Skip to main content

5 Things To Look For In A Great Hunting Binocular

5 Things To Look For In A Great Hunting Binocular
Steiner's ShadowQuest 8x56 binoculars are the industry leaders in light transmission, delivering 96%+ available light to the hunter's eye.

I'm not sure how it is where you hunt, but here in the South, mature bucks are highly-nocturnal.  Even during the rut, it is rare to see a buck over three-years-old during daylight hours in the fall or winter.  Studies have shown that human activity can significantly affect deer movement and cause the animals to become increasingly-nocturnal as the season progresses.

For hog hunters, this can be even more important as they can become completely nocturnal once pressured and are often legal to hunt well after the sun goes down.  If hunters are to have a chance at spotting, evaluating and taking these educated animals, optics that take advantage of every second of legal shooting light and beyond are a must.  The ShadowQuest 8x56 from Steiner embodies five key things to look for in a great hunting binocular that's tailor made for low-light hunting.

I first became aware of Steiner binoculars during the first Gulf War, when image after image in the media depicted them being used by U.S. troops.  I didn't actually get my hands on a pair until 15 or so years ago when I spent a summer behind the rifle and optics counter of a large outdoor store.  When I wasn't dealing with customers or dry-firing rifles at the mounted animals on the walls, I was staring endlessly into dark corners of the massive ceiling with various brands and models of binoculars, evaluating the quality and clarity of the optics.  I found Steiner's entire line to be sharper and brighter than many other brands at similar price points, which may be due to their porro prism design.  What porro prism binoculars give up in compactness, they often make up for in image quality.

Ease of Use

What also struck me about the Steiner's was that, once the diopter adjustments were made at the eye pieces, the user never again needed to adjust the focus.  You bring the binos to your eye and the image is clear. Period.  Steiner calls this "sports auto-focus" and I can tell you that it is a very handy feature in the real world where an animal might be spotted at 800 or 18 yards.  Many hunters, myself included, don't have the exact same acuity of vision in each eye, which means that a binocular with a single diopter adjustment will leave us with a blurred image on one side.  Because of the dual diopter settings on the Steiner's, this will never be an issue.

Steiner's ShadowQuest 8x56 binoculars are the industry leaders in light transmission, delivering 96%+ available light to the hunter's eye.

Light-Gathering Capability

As user-friendly as Steiner binoculars are, the star of this show is the ability to see clearly in near-darkness.  The porro-prism design, Diamond Night lens coatings and large diameter objective lenses of the ShadowQuest make for industry-leading light transmission: 96%+ available light makes it to the hunter's eye.  Because of this, the ShadowQuest boasts some of the brightest optics on the market.

There is a spot on our farm where bucks can almost always be found during the closing days of the rifle season when the rut is in full-swing.  The problem is that they only emerge from the treeline at dark, usually with less than 5 minutes of legal shooting time remaining.  With many brands of binoculars on the market, a hunter would see little more than a dark mass of the bucks' body, but with premium glass such as the ShadowQuest, these bucks can be identified sufficiently to ensure that the deer is, in fact, a mature buck.  The ShadowQuest is available in a single model, the 8x56mm.


When considering magnification in binoculars, more power is not always better.  For starters, this is a binocular designed to be used in the field without a tripod.  At any magnification north of about 8x, the optics have to be braced to get a steady image.  If I'm going to spend all day glassing a mountain hillside looking for a bedded muley buck, sure, give me a 10x that I can steady across my knees.  If I'm hunting anywhere else though, especially whitetails or elk in the timber, I prefer an 8x.  8x provides plenty of magnification for identifying and judging animals at reasonable ranges. An 8x model can be hand-held without excessive wobble, and they provide the hunter with a wider field of view than more powerful optics do (441 feet at 100 yards in this case).  All things being equal, an optic with less magnification is going to be brighter, which is another reason why these do so well at low light.


8-Power binoculars are easy to hand hold and minimize hand-shake, even in the wind. Large, 56mm objective lenses offer a wide field of view and excellent light-gathering capability.

The Big Objective Advantage

The other part of the "8x56" equation is the ShadowQuest's 56mm objective lenses.  These big lenses offer fundamental advantages over more compact designs the larger they are, the brighter, cleaner, and higher-contrast the images transmitted to the hunter's eye will be.  Qualities such as brightness and contrast can be subjective from user to user, but exit pupil is not.  This measurement is a formula that is based on the objective lens diameter divided-by magnification the higher the exit pupil, the better. Thanks to the 56mm objectives and the 8x magnification, the exit pupil on the ShadowQuests is an impressive 7mm.  For comparison's sake, the exit pupil on a 10x42 binocular (regardless of brand or price) is 4.2mm.


Beside great optical performance, these Steiner's feature the rugged durability that have made the brand a standby for military units across the globe.  The ShadowQuest's are rubber armored and waterproof to 16 feet. They also incorporate ergonomic eye cups that fit the contour of the face and even feature a luminescent clip that allow you to locate your optic in the darkness.

Game animals are smart and quickly adapt to human hunting pressure.  To find game, hunters need quality binoculars.  To target animals in the waning minutes of dusk when mature bucks, bulls or boars often emerge from hiding, hunters need excellent optics designed for just such a task.  Steiner's ShadowQuest 8x56 are engineered specifically to offer the greatest performance in the low light situations that often matter most.


Steiner ShadowQuest 8x56mm

Weight: 38.45 ounces

Dimensions: 7.8 x 8.3"

Exit pupil: 7mm

Included Accessories: Neoprene strap, case, objective cover, rain protection cap

MSRP: $1,199

Current Magazine Cover

Don't Miss

The Essentials Gear Box.

Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.

Learn More

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Petersen's Hunting Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Petersen's Hunting stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now