Best Binoculars: See Far and Clear on Your Adventure
Enhance your vision on the go with these high-quality binoculars
The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.
Binoculars are used by bird watchers, explorers, and hikers to get a better view of what lies ahead. But how can you be sure you have the right pair? There are several options available, and all improve your vision. However, not all binoculars are equal. Many come with enhanced functions, such as variable zoom distance, night vision, and a compass. Check out the best binoculars to consider before heading off on your next adventure.
Why Trust Us
All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Binoculars
- Versatile. You can use binoculars for a wide variety of activities, including bird-watching, hiking, sporting events, and concerts. They're the perfect companion if you want a close-up view of faraway objects.
- Affordable. If you are interested in stargazing, you can save a lot of money by purchasing binoculars instead of a telescope. Plus, you can buy several pairs of binoculars so more than one person can view the moon and stars at the same time.
- Easy to use. Compared to telescopes, binoculars are much simpler to operate. Plus, many people feel more comfortable looking at the night sky using both eyes instead of squinting to see through a telescope.
- Portable. If you're planning an outdoor adventure, you want to carry as little gear as possible so you're not weighed down. The best binoculars are small and convenient to carry and pack.
Types of Binoculars
This type of binocular tends to be smaller and more durable than a Porro prism binocular. They are slim, stylish, easier to hold, and are typically more durable than Porro prism binoculars with identical specifications. However, roof prism binoculars are often more expensive because producing and adjusting the prism requires advanced technology.
These binoculars were invented by Italian Ignazio Porro in the mid-19th century. They produce brighter images than roof prism binoculars. They are also more affordable and are generally good quality overall. On the downside, they tend to be a little larger and are not particularly comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Nikon, based in Tokyo, Japan, was founded in 1917. The company produces optics and imaging gear, including camera lenses, spotting scopes, and binoculars. One popular product is the Nikon Monarch 5 10x42 Binoculars.
The German company Leica Camera was founded in 1869. It designs cameras, lenses, rifle scopes, and binoculars. The company's name is a juxtaposition of the founder's name, Ernst Leitz, and the word camera. One top product is the Leica 8x20 BCA Trinovid, Weather Resistant Roof Prism Binocular.
ZEISS is headquartered in Oberkochen, Germany, and has been around since 1846. The company designed the world’s first roof prism binoculars. One popular product is the ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42 Black Binoculars.
- Under $50: Several brands of small, lightweight, and compact binoculars cost less than $50. However, they don't produce images with high resolution or have as large fields of view compared to more expensive products.
- $100 to $300: You can find several standard, mid-size, and full-size binoculars in this price range. Many are waterproof with rugged designs and suitable for low-light conditions and night vision.
- Over $300: You can spend as much as a couple thousand dollars on binoculars, depending on what your needs are. High-end binoculars have superior quality optics, high magnification levels, larger fields of view, and are better for observing wildlife or hiking at night.
To determine the magnification, look at the number written with the "x." For example, if a product says 10x, it means the subject is magnified 10 times. If you use binoculars with 10x magnification, a bird 100 meters away will appear as though it is just 10 meters away. The best binoculars have a magnification between 7x and 12x. Products with a higher magnification will require a tripod for a clearer image.
Objective Lens Diameter
The size of the objective lens is important because it regulates how much light enters the binoculars. For example, an objective lens with a larger diameter produces better images in low-light conditions. To determine the lens size, look at the "mm" after the x. A ratio of five in connection to the magnification is preferred, i.e., 8x40 is better than 8x25 because it produces brighter and clearer images.
Lens Coating and Quality
The lens coating permits a maximum amount of light to infiltrate the binoculars and reduces the amount of light that is reflected. A higher-quality lens will produce more contrast and less aberration. Better lenses can operate in low-light conditions because they can transmit more light. A good set of lenses also prevents distortion and washed-out colors.
Field of View and Exit Pupil
The field of view is indicated in degrees and is the diameter of the area you see through the binoculars. The bigger the field of view, the more area you can observe. The exit pupil is the lens diameter divided by the magnification. It is the image you see on the eyepiece.
- Weight: Some binoculars are bigger, heavier, and bulkier than others. If you plan on using a pair of binoculars for a prolonged period of time, you should choose a product that is lighter in weight. There are many types of portable binoculars that are easy to carry and pack in a backpack.
- Waterproof: Some binoculars are better suited for the elements than others. Waterproof binoculars are typically rated WP and are essential if you plan on using them outdoors frequently. Some brands can be exposed to minimal moisture, while other brands can last even if they're submerged in water for extended periods of time.
Best Binoculars Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Always use a shoulder or neck strap when using binoculars to avoid accidentally dropping them.
- Zooming in all the way may give you a blurry image. To avoid this, you can zoom in all the way and slowly zoom out until the image is no longer blurry.
- To prevent any damage to the lenses while walking with the binoculars you should leave the lens covers on. This will also prevent dust and dirt from building up behind the glass.
- To clean the lenses, use a soft cloth to wipe away any smears or smudges. If they do not come with a microfiber cloth you can use a soft towel.
- For a better image and sturdier vision, consider placing the binoculars on a tripod.
Q: What do the numbers mean on binoculars?
A: Numbers like 10 x 50 register how far and wide the lenses will see. The first number is the power of the lens and dictates how much they will magnify an object. The second number represents the diameter of the lens in millimeters. Together they are used to calculate what is known as the exit ratio. The larger the number, the brighter the image will be.
Q: How do I determine the exit ratio on a pair of binoculars?
A: You take the two numbers and divide them together to get the exit ratio or exit pupil. For instance, using the ratio above, you would take 50 and divide it by 10 to get 5.0.
Q: Can I use binoculars with glasses?
A: Yes, as long as the eyecups are large enough. You should still be able to see through smaller eyecups, but they may not be as comfortable. If you wear glasses, you should get a pair of binoculars with a wider field of view and comfortable rubber eyecups. You may also be able to attach different cups to the binoculars for a better view.
For one of the best pairs of binoculars with a wide field of vision and an excellent exit ratio, check out the Gosky Roof Prism Binoculars.
Check out the Aurosports Folding High Powered Binoculars for a less expensive pair with a comfortable grip and long-distance view.