Good Low Light Binoculars


Well-Known Member
Sep 21, 2003
East Tennessee
I'm trying to figure out which route to go with a new pair of binoculars. I need a pair that will provide the brightest picture at dusk and dawn. I will be hunting from a blind and glassing an area that will offer shots to approx. 800 yards. Size of binos doesn't matter. I'm hoping that I can learn from many of you here.

I've heard good things about Leupold, Nikon, Pentax & Steiner. A friend also tells me that the binos from Sightron and Leatherwood are great. What do you think?

I want a good pair that will last for many years to come, so I expect them to be a little pricey. But, if a less expensive pair is equal or better than a more expensive model, well that's even better.

What do you think?

Take care,

In my opinion, if you want to cover the full 800, you should get the very best binocs (50-56mm objectives)or a pretty good spotting scope if hunting from a blind. I presume you would like to count points, etc before firing.

Normal binocs at that distance will likely define a cow from an antelope. Decide and state the actual definition you want and I will try another stab!
RT, the exit pupil of binoculars will have a significant affect on their usefulness in low light situations. You calculate the EP by dividing the magnification into the objective lens diameter. Keep in mind that the human eye has a maximum ability (in general, for a youthful person in good health) to dilate to about 7mm. That equates to an 8x56 binocular.

NOTE: The big objective glasses are significantly heavier than their smaller cousins. Example, the superb Swarovski SLC in 8x56 weighs just a tad under 3 pounds. My neck hurts just thinking about it, but your mileage may vary.

IMHO, the best value, bar none, in very high quality binoculars right now, is the Pentax DCF WP and new DCF SP series. According to the website link below, the best at any price is the Nikon Venturer LX stuff. But there are several excellent choices, and you might have a look to see what matches your needs:

Good luck, whichever you pick, and eat your carrots.
Just picked up a pair of Steiner 12X56 Nighthunters. Very pleased. I can look into the night shadows easily @ 1K after sunset and a full moonlit night is almost like daylight. If you're glassing 800yds you need power and for my location 10X and up is a necessity.
A few years ago I asked a very good authority on optics a similar question. He told me to buy 8x56 Zeiss Night Owls, even tho he was a consultant for two other competitive companies.
I am fortunate to use a wide variety of topend binocs on a continuous basis - would not trade the Night Owls for poor light conditions.
Just my opinion, but if you want the very best Swarovski EL series are top notch but 1500 bucks. If you want to spend around 1/2 that the normal Swarovskies or Zeiss will work very well. I use a pair of 10x50 Alpen "Apex" That for the moeney (350-425) are outstanding. I have yet to tell the difference in any condition between my buddies Zeiss classic or another buddies Swarovskies. The only thing about the German optics is I think they might be constructed a little better. The glass is VERY good. This summer I spotted the ram I got at over 2 air miles and could discern that he was in fact a ram, which led to my imeadiate pursuit and harvesting him. The best part is that their 1/2 the cost of the German optics and also have a lifetime warrenty. These binos have undergone very rough sheep hunts and caribou and moose hunts and have performed flawlessly.
I have used a pair for the past 3 years .. I havn't found any other air in its price range that can compare!

Steiner Nighhunter.. any model! get them and don't look back..

I have the 12X56.. and the nice thing about them is once you have them adjusted to your eyes they are always in focus from 10' ti infinity! They are also rubber armor coated!

They arn't high priced like the others but still have the renouned European optical qualities!
Thanks for the replys. I have been leaning toward either 10X or 12X. The larger objective, the better. Since this is for an enclosed blind, the extra size won't be an issue and I can carry them in my pack.

Now to check prices and see which ones I can find locally to see which I prefer.

Thanks for all of your help,

I have the Swarovski 7x42 and really enjoy them but if I were to get another pare I think it would be the Zeiss 8x56 Night Owls. The Swarovski 8.5x42EL glass in exellent also
Crow Mag
RT, the smaller exit pupil you'll get in a 12x56 bino may be a detriment to your stated goal of maximum low light performance.

Higher magnification means smaller field of view, more perceived wobble (although maybe you'll have them on a tripod), and dimmer image (unless you get a correspondingly huge objective lens).

If it were me, I'd trade the higher mag for the bigger objective, i.e. an 8x56. You'll see more with the brighter image than you will with the higher magnification.
Do any of you have experience with the B & L model 28-4210? I looked at a pair today and they are really clear. They also seemed to have a good price. Apparently this model has been replaced by a newer model so these are on closeout for $99.

I compared them to Pentax Lightseekers, Yukon, Nikon and Loopy Wind River. The Bausch & Lomb were every bit as clear and crisp as the others. The only drawback is the 42 obj. I don't know if they will transmit the amount of light I'm looking for.
RT, I don't know how much performance or durability you can reasonably expect out of a hundred buck bino, but maybe it's good enough for you.

Exit pupil will be 4.2mm, which is far less than ideal for maximum light transmission (7mm being the goal per earlier post).

The only B&L product I'd consider, based on your original post, is their 'Elite' series, which is a lot more money, but you get what you pay for. The price of the gear is incidental when you factor in all the time and trouble involved in hunting or any kind of serious shooting endeavor. To borrow a phrase from B.A.T. Machine (who make top quality rifle actions): buy the best and cry once.

If you're going to lower the bar to $100 optics, then there's about a gazillion (mediocre) choices. No offense, just the way it is. And just about any bino seems pretty dang clear in the store. The real comparison would be at dawn/dusk, looking out over a potentially 800y shooting area, in what could be very nasty weather, maybe dropping them out of a stand on occasion, vs. checking out the cashier babe standing 25 yards away under fluorescent light.

[ 12-12-2003: Message edited by: Nate Haler ]

You're right, there are tons of choices in the lower price range and you definetly get what you pay for! I just haven't found a way to do a real comparrison before buying.

That's why I am really appreciative of everyone's input. Most of the stores in my area don't carry any High End Binos, so I'm trying to make the best choice before on what to buy. The B&L's were a thought for a gift to a friend. His idea of expensive optics include the Simmons Aetec and the Leupold Rifleman!

He nearly $h!t his pants when he saw the Loopy 8.5x25 LR that I recently bought. My scope is worth more than his rifle/scope/hardcase combo!

Thanks again for the input.

Take care,

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