Leupold Golden Ring Binoculars

I was once taught that 80% of all information we gather to make decisions comes to us through our eyes. The other 20% comes in through our other senses. But there is a limit to what we can see: we can't see through objects or identify objects that are too far away. Enter that technology called "binoculars." Long before there were binoculars there were monoculars, and we can all remember the popular telescope we've seen in so many pirate movies. Today's binoculars are to the monoculars of old what today's submarine periscopes are to the pirate telescope. The technology is so radically different we have a hard time making comparisons. This week we're going to take a look at the Leupold Golden Ring Binoculars and how they help increase the valuable data we need for that 80% of the decisions we make.

As you can see from the picture at left, the Leupold Golden Rings are of a completely contemporary design--none of that old blocky black bino look here. The exterior of the binoculars is rubberized and there are ergonomic flats molded into them so that your thumbs have a natural resting space. With the binos hanging around your neck, if you reach down for them and pull them up to your eyes, finding those intentionally and properly placed flats with your thumbs indexes your fingers to adjust focus.

The promotional material for these binos uses such terms as:

  • "...Index Matched lenses..."
  • "...phase coated, super high reflection coated prisms..."
  • and, "...innovative interpupillary distance lock..."

Huh? The part I understood said, "...deliver an extraordinary view; astonishingly crisp images; outstanding color resolution; and excellent definition of subtleties and shade."

Now I'm sure that all of those fancy terms mean something to someone in the industry--specifically the magnified viewing industry. Me? I'm a simple guy - I just need to know how easy they are to use and how clear I can see through them. Good answers on both of those issues.

I'm lucky enough to live near a beach, and across the Chesapeake Bay is Dorchester County. When you're testing out binoculars it helps if you have something interesting to look at. So I took the test pairs I have down to the beach. The two pair I have are 8x42 and 10x42. For any of you who don't know, the first number (8 or 10) indicates the actual magnification provided. The second number (42) indicates the size of the objective aperture--that's the lens the light is coming in through.

Adjusting the diopter and interpupillary distance (how far between the center of the lenses you look through) proved quick and easy. It is fairly intuitive with most binoculars and these were no different. At 33.5 ounces, they are slightly heavier than comparable models, but not significantly so. The focus knob lines up under your right (or left) index finger naturally when you grip the binos with your thumb in the flat as described above. That focus knob turns one complete rotation and does so with enough resistance not to be too easily knocked out of placement once you're focused.

Something else that matters on binoculars (apparently) is the "Angular Field of View." This number--7.4 degrees on the 8x42 and 6.5 degrees on the 10x42--determines how much you can see at distance. Translated, that means that you can see 388 feet of something viewed from 1,000 feet away with the 8x42s, or 341 feet of something viewed from the same distance with the 10x42s. Field of view matters quite a bit if you're doing surveillance or intel gathering work. You never know what piece of equipment is sitting just outside that 341 foot view that might be important. What you have to decide, if choosing between these particular two pair of binoculars is this:

Would I rather see 341 feet of that subject magnified 10 times, or 388 feet of that subject magnified eight times? It's a trade off.

Whichever you choose, you'll undoubtedly be happy with the clarity of the view and the minimized color wash. I could clearly see people on the decks of various watercraft in the bay and make out a house or two on the other side. I should mention that the bay is approximately ten miles wide at that point, so I was seeing a significant distance with decent focus and clarity.

LIke every other pair of Leupold binoculars I can find information about, these are waterproof and shock resistant. The lens covers are both relatively soft rubber, but the objective lens cover snaps inside the lens crown while the adjustable lenses are completely covered by the protective rubber cups. I guess that's because you're more likely to drop food or drink into that end? The strap is a mix of nylon and neoprene and proved comfortable for the hour or two I needed to wear the binos. I understand that some bird watchers wear binos for three or four times longer than that and what research I did online showed that they're happy with the comfort level as well.

What DID strike me was the price: between $800 and $1,000 for a pair. I was shocked until I did some more research and found out what the going rate is for binoculars of this caliber. My shock was relieved and I recognized that you do indeed get what you pay for--even with binoculars.

Just for notation's sake: With the lens covers in place, I dragged the binos through the sand on the beach and dipped them in the water a few times. When nothing bad happened I even dragged them through the sand about a foot under water. There were no issues with performance. In fact, I rinsed them off in the bay and let them sun dry. Except for the water spots on the lenses, they looked none-the-worse for wear. I used a typical lens cloth to wipe away the water spots, and the binos functioned just fine.

Until I do more work with binos from other manufacturers, I can't recommend these above others--but I can recommend them based on their performance. I can't say they're the best binos out there, but I CAN say that they work well and take minor abuse with no issues. If that meets your criteria then check them out.