There are few items a Great Lakes angler can put on his or her boat which can be listed as an item of safety gear, a navigational aid, a fish-catching tool and a bit of gear which can just add enjoyment to every trip. A pair of binoculars can fill all of those niches.

I’ve used the a pair of Vortex 8X28 Diamondback Binoculars for all of the above. I’ve grabbed the binoculars to scan for vessels in trouble, hazards such as floating objects, to spot distant buoys or other navigational aides and to identify just what kind of bird is swimming nearby or circling around the boat. I’ve also handed the binocs to one of my fishing companions and told them to keep an eye on the boat nearby with the fish nearly ready to net and bring on board. “See if you can see what lure that fish just bit.”

Binoculars are available in many price points, from reasonably affordable to break-my-bank expensive. If I had an unlimited budget and unlimited space on my boat, I’d get a pair of those high-dollar, made for boating models like you see a battleship captains using in war movies. He’s got the space to stow them when not in use and a multi-billion dollar defense department budget to pay for them.

Realistically, the Vortex Diamondback binos I tested would serve the battleship captain for about 90 percent of his long-distant viewing needs and they served me on my boat even better. They are compact, rugged and weatherproof.

About the only specifications in the binocular industry which is standard from one manufacturer to the next is the X numbers they all carry, like 8X28, 10X50, 12X42 or others. It’s a simple code. The first number – is the magnification multiplier. An 8X28 is “eight-power,” so is an 8X32. A 12X42 is 12-power, or makes things look as if they are 12 times closer.

The number to the right of the X is the diameter of the front lenses on the binoculars. As a “general” rule, the larger the diameter, the brighter the picture you will see, just as more light will come through a picture window than port hole.

If all lenses were made identically, it wouldn’t be a rule of thumb, it would just be a rule. But each company coats their lenses with a layer or multiple layers of anti-reflective material to allow achieve better light transmission through the glass. The better and more meticulous the coatings are applied, the less light is lost to reflection. In most cases, a good pair of binocs with 28mm lens will be brighter than a so-so pair with 32 or even 42mm lenses.

If you need to zoom in on something wouldn’t it be better to have a 10 or 12 power, rather than a measly 8X pair of binos? On land, that’s a good theory. On a boat, if you are trying to spot a distant lighthouse or identify the lure being used in the next boat over, using high power optics can be frustrating. Being able to hold the binoculars steady enough to see details is more important than just increasing the magnification. Under identical conditions the picture you will see in an 8X binocular will be twice as steady compared to looking through a 10-power pair. In the same conditions using 12-power may be impossible.

That’s why the 8X28 Vortex Diamondback is a great choice. Compact, rugged, perfectly sized, they come with a lifetime warranty and you don’t need a Dept. of Defence budget to afford them. Check them out at http://www.vortexoptics.com. They are widely available online and in many retail outlets.

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