A good pair of binoculars are an essential piece of kit for hunting, bird-watching or safari. They are also great to have for boating, hiking, and watching sports.
The world of binoculars can, however, be a bit difficult to navigate. Prices vary drastically, as do sizes and features.
After the summary table below we will discuss the key things to keep an eye out for when shopping for binoculars, followed by detailed reviews of some of our recommended products on the market.
Our top pick: Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 Binoculars
Best Mid-Range Binoculars For Bird Watching
A favourite of bird watchers around the world, the Nikon Monarchs offer superior image quality in a compact package.
Designed for use even under difficult light conditions, these binoculars are perfect for serious hunters and nature watchers.
Sharp bright images are the name of the game, and are achieved through Nikon’s ED glass and multilayer-coated lenses.
The Monarch’s are 100% waterproof and fogproof and have a rugged rubber armoured design that provides a secure and comfortable grip.
- Lightweight and compact
- Some users may prefer 10x magnification
Best value: Celestron Nature DX 8X32 Binocular
Best Affordable Compact Binoculars
The cheapest binoculars on our list, the Celestron Nature DXs are certainly still a great quality product and come with almost all features included in the high-end models.
Designed specifically for outdoors, birdwatching and sporting events, these binoculars are waterproof, and nitrogen-purged to ensure they remain fogproof and dust free.
Being small and lightweight make these a great option for kids as well.
- Rubber casing
- Twist-up eyecups
- Missing some high-end features
Celestron TrailSeeker 8X32 Review
Best Multi-Purpose Compact Binoculars For The Outdoors
The TrailSeeker is Celestron’s high-end, full-featured binocular, suitable for a wide range of uses including hunting, bird-watching, and safari.
BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics provide superior viewing quality for both close focus and wide field.
With a magnesium alloy body and rubber armoured casing, the TrailSeekers are tough yet lightweight. They are also waterproof and nitrogen filled (fogproof).
These binoculars are also tripod-adaptable and come with objective lens caps, rain-guard, neck strap, harness strap, carrying case, and lens cloth.
- High-end full featured binoculars
- Superior image quality
- Tripod mountable
Steiner Wildlife 8×42 Binocular Review
Best High-End Nature Binoculars
Utilising the latest in German optics technology, made in the USA, and popular with law enforcement and the military, Steiner Optics produce some of the highest quality binoculars on the market (with a price tag to match).
The Steiner Wildlife binoculars are designed for multi-purpose outdoors use for those who won’t accept compromise.
Very high image quality is achieved through phase-corrected BAK4 roof prisms and high-contrast anti-reflection coatings. The result is bright, clear images with accurate colour representation.
A short minimum focus distance means nearby animals can be viewed easily, while the exit pupil and field of view combination provide high-definition viewing even in low light conditions.
- Very high image quality in a range of environments
- Lightweight and impact-resistant
- Tripod mountable
- Very Expensive
Bushnell 10×42 H2O Binoculars Review
Best Binoculars For Hunting
Based in America, Bushnell specialise in producing high-end, affordable sporting optics.
In addition to binoculars, their products include telescopes, spotting scopes, riflescopes, red dot sights, GPS devices, laser rangefinders, game cameras, and night-vision devices.
The Bushnell H2Os represent a pair of really solid, high magnification binoculars, at the mid-lower end of the price spectrum.
A shock resistant, non-slip rubberised armour mean these are more than suitable for activities such as boating or hunting. Being O-ring sealed, the H2Os are 100% waterproof, even when fully submerged, and are also nitrogen-purged for fogproof viewing.
Multiple layers of coatings on lens surfaces increase light transmission and brightness, making these a favourite for those who sometimes find themselves in low light environments.
- 100% waterproof
- Heavier than other options
Compact Binoculars Buyer’s Guide
Binocular sizes are stated as a set of numbers e.g. 10×25.
The first number represents magnification (how many times closer what you are looking at will appear).
8x and 10x are the most popular for hunting, bird-watching, and general wildlife viewing.
While 10x will get you a more magnified image, this usually comes with a narrower field of view and a more noticeable hand shake.
The second number is the size in mm of the lens furthest from your eyes (the “objective lens”).
Unless you are set on getting a very compact pair of binoculars, you should look at objective lens sizes of 30mm and upwards. 40mm+ will provide superior brightness and image quality but keep in mind this comes with additional weight.
Binocular Size Chart
|Size||Good For||Common specs||Pros||Cons|
|Full-Size||Boating, wildlife||7×50, 10×42, 10×50||Good image quality, good in low-light, steady, wider field of view||Heavy and bulky|
|Medium||General outdoors, hunting, bird watching and wildlife, sports||8×42, 10×32, 10×42||Balance size and performance||Usually too heavy for hiking|
|Compact||Hiking, daytime use||8×25, 10×25, 7×35||Small, lightweight||Image quality, comfort|
Aside from the size, here are a few key features you should keep an eye out for:
- Waterproofing – be sure to check if they are fully submersible or just shower-proof
- Fogproof and dustproof – usually achieved through nitrogen-purging
- Lens quality and coating – important to get sharp and bright images
- Weight – holding binoculars up to your eyes can get tiring. They can also add unnecessary extra weight to your pack.
- Eye Strain – high-end binoculars are designed for extended use with little eye strain while cheaper models are often only usable for minutes at a time.
It’s worth noting that the price of binoculars varies significantly.
Top-of-the-line pairs will set you back in excess of $3,000, while there are also pairs that work perfectly fine for less than $100.
Generally, you get what you pay for with binoculars. So decide on your budget and start your research from there.
At the end of the day, you need to find the best binoculars to suit your needs and budget.
All binoculars on this list are great products, however, for us the Nikon Monarch 5 come out on top for providing the perfect balance between size, performance, and price.