By Mark Kenyon
It was a mild day, with a slight breeze that tasted of sage brush and vigor. The sun was to our backs, and we were propped up against a hillside rising from the North of our campsite. We were enveloped in silence, until a cry broke from the stand of pungent conifers just thirty or forty yards away.
“Mewwww …. Mew.” And then again, “Mewww.”
A cow elk.
We began scanning the timber and hillside in front of us with our binoculars. I with my Bushnell Legend Ultra HDs and my pal with his pair of Zeiss binos. As we glassed the country ahead of us, my friend looked over and asked me what I thought about the Bushnells. Without saying a word, I handed them over, and he dropped his Zeiss glass to his lap and pulled my binoculars up to his eyes.
And then, out of nowhere, a bugle ripped off from the canyon below, sending sensations rippling up my back and down my arms, all the way to the very ends of my fingers. A rising tone, not too unlike an alto sax being played with a throaty and rising pitch echoed across the sun soaked hills. We dropped our binoculars and prepared to take chase.
But before we dashed away, I asked, “What’d you think?”
“I’ll tell you what,” my friend replied, “I’m impressed.”
The Spec Rundown
Having grown up primarily whitetail hunting, I’d always hunted with a cheapo pair of binoculars, not thinking I needed anything more, and rarely had spent more than $50 on a set of glass before in my life. This past season though, I decided I needed to upgrade, as I was heading out West for my first elk hunting trip and I’d been having trouble with my old binoculars in whitetail hunting situations recently.
The binoculars I ended up settling on were the Bushnell 10×42 Legend Ultra HDs. I chose these binoculars mostly because they seemed to offer the highest grade features available at a price-point I could still handle. These binos are currently available at Cabela’s for $299.
The big selling point of this pair of binoculars, per the manufacturer, was it’s incredible clarity and low light capability. This is achieved, first, with the use of superior glass, supposedly some of the best used in binoculars at this price point. The Legend Ultra HD uses “ED Prime glass”, which after some research, I’ve found means that these binos use a “fluorite glass” which has low light dispersion. This is a good thing, as light dispersion is something you want less of. Per information I found on Canon’s website, “When parallel light rays are refracted by a prism, a rainbow-hued spectrum comes out. This phenomenon is called “dispersion”… The dispersion causes color fringes at the edge of subjects … as a result, deterioration of image.” By using “fluorite glass” dubbed “ED Prime”, the Legend Ultra HDs minimizes this dispersion, and the result is high color resolution and contrast.
The next piece of technological tastiness in the Legend Ultra HDs are their full lens coatings. First, the “ultra wide band coating”. This is an anti-reflection coating, and essentially just allows for a more bright, crisp, clear picture within your view. Next you have the “PC-3 Phase Coating”, which is a chemical lens coating applied to increase contrast and clarity. And finally, the “Rainguard HD” coating, which helps waterproof and fogproof the lens.
All of this high grade class and technology is packed into a pretty compact package, with a sturdy frame, and a comfortable rubber coating.
So that sounds nice, but how did these binos actually fair in the field?
My In The Field Experience
As I mentioned earlier, I grew up using cheapo binoculars and up until last year, I still rocked the bargain special field glasses. So when I received my Legend Ultra HDs nicely packaged in a hard foam carrying case, along with several different neckstraps/harnesses and a cleaning cloth – I was quite pleased. This was much nicer than the usual cardboard box!
I soon was able to test the binoculars in the wild, and my satisfaction didn’t fade a bit. True to what Bushnell claims, I immediately could see a significant difference in clarity and brightness with these binoculars compared to what I used to use. And this continued to be the case while hunting with them over the next four months. I brought these binoculars with me while hunting elk in Idaho, and whitetails in Michigan and Ohio, and in each situation, I found these binos to meet my needs without fail.
Throughout rain, snow, sleet and freezing temperatures the “Rainguard HD” coating lived up to it’s promise, eliminating almost all issues with precipitation or fog. The ED Prime Glass also seemed to work as advertised, as I had many low light early morning or late evening encounters, and every time I could depend on my binoculars to see what was going on. Over and over again, I marveled at the bright, crisp clear picture of approaching bucks, bulls and wildlife. It’s amazing what you can see when your eyes are truly opened.
On top of all that, these binos are tough little suckers. They were tossed around in the the mountains, schlepped up and down trees in Ohio, and worn through endless snowstorms in Michigan – and the Legend Ultra HDs made it through, in perfect working order and with only a few nicks and scratches to show for it.
Without a doubt, I’ve been very pleased with the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binoculars. They were a great first step for me into more premium field glasses, yet they still came in at a reasonable enough price point.
On that bugle filled Idaho afternoon I described earlier, I followed along with my pal as we chased that screaming elk. And eventually, had a chance to try out his binoculars too – the Zeiss’. They were certainly nice, but when I pulled up my Bushnells afterwards – the difference wasn’t really apparent. At least not to my slightly untrained, hardcore hunter but budget-conscious eyes. I’m no optics snob or professional purveyor of lens and glass, but from my perspective these binoculars did their job well and made me one happy hunter. What more do you need?
As I walked back to camp that night after an unsuccessful stalk on that bull, I felt the familiar tug of my binoculars on my neck and I thought again of my newest pair of optics.
I was impressed.
For more information, visit the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binocular website.