Understanding Binocular Pricing: How the Law of Diminishing Returns Applies to Binocular Quality

Different Binoculars and Optics

How much do you really need to spend on a pair of binoculars?

In our article on choosing your first pair of binoculars, we examined the three base components of a binocular: the mirror, the lens and the quality of glass.

From there, we learned that the quality of glass establishes the biggest difference in prices between pairs of binoculars, but this wide array of prices begs the question:

How much to do I really need to spend on a pair of binoculars?

The answer lies in your personal needs and budget, but there is a very important rule to consider when looking at the price tag on a set of glasses.

The Law of Diminishing Returns applies to binoculars and their quality.

Understanding this is crucial to how you make your binocular purchase. You’ll remember that there are no hard numbers to qualify how much better one set is from another, but that doesn’t mean that all binoculars are equal.

The Law of Diminishing returns means that every time we jump up a price bracket, we will see less of an improvement in binocular quality than we did at the jump before.

So to put it plainly: The difference between $80 binoculars, and $200 binoculars, is huge. Its twice the price, and easily twice the binocular. But as we climb the ladder we get less and less each time, and when we compare $1500 binoculars to $2800 binoculars, the more expensive pair might be only 5% better.

Now some people need that 5%. When looking at the curl of a sheep’s horn on the side of a mountain during a hunt thats only drawn once every 25 years, then that 5% might be the difference between taking a shot or going home empty handed. But not everyone needs the best. Some binoculars live in the truck and don’t see much use outside of that.

The question is: where do you find the best value on that scale of diminishing returns?

I would never recommend a set of binoculars under $100. Those gas-station $30 pairs aren’t worth the strain on your eyes. The jump to $200 is such a big one, there’s no reason not to take the better quality unit. Binoculars last a lifetime. Unlike your cellphone, iPod, and laptop, there is no battery to die in these. No wires will ever fail on a binocular. They can need maintenance, but they are not the temporary purchase that most modern technology is. Once you’ve got them, they’ll work forever, so I would highly recommend buying the best of what you want the first time.

If you’re looking at $100 or under, make sure you also look through a set of $200 glasses. Make sure any binoculars you look at are water proofed. I see another bump in and around the $350 mark, where you will start to get fog resistant coatings on the glass. Three hundred dollar binoculars are what I would consider the standard. If you own a pair in that price range, you can say you have a good set of binoculars that are worth carrying with you for birding, scouting, or any number of other tasks.

There are surprisingly few options between $400 and $600, with a marginal level of improvement of the the $350 standards.That kicks us up to the next bracket in the $600 to $1000 range. These are truly well made binoculars. 3 of my 5 personal sets fall into this range, and if you use your binoculars on a regular basis this is the range that will give you the best glass for your dollar.

Between one and two grand we start to see the high end Japanese glass and mid-grade European glass come into play. These binoculars are generally very sharp. Some really good low light performance starts to show up at this stage. However they’re not that popular from my experience, because if you’re prepared to spend $1800, why wouldn’t you spend $2500 and get the very best?

The $2000+ pantheon holds some of the best glass available. You will never pay that much money and get a set of binoculars you are disappointed in. But there are still some key differences, which is why we have the differentiating between european brands article.

Tags: ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply