Best 8×32 Binoculars: Quality Optics Small Enough to Fit in Your Pocket
See clear images far away with these top binoculars
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Whether you’re a birder, a sports fan, or just always end up in the back when it comes to concerts, a compact pair of binoculars (“binos”) is a good investment. As a rule, 8x32s offer great all-around performance that is ideal for general or occasional use, while being small enough to leave in the glove box or a coat pocket. They come with a range of features to suit all budgets, so we’ve run through our favorites and included some key information below to help you navigate the market.
These compact (4.4 x 4.6 inches) HD roof prism binos weigh 15.9 ounces and are both waterproof and fogproof. The fully multi-coated lenses are optimized with anti-reflective and dielectric layers for exceptionally clear and bright images. Maximum FOV measured at 426 feet (8.1 degrees) and close focus at 5 feet.
- Impact-resistant construction, non-slip rubber casing, and Armortek coating on exterior lens provide maximum durability
- Adjustable eyecups and IPD guarantee comfort and the model is suitable for use with a tripod
- Expensive choice
- Package does not include a harness or cleaning cloth
Fully multi-coated lenses, Bak-4 prisms, and lead-free glass provide superb clarity with a top FOV of 393 feet and near focus of 10 feet. These are rugged yet ergonomic binoculars in hunter green with textured, shock-absorbing rubber armor for maximum durability. Package includes a neck strap and carrying case.
- Binos are fogproof and IPX-7 waterproof but are also covered by Bushnell’s no-questions-asked lifetime warranty for even greater confidence
- Lightweight and comfortable to use
- Lens caps can be attached or removed, depending on your preference
- The focus knob spins a little too freely, making it easy to overshoot and have to refocus
- No padding on the neck strap
Premium HD binoculars with ED glass, phase-corrected, dielectric-coated Bak-4 prisms and fully multi-coated lenses that deliver maximum image brightness while correcting chromatic aberration. The tough chassis is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof, yet lightweight at just over 1 pound. Maximum FOV comes in at 392 feet and close focus at 6.6 feet.
- Textured rubber casing and ergonomic design make for comfortable use
- Package includes a neck strap, shoulder harness, deluxe BinoArmor carry case, and lens cloth
- Provides 19.5mm of eye relief for maximum comfort
- Model is tripod-adaptable
- Not suitable for individuals with pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) due to powerful magnets in the carrying case
- Ergonomic thumb rests are more of a hindrance than a help if you have larger than average hands
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Benefits of 8x32 Binoculars
- Compact. As a rule, most 8x32 binoculars are small enough to easily fit in your pocket. They can conveniently be left in the glove box without taking up too much space.
- All-purpose. Some would argue that you don’t really need anything bigger or fancier than a high-quality pair of 8x32s. With enough magnification to see the horizon as well as finer details on birds and wildlife, the lens diameter is sufficient for use in low light—like at dusk and dawn—and you’d notice very little improvement by going up a lens size (e.g., 42mm).
- Affordable. Because of their relatively small size, it’s easier to find quality 8x32s at an affordable price. After all, small lenses require less glass, and this keeps the cost of production lower than if you had 50mm objective lenses, for example.
Types of 8x32 Binoculars
The Porro prism was invented by Ignazio Porro and, still the most commonly used, was the standard design in all early binoculars. The design involves light being bounced through two right-angled prisms that are facing each other. The light path is simple but wide, so light transmission and field of view are particularly good. Porro prisms deliver bright images with admirable depth perception. In general, they provide better image quality than roof prisms. But, as the prism shape requires the eyepiece to be offset from the lens, Porro prism binoculars are usually bulkier, a little heavier, and more difficult to properly seal and make waterproof than roof prism binoculars.
The two most common roof prism designs involve prisms being arranged in a V shape (the Abbe-Koenig model) or with a small gap between them (the Schmidt-Pecan model). The different shapes provide lots of angles for the light to bounce through, which extends its overall path from lens to eyepiece, and therefore improves light transmission and image brightness. It’s easier to make smaller binoculars with roof prisms, but being narrow reduces the maximum field of view. So what you gain in convenience and durability, you lose when it comes to your field of view.
The Germany-based company Zeiss was founded by optician Carl Zeiss in 1846. It has been designing and manufacturing optical components for more than 100 years and, having invented the first pair of foldable ones, knows a thing or two about compact binoculars. Its range of 8x32 binoculars includes the Terra ED.
The Swarovski brand is probably more well-known for crystal jewelry, so it should come as no surprise that its expertise with glass extends to optics, too. Swarovski Optik was founded in 1949, nearly 100 years after the original company was born in Tyrol, Austria. Its binoculars in this class tend to be 8x30, rather than 8x32, like this EL model in green, but they’ll set you back a pretty penny, regardless.
In 1960, Tom Johnson built a telescope for his sons and, as a result, decided to add an Astro-Optical arm to his company, Valor Electronics, which dealt primarily in military and electronic components. The Astro-Optical division became Celestron, which almost went out of business in 2001 and was acquired by the Delaware-based company, SW Technology Corporation in 2005. Celestron is still based in Torrance, California and produces a range of optical instruments, although it deals primarily in telescopes. Its range of 8x32 binoculars includes the Nature DX (in green) and the Trailseeker.
8x32 Binoculars Pricing
- Budget (around $50): It’s much easier to find decent 8x32 binoculars at the low end of the price range because of their size and the relatively small amount of material needed to build them. Expect basic but serviceable image quality with no fancy extras.
- Mid-Range (around $150): Models in the middle of the price range should suit most users, whether you’re a serious birder or occasional user who wants guaranteed quality. Decent fog proofing, high-quality HD optics, and a comprehensive lifetime warranty are all more than feasible at this price point.
- Premium ($300 and up): If you’re going to pay top dollar for a premium pair of binoculars of this size, you’re going to want something a bit special. At this price point, you can expect greatly optimized optical performance, quality well-made accessories, an ergonomic but indestructible casing, and fancy extras like image stabilization and laser sighting.
Size and Weight
Whether you go for a full-size, compact, or even folding pair of binoculars is largely going to depend on how you intend to use them. Do they need to fit easily in your coat pocket, or the glove box? Or are you going on an extended birdwatching trip and plan on carrying them around your neck the whole time?
Optical performance is dictated by optic quality and, as such, this is the most important feature to consider when choosing binoculars. Bak-7 and Bak-4 prisms are key, as are lenses that are both fully- and multi-coated. Some pairs will also include extra-low dispersion and HD glass for even better light transmission and image quality.
There’s no point having top of the line optics if your face is too big for your binos. Pupillary distance measures how far apart your eyes are. You should have no problems, but as 8x32s tend to be particularly compact, it’s worth being aware of.
If you’re going to leave them on a windowsill and only use them for occasional glimpses of your garden wildlife, it’s not going to matter whether your binoculars are waterproof or not. But if you’re an all-weather birder, you definitely need a pair of O-ring sealed waterproof binoculars that aren’t going to fog up at the first hint of rain.
- Image Stabilization. Some binoculars utilize image stabilization technology to eliminate wobble and vibration caused by shivering or unsteady hands. This usually comes at a higher price point, though, and you might also need to buy batteries.
- Ease of Use. A large focus knob is much easier to use in cold or wet conditions, allowing you to make big adjustments with fewer rotations and small adjustments with less risk of overshooting your mark.
- Comfort. Alongside size and weight, it’s important to determine how comfortable your binoculars are to hold, especially over extended periods of time. Non-slip, sure-grip rubber casings are common, but you might want to try an ergonomic design, too.
- Price Point. If you’re buying for children, or will only use your binos occasionally, there are perfectly good entry-level binos at the bottom end of the price range. You can always upgrade if you need to and, if you’re a complete newbie, it’ll be difficult to assess the difference in image quality anyway.
Best 8x32 Binoculars Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- Look for binoculars that come with a carry case and strap to make storing them and carrying them easier. A case will ensure they stay dust and scratch-free.
- Determine if you want tethered lens caps. If they’re tethered, you won’t have to worry about losing them. However, if they’re tethered, they’ll potentially get in the way while you’re using the binoculars.
- There are two different kinds of prisms that are used in binoculars: roof and Porro. The prism type affects the price. Because of the level of optic design required, the roof binoculars tend to be more expensive than Porro.
Q: Can I use binoculars while wearing glasses?
Yes. You should be able to hold the binoculars up to your glasses and look through them to see a clear image.
Q: What does the exit pupil mean?
This is the amount of focused light that hits your eye. You can see this by holding the binoculars about eight to 10 inches away from your face. You’ll see a small dot of light at the center of the eyepieces. The exit diameter should be bigger than the pupil of your eye.
Q: Are lens coatings important on binoculars?
The right lens coatings can improve the performance of your binoculars. They can make the colors more vivid through the transmission of more light. Coatings to reduce reflection are extremely important. The light that’s reflected means less light that gets directed to your eye.
The superb Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars are our top pick for the best 8x32 binoculars, but they are a little pricier than we’d like.
For a more budget-friendly option, the ever-popular Bushnell Trophy Binoculars deliver a great bang for your buck.