It can be daunting looking for a pair of binoculars. There are just so many brands, models, and magnifications out there that it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Well, in this review of the best Leupold binoculars on the market, I’ll talk you through the current models this company has on offer. Leupold has been making optics since the 1960s but expanded heavily into this market after purchasing Redfield Optics in 2008.
Since then, they’ve become well-known for quality range finders, red dots, scopes, and, of course, binoculars. So, let’s compare their different lines of binos to see which are the best option for different uses, and which gives you the best bang for your buck.
Top 6 Best Leupold Binoculars in 2023
1 BX-1 Rogue – Best Budget Range Leupold Binoculars
Sizes: 8 x 25 & 10 x 25
Let’s start with the most affordable Leupold binoculars and work our way up in price. This line has two sizes available, but we’ll focus on the 10×25 size. To make things fairer, we’ll compare the 10x versions of each line.
The 10×25 Rogues can be had for under $100, making them the most affordable range of long eyes Leupold has on offer.
Leupold’s BX-1 optical system
This includes fully multi-coated lenses and BaK4 (barium-potassium) prisms. In this case, they use Porro prisms which make for a wider binocular. But also a clearer, brighter image than roof prisms. Therefore, the image in these binos is clear and fairly sharp. Although, the small eyepieces can cause vignetting (you can see a dark frame around the outside of the image).
As with all the binoculars that I had the pleasure of reviewing, these have 10x magnification. This is about as powerful as you can hand-hold, though it’s still better to brace on something to keep them steady.
The linear field of view (FOV) here is 294 feet at a distance of 1000 yards, which is reasonable for 10x binos. However, the exit pupil, a measure of the amount of light coming out of them, is only 2.5mm.
This is smaller than the human eye pupil on a regular day (4mm), and that means these are not very bright binoculars. It is not an issue if you’re going to use them for daytime spotting, but in low-light situations, they won’t cut the mustard.
With 15mm of eye relief, you can comfortably use them with your glasses on. I feel like the twist-up eyecups are too loose here. So, I would worry about them staying on well in the future. Close focus is just 14.1 feet, so you can grab these binos and get a quick look at the macro world or birds that are nearby.
They are very well built. Made in the Philippines, these binoculars have an aluminum body covered in durable and easy-to-grip rubber armor. They’re waterproof and fog-proof, so they can be used in all weather conditions.
You just may have to be careful as the lenses don’t have the most durable coating on them. At just 12.7 ounces (360g), these are light enough to be carried anywhere and taken care of easily. In turn, they are some of the best lightweight Leupold binoculars on the market.
- Clear and sharp image.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- Lens coating is not very durable.
- Not very bright.
- Eyecups could come off easily.
2 BX-1 McKenzie HD – Most Durable Leupold Binoculars
Sizes: 8 x 42, 10 x 42, 10 x 50, and 12 x 50
Next up are the McKenzie HD binoculars, and I specifically reviewed the 10×42 version for a clearer comparison. This model also uses Leupold’s BX-1 optical package, although as an HD model, it has a couple of upgrades. Of course, that helps to boost the price a bit, to about $150.
While the optics are nearly the same here, the McKenzie HD is enhanced by using high-definition calcium-fluoride glass for a crisper, sharper image. The image is also free of chromatic aberration, in case you’re trying to identify birds, flags, or other markings at a distance.
A wider view
The other big improvement here over the Rogues is the size of the objective lenses. It’s a big jump from the Rogue’s 25mm to the McKenzie’s 42mm, and this makes a big difference.
First, the field of view is enhanced, at least slightly, to 304 feet at 1000 yards. But, more importantly, the exit pupil here is 4.2mm. That means these are much brighter binoculars. They might not be your best bet in low light, but they’re some of the best daytime Leupold binoculars you can buy.
Specs and extras
At 5.6” long and 22 ounces (623g) in weight, these are bigger, heavier binos than the Rogues. Despite the weight, they’re still pretty streamlined thanks to the use of roof prisms instead of Porro prisms. However, they’re not too heavy to carry around comfortably.
Furthermore, you get a padded case and shoulder strap to help take care of them. You also get lens covers to keep the lenses safe. These lenses have a better scratch-resistant coating to help protect them, too.
Other protection includes a durable aluminum body covered in rubber armor, waterproofing, and fog-proofing. The McKenzie also includes a threaded hole for a tripod adapter to help you keep them steady when spotting. Just remove the “L” branded cap and attach an adapter (sold separately).
- Clearer, brighter image for a slightly higher price.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- Tripod-adapter ready.
- A bit heavy.
- Lenses can get scratched.
3 BX-2 Alpine HD – Best Value for Money Leupold Binoculars
Sizes: 8 x 42, 10 x 42, 10 x 52, and 12 x 52
Now we move up to the BX-2 optical system with the Alpine HD binoculars. The price also moves up a fair bit to around $250.
Let’s see what they’re all about…
While slightly shorter than the McKenzies at 5.5”, the Alpines are heavier binoculars at 28 ounces (794g). This makes them the heaviest Leupold binoculars on this list.
Therefore, a bit more effort is needed both to carry them around and hold them up steadily. The bodies are still rubber-armored aluminum, and the same waterproofing and fog-proofing are included.
So what’s different?
With the Alpines, you get added shock-proofing not found on the previous two models. This allows them to take more abuse out in the field. Although, I still wouldn’t recommend throwing them down the stairs.
You also get a big enhancement in the field of view with these 10×42 binos. The FOV at 1000 yards is an impressive 342 feet. Meaning these are the best field of view Leupold binoculars at 10x magnification.
Why are they heavier?
It must be the quality of the glass in both the fully-multicoated lenses and the roof prisms. You can see a real difference in image clarity here. As a result, these are far more comfortable to peer through for extended periods than the BX-1 models.
These binos come with a harness and lens covers to help you transport them safely and conveniently. The lenses are also coated with scratch and smudge-resistant coatings for added protection.
The eyecups here twist up to give you a snug fit. They do feel a bit lose, however, and sometimes slip when too much pressure is applied. That said, these are easily some of the best Leupold binoculars on the market.
- Enhanced image clarity.
- Scratch-resistant lenses.
- Shock-proofing added.
- Widest field of view.
- Eyecups can slip out of place.
4 BX-4 Pro Guide HD – Best Contrast Leupold Binoculars
Sizes: 8 x 32, 10 x 32, 8 x 42, 10 x 42, 10 x 50, and 12 x 50
The next pair of binos I reviewed was the BX-4 Pro Guide HD 10×42 model. These are more than double the price of the BX-2 Alpines, so we’re going to look at what else is being provided here. By the way, what happened to the BX-3 line?
I have no idea, but the BX-4 Pro Guides are another big step up in image quality. This is because they feature extra-high quality HD glass.
Quality you can see
There is less dispersion here, helping to create a more focused and extremely sharp image. Hence the “HD” name. Otherwise, the lenses here are fully multi-coated and scratch-resistant. You can see the quality of the image and also perceive much better contrast. These BX-4 binos use Leupold’s Twilight Max HD optics for superior contrast in lower-light situations.
So, while the exit pupil on the Pro Guides is still 4.2mm, the same as the Alpines, bright areas still seem brighter. In other words, they are some of the best low light Leupold binoculars available.
These binos have a 5.6” long roof prism design. They weigh a somewhat heavy 24 ounces (680g). Their FOV at 1000 yards is 326 feet. And they have a close focus distance of just 7.5 feet. Making them some of the best bug-watching Leupold binoculars around and superb for other close-up activities.
Are they worth the extra cost? You will have to decide.
- Great close focus distance.
- Superior clarity and sharpness.
- Fantastic contrast.
- Kind of heavy.
5 BX-T HD – Best Tactical Leupold Binoculars
Size: 10 x 42
If you add another roughly $100 to the price, you could pick up the BX-T HD tactical binoculars instead. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these binoculars are just the BX-4 Pro Guide HDs dressed up in a different outfit. After all, the stats are basically the same.
You’ve got the same length (5.6”), the same weight (24 ounces), the same FOV (326 feet), the same exit pupil (4.2mm), the same eye relief (16mm), and the same 7.5-foot close focus. OK, that’s exactly the same!
But, there are a few slight differences…
The first is in the skin. While the Pro Guides come in grey or camouflage, they still have some shiny features like gold brand labels and purple-coated lenses. For tactical use, you need muted colors that don’t shine or give away your position, and that’s what the BX-Ts have.
The other big difference here is that the BX-Ts include a MIL-L reticle. This is a built-in measuring device that gives mil and 0.5 mil hash marks for range measurement.
With a range finder, you can easily calculate the distance of targets. This reticle also rotates when you turn the left eye cup so that you can measure horizontal or vertical lengths.
Ready for the outdoors
This model is still waterproof down to 33 feet, fog-proof from 160 above down to 40 below zero Fahrenheit. And, it still enjoys the Leupold lifetime guarantee found on all other models. It’s just a little more tactically designed for quite a few more dollars.
- Great clarity, sharpness, and high contrast.
- Includes a MIL-L reticle.
- Tactical muted skin.
- Kind of heavy.
6 BX-5 Santiam – Best Premium Quality Leupold Binoculars
Sizes: 8 x 42, 10 x 42, 10 x 50, 12 x 50, and 15 x 56
With only one pair of binoculars to go, we’ve arrived at Leupold’s top-of-the-line flagship model. The BX-5 Santiam binoculars cost a whopping $1000, but perfection comes at a price, right?
So, let’s see if perfection is what we’ve got here…
The 10×42 version of the Santiam is 5.9” long and weighs 24.3 ounces (689g), so they’re no shrinking violets. This is the biggest pair of Leupolds binoculars we’ve seen so far, but only by a fraction of an inch. And, while they’re a bit heavy, they’re in no way unmanageable.
Like the BX-4 Pro Guides and the BX-Ts, the Santiam feature Leupold’s Twilight Max HD enhancements. However, this time, they’re on top of the BX-5 professional-grade optical system. You get HD glass, phase-coated roof prisms, and fully multi-coated lenses.
Here, those lenses include Leupold’s proprietary Diamond 2 coating for enhanced brightness and transmissibility, plus advanced scratch resistance. This is topped off with their Guard-Ion outer coating, which sheds dirt and water to help you keep the cleanest, clearest lenses possible.
Quality beyond compare
This is the best optical system Leupold offers, and it’s the best for extended glassing without causing eye fatigue. These have the best anti-glare coating of all the models here and provide the best contrast. Therefore, they are the clearest image quality Leupold binoculars you can buy.
However, the exit pupil is still 4.2mm, which makes them just as bright as the previous four models. You have a slightly reduced FOV here, though, of just 302 feet at 1000 yards.
A superb choice for any conditions…
Of course, these binos are waterproof and fog-proof, so they can be used in all weather conditions. They have a tripod adapter port and also come with a shoulder strap, case, and lens covers to help keep them safe.
And, they have a lifetime guarantee to keep you protected for as long as you need. Pretty close to perfection, I’d say.
- The best clarity, contrast, and sharpness.
- Durable scratch-resistant lenses.
- Water and dirt-shedding outer lens coating.
- A bit heavy.
How to Buy the Best Leupold Binoculars
Choosing the right binoculars for your needs isn’t easy. I’ve compared the different models that Leupold has to offer, but some of the terms I used might need some explaining. So, here are the main features and specs to consider before you buy.
While I focused on 10×42 binos here (except for the 10×25 Rogues), most of these models come in different sizes. And by size, I mean the magnification power and objective lens diameter.
Listed as 8x, 10x, 12x, etc. If you intend to hand-hold your binoculars, 10x is about as powerful as you should go. Even then, you might need to brace or at least learn a solid grip.
Magnifications such as 8x or 10x are great for watching birds, animals, and sports. More power like 12x or even 15x may be better for very long-range spotting or even backyard astronomy.
Objective lens diameter…
The width of the outside lenses that point to what you’re looking at. This is always measured in millimeters (mm), so you’ll have to get used to that. All you need to know, though, is that a 10×25 pair of binos has 25mm lenses, and a 10×42 pair has 42mm lenses, which are, of course, bigger.
What do bigger objective lenses do?
They let in more light and also give you a wider field of view. Also, they make your binos heavier and cost more. So, if you’re going to be using your binoculars in low light conditions, and/or you will use them for wide field of view applications like watching sports, you will want to choose bigger lenses.
Image quality is probably the most important feature of binoculars, but it’s also the most controversial. Until you try a top-quality pair, you’ll probably think low-end binoculars are fine.
However, a sharper, clearer, higher contrast, and brighter image helps you spot targets better when you’re glassing. It will also let you use your binoculars for longer periods without feeling eye fatigue. Think of wearing someone else’s glasses – that’s what lower-quality binoculars can be like.
What improves image quality? The simple answer is better glass, better lens, and prism coatings. So, when you pay more for these features, you get a better pair of long eyes.
Durability is a big consideration if you’re going to be taking your binoculars outside into the wild. Luckily, all Leupold binos are waterproof up to 33 feet of submersion. And is fog-proof thanks to nitrogen purging of the barrels, as well as guaranteed for life. But that doesn’t make them all equal.
The biggest protection factors are shock-proofing and scratch-resistant lens coatings. Shock-proofing enables your binoculars to take bumps and hits and not come out of collimation (where the two oculars focus together to provide a clear image). Scratch-resistant coatings are, well, self-explanatory.
Of course, you always have to think about what you can afford to buy. Or maybe what you can’t afford to miss out on. You don’t always have to get the binoculars that are at the very high end of your budget.
Instead, consider what your needs are and choose a pair that meets them. If you’re going to use your binos in short bursts for easy spotting activities, you don’t need to go too high and fancy.
But, if you’re planning on long sessions, maybe for tactical or hunting activities, you’re going to want something clear and non-fatiguing.
Need To See Things More Clearly?
We can help with that. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Binoculars for Wildlife Viewing, the Best High Power Binoculars, the Best Binoculars for Theater & Opera, the Best Binoculars for Whale Watching, and the Best Binoculars for Birding you can buy in 2023.
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What are the Best Leupold Binoculars?
It’s pretty easy to just point to the top-end BX-5 Santiam model as the best binoculars Leupold produces. After all, they have the best image quality and are the most durable, therefore making them worth the grand you’ll have to pay for them.
However, if I take price and value for money into account, I think the real winner is the…
BX-2 Alpine HD
They’re tough with shock-proofing and scratch-resistance, offer a great image, and have the widest FOV. Sure, they’re heavier than the other models, but not by a huge margin. And, the price is something most enthusiasts would be happy to pay for a good quality pair of long eyes.
Until next time, keep an eye out.