In wildlife spotting journeys, a qualified binocular is like a companion to me. For beginners, it might be challenging to comprehend why certain binoculars are so expensive and others are very inexpensive because despite how much they cost, most binoculars appear to be relatively the same to the typical person. In this article, I will explain why are binoculars so expensive and the differences between a $2800 binocular and a $200 one.
Why are binoculars so expensive? Does a higher price mean better quality?
Binoculars can serve many different needs and demands. If you buy binoculars for special needs and professional tasks, a costly binocular is recommended. However, if you just buy binoculars for normal activities such as birdwatching and daylight hunting, you should choose suitable-cost types. Better quality is the most important explanation for why binoculars are so expensive.
Before making a purchase, potential customers are always advised by industry experts to compare binoculars from different manufacturers because some companies may provide greater features in the same price range than others. The objective size, magnification, field of view, eye relief, focusing mechanism, waterproofing method, eyecup design, and build quality are the features to take into account while purchasing a pair of binoculars. Magnification and objective size are the fundamental factors, and all binoculars have these listed in their model description for easy identification.
As I have researched, the binoculars category is segmented into three groups according to price. Premium standard-sized binoculars range in price from $1,000 to $3,000. The best materials, optics, and important features go into making the priciest types of binoculars. These binoculars are typically sold by renowned sport optics companies like Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski, Steiner, Nikon, and others. They frequently have cutting-edge features like low-density fluoride-induced glass, laser rangefinders, multi-coated lenses, open-bridge designs, rubber armor, precise focusing, and long eye relief.
Mid-range binoculars are those that cost between $500 and $1000. These are the most popular binoculars because they strike a balance between price and quality. This price category is offered by all high-end optics makers, and the majority of them imitate their premium competitors’ premium counterparts in the material and optics categories.
Lastly, entry-level binoculars cost between $100 and $500. Before deciding to purchase a high-end pair, customers can try out these binoculars to get a taste of the world of usable optics. Full-sized, compact, and pocket-sized binoculars that offer basic viewing capabilities and average-grade construction and optics materials typically fall into this segment.
Factors contributing to the high cost
Since the first time I bought binoculars, this category has seen a dramatic increase in types and options. Here are four main components behind the reasons why some binoculars are so expensive.
Undoubtedly, in this Internet-driven world, brand value is added to the cost of almost every product. Well-known brands have different propositions and target different segments.
In the premium range, we can name some famous products such as Swarovski NL Pure, Zeiss Victory SF, Leica Noctivid, Swarovski EL, Steiner Nighthunter, Leica Ultravid, Zeiss Victory HT, Nikon EDG, Steiner Commander, and Vortex Razor HD. Almost all of these binoculars are produced in-house by manufacturers throughout Europe.
In the mid-range models, Zeiss Conquest, Leica Trinovid, Swarovski SLC, Steiner Ranger Xtreme, Kahles Helia, and Vortex Razor are examples of notable binoculars.
In the $100-$300 range, Swarovski CL, Steiner Observer, Vortex Viper HD, Noblex Vector, and Meopta Optika HD are a few examples of affordable binoculars. Most of these binoculars are produced in China and Japan.
Manufacturing process/Quality control
Quality control is also an important attribute of high-quality binoculars. Every facility needs a largely consistent manufacturing procedure to create glass lenses, thus any differences in quality must be accounted for in a different step of the process. Quality control has a strong connection with well-known brands because they can invest in the production line and ensure the highest product quality.
Binoculars’ quality of construction and resilience are significantly influenced by the materials used. The strongest materials available cannot, however, be used for simple manufacture. They are quite expensive and heavy, which would drive up the price of binoculars. Experts have developed a list of materials that strike a balance between strength and weight for this use.
First of all, is Magnesium alloy – the commonly used material for optics housing. They are renowned for their high toughness and little atomic weight, which make them the perfect material for rifle scopes and binoculars. Therefore, the most expensive binoculars are often equipped with magnesium housing.
Secondly, the key component to improving the optical performance of binoculars is to opt for high-quality glass material: BAK4 or BK7. The ability of glass to effectively transmit light from the objective lenses to the eyepiece lenses is crucial. Cheap glass may be used in inexpensive binoculars, but well-known optics producers like Leica, Zeiss, and Swarovski employ German-made fluoride-induced glass for the creation of lenses and prisms.
You can find out more about the differences between BAK4 and BK7 and the impact on image quality
Thirdly, we need to take lens coating into account. All contemporary binoculars have some types of optical coating on both the surfaces of the lenses and some surfaces of the prisms to reduce the loss of light caused by reflection and scattering, as well as provide clear high-contrast images. Especially for low-light viewing, a good coating can minimize issues with loss of light down to 4% (96% light transmission rate) from far higher values. This holds for all surfaces of lenses and prisms, thus the performance improvement that results is audible. The resolution, CA, and all other optical characteristics are likewise impacted by lens coatings. There are two types of coatings for binoculars: single-coating and multi-coating.
Last but not least, there are two main categories you’re going to need to decide between the Porro prism and the Roof prism. Porro Prisms work by quickly horizontally passing the light that was recorded by your objective lens through a pair of prisms. To convey a magnified and orientation-corrected image of your target through the ocular lenses, the movement between prisms works as an amplifier and inverter. The “newer” Roof prisms take advantage of intricate and convoluted machined paths that reflect the light from the objective to ocular lenses. Roof prisms also enable binoculars to be smaller and lighter
Expensive binoculars often have a better warranty policy, which expresses the brand’s commitment and increases customers’ satisfaction. Some brands having good warranty policies are Bushnell, and Vortex, to name but a few because they have warranty systems all around the world. The warranty time can range from 2 years after the date of purchase to an unlimited lifetime, depending on the types of binoculars and brands’ regulations. In the event of a defect under this warranty, the product can be repaired or replaced without charge.
In conclusion, brand name, quality control, materials, and warranty policy are the main factors to differentiate types of binoculars, explaining why are binoculars so expensive. However, whether binoculars are expensive or cheap, the important thing is that you should choose the type suitable for your needs and budget. My best advice for beginners is to consider your demands and be a smart customer.