2011 Binoculars of the Year – Visionary Designs
Binoculars, like every other performance-oriented gadget, are constantly being upgraded. The best manufacturers unveil new models each year, often quite similar to their predecessor with minor tweaks and changes. But every so often an innovator comes along and introduces a new series or model that truly changes the way we see things. Binoculars.com's Binocular of the Year Awards is our effort to review the year's additions and illuminate the great products that provide something special.
To determine the winners, all binocular models are given a thorough visual inspection and graded according to specific criteria. Our in-house team of experts then subjects each binocular to exacting tests in the field to rate its performance. The standards used to judge a binocular's quality and performance vary for each award category.
Binocular of the Year:
Best Birding Binocular:
Best Hunting Binocular:
Best Travel Binocular:
Best Astronomy Binocular:
Best of the Best Award:
Excellence in Service Award:
BINOCULAR OF THE YEAR
Bushnell 10x42 Legend Ultra HD
The first true game-changer in their class, the Bushnell 10x42 Legend Ultra HD Binoculars introduced this year provide superior light transmission normally found only in much, much, higher-priced models. Bushnell coated the Extra-Low Dispersion glass lenses with their patented Ultra-Wide Custom Band Coating to gather more light and show a wider range of bright, accurate colors than the competition, especially during dusk and dawn hours.
These binocs don't skimp on the extras, either - they also feature RainGuard HD coating, comfortable grips and eye relief, and a huge field of view. Bushnell is so sure they've upped the ante that they've offered to buy them back from any unsatisfied customer for a full year… we doubt they'll have any takers. The Bushnell 10x42 Legend Ultra HD is more than worthy of Binoculars.com Binocular of the Year Award.
BESt birding binocular
Nikon ProStaff 7 8x42
In true avian style, a birding binocular needs to be light, quick, and clever. This year, the Nikon ProStaff 7 8x42 flew high above the competition, fitting multicoated lenses, high-quality coatings, and comfortable grips in a lightweight binocular under $200. Long, nitrogen-filled twist-up eyecups ensure user comfort during extended birding sessions, and bright, clear views make for easier, faster identifications. A rare bird indeed, the Nikon ProStaff 7 8x42 is Binoculars.com's Best Birding Binocular of 2011.
Best Hunting Binocular
Steiner 10x42 Predator Xtreme
In the field, both predator and prey do their best to blend seamlessly in the background; our 2011 Best Hunting Binocular does everything to stand out. The Steiner 10x42 Predator Xtreme employs optics with Color Adjusted Transmission to allow objects (like deer) to "pop" out of the background. Steiner set out to build the perfect specimen hunting binocular - and succeeded. Binoculars.com's Best Hunting Binocular of 2011 is also waterproof, comfortable, and built like a tank.
Best Travel Binocular
Zeiss Conquest 10x25 B T Compact Binoculars
The best travel binocular is one that can be taken anywhere, readied in an instant, and provides consistently crystal-clear views. This year's best traveling show is the Zeiss Conquest 10x25 B T Compact Binocular - the ideal combination of high-end lenses and innovative portability. Cleverly hiding multicoated lenses and Schmidt-Pechan prisms inside a totally original Z-fold design, these comfortable, light, and brilliant binocs are our Best Travel Binocular of 2011.
Best Astronomy Binocular
Zhumell 25x100 Tachyon
Back-to-Back Winner! These huge astronomical binoculars weren't new this year, but they boast specs and a price that stand the test of time. The Zhumell 25x100 Tachyon Astronomy Binoculars have 100mm objective lenses, fully multi-coated optics, and awesome filter-ready lenses. If you're ready to take back the sky from one-lensed elitists, these are the binoculars to get (both) your hands on. Super rugged and tripod-adaptable, the Zhumell 25x100 Tachyons are Binoculars.com's 2011 Astronomy Binocular of the Year.
Best of the Best Award
Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision
Back-to-Back Winner! Save for a binocular revolution nobody saw coming, the Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision Binoculars is no-brainer for a second Binocular of the Year honor. Swarovision technology uses the best High Definition optics, optimized proprietary coatings, and field-flattener lenses to provide perfect resolution and clarity from the very edge of the field of view. They're incredibly comfortable to hold and use, and feature an effortless focus wheel bringing the viewer as close as 1.5 meters. When you want the best, be the best. Get Binoculars.com's 2011 Best of the Best, 2 years running.
Excellence in Service Award
Leica has shown, time and time again, the ability and willingness to go the extra mile for their customers. While producing some of the finest optical products available today, Leica can be counted on for the long-term commitment needed to form lifelong product relationships. Optical experts and onlookers agree; Leica is more than deserving of 2011's Excellence in Service Award.