These are the top five selling optics which our readers bought through this site from January through December 2014 — listed in order of sales:
For 2014, we're offering our Best Binoculars selection of best buys in various price categories.
In selecting binoculars to buy, test and review we try to choose binoculars that we'll feel comfortable recommending to family members and friends. We don't intentionally buy a binocular that we won't want to recommend.
Occasionally, we buy a newly introduced binocular that may not live up to expectations we had for it based on a predecessor model or what the manufacturer had to say about it. We don't shout about those, but we trust you understand if we only give it a nominal recommendation and don't urge you to consider them good values.
Other binoculars reviewed may be good, but have a weakness in one area or another. We point out those weaknesses and, if you don't find them objectionable, you may find those binoculars to be good values.
For a binocular to make this 2014 Best Binoculars list, however, we wanted it to be an above average optical value in its price category. We wanted to include those about which we were actually enthusiastic.
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The Swarovski EL with Swarovision gets our vote for the best value in its category. They've added extra-low dispersion glass since we reviewed them. We love this one. For a clean, clear, crisp view we can't beat it. It has brightness, flatness of field, resolution of details, as well as color separation that allows us to see things that we just can't see with many other binoculars. What can we say?
We have seen so many incredible views with the Swarovski SLC HD, we would have to grab this one if opportunity were to present itself. It's an excellent value with the optics of the Swarovski EL with Swarovision, as we understand it, except for the field flattening technology used for the EL's optics. The SLC started out as Swarovski's "best binocular for hunting" in Europe years ago, but now many, many others enjoy it as well.
The apochromatic Vortex Razor HD is our pick for the best optical value at its price point. It was introduced during the summer of 2013 after being announced at the January trade show for outdoor products (the "Shot Show"). It is significantly smaller and lighter in weight, while providing a brighter, cleaner, crisper view than its predecessor. The apochromatic lens design goes a long way, we believe, in providing this crisp view. We enjoy taking this one out in the field!
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Andy P., Krakow, Poland
Our choice for a full-size binocular best buy in this category is the Nikon Monarch 7. It is competing against strong contenders in its category and we like its generous field of view a lot. If we had to choose just one binocular out of this category's field, though, we would take the Monarch 7. Once you've had a chance to use it in the field, we suspect you'll say the same thing. This binocular qualifies as the best birding binocular, general binocular or best hunting binocular in its category. We also recommend it for plane spotting hobbyists due to its above average field of view.
A new addition to our binocular best buy list is the Zeiss Terra. It came into the market place later in 2013 at a price point that didn't seem to have much competition. After taking our time testing it in the field and comparing it against other binoculars, we finally published an article about what we found. A lot of folks are interested to see how large its field useable field of view is — just as we were!
Full-size binocular best buy goes to the Carson 3D ED. Our 3D ED binocular outperforms the competition in its class for resolution of details and chromatic aberration. It competes strongly in other areas and we really like it. This binocular qualifies as the best birding binocular, general binocular or best hunting binocular in its category. A strong second in this category is the Zen-Ray ZRS HD binocular.
The best compact binoculars in our opinion are in this category and that distinction goes to the Bushnell Elite Custom 7X26. It has super optics and is easily handled. It is truly a binocular best buy in every sense of the word. We don't recommend getting a compact binocular to do the job you should assign to a mid-size or full-size configuration, but if we were ever to do that, we would most likely name the Custom 7X26 as our candidate.
The pocket monocular best buy award goes to the Nikon 5X15 monocular. This little roof prism binocular has a very solid feel thanks in large part to its durable stainless steel housing. It resolves details superbly and provides excellent color and brightness with an exceptional field of view.
Mid-size binocular best buy goes to the Leupold Yosemite. This binocular has fooled a lot of people into thinking it is just a toy. The reality is that it's a little beauty that pulls its own weight and more. For lightweight viewing pleasure with a field of view that's well above average, incredible brightness, resolution and a size that feels at home in just about any hand — the Yosemite is an excellent instrument offered at an excellent price. They are also perhaps the best binocular for young people and children with the combination of a narrow minimum interpupillary distance for smaller faces and the lower magnification providing a steadier image with unsteady hands. This is another binocular that's excellent for Neighborhood Watch volunteers, too. Yes, like the other binoculars and monoculars that made this 2014 Best Binoculars list, we're enthusiastic about it!
If a roof prism design in this category is on the shopping list, we suggest considering the Sightron SII Blue Sky binoculars. They have a silver alloy reflective prism coating that provides better good low light viewing in the roof prism design at their price point. You'll get the durability of a roof prism design binocular at a competitive price.
Full-size binocular best buy goes to the Nikon Action EX. This binocular is used by people who are fussy about their view and want optical excellence at a reasonable price. It's not much heavier than a roof prism and the optics make it an exceptional value. In fact, in their 7X50 configuration, we would rate these as the "Best Binoculars for Astronomy" in their category. In their 7X35 configuration, many Neighborhood Watch volunteers will find them very useful.
These two binoculars would qualify as best birding binoculars, general binoculars or best hunting binoculars in their categories.
Best compact binocular value in this category goes to the Nikon Travelite VI. We looked hard before we chose a compact binocular in this category to review and we're glad we went with the Travelite VI. Made with carbon fiber it is both very light and tough. Its optics are above average for compacts in this category and we like it a lot.
The pocket monocular best buy in this price range goes to the Docter 8x21 monocular. This tiny monocular puts an optical bargain in your hand at a very reasonable price. This is one item that goes with us on trips when a compact binocular is out of the question. If there's room in our luggage for a compact binocular, there's usually room enough for our Docter monocular, too. It's also the unobtrusive optic we like to use in meetings when we don't get seats close to the front!
We created this list to provide a short-cut to reviews that may be particularly meaningful and make your binocular shopping experience as enjoyable as possible. We love the extraordinary intimacy with nature that binoculars bestow on their users. We want to help you enjoy it, too.