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Should You Buy Large Format Binoculars?

Should You Buy Large Format Binoculars?

The large format binocular is not a new concept to the hunting industry, but with advancements in technology, not only in the optics but in accessories like tripods and accessories, they have become more usable in the field than ever before. Having the ability to glass like a pro with binoculars at a magnification of 25 power and above can be an extremely useful tool when hunting in the vast landscapes of the west. There are different types of these large binoculars and there are many things you will need to consider before deciding to buy a pair. If your just starting out we suggest you start with Binoculars 101.

Here are a few examples of the most popular pairs of large binoculars on the market today.

Docter Optics 30x80 ED Binoculars

This pair of binoculars was one of the first to make its way into the world of hunting. This is a bit of an honorable mention due to the fact that these are no longer produced but you can still find them for sale here and there on forums and auction sites. The Docters are heavy and long compared to the more modern large binos but for someone looking to just break into this style of glassing they are still a very viable option. What you sacrifice in quality and resolution you gain back in price, the Docters are a much more budget friendly choice than the current offerings from other companies. 

Large Format Binoculars

Kowa Highlander 32x82 

No conversation about large binoculars is complete without mentioning the Kowa Highlanders. This binocular is offered in two different versions, fluorite lenses and non-fluorite lenses. The biggest differences you will see with the fluorite lenses will be an increase in edge clarity, color accuracy, glare reduction and a general improvement in resolution. Obviously there is a price difference between the two, but if you are considering purchasing a pair of these binoculars we highly recommend the fluorite lenses. The most unique attribute of the Highlanders is their removable eyepieces that can be replaced with either a pair of 50x or wide angled 21x eyepieces. While large binoculars have the magnification of spotting scopes, they are still binoculars and therefore lack the feature of variable magnification. The replaceable eyepieces of the Highlanders solve this problem with their very easy to swap design. 

Large Format Binoculars BTX

Swarovski BTX

The BTX provides a unique take on the high-powered binoculars. The BTX uses the same objective lens system as the ATX and STX models from Swarovski, meaning it has only one objective lens. Some may say that makes it a spotting scope not a binocular but it's a very big piece of glass with two holes to look through so it meets the low bar for entry into this article. There are two major upsides to the BTX using the modular objective lens system that Swarovski offers. The first being size and weight, the BTX is very light and compact compared to the other binoculars mentioned because of the single eyepiece design. You can use the BTX with the 65mm objective lens and have a 4lb package that can fit in the side pouch of your pack easily. The second is the modularity of the system itself. Having the option to choose the size of your objective lens creates an extremely versatile optic. You can take the BTX backpacking with the 65 or make it a long distance glassing machine that won’t get too far from the truck with the 115 or have something right in the middle with the 85 and 95.

The Why

Now we need to talk about why you would need or want to use a binocular that weighs as much or more than your rifle. They aren’t for every situation but when you are in need of one you will be quite surprised with how effective they can be. The main reason large binoculars are such a sought after tool is because of the comfort they provide while glassing. Here is my extremely simple and non-scientific explanation as to why glassing for long periods of time with high powered binoculars is so much more comfortable than using a one eyed spotting scope. Your brain processes light gathered from both eyes and creates an image using both of those sources. 

When using binoculars your brain is receiving both of those images just like it’s used to. When you take one of those away while using a normal spotting scope your brain has to work overtime to produce an image. It's only receiving half of the information that it’s used to working with. Just like you wouldn’t throw on an eye patch and drive to the grocery store, you shouldn’t be glassing long periods of time with a normal spotting scope. It puts too much stress on the eyes and you will not be as effective at glassing those far away hills as you should be.  

Large Format Binoculars

Tripods and Heads

Let's assume you already have a pair of high powered binoculars or you are looking to purchase a pair. You will need to properly prepare for glassing with them. You aren’t dealing with a handheld pair of 15s anymore, this is a much larger beast that needs to be tamed. This will apply mostly to the BTX with the larger objective lenses like the 115 and 95, as well as the Kow Highlanders and Docter binoculars. These optics are heavier than normal and more importantly they are longer than normal. Using a tripod and tripod head that is large enough and will also allow you to balance the optic properly are very important. 

Video tripods and heads and fluid heads are your best bet. These tripods and heads are designed to hold and operate massive cameras and recording devices. The Manfrotto 055 tripod with a XPRO fluid video head is about as rock solid of a set up as you can buy these days but comes with the price of being quite heavy and cumbersome. The Outdoorsmans tripods are built to handle as much weight as you can throw at them and pair with the Outdoorsmans Fluid Head you will have a sturdy foundation without having to break your back. 

In closing, large binoculars are not for everyone’s hunting or glassing style and they don’t fit into everyone's budget. They are, however, one of the most useful and effective pieces of equipment you can own for detail oriented hardcore glassing. If you want to kick your glassing into overdrive this is one piece of glass you should seriously consider. 

Happy hunting.

Next article Hunting Binoculars 101 - What You Need to Know

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