Special Report:
What's New In Binoculars?

Photos © 2004 Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved

Although we cover new equipment announced at trade shows, binoculars are often overlooked because they're not used for photography. Still, most outdoor shooters do carry binoculars and they can be invaluable for scanning or scouting an area and for searching out potential subjects. Especially in bird and other wildlife photography, binoculars can increase your odds of a successful outing. Naturally, this accessory is useful for other types of photography, too: sports, boating, butterfly, travel, motor racing, astronomical, etc.

While researching for this article I found many new binoculars. One fact quickly became apparent while reviewing their specs and trying some of them out. Today's binoculars are generally superior to those made five or more years ago. Thanks to developments in optical glass and anti-reflective coatings, many of the latest models offer a brighter, sharper view and many convenient features. While it's impossible to survey all recent binoculars, let's take a look at recent trends in this field.

Reduced Size/Weight
Because of a trend toward binoculars with ultrahigh light gathering ability, many new models are quite large and heavy. That's fine for most uses, but for hiking and backpacking you'll probably want binoculars that weigh no more than 12 oz. Thankfully, several manufacturers have recently made a serious effort to design smaller/lighter models. Pentax, for example, recently released a small 7.42 oz model, the 10x21 UCF R with high-refraction BaK-4 glass prisms, fully multi-coated optical elements, and aspherical eyepiece lenses ($49).

Konica Minolta's latest Activa WP Sport binoculars, the 8x25, 10x25, and 12x25 models, are about 30 percent lighter (under 12 oz) than their similar predecessors. (All under $150.) In spite of their light weight, these waterproof binoculars incorporate high-refraction BaK-4 porro prisms and multi-coated optics to deliver bright, high-contrast images. Even lighter at 10.8 oz, Minolta's Activa D WP XL Pocket 8x25 and 10x25 fully multi-coated waterproof and fogproof models feature roof prisms with "Super Reflective" coating; their compact bodies can be folded, making them particularly portable (both under $130).