Should I Consider Buying A 7-power Binocular?

Why yes, yes you should. You have my permission to ignore all the people who tell you otherwise.

I LOVE my Zeiss 7 X 42 Classic (no longer manufactured, unfortunately) because of its stunning brightness and ultra-wide field of view (FOV is discussed elsewhere on this site)—look through this binocular and the “widescreen” image just “pops” out at you (if you’re not sure what “pop” means in this context, find one and try it!). Whenever I showed this or any other quality 7 X 42 binoculars to a customer (which I always tried to do regardless of what price range they said they were interested in) I’d always hear some version of “Wow!” or “OMG!” at the very first look. I even sold a few to some folks who were looking is a much lower price range—such was the power of that “Wow!” Factor.

But despite this Wow! Factor a 7-power not often an easy sell because people come to the buying process having convinced themselves, or having been told by an “expert” friend, that they need higher magnification (mostly they don’t, at least for their first or primary binocular). Let me illustrate.

Let’s say you’re looking at…oh I don’t know, the secretive and elusive Sasquatch, that’s 100 feet from you (hope you have a camera too!) Since a 10X binoculars makes things looks 10 times closer than they actually are, a 10X binocular will cause the Sasquatch that’s 100 feet away look like it’s 10 feet away. Similarly an 8X will make that same large hairy ape-like creature appear about 12.5 feet away, and for a 7X it will seem about 14 feet away. So…how noticeable is the difference between 12.5 and 14 feet away when you’re looking at a Sasquatch that’s 100 feet away? Well for me the answer would be “not much,” and with a 7X the Sasquatch will seem brighter PLUS with the wider FOV that a lower magnification provides you’ll see more area around the Sasquatch—meaning you’ll get a better look at what it’s actually doing (very useful when you’re dealing with secretive creatures) and it’ll be easier to follow it with your bins as it moves.

Now admittedly a Sasquatch is larger than many of the things you’ll be watching with binoculars, so yes, there will be instances where the perceived difference of 1.5 feet (to continue the example) might come in handy—but for my money the perpetual wider field and brighter image trumps the occasional slightly greater detail that higher magnification provides.

So considering all of these benefits and the Wow! Factor they produce, why then is the 7x is a vanishing breed?

As mentioned previously there is an almost inherent bias against 7’s as being “not enough magnification,” and this bias is self-perpetuating—people are told or otherwise get the idea that 7’s are “not enough power” so they don’t buy them; less sales mean optics manufacturers have a solid business reason to stop producing them (in fact, among the three high-end optics manufacturers only one—Leica—still makes a 7 X 42. It’s a wonderful glass.)

But the best way to sell a 7X is to put one in the hands of a customer, and watch the “Wow!” happen—but unfortunately there are decreasing opportunities to do this with the rapid decline of brick and mortar optics stores with knowledgeable sales help. So while the online stores offer the convenience of at-home shopping, they are contributing, if only indirectly, to the disappearing 7 X 42 binocular—the best-kept secret in nature optics.

So when you’re shopping for a binocular, do yourself a favor and at least try to get your hands on a 7 X 42 (I’ll be happy to show you mine when we meet).

Your eyes will thank you.