Imagine you are hunting; golfing, surveying, or wildlife watching, and you want to know the distance of your target. You could estimate it based on knowledge of how big the target object is, or you could use rangefinder binoculars that take the estimation out of the picture. This article will tell you what rangefinder binoculars are and why you need them, as well as review three top products in different price categories.
What are rangefinder binoculars?
Basically the same as binoculars, rangefinder binoculars have one major difference. They have built-in distance-reading abilities that are gaining popularity as they become more and more accurate. Originally created for use with the military to provide real-time data to soldiers, rangefinders have leaked out into the mainstream as many military products are want to do. They are used nowadays mainly for hunting, golfing, and building, though they are also sometimes used on archery and shooting ranges and even for hiking and wildlife watching.
The Advantages of Rangefinders
Benefits of using rangefinder binoculars are limitless, from determining the distance of the flag on the golf course to measuring the distance across a construction site. Below is a list of some of the advantages of using rangefinder binoculars.
- Leave estimation behind.
The main reason you should use rangefinder binoculars is because you no longer have to guess how far away the animal, flag, or other target is. A laser will bounce out of the binoculars, off the target, and back to your binoculars while an internal clock measures the distance by how long that laser takes to get back. The accuracy of range-finding binoculars is outstanding these days, much more accurate than the naked eye. Even distancing your children on the playground will be quick and simple with the right rangefinder binoculars.
- Get closer visually.
There will be many situations in which walking or climbing to the target is just not feasible. Framework on a building that is going up, an animal you do not want to scare off, and a flag on a golf course during a tournament are all good examples. In those situations, knowing the distance while at the same time seeing the image closer visually will help you determine the best move to make.
- Prepare for the job.
You can do quick surveying of a construction site, a hunting hotspot, or a golf course using rangefinders. From different spots around the area, take a measurement of the distance and take note of landmarks around you. Then, when it is time to work, shoot, or golf, you will have a faster way to identify the distances than taking out your binoculars every time you need to know. For the locations you did not measure, just take those binoculars out and get a fast reading.
- Improve your estimation skills.
No matter how much you may want to take on ranging, there will be the case in which you need a split-second estimation for the deer that snuck up on you, when everyone’s waiting for you to take your turn at the course, or when a truck has to fit between two points right now. With practice and frequent use of the rangefinder capacity of your binoculars, you will be more likely to accurately estimate the distance when that judgement call comes along.
- Size makes it easier to bring along.
As cell phones have decreased in size, so too have range finding binoculars. When you are carrying a pack around the workplace, golf course, or in the woods all day, size really matters. The rangefinders nowadays are smaller and lighter, able to sometimes compete with the size of a smart phone and weigh barely half a pound.
- Affordability means there is little reason not to get them.
You do not have to break your bank account to get a pair of range finding binoculars. Although there are some very expensive models that give out pristine readings and crystal-clear optics, there are also budget-friendly models that range of $100 to $250. If you are willing to pay a little more for more quality and performance, there are a number of models in the range of $250 to $450. Superb performance can even be in reach, ranging up to $800.
Attributes to Consider
Beyond the usual binocular attributes that you should keep in mind, there are some specific features of rangefinders to look at. In this section, we will start specific to rangefinders and then talk about attributes common to binoculars in general and how they might affect your particular product.
There are two types of priority mode, first priority and second priority. First priority is better for golf courses and construction sites because it takes the reading of the first object within the line of sight, such as a flag or a steel beam. It ignores background targets such as trees and people. Second priority, which takes a reading of the second target in the line of sight, is better for hunting because it will ignore the leaves or branches of the hunting screen and target a deer or turkey. There are also some models that can semi-permanently switch between the priorities, allowing them to be used for any situation.
Always useful is the scan mode, something you should probably not do without if you are going to have a rangefinder at all. Scanning mode allows you to take continuous readings on the visuals that you point your binoculars toward, rather than just a single pin prick reading. In hunting, this is always handy to take measurements on the moving animal near you. In golf, it allows you to scan an area without pressing a button over and over again. On the construction site, this can be used for both following a target (think a construction worker) and scanning the area. You might think that scan mode comes built into every pair of range finding binoculars, but not all of them do, so keep an eye out for this mode if you do not feel the desire to press the same button repeatedly to get multiple readings on an area.
Networks of fine lines or fibers placed in the eyepiece of binoculars or other optical products, reticles are used for sighting and taking measurement. Rangefinder reticles measure the distance between you and the target object, but can also measure the height or included angle of an object. These are alternatives to laser rangefinders, which are more accurate but more expensive. There are three types of reticles. The first are solid black lines; they make great distance-measuring tools when looking at something in ambient light, but can be problematic at night as they blend with the surrounding dark. The second type look like they are glowing, and they are. This is because they are actually LED light fibers placed in the eyepiece of the binoculars. These can be great at night, but if too bright, can ruin your night vision. Also, if used during the day, the LED reticle often gets lost in the ambient light. The best of both worlds is the third type, a black reticle with the added option of turning on LED lights to brighten the reticle.
Magnification and Aperture
Binoculars are talked about using a combination of numbers, such as 8×30. The first number (including the x) represents the magnification of the binoculars. This tells you to what degree the target object can be enlarged. For example, the 8×30 binoculars mentioned above have a magnification of 8x, allowing you to see a target object eight times closer than with the naked eye.
There are binoculars with adjustable magnifications, called zoom binoculars. These are great for rangefinder binoculars because you can zoom into targets at variable distances.
The second number in the two number combination represents the aperture. This is the diameter of the optical lens, and can be very important, especially for hunting where you are using the binoculars in low lighting. This is because the diameter of the optical lens determines the light-gathering capability of your binoculars. The greater the aperture, the more light the binoculars can gather and the more likely you are to see that deer hiding in the dark woods.
Without proper focus, even the very best binoculars cannot work properly. There are three main types of focusing mechanisms: center focus with a diopter, individual focus (in which each side is focused separately), and fixed focus. The center focus with diopter is the most common type, which has a center focus wheel and a separate diopter to help compensate for any uneven vision in the viewer’s eyes. In rangefinders, focusing is paramount, as you cannot measure the distance to a target if you cannot see the target clearly . In
Size and Weight
If you are going to carry around binoculars all day, they probably need to be light and compact. This is because you might be already carrying a large amount of equipment and it would be inconvenient to have a large pair of binoculars to add to the weight on your back or shoulder. Some rangefinder binoculars are ultra-compact and weight no more than half a pound. These often have lanyards that can make carrying and using the binoculars even easier. If they do not have a lanyard, they often have a belt loop carrying case, which allows you to keep the binoculars close at hand as well.
Do not worry about battery life as much as other characteristics of rangefinders. Just carry extra batteries and plan to trade them out. Batteries are small and lightweight objects, so carrying extras should not be a chore. Still, it is nice to see rangefinder binoculars that have long battery lives, so there is little need for stopping what you are doing to switch out batteries.
Top Three Rangefinder Binoculars
Intended for hunting, the Leica Geovid rangefinder binoculars could also be used on a construction site, for engineer surveying, or for wildlife viewing. They are in second priority mode, and have the longest field of view, 412 feet, for a 42mm aperture. Light and compact, these rangefinder binoculars are only 4x8x8 inches and weigh just 1.7 pounds. The focusing is done via a center focus wheel and diopter, with the diopter being sufficiently stiff that it will not move if you accidentally bump it. Magnification is 10x, allowing you to see things crisply and clearly from a great distance away. Meanwhile, the laser rangefinder measures distances up to 2,000 yards, so you do not have to estimate the distance of an elk across a large field. For hunters, the Leica Geovid binoculars adjust the rangefinder based on temperature, biometrics, and shot angle, allowing you to relax since you do not have to do those calculations yourself.
Nitrogen-filled and water-tight, the Leica Geovid binoculars can be submersed up to five meters and coating on the outside provides water- and dirt-repellant.
While the poro prism is more superior to a roof prism because Leica has put a lot of money and research into it and the binoculars have the largest field of view for the object lens diameter, there are a few issues with this product. First, the mode button is right next to, and is the same size and shape as, the range button, making it sometimes confusing which button to press when. Second, the objective lenses keep falling off for users.
There are several modes on the Geovid binoculars. The first is the standard, second priority mode. The second is scanning, which is extremely useful in all situations. The third is equivalent horizontal range mode, which is important to a long-range or bow hunter, since this is the number they will want to put into their ballistics calculator.
The reticle is LED with automatic brightness adjustment, so you will never have to figure out how bright is the right brightness for the ambient light. Finally, the open-bridge design of these binoculars is more comfortable than many of the blockier binocular design and is less fatiguing to hold thanks to a curved “banana” shape. If you don’t trust our recommendations, you can feel safe knowing other experts have ranked the GeoVid extremely highly.
Amazing for the price, the Bushnell Fusion rangefinder binoculars are a 10x magnification and have a 42 millimeter objective lens. They have five modes, including standard second priority, bullseye (first priority), scanning, and rifle and bow arc. With great clarity and color, these binoculars have a 305 feet field of view.
The laser rangefinder on these binoculars can give measurements from 10 to 1760 yards, and the reticle is an LED matrix display with four brightness settings. Unfortunately, the reticle can be difficult to see in low or very bright light.
The Bushnell Fusion binoculars are 100% waterproof and fog proof, with a rain-guard HD water repellant lens coating. They are also guaranteed bullet-proof and come with a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty Bushnell is well-known for. Tripod adaptable for steadying and easy maneuverability, the Bushnell Fusion binoculars are focused using a center wheel and diopter.
Weighing just 1.94 pounds, these rangefinders are light and easy to carry. They come with a carrying case, though the case does not close properly when the eyecups are extended. Easy to set-up and giving a warp-proof image, these binoculars are excellent for anyone looking for a mid-range pair of rangefinder binoculars.
Great for wildlife viewing, hunting, or lifeguarding among other uses, the USCAMEL Military
Rangefinder binoculars are a great low-cost option! These are manual rangefinder binoculars, meaning that they require you to calculate the distance yourself rather than a laser doing it for you. This has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that you learn how to calculate distance and become better at estimating when you do not have your rangefinder binoculars on hand, but a disadvantage is that it takes longer to figure out the distance.
With a high magnification of 10x and a huge objective lens of 50 millimeters, you will be seeing things closely and clearly with great light transmission! Also, a field of view of 396 feet means you will have a wide-angle view that will not let you miss much of anything.
AT 9.4 x 8.8 x 4.6 inches
And weighing 3.2 pounds, this is the largest of the binoculars reviewed in this article, but what they lack in compactness, they make up for in clarity and color reproduction. Also, this pair of binoculars has a compass that can be illuminated to determine the direction of your target, which is great for hunting or sailing.
One of the features that many users speak about is the quick fold eyecups, which allow you to quickly adjust them to fit someone with eyeglasses and then pass them on with a second’s adjustment to someone without eyeglasses. Also, the USCAMEL Military binoculars are nitrogen-filled to be water- and fog proof, and are shock resistant thanks to the rubber armor on the housing.
Easy to focus with individual eyepiece focusing, you will never need to worry about a diopter with these binoculars. There are a few problems with the packaging of these binoculars, however. For one, there is no manual. This means people new to rangefinder binoculars will have a hard time figuring out how to use them. Second, the lanyard is a bright yellow while everything else is army green. This blaring color has no place on a military-grade pair of rangefinder binoculars.
Overall, these binoculars make a great low-cost option for people looking for simple rangefinder binoculars.
Now that you know what rangefinder binoculars can do for you and some of the best ones on the market, it’s time to get out there and give them a try! Use the guide above to help you pick out the best pair for you and enjoy the beauty of these combo rangefinder binoculars, which will save you room in your bag and save you time by helping you determine distances much faster than measuring by hand or estimating.