8×42 binoculars – Buying guide & Comparison
Although reading up on binoculars can prove very engaging, people don’t always have the time to do the appropriate research before buying a pair. Not to worry, we are here for just this type of situation. We made our own research by going through dozens and dozens of specialized articles, product reviews and customer reports to help you find the best 8×42 binoculars in a reasonable price range. The Nikon Aculon 8245 seem to have received the most positive feedback both from satisfied customers and specialists, thanks to their high angle of view offered by a Porro prism, functional anti-glare coating, and highly ergonomic rubber eyecups, which will allow for hours and hours of nature watching without much discomfort. If you’re adamant on a straight ocular design, then you might find the Wingspan Optics SkyView Ultra HD to be a good pick.
The 8×42 binoculars (we assume you already know what that means so we won’t delve into it) are usually preferred for the wide field of view they allow while still offering enough magnification to be effectively used for nature study. They are commonly employed for bird watching and are considered to be the most suitable size for the task. Consequently, we are going to concentrate on aspects of their functionality that are relevant for bird watchers in the short guide below, without neglecting the most important general aspects that any person needs to know when looking for some good 8×42 binoculars.
The field of view
Arguably, this should matter the most for bird watchers, since it determines how much of the scenery will be captured by the objective lens of the binoculars. Birds are fast moving critters, and they can quickly escape your sight if your focus is too close.
A binoculars field of view is expressed by either a number denoting the width that would fit inside the objective at 1000 yards or the angle of view that the piece allows for. There are two different measurements for the latter, the apparent angle of view, which assumes the angle you will be getting if placed at a distance from the target where it will appear as close to the naked eye as through the binoculars, and the actual angle of view, which is pretty self-explanatory.
The actual angle is calculated by dividing the apparent angle by the maximum magnification of the binoculars, in this case 8x. Magnification also plays a central part in determining the width of your field of view, with binoculars that offer small degrees of magnification but feature relatively big lenses displaying the widest picture.
Exit pupil and brightness
Another important factor to consider for all purposes is the exit pupil, which refers to the diameter or the light spot that hits the eye. This is determined by the objective’s size, divided by the magnification and should preferably be larger than the pupil is most of the time. Since we’re looking at 8×42, this will be a solid 5.25.
Since exit pupil also determines how bright the image will appear, even cheap 8×42 binoculars will handle fairly well in this regard. There is space for comparison between them if we consider glare, however, and how well suited the lens are to let the light through to the user’s eye, instead of reflecting it and making the image appear darker.
The quality of the glass used and special light absorbing coating are both factors in this, with some handling better than others. All good 8×42 binoculars are manufactured to optics equipment standards, but low dispersion or extra-low dispersion lenses can add a lot to the cost of a piece, so most manufacturers that aim for the mid-price bracket generally focus on providing an adequate coating.
Prism also plays a large role in image quality, but also in the field of view. The most common systems are the Porro, which allows for the widest viewing angle as well as good image clarity and BAK4, which offers the advantage of higher convenience, making for an overall lighter and more compact unit.
The Porro is also significantly cheaper, so don’t turn away from a pair of wide lens binoculars (this is how you identify it) assuming it won’t perform due to poor quality. You’ll be surprised at the value you’ll be getting for your buck!
Other factors to consider
Low weight will be surprisingly important if you plan on keeping the binoculars lifted to eye level for any considerable amount of time, as well as how well the piece will handle the elements.
To prevent lens fogging in cold environment, the casing should be hermetically sealed with O-rings and preferably contain high-pressure gas that will keep most atmospheric air out. There’s also waterproofing to consider if you plan on using the binoculars near a lake or river.
Top 8×42 binoculars reviews in 2019
If you still have trouble deciding among the 8×42 binoculars available for sale we offer you a small selection of the products we found to function the best for the price. They were all given good marks in 8×42 binoculars reviews and received high praise from satisfied customers.
Nikon Aculon 8245
With an impressive field of view of 420 feet, this Nikon model will let you see a lot of the scenery surrounding your objective, either a bird or game, allowing you to easily keep your eyes on it if it suddenly moves.
The Porro prism it uses also allows for slightly better clarity and color definition than a similarly priced model with a straight ocular. Customers praised the great contrast it offers down to relatively short ranges and found the color distortion surprisingly small for the price.
This means you’ll get sharp and faithful images of wildlife, at which you’ll be able to look comfortable thanks to the well-praised rubber eyecups and good rubber grip. The brightness is also reported to be good, thanks to the multiple layers of light absorbing coating that Nikon has used.
One slight disadvantage would be the weight since at 2.4 pounds is somewhat heavier than 4BAK roof models, but still significantly lighter than your average Porro.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($75.4)
Wingspan Optics SkyView Ultra HD
Officially named the SkyView Ultra HD, this 8×42 BAK4 (a.k.a roof prism) was specifically designed for bird watching, and it has the specs to prove it.
The lens and prism were shaped in such a way as to confer it an amazing field of view 393 feet, so you won’t have to drop your binoculars if the bird suddenly takes flight.
The HD multi layer coating will ensure for high color definition and a sharper image, which will stay sharp down to a surprisingly small distance of just 2 m (6.5 feet), so you can study the full details of a bird’s plumage up close.
Since it’s expected to be used in the outdoors, it has adequate fog proofing provided by high-pressure nitrogen and reinforced O-rings, and you wouldn’t need to worry carrying it along in a kayak since it’s also been waterproof.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($159.92)
Well, we need to clarify that the definition is only good for the price since this is a particularly affordable pair of 4BAK roof prism binoculars.
The system used keeps it light and fairly tough. You’ll have rubber covering, so you won’t have to worry too much about hitting it on tree branches or dropping it to the ground.
The field of view is decent but unremarkable, with 357 feet at 1000 yards and the same can be said about the minimum focus distance of around 13 feet.
However, customers appreciate their toughness and the practicality offered by the extra items it comes with — a neck strap, a holding box, lens covering and wipes. Although they are rated as water and fog proof, some customers found their particular pieces to fog, which might be due to unfortunate factory defects.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($59.39)
Nikon 16002 Prostaff 7L
Nikon is a too established name not to offer good quality, and this is what you’ll be getting from the Prostaff 7L, without having to pay the price of a small car for it.
It offers good image sharpness and contrast, which is common enough for Nikons as to be considered a trademark of the brand, while color gets only slightly distorted during low light conditions (again, cheaper than a car)
Thanks to the rooftop prism design it is remarkably lightweight for an 8×42 at only 1.43 lb, which will make it comfortable to hold in one hand without the need for a potentially bothersome neckstrap.
You shouldn’t be worried if dropping it in a puddle since this product is waterproof and also offers some fog resistance.
This isn’t perfect, however, with some customers reporting that it does fog up sometimes, but it’s not that big of an issue to warrant dropping a whole star off its rating.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($174)
Bushnell 199842 Legend M series
Despite being a mid-range model, this Bushnell model is bristling with features you’ll expect to find on more expensive models.
It has a magnesium chassis to cut down on the weight while keeping it tough, a high definition rain guard to make it all weather, and a dielectric coating to let as much light in as possible.
Thanks to this and the phase 3 prism coating it works significantly well in low light conditions and offers very sharp contrasts under a bright sun. Needless to say, this helps a lot when bird watching.
The weight is pretty good, at 1.59 lb, and this combined with the fact that it has an open bridge design to allow for better grip makes this item very portable, ideal for hiking or kayaking.
It’s hard finding anything wrong with the item, perhaps just the diopter knob being a little hard to twist, but this is already pretty pedantic.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($183.99)