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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 UHD 12x50 UHD Percentage
Power 10 12 18.18%
Weight (oz) 32.2 36.1 11.42%
FOV at 1,000
346 ft 288 ft -18.30%
Price $1,499.99 $1,599.99 6.45%

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 UHD 12x50 UHD Percentage
Power 8 12 40%
Weight (oz) 32.2 36.1 11.42%
FOV at 1,000
420 ft 288 ft -37.30%
Price $1,449.99 $1,599.99 9.84%

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 UHD 10x42 UHD Percentage
Power 8 10 22.22%
Weight (oz) 32.2 32.2 0%
FOV at 1,000
420 ft 346 ft -19.32%
Price $1,449.99 $1,499.99 3.40%

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 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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William B. - posted 1 week ago on 05-16-2020 12:19:34 pm

Hey Brady,
Just curious on your opinion, I have a pair of 10x42's and looking at purchasing a compact spotting scope for my set up. Instead of this arrangement, should a guy just consider going to a 15x bino and buy an 8x bino for close range and hold off on a spotting scope altogether?

matthew g. - posted 1 month ago on 04-20-2020 01:24:13 pm

Thank you both!!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 month ago on 04-20-2020 11:26:38 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Matthew. I don't have any experience behind the Leupold binoculars. But you could always give Cody Nelson a call who is our optics manager. He has looked through pretty much everything and will always shoot you straight.

Vance W. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 08:21:53 pm
Anthem AZ

@Matthew - I haven't seen any. I guess you could go to a store and do a side by side compare. The BX5s have a different coating from the UHDs. I've looked through both but not side by side.

matthew g. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 08:15:56 pm

I’m searching for a new pair and am so torn. It’s awesome that I can try them out first. Any opinion on leupold Binos?

Vance W. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 07:36:41 pm
Anthem AZ

@Matthew - cool, I think you'll be shocked how good they are. They seemed brighter than my 12x50 HD razors. I would be gunning to get a pair if hadn't bought some 15x56 Meopta Meostars 6 months before they came out. The Meostars are brighter than my Razor HDs as well.

matthew g. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 07:32:50 pm

Vance, thank you! I’m out in Surprise so it’s local enough!

Vance W. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 06:27:31 pm
Anthem AZ

@Mathew - I rented them from a place local to me call Ross Archery. I think they will rent via mail.

matthew g. - posted 1 month ago on 04-15-2020 12:05:44 pm

Hey Vance, where did you rent your Binos from??

matthew g. - posted 1 month ago on 04-14-2020 02:43:51 pm

Are you able to give a quick preferential comparison between 12 power vortex vs leupold? Thank you!

Vance W. - posted 1 month ago on 03-31-2020 10:50:02 pm
Anthem AZ

@Grant C. I rented a pair of the 18 UHDs to try them out on a Javelina hunt last month. I have a pair of 12x50 Razors, great piece of gear btw, I compared the 12 HD to the 18 UHDs and the UHDs were as bright to my eyes as the 12 HDs. Compare them side by side on tripods before you buy. I'd try to do it right at dusk if possible. The 18s were clear edge to edge, I wish they had come out earlier, I'd have them instead of the 15s I have.

Grant C. - posted 1 month ago on 03-31-2020 07:11:48 pm

Brady, I’ve been looking into a pair of Vortex 12’s and can’t decide on the HD’s or the UHD’s. The UHD’s are are approximately an inch taller and 10 ounces heavier. What are you thoughts on comfort while running in a BINO harness and is the price difference worth the weight and better glass? Thanks!

Arron J. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 10:18:05 pm

Thanks for the good info as always Brady.

Jeff F. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 05:37:55 pm

Depending on the hunt I wear the cheap Nikon Monarch 8x36 or 10x36 to keep it small light and quick on my Binobib chest rig. Then the Vortex 15's & spotter on tripods if see something. But to be honest I've been thinking about the 12's for a while to just carry 2 things then Brady writes this article...

Vance W. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 04:06:57 pm
Anthem AZ

@Brady, a pair of 8s on a tripod right at day break can be very useful.

Brody C. - posted 2 months ago on 03-26-2020 06:10:33 am

IMO folks need to try hand holding 12s to know if it will work for them. No way would I carry 12s if never using a tripod. I can hand hold them and they are usable but still leave the 12x Swaro EL's at home for cheaper nikon 10s if I don't expect the vast majority of glassing to be off a tripod.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 months ago on 03-25-2020 03:12:50 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Vance, Gary, Arron - Thanks for checking out the article. I love hearing what everyone else is using. The great thing about gear, different things work for different people. We live in an amazing time for the quality of optics that are available.

@Arron - I will say, I need to try a set of 8s out on a hunt. I know a lot of people who swear by them, even for long-distance glassing.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-25-2020 11:16:13 am

I use those pocket CL 8X25 for most of my glassing. They are VERY easy to use with eyeglasses.

Arron J. - posted 2 months ago on 03-25-2020 11:14:44 am

The Vortex Razor UHD glass for the money is really quite amazing. My personal preference is 8x42 UHDs. They are so close to Swaro ELs (not quite, but dang close). For sitting behind a tripod, nothing beats my Swaro 15x56 SLCs. Every time I think about "upgrading" I look through them and they go right back into my essential hunting gearbox. I also like the 8x42 UHDs on a tripod, super steady images and clarity for long glassing sessions.

Gary H. - posted 2 months ago on 03-25-2020 04:25:24 am

Nice read!

15X50 SLC HD and CL 8X25 pocket guy here.

Vance W. - posted 2 months ago on 03-24-2020 07:17:15 pm
Anthem AZ

Good article pointing out the pluses of a set of 12s. When I need a lighter pack I will only take my 29 ounce 12x50 Razors. They are very bright and I can stabilize them by hand for short periods but use a tripod for glassing sessions. If I need more power I add my Leupold 12-40x60 spotter, which only adds 37 ounces. I haven't had a problem locating a killing a Coues deer for the last 4 years. So seeing a big Mule deer or elk isn't a problem. I do carry my 15s still at times, leaving the 12s behind.