Binoculars with 8x magnification and a 56 millimeters objective lens are the most common low-light binoculars on the market. Thanks to the 7 millimeters exit pupil, they are the perfect tool for low-light observing since this is the maximum value the human eye can detect.
Because this combination of magnification and objective lens is perfect for low-light use, also the lenses feature very high transmission rates to offer the brightest pictures.
Low-light binoculars are made only with
Porro prism or
Abbe Koenig prism system because they offer the best transmission rate, with the least losses.
Due to the big objective lens, these binoculars are big and bulky and are known for the heavyweight.
Swarovski SLC 8x56 pair of Binoculars
Binoculars with an 8x56 configuration are mostly used by hunters. They are especially popular among hunters which hunt from a raised hide and hunt deep into the night.
With high-quality low light binoculars, animals can be spotted even after they cannot be detected anymore with naked eyes.
Often they are also used for astronomy use because of the bright picture.
Due to the heavier weight and bigger construction, users often use 8x56 binoculars fixed on a tripod. When mounted, it is also a lot easier to observe since the picture is steady, and the user can focus on one object easier.
Mostly used, and the most universal binoculars on the market are 8x42.
They can be used for:
traveling, and many more.
Vortex Razor UHD 8x42
8x42 configuration offers a solid bright picture but is still packed into smaller housing for easier transportation. Due to the smaller dimensions, also the weight is quite lighter, which is perfect for long trips, where every gram counts.
8x42 binoculars do also offer a slightly bigger field of view, so detecting an object or an animal is slightly faster. 8x42 binoculars have many advantages over the 8x56 configuration, but 8x56 does outperform all 8x42 binoculars when it comes to the observation time in dusk and dawn.
Thanks to the bigger objective lens the 8x56 binoculars gather a lot more light, which results in a brighter picture in low-light situations. The exit pupil is 7 millimeters, which is the widest a human eye can detect. 8X42 binoculars, for comparison, have 5.25 millimeters, exit pupil.
Older people, whatsoever, cannot see any difference in the picture since the pupil of the human eye gets smaller with older years.
In the 7x50 category, the majority of binoculars have a Porro-prism design. There are only a few exceptions, with Roof – Schmidt/Pechan prisms.
One of the most known binoculars with a 7x50 configuration is still the Steiner Commander, which is known for exceptional low-light performance.
Due to the smaller magnification of the 7x50 configuration, they offer a much wider field of view, and the shakiness of the hands is not as noticeable. Even though the exit pupil is in both types 7 millimeters, you still get a slightly brighter picture with an 8x56 configuration because of the bigger objective lens, which helps to gather more light.
7x50 type of binoculars is often used at the sea since 7x magnification is the biggest magnification that can be used on a boat. With bigger magnifications, the user can quickly get seasickness.
Schmidt Pechan prisms are produced all over the world. They are easy to produce and are the most common prism type. They are very affordable, and the construction is small, lightweight, and compact.
Compared to binoculars with Abbe Koenig prisms with the same magnification and objective lens size, the ones with Schmidt Pechan prisms are shorter in length.
The handling is easy and the ergonomics are very good. Binoculars with Schmidt Pechan prisms are waterproof, but the light transmission rate is lower compared to Abbe Koenig's prisms.
Abbe Koenig prisms are very common in high-quality binoculars, produced from the most known companies in this industry.
Sig Sauer, and
Zeiss Victory HT
Binoculars with integrated Abbe Koenig prisms are longer but offer better light transmission. The ergonomics are very good, and all Abbe-Koenig prisms are waterproof. Because of that, Abbe Koenig prisms are mostly built-in low-light binoculars in the configurations of 8x56 and 10x56. Also, other configurations are available with such prisms, but the selection is narrow.
Binoculars with Porro prisms in the construction were the first type of binoculars on the market. This traditional arrangement of binoculars provided by Porro prism makes objective lenses further apart and thus offering a higher light transmission rate. Images are brighter and sharper and have a better depth of field, offering realistic 3D images and a wider field of view.
Many Porro prism binoculars have also the focusing mechanism separated for each eye, which can be very useful in low-light situations when observing at dusk and dawn.
Even though the Porro prism is becoming rare in today’s times, this traditional arrangement makes them more affordable due to less expensive manufacturing. But the wider design makes them heavier and difficult to hold in hands and they are less watertight and also less rugged, providing a less secure grip. The other disadvantage of the Porro prism is the lack of adjustable eyepieces, which leads to problems when using binoculars with glasses.
Porro prism in the configuration of 8x56 are very rare, but one of the best low-light binoculars comes from this configuration – Steiner Nighthunter 8x56.
Steiner Nighthunter 8x56
(+) higher light transmission rate
(+) better depth of view perception
(+) wider field of view
(+) realistic 3D images
(+) lower price for a high-end device
(-) heavy and clumsy
(-) less watertight
(-) no eye-relief adjustment
Since the most 8x56 configurations are made of Schmidt Pechan or Abbe-Koenig prisms, the most common diopter setting can be found on one of the barrels.
Some exceptions feature the diopter setting on both barrels, and some have the diopter setting integrated into the focusing system.
No matter where the diopter setting is located, some binoculars feature a non-locking and some a locking function for the diopter adjustment wheel.
The coating of lenses is one of the most important processes in the manufacturing of optics. There are 4 different types of how, and how many times the coatings are applied on the lenses: Coated, Fully Coated, Multi-Coated, and Fully Multi-Coated.
If the lenses are ˝Coated˝, it means that there is only a single layer of anti-reflection coating on some of the lenses. Usually, only the objective lens and the eye-piece lenses are coated, and usually only on the outside, which is visible for the user.
˝Fully Coated˝ lenses mean that all air to glass surfaces have one layer of coating.
˝Multi-Coated˝ means that some lenses have multiple layers of anti-reflection coatings
˝Fully Multi-Coated˝ means that all air to glass surfaces are coated with anti-reflection coatings, with multiple layers.
Since lens coatings are very important for light transmission, 8x56 must feature Fully Multi-Coated lenses. This ensures the best light transmittance, and the brightest images in late hours.
Many manufacturers apply anti-fog coatings on the outer surfaces, so they don't fog up in a high-moisture environment, or when moving from a warm to a cold place. More expensive optics feature also scratch-resistant coatings on the outer lenses, which make the outer surface harder and more resistant. Also, water repellent coatings can be found, which affect as we know it from the lotus flower.
One of the best binoculars in this configuration is definitely the Steiner Nighthunter 8x56. They feature more than 96% of light transmission, thanks to the Porro prism lens system and superior coatings.
Also, Swarovski SLC 8x56 and Zeiss Victory HT 8x54 are top-of-the-line low-light binoculars, thanks to the Abbe-Koenig prism system.
In the 8x56 configuration are also binoculars available with an integrated laser range finder. The most known model comes from Leica with their Geovid 8x56 models, but also Zeiss offers LRF low-light devices, the Victory RF 8x54.