Four-Month Field Test: Bushnell Legend 8x42mm Binocular

You don’t have to tap into your retirement savings to purchase a Bushnell Legend 8x42mm binocular — MSRP $109.99 — but how did it measure up during a four-month field test?

Four-Month Field Test: Bushnell Legend 8x42mm Binocular

Before I get to my review of the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm binocular, let me first explain my thoughts on binocular cost and value. After all, with a MSRP of $109.99, this bino is far less expensive than what many hunters will consider when purchasing an optic.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.” In general, I agree with this statement, and believe it to be true for much of the gear I carry while deer and turkey hunting. That said, I’ve learned through first-hand experience that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for every bit of your hunting gear.

One example is a binocular. True, a bino priced at $100 won’t be as optically superior as one selling for $1,000. I own a bino that falls into this top-dollar category, and it’s wonderful in every way — EXCEPT price. If I were packing for a western big game hunt that required several hours of glassing per day to locate game, I’d choose my best glass. Period.

However, most years I find myself limited to hunting turkeys and whitetails in the forests of Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as river-bottoms of South Dakota. During these pursuits, my time behind the glass is confined to checking whether an approaching bird is a tom, or if a deer in the distance is a buck. If it’s the latter, then I’ll glass for another few seconds to determine the buck’s size. 

My total time glassing during a four-hour sit for deer or turkeys is usually less than two minutes. The fact is, I don’t need a $1,000 bino to decipher hen from tom, or forker from Booner. I want a decent bino for these situations, but it doesn’t have to be expensive.

There’s one other reason I actually prefer a more affordable bino for my standard Midwest deer and turkey hunting — concerns about theft. Let me explain.

There are times when I want to reduce the overall weight of what I’m carrying into the field, and at the last minute I might choose to leave a bino in the truck. This is especially true if I’m hunting thick cover with visibility limited to less than 50 yards. Another time I’ll leave a bino in the truck is when it’s been raining steadily and I don’t want to hassle with trying to keep the lenses dry enough to be helpful. Because I often hunt public land, it’s common for me to leave my pickup at a public parking area, or on the side of a gravel or paved road. I’m careful to not leave anything of value sitting out in plain sight of wandering eyes, but I’m still nervous hiding a $1,000 bino under my truck’s front seat and walking away, even with a locked vehicle.


First Look: Bushnell Legend 8x42mm Binocular

Thanks to my job as an editor with Grand View Outdoors, I’m often invited to field test various products. In the case of the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm binocular, a company spokesman asked me to field test a fairly expensive Bushnell riflescope, but I thought it would be more helpful to many visitors of this website to read an honest review of a more affordable optic. The Bushnell Legend 8x42mm binocular, which has a MSRP of only $109.99, seemed like a smart choice.

As I said earlier, I own one bino priced in the $1,000 category. I bought it at least 20 years ago. I also have three older models that originally carried MSRPs of approximately $200, $300 and $600. All are still in excellent working order, so I thought I’d have a good baseline for comparing the $110 Bushnell Legend.

To test the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm bino (far left), the author compared it to four other models he often uses in pursuit of whitetails and turkeys.
To test the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm bino (far left), the author compared it to four other models he often uses in pursuit of whitetails and turkeys.

The test bino arrived in mid-August 2020, prior to Wisconsin’s bowhunting opener in mid-September, meaning I’d have the chance to use it for four months in a wide variety of scouting and hunting conditions.

My first thoughts upon handling the Bushnell Legend were positive. I liked the soft-touch rubber exterior; the focus wheel was very smooth and not too loose or too stiff; the twist-up eyecups were easily adjustable and then stayed in place; and the diopter adjustment ring functioned well and also stayed in place once adjusted to my preference.

At 1 pound 6 ounces, the 8x42mm Legends aren’t overly light, but I wouldn’t consider them heavy, either. With the twist-up eyecups fully extended, which is how I prefer using my binos, the 8x42s measured 6 inches in length. On a shoulder harness (not provided), they felt like my other 8X and 10X binos.

Accessories included in the box with the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm bino.
Accessories included in the box with the Bushnell Legend 8x42mm bino.

In the Field

Of course, while you can check out bino performance to some degree in the office and around your yard, the true test comes in the field, especially during low-light conditions. 

I carried the Bushnell Legends into the field the first time in Wisconsin scouting green fields after sunset in mid-August with temps of nearly 80 degrees, and concluded my deer season in South Dakota in late-December with the mercury bottoming out at minus 10. Through my four-month field test, I experienced no fogging issues with the waterproof Legend 8x42 regardless of conditions, and its Rainguard lens protection seemed to work as advertised during those mornings and afternoons with rain, sleek or snow.

As for clarity and brightness: I compared the Bushnell Legend 8x42s to the following four binos I own: 8x30 ($1,000), 6x32 ($600), 8x36 ($300), and 10x42 ($200). I understand that because these other binos vary in size/magnification, it isn’t a perfect comparison. I still think, however, it’s informative.

What I found — and this wasn’t a surprise — is low-light performance is a combination of many factors, and one of the biggest is bino configuration (power and objective lens size). When you do the math and divide objective lens size by the power rating, you get the exit pupil, which is one way to compare how well a bino will perform in low light.

For example, the Bushnell Legend 8x42 has an exit pupil of 5.25 (42 divided by 8). And a 8x30 bino has an exit pupil of 3.75 (30 divided by 8). If both binos have identical glass and other components, the one with an exit pupil of 5.25 should do better in low light than the one with an exit pupil of 3.75.

After significant time behind my five binos, I can say that the Bushnell Legend 8x42s more than held their own in terms of low-light performance. Remember, this optic is priced at only $110, so to “hold its own” against four competitors priced from $200 to $1,000 is quite impressive in my opinion. FYI: The brightest model during my test was the 6x32 bino ($600).

Sharpness/clarity and color are other terms often used to describe bino performance. Again, much of this is personal opinion, but here I’d say that price plays a larger role than configuration (power and objective size). In a head-to-head comparison, I could see a slight difference in clarity and color among the five binos. Again, I’d say the $600 bino (6x32) did the best, followed closely by the $1,000 and $300 binos (call it a tie). Not far behind the was the $200 and $110 binos.

This needs repeating: The differences in clarity and color wasn’t large; in fact, unless I had all five binos within arm’s reach in order to constantly switch between them during testing, it’d be hard to tell the difference. In other words, if I’m using binos to count antler tines from a treestand, or check out the length of a gobbler’s bird, any of the five binos would do the job well.

Would I choose the $109.99 Bushnell Legend 8x42mm as my primary optic for a two-week guided hunt for Stone sheep, where I’d be glassing for several hours per day? No.

That said, would the Legend do an outstanding job for 90-plus percent of whitetail and turkey hunters in America? Yes.


Final Thoughts

Because of their better-than-predicted performance and low price, I’ve decided to leave the Bushnell Legend 8x42 bino in my truck now that deer season is over and turkey season is a couple months away. I’m not worried that someone will steal them, and this way I have a decent optic with me no matter where I travel. From after-season deer scouting this winter to bird watching come spring (turkeys, ducks and geese), I’m always prepared.

I’ll end with this note: I didn’t learn until putting together this review that the Bushnell Legend 8x42 bino is covered by a 20-year warranty. It's impressive that you can purchase a bino for $109.99 and have it covered for 20 deer seasons.


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