As the most used piece of viewing equipment in the world, binoculars are quite versatile and a person will always have a need for them. The kind of binoculars one must have, depends on how they will be used and for what purpose. Hobbyists, serious enthusiasts, and hunters may require more functions thus investing in more sophisticated types of binoculars.
However, for the average person, a more budget-friendly pair might be good enough. Whether you looking for the best compact binoculars for hiking or good binoculars for birding, there are a lot of good binoculars available on the market. You will surely find the best pair that fits your needs.
How to choose your binoculars?
For General Use (Hiking, Sports, Concerts, Outdoor Activities)
A compact, lightweight and preferably with a wide-angle for a wide field of view is recommended. With magnifications that range usually between 7x to 10x, these are more than enough to view subjects clearly. These types of binoculars are easy to store in your pockets or strap around your neck.
Hunting and Bird Watching
For hunting purposes, a wider field of view is preferred to locate objects of interest easier. Magnification between 7x to 12x will work well with this type of outdoor activity. However, at higher magnifications, you may have to use a tripod for better stability as slight hand movements may result in unstable images.
For bird watching, a magnification of 8x or 10x with objective lenses of 42 millimeters is recommended. A 42mm aperture provides enough light-gathering power to observe and see minute color details of small birds even during dawn or dusk. Consider choosing binoculars with longer eye relief and a close focus for comfort and a more personal bird watching experience.
Boating and Marine Binoculars
High magnification binoculars are not usually advised when you are on the water. Binoculars with 7x up to 10x magnification work well under these conditions. Also choose a larger-sized objective lens, at least 42 or 50 millimeters. The most important feature you may want to consider is waterproofing, binoculars with rubber armor coating are also good for a secure grip.
What to look for in binoculars?
A high-quality glass of prisms and lenses
For the best viewing experience, the displayed images must be of high resolution and color fidelity. This is guaranteed only trough premium prisms and lenses. The glass type and its coatings make a big difference in the performance of binoculars and their prices. For example, be sure to go with BaK-4 prisms they are superior to BK-7 glass. Phase correction of the roof prisms enhances color fidelity and richness of detail.
In addition, the image brightness of the binoculars (light-transmission) is very important when viewing in twilight during the morning, evening or in a dense forest. Higher light transmission is achieved by full multiple coating to reduce reflections.
Magnification and Objective Lens Size
Increased magnification does not always mean better image quality since this reduces the overall brightness of the image as well as narrowing your field of view. Generally, 7x, 8x or 10x is fine unless you need more for specific long-distance viewing.
You may want to consider the size of the objective lenses more. As a rule, the larger the lens, the more light is allowed to enter, resulting in a brighter image. However, it does add to the overall weight of the unit.
Field of view
Opt for binoculars with a wide field of view – low magnification if you plan to use your binoculars scanning and searching broad areas. A wide field of view will prevent you from frequently moving your binoculars around as you look through them, especially for fast-moving subjects, this will help you spot them easier.
A narrow field of view – high magnification is what you need when observing small stuff in detail or you viewing very far objects.
This is particularly important for people who need to wear eyeglasses, ideally, at least an eye relief 14 mm or more is recommended if you want to view the full image as it is without glasses on. With sufficient eye relief, you can hold the binoculars’ eyepiece against your glasses.
Additional features you may want to consider
- Water-resistant, waterproof and fog proof. If you plan to use your binoculars in activities that may expose the unit to wet environments or fluctuating temperatures, it is better to invest in models that are O-ring sealed and have insides filled with a noble gas. This will prevent the insides from getting wet and avoid internal condensation (fogging) of moisture.
- Image Stabilization. Binoculars with this feature have integrated sensors designed to detect slight movements such as shakes and vibrations caused by hand movements. For a steady view, this technology adjusts the optics to compensate for movement.
- Coated lenses. Quality models have glass surfaces coated with various thin layers of metal oxides. This improves light transmission and enhances image quality, giving the user more detailed and brighter images with a balanced contrast, clarity, and color fidelity.
- Rangefinder. If you’re planning to use your binoculars for really long-distance viewing, opt for one with this feature. Binoculars with this feature indicate the distance between the observer and the viewed object.
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Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8X42 Professional Binoculars for Bird Watching
Good binoculars need to be water-resistant, have anti-fogging features and provide clear, crisp images in vivid true colors. Premium binoculars that provide all that can cost a lot. The Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8X42 Professional Binoculars are the perfect alternative that, thanks to its features and specs, make them the ideal companion for birdwatchers and outdoor friends.
The Wingspan NaturePro offers outstanding quality at a low price. It is designed to meet the needs of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
- 8x magnification provides an optimal field of view, allowing to scan the area, view the scenery in detail and to keep track of moving objects such as birds or game
- Optics are fully multi-coated for light transmission and image quality
- Phase coated BaK4 Prisms for high color fidelity
- High light transmission lets you use it in low light conditions
- Close Focus of under 10 feet allows you to zoom in on small near objects and see them in detail
- Tough to handle extreme weather thanks to a nitrogen-purged housing. Rubber armor provides grip and protection when dropped
- Large Center Focus Wheel makes it easy to adjust even when wearing gloves
- Includes neck strap, protective covers for eyepiece and lens, microfiber cleaning cloth and a carrying case
- High-quality Optics
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Phase-correction coated Roof Bak-4 prisms
- 6feet (2m) close focus
- Lifetime Warranty
The NaturePro HD 8 x 42 from Wingspan Optics is affordable but nevertheless a great quality instrument, that is for not only watching birds but for any other outdoor activity. It is nitrogen-filled and sealed so it is waterproof and won’t fog up on the lens insides when the temperature fluctuates. The rubber armor provides a good grip and protects it when it gets rough. Great value bird watching binoculars that are well worth considering.
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars with Tripod Adapter
The Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars are high-performance binoculars great for astronomical viewing as it brings star clusters and planets into clear view. This particular Celestron model is a pair of binoculars with a very large aperture with a lot of light-gathering power.
A versatile pair of binoculars, the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars is not only for stargazing, but it is also designed for bird watching, wildlife observation and other terrain viewing that requires observing from long distances.
- Multicoated optics and BaK-4 internal prism. These two features produce vividly-colored images and improved vision with brighter resolution. Contrast is also enhanced, transferring the maximum amount of light entering your eyes in dark-sky conditions.
- With a tripod adapter. The adapter allows users to fit this binocular to a standard tripod for a more stable and steady viewing experience.
- Eye relief at 18 millimeters. Following the ideal range of eye relief at 15 to 20 millimeters, the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 Binoculars can easily be used by people who wear eyeglasses. You can take the cap off the exit lens when looking through with glasses on and put it back on again for use without eyeglasses.
- Large 70 mm aperture. An important consideration in binoculars, it has over approximately 50 times the light gathering area the human eye is capable of, perfect for conditions with low light.
- Weather-proof. Being waterproof and partly owing to its body’s rubber coating, some layer of protection is included to prevent the unit from slipping out of your grip while in use under normal conditions as well as harsh weather.
- 15x magnification. That’s a lot in handheld binoculars and lets far objects appear really close so you can get a good view of details. A steady hand is needed or a tripod would be a good idea to make observations less tiring.
- Lifetime warranty coverage. Additionally, the Celestron warranty offers a lifetime, no-fault warranty that promises to fix or repair binoculars with proof of purchase no matter how they were damaged, no questions asked.
- Ideal for astronomical viewing and much cheaper than a telescope.
- At this price range, you get the best value for your money as it produces excellent quality images with enhanced contrast and clarity.
- Long eye relief at 18mm lets you use the binoculars without having to remove your eyeglasses.
- Quite heavy if held by hand for extended periods of time which may require a tripod.
A good buy, especially for people who like gazing at stars as a hobby. It performs well without the high expense of a good telescope and can be fitted onto a tripod when necessary.
Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars with Case
High-performing entry-level binoculars from this well-known brand, Bushnell, the Falcon 7×35 Binoculars with Case offers high-quality images when viewed from a distance. These binoculars have an automatic focus that works well and a wide field of view great for observing sports or terrain activities.
Made with high-grade Porro prisms that are fully coated, anyone who loves observing nature or venturing out in the wild during hunting season will surely find these binoculars useful.
- The Bushnell Falcon 7×35 Binoculars can magnify distant objects up to 7 times. It has 35-millimeter objective lenses that are quite good and can make out even minute details. Fully-coated optics of Porro prisms made from the less expensive BK-7 glass provide adequate light transmission during daytime use, however, not enough light is transmitted which makes it perform quite poorly when used at night or in dimly-lit environments.
- It has an automatic focus feature that works well in focusing on specific subjects. However, if you want to zoom in on a subject to see it more clearly including fine details, you can use the InstaFocus lever to fine-tune the focus. Even with the strong zoom, images are not rendered blurry.
- 12 millimeters of eye relief is included, with fold-down eyecups to make it easier and comfortable for people who wear eyeglasses. Focusing on objects as close as 20 feet is possible without straining the eyes. A wide field of view of 420 feet at 1,000 yards also provides more observation.
- Protecting the exterior surface of the binoculars is a rubberized armor coating that adds to its durability and ruggedness, great for outdoor use under normal to harsh weather conditions. It also has an abrasion-resistant finish.
- It also comes with a decent-looking protective carrying case complete with padded neck-straps to help you store the binoculars safely. It’s also convenient for managing the binoculars during outdoor activities without having to hold all the time, keeping your hands free to focus on other tasks.
- Lightweight and portable, with neck-straps available for use whenever you prefer to keep your hands free. Padded neck straps also make it comfortable to carry around your neck.
- High-quality images are produced with clarity and sharpness giving the user a detailed viewing experience.
- Convenient for people who wear eyeglasses.
- The binoculars are not really waterproof and fog proof which can make it difficult to use during harsh weather conditions.
- You may need a really steady hand since it does not include a tripod adapter.
A good buy if you’re looking for a functional pair of binoculars. Great for amateurs as well as enthusiasts since it performs well under normal weather conditions. However, if you’re one who likes to go out in dimly-lit environments, it’s not really for you.
Bushnell PowerView Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars
Observing something at a distance is Bushnell PowerView Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars’ forte. This line of binoculars has three options for three levels of magnification, 10×50, 12×50 and 20×50, each with slight differences but all providing the best visual experience in its class.
With high-performance magnification capabilities, this line of functional yet affordable binoculars will give you a personal and up-close experience with your subject.
- Large Field of View. The Bushnell PowerView Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars boast a wide field of view, 170-feet wide at 1,000 yards. Perfect for spying on hunting Game and other animals from afar.
- BK-7 glass lens. Although made of the less expensive BK-7 glass, the lens will still work fine as it provides great light transmission and brightness. It also has multicoated Porro prisms for clear and crisp images with minimal color irregularities.
- The large apertures of these binoculars provide more than enough light to make subjects seem brighter when viewed at night. This makes it easier to locate targets even in areas with a poor light source.
- Easy Set Up. For the initial setup process, the pupillary distance can be easily established to work exactly according to your specifications.
- Portable and durable. The body is designed with a rubberized armor coating which works as a nonslip cover for a more secure grip as well as an added layer of protection in case of minor drops during use. At 30 ounces, these binoculars are easy to carry around the neck with padded neck straps included.
- One-Touch Focus. The InstaFocus lever is a single touch system designed to keep the subject in close focus with just one touch. This feature works well for fast-moving targets such as land animals and birds.
- Eye Relief. At 10 millimeters for the 10×50 model, the eye relief is quite short compared to models sold by competitors. This may cause some problems for people with eyeglasses. The eyecups may be folded though, for added comfort.
- The non-slip rubber armor absorbs shock and other minor bumps which is perfect for people who use it frequently for outdoor activities.
- The binoculars can be used with a tripod.
- It can be used during dusk or dawn when the light is limited.
- Lightweight and easy to carry around.
- The binoculars are not waterproof or fog proof which may cause some issues during harsh weather conditions.
The Bushnell PowerView Super High-Powered Surveillance Binoculars are affordable, entry-level binoculars with fast focusing capabilities and sharp views, great for use outdoors under normal weather conditions.
Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars
The Vortex Optics Viper HD can well be considered a premium pair of binoculars for birdwatchers, hunters and nature friends. These versatile binoculars are a great choice for beginners and professionals alike. Using the Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars is a pleasure thanks to its compact, lightweight ergonomic design and quality optics that provide impressive image quality.
Using the Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars is a pleasure thanks to its compact, lightweight ergonomic design and quality optics that provide impressive image quality.
- Aperture 42mm objective lenses with anti-reflective lens coating for high light transmission and clear crisp image quality even in low light conditions
- Magnification of 8x provides a wide field of view
- Premium Bak-4 roof prisms with dielectric, multi-layer coatings for bright, clear, dispersion free images
- Close Focus of under 10 feet allows you to zoom in on small near objects and see them in detail.
- O-ring sealed and Argon purged to handle any weather and temperature changes.
- The focus wheel has a hard rubber lining for extra grip and turns very easily.
- Very impressive 6 feet close focus
- Includes a carry case, neck strap, tethered lens covers, and rainguard eyepiece cover
- Suitable for wearers of glasses
- Extra-low dispersion glass
- Fully multi-coated lenses
- Roof Bak-4 prisms with phase-correction
- Field of view 136 yards/1000 yards
- 6.5 feet (2m) close focus
- At 24 oz lightweight for high-quality binoculars
- Vortex provides a Lifetime Warranty
- Expensive for occasional users
High-quality optical components and coatings provide impressive image quality, high light transmission and eliminate color dispersion.
The mechanics, such as center focus wheel; rubber-reinforced housing with grip-ribs, locking diopter adjustment are smooth to handle. The binos are waterproof, dustproof and fog proof thanks to O-ring seals and Argon purging. The ArmorTek anti-adhesion coating on the lens and eyepiece lenses lets water droplets run off and protects against scratches.
In summary, if you are looking for binoculars with very high-quality optics, that perform outstandingly in all environments and uses, but do not want to spend mega dollars, then the Vortex 8 × 42 Viper HD Binoculars can be recommended.