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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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17 Responses to Gear Review: Vortex Diamondback Binoculars

  1. I’ve used several sets of bino’s over the years, and $200 isn’t where you get into seriously good glass. $600 to $700, yes, but $200? Nope.

    Want to learn the difference between good bino’s and poor bino’s? Come out west, where you spend most of your day looking through glass, and you learn in about four hours the difference between a good set of bino’s and a poor set. A poor set – even a set where you think the glass is OK, but the alignment of the tubes is wrong, or they’re presenting different distortions between the two tubes, will show up as a splitting headache after about four hours’ constant use. That headache won’t go away until the next morning.

    But when you use a set of bino’s that doesn’t require your eyes/brain to compensate, you can glass the open range or mountainsides for most of the day, and no headache.

    I’ve used some supposedly high-end glasses and found serious fault with them – eg, Steiners. My preferred glasses are a set of 7×40 EDF Zeiss-Jena East German field glasses. They’re about what you expect from the East Germans – quality, but in a package that’s about as svelte & attractive as a member of the East German women’s swim team. But the glass and alignment of these glasses is superb – one of the best values to come out of the fall of The Wall.

      • I almost ran over a Chukar on Sunday — chubby little f’er almost too fat to fly haha — about 15 minutes before nearly taking out a wild turkey family farther down the road. Last summer, I murdered a big pheasant with my windshield. I think the birds are taking over ’round these here parts.

    • I think you’d be surprised with some of the more recent offerings. I used this site to pick some out for my dad: bestbinocularsreviews. His old binocs went completely to hades.

      I got him a pair of vangaurd 10×42 spirit ed binocs. They will never match the better stuff like your zeiss glass, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good they are.

    • I think it depends on the terrain you hunt. My Vortex bino’s are as good as I could want/need for hunting in Indiana, where you rarely have to scan over 75-100 yards for deer (anything beyond that was previously untouchable until rifles were legalized on a limited basis for this year). I can see where high-end glass is paramount if you are out west on the open ranges or mountains, but around here I don’t think it would gain you much.

  2. I’m currently in the market for a bino/range finder combo. Anybody got any recommendations? (The bastards at our precision rifle club love to set up the targets at random ranges out to 550 meters or give the range estimates in yards.)

  3. I own a pair of Vortex Bins and I think they are excellent. I had some Steiners and like the poster above I was disappointed with them. I have some mid-range Leupolds as well but I really the Vortex binos. I know thereis a big difference when you spend a load of cash, I looked through some 8×32 Swarovskis on a hunt once and I was blown away by the clarity and brightness. One day I’ll fid it in me to drop that kind of cash on some binos but for 99% of my use the Vortex binos are fine.

    • I agree, I’m sure there’s better stuff out there. But for a first pair of non-throwaway binos the Vortex Diamondbacks work very well for me.

  4. “By the nature of their work, binoculars get beat up a bit.”

    Yours get beat up. Mine just get lost.

  5. Odd I have these exact binoculars that I took on a non-hunting vacation to Alaska and they worked great for me. Of course we were passing them around the family anytime we spotted something cool. The eyepiece covers that came with mine do tether to the neck strap so they don’t get lost. Maybe yours are slightly different. Also I bought for south of $150 so high value ratio in my opinion.

  6. I have both the 8×28 and the 10×42 and am thrilled with both. The only complaint I have is that the rubberized coating is susceptible to DEET.

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