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Published Sep 15, 2022 9:07 AM

When U.S. service members, hunters, birders, and recreational shooters need a quality magnified optic without racking up a bunch of credit card debt, they often turn to Vortex binoculars. A common comparison is to put the manufacturer up against the competition from premium brands like Leupold, Swarovski, and Zeiss. Another is to cross-shop with more budget-friendly binoculars from Nikon, Bushnell, and Celestron. We’ve been won over by Vortex in high-end and entry-level gear guides alike, and you can find the brand in our reviews of the best binoculars for hunting and the best compact binoculars.

It turns out that Vortex does a pretty good job of bridging the gap between those two categories. By splitting the difference, Vortex provides something for new hobbyists, more serious users, and even professionals who rely on quality binoculars to make a living. Regardless of the model, Vortex binocular reviews tend to be very consistent; owners are confident that they got more than they paid for. They also appreciate Vortex’s flat-out unbeatable warranty.

So, which Vortex binoculars are the best? Let’s find out.

Professionals who rely on their gear have a higher standard than your average user. If you’re going to use your binoculars every day, in all kinds of environments, with high stakes on the line, it’s worth spending real money to get the best image possible. If that sounds like you, go straight to the top of Vortex’s binocular lineup and invest in the Razor UHD 12×50.

Razor UHD binoculars use the best components Vortex offers. The glass and optical coatings offer superior light transmission clarity for an excellent image. During my research, I came across an Expert Voice interview with Mike McDowell, a Vortex optics specialist. McDowell pointed out that standard-definition binoculars with no reflective optical coatings can lose up to 50 percent of light between the objective and ocular lenses. In addition to fully multi-coated glass, Razor UHD binoculars use a new Abbe-Koenig roof prism that does a fantastic job of transmitting the maximum amount of light from the objective lens to the eye.

Razor binoculars are also available with HD glass rather than UHD if the top-shelf models are financially out of reach. Magnification options also range from eight- to 18 power. The 18-power Razors are a nice alternative to a spotting scope if you have a place to mount them, but most people don’t need that much power. Eight- or 10-power binoculars are loved for their versatility, so why choose the 12×50? Odds are, service members in the field will have access to at least a four-power optic on their rifle. With that kind of alternative available for wide-angle, short-distance magnification, it’s probably a safe bet to jump straight to 12-power with your binoculars. The 50-millimeter objective lenses are preferable for their superior light transmission over smaller lenses of the same quality.

Product Specs
  • Magnification: 12-power
  • Objective lens size: 50 millimeters
  • Prism type: roof prism
  • Angular field of view: 5.5 degrees
  • Eye relief: 17 millimeters
  • Weight: 37 ounces
Why It Made The Cut
  • If you need professional-grade binoculars and have the money to buy them, a pair of Razor UHD binoculars is an excellent choice and the best in Vortex’s current lineup.
PROS

Outstanding sharpness and optical clarity

Excels in the face of water, debris, and low light

Tubes are made from magnesium that outperforms aluminum

CONS

Most amateur users will be priced out

Marginally better than Razor HD binoculars

Those of you in the market for your first binoculars would probably like to keep the price down if you can. Vortex has you covered with affordable entry-level binoculars from the Crossfire product range that won’t blow the budget. At the same time, you’ll get a serviceable piece of gear you can count on.

The Crossfire lineup is all about providing durable gear that’s tough enough to take into the field, even if you can’t spend a lot. These binoculars have features like O-ring seals to keep out water and dust, nitrogen-purged tubes to resist fogging, and fully multi-coated glass to reduce glare and improve light transmission to create a bright, clear image. “Fully multi-coated” sounds like marketing speak, but it’s not. It means that all air-to-glass surfaces receive more than one layer of anti-glare treatment. A lot of binoculars at this price use partially multi-coated or single-coated glass that’s noticeably poorer at delivering a quality image.

During my industry professional training, I learned that a lot of Vortex pros prefer eight-power binoculars for their personal hunting kits. That’s because this level of magnification offers the widest field of view and works well freehand — especially in dense woods where line of sight is limited. If you’re shopping for your first binoculars, it’s a good idea to start here and add more specialized optics later as needed.

Product Specs
  • Magnification: 8-power
  • Objective lens size: 42 millimeters
  • Prism type: roof prism
  • Angular field of view: 7.5 degrees
  • Eye relief: 17 millimeters
  • Weight: 24 ounces
Why It Made The Cut
  • Vortex Crossfire HD binoculars are nothing fancy, but they do give entry-level users a solid platform to work with without blowing the budget.
PROS

Fully multi-coated lenses are a perk at this price

Low-light performance is satisfactory

Wide field of view and good freehand stability

CONS

As good as these are, they’re still budget binoculars

Can’t compete with our other picks’ image quality

Budget and value are two terms that get used interchangeably, but they can mean very different things. While the Crossfire 8×42 is the best Vortex product for people who need to spend as little as possible, the Diamondback 10×50 delivers the most bang for the buck and outperforms a lot of other binoculars that cost more.

As with all the binoculars on this list, Vortex lays a strong foundation with glass that’s optimized to keep the colors and shapes you see as realistic as possible. All glass elements are fully multi-coated, and the prisms also get a dielectric coating to improve image quality. That’s a step up from the Crossfire series. Of course, you’ll still get tubes that are waterproof, fog-proof, and covered in soft rubber armor to protect against impacts.

While eight-power binoculars are a great starting point, it’s not a bad idea to step up to 10-power magnification when you can. In fact, Mark Boardman, Vortex’s product experience manager and an avid elk hunter, considers 10-power binoculars to be the most versatile option to carry in the field. These binoculars use oversized 50-millimeter lenses that weigh a little bit more than 42-millimeter lenses, but transmit more light and, as a result, produce a brighter image. That’s important as you step up in power, but it’s also useful in low-light settings like dawn, dusk, and regions with dense overhead vegetation.

Product Specs
  • Magnification: 10-power
  • Objective lens size: 50 millimeters
  • Prism type: roof prism
  • Angular field of view: 6.0 degrees
  • Eye relief: 17 millimeters
  • Weight: 30 ounces
Why It Made The Cut
  • Vortex Diamondback HD binoculars are perfect for high-performance recreational use or professional use when price is a factor. This particular pair excels in power and image quality.
PROS

Large lenses enhance low-light image quality

10-power magnification tends to be the most versatile

Waterproof, fog-proof, and covered in rubber armor

CONS

Professional users may want to upgrade

Extra magnification constrains the field of view

Best for Long-Range

So, it’s long-distance shooting you’re into, is it? If you want binoculars that can go toe-to-toe with lower-powered spotting scopes, Vortex has a simple answer for you: Buy the Kaibab HD 18×56 and be done with it. This is a serious piece of gear that can reach far beyond the vast majority of binoculars out there and deliver high-end clarity and brightness in the process.

This is one instance where you can learn a lot from the spec sheet. The 18-power magnification and massive, 56-millimeter objective lenses clearly indicate serious power and the brightness to match. A necessary byproduct of this is the narrow 3.7-degree field of view, so these are better for carefully examining distant targets than scanning the horizon. The 44-ounce weight can’t be overlooked; this is a big, heavy item that will take up considerable space in your pack. What the spec sheet won’t tell you is that the glass in these binoculars is carefully matched for ideal sharpness and color. All lenses are fully multi-coated, and the prisms get a dielectric coating and phase correction for premium resolution and contrast. The Kaibab isn’t quite on par with the Razor UHD line in terms of image quality, but it’s damn good.

These binoculars are designed for big-game hunts in the western United States, where wry game animals need to be observed at great distances. If that’s your thing, the Kaibab is a perfect choice for your next elk-hunting trip. These binoculars are also tough enough to work in a military environment and should make the shortlist for anyone who needs a powerful optic. At this price, the Kaibab is also a solid value. Just remember that you’ll need a tripod or some other way to stabilize these 18-power binoculars.

Product Specs
  • Magnification: 18-power
  • Objective lens size: 56 millimeters
  • Prism type: roof prism
  • Angular field of view: 3.7 degrees
  • Eye relief: 16 millimeters
  • Weight: 44 ounces
Why It Made The Cut
  • The mighty Kaibab bridges the gap between rifle scopes and spotting scopes. When you need to positively identify a distant target, these are the binoculars you need.
PROS

No Vortex binoculars offer greater magnification

Massive, 56-millimeter objective lenses absorb tons of light

Built for hunters who can’t baby their gear

CONS

As binoculars go, these are massive and very heavy

Limited practicality at closer ranges

Best for Hunting

To create the Fury line of binoculars, Vortex started with versatile 10-power magnification and high-quality glass, then added a laser rangefinder to make an optic that kills two birds with one stone. The Fury HD 5000 10×42 isn’t cheap (or that light), but it can replace your current binoculars and rangefinder to make life in the field that much more convenient.

Unless you’re stargazing or just trying to improve your situational awareness, you’re going to want to know how much distance is between you and whatever you’re looking at. Switching between your binoculars and your rangefinder can cost valuable seconds and may cause you to lose visual contact with your target. The Fury HD 5000 was built to replace both those optics without cutting corners. All glass is fully multi-coated. The prisms have a dielectric coating and receive phase correction to maximize optical clarity and color accuracy. As binoculars, the Fury HD 5000 can hold its own.

As a laser rangefinder, these binoculars provide line-of-sight distance to the target, angle-compensated range, and an ability to scan and display range in real-time. You can pick the setting or program these binoculars to default to the last setting you used. The range can be shown in either yards or meters. Powering this technology is a single CR2 battery. Adding rangefinding capability to these binoculars adds significant bulk and weight, but remember that you’re replacing two pieces of gear with one. If accuracy is important to you, the Fury HD 5000 is a bullseye.

Product Specs
  • Magnification: 10-power
  • Objective lens size: 42 millimeters
  • Prism type: roof prism
  • Angular field of view: 6.1 degrees
  • Eye relief: 16 millimeters
  • Weight: 32 ounces
Why It Made The Cut
  • Vortex Fury HD 5000 binoculars can identify your target and instantly range it with reliable precision. These are great for both civilian and military shooters.
PROS

Effective at distances up to 5,000 yards

Modes include scanning, instant ranging, and elevation compensation

Fast, simple, one-handed controls

CONS

Noticeably heavy and bulky

Some owners prefer a locking diopter

Things to consider before buying Vortex binoculars

Vortex binoculars are offered in eight different product families ranging from entry-level to premium, and bristling with the latest and greatest technology. By understanding the options available and how they compare to each other, you’ll get a better idea of which Vortex binoculars are right for you. 

Fury

Vortex Fury binoculars will take your game to another level with a built-in laser rangefinder that’s accurate to within three feet at 5,000 yards. Multiple ranging modes allow you to scan, calculate line-of-sight distance, or factor in elevation to get the information you need to make a clean shot. As always, these premium 10×42 optics get the best glass, tubes, and internal components Vortex has to offer.

Razor

Razor binoculars are as good as it gets for Vortex. While HD options are available, UHD binoculars are the pinnacle of clarity, brightness, and durability. These binoculars are built for professionals who require the best and are willing to pay for them. Sizes for Razor HD binoculars include 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, and 12×50. Sizes for Razor UHD binoculars include 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, 12×50, and 18×56.

Kaibab

Is long-range shooting your thing? Then the Kaibab is what you need; plain and simple. The only size is 18×56 and it is excellent. Plan on adding a mount and tripod to get the most out of this workhorse.

Viper

Vortex Viper binoculars are all about making premium optics available to the working class. With high-end internals and big, bright objective lenses, these are outstanding binoculars to take into the field, whether you’re in the military or on a tree stand. Prices start at more than $600, so Viper binoculars are built for regular users who demand a lot from their gear, but don’t rely on binoculars as a primary tool. Sizes include 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, and 12×50.

Diamondback

When it comes to value, Diamondback binoculars are tough to beat. Vortex filled out the product family with magnification power ranging from eight to 15 and objective lenses from 28 to 56 millimeters in diameter. All get quality glass and Vortex’s HD internals. Don’t confuse value with budget; these binoculars are head and shoulders above budget-focused binoculars but still offer a great bang for the buck. Regardless of what you’re in the market for, there’s probably a Diamondback for you. Sizes include 8×28, 10×28, 8×32, 10×32, 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, 12×50, and 15×56.

Crossfire

Vortex’s Crossfire family of binoculars makes a strong case to be the best option for budget-minded shoppers. Slim roof prisms, high-definition optics, and an included GlassPak case combine to make Crossfire binoculars a compelling deal, even at full price. Objective lens options are larger than we typically expect at this price range, making Crossfire binoculars well-suited to low-light situations. Sizes include 8×42, 10×42, 10×50, and 12×50.

Raptor

Raptor binoculars don’t look like anything else in the Vortex lineup, and that’s due to the traditional Porro prisms inside. These affordable binoculars perform well in low light and offer a crisp image that should cost more than it does. Pricing is comparable to the smaller Vanquish binoculars, but these midsize binoculars are much better suited to environments where power and low-light performance take priority over portability. Sizes include 8.5×32 and 10×32.

Vanquish

Need something small and light? Vortex Vanquish binoculars offer an accessible entry point into the world of Vortex binoculars. They’re also very compact, thanks in part to a reverse Porro prism design. With an MSRP of $130 or less, these are some of Vortex’s most affordable binoculars. Sizes include 8×26 and 10×26.

Accessories

In addition to quality optics, Vortex offers accessories to help you get the most out of them. Binocular accessories include chest packs, replacement lens caps, and everything you need to keep your binoculars clean and working at their best.

FAQs about Vortex binoculars

Q: Are Vortex binoculars worth it?

A: Vortex makes solid binoculars and many of them present great value for the money.

Q: Are Leupold binoculars better than Vortex binoculars?

A: Vortex and Leupold both make optics spanning a wide price range that includes entry-level and premium binoculars.

Q: Do Vortex binoculars zoom?

A: No, all Vortex binoculars use fixed magnification between eight- and 18-power.

Q: Does the military use Vortex scopes?

A: Yes, the U.S. Army selected Vortex to supply prototype optics capable of equipping its new Next Generation Squad Weapon variants.

Final thoughts

If you have room in your budget, it’s hard to think of a reason not to buy the Vortex Razor UHD 10×50. The binoculars’ premium components, rugged construction, and unbeatable customer support make them an easy choice.

Methodology 

As with any brand-specific gear guide, I started by going straight to the source. Vortex’s website does a great job of laying out the various product families within the riflescope, red dot, binocular, rangefinder, spotting scope, tripod, and monocular segments. The manufacturer also has a healthy catalog of in-house content, including well-produced videos. I also completed five binocular-specific Vortex training modules available to industry professionals to gain a better understanding of the company’s products. 

Finally, I took all that knowledge, combined it with feedback from customers, and used it to pick a handful of products that are best suited to life in the military. Whether you have a lot of money to spend or just a few extra bucks, there’s something here you can afford. The Vortex binoculars on this list have you covered for deployment, field exercises, or weekend adventures on your own.