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GUNS Magazine February 2010 - Page 18

OPTICS • Jacob Gottfredson • MORE FOR LESS Budget minded optics am often asked what binocular or scope someone should buy I for some use or another. My first question is, “To what use is the intended purpose?” My second question is, “How much are you willing to spend?” The answer to the second seems to be a universal constant: $200 to $300. Throughout my two decades of being an optics writer and evaluator, I have been a bit of an optics snob, I guess, putting my efforts into glass costing many times that amount. But the demand of most people has caused me to begin looking at more affordable options. Below are a couple of great binos at a great price. I had the opportunity to evaluate Carson’s XM-HD 8x42mm Series Binos over the last 3 or 4 months. I was thoroughly impressed with them. I did my standard battery of tests and a lot of bird watching with the wife. Carson has not only gone the extra mile by instrument testing their glass against the opposition, but has made their testing public. That is quite exciting in the sporting optics industry, something camera lens makers have done for years. I hope Carson spurs other sporting optics manufacturers to follow suit. Here is glass with BAK-4 lenses, HD coatings, fully multi-coated, O-ring sealed, phase coated, waterproof and fog proof and has one of the highest light transmission ratings in the industry for just under $300. Most optical prisms in this price range are made from borosilicate (BK-7) contrast, and extremely high light transmission. I have spent considerable time with their Legend Series 8x42mm Ultra-HD binos. I am truly impressed. Don’t confuse these with their Legend series that does not carry the Ultra-HD label. I must admit if I had the dinero, I too would walk around with a $2,000 Swarovski binocular hanging from my neck. My wife got into bird watching, and I have been tagging along (more fun than I thought). In any case, it has allowed me to test many binoculars made for the “can’t live without it” crowd to those made for fellas who— like me—must. Birders must mortgage their homes for the price of their binocular, spotting scope, and digital camera. But need they? I often wonder the same thing when my wife comes home with all those facial creams and a hole in my bank account. Luckily, she never reads anything I write. These Legend Ultra-HD binos have it all: Fully multi-coated lenses, BAK-4 prisms, Rainguard HD coating, armor, water and fog proof, and ED glass. They have incorporated a tripod mount and the case and accessories are great. The case is a hard nylon. Inside are a neck strap, harness, and a microfiber cloth bag to house them in. Another feature I believe every bino should have are the flip down objective lens covers that stay in place, preventing loss. The center focus is large and easy glass. More expensive models use barium crown glass (BAK-4). BAK-4 MENA SUVARI is higher quality glass, yielding brighter images and high edge sharpness. The XM’s clarity, resolution, and contrast are excellent, and light transmission rivals that of much higher priced binos. They are armored coated, with a relatively large center focus ring and stiff-to-move diopter, which is good. A bit on the large size, they are still small and light enough to carry in the field and feature a tripod mount as well. Carson’s warranty is every bit as good as other leading manufactures. They will replace or repair any damaged bino for $12, no matter the reason. I rate these binoculars high in any price range. View other models on their Web site. For those of you who think of Bushnell as K-Mart and Swarovski as Neman Marcus as I have, think again. Bushnell’s Elite series is top-of-theline in the $1K range. But Bushnell carries binos well under $300 that will blow your mind for clarity, resolution, TheCarsonXM-HD8x42mm(left) offersverygoodopticalquality, armor,waterandfogproofdesign, goodinternals,fullymulti-coated lenses,andareprotectedbya greatwarranty.Theyrepresent goodviewingformostbudgetmindedbuyers.TheBushnell legendUltra-HDbinocular(right)is anothergreatbinocularforunder $300.Shortandrelativelylight, thisbinohasitall.Theveryshort focuswouldmakeitexcellentfor birders.BesideshavingEDlenses, greataccessoriescomewithit. Bushnell’s Legend Ultra-HD Binocular 18 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • FEBRUARY 2010

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