When outdoors, hiking, canoeing, or hunting a good pair of compact binoculars might always be useful to have. Pocket binoculars are great if you want to quickly observe something interesting, such as birds or animals, or just want to explore the terrain. The best small binoculars should fit into your pocket or backpack without adding much weight or bulk. The choice is large because all the important binocular manufacturers have a couple of small compact models on offer to choose from, depending on your outdoor activities and preferences.
What are the best small binoculars?
Compact binoculars are characterized by the fact that they are small and lightweight compared to the popular standard-sized binoculars. This affects the optical performance of the small instruments.
Due to the compact dimensions, the lenses are of course smaller and the optical light path in the instrument is shorter.
Reducing these dimensions leads to a lower twilight performance, a smaller exit pupil, and shorter eye relief. A short eye relief complicates the use of compact binoculars for wearers of eyeglasses.
Manufacturers aim to achieve a good balance between compact size and the best possible optical performance of small instruments. This can drive up the price of really good compact binoculars.
Bushnell Powerview 8×21 Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular
This is one of the bestsellers amongst budget pocket compact binoculars. The Bushnell Powerview Compact Binoculars are affordable, lightweight, general-purpose binoculars suitable for bright daylight conditions. Made of lightweight and durable materials, with a weight of only 7 ounces these binos are compact enough to be carried anywhere you go. They are a convenient model to have around when there is a need to observe distant objects. For the price they come at, they are a great value instrument for the occasional user.
- Fully coated lenses for a brighter view
- Features rubber exterior providing grip while preventing slippage shock absorption if dropped
- Fold-down eyecups
- Roof – Prism, BK-7 Glass
- Not water/fog proof
- A neck strap and a carrying case are included
Very affordable binoculars for general purposes. Small, enough to disappear in any pocket, they can come in handy when there is a need to observe something distant.
The Powerview Compact is not waterproof, so for tough conditions and bad weather, it would not be the best choice.
Other than that, for occasional viewing and for the price they come at, a real bargain.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Compact Folding Roof Prism Binoculars
The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is another bestseller from Bushnell. With its multi-coated Bushnell ED lenses and Bak4 prisms, the Legend HD 10×25 features high-quality optics providing outstanding viewing pleasure.
- High-quality multi-coated optics for crisp, bright images
- ED Prime glass
- BaK-4 roof prisms
- 10x magnification, 25-millimeter lens
- Lightweight, magnesium chassis and soft-touch grips
- RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating
- Nitrogen-filled, makes it 100% waterproof/fog proof
- Twist-up eyecups
- Neck strap, carry case, and microfiber lens cleaning cloth included
Though magnesium alloy housing. O-ring sealed to keep moisture out even when the whole thing is submerged in water.
The interior is filled with nitrogen, so internal fogging cannot occur and lens fungus will not be a problem as long as the o-ring seals remain intact. The outside lenses are coated with Bushnell’s RainGuard HD, which creates a kind of lotus effect and allows water droplets to run off.
The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD is one of the best small binoculars for hiking or all-around purpose in its price class.
Nikon ACULON A30 10X25
The Nikon Aculon 10×25 compact binoculars have a magnification power of 10x ( a lot for pocket binoculars) over and an objective lens diameter of 25 mm. Its multicoated lenses ensure enough light transmission for bright images not only in bright daylight but also on gray overcast days or in the twilight.
- Lead- and arsenic-free optics
- Nikon’s high performance enables clear and bright pictures
- Robust and reliable
- Weight under about 10 ounces
- Scratch and shock-resistant
- Not waterproof
- Eye relief only 13mm, not for wearers of eyeglasses
Thanks to its very compact dimensions and its low weight of under 10 ounces these compact binoculars fit in any pocket.
The rubber coating provides a good grip, even in wet conditions. It protects the Auclon against scratches and shock when accidentally dropped.
The Aculon can briefly withstand a bit of rain, but it is not waterproof.
Celestron X Outland 8×25 Binoculars – Waterproof & Fogproof
Celestron is a big and traditional name when it comes to binoculars and telescopes. Celestron has a reputation for great quality and top performance at affordable prices. The Celestron X Outland 8×25 Compact Binoculars are a low-weight compact model that does not compromise on features.
- Compact outdoor binoculars
- Magnification 8x
- Lens diameter 25 mm
- Multi-coated lenses
- BaK-4 Glass, Roof Prism
- Field of view 430ft/1000 yds
- Center focus wheels
- Twist-up eyecups
- Eye Relief: 9.3 mm
- Nitrogen filling, 100% Fog, and Waterproof
- Neck strap and carry case included
Quality optics and glass, ensure glare-free high-resolution images and let you view wildlife and nature in true vivid colors.
Celestron’s compact Outland binoculars are ideal for any outdoor enthusiast, from bird watchers and hunters to adventure travelers.
Rubber armored exterior protects the outland from rough and tough handling. The binoculars are O-ring sealed and purged with nitrogen so they are waterproof and fog-proof in any weather.
Great value and some of the best small binoculars you can get for such a low price.
TERRA ED Pocket 8×25
Here is a compact binocular entry-level model in the premium class of binoculars. The TERRA ED Pocket 8×25 compact binoculars are German ZEISS quality at a great value price. The Zeiss Terra are high-quality binoculars that convince the observer with brilliant color and contrast in any light conditions. The waterproof, robust, and reliable ZEISS Terra is the perfect companion for hunting adventures, bird-watching excursions, or any other outdoor activities.
- Best Schott Extra Low-Dispersion Glass
- Schmidt-Pechan Roof Prism Design
- Hydrophobic Multi-Coated Optics
- Wide 61° Viewing Angle
- 16 mm eye relief
- 5.25 ft Close Focus Distance
- Large easy-to-grip focusing wheel
- Low weight of only 24 ounces
- Glass fiber reinforced housing
- Non-slip rubber coating
- Nitrogen-filled 100% waterproof
- Carry bag
The ZEISS TERRA ED Pocket is a great companion for all types of outdoor activities thanks to its lightweight, compact and robust design.
The case is robust and thanks to The O-ring seals and nitrogen filling 100% waterproof and fog proof.
The optical performance is excellent, as one would expect from Zeiss Instruments.
Features of Compact Binoculars
When looking to find the best small binoculars you need to compromise features and performance against your budget.
You will have to compromise on performance, features, and budget.
- Magnification – About 8x magnification is enough for compact binoculars. With greater magnification, it can be difficult to keep the light-weight instrument steady, and higher power can result in “shaky” observation
- Lens Diameter – small objective lenses reduce light-gathering power and lower twilight performance
- Eye Relief Size – the distance between your eyes and the eyepiece, choose a higher eye relief if you wear glasses
- Water-resistant or waterproof – prevent inner optics from getting moist and fogged-over
- Multi-coated lenses – improve light transmission and produces brighter and contrast-rich images
- Weight – at less than 10 ounces they are pretty lightweight
Advantages of compact binoculars
- Due to their small size when folded up and low weight, they are excellent second binoculars for backup.
- When hiking, wear them around the neck so they are always ready to use
- Fit easily in any bag or in the glove compartment
- Significantly smaller distance between the ocular lenses – a great advantage for small faces
- They are suitable for children’s binoculars. Their compact dimensions and folding features let them fit the smaller pupillary distance and the low weight makes them easier to handle for kids
- You can use them in concerts, operas, or in the theater
- When you reverse them they can be used for magnifying small objects
- Fishermen may have them stored in the anglers vest and have them quick at hand to distinguish fish
- When hunting, compact binoculars can be carried around the neck to be used when one must react quickly
- In the case of the long observation of animals, your hand will not tire so quickly, holding with a single hand is usually sufficient
- Small compact binoculars are cheaper than large ones
Disadvantages of compact binoculars
- Compact binoculars do not reach the image quality of normal binoculars. This is because individual parts are significantly smaller. The housing also has less space for the mechanism.
- The smaller lens diameter (usually between 20mm and 25mm compared to 35mm) will limit the power and the brightness of the projected image as well as the field of view.
- The twilight performance will be less, because of smaller lenses. This may not be a problem in daylight but may limit use at dusk or at night.
- The exit pupils are smaller so that little light reaches the eye. At night or in poor light conditions, the pupils are dilated, so the projected image is smaller than the diameter of the pupil.
- Small light models can be difficult to keep steady, so images can be more easily blurred
- Particularly small focus mechanisms cannot be used so well with large fingers.
- No additional functions, such as image stabilizers.