Rangefinding binoculars are pricey, but they can give you the edge when hunting in the field. Chris Parkin reveals his five top picks.
Rangefinding binoculars are an important addition to any hunter’s kit, but knowing for sure which brand is right for you can be a real challenge. There are many models available and choosing between them can be confusing. To help, I have tested all the rangefinding binoculars on the market and have provided some of the highlights of what I consider to be the top five best binoculars, all compared in 10×42 format.
The market benchmark – Leica Geovid HD-B
- The unusual curved body tubes of Leica’s Geovids encapsulate the patented Perger-Porro optical system, and the HD-B format was the first premium unit to show full ballistic calculation and atmospheric measuring capability.
- The system can be programmed using a micro SD card; alternatively, one of the 12 built-in factory set-ups can be selected.
- The binos are available in 8x or 10x magnification with 42mm body, or as an 8x56mm — a 78 per cent increase in objective lens surface area for the lenses to accept more light.
- The HD-Bs are simple to operate and feature solid detents to lock the eyecups in position.
- The ballistic computer displays results in click corrections or aim over distances, in both metric and imperial units.
- I would like to see a manual brightness control for the internal LED display, but the strength of the laser beam used was noticeably better for long targets than the other sets on test.
- A greater range may be advertised — and achievable — but what is critical is getting a strong signal return from your target of choice, at any range, as quickly as possible, and the HD-Bs boast a response time of 0.3 seconds.
Best optical performance in low light – Swarovski 10×42 EL range
- The original iterations of the EL range were at the pinnacle of binocular performance, and the addition of the rangefinding option was only a matter of time.
- The distinctive bulges on the undersides set them apart, with left index finger operating button to display ranges in metres or yards.
- Menu settings are accessed from the underside.
- Green and orange rubber-armoured versions are available and they are rated to measure distance to 1,375m with +/-1m accuracy.
- These differ in having a left side button and left master eye/internal LED, which may specifically appeal to some users, and the 91 per cent light transmission factor is certainly noticeable when dusk approaches.
- The 110m field of view at 1,000m is flat across its entire width, colours are bright with good contrast and the physical ergonomics are sublime.
- The brightness of the inner reticle and display is easily controlled.
- These rangefinding binoculars don’t have the ballistic capability offered by some competitors of similar price, though they do measure inclination angle of the shot to display a corrected equivalent horizontal range.
- Swarovski Optic
Best balance between image and cost – Meopta MeoRange 10×42 HD and HD-AB
- Meopta offers the MeoRange HD, with rangefinding only, and the HD-AB version, which features a ballistic calculator too.
- The HD offers superb image quality at an attractive price.
- The hinged body incorporates a conventional roof prism design with edge-to-edge clarity and maximum image brightness.
- They have a hidden benefit of +/-5 dioptre accommodation, and this extra adjustment, over the +/-4 available from the other manufacturers, might just be the difference some eyes need.
- Brightness is adjustable, allowing for good contrast with backgrounds and light conditions to a maximum range, in my hands, of 1,048m on deer-sized quarry.
- Consistency was great, with less than 4m difference for five sequential readings.
- The response time is quick enough for any sporting target, with a round red reticle showing three adjustable brightness settings.
- Temperature, atmospheric pressure and azimuth are measured along with the possibility to display the equivalent horizontal range accounting for inclination.
- The unit is heavier than others, with an aluminium rather than magnesium body, but it is backed up with a 10-year warranty and offered alongside a full armoury of Meo coatings for abrasion resistance, water dispersion and superb light transmission.
- Viking Arms
Our best buy – Kahles Helia RF 10×42
- Kahles’s Helia unit may look the odd one out price wise in this review, but I felt the need to include it as it is a superb unit.
- Offering metric or imperial rangefinding, simple controls and a clear brightness level display, the unit measures inclination to offer equivalent horizontal range and seems to be the most “honest” and easy to use of the lot.
- The binoculars are made in the Far East, but they epitomise the design skills and ergonomic quality of European heritage with delightful additions tailored to real hunters.
- The seemingly quirky but fundamentally superb “Waldkauz loden” sling — a bikini-like lens cover, for want of a better description — is fantastic.
- Like the Meopta, the Helia has a hinged body rather than an open-bridge design, but with lightweight and compact dimensions, it also suits those with smaller hands or who need to travel light.
- Kahles also promises a long life of 3,000 readings from the supplied lithium CR2 battery.
Technical winner – Zeiss Victory RF 10×42
- Zeiss’s latest Victory RF unit was the first model I encountered that combined ballistics capability, to display shot corrections, with Bluetooth connectivity, to set up and update the trajectory results you experience in the real world.
- Having to rely on an SD card swapped back and forth in a computer was the downside to the Leica, though it does encourage you to get the setup right first time.
- The Victory RF allows you to swap controls from left- to right-handed between the twin buttons ahead of the open-bridge layout, which suits smaller hands.
- The Abbe-Koenig prisms — which appeared in the Victory SF binoculars four years ago — bring weight and balance back toward the eyes.
- All ergonomics are competitive with the other units on review, but I did find the long button presses needed to get returns from target, and the requirement to use the scan mode at longer distances, slightly offset the reliable Bluetooth compatibility of the binoculars with modern smartphones.
- Computational display for range correction was ultra-fast, but I would have liked the display to remain lit for longer.
- A better instruction manual would also be of benefit when learning the system.