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Best Binoculars

Updated January 2024
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars
Vortex
Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars
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Most Powerful
Bottom Line

These high-quality binoculars have a rugged build and are excellent for hunting and birding.

Pros

They have adjustable twist eyecups and offer 10 times magnification. The multi-colored lenses increase light transmission for a clear image, and the center wheel adjusts the focus of both barrels. It's fog-proof and waterproof.

Cons

Adjusting it can be challenging as they're a bit stiff.

Best Bang for the Buck
Celestron SkyMaster Giant Binoculars
Celestron
SkyMaster Giant Binoculars
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High Durability
Bottom Line

Great value astronomy binoculars from a popular and trusted brand.

Pros

Multi-coated optics. Suitable for viewing in daylight and low-light situations. Includes tripod mount. Rubberized and ergonomically designed.

Cons

Quite large and heavy. A small percentage have a problem with focus.

Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binoculars
Zeiss
Terra ED Compact Binoculars
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

Superb all-rounders from a company whose reputation for quality lenses is legendary.

Pros

Exceptional optics have hydrophobic (water-shedding) lenses. Lightweight, waterproof casing is reinforced with fiberglass. Ideal for all wildlife viewing. They look great, too.

Cons

None, though they are more expensive than many.

Nikon 8252 Aculon A211 Binoculars
Nikon
8252 Aculon A211 Binoculars
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Trusted Brand
Bottom Line

An excellent pair of binoculars for birding and hunting with an ergonomic handle.

Pros

These binoculars have a fingertip zoom control knob, and turn-and-slide rubber eyecups provide comfortable viewing for any user. The minimum focus distance is 49.2 feet, and the eco-glass lens offers a clear image in various environments and light conditions.

Cons

The quality of the tripod mount is mediocre.

Celestron Nature DX 10x32 Binoculars
Celestron
Nature DX 10x32 Binoculars
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Durable & Rugged
Bottom Line

A mid-sized pair of binoculars for a mid-range price that is built for stashing in a bag and hitting the trails.

Pros

Crisp images. Easy to focus. Lightweight and fairly compact, so they are easy to carry. Nice for birdwatching. Includes carrying case, lens cap, eyepiece, rain guard, neck strap, cleaning cloth, and manual.

Cons

Manufacturer claims of these binoculars being waterproof are questionable. Some durability concerns.

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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. About BestReviews  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.About BestReviews 
HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

30
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Considered
60
Consumers
Consulted
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Researched
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Buying guide for best binoculars

Whether you're at a ball game, on safari or watching birds at your local park, binoculars help you see better and farther, enhancing your experience. But some binoculars are just better than others and some are suited to particular activities. 

If it's your first time buying binoculars or you aren't clear on the terminology, perhaps the first things to get your head around are magnification and objective lens diameter. The magnification tells you how much the binoculars magnify a scene. The diameter of the objective lens dictates how much light the binoculars let in, which affects the brightness and sharpness of the image. However, there's more to consider, such as lens coatings and prism types. 

We researched binoculars, and the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars are our top choice. They're available in various magnifications and objective lens diameters to suit your needs. Plus, they're fully multicoated to increase light transmission and improve image quality. 

Best binoculars

Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars

Thanks to the roof prism design, these Vortex binoculars are streamlined and relatively compact. The BaK-4 prisms provide a higher image quality than lesser prisms by reducing the amount of light lost internally. You can choose from a range of magnifications between 8x and 15x, with objective lens diameters from 28 to 56 millimeters, so there's an option to suit most uses, from wildlife watching to stargazing. The exit pupil measurement varies depending on the magnification and lens diameter, so some binoculars are better suited to low-light conditions than others. The lenses are fully multicoated to improve the brightness and overall quality of the image. 

Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 Binoculars

People have been looking up at the night sky in wonder for millennia, and if you enjoy stargazing, these binoculars will help you get a better view. The 15x magnification and 70 mm front lens diameter make them ideal for astronomical use. The Porro prism design makes them somewhat bulky but affordable, considering the magnification and lens size. The 4.6 mm exit pupil measurement means they perform decently in low light at dawn or dusk. Multicoated, with BaK-4 prisms, these binoculars have decent brightness, sharpness and overall image quality, with a field of view of 231 feet at 1,000 yards. 

Zeiss Terra ED Binoculars

These compact binoculars have a roof prism design. They come in 8x or 10x magnification and an objective lens diameter of 32 or 42 millimeters. The magnification levels make them ideal for birding and watching other wildlife. Those with larger objective lens diameters give you better performance in lower light and wider fields of view. The lenses are multicoated to give you less light loss, brighter images and improved image quality. They also have a hydrophobic coating, which makes them easier to use in wet weather. The roof prism design with high-end BaK-4 prisms provides bright, sharp images.

Bushnell Legend L-Series 10x42 Binoculars

With 10x magnification and a 42-millimeter objective lens diameter, these roof prism binoculars are great for wildlife watching and birding. They have a 4.2 mm exit pupil measurement, which means they perform pretty well in lower light, such as at dusk and dawn. They're fully multicoated, so the images they produce are sharp, detailed and true to color. The BaK-4 prisms on these Bushnell binoculars help keep images vivid and clear with good contrast even when the light conditions aren't optimal. They have a decent field of view of 340 feet at 1,000 yards.

Nikon Aculon A211 10-22x50 Zoom Binoculars

These Nikon binoculars zoom to adjust the magnification between 10x and 22x. Combined with the 50-millimeter objective lens diameter, they let in plenty of light for bright, clear images. The Porro prism design means they aren't quite as streamlined as roof prism binoculars, but it keeps the cost down. The multicoated lenses increase image brightness and clarity, and the BaK-4 prisms add to the image quality. The field of view is 199 feet at 1,000 yards, although it narrows as you zoom in, so you'll see a smaller field at greater magnification. 

Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars

Relatively compact and streamlined, these roof prism binoculars come in four magnification and lens diameter combinations: 8x32, 10x42, 10x50 and 12x50. They are some of the best binoculars for safaris and birding, providing a decent field of view of between 288 feet and 409 feet at 1,000 yards, depending on the magnification and lens diameter. They are fully multicoated and have BaK-4 prisms, which improve the image quality, making it bright, clear and sharp. These binoculars are durable and easy to grip, and because they’re waterproof and fog-proof, they can also be used in all kinds of weather conditions.

Hexeum Infrared Night Vision Binoculars

Although these aren't true binoculars, if you want to see further and better in the dark, these night vision binoculars use digital infrared technology to let you see things you wouldn't be able to see with the naked eye at night. They offer 3x magnification and can also take photos and videos. If you're looking to go on a night safari or want to spot owls and other birds that hunt at night, these binoculars are ideal. They run for up to 8 hours with the infrared illuminator on or for 17 hours without it. 

Celestron Nature DX ED Premium Binoculars

Celestron is well known for its telescopes and astronomical binoculars, but these binoculars are designed for watching nature. They come in 8x, 10x and 12x magnification levels, with an objective lens diameter of 42 or 50 millimeters. That means they will suit most nature watchers, whether you’re a birdwatcher or enjoy viewing other wildlife. These binoculars have a streamlined roof prism design, utilizing BaK-4 prisms for a bright, sharp image. The fully multicoated lenses maximize light transmission, which also makes images brighter and clearer. The field of vision varies from 252 feet to 393 feet at 1,000 yards. 

Maven C1 10X42 ED Binoculars

If you're looking for slim, lightweight binoculars, these fit the bill. The roof prism design and lightweight polymer frame keep the weight and bulk down. They're available in either 10x42 or 12x42 versions. The 12x magnification versions give you a larger image but a smaller field of view and a smaller exit pupil diameter, which means they're not as useful in low light. The image quality is excellent thanks to BaK-4 prisms and fully multicoated lenses for images that are sharp, vivid and color accurate with good contrast. 

What to know before you buy binoculars

Types

There are two main types of binoculars: roof prism and Porro prism.

Roof prism: These binoculars are more streamlined, with the eyepieces in line with the objective lenses at the front. While they are less bulky and easier to hold, they cost more to make, so they tend to be pricier than Porro prism binoculars.

Porro prism: These binoculars are bulkier because Porro prisms are offset from one another and the objective lenses are positioned farther apart than the eyepieces. However, these binoculars are much more affordable than roof prism types, meaning you’ll get better image quality for your money.

Magnification and objective lens diameter

When browsing binoculars, you’ll notice they come with a set of numbers, such as 12x60 or 10x25. The first number is the magnification and the second number is the diameter of the objective lens — the front lens of the binoculars.

Magnification: The magnification of a pair of binoculars is the number of times closer what you’re viewing appears compared to observing it with the naked eye. Binoculars with a magnification of 12x make objects appear 12 times closer. The right level of magnification depends on what you want to use your binoculars for. For instance, you need 3x to 5x for the theater, 7x for sporting events, 8x to 10x for birdwatching and 10x to 30x for stargazing.

Objective lens diameter: The second number is the diameter of each front lens in millimeters, such as 32 or 50. The larger the objective lens, the more light comes into the binoculars and the brighter and sharper the image. The tradeoff is the bigger the objective lens diameter, the heavier and bulkier the binoculars, which will also be more difficult to keep stable without a monopod or tripod.

Exit pupil

The exit pupil is visualized as a circle of light in the center of each eyepiece in a pair of binoculars. For any binoculars you consider, the diameter of the exit pupil should be provided in the product specs. 

A larger diameter yields a brighter field of view. Why does this matter? In bright conditions, it doesn’t, because even binoculars with a minimal exit pupil of 2 millimeters will afford you a bright view. 

However, if you want to use your binoculars at night or in low-light conditions, this is an important spec to check before buying. We suggest binoculars with a minimum exit pupil of 4.5 millimeters if you'll be using them in low light.

If you can't find the exit pupil measurement for a pair of binoculars, you can calculate it yourself by dividing the effective diameter of the objective lens by the magnification. For example, a pair of 7x42 binoculars would have an exit pupil of 6 millimeters.

Lens coatings

The purpose of a coating on the lenses is fourfold: to reduce glare and reflections, to make colors appear more vivid and realistic, to increase light transmission and to improve contrast.

Lenses may be uncoated, coated (meaning they have one layer of coating), multicoated (several layers of coating) or fully multicoated (all lens surfaces inside and out have multiple layers of coating). You'll get the best results from fully multicoated lenses. It's best to avoid uncoated and coated lenses, but multicoated lenses are perfectly good for occasional or casual use. 

Prism type

You’ll find one of three types of prism in most binoculars: BaK-4, SK-15 or BK-7. The properties to look for in a good prism are a high refractive index and a low critical angle. This means a prism can transmit with less light lost as a result of internal reflection.

BaK-4 prisms are considered the highest quality, followed by SK-15 and BK-7 prisms. That said, all are made of special optical glass, so even binoculars with BK-7 prisms provide a decent image quality.

Angle of view and field of view

Both the angle of view (measured in degrees) and the field of view (measured in feet) express how much scenery you can see when looking through your binoculars. Some manufacturers list both of these specs while others list just one. For most people, the field of view is more meaningful than the angle of view.

FAQ

Q. How much do binoculars cost? 

A. Basic binoculars start at around $20 to $50. They're fine for casual use, but the image quality isn't the clearest. You can find decent mid-range binoculars for around $80 to $150, while high-end options cost around $200 to $600. The very best professional-quality binoculars can cost well over $1,000, but these are overkill for most buyers. 

Q. Are binoculars water resistant?

A. Not all binoculars are water resistant, but those that are have different levels of water resistance. Those with no rating aren’t suitable for taking out on the water or in the mist or rain. Those that are rated weather resistant can stand up to mist or light rain. Those rated waterproof are fine to use in the rain and are even submersible to a certain depth, which varies between makes and models.

Q. What's the best chassis material for a pair of binoculars?

A. There’s no single best chassis material; all have their pros and cons. Aluminum is a popular choice because it’s inexpensive and fairly light. It’s not as light as magnesium, but binoculars with a magnesium chassis cost more. Polycarbonate is another great chassis choice because it’s corrosion-proof, strong and weather resistant.

Q. Do I need to use a tripod or monopod with my binoculars?

A. It can be harder to get a clear image from binoculars with a higher magnification without the use of a tripod, monopod or other steadying device. You’ll definitely need a steadying device for any binoculars over 20x magnification. However, some users find they need a tripod for binoculars over 12x, especially when using them for long periods of time.

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