We did an extensive review of 15 power binoculars a few years ago and while I didn’t think much had changed I wanted to make sure so I called brother Cody at The Outdoorsmans to do a quick update.
We put the three most popular 15 power binoculars on tripods outfitted with Outdoorsmans pan heads and bino adapters, my favorite way to get the most out of high magnification optics, and then spent a beautiful November afternoon glassing. And by we I mean me and Cooper, my 16 year old son.
Brand new Swarovski 15×56 SLC, Zeiss 15×56 Conquest HD, and Vortex 15×56 Kaibab HD were the models we were playing with. Interestingly but not unexpectedly that is also the order I would rate them at the end of the day.
The Swaros remain king of the mountain with the Zeiss running not too far behind in second. However, it should be noted that for whatever reason Zeiss does not make their best glass available in a 15×56 that works with the Outdoorsmans mounting system. It is the absolute best mounting system out there and everybody else accepts it but Zeiss doesn’t so we have to work with their second best.
Cooper, understandably, is not as experienced at this as I am so I was especially curious to see how he would order them and I was surprised. He had it Zeiss, Swarovski, Nikon (I also had 12×56 Monarchs that I keep in the truck set up so he could glass another area while I was testing), and then Vortex.
Now, I want you, especially those that are new to this site, to know that we are splitting hairs when comparing glass like this but that is what we do here. These are all fine products and will of course do the job but we are always looking for the best regardless of price and that is why we do this kind of thing. I will say this though, you can’t do any kind of decent job of comparing one binocular to another unless they are side by side looking at the same thing at the same time. Period. Nobody is more anal retentive obsessive compulsive about this stuff than I am and I have to tried to check one set of glasses out one day then another the next day and so on and it simply can not be done effectively. You have to set them up in front of you so that you can remain seated while going back and forth between the binos. Everything has to be the same for it to be a true comparison.
Anyway, here are my observations from this session –
- most compact form factor
- best edge to edge focused picture (a big advantage over Zeiss)
- best most usable field of view
- main focus adjustment is perfect-easy and smooth with just enough resistance
- diopter focus is less than perfect-requires pull and click adjustments which I am not a fan of because it is not smooth and easy
- biggest in focus sweet spot
- brightest pic especially at dusk (another big advantage over Zeiss)
- excellent build quality
- good edge to edge focus but not complete
- smaller in focus sweet spot
- smaller usable field of view
- smooth, light, easy but almost too easy main focus wheel
- diopter adjustment is smooth, no clicks, easy but not too easy and effective-very good
- excellent build quality
- smallest in focus sweet spot
- edges not in focus
- smallest usable field of view
- main focus wheel has greater resistance but is smooth and easy to use
- diopter adjustment is smooth and effective with no clicks
- very good build quality, great warranty and customer service