2021 has been a good year. So far, I’ve been hunting in South Africa, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, all over Texas, and more. I’ve gone after all sorts of African plains game with a Ruger No. 1; wild pigs, wild goats, javelina, black bears and prairie dogs with a Nosler Custom Handgun, turkey with a Remington Versa Max, and even picked up a dandy bob kitty with a Ruger Single Six.
No matter what gun I carried, it was a pair of Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42mm binoculars I was hunting with. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
The Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 42mm gives the hunter a rugged, extremely clear, well thought out optics base for any hunt.
The most important aspect to consider for any set of binoculars is the image quality, both in full and dim light. The image sharpness and clarity of the Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD’s is exceptional. Most everyone who tried these binoculars immediately expressed something like “WOW” as soon as they tried them. I sure did.
I have some decent binoculars. But these Leupold binocs have relegated my Vortex Viper HD’s to the role of loaners for my fellow hunters. That’s not to say the Vipers are bad; they are good for the money. But the Leupold BX-5 Santiams are a very big level up.
For example, take a look at the image above. That’s a South African landscape taken through the binoculars with my not-quite-current generation Samsung phone. The center of the image is about a mile away.
Now take a look at the circled section of the image below.
That’s a Kudu cow, laying down, 1,400 yards away. Taken with my phone’s less-than-ideal camera and then blown up, it’s actually much harder to see than it was in the real world. But get that. A Kudu cow, facing forward and laying down in the shade, was easy to pick out from almost a mile away. That’s the clarity and sharpness that makes this glass absolutely world class.
It’s also the kind of glass that makes the difference between seeing the quarry of a lifetime, or missing it.
Of course, great glass doesn’t really matter if they’re water-logged, fogged, or broken. This is where the BX-5 Santiam HD’s show the greatest advantage over the competition. It’s not just great glass. It’s great rugged glass.
Just like rifle scope glass, a big part of the value of higher-end binoculars are the coatings used. It’s also a big part of the price. The best coatings are expensive to apply and raise the cost. They’re worth it. Often between two brands, it’s these coatings more than the clarity of the glass itself that makes the biggest difference.
The BX-5 Santiam HD glass includes Leupold’s Twilight Max HD Light Management System. I’ve written about this system in several of my optics reviews, and it’s why Leupold has become the standard by which all other optics are judged in low-light conditions.
The system effectively maximizes the frequencies the human eye can see in low light and near darkness. The result is 20 to 30 minutes more each day where game is identifiable. As I’ve said before, you pay a lot for those extra minutes. If you are a hunter, those are the most important minutes of your hunt.
The price also includes the Guard-ion lens coating. If you don’t need field optics, this isn’t necessary. If you take your optics into the bush, especially for extended outings, it’s pretty important.
Water and dirt slide off the lenses. I got to test this first hand in a few ways. First, as I do any optics that claim to be “100% waterproof,” I set them in a tub filled with tap water overnight. The Santiams suffered no ill-effects.
During a Spring bear hunt in Idaho, I left them buried in snow overnight. The great thing wasn’t just that no water got in. That was expected. The real trick was how the lenses were still clear after they dried out. I just blew some debris out of them and they were fine. Awesome.
The Santiams are wrapped in Leupold’s “Armor Coat.” This tough, textured rubber not only protects the optics, but gives the hand a solid grip in wet and muddy conditions.
For those times when you intend to post up for a while, the Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42mm includes a standard 1/4-20 rotatable tripod adapter port.
If you’re interested in higher magnification, you can also find the same binoculars in a 12 or 15 power magnification. Ten power is about perfect for all-around glassing, but if you’re hunting mostly open country or particularly far away, the higher magnifications might be better choices for you.
The Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD line comes with Leupold’s “Pro Gear” accessories. The lens covers are particularly nice, and the package also includes a lens cloth, case, and shoulder strap. These all appear high quality, but I’ve not used them much as I’ve kept the binoculars in a Pnuma Bino+Tech Harness for most of the year.
Like all Leupold optics, the Santiam binoculars come with Leupold’s Lifetime Guarantee. According to the Leupold website:
If at any time your Leupold riflescope, mounts, red dot, binocular, or spotting scope doesn’t perform, we will repair or replace it for free – whether you’re the original owner or not. You don’t need proof of ownership or a warranty card, and there’s no time limit.
I’ve experienced their customer service first hand, and it’s been nothing less than stellar.
Unsurprisingly, Leupold has delivered an optic with exceptional image quality, especially in low light, in a relatively compact and durable format. What is a bit of a surprise is that the MSRP for binoculars of this quality is under a grand, making the Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 42mm an exceptional value.
Specifications: BX-5 Santiam HD 10X42mm
Finish: Shadow Gray
Length (in): 5.9
Weight (oz): 24.3
Objective Lens Diameter (mm): 42
Linear FOV ([email protected] yd): 341
Angular FOV (Degrees): 6.5
Eye Relief (mm): 16.6
Exit Pupil (mm): 4.2
Close Focus Distance (ft): 5
Interpupillary Distance Max (mm): 74
Interpupillary Distance Min (mm): 58
Rating (out of five stars):
Overall * * * * *
Spectacular image quality, world class coatings, and durable, rugged construction. Leupold built a solid reputation serving the American hunter for decades, and they’ve doubled down on that commitment over the last few years. The Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 10x42mm binoculars provide the hunter with outstanding quality, from an American company that continues to impress.