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2012 Binocular Awards

2012 Binocular of the Year

Every year, the industry changes. As our favorite manufacturers release the latest models of the binoculars we love, we get the privilege of reviewing a whole new set of specs. Usually, that means minor tweaks and updates, but every so often a binocular comes along that really makes us take notice. Binoculars.com's Binocular of the Year awards are designed to recognize the game changers, the innovators, and the standard-bearers of the optics industry every year. And, frankly, 2012 is a doozy.

To determine the winners, we put all the binoculars through a series of tests. We play with them in the office and we take them out in the field. We look closely at their construction and far off through their lenses. Our in-house team of experts puts each pair through a series of exacting tests to rate its performance in terms useful to our customers. We've defined nine categories of binocular important to our customers, and determined this year's best in each. So, without further ado, we're proud to present the 2012 Binocular of the Year Awards!

See the 2010 winners | See the 2011 winners

Binocular of the Year:

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x42

Best Birding Binocular:

Nikon Monarch 3 8x42

Best Hunting Binocular:

Vortex 10x42 Talon HD Binoculars

Best Compact Binocular:

Zeiss Victory 8x20

Best Astronomy Binocular:

Zhumell 20x80 SuperGiant

Best of the Best Award:

Swarovski 10x42 EL

Excellence in Service Award:

Steiner Binoculars

Reviewer's Choice:

Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel Waterproof Binoculars

BINOCULAR OF THE YEAR

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x42

Back-to-Back Winner! The Bushnell 10x42 Legend Ultra HD Binoculars were introduced in 2011, but remain a step ahead of the competition in 2012. Our Binocular of the Year provides a level of light transmission that's unmatched in its price category, making it a favorite for all kinds of use. With Bushnell's patented Ultra-Wide Custom Band Coating and ED glass lenses, the Legend Ultra HD collects a wider range of bright, accurate colors, especially at dawn and dusk.

Bushnell knows the Legend Ultra HD is popular, so they've made sure not to skimp on features. These binoculars also get Rainguard HD coating, comfortably contoured grips and long eye relief, and an extra-wide field of view. Bushnell is so confident in their product that they offer to buy them back for a full year, for any reason ... but don't plan on it. The Legend Ultra HD is here to stay, and we're proud to name it the 2012 Binoculars.com Binocular of the Year.

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BESt birding binocular

Nikon Monarch 3 8x42

Quick and light like the birds you seek, the Nikon 8 x 42 Monarch 3 Binoculars are all-new this year and better than ever. The enhanced optical system in these birding binoculars features EcoGlass lenses with phase-correction Silver-Alloy Prism multi-coatings. That means bright, accurate colors from dusk till dawn that allow you to make accurate identifications without worrying about your optics. The super-fast turn-and-slide multi-click rubber eyecups and lightweight body were designed with the birder in mind, too, ready to go from in-hand to in-focus in the flap of a wing.

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Best Hunting Binocular

Vortex 10x42 Talon HD Binoculars

Quick, smart, and tough ... like a hunter. We've named the Vortex 10 x 42 Talon HD Binoculars 2012's best hunting binoculars because they move and act like a predator in the field. The HD here stands for high-density ED glass multi-coated with Vortex XR anti-reflective formula that delivers accurate and high-resolution images every time. The Talon HD is rugged, too - the optics are argon-purged and O-ring sealed for total fog and water protection, the open-hinge design and ArmorTek body are designed for bumps and bruises, and they're easily tripod adaptable. The hunt for binoculars is over, so your hunt can begin.

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Best Compact Binocular

Zeiss Victory 8x20

The Zeiss Victory 8 x 20 Binoculars understand that oversized can easily overwhelm, and that's why this understated pair are our best compact binoculars for 2012. Weighing in at a scant 8 ounces, these 4-inch binoculars have an incredible close focus of 8.5 feet, a 350-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, and crystal-clear optics. All the advanced technology you'd expect for Zeiss is here, including FL Concept fluoride glass optical system, T* anti-reflective coating and P* phase correction, and LotuTecâ„¢ waterproof lens treatment. Zeiss couldn't have possibly done more with less, and we couldn't be more impressed.

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Best Astronomy Binocular

Zhumell 20x80 SuperGiant

Zhumell 20 x 80 SuperGiant Binoculars are designed specifically to put as much power as possible into a sub-$100 package. And they most certainly succeed - these massive astronomical binoculars are simply unparalleled in their class, and pace nicely with much more expensive models. Weighing in at just 4.4 pounds, these black beauties are small enough to use in the field, but of course are best mounted to a tripod. They feature crystal-clear views close and far via fully multi-coated optics and BaK4 prisms, and custom adjustment with center and right diopter focus knobs. Perfect for lunar viewing, locating deep space objects, or super-long range terrestrial viewing, these giant binoculars are sure to open more than a few eyes.

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Best of the Best Award

Swarovski 10x42 EL

3-Time Winner! Sometimes the best just can't be beat. Until someone invents the X-ray binocular, we can't foresee a pair topping the Swarovski 10 x 42 EL Binoculars as the cream of the crop. These ultra-high-end binoculars boast flawless High Definition Swarovision optics, optimized proprietary lens coatings, and incredible view-enhancing field-flattener lenses. The views are incredible, and the body's no slouch either - the EL series is known for being low-maintenance in a way that most luxury models aren't. When you want the absolute best in binoculars - bar none - get Binoculars.com's 3-Year Best of the Best.

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Excellence in Service Award

Steiner Binoculars

Steiner binoculars are revered for being both high-quality and high-value, and their service department offers nothing less. It's been another pleasurable year for Binoculars.com and our customers dealing with Steiner in all aspects of optics maintenance, replacement, and advice. Their binoculars rarely require service, but Steiner's comprehensive product warranties and always-there repair department and quick and efficient. You have to be able to count on your binoculars to work every time, and Steiner is there to make sure that they do.

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Reviewer's Choice

Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel Waterproof Binoculars

We get hundreds of customer reviews on the Zhumell 10x42 Short Barrel Waterproof Binoculars, but they all have two things to say: "great binoculars," and "great value." With the smallest possible body wrapped around high-quality 42mm objective lenses and a host of professional features, we hear about customers taking these specs everywhere! They weigh only 24 ounces, but pack nitrogen-purged multi-coated optics, a padded, grippy, waterproof exterior, and easy twist eyecups and focus that are perfect for birders, hunters, tourists, sports fans, and travelers. The Short Barrels have a short price tag, too, and a Zhumell 25-year no-fault warranty that's hard to beat. We can't wait for another year's worth of stories to come out of these popular binoculars.

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