Why you need a pair of 12 power binoculars

Why you need to hunt with 12x50 binoculars

The last time I talked about my love for 12 power binoculars was back in June of 2018. If you need a refresher, you can check out the article, Are 12 power binoculars the ultimate glassing setup?.

Since then, I’ve had a ton of additional glass time behind 12s. I first started to use Vortex Razor HD 12x50 binoculars in early fall of 2017. It didn’t take long for me to love my new relationship with 12s and I was quick to understand that I’d probably never again take 10s with me on a hunt.

A few weeks ago I was talking with Cody Nelson about my love of 12s, and it sparked the idea of getting out a round two article on my thoughts of 12 power binoculars.

For starters, let’s cover some common questions I’m asked

Can you effectively handhold them?

Handholding pair of Vortex Razor HD 12x50 binoculars

Photo spring bear hunting where I'm scanning the opposite mountain by handholding 12x50 binoculars. Photo credit: Chris Neville

When people think about 12 power binoculars I believe there is a misconception that you cannot glass with them solely using your hands. That is probably the first question I am asked, “Can you use 12s handheld straight from a bino harness while standing up?”

That is a 100% yes answer. I do this all the time and even glass with my 12s with one hand while standing up if I need to. The extra power isn’t a deal breaker. 12 power binoculars are still light enough for hand holding and they don’t have that much narrower of a field-of-view (FOV), which could cause you to be extra shaky.

I never glass off a tripod, would 12s still benefit me?

12x binoculars for hunting

This is another topic that is commonly addressed when considering a higher power binocular. However, I tell people all the time: if you want one pair of binoculars to do it all and would never consider purchasing 15s, then by all means, skip the 10x42 and go with 12x50s. As I mentioned above, 12s are a breeze to handhold and glass.

Plus, when you finally do decide to glass off of a tripod, the 12s will shine.

Couldn’t you just glass with 10s off a tripod?

10x42 binos can definitely work off of a tripod. However,  when I’ve tried it, I’ve wished that I had more power and I end up putting my 10s back in my bino harness and just pulling out my spotting scope. The FOV is great in 10s, but I still prefer to see more detail, so I love the added power. 

But what about 15x or 18x binoculars?

With the 12s I’m still able to glass great distances, but, then, if I’m in a tight basin, I’m also not giving up a ton of FOV. That was the main complaint I had when I used to run 15s. The 15s are great in the big and open country, but during some mountain hunts, they are way too much. I never took them out of my pack and ended up just using my 10s. So I was carrying the extra weight for no reason. If you want some weight example savings, check out the first article I wrote on 12s here.

Has anything changed since I started using 12s?

Not really. The only thing that I have personally changed has been my switch from the Razor HD 12x50 to the Razor UHD 12x50. The reason I made the upgrade was because of the glass. I can glass even longer and the view is even clearer in the UHDs! A win-win in my book.

Feature comparison across the bino power range

Spring bear hunting with 12x50 binoculars

Next, I want to do a little comparison that showcases why I feel 12x50 power binoculars are a perfect choice if you are in the market and just want to buy one pair of binoculars and be done with it.

To keep things apples to apples, let’s look at the Vortex lineup.

Comparing 10x42 to 12x50 binoculars

 10x42 UHD12x50 UHDPercentage
Weight (oz)
FOV at 1,000
346 ft288 ft-18.30%

When comparing the 10x42 UHD to the 12x50 UHD, you get an instant boost of 18.18% in magnification, an increase of 11.42% in weight, a decrease of 18.30% in FOV, but only a 6.45% increase in cost. Even with these values presented, you would still need to examine whether that is worth it to you.

In my opinion, I’ll gladly take the 18.18% increase in magnification at only $100 more in price. I can also live with a decrease of 18.30% in FOV at 1,000 yards. Keep in mind that the difference of FOV is only 58 feet, which is hardly noticeable and, on top of all this, the weight is only 3.9 oz more.

But what about the comparison of 8x42 to 12x50 binoculars?

Again, I would say 12s are a clear winner if you are in the market for new binoculars. But let’s look at the data first.

 8x42 UHD12x50 UHDPercentage
Weight (oz)
FOV at 1,000
420 ft288 ft-37.30%

The difference between 8x42 UHD and 12x50 UHD is an instant boost of 40% in magnification. Once again, there’s only an 11.42% difference in weight (8s and 10s weigh the same). However, 12s have a 37.30% decrease in FOV at 1,000 yards which is 132 feet. And a 9.84% increase in cost. So, for basically $150 more, I get 40% more magnification at a weight penalty of only 3.9 oz. Again, for my style of mule deer hunting, 8x42 power binoculars just aren't enough value to me. So while this comparison might slightly favor 8s, keep in mind what you are using the binoculars for on the majority of your hunts.

How about the comparison of 8x42s to 10x42s?

 8x42 UHD10x42 UHDPercentage
Weight (oz)32.232.20%
FOV at 1,000
420 ft346 ft-19.32%

This one is a little interesting. Since we are dealing with smaller power numbers, the difference in an increase from 8x to 10x is 22.22%; the weight difference is zero. However, the FOV is 19.32% lower in the 10x42 with a price difference of $50. Here, I feel it is a toss-up. Personally, I’d go with 10s in this scenario because I want a little more power for glassing big basins, but, then again, maybe you want the 8s for more FOV and light gathering? Yet, it’s a curveball. Since the 10s technically win in this situation, I’d instantly compare them to 12s and, then, I’d still elect for 12x50 binoculars.

My thoughts going forward

Vortex Razor UHD 12x50 with tripod adaptor

Mud, snow, rain... my 12x50 binoculars have seen it all. Plus, you'll notice that I always keep my Uni-Daptor mounted to my 12s at all times for quick mounting to a tripod.

Overall, I am very happy that I made the switch to 12 power binoculars back in 2017. This switch has allowed me to lighten the total weight in optics I carry (I used to carry 10s, 15s and a spotter no matter the hunt) to now just 12s and a spotter. Along with that, I’m able to glass more effectively as I’m not burning precious time switching from optic to optic. For my style of hunting, running 12s has also increased my ability to pick up animals. More on that can be found in this article. I hope that after reading this article you can make the best choice for your style of hunting.

After all this is said and done, if you have any specific questions, I’d be more than happy to help! 12 power binoculars are the best binocular for the majority of the hunts I go on. You get lightweight binos, with a ton of mule deer finding power! 

And, remember, for all your optic or tripod needs, you can always email goHUNT's Optics Manager Cody Nelson at optics@gohunt.com or call him at (702) 847-8747 | Ext. 2. Cody is always happy to help you out in selecting the perfect optic package and is a great resource to take advantage of.



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