A Top Binocular at a Low Price

Posted by Kimball Corson   12/01/2006 08:00AM

It is long overdue for someone to review this binocular. In a word, it is first rate. At the price, it is a steal. It should not be kept secret any longer. I have owned much quality optics -- top camera lenses (Zeiss, Leica), top binoculars (the closest to these, a Swarovski 15x56), top telescopes and top telescope eyepieces --and by comparison the Brunton 15x51 is truly excellent because a) it is hand-holdable, b) is very sharp, c) has high contrast, d) is very bright, e) is relatively light weight and d) is optically and mechanically very solid -- all for $500, which is a steal. The eyepiece heights are click-stop adjustable to balance eye relief and field of view (which is good in light of the power). It is hard to say clearly whether the binocular is very sharp from center to edge because, set up as I use them for maximum field of view with one click up on the eyepieces, blackout is encountered if one attempts to look over to the very edge from the center, but not if one doesn't and looks more or less ahead. However, peripheral vision to the very edge discloses apparent edge sharpness is excellent. This is the price of widening the field of view to the greatest extent practicable. The blackout is not a material issue because anything one concentrates on viewing is moved toward the center of view anyway.

The prisms are phase coated and the optics are fully multicoated, with excellent current technology. The Brunton is nitrogen filled, waterproof, light weight, and has a pleasant and comfortable non-slip outer covering. The right eyepiece is adjustable without click stops to get both oculars focused for your eyes but doesn't move from the position set.

This binocular is in the league of the comparable Zeiss and Swarovski, but at almost a third to a half of the price and with much greater hand-holdability than either of those and has a life time warranty also. It is more color neutral and as bright as the Swarovski and more similar to the Zeiss, but lacks a bit of the super relaxed quality of the Zeiss and at times, the Swarovski, but not by much. You have to fuss with the Brunton more initially to get a similar degree of setup and such quality, until you get used to it. Then it is a snap. This binocular is much more hand-holdable and ergonomic than the Zeiss or Swarovski and much lighter too, but still not a feather-weight either, weighing in about 36 oz, as my best guess (I have no scales where I am). The Brunton has a feel of good quality, with no cheesy or loose aspects, except the Brunton name/logo on the side (cheesy). I do not like, also, the socks covers, but others might. I think they are too tight, awkward and not protective enough. The strap is excellent, aside from having the name of the manufacturer on it -- a general, pet peeve of mine.

Buy the Brunton 15x51. You'll like it and be shocked at its quality. Once you get comfortable hand-holding higher powered binoculars, it is almost impossible to go back to lesser powered binoculars for long. 7x50s now seem quaint to me now. My Nikon Venturer 8x32 XL sits on a shelf, as do most of my other binoculars, and I have about 10 pair currently --- just on my sailboat! (along with a quality 8" collapsible reflector, a good 3" refractor and enough quality eyepieces to sink a ship -- as the expression goes)

I love this binocular for birding, marine use and even at spectator events, including baseball, ballet and opera. Braced, with elbows on a seat's arm rests, I can hand-hold this binocular for the full duration of the event and often do, to see more. Its color quality is very neutral and its brightness, very pleasing, qualities of better, current optics, generally.

Modern, computer-designed optics with quality, current lens coatings and sometimes prism phase coatings, at all of the various price points, are much better than 10 years ago and the range in quality across those price points is substantially narrowing over time. Granddad's WWII field binocular, with its beat-up leather case, just doesn't cut it anymore.

Click here for more about this subject. -Ed.