Ramping It Up

While you need magnification to look far, adding power increases the visible motion in your field of view. At modest distances you may identify more detail with an 8x binocular than with a 10x of like quality. For years I hunted with a 7x35 B&L Zephyr. Its light weight and modest size complemented a generous 5mm exit pupil (think — bright image) and power enough for glassing up pronghorns and bighorn sheep. I found it easy to hold.

These days, 6x and 7x Porro models have been supplanted by 8x and 10x roof-prism binoculars. Optically, they’re superior. With 32mm and 42mm objectives, they’re also heavier than my old Zephyrs. The added magnification pairs wells with the trend to looking more and walking less on hunts, and shooting at long range. But these binos aren’t any steadier in my hands. The heaviest can be a burden on the trail and tiring to hold without support.

Compact spotting scopes with magnification as low as 12x are designed to ride in a daypack and use without a tripod in a pinch. But when modest power suffices, a binocular trumps a spotting scope. It’s much easier to hold. Also, using both eyes, you have better depth perception, a broader field and less eye fatigue. Like image motion, squinting tires your eyes and limits effective time in any optic.