Should you buy 10×42 or 12×50 binoculars for hunting? The short answer is you should buy both. The short reason for this answer is that they do different things. Keep reading as I explain the differences between the two as they apply to hunting.
The Field of View (FOV)
When hunting, it is critical to see not just a deer with its head down but an entire panorama. In the short of it, a pair of 10×42 binoculars will allow you to see more of the landscape than the 12×50 binoculars.
For me, that can be a critical difference. The 12×50 will shorten the landscape and bring it closer — to the tune of about 18-20 percent.
Which Pair of Binoculars is Better for Hunting?
How we answer the question,” Which is better for hunting — binoculars that are 10×40 vs 12×50″ really comes down to what your goals are. For me, hunting is not just about taking down the big game; it is more about taking the best specimen.
I don’t just want a buck — I want a big buck. The reason is not pride, its poundage. Big bucks can deliver an extra 50 pounds or more of meat. As a subsistence hunter, my job is to put meat on the table.
So, which is better, the 10×42 or the 12×50 binoculars? The simple answer is that there is a role for both of them.
How Binoculars Work as Tools for Hunting
When I am out in the backcountry looking for game — be that deer, bear, fowl, goat, or sheep, a certain amount of prep work goes into creating a successful hunt. I carry my rifle or bow with me every day because you never know when a pristine opportunity will present.
The first day of the hunt is about setting up camp and getting a feel for the land. After that, I look at the landscape and look for trails, water, shelter, and other game requirements.
That means I am taking in the lay of the land. Specifically, I want to see more of the landscape, and a pair of 10×42 binoculars is perfect.
Are 10×42 Binoculars Good for Hunting?
Absolutely. 10×42 binoculars allow me to take in the landscape. In the case of deer hunting, I am looking for natural pathways. Deer travel the path of the least resistance.
The broader field of view (FOV) that the 10×42 binoculars provide gives me more details about funnels, potential stand placements, water, feed, and shelter particular to deer.
When are 12×50 Binoculars Useful to Hunters?
While the terrain is essential for deer hunting, it is much different when hunting bears. In the fall, bears are looking for one thing — food. They are trying to pack on the weight before hibernation occurs.
In the fall, that means berries, nuts, and fish. In Alaska, that means Salmon. In other places where the fish runs are not as heavy, bears rely on plant-based foods.
When you scout out an area to hunt bear, it is essential to be able to take in the landscape and differentiate between plant or tree varieties.
In this situation, the 12×50 binoculars will bring your field of vision closer. You may not be able to count the blackberries on the brambles, but you will be able to see if the berries are present.
Are 12×50 Binoculars Good for Hunting?
Like the 10×42 binoculars, 12×50 are also suitable for hunting. I am all about the right tool for the job. When I use 12×50 binoculars during a hunt, I am specifically looking at or selecting a target.
If I have placed my stand in a tree that shows me the inside corner of a meadow along a tree line, I expect bucks to appear — not just one, but several. Instead, they tend to migrate together to the feeding grounds.
With a pair of 12×50 binoculars, I am bringing the landscape closer by 18-20 percent.
That means I have more detail about the deer and minor detail about the landscape. That is an essential detail because I want to choose the best target. Maybe the best two targets. I will get that kind of detail with the 12×50 binoculars.
What is the Difference between 10×42 and 12×50 Binoculars?
Let’s talk about what the numbers mean. The first number — in this case, 10 or 12 — is the magnification. The second number — in this case, 42 or 50 — is the size of the objective lens in millimeters.
The objective lens size tells you how much light can pass through the binocular to your eye. The larger the objective lens, the more tiny movements distort the image that you see.
It is like trying to take a picture of the moon with your phone’s camera when you’ve expanded the zoom all the way. The slightest movement causes the image to become blurry.
IMO, anything above 50 for the objective lens power is unnecessary. However, if you are scouting or hunting at dawn or dusk, a more powerful objective lens can mean you see more detail in less light.
The Physical Difference Between 10×42 and 12×50
Physically, when you look through a pair of binoculars, you will be able to see about a 350 feet span of your field of vision at 1,000 feet from your target with the 10×42 binoculars.
With the 12×50 binoculars, the width of the span of your field of vision drops to about 280 feet. If weight is critical, keep in mind that the larger the objective lens, the more the binoculars weigh.
In the comparison between 10×42 and 12×50 binoculars, we are talking about 4 ounces. That increase in weight can vary between brands.
Should I Get 10×42 or 12×50 Binoculars for Hunting?
For me, the Difference between 10×42 or 12×50 is all about the job I want them to do. Essentially, you might want both. I carry both, but I use each at different times. Will you be able to tell a doe from a buck at 1,000 yards with the 10×42? Generally, yes.
Will you be able to know if that is water in the distance or a bluish hedgerow of shrubs at half a mile? Knowing can save you a lot of walking if you are scouting. So, both options have a role.
The Best Choice if You Are Only Buying One Pair
If you are a new hunter and only buy one pair of binoculars, then the 10×42 is a good option. They will give you enough detail about the landscape and specific targets to help you make successful decisions about when to fire and when to wait.
If you hunt in the same place every year, then the 12×50 is a better option. You will learn the lay of the land over time so that you will benefit from the increase in magnification year-over-year. On the other hand, if you hunt in many locations, then the 10×42 are likely a better fit.
The 10×42 gives you a wider field of vision, which means you can locate targets across a more expansive space. The 12×50 binoculars show you greater detail, which means you can pick out targets from a herd. Sometimes you might find a lone buck among a herd of does.
Which pair of binoculars should you get?
The answer to that question comes down to usage. I would start with the 10×42 binoculars as you will have more use out of those than the 12×50. However, that does not make one better than the other. When I buy gear for hunting, I base my decision on usage.
Over thirty years of hunting, I have amassed a lot of equipment. My essential binoculars are the 10×42, but I use my 12×50 binoculars often. It is why I have two pairs rather than one.