Hunting is roughly fifty four and a half minutes of sitting and waiting with five minutes of looking and seeing accompanied by thirty seconds of sheer panic thrown in for good measure. Those five minutes are supremely important, and nothing compliments your experience more than a good set of binoculars. Fact is, most game animals can stand still as stone for a very long time. A good set of binocs can help you find them, and for hunters with limited time to spend in the field, that can be the difference between meat on the table and rampant shaming at the deer camp. Vortex doesn’t want you to be ashamed around the campfire.
Vortex loves you and wants you to check out their Diamondback 10×42 binoculars.
Embarrassed as I am to admit it, I only own one set of binoculars and they’re mostly terrible. I had a brief fling with a Bushnell Monocular, but it fell out of my pocket last fall, and damned if I’ve been able to find it since. Back to zero, Vortex was kind enough to send over their Diamondback 10×42’s for me to test out.
The Diamondback line includes the 3-12×42 scope I reviewed last year and consists of Vortex’s more budget focused lineup. Vortex actually makes a surprising number of binocular series, fourteen by my count. The Diamondback series consists of nine models ranging from an 8×28 ($189) to a 12×50 ($319). At a MSRP of $279, the 10×42 model tested here falls right in the middle of the budget, magnification, and objective diameter range.
Included with the package is a semi rigid case, nicely padded lanyard strap, and lens covers. There’s also a really helpful and well written instruction manual to help you set up the binoculars to your face and eyes. Setup takes only a few minutes and then you’re off to the races.
In the field, the image quality was astounding. Vortex claims a focus distance down to 6.7 feet, something I tested out on a trip down to the beach shortly after receiving them. We had a series of sand crabs near our campsite and they would only venture a few feet from my feet and no closer. I had no difficulty focusing on the minute details of their little bodies, and even the tiny grains of wet sand that clung to their legs.
At longer ranges, the 10X magnification does a great job of bringing far away objects close enough for further inspection. I was able to pick out individual details on horses in our pasture out to roughly half a mile on a hot sunny day with a lot of mirage. Beyond that point, they’re great at identifying body shape and color. I don’t think you could pick out how many tines a whitetail buck had at a mile in broad daylight, but you could certainly determine if it was a buck or a doe and whether it was a whitetail or an Axis.
Where the 10x42s really shine is early morning and late evening, prime time for wild game. Those big 42 mm objectives bring in a lot of light and in stereo. Unfortunately, I got these binoculars after my hunting season ended, so I wasn’t able to use them in the field like I wanted, but I did use them at the very first legal light and the last of legal light at the beach, on a hike at Palo Duro Canyon, and out at the ranch, and I was really blown away at the clarity they brought to my eyes. I really hope Vortex will let me keep these through the fall so I can field them for opening weekend.
Ergonomically, they’re a pretty decent size, but at 21 oz, they do make for a noticeable addition around your neck. The padded strap helps, but if you’re walking and they get swinging, watch out. If you’re a regular walker/stalker, an investment in Vortex’s Binocular Harness would certainly be helpful. I haven’t used their harness before, but I’ve used others and it makes the process of keeping binoculars nearby and accessible without being cumbersome helpful.
The other small gripe I had was with the lens caps. Specifically the fact that the objective caps stay with the binoculars while the eyepiece ones are a non tethered unit that gets lost almost immediately. It would be great if Vortex had somehow incorporated their soft rubber caps with the adjustable eyepieces. It’s a small nit, but one that’s worth picking. Binoculars are an investment and scratched glass can quickly ruin the efficacy of a pair.
Specifications: Vortex Diamondback 10×42 Binoculars
- Magnification 10 x
- Objective Lens Diameter 42 mm
- Eye Relief 15 mm
- Exit Pupil 4.2 mm
- Linear Field of View 330 feet/1000 yards
- Angular Field of View 6.3 degrees
- Close Focus 6.7 feet
- Interpupillary Distance 55-75 mm
- Height 5.8 inches
- Width 5.1 inches
- Weight 21.4 oz
- MSRP: $279
- Real World Price: ~$225
Ratings (out of five stars):
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * * *
By the nature of their work, binoculars get beat up a bit. Mine spend a lot of time at the bottom of bags, in center consoles, thrown around the truck, and sitting in sand. The Diamondbacks held up very well and I was impressed with the quality of the neck strap, the body of the binoculars, and all of the controls.
Optical Quality * * * *
They’re not on par with some of Vortex’s super high end optics, but they also don’t cost thousands of dollars. I had no difficulty picking out details on animals out to a quarter mile or so, and species and sex identification was possible well out to a mile in broad daylight. At dawn or dusk, they capture enough light to ensure ethical, legal kills out to a few hundred yards thanks to the big 42 mm objectives and the crystal clear glass. Try as I might, I was unable to notice any blurring, hazing, or color distortion.
Design * * * *
I wish that Vortex had elected to attach the eyepiece lens caps to the body instead of leaving them as separate pieces. My objective lens remain as unblemished as the day they left the factory, but the eyepiece side is covered in micro scratches, sand, and dirt.
Overall * * * *
These are fantastic binoculars especially for the price. The $200 threshold is about the point you leave cheap Chinese knockoffs behind, and start to get into seriously functional glass. The Diamondback series doesn’t disappoint, and offers enough variety that the minimalist hunter can get a lightweight set while the guy or gal who doesn’t mind packing along some extra weight can opt for maximum magnification and light gathering without breaking the bank. At a few bills over $200, the 10×42 represent a really functional set of field glasses, with a good form factor and magnification.