From your first pair of toy binoculars as a kid, right through to the top-of-the-range options for seasoned trekkers and safari goers, binoculars are one of the ultimate adventure accessories.
But with so many different size, types, configurations, prices and quality standards in the market, it can be confusing trying to work out which are the best ones for you.
Below we have reviewed some of favourites that are on the market right now and believe that any choice you make among these winning options will be a good one.
If you’re not sure what to look for in binoculars, scroll down to our buying guide for some top tips.
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- Great for: Camping/hiking, bird and distant nature watching, marine sports
- Power/magnification: 10×30
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 114 metres
- Weight: 420 grams
- Waterproof: Yes
Our pick for the best all-round binoculars right now is the Nikon Prostaff 7S – a vast improvement on the 3S series. They are rugged, non-slip rubber-armoured binoculars with a 10x magnification.
Building on the success of their previous binocular range, the Prostaff series includes significant improvements. The Prostaffs are designed for camping/hiking, bird/nature watching, marine and spectator sports and also come in 8×30, 8×42 and 10×42.
These compact binoculars are just 12 centimetres long and weigh less than a small bottle of water. Nikon is a brand famed for optical excellence and is also a former Red Dot design award winner, yet the price tag is not outrageous.
Prostaff 7S binoculars provide high-resolution images with extremely accurate colour reproduction, and the multilayer coatings minimise the loss of light due to reflection, thereby ensuring a more natural, clearer view.
Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups and a long eye relief also offer increased comfort, particularly for those who wear glasses – even during extended periods of use.
Despite their lightweight and ergonomic design, their rubber armouring provides shock resistance and a comfortable grip that is non-slip, even in an unexpected downpour.
Not only are they waterproof up to one metre for 10 minutes, they are fog-free thanks to a nitrogen-gas-filled and O-Ring sealed structure. The use of nitrogen gas is so that a sudden change in temperature won’t cloud your view.
Combined with their resilient design, this makes them multi-purpose as they can be used for any outdoor activity in any weather.
The only downside is that don’t have a tripod fitting but are light enough to hold steady in your hands.
- Great for: Outdoor enthusiasts that want multipurpose binoculars without the price tag
- Power/magnification: 10×56
- Coated lens: Yes – fully multi-coated
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 345 metres
- Weight: 1.13 kilograms
- Waterproof: Yes
A good option for outdoor use in all weathers and a wide variety of light conditions, the Celestron Nature DX 10×56 is another great all-round performer for those who want a decent set of binoculars, but don’t require a specialised (and thus pricey) pair.
The Celestrons are waterproof and fully rubber armoured, making them perfect for nature lovers who will be out in the wet and wild, without weighing you down.
Despite their low to mid-level price tag, these binoculars tick most of the prerequisite boxes. The twist-up eyecups with multiple stops ensure proper positioning of the eyes, even for those who wear glasses. Waterproof, fogproof, and nitrogen purged, they also won’t fog up or let in condensation.
The phase-coated BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics reveal image detail that you won’t find in many entry-level binoculars.
Although they may be cheaper than its Nikon competitor above, they weigh almost three times as much – something that might be a put off for hikers. Despite this, they fold close together so are ideal for small heads and children.
The 10×56 model is a favourite among beginning and intermediate birders, since birds are easier to locate and follow in its wide field of view, but it also comes in 12×60, 15×70, 30×80 and 25×100.
The build quality is solid enough and it is also tripod adaptable.
- Great for: Stargazing and planet spotting, wildlife and bird watching, anything that requires image stabilising
- Power/magnification: 12×36
- Coated lens: Yes
- Weight: 662 grams
- Waterproof: No
Canon is a reputable brand, renowned for its cameras but now carrying that knowledge and technology over into their binocular range.
This is one of the most expensive pairs on our list but for those looking for something special, you don’t need to search much further.
If you’ve never used image stabilisation (IS) before, prepare for some optical wizardry. In comparison to non-IS binoculars, the contrast is like day and night. Canon’s powerful optical image stabiliser counteracts your movement to deliver a stable steady view of distant objects and animals, even from a moving vehicle.
The Canon 12×36 IS III binoculars would be perfect for observers who already use a telescope or larger binoculars as their main stargazing instrument, but also want a single multi-purpose instrument. Equally, these binoculars could be used for terrestrial purposes as much astronomical ones.
At 12x zoom, without an image stabiliser, it is virtually impossible to see anything clearly due to shaky hands. However, with this Canon pair, just press the magic button on top and it becomes instantly still in your centre of view, even with a moving subject – whether it be a flock of birds or the International Space Station as it flies over.
The image stabilisation is powered by two AA batteries, with a specified life of nine hours at 25°C, falling to one hour at –10°C. Users report their surprise at the battery life, using the binoculars extensively in the field without regular battery switches. When you don’t need it you can turn it off at the flick of a switch, as it is mostly only required to observe detail.
The Super Spectra lens coating provides high resolution, bright, accurate colours and the Porro II prism design and field-flattener lenses give you a clear, flat field of view from edge to edge.
The matt rubber armour gives a secure grip, though is a little underwhelming and lacking a quality finish for a pair of binoculars at this price point. It should also be noted that the binoculars are neither waterproof nor nitrogen filled.
The focus control position takes a bit of getting used to but apart from that it’s an excellent product. Although no instruction manual is included, they are intuitive to use and if you decide you want a manual you can download one from Canon’s website.
Our main gripe (aside from the lack of water resistance) was that at this price, Canon could have supplied it with a better case and rubber front covers.
- Great for: Any activity in extreme conditions
- Power/magnification: 10×42
- Coated lens: Yes – plus hydrophobic coating
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 112 metres
- Weight: 705 grams
- Waterproof: Yes
Next up is the Hawke Frontier HD X 10×42 (also coming in 8×32, 8×42 and 10×32).
Not a budget option by any means, these durable binoculars are designed for extreme heat and cold – a rare combination that will let you rest easy whatever adventure you end up undertaking.
Ideal as bird watching binoculars or any wildlife watching in fact, they are designed to withstand rugged conditions out in the field in all temperatures and weathers. Focusing is smooth, precise and effortless.
They’re light in weight too, thanks to a magnesium alloy chassis protected with a lightweight, grippy rubber coating.
They have been tested in extreme operational conditions from -15°C to +55°C and storage temperatures -40°C to +70°C and are waterproof to IPX7.
The fog proof nitrogen-purged lenses take it up a level, featuring a hydrophobic coating to repel water.
Outside of this, the core specifications are still decent, with a 10x magnification and 42mm objective lens with close focusing down to 2.5 metres.
Despite seeming almost military-grade, they are precision engineered with a superior optical system, and lenses that have dielectric coatings to provide increased light and crisp images seen in perfect detail and true colours.
Hawke are so confident in their durability that they offer a worldwide lifetime warranty.
Their Endurance and Nature-Trek ranges are also worth taking a look at, as many of us will never end up in these extreme temperature conditions.
- Great for: Bird watching, star-gazing
- Power/magnification: 12×42
- Coated lens: Yes
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 87 metres
- Weight: 600g
- Waterproof: Yes
The Monarch 5 series is a bit chunkier than the all-round Prostaffs we reviewed above, and are available in two objective sizes with a range of magnifications including 10×42, 12×42, 8×42, 8×56 and 16×56 – to cover all bases.
Monarch 5 binoculars are once again a practical option with all models using waterproof and fog-free construction. With a robust housing, the binoculars are waterproof up to 1 metre for 10 minutes.
In a nutshell, the binoculars are easy to use and the rubbery texture makes them non-slip. The eyecups have three different notches to allow people with spectacles to adjust them as needed, and the attached rubber lens protectors are a bonus (and almost impossible to lose!).
Designed to give lovers of the outdoors a chance to observe nature in all its glory, the Monarch 5s reveal impressive detail, even under challenging light conditions.
These binoculars would be a good option for anyone who regularly undertakes stargazing, bird-watching or hiking in overcast conditions. They are light to carry and easy to set up and use – giving a clear and sharp image.
Although they don’t come cheap, they’re still very affordable for such a versatile pair of binoculars. The 8 x 42 optics are precise, with a clean, bright view that give the likes of Swarovski and Bushnell a real run for their money.
The Monarchs are tripod adaptable with a TRA-3 Adaptor, though this is not included in the box. It might also be worth investing in a decent carry case, as the one provided is a cheap fabric case which lets the product down slightly in terms of protection but Nikon do offer a 10-year warranty should anything go wrong.
- Great for: Nature viewing, outdoors/camping/hiking
- Power/magnification: 12×50
- Coated lens: Yes
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 91 metres
- Weight: 912 grams
- Waterproof: No
Another pair of Nikon binoculars managed to slide into our favourites list and with good reason. The Aculons are similar in many ways to the above Monarchs but much more affordable.
Created with outdoor pursuits in mind the Aculon A211s are perfect for hiking, bird watching or camping, and maybe even a little stargazing on a clear night.
Though not the lightest of binoculars, Nikon delivers on image quality and the rubber armour provides shock-resistance and a firm, comfortable grip. The sleek design is comfortable to hold, to view and has good eye relief.
Impressively, despite its lower price, Nikon have still included the twist-type dioptre ring (compensating for differences between your left and right eye) to achieve the sharpest possible image.
Central focussing ensures an optimal view of your subject, and a high relative-brightness means these great all-rounders will catch breathtaking views of your surroundings with ease.
If you plan to use at night, definitely splash out on a tripod.
- Great for: Safari and general wildlife spotting, insect and plant close ups
- Power/magnification: 10×42
- Coated lens: Yes
- Field of view (FOV) at 1000 metres: 108 metres
- Weight: 665 grams
- Waterproof: Yes
These Olympus binoculars beat their Steiner counterparts into our hotlist for a couple of reasons.
The Nano coating guarantees excellent visibility even in low light conditions and they’re also totally waterproof.
Olympus has recently stepped up its binocular game. Its ZERO Coating, developed for camera and microscope lenses, is applied to all lens surfaces to reduce ghosting and the inclusion of an ED lens means that image blurring is kept to an absolute minimum. Alike many of the more expensive options in our list, the advanced coating technologies ensure lifelike images with more natural colours.
As well as being good for distance use during safaris, insect and plant lovers will enjoy the 10×42 PRO’s close-up capabilities, allowing focusing on objects as close as 1.5 metres.
With robust housing, waterproof and oil-repellent design, you don’t have to worry about damaging the binoculars when you’re out and about. Other features include nitrogen filling to prevent fogging, extendable eye relief for spectacle wearers, and flip down lens caps.
We found these binos to have intuitive and ergonomic operation and the strap was comfortable around the neck, even after extended periods of wearing.
The one snag would be that depending on what animals you’re looking out for, 10x zoom might not be enough to get the level of detail you want.
- Great for: Backgarden and close-range use, fishing, concerts, use by children
- Power/magnification: 8×21
- Coated lens: Yes (but not high quality)
- Weight: 163g
- Waterproof: Yes
We thought it was only fair to include a pair of binoculars that you can buy on a whim and throw in your bag without worrying about losing them.
For any campers, hunters or sports enthusiasts, this is a pair of binoculars that you can have around the house and then pack for your adventure. They are one of the smallest and most lightweight options – though this is traded off with the less than spectacular viewing experience.
The binoculars are small, portable and come with a small pouch for storage and feel surprisingly robust. The DFlamepower’s 8x magnification is actually very reasonable for its size, so viewing small objects like birds is good at short range (like in the back garden) but not so good across a large, open field.
There are two easy-to-use focus adjustments, the central adjustment allowing general focus whilst the right eyepiece can also be adjusted.
The rubber coating prevents it slipping and the coated optics allow for increased brightness, though again not at the level of any of the above competitors.
How to decide on the right binoculars for you
Your best option will depend entirely on what you plan to use them for.
Below we look at some of the most important features to take into account.
What do you want to use the binoculars for?
There are specialist binoculars designed for every use under the sun – from opera to bird-watching, from whale spotting to hiking and outdoor adventures.
As a result, some binoculars have special features such as a zoom function that lets you change the magnification of the binoculars, or are super small and lightweight.
What you want to use them for will help you in deciding the features such as size, weight and quality of the make that you require, and of course – the price.
What is your budget?
There are plenty of good brands on the market and you don’t have to break the bank to get a good pair.
You can get a decent set of waterproof binoculars for under £300 or move into the £1000+ range if you want top-end quality, stabilisation and performance.
Typically the more expensive ones will be waterproof, durable and have a lifelong warranty.
How durable are the binoculars?
As with any product you invest in, you want your binoculars to stand the test of time.
If you are going to be climbing, hiking and kayaking, then you’ll need something a little bit more robust with proper rubber casing (or a carry case at the very least).
There are various types of armouring that will help protect your binoculars but these push up both the cost and the weight.
Do you need waterproof binoculars?
If you’re planning to take your binoculars aboard a boat of any sort or will be taking them hiking in a downpour, investing in a waterproof (rather than just water resistant) pair will save you money in the long run.
Waterproof binoculars are more expensive than water resistant binoculars, but they will also keep out dust/sand, condensation, etc. and ensure no mould particles form inside.
What power binoculars do you need?
This is one of the most important things to consider. You’ll notice that binoculars all have a pair of numbers. The first is the power (magnification) and the second is the size of the lens.
So if it reads 10×42, then the subject would appear 10 times closer than seeing it with your own eyesight. The lower the magnification, the brighter the subject will appear and the wider the area that you will be able to see.
A more powerful binocular will be harder to keep steady because of the small field of view (FOV).
Never choose more than 8x for hand-holding (even with a steady hand), because once you get to 10x, shake will reduce definition, making for harder observation and too much stress on the brain.
If you plan to use the binoculars in low-light conditions (such as dawn/dusk) then you should get a larger lens size – considering a 50mm+ rather than 42mm.
The way that it works is the larger the lens, the more light that is let into your eyes.
Coated or uncoated lenses?
Coated lenses also affect the brightness of the subject that you are looking at by increasing the amount of light that will make it all the way through the binoculars to your eyes. The more light, the more contrast.
The coating of the lens will increase the cost of the binoculars. There are various coating options available, ranging from coated – fully coated – multi-coated – fully multi-coated.
Coated lenses are the lowest quality. Fully coated lenses are economical and can work well for you, depending on your needs. Multi-coated or fully multi-coated lenses are both very good choices.
Fully multicoated lenses give the best light transmission and brightest images, and therefore the most desirable.
How wide do you need the Field Of View (FOV) to be?
Another critical part of binoculars is their field of view.
This is the width of the area you will see through them and is usually shown as metres at 1,000 metres or sometimes feet.
For example 140 metres FOV at 1,000 metres viewing.
Hikers that want a close up of small objects or animals from a distance would look at a narrower FOV, giving a larger magnification, whereas someone who wants to watch a yacht race or look at distant scenery and take in as much as possible would look at a wide FOV.
How heavy are the binoculars?
As with any piece of essential kit you’re taking out and about with you, weight is an important factor.
If you’re planning to hike with them and have them constantly on your back or neck, opt for a set of compact ones that weigh around 200 grams.
If you’re going on safari or in a boat, you can afford to choose larger ones (that can weigh up to several kilos) but you may also want to consider a tripod to hold them steady.
If you wear glasses, you might want to give some extra thought to which binoculars you buy. Eye relief equates to more comfortable viewing and generally decreases as power increases.
Low eye relief (less than 10mm) requires you to get very close to the eyepieces, while higher eye relief (greater than 15mm) allows more distance.
Try out some different options but many eyeglass wearers are surprised to find that they don’t need their glasses when viewing with binoculars, as the binoculars can replace their eyeglasses.
Decent models and makes should provide a minimum of two years warranty, though some will offer anything up to 30 years/lifetime guarantees.
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Last update on 2020-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API