The Best 10x42 Binoculars: Value and Power
Because of the wide range of uses for binoculars, you'll find binoculars in a similar array of sizes and features. This great variety is wonderful in theory, as it's possible to find exactly the thing you're looking for. The problem, however, is that it can lead to a bit of analysis paralysis for the new user who doesn't always have the most specific idea of what they're looking for.
Given the sometimes overwhelming quantity of information out there, we decided to filter out some of the noise. With the following buying advice and list of some fantastic 10x42 binoculars, we hope to make the process of finding the right pair of 10x42 binoculars for you a little bit easier.
While they're certainly not the least expensive place to start, 10x42 binoculars are a great option for beginners and experienced binoculars enthusiasts because of their blend of features. 10x42 binoculars are versatile yet powerful enough to use for many purposes, and they're often less expensive than some of the other varieties available.
If You're In a Hurry and Just Want a Recommendation for the Best 10x42 Binoculars:
Our recommendation is the Vortex Optics Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars. Check out our Diamondback 10x42 review here.
Bottom Line: The Vortex Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars are a great combination of high-end features, comfortable usability, and power. They feature multi-layer prism coatings for excellent image brightness and clarity. They are sealed to prevent moisture, dust, and debris from entering the binoculars, so you can use them in a variety of environments. Good performance in low-light conditions make them even more versatile. To top it all off, they have an ergonomic feel in the hand that makes them a pleasure to use. All that, and they can be had for less money than you would expect.
Things to Consider When Buying A Pair of 10x42 Binoculars
This is a category that doesn't get talked about enough, but for a lot of people it's the deciding factor in their final decision to purchase one pair of binoculars or another. Choosing a less-effective pair of binoculars because it's less expensive can be frustrating and rob you of some of the joy of the activity you're buying the binoculars for. But it's almost as bad to buy a pair of binoculars that are outside your comfort zone or budget. Nobody likes to be reminded of how they paid too much for the tools to do the hobby activities they love.
With these budgetary factors in mind, the binoculars we've chosen stay it that couple- to few-hundred-dollar sweet spot that will give you some (or all) of the features you're looking for, but will also chase away that sick feeling that comes from buying an excessively-expensive pair of binoculars.
In the case of 10x42 binoculars, the price spread is broad. In some places you can get a pair of 10x42 binoculars for less than fifty dollars, whereas in other places you can find them for a few thousand dollars. What this means is that you'll be able to find the right price for the pair of binoculars you're looking for, provided you know what you're looking for.
Binocular sizes are designated in terms of two numbers-- in this case 10x and 42-- that indicate the magnification and objective lens diameter of the binoculars. Thus, 10x42 binoculars provide 10x magnification and have an objective lens (that is, the front lens of the binoculars) that measures 42mm in diameter.
For most situations, some level of magnification between 7x and 10x will do the trick. Of course, if you're just looking to get an up-close view of the stage at a small venue, you won't need more than about 3-5x. At your favorite stadium, 7x probably will get the job done.
More magnification is great, you might be thinking to yourself. Why wouldn't you want as much magnification as you can get? The answer is that with greater magnification comes greater weight. In fact, if you're sporting binoculars with magnification greater than 10x, you'll almost certainly need a tripod. The weight issue also applies to the size of objective lenses.
The larger the objective lens, the greater amount of light that passes through. All things being equal, more light means sharper, clearer images. However, keep in mind that the larger the objective lens, the heavier the binoculars will be.
This factor is largely a function of materials. If you're going to be tearing around the outdoors with your binoculars, you might want them to be made of a more sturdy material.
One popular material is aluminum, which is light and strong. It's also pretty light, fairly strong, and because of its easy workability it is also usually pretty inexpensive.
Keep in mind though, that if you choose go go with a material with greater durability, some of them can also be heavier, unless you're willing to shell out a lot more money.
If you plan on using your binoculars in environments where the elements will be an issue, you should consider finding a pair with weatherproofing. As with most extra features, though, you will pay more.
This is often overlooked when beginners go looking for binoculars, but it is of utmost importance.
Especially if you're going to be using your binoculars for long periods of time, make sure that you'll be able to use them comfortably.
Prism type affects more than just the visual images that are transmitted to your eye. They also often affect the overall size and shape of the binoculars.
What are Prisms?
Prisms are those optical elements in binoculars that correct the orientation of the image so that it looks natural. This correction occurs both horizontally and vertically. Without prisms, the images you see with your eyes would be both backward and upside down.
Types of Prisms
Binoculars come with two principal types of prisms: roof prisms and Porro prisms. Roof prisms have optical components that are in line with one another. This creates a profile that is more compact and streamlined.
Porro prisms, on the other hand, have offset optical elements that fold the path of the light. While this can make for greater depth of field and a wider field of view, it also tends to make the overall shape of the binoculars wider and shorter.
At this point, the most important thing to remember is that, all things being equal, Porro prism binoculars are usually more cost effective to manufacture than roof prisms. As a result of this, you can often find Porro prism binoculars at a higher quality and with larger objective sizes for the same price as lesser roof prism binoculars. Often, buying Porro will make your money go further, but this isn't without exception, as we'll see below.
For more elements that can change your experience with your binoculars, check out our main article on binoculars.
The Best 10x42 Binoculars
Here are our recommendations for the best 10x42 binoculars. We've chosen these because they offer a good mix of features, optical quality, and price.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binocular
The Bushnell Legend is a powerful, durable pair of binoculars with a lot of great features that make it one of our favorite pairs of binoculars. While the Legend Ultra HD doesn't come with a lot of external accessories, you can immediately tell from the user experience that Bushnell made the decision to put the value in the optics.
And that value is evident. The Legend's ED Prime glass provides excellent color dispersion, even when viewing at long range. Light transmission is great, so whether you're viewing in full sun or low light, you still get great image clarity. The focus range is impressive, allowing for focus on even relatively near objects, but without sacrificing clear images on objects a mile away. Glare and haze are taken care of by the multi-coated lenses. The lenses also come with a RainGuard coating to improve viewing in rainy or misty conditions, and the nitrogen-purged barrels keep it from fogging up in bad weather conditions.
For those who want to use the Legend HD in more rugged conditions, Bushnell has provided a full-body coating that protects against impacts.
The Legend HD doesn't come with a lot of accessories, but Bushnell did manage to include a tripod mount. Unfortunately, the mount can be a little bit obtrusive, but you can remove it when you're not using it.
The last thing to mention here is that these are one of the least expensive options on this list, which when coupled with the good optical quality and durability makes them a top option.
- Waterproofing: the Bushnell Legend Ultra binoculars are fully waterproofed and fogproofed.
- Comfort grips with rubber armoring for greater comfort and durability.
- Lenses coated with Ultra Wide Band multi-coat and RainGuard HD water-repellent.
- Extra-Low Dispersion glass for higher resolution and true-color images.
Nikon 7577 Monarch 5 10x42 Binocular
The Nikon Monarch 5 are a popular option because of their dielectric prism coatings and excellent image brightness.
The Nikon Monarch 5's optics do an effective job of increasing image clarity. While their field of view is about average for this size binocular, the Monarch 5 does a good job of maximizing the area within the field of view that can be viewed with optimal clarity. That means that more of your image is clear than you might expect.
Depending on what you're using the Monarch 5 for, the lenses did display some chromatic aberration, but not enough to be problematic under most conditions. The Monarch 5 also provides good low-light viewing ability, in part owing to its dielectric prism coatings.
Like other binoculars on this list, the Monarch 5 are both waterproof and fog-proof. While you won't want to take these underwater, they do a good job of keeping out water. The fog-proofing is a result of the use of nitrogen gas inside the binoculars, and is quite effective. We have observed some issues with external condensation collecting on the external surface of the lenses when moving quickly from one temperature extreme to another, but not more than one would expect.
One of the stand-out features on these binoculars is the comfort of use. The eyecups and eye relief work really well to make for a comfortable viewing experience, even when viewing over relatively long periods of time.
- Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Glass lenses for better image sharpness and brightness.
- Lighter build than previous iterations.
- Highly durable exterior and components for use in rugged conditions.
- Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings for extremely high resolution and effective light transmission.
Nikon 7541 Monarch 3 10x42 Binocular
Another in Nikon's line of binoculars descended from its fan-favorite Monarch ATB binoculars, the Monarch 3 offers many of the features found in the Monarch 5, but at an even lower price.
The Monarch 3 provides excellent optical quality, in a roof prism binocular. The Monarch 3 displays increased image clarity resulting from phase coated prisms. Despite that it is the least expensive of the Nikon's Monarch line of binoculars, the Monarch 3 has a good field of view with a good-sized sweet spot. The result of all this is that you can see more with clearer images than you would with other lower quality binoculars, and that those images are more consistently in focus for more of the field of view.
The Monarch 3 does show some chromatic aberration, but it's slight. Unless you're specifically looking for it, it seems unlikely that most would notice it. It has good performance in low light, probably in part to its fully multi-coated optics.
Overall the Monarch 3 is a good value in a full-size binocular with an attractive suite of features.
- Multi-click Turn and Slide eyecups for greater comfort, even if you're wearing glasses.
- Polycarbonate construction for greater durability.
- Silver Alloy Phase corrected prisms make for truer images with greater clarity.
Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5--Whats the Difference?
Both the Monarch 3 and the Monarch 5 provide excellent value at a reasonable price, but a lot of people have asked us what the difference really is between the Monarch 3 and the Monarch 5 (indeed several people have asked about Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 vs Monarch 7).
Part of the difference lies in the size and weight of the two models. The Monarch 5 actually manages to pack its features into a slightly smaller package and weighs a few ounces less than the Monarch 3. This is of course, a boon when you want to use them for long periods of time. It also makes travel just that much easier.
Focus is similarly fast, with both using about 1.25 revolutions of the focus wheel for infinity.
On of the main differences between the Monarch 3 and Monarch 5 is the reflective coating each uses on its prisms. Nikon opted for silver allow reflective coatings in the Monarch 3, which the Monarch 5 features a dielectric coating. The result, according to some users, is that the Monarch 3 actually has a somewhat lighter image, while the Monarch 5 does a better job of image resolution.
The Monarch 5 did a little bit better job at close focus, which could be an issue for bird watching enthusiasts. Depth of view was not noticeably different in the Monarch 3 vs Monarch 5 comparison.
There is a slight difference in angular field of view between the Monarch 3 and the Monarch 5, but there's very little chance you would ever notice. Within that field of view, however the size of the sweet spot does noticeably differ when we compare Monarch 3 vs. Monarch 5. Specifically, the Monarch 3 begins to noticeably blur about two thirds of the way out from the center of the field of view, whereas the Monarch 5 starts to noticeably blur about 86% of the radius from the center of its field of view. This is not an insignificant difference, and it's a factor to consider when you're buying.
Chromatic aberration is more prevalent in the Monarch 3, while the Monarch 5 seemed to do a better job of color rendering.
The two models exhibit similar performance when it comes to viewing in low light, but in strong light the Monarch 5 showed a clear advantage. The Monarch 3 has significantly more glare under those strong-light conditions, another factor to consider.
The final factor to consider is no small one: price. The Monarch 3 is a bit cheaper than the Monarch 5, but they can often be had within one-hundred dollars of each other.
Bottom line: You can see from all this that the differences between the Monarch 5 and the Monarch 3 aren't just cosmetic. The Monarch 5 is just a bit better at most things, and a good bit better in some others. There is very little that the Monarch 3 does better. The final call might be budget-related, but if you can scrape together those few extra dollars, the Monarch 5 really is a marginally better binocular in a number of ways.
Vortex Diamondback 10x42 Binocular
For more on the Vortex Diamondback 10x42, check out our full review here.
The Vortex Diamondback is another entry in our list with an impressive array of features in a comfortable full-size binocular at a good price.
The Diamondback's dielectric and multi-coated lenses provide for outstanding light transmission. What you get is sharp, high-contrast images, even in low-light conditions. Contrast and resolution are further enhanced by a phase-correction coating.
They're built to take just about anywhere, featuring O-ring seals and argon gas purged cylinders, which result in good dust and debris protection, as well as excellent moisture- and fog-proofing.
The Diamondback 10x42 binocs are also pleasant to use. They feature rubber armor coating that's pleasant to the touch. Their focus is quick and smooth, and the right-eye diopter adjustment stays where you set it, unlike in a lot of other binoculars where it can drift. Eye cups and 16mm eye relief contribute to an overall comfort that will allow you to use the Diamondback for long periods of time.
- 4.2 mm exit pupil and 15 mm eye relief for comfortable use.
- Dielectric multi-coated optics for superior light transmission in low light conditions.
- Phase correction coating for enhanced contrast and resolution.
- Lightweight magnesium chassis and sealed optics for excellent fogproofing and waterproofing.
Final Thoughts on the Best 10x42 Binoculars
People looking for a versatile pair of binoculars with enough power and features to get the job done in a number of environments will love our selections for the best 10x42 binoculars. Whatever you want to use them for, they pack a punch, but won't break your wallet.