of the 8x56?

This is a very tough one for me to answer as what I find when testing binoculars of similar quality and with similar size exit pupils, but different size lenses are that as long as the lens sizes are not massively different, it can be really hard to tell which image you see as being brighter. This is because in order for them to have the same or similar size exit pupil, the magnifications have to be different and thus it definitely confuses things when trying to compare them against each other.

However, whilst I don’t know the exact formulas behind all this, but for me, it stands to reason that larger lenses will be able to “collect” more light (so long as the quality and coatings are the same), which in optics is basically information, so in the way I understand it, larger lens instruments have more information to work with and thus as long as the magnifications and the quality of optics are similar, they should technically deliver a brighter image.

But as you rightly state, if your maximum pupil diameter is 6mm, then the larger cone of light exiting binoculars with exit pupils that are larger than 6mm is in theory largely wasted in terms of image brightness as your eyes cannot take in that extra available light (It can however still make lining up your eyes with the image easier and thus less chance of black rings around the edges).

I know from my personal experience with binoculars of high quality like the ones on your list it can be very difficult to tell and you are never certain, especially if the magnifications are different. So as to if you will notice the difference, I can’t give you a definite answer other than to say in your case because the level of optics is high in all cases and the differences are relatively small (in terms of magnification, lens sizes, and exit pupils), I feel if you could notice a difference it would only be very or extremely minor.

So, If it was me, I would not worry too much about these potential low difference as all three instruments on your list will perform very well in these conditions. Rather, I think I would probably focus more on the magnification and go with the option that best suits my usual or intended viewing distances – also keeping in mind image stability (if you often sail on rough water).

It has been a pleasure working with you. Your patient assistance in meandering my way through the technical aspects of the binocular/optics world will be instrumental in making a practical purchase that actually meets my needs.
Regards: Rob

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