I believe that there is one optical question that is never going to be answered - what is the best scope, binocular or spotting scope? The reason is that we all see differently so what might be "best" for me might not be "best" for you. There are testing charts and instruments that should enable a tester to quantify certain optical qualities. Numerical ratings can be determined BUT they may or may not indicate the "Best" optic for John Q. Buyer.
I also believe that each individual’s eyes see differently through a set of binoculars or a rifle or spotting scope. I may be able to see better and brighter through a particular unit than my buddy does. Visual acuity varies from individual to individual, simple as that.
One of the facts of life is that we get what we pay for. This is particularly true with optics - to a point. After that "point" we start to pay for certain brand names and where the instruments were crafted. Outdoor optics are manufactured in well-defined sales slots - price points is the more correct terminology. That is why we can pay $30 for a set of binoculars or $3000. As mentioned, you pretty much get what you pay for.
There is a level that could be called "superb" that the best binoculars achieve. These binoculars blend most of the initial qualities I listed and they are not cheap. Very few people can look through a set of these binoculars without appreciating them. They set the standard for optical and field use - period.
Not everybody wants to spend a thousand dollars or more on a set of binoculars. Similarly, lots of hunters do not really care what name is on their binocular or whether they were manufactured in Europe or Asia. Just as long as they are sharp, bright, tough and easy to use. I have been using a set of Cabela’s Alaskan Guide Full Size 8x42 roof-prism binoculars and they meet these criteria very well.
I have compared my Cabela’s Alaskan Guide binoculars head to head with some of the finest binoculars available. These include models from Nikon, Swarovski, Zeiss, and Leica. I cannot say that My Alaskan Guide binocs exceeded the performance of the expensive models but they held their own amazingly well in test after test.
I looked at sharpness by examining objects with extremely fine detail at extreme distances. Individual tree branches and wires on far-off power transmission towers for instance. I compared the sharpness at the edges of the image as well as in the center. I also used the binocs in hunting light, at dawn and dusk to assess brightness. I evaluated how true the color transmission appeared. Then I reviewed how well they handled in the hand - the ergonomics of each design.
Most of the high-end binocs cost around one thousand dollars or slightly more. My Cabela’s Alaskan Guide 8x42’s are listed at $529.99 or roughly one-half the price of the other units. I can honestly say that the Cabela’s binoculars delivered far more than 50% of the optical performance of the high-end binocs. I would rate them at least 85 to 90% for the qualities tested.
The Cabela’s binocs have certain unique features that I prefer. The click-stop center focus adjustment for instance. There is something about click-stop focus that gives me a sense of assurance. I also like the easily adjustable eyepieces that spin in or out to accommodate eyeglass wearers. They are solid with no wobble as they rotate in or out.
My Alaskan Guide binocs also rated very well ergonomically. They fit very nicely in the hand. I found the adjustment wheel is perfectly located for accurate use. I also like the heft of these binocs. At 25 ounces they are solid but not too heavy. The rubber coating offers an excellent gripping surface even when the binocs are wet.
My Alaskan Guides came with a stretchy neck-strap that is very comfortable for field use. These binocs are small enough that I frequently carried them in an outside pocket when the weather goes bad. They are delivered in a good quality carrying case. Cabela’s includes nicely fitted lens covers that are easy to use.
The Alaskan Guide line of binoculars includes compact and full-sized models. The compacts come in 10x28 and 12x30 designs. The full-size binocs are offered in 8x42, 10x42 and a larger 12x50 set. All of these binoculars carry the familiar Alaskan Guide mountain sheep insignia.
My Alaskan Guide binoculars have proved themselves on many hunts. From brown bear to antelope they have served me well. These are hunting tools of the first order.