Conventional wisdom says that high quality, compact, durable roof prism binoculars cost over $1000. Bushnell destroys that myth with outstanding, moderately priced Nitro binoculars.
There you are, at a majestic inspiration point—perhaps in the mountains or at the sea. You might have your phone or even a camera with you, but the item that could really help you appreciate this beauty is what you don’t have: binoculars. This is why there are coin-operated telescopes at scenic places: no one carries binoculars. Binoculars are bulky, heavy and take up too much space. This is true for tourists and all the more for hunters in the field. With everything hunters must carry, the last thing they need are fragile, oblong, annoying binoculars.
The solution would be compact, rugged, high-quality binoculars that would fit in a jacket pocket—and they wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive. Bushnell has solved the binocular problem with their Nitro Binoculars. In this Bushnell Nitro 10×42 review, we’ll take a close look at these new generation binoculars to find out why they’re unique and so functional.
The 70-year history of the Bushnell company, which started with binoculars before branching into virtually every sort of precision optic you can imagine, has always been about innovation. Despite having great success in creating all manner of quality lenses at reasonable prices, the pioneers at Bushnell are never content. In 2018 they went back to where they started—binoculars—and came forward with a series of three revolutionary products: roof prism binoculars, or as they are coming to be called commonly, “binos.” This review will focus on Bushnell’s outstanding Nitro Roof Prism Binoculars.
Bushnell Nitro Binoculars are truly state of the art magnifying devices. Gunmetal gray with a pleasing, non-slip surface of rubberized armor, they’re a compact 5.5 inches long and weigh less than 3 pounds. They have attached lens covers on the 42-millimeter objective lenses—meaning you can’t lose them—and rubberized, adjustable eyecups on the ocular lenses that twist up to suit your eye as you look through them. They’re sleek and attractive.
While they look pretty special on the outside, it’s what’s on the inside that sets the Bushnell Nitro binoculars apart. Those attractive lenses are made of ED (extra-low dispersion) glass that prevents chromatic aberration—the color distortion caused by lenses bending light. The fluorite ED glass is also coated with Bushnell’s proprietary EXO emulsion that bonds to the molecules of the glass to repel water and dust particles and to make the glass scratch proof. The environmentally-friendly lead-free glass in the lenses is testimony to Bushnell’s investment in our natural surroundings.
Inside there are glass devices you’ll see-through, but never see, called prisms. They are saturated as well with PC-3 Phase Coating, which brings the light rays that pass through the prism back into proper alignment for the viewer. This particular type of prism, the Schmidt-Pechan design, elongates the length of the light rays for truer resolution when it gets to the viewer’s eye. This greatly improves brightness and light transmission. Once the interior works of the binoculars are in place they are sealed with O-rings and purged with dry nitrogen gas. Then they are waterproofed, certified to a depth of 6 feet for 30 minutes. Bushnell would only build binoculars like this if they intended for them to extremely rugged. Indeed the Nitro binoculars are far from delicate. They are meant to withstand the harshest weather conditions and still function perfectly.
The Bushnell Nitro has a magnification of 10X with a 340’ field of vision at 1000 yards and an eye relief of .7”. The diopter, the central adjustment that allows you to compensate for the differences between your own eyes, is lockable so that you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping it and having to reset it. There is an available platform adapter for the bottom of the binoculars, so the Bushnell Nitro can be fixed to a tripod. Several other accessories can also be acquired. Some folks have already figured out how to attach their smartphones and tablets to the binoculars, so videos taken through the lenses are already becoming available online.
Not content to have merely refined the binoculars themselves, Bushnell also includes in the box an instruction card, a hardshell case and carrying straps, an inner pouch, and lens cloths. Best of all, the Bushnell Nitro comes with a lifetime warranty.
All this quality comes at a price, but not the price you might expect. Roof prism binoculars, like the Nitro, are traditionally much more expensive than the old, standard Porro prism binoculars—the ones that look like a bowlegged letter H. To accomplish the quality of clarity, resolution, magnification, and durability achieved in the Nitro, those who understand the technical difficulties and manufacturing processes would expect to pay over $1000. Bushnell has managed to achieve all this quality for less than half that amount.
What Sets the Roof Prism on Top?
The achieve magnification, as binoculars do, the rays of light must be sent through glass prisms that separate the colors (like sunlight shining through a crystal) and then bring the light back together. There are two mechanisms for accomplishing this. The old fashioned binocular is called the Porro prism in honor of the Italian man, Ignazio Porro, who invented it. The light in a Porro prism bounces off two prisms at acute angles and then strikes the viewer’s eye. This simple and effective form of image magnification works well and is fairly inexpensive, but Porro lenses tend to be unwieldy.
About 60 years ago a new design for channeling light to both eyes simultaneously came into use: the roof prism. This type of prism is shaped like the letter V. With a roof prism design, it’s as if light is water that flows around a stone in the middle of the stream and then comes back together as it strikes the eye. The problem with roof prism technology is that when the light rays come back together, they are not perfectly in phase, which distorts the image. These prisms, as it was discovered, are not 100% reflective. The altered light has waves in it called aberrations. To compensate for this, special coatings for the prism glass and precision technology for the lenses had to be developed. The process is called “phase correction.” This resulted in roof prism binoculars being several times more expensive than Porro binoculars.
It was at this point Bushnell, the perpetual innovator, emerged with the Nitro roof prism binoculars. Suddenly high-quality magnification in a roof prism design became nearly as affordable as similar quality in Porro binoculars. Roof prism binoculars are much more compact, more durable, lighter, provide greater magnification, and are much easier to waterproof. Plus, they just look better.
Still you may ask, what’s the big deal? Why didn’t people just stay with the cheaper Porro binoculars anyway? That takes us right back to the waterfall or mountain vista, the place we never take our binoculars, even though we know there is so much more to see than meets the unaided eye. All of us who have stood on a viewing platform and wished we could see clearly across the distant vista know there is a great need for some form of compact magnification that is lightweight, portable, and affordable.
Even at their elevated prices, rooftop prism binoculars have swiftly become the lenses of choice for today’s bird watchers. Professionals in security, law enforcement officers in and out of their vehicles, sports fans in massive arenas, and naturalists all want to be able to see clearly at a distance without having to transport a set of ungainly Porro lenses. Most acutely this need is felt by hunters. They need to be able to see at 10 times the magnification of the unaided eye and to do so swiftly and quietly. Compact, portable, near at hand roof binoculars are a paramount need in the field.
What the Bushnell Nitro Roof Prism Binoculars Can Accomplish
The Bushnell Nitro binoculars deliver true high definition magnification. Through superior light transmission the viewer can see colors more vividly and have a sharp resolution of the most distant images. Bushnell worked to create the best ED lenses and to find the emulsions that would give perfect refraction. The company also invested in trying to make the process economically feasible for the average user. The effort Bushnell put into developing the Nitro roof prism binoculars in the laboratory is paying off in the field and at the cash register.
Of course it’s not just the technological advancements that make the Bushnell Nitro so useful and appealing. The design, appearance, and feel of these binoculars make clear that whoever developed them was really in tune with how they would be used by purchasers. The attached lens protectors and locking diopter are clear indications that someone at Bushnell understood that in the spur of the moment we would forget where we set the lens covers and we would accidentally bump the focal adjustment just at the worst possible time. The amazingly rugged waterproof design shows a real understanding of what it’s like in the field during a chaotic time of terrible weather or sudden activity.
With not much effort, we can begin to understand how important the right set of binoculars would be to us in our outdoor excursions. Indeed the opportunity to observe close up what has been distant and out of sight may prompt us to venture outside all the more.
Who has not gotten separated from friends or family members in large outdoor gatherings like carnivals or fairs? How much better would it be to look up and out and find the people you were looking for, rather than looking down at the cellphone to see if they texted you? Then there are excursions into the woods for hiking or camping. It’s a rare day in the wilderness when we are not beckoned to look at some distant sight we have never seen before. Of course there are those slippery, hissing creatures that are better off examined at a distance. When we think of boating, we might experience a natural reluctance to have binoculars we care about with us. If we plan as to how we are going to secure them, the presence of binoculars helps us gain perspective as to where we are on the water, to see aquatic fish and fowl we never get near and to locate our friends in the other canoe who went in a different direction.
Music festivals and concerts—indoors or out—are an ideal use for binoculars, not the large, heavy lenses that annoy the people around you, but the compact kind that allow you to see 10 times better than the people around you, who keep asking if they can borrow them just for a minute. Then there are sporting events, inside great coliseums, outside in massive stadiums or on two-mile-long oval tracks. With a quality pair of binoculars, you can see the action when it happens rather than waiting for the replay on the big screen.
We should note that some who have used the Bushnell Nitro have had difficulty adjusting the diopter with one hand while holding it with the other. It was also stated that some color fidelity was lost near the edges of the image when looking at distant objectives.
There is a magnificent world all about us just waiting to be seen. Until recently, the devices we could have used to take a closer look at life were unattractive and annoying. Thanks to Bushnell, however, we have access to Nitro Roof Prism Binoculars. Wherever the beauty of nature summons us, we can take these rugged, dependable magnifying lenses along without lugging a heavy carrying case or annoying those who are with us. The Bushnell Nitro Binoculars are state of the art, simple to use and personalized to our own eyes. Best of all, the innovators who developed these set a new quality standard for binoculars, while also lowering the bar when it comes to price. We can easily see what an excellent bargain these binoculars truly are.