OK, defining the best of anything is a challenge and there will be no shortage of opinion regardless of the selection. In this case, “Best” is defined as my personal choice of high quality, European binoculars, at an affordable price. How about a pair of Zeiss binoculars with SCHOTT Extra-Low Dispersion glass for around $400? I first saw these at SHOT Show in 2013 and just had to have a pair of the 10X42mm model for hunting and wildlife observation.
The Zeiss Terra ED 10x42mm binoculars are nitrogen filled, fog proof, waterproof, with the Zeiss MC lens coating. They only weigh 24.3 ounces and have a generous 330′ FOV at 1,000 yards. Compact and lightweight, they easily slip into my hunting backpack.
Clarity is very good even 30 minutes after sunset. Is visibility at twilight as awesome as a $2,500 pair of 54mm binoculars? Of course not but I believe most outdoorsmen will be more than satisfied with the Terra ED performance. If you can afford the higher end glass go for it but for the majority of us the Terra ED is a great choice.
I am not an optical engineer. My opinion on scopes and binoculars is just that – my opinion based on personal experience in real world conditions. I have a theory that if a product is too bulky and too heavy to reliably take with me every time then it fails. The Zeiss Terra ED is a perfect blend of price and performance.
So how does Zeiss cut the cost down to $400? For starters, the housing is glass fiber reinforced plastic rather than the armor coated metal housing found on the more expensive binoculars. The glass coating on the Terra ED is very good but the coating on the Victory and Conquest is superior. And while the Terra ED is engineered and designed by Zeiss it is manufactured in China (so it says right on the box label). Is that a killer for you? Or does Zeiss quality at a bargain price rule?