If you're looking for the best rangefinder binoculars you'll soon discover what a complicated market this is. Many companies eagerly compete for your money with a range of instruments that can quickly cause confusion.
The first thing to consider, as with any pair of binoculars, is optical quality. It doesn't matter how good all the sophisticated electronics and other fancy gizmos are if you can't get a clear image of the subject in your eyepieces. Look for fully multi-coated lenses (FMC), Bak-4 glass, and phase-corrected prism coatings, if possible, provided your budget will stretch. Some manufacturers (Zeiss for instance) use fluorite glass and proprietary coatings to maximize light gathering.
Most of the binoculars here are laser rangefinders, which throw an eye-safe invisible laser beam onto the target and measure the time taken for the reflected laser to return to the binoculars. This is clever stuff, which only a few years ago, was way outside the budget of ordinary consumers. Obviously, the more powerful the laser, the further it can reach and still return a measurable signal. Before splashing out on something that could power a space hero's sidearm, though, consider how much power you really need. Even relatively modest lasers will reach well over a kilometer, which is probably plenty far enough for most users.
Many rangefinder binoculars now come with dedicated smartphone apps which collect data via Bluetooth and perform corrections for the weather and inclination. That's great if you don't mind getting your phone out, but it's worth checking what information is actually displayed in the viewfinder before making a choice.
Finally, always consider build quality and warranty. Levels of waterproofness vary from splash-proof to submarine grade, and features such as nitrogen purged internals will prevent fogging. It's also a good idea to check what devices are actually legal to own where you live, before shelling out your hard-earned cash on a tool that might be unusable.
If you're looking for the best binoculars overall though, check our guide to the best binoculars. For something a little more specific we have a round-up to the best binoculars for kids and best night vision binoculars, too. Alternatively, find out when you should purchase them to maximize savings with our write-up on the best time to buy binoculars.
Bushnell is well known at the good value end of the optical equipment market, producing some pretty good binoculars at reasonable prices, as well as some that are a bit flimsy and best avoided. These Fusion X 10x42 laser rangefinders are firmly in the first category.
Less than half the price of many competing entry-level instruments, they offer decent range finding capabilities and accuracy with reasonable quality optics. In good conditions and with a reflective subject the laser should reach up to a mile and be accurate to within a single yard.
The ActivSync display cleverly changes the color of the overlay information according to light levels. It displays black overlays against bright daytime backgrounds and red against dark subjects. Waterproof to IP67 and with a special lens coating to shed moisture, these binoculars are a great choice for value conscious users.
It's unusual to find any Nikon binoculars at the lower end of the mid-range on price, but these laser rangefinders put that trusted optical brand within reach of many. There are some compromises to settle for, such as the relatively short range of the laser rangefinder, but this is still powerful enough for many real-world applications.
The ID (incline/decline) system compensates for angles up to 89 degrees. As you would expect from Nikon, the optics are first-rate with fully multi-coated lenses and prisms and even contains extra-low dispersion glass (ED glass). This corrects chromatic aberration that would otherwise cause color fringing.
They are rubberized, water and fog-proof with nitrogen-purged internals to avoid mold and rot. Nikon has quite complicated warranty arrangements, with lifetime cover on the optical components, and seven years on the non-optical bits, but only one year on the electronics. Without these, what's left is a pair of heavy and expensive regular binoculars.
Manufacturer Sig Sauer makes the bold claim that the Kilo3000 BDX is the world's most advanced laser rangefinder, which is something every other company mentioned in this review would probably challenge. But considering the price point of this device, it offers a lot of performance.
The optics are pretty decent, certainly good enough for everyday use, and the rangefinder is fairly powerful too if not quite up to the output of some more expensive brands. The SIG Kilo packs a lot of tech into a relatively small package. It exchanges data via Bluetooth with suitably-equipped sighting scopes and has its own dedicated smartphone app, even calculating distance at high speed.
In scan mode, the range is updated as often as four times per second while the range lock function records the most recent result. SIG manages to do all this for a price significantly less than direct competitors, and a lot less than the premium brands, so wins our recommendation for that reason.
The best optical quality is a hotly contested matter among the leading binocular brands, but we think Swarovski just edges it over the competition with this pair of rangefinding binoculars. All binoculars lose some of the light that enters the objectives, but Swarovski believes that these high-quality, fully multi-coated glass lenses and prisms transmit more, and lose less than the competition. This performance can make a big difference, especially in twilight conditions where every photon is valuable.
The laser rangefinder isn't the most powerful, measuring up to 1370m. But the binoculars are equipped with all the tech you'd expect these days at this premium price point, with a dedicated ballistics app and range corrections for inclination.
We'd go for the 10 x 42 Range rather than the Swarovski's similarly priced 8 x 42, as it is slightly higher performing, marginally lighter, and with an appreciably better twilight factor of 20.5 instead of 18.3.
Zeiss has long been a favored binocular brand and makes what are, in our opinion, some of the best quality optics on the planet. Couple that with a potent laser rangefinder and you have a very useful tool for use in the field, but at a price.
Zeiss Victory binoculars have fluorite lenses treated with the company's multi-layer T-coating to maximize the transmission of light, plus an additional coating called LocuTec on the eyepieces to repel water and dust. This laser rangefinder outperforms many others in terms of range and speed, feeding data via Bluetooth to the dedicated Zeiss smartphone app for those important correction calculations for inclination and environmental factors.
The Victory 10 x 54 is a quality piece of kit at a price that reflects the level of engineering and technology that has gone into it. Victory rangefinders are available in four configurations, with either 42 or 54mm objectives, and with 8x or 10x magnification. We think the 10 x 54s are the best pick of the bunch.
Most people in the market for rangefinder binoculars will be looking for laser-powered devices, but the alternative approach is based on geometry rather than geodesy. Superimposed on the view through the right-hand tube on these USCamel binoculars are a reticle (sometimes called a graticule) with a range of markings. They are a bit like the crosshairs on a rifle scope. If you know the size of the object you are sighting, by aligning it with these markings and performing a quick mental calculation, you can determine its distance from you.
It isn't highly accurate or very convenient but it is robust and, above all, cheap. Most laser devices are at least ten times the price of these. The binoculars themselves are of surprisingly good quality for this lesser-known brand, with top-spec BAK-4 glass, full multi-coating and a waterproof, nitrogen-purged chassis. Individual eyepiece adjustment is more cumbersome than traditional center focusing though.
As with any significant purchase, it really pays to shop around. The market for binoculars with rangefinders is rapidly changing as manufacturers strive to continually improve their products with new features and improved electronics. This means that bargains can sometimes be found among discontinued devices if you don't feel the need to own the very latest rangefinder technology.
Our final top tip is to always carry a spare battery with you. The majority of the devices in this review use a standard CR2 battery, and should deliver thousands of distance measurements before replacement. However, you can almost guarantee that when the battery does fail it will be at some crucial moment.