2016 Optics Review: Best Bang for the Buck

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Whether you spot-and-stalk elk in the high country or pursue big bucks in the woodlands, we’ve found something that will help you do both without breaking the bank.

by the HuntDaily staff

When I’m traipsing through the Rocky Mountains in search of elk or mule deer, or sitting in my pop-up blind, bowhunting for eastern whitetails, I have a pair of binos strapped across my chest. In fact, I would rather hunt in pink long johns than be in the field without quality optics. I once interviewed a bowhunter from West Virginia who had taken a phenomenal Pope & Young whitetail by stalking—no easy feat in the southern part of that state. When I asked him how he did it, he said “very carefully,” and that he relied on his binoculars to give him an advantage even in those thick woods.

The problem we all have is finding a pair of binos that meet our sometimes incompatible list of requirements: we want them to be as small as possible, but powerful enough and with a wide enough field of view to glass mountainsides and prairies; we want them to be lightweight, but built like a tank in order to stand up to the rigors of hunting; and we want quality glass that provides exceptional clarity and low-light transmission, but don’t want to shuck out two grand for the privilege.

Yes, we want our cake and we want to eat it, too.

Recently, we came across a pair of binoculars that comes mighty close to letting us do just that. They are the new-for-2016 Diamondbacks by Vortex Optics.

Vortex 6

If you’re acquainted with long-range hunting and tactical rifle scopes, you’re probably already familiar with the Vortex brand. The company specializes in bringing together all the features and benefits of high-end sporting optics and delivering them at a cost that fits the workingman’s budget.

The Diamondback is a familiar member of the Vortex optics family, but this year, the company redesigned this compact binocular to further enhance its price-vs-performance ratio.

Several features of the Diamondback stand out as soon as you put them in your hands. Right away, you appreciate the light weight. We acquired the 10×42 model (sizes range from 8×28 to 12×50), and its featherweight 21.4 ounces immediately gave us the grins.

Vortex 3

The next thing we noticed was the Diamondback’s comfortable grip. Several factors play heavily here. First are the slim and slightly tapered barrels and the thumb detents underneath. The detents provide a comfortable, positive grip on the barrels, whether you hold them barehanded or are wearing gloves. That’s a big advantage when you’re stalking and need to use one hand to operate the binos and one to hold your weapon.

The third standout feature is the rubber armor barrel coating. We’ve used a lot of binos over the years that had various coatings, from hard and slick water transfer camo to sticky and gummy rubber. The Diamondback coating falls right in the comfortable middle. It has a matte-like texture that, combined with its firm rubber construction, gives an excellent grip no matter if your hands are sweaty or wrapped in gloves, yet it’s not so sticky that debris and grime cling to it as they do with so many rubber bino coatings. Furthermore, the Diamondback has a moderately aggressive checkering pattern integrated into the sides of the barrels to enhance your grip. Again, this is great for one-handed use when wearing gloves because it helps keep the barrels from rotating in your hands.

Vortex 8

As for ergonomics, everything works as it should. The barrels connect with a short-hinge bridge that helps keep the binos compact and quick to adjust to your eyes. The focus dial is positioned for index finger adjustment. The dial rotates smoothly, and its pronounced ribbing makes it easy to adjust when wearing gloves. The diopter ring is similarly ribbed and easy to adjust. It does not have a lock function, so you may have to make occasional refinements during a hard day of glassing. As you would expect, the Diamondback has conventional multi-position twist-up eyecups so you can customize the eye relief.

Vortex 4

A couple of particularly welcome features for hunters include the unitized ocular lens cover (which you can secure to the strap to prevent losing it) and the independent objective lens covers. The objective lens covers secure to the ends of the barrels and simply drop out of the way. This means you can always keep your lenses protected, yet quickly remove the covers without worrying about losing them.

So much for the ergonomics. As for the view from behind the lenses, we were impressed. We’ll not say that the Diamondback provides the same kind of definition and chromatic performance you might find in $2,000 glass, but neither is this $200 glass quality. All air-to-glass surfaces come fully multi-coated to reduce glare and reflection while the prisms feature multi-layer dielectric coating for enhanced sharpness and color acuity. We were fortunate enough to test the Diamondback during clear, sunny days and days when the atmosphere was thick with humidity and scattered UV light. In both conditions, we were impressed with the Diamondback’s optical performance, including its sharpness, color definition, low-light transmission, and edge-to-edge acuity. The 10×42 Diamondback’s field of view is a healthy 330 feet at 1,000 yards, giving you plenty of visibility for comfortable, long-range glassing.

Vortex 7

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the all-new Diamondback in 10×42 is $279, which is, to us, a bargain considering the unit’s well-thought-out functionality, construction, and performance. In the real world of retail, we’ve found this same model priced as low as $229.  On top of the excellent price/performance mix, the Diamondback is covered by the Vortex VIP Warranty, which means these binos will be repaired or replaced at no charge if they become damaged or are defective. It is for these reasons that we give the Vortex Diamondback our “2016 Bang for the Buck” award for lightweight, high-performance hunting binoculars.



Vortex Optics


article copyright © 2016 HuntDaily.com; promoted by Vortex Optics

  1. Clayson Neaman

    These are Awesome glass!! I’m very happy with them. Used them on my camping adventure . Can’t wait to use them for bow hunting soon..

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