The Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars are high-quality binoculars. They use excellent glass, special lens coatings, and are built tough to exacting specifications.
To get us a closer look, Cabela’s sent Man Makes Fire a 12×50 review unit. This is what we learned:
Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars Review
The Cabela’s-branded Instinct Euro HD Binoculars are designed to compete with the very best binoculars — some of which cost two-to-three times as much. To create the Instinct Euro HD line, Cabela’s partnered with Meopta, a precision optics manufacturer with facilities in both the United States and the Czech Republic. The Instinct Euro HD line is manufactured in the Czech Republic where the company, presumably, is able to deliver high quality optics with manufacturing costs that are likely lower than in other European countries (like Germany). According to Cabela’s, Meopta optics are trusted by NASA and the U.S. Army.
Meanwhile, back to the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars. The Instinct Euro HDs use extra-low-dispersion glass for clarity. In fact, Cabela’s reports that the MeoBright 5501 fully multicoated optics and phase-corrected prisms deliver 99.9% light transmission per lens surface — with nearly nonexistent color distortion. What’s this mean?
It means the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars are super clear, color accurate, and will work very well in low-light conditions compared to lesser binoculars.
If you need a quick primer on the basics of binoculars, including optical coatings and to understand exit pupil, check out Binoculars 101: The Basics.
Smooth Yet Rugged
In addition to fantastic glass and coatings that ensure almost no light is refracted, the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars have a rugged build quality. They’re waterproof and fogproof.
They have twist-up eyecups so they’re easy to use with or without glasses. In addition, these eye cups have a slightly smaller diameter than many decent binoculars, and this smaller diameter lets me acquire a comfortable viewing position and clean sight picture faster and easier than I do with most other binoculars. Everyone’s face is a bit different, but the Instinct Euro HD ergonomics are outstanding.
The center focus wheel is super smooth — very nice. I can acquire a focal point fast, and seeing what you’re looking at slide smoothly into focus is glorious with the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HDs. With lessor binoculars I find myself adjusting the image into focus . . . and then slightly out of focus and then returning in the other direction for the final focus. I rarely do that with the Instinct Euro HDs. The focus wheel is precise.
The Instinct Euro HD Binoculars also have a diopter with a glass window and indicator. If the diopter gets out of adjustment, you can easily return it to your spot — and if you’re sharing the binoculars, you buddy can make adjustments as needed, too.
The exterior has a slightly textured rubber armor — it feels fantastic.
In the Field
How do the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars perform out in the woods? Very well. They are a joy to use. They are ridiculously crisp. The focus wheel is perfect. The ergonomics are spot on.
I took the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD 12×50 Binoculars elk and deer hunting last season and they performed flawlessly in all sorts of weather. I was able to do a better job of looking for elk and deer and my eyes where less fatigued doing it. I had fewer issues with glare — compared to entry-level and even a thoroughly decent set of midrange binoculars I also tested.
In one situation, I appreciated the quality and the 12x magnification as I watched a mother bear and her two cubs spend the morning on a far-off ridge.
On a drizzly evening at dusk, I spotted an elk about 800 yards off. I cow called and eventually coaxed four young bulls to investigate — coming all the way in to just 50 yards. I watched them off and on through the Instinct Euro HDs. At the end, they were impossible to see by the naked eye, but I could still make them out with the binoculars — two spikes, a three-point and a little 4-point. So awesome.
My hunting buddy had a decent set of 10×42 entry-level binoculars with him. While he could follow the action pretty well as darkness started to fall, neither of us were able to make out nearly as much detail as we could through the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HDs. Part of this is due to the 2x magnification difference, but clearly the quality of glass and coatings had an effect, too. The exit pupil is nearly the same between 10×42 and 12×50. No matter what, by the time the elk arrived, we were out of legal shooting light. Still, it was a cool experience.
Good Glass Is All About the Edges
If you’re mostly using your binoculars in daylight hours, most people can’t tell much of a difference between decent binoculars. It’s when the light is low on the edge of darkness that some people can notice differences in optical quality — usually at dawn and dusk and on rainy days.
In addition, the edges of your field of view are more likely to show some optical aberrations if there are any issues with the glass, coatings or construction. While this could be slightly annoying, most hunters will simply center the object they want to examine and forget about any aberrations — assuming they noticed it in the first place. Psychologically, though, once you notice something great — and something not-so-great — it can be hard to go back to a sub-par piece of gear.
As for the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars, I wasn’t able to identify any obvious optical aberrations at any time — and I have 20/20 vision. I’m sure there are some eagle-eyed people who can spot some subtleties, but not me. As for color quality, again, color seemed fantastic to my eyes.
Are the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars Worth It?
The big question when it comes to high-quality binoculars comes down to the cost and value: Are high-end binoculars worth the money?
The answer is surprisingly easy, and it’s not because “great” glass is 5x better than “good” glass. The answer is easy because it involves just two things: your budget and what’s important to you.
Get the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars if you can afford them. Simply put, buy the best binoculars, riflescopes, and spotting scopes that you can afford.
Next, spend more on the gear that is most important to what you do. I don’t know much about birding, but when it comes to hunting, not all types of hunts require the best gear.
For instance, I tested out some entry-level 10×42 Cabela’s Intensity HD Binoculars (review here) while turkey hunting in Nebraska — and they were surprisingly capable. Most of the hunting was done in good light, and sure, the build quality wasn’t as smooth as the Euro HDs, but they did the job very well. I could identify far-off toms — and that’s often the key you need: Enough detail to know if it’s time to get closer.
On the other hand, if you’re trying to spot over long distances, better glass can improve your experience. For instance, better glass helps locate sheep and mule deer that you’re trying to find from afar. (Of course, you might be using a higher-powered spotting scope for this anyway.)
Either way, remember, most differences in clarity are only going to be noticed by most people during the twilight hours — which is when many animals are most active and findable. If a few minutes is important to you, buy the best binoculars you can afford.
But What About the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars in Particular?
High-end binoculars can get astoundingly expensive — you can find excellent options from Zeiss, Steiner, Swarovski, Leupold, Leica, Blaser and others that cost two-to-three times as much. For the vast majority of people, if the binos that cost three times as much are “better” than the Instinct Euro HDs, they are only better by a small margin. Let’s put it this way: The Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars aren’t going to hold you back. I’m not glass snob, but I am sure of one thing: The difference between fantastic and super fantastic for the vast majority of hunters is very slight.
Here is another way to think about it: If you’re not worried about a very slight possible advantage at a much higher price point, you could invest in two different sizes of Cabela’s Euro HD binoculars and still have gear budget left over for other gear.
All-in-all, the Cabela’s Instinct Euro HD Binoculars are fantastic. The build quality is excellent, the ergonomics are all-day comfortable, and the silky smooth focus wheel is a joy to use. Very highly recommended.