Bushnell Forge 15x56 Binoculars Review - Field test
I have always had a love for nature and bird watching since I was a child. As I grew older, I upgraded my binoculars and telescopes to better quality and size. Currently, I use a Bushnell Forge 8x42 for watching birds in different terrains like dunes, forests, and parks. Because of the large eyepieces with a large eye-relief, I can use these binoculars well when wearing my glasses or sunglasses. The image is then still completely within view and also nicely clear and sharp. However, I occasionally like to explore vast water and marshy areas where I need a more powerful magnification to identify the birds properly.
Written by Rob van Keulen
Rob is passionate about nature and loves walking in forests, fields and parks. He takes pictures of landscapes, plants and birds and inspires others to enjoy the beauty and diversity of the world around us.
The burden of a telescope - Can you replace it with binoculars?
For the occasions I required powerful magnifications I would bring an APO Telescope with up to 60x magnification and a sturdy tripod. Although the image through the telescope is amazing, it is heavy and bulky to carry around, which discourages me from using it frequently, which is a shame. So I was wondering: Can I replace my telescope with binoculars?
Testing the Bushnell Forge 15x56 as a telescope alternative
Initially, I considered smaller and lighter telescopes and even binoculars with built-in stabilization, but found their image quality to be inferior or their price to be high. Eventually, I opted for high magnification, high brightness binoculars in a relatively compact size in comparison with a telescope. And because I am very happy with my Bushnell Forge 8x42 binoculars, I decided to put the Bushnell Forge 15x56 binoculars to the test in a new and large wetland area. An area created less than a year ago, but with an incredible amount of bird species.
The day I went there, it was very cold because of a strong northeast wind. This made it very difficult to keep the binoculars still. Narrow paths run through the whole area, and before you know it, you are ticking off quite a few kilometres. That is why I chose not to use the original Bushnell hard case, but a Peak Design Sling 6L bag. It seems as if this bag was made for it, the Bushnell 15x56 fits so nicely in it.
The Bushnell Forge 15x56 in real-life use
The first thing you notice about the Forge 15x56 viewer is the size, but compared to my Bushnell 8x42 the difference is not that big. The Bushnell Forge 15x56 binoculars are only slightly larger than their Bushnell 8x42 binoculars, despite the higher magnification. I will give a short description of the features of Bushnell Forge 15x56, so you will get a better idea of what kind of binocular it is.
- Length 222mm
- Weight 1.4 kilo
- Angle of view is 78 metres at 1000 metres
- Exit pupil 3.7mm (but the image is still very clear, also in the shadow)
- Eye-relief is a very long 21mm! Very important for (sun)glasses wearers
- Shortest focusing distance is 4 metres
- Abbe-Koenig prism provides an extra clear image
- ED glass prevents annoying colour fringing in the image
- Bushnell EXO-barrier on the outer lenses repels dirt and moisture and makes cleaning of the lenses extra easy.
- IPX7 waterproof construction (can be submerged 1 metre underwater for 30 minutes without allowing moisture to penetrate)
- Built-in lens caps
- Comes with a handy tripod adapter
- Includes carrying harness for hands-free use and good weight distribution
- Lifetime Warranty
Less eye strain
As you can see in the picture above, the Bushnell Forge 15x56 can be mounted on any tripod with the supplied tripod adapter. Given the 15x magnification, this is recommended if you want to watch birds, wildlife, or kite surfers at sea for a long period of time. The big advantage is that you can look through the binoculars with both eyes open, which means that your eyes do not get tired as quickly as when using a telescope.
"The big advantage is that you can look through the binoculars with both eyes open."
Because I was looking for a powerful binocular that can be used without a tripod, I deliberately did not bring one with me for this test. With a 15x magnification, I actually expected that it would not work well. Especially considering the strong wind that day. Thanks to the large 56 mm aperture and long 21 mm Eye-relief, you don't have to hold the binoculars exactly in the centre of your eye to get a good and clear image.
The video of the Linnet gives a good idea of the degree of movement of the image when looking with the Bushnell Forge 15x56 out of hand, without any support. The slightly cropped video image, to about an 800 mm lens field of view, roughly corresponds to the image of the Bushnell Forge 15x magnification.
The trick to a stable image with high magnification binoculars
The trick for a stable image is to let the binocular rest loosely on your hands while supporting your elbows against your ribcage. Do not bring your elbows outwards at the height of the binoculars! Another way is to sit on the ground with your knees drawn up and let your elbows rest on your knees.
Bird watching in marshland
In the marshland, there is also a metal bird-watching screen, from which you have a good view of tree trunks in the water and a mini Sandpiper wall. It was great to look through the Bushnell Forge 15x56 binoculars and get a good, sharp, and close-up view of all the birds. The image is not only clear but also almost free of chromatic aberrations! This is really very special and something I see a lot with more expensive binoculars. A sharp and natural colour-true view of a Little Gull or Snowy Egret is the result, without having your pleasure spoiled by a purple border around the bird.
"A sharp and natural colour-true view of a Little Gull or Snowy Egret is the result."
As you will soon notice when photographing with a super-telephoto lens, you will also notice when looking through a high-magnification binocular that the depth of field is a lot smaller than with an 8 or 10x magnification binocular. Fortunately, the focus ring is big and turns smoothly, so focusing is pleasant and fast.
Differences compared to the Bushnell Forge 8x42 binocular
As mentioned before, I'm the owner of a Bushnell Forge 8x42 binocular, and I've been using it for a couple of years with a lot of pleasure. It seemed a good idea to put both binoculars next to each other so, you can get a good idea of what they look like. As you can see, the Forge 8x42 is 5 cm shorter with a length of 170mm. The weight of 873 grams is also a lot less than the 1.4 kilograms of the Forge 15x56.
The 19mm Eye-relief is still very spacious and therefore good for spectacle wearers (we recommend looking for something with 15-16mm Eye-relief or more.) The Bushnell Forge 8x42 has for the rest the same ED-glass, coatings and good weather resistance of the 15x56 version. What I think is a very good achievement is that the Bushnell Forge 15x56 gives an almost identical clear, sharp, contrasty and natural image, without colour fringes, as the much less magnifying Forge 8x42!
Conclusion - No more need of a telescope with a tripod
After intensive use of the Bushnell Forge 15x56 binoculars, I am convinced that this powerful Bushnell binocular can indeed be a good alternative for a telescope! However, because of the very strong magnification, it can only be used handheld for short observations. If you want to observe fine details or look for a longer period, the use of a tripod or monopod is recommended.
"Looking through this binocular is really a pleasure, even during long observations."
With the supplied Bushnell tripod adapter, the Bushnell Forge 15x56 can be mounted fast and easily on any tripod or monopod. The large eyepieces and very large Eye-relief, looking through this binocular is really a pleasure, even during long observations and even for people who wear glasses. The image is surprisingly clear, sharp and has no annoying colour faults. The most surprising thing about the Bushnell Forge 15x56 binoculars is in my opinion the very favourable price. In short, a recommendation for anyone who is looking for a good and very powerful binocular, but not a (one-eyed) telescope.