Bushnell are a brand known for their sports optics for hunting, fishing, shooting and general outdoor use. The Bushnell Prime 8x42 are marketed as a super rugged pair of binoculars that are designed to take the knocks you’d expect on outdoor adventures. They deliver an excellent image and come with an ‘ironclad’ lifetime guarantee that should give most outdoor enthusiasts the added reassurance they need before investing in a pair of binoculars. They boast really good image quality and, while basic and functional, they represent excellent value for money. They will more than meet the needs of most outdoor users and the ability to withstand the rigors of the outdoors might be a good reason to choose this pair over a similarly priced alternative.
Very robust and good for general nature watching
Image is impressive at this price point
Eye adjusters felt very stiff
Lack of real close focus may be a problem for some
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This was my first time testing Bushnell Prime 8x42 binoculars, even though I’ve used Bushnell camera traps before to film nocturnal wildlife. They popped out of their box in a less-than-impressive carry case, which goes someway to explaining how Bushnell can deliver these excellent binoculars at such a competitive price point.
While we’re on the subject, you shouldn’t let accessories swing your choice of binoculars. If you are carrying a pair of bins around, they should be around your neck and ready to use or as accessible as possible. Don’t be swayed by slick looking carry cases, although a good neckstrap is important if you’re using a pair of binoculars all day.
- Browse all of the best binoculars in our buying guide
- Learn how to use binoculars – and find the best pair for you
- How to go nature watching and appreciate the natural world
This pair look functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but again, who cares? You’re supposed to be looking through them rather than at them.
But when I started to get them set up, I did hit a snag. While the central hinge felt slightly tight, one of the eyepiece adjusters was exceptionally stiff. It took a little extra force to open and was probably a one-off manufacturing issue – but it did irritate whenever I took this pair out to test.
• RRP: $140 (USA)/£162 (UK)
• Size: 132mm length; 130mm width/5.2in length; 5.4in width
• Weight: 660g/23.3oz
• Magnification: 8
• Objective diameter: 42mm
• Field of view at 1000m: 117m
•Close focusing distance: 3m/10ft
In the field
I took the Bushnell Prime 8x42 binoculars on a long walk in the Forest of Dean with a group of friends. They got a coo of delight when I handed them to more novice users and even an appreciative nod from more experienced bird watchers. They do indeed deliver a superb image that underlines just what you can get at this price point. Optics technology has developed so much that this kind of money will buy you a level of performance that would have been unthinkable a few decades ago.
In terms of image quality these probably represent the very best budget buy. If you are looking for a pair of roof prism binoculars, then these are certainly the most affordable pair we tested and they deliver an excellent image at this price point.
These are built to withstand the rigors of the outdoors – at least that is how they are marketed. We didn’t immerse them in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes (but apparently they will cope with this). Nor did we test their ability to deal with oil and dust or to resist scratches. But if you buy this pair, they come with an ‘ironclad’ lifetime guarantee and that in itself tells you a lot about the confidence that Bushnell have in their product.
They delivered a sharp, clear central image that was easy to focus and they offered some great wildlife moments on my local patch. I have no doubt they would meet all my needs as a bird enthusiast, although for summer I would want something that allowed closer focusing to watch butterflies and bees.
For the general outdoor user these offer plenty of performance and two key selling points: excellent value for money and the guarantee of a bomb-proof build that means they should last a lifetime.
Former Editorial Development Director for Lonely Planet, editor of Trail and BBC Wildlife magazine, and editor-in-chief of Trail Running magazine, Matt got the outdoor bug as a teen on gruelling UK Ten Tors events around Dartmoor. He has hitch-hiked to Egypt, cycled through India, enjoyed the delights of the High Atlas, slept on volcanoes while living in Central America, climbed in the Alps and tackled some of Scotland’s really big routes, from Tower Ridge and the Cuillin to the Aonach Eagach. He’s got a passion for butterflies and ukuleles. If you see him in a campfire situation… approach with caution.