There are many things to consider when deciding which pair of binoculars are best for you. One pair can be great for one person and vastly different for another. More often than not, it comes down to what you want to use them for. Binocular designs vary and depending on the intended type of viewing, they will be aimed at different types of users.
Do you want birdwatching binoculars or are you wanting a lightweight, compact pair to take on a family holiday? Are they just for you or will you be sharing them around? There are pros and cons to almost any pair of binoculars, and we hope that this comprehensive guide will help you with that all-important decision.
Are you wondering just how binoculars work? Well, you can head on over to our detailed piece on all things binoculars; what the numbers mean, how they function, prisms and all the technical jargon. Check it out here!
There are many, many, many different types of binoculars but first things first - you have to decide what you’re using them for. For birdwatching, you need to decide whether you need reach or the ability to scan and pan along the skies. Fortunately, we offer both options. The higher magnification binos allow you to pick out the fine details of your subjects. The lower magnification, lighter etc. binoculars allow you to acquire your subject and track them through the sky.
Swarovski NL Pure 8x42 Binoculars
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Swarovski's NL Pure Binoculars are designed to provide the best possible image for long-distance viewing. Swarovski has developed these binoculars so that they can offer one of the widest fields of view on the market. With the use of field flattener lenses, you'll experience edge-to-edge sharpness, incredible image definition and true-to-life images. Furthermore, specialised lens coatings have been added to ensure the maximum colour fidelity possible with accurate colour rendering with high light transmission. A new focusing mechanism has been incorporated into the build which not only makes for much smoother focusing but also has been redesigned to make for a more compact and ergonomic pair of binoculars, perfect for all-day-use. The NL Pure range truly highlights Swarovski's mastery of professional optics.
Pro: Offers an exceptionally wide field of view
Pro: Premium optics and craftsmanship provide unparalleled quality
Con: A very expensive pair of binoculars (but worth every penny)
Con: Great for scanning large areas but not built for observing fine details
Pro: Nitrogen Purged meaning they’re waterproof and fog-proof
Pro: Affordable and comes with Hawke’s lifetime warranty!
Con: Not as ergonomic and tactile as other pairs
Opticron Natura BGA ED 8x42 Binoculars
Featuring wide field optics, ED glass objectives for brighter, sharper images, and a micro hinge body for even better grip, the Opticron Natura BGA ED delivers benchmark quality, optical performance and ergonomics for its price point. The optical system has high-quality phase-corrected prism units with Oasis prism coating, to deliver +99% light transmission over a broader spectrum.
Pro: Compact and lightweight with a textured rubber armour
Pro: Long eye relief eyepieces giving the full field of view for glasses wearers
Con: Accessories are limited and some may find the included strap not robust enough
It’s dark at night and because of that, when looking for suitable astronomy binoculars, you should look for a pair with large objective lenses. This will let the most amount of light in to help you view the stars! A larger objective lens will make the overall size and weight larger but for this, you can get accessories to mount them to a tripod for a steady, shake-free shot.
Pro: Shockproof design with a robust all-metal body construction
Pro: BAK-4 prisms fully broadband multi-coated optics offer exceptional image quality
Con: They’re heavy and generally will require a tripod or stand
Celestron SkyMaster 20x80 Binoculars
Celestron's SkyMaster series of large aperture binoculars are phenomenal value for high performance binoculars, and ideal for astronomical or terrestrial use, especially over long distances. Each SkyMaster model features high quality BAK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics for enhanced contrast. Celestron has designed and engineered the larger SkyMaster models to meet the special demands of extended astronomical viewing sessions, large objective lenses, high magnification, in a reasonably lightweight configuration.
Pro: Very affordable and ideal for those starting out with star gazing
Pro: 80mm objective lens offers maximum image brightness in low-light
Con: While perfect for beginners, its image quality may not be suitable for more seasoned users
Pentax Jupiter 16x50 Binoculars
Observe bright and high-fidelity images with the Pentax Jupiter 16x50 Binoculars. Equipped with 50 mm objective lenses, these binoculars are perfect for scouting distant subjects and rare moments of action. Plus, a protective rubberised armoury safeguards these binoculars against accidental impacts while providing a comfortable grip.
Pro: Affordable and versatile - along with astronomy, they’re ideal for safaris, hiking, trips and more
Pro: Surprisingly lightweight meaning you can hold the binos for longer without fatigue
Con: This pair offers an impressively far optical range, but as a result, the image quality can suffer in certain lighting situations
If you’re looking for binoculars for marine observation, there are several factors to be considered. An absolute must is a pair that have gas-filled tubes - this will ensure that the lenses do not fog up and will be waterproof! You should also be on the lookout for corrosion/temperature resistant polycarbonate - it’s lightweight, durable, and will withstand saltwater environments.
Fujinon 7x50 WP-XL Mariner Binoculars
The Fujinon 7x50 WP-XL Mariner Binoculars are an explorer’s choice. With built-in Porro prism, this pair of binoculars ensure better image quality and a wide field of view. The Fujinon binoculars have a 7.5° angle of view, making them perfect to be used by marine professionals and enthusiasts. Their 56-72 mm range of interpupillary distance makes sure that there is no dark halo around the image when the user is looking through the binoculars. An individual focus mechanism and dioptre adjustment are included in the Mariner binoculars to re-adjust the focus and make them suitable for users with eyesight differences. These binoculars with an 18 mm eye relief are designed to keep well care of the users with eyewear glasses. Apart from the safety of the users, the Fujinon binoculars take care of the lenses with the tethered push-on objective lens caps. Also, users can keep the binoculars clean with the cleaning cloth that comes along.
Pro: Water and fog-proof built, and its 7x mag. is ideal for marine observation
Pro: Tethered objective lens caps keep the lenses protected from dust, dirt, scratches, and breaks
Con: They will float on water if the neckstrap is attached properly - but without the strap, they’ll sink!
Bushnell Marine 7x50 Bearing & Ranging Binoculars
Specifically designed for sailors and marine experts, the Bushnell Marine 7 x 50 Bearing and Ranging Binoculars is an ideal choice for observing distant islands, marine life, water bodies, etc. Equipped with 7x magnification power, the ultra-compact binoculars deliver clear and high-resolution visuals while observing distant subjects. Additionally, the binoculars have innovative BaK Porro prisms that gather maximum light for delivering brighter images, even when the light is not adequate. With sealed O-ring and nitrogen filled tubes, the smart binoculars effectively eliminate fog or moisture formation and feature high resistance against saltwater corrosion. Incorporating an internal rangefinder, the intelligently designed binoculars allow calculating the distance between a user and the target. While an illuminated compass helps in measuring the height of distant objects. And with the rubber armouring on the exterior, the binoculars remain protected against shocks and bumps.
Pro: Its Porro prism design is built with premium optics and provides accurate depth perception - ideal for marine use
Pro: Nitrogen-filled tubes prevent fog or moisture formation on the lenses that would damage the optics
Con: The batteries installation can be tricky (but it’ll be worth it)
Nikon Action EX 7x50 Binoculars
Nikon Action EX 7x50 Binoculars. The newest ATB offering from Nikon is modeled from the best selling Action series roof prism binocular. Like all ATB's, the Action EX is nitrogen filled and o-ring sealed for years of waterproof, fogproof and shockproof performance. A truly extreme and rugged binocular, the Action EX is built on an all-metal chassis with all optical components installed in a lightweight polycarbonate shell. The Eco-Glass lens system provides bright and tremendously clear images, while the streamlined body is rubber coated for a non-slip grip wet or dry.
Pro: This pair will excel for marine use but can easily be used for most purposes
Pro: An ergonomic design that’s also waterproof, fog proof and shockproof
Con: Do not perform as well in low light as other binoculars, but it’s a small trade-off considering the price and overall performance
More often than not, if you’re on a safari, you’ll be far away from your subjects (elephants, zebra, and more scarily - lions). Because of this, you’ll need a high magnification with a large objective lens to bring those subjects closer to you but also to produce a bright and highly detailed image. But if there’s not enough space in your bag, a compact pair of roof prism binos could be useful to help you scan the skies or identify landmarks.
Swarovski NL Pure 8x32 Binoculars - Green
Swarovski's NL Pure Binoculars are designed to provide the best possible image for long-distance viewing. Swarovski has developed these binoculars so that they can offer one of the widest fields of view on the market. With the use of field flattener lenses, you'll experience edge-to-edge sharpness, incredible image definition and true-to-life images. Furthermore, specialised lens coatings have been added to ensure the maximum colour fidelity possible with accurate colour rendering with high light transmission. To further enhance smooth and hassle-free operation, an upgraded focusing mechanism has been implemented into the build. This allows for a more compact, well-balanced, and lightweight form-factor - ideal for every day, all-day usage. You also have the choice between Green and Burnt Orange colour variations to suit your individual style. The NL Pure range truly highlights Swarovski's mastery of professional optics.
Pro: Exceptional image quality and overall performance
Pro: This pair has an extended field of view that makes a substantial difference when viewing from a distance
Con: Expensive compared to similarly ranged binoculars, but when on a safari, this pair will offer the best optical clarity
Leica Trinovid 10x32 HD Binoculars
The Leica Trinovid 10x32 HDs are a rugged pair of binoculars that balance high-end optical performance with impressive portability. They feature P40 phase-correction prism coatings to enhance light transmission, the ever-reliable HighLux system to limit internal light diffraction, and Leica's effective HDC coating to ensure high-contrast clarity and colour fidelity throughout. You are given a truly immersive observational experience when you raise these binoculars to your eyes, with a clear, crisp, and wide 61° apparent angle of view. They also cater well to both those with or without eyewear, with twist-up four-position click-stop rubber eyecups, 16mm eye relief, and ±4 right-eye dioptric correction. For subjects that stand, sit, or fly a little closer to the lens - these Trinovid's are equipped with an immensely short 1m minimum focal distance. This is great for observing small birds, butterflies, bugs, and other insects.
Pro: Exceptional Leica-standard image quality, colour accuracy and high-contrast clarity
Pro: Nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed; withstanding submersion in up to 4m of water and resistant to internal fogging
Con: Another expensive pair but a worthy and reliable investment that will never fail
Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 Roof Prism Binoculars
Save £20, RRP £169
The Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 Binoculars are ultra-compact and fully waterproof. With a host of features including 7.5° WA eyepieces, fully coated optics with PC phase corrected prisms, long eyerelief for spectacle wearers with twist type eyecups and excellent close focus ability, the Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 Binoculars offer the value conscious customer a stylish user friendly field glass.
Pro: Affordable and perfect for those who are new to binoculars and who want a decent pair to get started
Pro: Long eye relief for spectacle wearers with twist-type eyecups and excellent close focus ability
Con: While an excellent pair for beginners, the optical quality may not meet the demands of seasoned users
The days of night vision binoculars being exclusively a spy’s tool are gone. Nowadays we have various options available to us that allow us to make nighttime observations. We can enjoy watching wildlife at night - seeing what they get up when the sun goes down and light from our lamps go out. Not only this, the once costly and bulky night vision binoculars of the past are now, compact, lightweight and offer a much higher quality image.
Bushnell Equinox Z2 4.5x40 Night Vision Monocular
The Bushnell® Equinox Z2 night vision monocular enables you to see targets more than 750 ft away day or night with a power built-in IR illuminator. Stream live video to you mobile device and control zoom, video recording, image capture, and IR brightness directly from your mobile device
Pro: It can capture high-quality 1080p video during both day and night
Pro: Its built-in IR illuminator allows for viewing long-range targets day or night
Con: The illuminator has only two brightness levels and the battery life isn’t as good as some other models
Pro: Two working modes including Infrared Beam and Low Illumination CCD
Pro: Delivers 4.5x optical magnification along with a 5.0x digital zoom
Con: The eye relief is not long and therefore is not suitable for glasses wearers
Bresser Digital Night Vision 3x20 Binoculars
Expand your horizon with the Digital Night Vision 3x20 Binoculars. With a 4:3 digital display, users benefit from a comfortable viewing experience that brings their subjects closer using 3x magnification. This device also boasts 6 hours of power with the included AA batteries, integrated infrared lighting for use in the dark and a 20mm lens diameter with an adjustment wheel for optimal focus.
Pro: It has a large 4:3 display that is comfortable for longer periods of use
Pro: Impressive image quality, even in pitch black, considering the affordable price point
Con: The battery life isn’t amazing but to be expected. It's always a good idea to carry extra
There are many cases where a pair of binoculars can improve your enjoyment of a sporting event. But as you’ll learn throughout this buying guide, there are many different types of binos that suit differing subjects - sports binoculars are no different. However, if you were to try and pin down an-rounder pair, you’d be looking at 8x42, or a 10x25, for something more portable.
Vortex Diamondback HD 10x28 Compact Binoculars
The Vortex Diamondback HD 10x28 Compact Binoculars welcomes the addition of HD glass elements whilst retaining all of the great improvements made in the last update. This includes better optics, dielectric prism coatings and a 10% lighter body. The HD glass brings outstanding resolution; reduced chromatic aberration; stunning colour fidelity; edge-to-edge sharpness, and fantastic light transmission to an already impressive binocular range.
Pro: Premium High-Density extra-low dispersion glass delivers impressive resolution and colour fidelity
Pro: Lightweight, compact and affordable!
Con: While its lightweight, compactness is a plus; it’s at the detriment of a more premium feeling casing
Olympus Sports 10x25 WP II Binoculars - Black
Designed for the sports fan, the Olympus 10x25 WP II waterproof binoculars are a great addition to your kit enabling you to get closer to the action whether you are on the terraces cheering on your team or at trackside following the action. The waterproof design means that these binoculars are equally at home on land or sea and the convenient focusing means you won't miss a thing from the starting gun to the final flag. Whilst these binoculars have been designed with the sports fan in mind they perform equally well in the countryside when viewing nature's athletes.
Pro: The ideal pair for packing away and quickly viewing at a moment's notice
Pro: Waterproof, travel-friendly and should work for all users
Con: They don’t offer a huge field of view but are perfect for sporting events
Nikon Sportstar EX 10x25 Binoculars
Combining superb optical quality and durability, the Nikon Sportstar EX 10x25 Binoculars provide exceptional performance for watching birds, sports, or just for appreciating the great outdoors. They offer a 10x magnification, while the multilayer-coated 25mm objective lenses ensure the viewed image is bright and clear. The turn and slide rubber eyecups with multi-click allow easy positioning of eyes and comfortable viewing even for eyeglass wearers at the proper eyepoint. O-ring seals and nitrogen gas provide added resistance to the effects of changes in climate for added peace of mind.
Pro: Waterproof (up to 2 m for 5 minutes) and fog-free with O-ring seals and nitrogen gas
Pro: Lightweight, compact and will easily fit in any bag
Con: They do not have the best optical quality but are more than adequate for casual viewing
What do the numbers on binoculars mean?
The first number indicates the magnification or strength and the second is the objective lens diameter. The second figure refers to the diameter of the objective lens in millimetres
Can I wear glasses with a pair of binoculars?
You can wear glasses and use binoculars but you’ll need longer eye relief to allow room for your glasses.
What’s the difference between BAK4 and BK-7 prisms?
These two types are made from different materials that offer different optical qualities. BaK4 offers the highest level of optical quality, whereas BK-7 prisms offer a high image quality but do not perform as well in lower light conditions.
What strength of binoculars is best?
This is all very much dependent on the subject you wish to observe. A lower magnification pair will be lighter and more portable but will not offer an image as zoomed in as a pair with higher magnification. But for everyday users, a lower magnification will be easier to use and pack away in your bag.
Check out our other expert buying guides...
About the Author
Leo White has been a member of the Wex Photo Video team since 2018, working in a variety of roles ranging from the contact centre to the product setup team. With both a photography BA and MA, Leo has a wealth of knowledge he's ready to share. See more of his writing on Leo's author page.