Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD Binoculars Dominate in the Field
There’s no substitute for good glass, whether you’re on the hunt of a lifetime abroad or chasing local game in the backwoods. Spending a day behind crappy glass not only strains the eyes, but you can neither stalk nor harvest game you can’t spot. Leupold puts hunters on the straight path to success with their new BX-5 Santiam binoculars. Many hunters already top their rifles with Leupold optics, but the time is now for these premium handhelds.
Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD
The BX-5 Santiam HD binocular is built with an open-bridge design, center focus, roof prism and HD lenses. Leupold’s Twilight Max HD light management system means brighter views. Of course, they’re 100-percent waterproof because, lets face it, hunters are out in all conditions. An aggressive exterior texture ensures a certain grip in adverse weather, with or without gloves.
The body of the binocular is built of glass-reinforced polymer for both strength and lighter weight. The glass is coated in what the company calls guard-ion hydrophobic. The intention is to repel those pesky contaminants like dirt, rain, and fingerprints.
Our test binocular came in Shadow Gray. For hunters seeking camo coverage, a Sitka Subalpine version is also available. The unit comes packed neatly in a sleeved box along with a Pro Gear Leupold-embroidered case and well-padded Go Afield shoulder strap, lens covers, and a cleaning cloth also included. Premium glass never comes cheap, and the BX-5 Santiam HD family of binoculars is the best Leupold has to offer.
While we always appreciate Leupold’s American-made items, binoculars are usually produced overseas. The BX-5 Santiam HD is marked as being Made in Japan, which has long held a reputation of producing glass far superior to that of China or the Philippines. The Santiam HD models can be had in five power and objective diameter variants: 8x42mm, 10x42mm, 10x50mm, 12x50mm, and 15x56mm. MSRP ranges from $999.00 to $1,399.99, reflecting the premium price for the company’s best glass and overall construction.
Our test model of the BX-5 came in 10x42, which means, of course, a magnification of 10-power with 42mm objective aperture. We find that to be an ideal balance of ample power for spotting game, steadiness of image in the hand, and light enough weight to easily wear afield all day. To that end, these binoculars are quite svelte and well-balanced. They weigh in at 24.3 ounces, or 1.5-pounds with an overall length of only 5.9 inches.
The other metrics are equally as impressive. Eye relief is 16.6mm or 0.65-inches. It has proven comfortable and equally effective for users with and without glasses, as well as those with eye corrections. The close-focus distance is only 10 feet. The field of view is 341.0-feet at 1,000 yards. The twilight factor—a numerical rating used to judge the brightness and clarity of an optic in low-light conditions-- is 20.5 for the BX-5 in 10x42. Much of that is purely subjective—until the hunter actually glasses at dusk and dawn conditions, and that’s where the BX-5 digs in its heels and leaves cheaper binoculars in the dust. All the metrics and claims are one thing on paper, but the evidence comes in the hand and in the field.
Clarity on the BX-5 is off the charts. I’ve never dropped over $1,000 on binos, and was always hesitant to do so, due to sticker shock. I’ve often wondered if these BX-5’s—or any glass for that matter—could be that good.
Long story short, they are. We tested clarity. We checked low-light vision at dusk and again at dawn. We adjusted the eye pieces for different hunters with varying quality of vision. Though there’s no replacement for actually hunting in rough and tumble conditions, we took the BX-5 out in the rain and glaring sun. There was never one complaint, but compliments galore.
Focus adjustments are super smooth and tight. The perceived light-gathering, brightness, and image quality on the BX-5 is second to none in terms of binoculars we’ve used in the past. We never noticed any distracting glare, even in bright and direct light. There’s no noticeable eye strain, even with heavy use. The Santiam HD’s proved their fogproof, waterproof promises when going from hot to cooler environments—though we haven’t yet run them through a Midwest winter.
The BX-5 has taken two hunting flights, bounced around logging roads in old trucks, picked up details on game under the light of a nearly-full moon, glassed all day in hot and dusty conditions, been rained on, and is ready for the next adventure. Performance in the field answers the question if the price is worthwhile for serious hunters who will appreciate the image quality and performance of high-end glass under extended use.
The HD name implies not only high-definition, but also calcium-fluoride lenses for clarity at all magnification levels. Exterior lens surfaces are treated with Diamondcoat2 for abrasion resistance, because, lets face it, in the real world, the binoculars of serious hunters take a beating. Who knows when we may have to belly crawl over the edge of a ridge to get within range of a trophy? We trust the BX-5 will handle that and more.
Like all Leupold products, the warranty is exceptional. The BX-5 binos come with Leupold’s Full Lifetime Guarantee, which means “if your Leupold product doesn’t perform as promised, we will repair or replace it for free, whether you are the original owner or not—forever.” That means we don’t have to baby even expensive glass. It goes where we go—the dirt, the flights, and the memory-making hunts.
The Bottom Line
Our 10x42 Santiam HD retails for $999.99. That’s a tall dime to drop on binos, yet falls into perspective when shopping other company’s premium glass that often offers the same features for fewer dollars. If you’re hung up on warranties, Leupold stands behind their products, and we wouldn’t think twice about their backing of the BX-5.
While we can quantify numbers and compare one binocular model with another, it’s impossible to put metrics on the immeasurables—until living with a pair afield on an important hunt. The BX-5 Santiam is built around Leupold’s professional grade optics system, so it’s clear this is no introductory model, but in fact, a top-end option for serious hunters and discerning target shooters. With quality binos like these, you’ll likely find yourself spending less time behind a spotting scope and more on the move, pursuing the hunt of a lifetime.