Multi-coated optics. Suitable for viewing in daylight and low-light situations. Includes tripod mount. Rubberized and ergonomically designed.
Quite large and heavy. A small percentage have a problem with focus.
A lightweight, easy-to-carry product with sharp image quality. Features 12x magnification. Eyecups are adjustable for improved comfort. Field of view is wide for the size.
The optics are not multicoated, so some light may be lost through the lenses.
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.
Manufacturer claims of these binoculars being waterproof are questionable. Some durability concerns.
Exceptional optics have hydrophobic (water-shedding) lenses. Lightweight, waterproof casing is reinforced with fiberglass. Ideal for all wildlife viewing. They look great, too.
None, though they are more expensive than many.
Great value for money. Ultra wide viewing angle. Fully weatherproof with rubber armor material and water-repellent coating. Solid optical quality due to extra-low dispersion glass and fully multi-coated optics.
Some complaints about loose end caps and eye caps.
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.
Whether you're watching the game from affordable seats or observing nature from a safe distance, binoculars put you right in the heart of the action. However, the pair you bring to the opera is not the same pair you'd need for stargazing. To get what's best for you, you have to understand how binoculars work.
If you're using binoculars in diminished light, you most likely want a large objective lens (the lens at the back). The further away an object is, the greater the magnification you'll need to properly see it. There are two types of binoculars to choose from, roof prism or Porro prism, but no matter which type you pick, you'll want a coated lens and a wide angle of view for the best viewing experience.
This article explains the nuances of binoculars in more detail so you can confidently choose the appropriate model for your needs. When you're ready to buy, check out the binoculars we've handpicked for you to see which is best suited for you.
There are two main types of binoculars on the market: roof prism and Porro prism.
Roof prism binoculars are more streamlined, with the eyepieces in line with the objective lenses at the front. While they’re less bulky and easier to hold, they cost more to make, so they tend to be pricier than Porro prism binoculars.
Because Porro prisms are offset from one another, Porro prism binoculars are bulky, with the objective lenses positioned farther apart than the eyepieces.
However, they’re much more affordable than their roof prism counterparts, meaning you’ll get a better image quality for your money.
When browsing binoculars, you’ll notice they come with a set of numbers, such as 12x60 or 10x25.
The first number refers to the magnification, and the second number refers to the diameter of the objective lens.
Objective lens diameter
The second number is the diameter of each objective lens in millimeters. The larger the objective lens, the more light is let into the binoculars and the brighter and sharper the image will be.
The tradeoff: Bigger objective lenses equal binoculars that are heavier, bulkier, and more difficult to keep stable without a monopod or tripod.
A pair of binoculars’ magnification is the amount of times closer the scene you’re viewing appears compared to observing with the naked eye. Binoculars with a magnification of 12x make objects appear 12 times closer than they would if you were looking at them without binoculars.
The right level of magnification depends on what you’ll be using 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.
The exit pupil is visualized as a circle of light in the center of each eyepiece in a pair of binoculars. For any pair of 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. However, if you will be using the binoculars at night or in the dark, this is an important spec to check before buying. We suggest binoculars with a minimum exit pupil of 5mm or more if you will be using them in low light.
If you will be using your binoculars in bright light only, exit pupil diameter is not as critical to your purchasing decision because even binoculars with a minimal exit pupil of 2mm will afford you a bright view.
If for some reason you are unable to find the exit pupil for a pair of binoculars, you can calculate it yourself by dividing the effective diameter of the objective lens by magnification. For example, a pair of 7x42 binoculars would have an exit pupil of 6mm.
The purpose of a lens coating is four-fold: to reduce glare and reflections, to make colors appear more vivid, to increase light transmission, and to improve contrast.
Lenses may be uncoated, coated (meaning they have one layer of coating), multi-coated (they have several layers of coating), or fully multi-coated (all lens surfaces inside and out have multiple layers of coating).
You’ll find one of three types of prisms 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 from special optical glass, so even binoculars with BK-7 prisms provide a decent image quality.
Both the angle of view and the field of view express how much scenery you can see when looking through your binoculars. Some manufacturers list both of these specs, whereas others list just one.
Angle of view is measured in degrees; field of view is measured in feet. So, for most people, the field of view is more meaningful than the angle of view.
The price range for binoculars is wide. You can spend as little as $30 on a pair and up to well over $3,000. Here are a few guidelines.
If you simply want a basic pair of binoculars for watching sports or occasional stargazing or birdwatching, you can find good budget models for $40 to $60.
Those who want a bit more from their binoculars in terms of durability and image quality should spend $80 to $150 on a pair.
If you really want to go all out on waterproof, fog-proof binoculars with exceptional image quality, expect to pay $300 to $500. Unless you need professional-quality binoculars, it’s unnecessary to spend any more.
Q. Are binoculars water-resistant?
A. Not all binoculars are waterproof, 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 as it’s inexpensive and fairly light. It’s not as light as magnesium, but binoculars with a magnesium chassis will cost more. Polycarbonate is another great chassis choice as 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 another 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.