Bushnell has been around for a long time. They are normally a respected brand. But are the Bushnell PowerView binoculars worthy of the same respect?
In this review of the PowerView series, we’ll look at what Bushnell has to offer, especially with their high-powered binoculars models. We’ll look in particular at what others have discovered when using them and try to determine whether these compact binoculars are worth your money.
We’ll use the PowerView 20×50 model as a representative of the series. These are the most powerful PowerView model that Bushnell makes.
If you see a section in the table below that interests you, click it to go directly there. Otherwise, you can just scroll through and read each part as it comes.
What Models Are in the Bushnell PowerView Series?
Bushnell makes over a dozen PowerView binoculars. Most of them differ by either power rating or lens size or both. A few of them are only different because of their outer casing.
There is a 12×25 pair noted as Camo, and there are two pair – a 10×42 and a 10×50 – that have RealTree AP (All Purpose) camouflage. RealTree is designed to blend in even better than your average camouflage colorings.
Here are most of the sizes of PowerView binoculars that you can get.
- Bushnell PowerView 8×21 (smallest)
- Bushnell PowerView 10×25
- Bushnell PowerView 12×25 (and camo)
- Bushnell PowerView 10×32
- Bushnell PowerView 16×32
- Bushnell PowerView 8-16×40 (zoom)
- Bushnell PowerView 10×42 (and RealTree)
- Bushnell PowerView 7-15×25 (zoom)
- Bushnell PowerView 8×25
- Bushnell PowerView 7×35 (a classic size)
- Bushnell PowerView 10×50 (and RealTree)
- Bushnell PowerView 12×50
- Bushnell PowerView 16×50
- Bushnell PowerView 20×50 (largest, reviewed here)
Granted, that’s way too many to cover in one article or even to try to compare to each other. That’s why I’m just going to focus on the Bushnell PowerView 20×50 binos here. You can, of course, click the links above to check the details of each pair on your own. If you find one you like better than the 20x50s, great!
Each of the above comes at a different price point, of course. Each is available for less than $200. You can get some of them for less than $100. This is a point worth keeping in mind as we examine what users have to say about them.
The only significant difference among the first three models – 8×21, 10×25, and 12×25 – is the numbers; that is, the power and lens size. Their styling is exactly the same (unless you count camo as being a new styling).
The same is true within the 10×32, 12×32, and 16×32 group. From a distance, they all look the same.
You could put the rest of the models into three similar-looking groups as well. The 7-15×25 and the 8×25 would be in one group. The 10×50, 12×50, 16×50, and 20×50 are in another. And the 7×35 are in a “group” all by themselves.
What Features Do You Get with the PowerView 20×50 Binoculars?
The PowerView 20×50 model has Porro prisms inside. That’s what makes them wider at the objective lens end than at the eyepiece lens. If you prefer a roof prism setup, then these binoculars are not for you.
The lenses are multi-coated, not fully coated. Fully coated is top-of-the-line when it comes to lenses. Lenses so coated will allow the maximum amount of light to pass through the binoculars as opposed to being reflected back off the glass. Multi-coated is only the second-best option, but there are worse possibilities.
The field of view (FOV) is just 170 feet at 1000 yards of distance. That’s not very wide considering that some binoculars have an FOV of over 300 feet. That said, you shouldn’t expect a wide FOV from such high-powered lenses. That’s just the way the physics works. If you need your binoculars for quickly finding a target object over a wide range, these may not be the set you’re looking for, but a lowered-powered set might work better for you.
Binoculars with such a strong power, like 20x, and heavy weight (30 ounces) are quite difficult to hold steady in the open air. You might be able to lean against something to keep them from shaking, but sometimes such a support is just not there. That’s why you can attach binoculars like these to a tripod.
These binoculars are roughly 8 inches long by 8 inches wide. They need to be at least that big to accommodate the large objective lenses.
They will require an adapter and, of course, a tripod, both of which would be an extra expense, if you decide to go that route. If you plan to use them for an extended period of time, you’ll want to go down the tripod path.
The PowerView 20×50 has a close focus of 45 feet. If your target is closer than that, you won’t be able to focus on it. That’s not too surprising though. With a power rating of 20x, you’re likely going to be focusing on objects much farther away than 45 feet.
These binoculars are not waterproof or fog proof, so you won’t want to use them where there is any possibility of getting them wet.
Eye relief is rated at 9 millimeters. That should be enough that you can wear glasses and still use the binoculars normally. If you find that this isn’t right for your situation, turning down or back the eye cups may give you the distance you need.
The glass used in these binoculars is a fairly standard BK7. Bak4 glass is better though, so you’re not getting the cream of the crop here.
Bushnell says these binoculars have Instafocus. Nobody seems to know exactly what that means. It sounds like they should focus themselves instantly, but that can’t be right. There must be some manual action required on the user’s part. Bushnell’s website doesn’t seem to have an explanation either.
For the record, I have asked Bushnell for an explanation of Instafocus. I haven’t heard back from them yet. I will update this article if I do receive news from them.
UPDATE: Here’s how Bushnell explains Instafocus.
Instafocus utilizes a paddle to change the magnification instead of the wheel. The gear ratio in this is much higher and focus adjustments can made much faster.
So Instafocus isn’t instantaneous or automatic. It’s just the ability to focus faster than you can on most binoculars. I wonder if the paddle makes focusing touchier than using a wheel.
If you own a pair with Instafocus, let us know how it works (or doesn’t) for you.
What Do Users Think of Their PowerView Binoculars?
Based on the hundreds of reviews at Amazon and the dozens of questions asked about Bushnell’s high-powered binoculars, there doesn’t appear to be a clear consensus about them.
Note that the Amazon listing is actually for the 10×50, 12×50, and 20×50 models. You pick the power that you want before purchasing.
When a product is really considered excellent by its users, there is little to no dissent in the form of low evaluations (few stars on Amazon). These binoculars have just over 50% with the highest rating. That’s rather so-so. Over a quarter of the ratings are in the middle or lower. That’s quite a few considering the source.
There seem to be two main sources of complaints against the PowerView models. One is related to overall quality of construction. The other is about the ability (or lack of ability) to focus them.
Some buyers have reported receiving their sets in damaged condition. Sometimes they looked bent from the outside. Sometimes the insides didn’t seem to be put together properly any more.
Some users have said that the casing can become damaged even without extensive use or abuse.
When the insides of your binoculars aren’t lined up correctly, there’s not much you can do about it. There is a lot more going on in there than most people realize. You could possibly take or send them to a repair shop, but in this case, that would likely cost you more than they’re worth. It would generally be easier to just get a new (and better?) pair.
There can be several reasons that the binoculars won’t focus for you as intended. When they don’t, they’re obviously worthless. What’s the point of trying to look at something that’s blurry and out of focus?
Again, this problem is not one you’re going to be able to fix on your own. Looking for a new set of binoculars is your best option at that point.
Should I Buy the PowerView 20×50 Binoculars?
If 20x power is what you really want or need, then the PowerView 20×50 is obviously an option. You really should be ready to get a tripod and adapter though, unless you already have those gadgets.
Based again on online reviews by (supposed) users, you’ll have a slightly better than 50-50 shot at getting a pair that you’ll like.
Several reviewers stated that you get what you pay for. Since you’re not going to be paying a lot for a pair of PowerViews (compared to the cost of many other excellent binoculars), you shouldn’t expect a lot out of them. If you do happen to get a lot out of them, you can almost consider that as icing on the cake.
Usually, binoculars of this size are good for sky gazing at night; that is, for astronomy. Some users have said that this particular model is not very good for this purpose. Maybe part of the reason is the focus problems mentioned earlier along with the mediocre lens coatings. You need a set that will collect a lot of light at night.
The PowerView 20×50 work best in the daytime when you have them mounted on a tripod and you don’t need to scan quickly over a wide field of view.
If after all this a PowerView isn’t to your liking but you still want Bushnell, consider one of the models in the Legend series instead. Or for even higher quality German binoculars, check out the Steiner brand.Another option: Visit www.telescope.com for more deals.