2018 Binocular review – Whats the best 15’s on the market

2018 Binocular review – What’s the best 15’s on the market

Battle of the 15 x56’s : We get asked quit often “which pair of binos is right for me?” Or ” I want to buy some 15’s which binocular do you suggest?” So we decided to do a review this year on which is the best 15’s on the market, and mainly because now there are some options out there. It used to be you either went with Ziess, Doctor or Swarovski until Vortex came along a few years ago, but now almost all the major players saw the benefit of getting into the “big eye” market. 15×56 were once only found in the southwest and their popularity grew mainly in the Coues deer hunting market in AZ and New Mexico but more and more guys across the west are utilizing the benefits of having 15 power binoculars to their arsenal. I for one never hunt a spot and stalk hunt with out them. Having a good pair of 15×56 binos mounted to a good light steady tripod is key to taking your glassing game to the next level, I have converted a lot of guys over the years from hand holding 10’s to my set up.

Glassing for deer

The players:

Swarovski 15×56 SLC HD


Ziess Conquest 15×56 HD


Docter Docter Optic Nobilem 15×60 


Leica geovid 15×56 R


Leupold BX-5 Santiam 15×56 


Vortex Vulture HD 15×56


Vortex Kiabab HD15x56


Maven B.4 15×56


Nikon Monarch 516X56



2018 Best binocular Review

We compared these binoculars side by side and tested them in a number of different lighting situations each of them was scored by myself and 2 other guys on my staff and we took the average of the 3 scores within each parameter. So when looking at this chart you really have to be objective and understand price point vs total score otherwise you may get a false sense of what is best. I encourage you to read the binocular reviews I did for each of the units we tested before making your final choice as to which is the best 15×56 binocular for 2018.

Best 15×56 binocular Review 2018

My two cents on each of the binoculars we tested


Vortex Vulture HD 15×56:

These as you would have guess by the price point were the lowest performing of the group, and for me even though they are fairly in-

Joe with 15×60 Docters

expensive in comparison they were clunky, the glass is so/so in good lighting and really sub-par in low lighting, the edeg to edge clarity is quit poor and you can see substantial vinetting while Digi scoping i would not buy these binoculars, seriously save an extra $200 and buy the Nikons they will outperform them 10 fold.

Docters 15×60: 

After criticizing the Vortex Vultures i realize that although they scored lower than the Docter Nobilem i think i would rather glass with the Vultures instead. The Docters are heavy very cumbersome the eyepieces are very unconfutable, its tough to get them warranted and even though the glass is fairly good for the price point again I would look elsewhere. I have never been a fan of Purro Prism binoculars, besides they have now discontinued this model and we are awaiting their new line up.

Vortex Kiabab HD 15×56:

The Kiabab are a good piece of glass especially in good lighting conditions. The color is crisp and accurate and the overall clarity is good plus honestly you can’t beat their warranty. Now I promise you I don’t having anything against Vortex as a company I think they make a great product for the money but my job is to share my opinion and give you the benefit of my experience. That being said for the money The Zeiss Conquest are far superior glass for the same money so I really don’t see picking up a pair of these unless they are used and you are getting a smoking deal on them and are banking that you will need to use that warranty.

Ella Glassing with Nikons

Nikon 16×56: 

Bang for the buck these are extremely hard to beat they score fairly high optically in clarity and an crispness, you lose a little in color and the focus ring mechanically isn’t as precise as some of the higher priced units. They fall short a bit when glassing into the sun to find those shady pocket that deer like to hide in and the diopter is not something to be desired either but like I said for $799 they are hard to beat because they compete at the same level if not a touch better than the Kiababs. They are 16 power so you have bit less field of view and not a 2 min difference in last/first light conditions.

Luepold BX-5 15×56

If I was gonna simplify this on one scale 1-10 these score about 3/4pt better than the vortex Kaibabs. For me my eyes were less tired after a day of glassing then a day of looking through the vortex but in all the test parameters they really scored the same when it comes to glass. Now the only reason I like them better is because they perform better looking into the sun and that holds a lot of weight for me. But as a consumer I don’t see why you would spend $300 more for them over the Kiababs.

Maven B.4: 15×56

These literally could be the same binocular as the Luepold BX-5 everything about them was the same optically I think mechanically these seemed to be a bit better I think the leupold are a bit lighter and are offered in subalpine ( lol im a sitka guy) but again I go back to price point these are cheaper why not get the same bino for a cheaper price

Leica Geovid 15x 56:

Listen its a Leica.. I shouldn’t have to say anything else… but I will! They are big and they are heavy but the glass is excellent and even though they are the most expensive pair we tested they are only $200 more than the Swarovski 15×56 SLC and they a have a built in range finder. Now that being said its hard to compare apples to apples here so im just going to talk about them from a glassing stand point. The major Draw backs for me are not being able to mount them effectively to a tripod which takes away from the user experience. The mounts they have for them are good for what they are but lack the control you have with the center mounted binos. The glass isn’t quit as good as the HD glass in the ziess or the Swarovski I’m splitting hairs here but the Ziess are just slightly better at glassing into the sun and have a bit less eye wear. The Swarovski are even just a bit better than the ziess. I would love for them to take their Noctivid line and make a 15×56 binocular becuase they would blow everyone away. However, the older Geovids just don’t have the same technology in the coatings and fall a bit short for me. Between usability and not being as good optically the idea of having a rangefinder for me just inst enough of a sell to shell out $2500 to buy them. I mostly bow hunt so I’m not gonna use 15’s to make my stalk once I spot game. I put the 15’s back in my backpack and stalk using 8×32 binoculars in a chest harness to make the stalk . I like to have my range finder ready at the go either in my pocket or on my chest harness. I just cant get use to wearing 15’s around my neck and trying to range and hand hold a big set of binos like that especially in one hand and with the button being on the left side. Now for long distance rifle hunting I can see it.

But I do want to say one thing about the Geovids that was by far superior to the rest.. the diopter being a dual adjustment system was the best that we tested and for a guy like me that needs that it made a big difference and was much easier to adjust

Swarovski: 15×56 SLC HD

By now you should know I’m a “Swaro guy”… the 15×56 SLC out performed all the binos we tested optically, mechanically, user “interface” and their warranty is solid but they also cost a bunch of dough. So it all comes down to how important is it to you to have the best. For a guy like me I spend 90-100 days a year in the field so I rely on my equipment to give me that extra edge and to perform day in day out. The Swaroski 15×56 SLC allow me to be effective before the sun comes up, while the sun is glaring in my face and after it has gone down and that to me is worth everything. Unfortunately they are not at the price point that everyone could afford. Even though I would suggest that everyone just stick with what they got until they could save up enough to buy a set, that may not be realistic for some so I leave you with this..




The Ziess Conquest HD 15×56:

Our Best 15 x56 binocular for 2018 is the Ziess Conquest. These were are top pic because at the $1400 price point they are simply hard to beat, they are excellent in clarity both edge to edge and center focus, the focus is precise, the diopter easy to set, they are very good with refracting glare, did extremely well in low light conditions.  Although the Swarovski 15×56 SLC were better optically and better mechanically, these weigh less and cost almost $900 less its hard to justify between the best and almost as good for $900 so if I had to steer you into a good purchase this would be my choice. The draw backs here are their warranty is kinda shitty and hard to deal with but I don’t buy equipment with the idea they are gonna fail I buy them on how well they perform and how well they last.


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