If you have any outdoor hobby, you can never go wrong with a good set of binoculars. They are useful for various outdoor activities including birdwatching, hunting, or just taking in distant scenery will surprise you. Taking a set of binoculars with you will quickly become the norm, provided you get the right set for you.
We have spent some time researching the best binoculars that are available and have found the best you can get no matter your budget. Various powers and styles and features, there is truly something here for everyone. Pick a hobby and we have the binoculars you need to improve your time spent outdoors.
This was no easy task. The binocular market is flooded with options, some better and some worse. Your money needs to be invested in a quality product or it’s just a waste. So, from the sports fan to the weekend warrior, we have narrowed it down to those you can trust!
If you spend more time looking at the sky than the ground, it is likely you have heard of Celestron before. They have made telescopes from budget models all the way up to professional grade. They have turned they’re fine craftsmanship to binoculars with the Granite series.
Available in fixed power from 7x to 12x, they are quite powerful. Powerful enough for skywatching or the best bird watching binoculars you could hope for. Of course, with their thoughtful construction, they will function with most any outdoor sport you can think of.
With low dispersion multicoated lenses, they have a phenomenal light transmission that is only aided by a top of the line BaK-4 roof prism. This is about the best you can hope to get in a set of binoculars. When it comes to optical quality, you aren’t going to find many that do it better. Usually a weak point with Celestron, these are actually quite rugged. They are fully water and fog proof with a sealed and nitrogen purged interior. They are rubberized on the exterior which does provide some shock protection but not enough to handle abuse so treat them with a little care.
Being a dedicated outdoor company, Celestron uses only eco-conscious glass and coatings. This means there are no industrial toxins used in the process. Very few companies can say the same thing, this glass costs more to produce and cuts into a company’s profits. This is definitely a feather in Celestron’s cap.
With a tripod adapter and a bucket load of accessories included, this low weight, moderately size binocular comes with everything you need for bird watching, spotting, or doing a little moon gazing. If this sounds like what you are after, few are going to do it better.
Designed up front to be the best binoculars for hunting and other rugged outdoor sports, Bushnell’s trophy series of optics are top of the line. You might not think that from the price, these binoculars are high in value and low in cost. Having made optics for decades now, they have the process down to a science and it shows.
With models from 8x to 12x in fixed power, these full-sized binoculars pack a lot of power into a reasonably sized frame. They are not small by any means but when it comes to quality over size, you won’t be disappointed. These are a serious tool.
Optically, Bushnell has become widely recognized as a great brand. These are no exception with their classic BaK-4 Porro prism and fully multicoated lenses for exceptional light transfer. Colors are immaculately preserved and the overall effect is crisp and bright. Full diopter focus increases the overall clarity no matter your distance.
Not content to stop with just good glass, Bushnell made the Trophy series to be among the toughest binoculars on the planet. Fully fog/waterproof for a start, these rubber armored binoculars are designed to take the abuse of long days in the field. If you are a hunter, these are among the best binoculars on a budget you can get.
Though they may be a little large, an overall trimmed and ergonomic shape make these easy to use while the rubber coating gives excellent grip. There is texture for those times it gets a little rainy just for extra purchase. Weighing nearly 3 pounds, these are no joke to carry but are well worth the effort.
With Bushnell’s lifetime warranty combined with top of the line durability and outstanding optical quality, these are just an amazing outdoor tool. You may find better if you dig deep enough and open up your wallet far enough. If you want to keep it cheap and easy, these are just about the best there is.
Zeiss has been one of those companies that lurked around the edges of the outdoor market. Unwilling to compromise on quality, they waited for those who were after the very best to find them. Once they did, they were hooked forever.
This is absolutely the case with the Zeiss Terra, a set of binoculars with perhaps the best glass on the planet. Made from the finest extra-low dispersion glass, they are the ultimate in clarity with their unique roof prism that defies conventions. Color and clarity are ultimately preserved. There may be only two companies in the world that could do better.
Being a fixed 8x, these are hardly the most powerful binoculars but they don’t need to be. With a market toward the travel-light users, these are just when you need that little extra distance. They are perfect for small-time tasks and perhaps the best binoculars for bird watching and hiking around. One thing that makes them so convenient for those folks is the amazing low weight of just over a pound. This is astounding for a full-sized binocular. Many compact binoculars come out heavier than that.
Never fear that this light weight is due to reduced durability. While it’s true that these aren’t best for taking pure abuse, they are durable enough for daily use. Fully water and fog proof with a coating that actively sheds water, they are made for the outdoors.
They are purged and sealed just to top off their durability. With a thin rubber armor that is more for grip than protection, they can take enough abuse for easy duty but some care should be taken. As long as you aren’t throwing them around, they should last a lifetime.
You can’t talk about optics today without eventually coming to Vortex. They produce amazing products and are leading the industry in many ways. The biggest is in value and while these binoculars are far from cheap, they are high in pure cost for quality. The Vortex Razor binoculars are here to topple the current market leaders.
Available from 8x up to 12x, these fixed power binoculars don’t look like anything special up front. You have to dig down a little deep to find what makes them the current kings of the mil-spec binocular world.
The phrase ‘optical quality’ doesn’t come close to describing how good the Razors are. While the glass is absolutely top notch in clarity, what sets them apart is the hand-selected BaK-4 roof prisms. Nothing of less than stellar quality makes it through.
This is on top of Vortex’s market-leading multicoat treatment. The end effect is stunning images that are hard to believe. Everything pops in a way that is better than what you can see with the naked eye. Even at dusk, you will see more color than you ever have before.
Built for hard use, all Vortex optics are O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged for full water, fog, and shock protection. Top that off with an armortek scratch resistant coating applied to all the lenses, and you have a product that will last a lifetime. A durable rubberized coating tops this off.
While not the smallest, these are quite a compact binocular in the full sized market. But you won’t notice the weight at under a pound and a half. I could say these are the best binoculars for hunting but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. These are simply the best binoculars shy of spending a fortune on some specialty brand.
Not everyone is after the very best. Many are happy with something that is a great value for the money. For those who are a little more budget minded or on the fence about how much they will use binoculars, there are the Falcons. These classically styled binoculars have the quality you would expect from Bushnell without a huge price tag.
Available as a fixed 7x or variable 9-27x, these can either be a modestly powered set or an absolute beast of magnification. Paired with a large 50x objective lens, the latter is quite a lot to manage in size but what do you expect from that sort of power.
Optically, there is nothing phenomenal about the Falcons. They are quite good and do very well without all the cost of adding extras. These may not be the best binoculars when it comes to lens quality but they are the same that was used by previous generations to great effect.
Being a Porro prism design, they can get away with a little less glass quality and still produce a good, clear image. It may not make you gasp at the sight but when you are using the 27x model, you will gasp at the sheer power. The glass if fully coated which does improve things without adding too much to the price. While not fully waterproof, these armored binoculars aren’t exactly afraid to get wet. They can handle most field conditions without worry. Don’t throw them in the bed of the truck and drive down the road but you shouldn’t have to worry about the occasional bang.
If you are in the market for value and nothing else, these are a great binocular. They aren’t a show stopper but they don’t try to be. All they try to be is a tool that works for most hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts. They would work out well for the avid sports fan.
Steering away from their normally softer focus on birdwatching and stargazing, Celestron’s nature series provides those of us with more adventurous lifestyles with a great quality optic with outstanding glass. And you get all of this for Celestron’s generally very good price.
With a number of models in different sizes, you can get the Nature DX binoculars from 8x to 12x. Each power has some more compact designs and some full sized designs. This maximizes the versatility of the brand and makes it good for a variety of uses.
Like all of Celestron’s optics, the Nature series has an outstanding lens and prism quality. The glass is eco-friendly, low dispersion for super clear images while the BaK-4 roof prism perfectly preserves color while providing amazing contrast. Waterproof and fully armored, these binoculars step away from the normal softer focus of Celestron and into the more rugged market of the tactical market. These are by far the most durable binoculars that Celestron has ever produced and better than the industry average with the purged and sealed interior.
With models that range from compact binoculars to full-sized models, there is one that will work for most everyone. The budget price makes them even easier to own. Very few weak links in the production process has to lead to some of the best binoculars that Celestron has ever produced and that is saying something.
Wingspan binoculars are often regarded as cheap and not in price. This could really be farther from the truth. While they are budget-friendly, they have quite high-quality standards. They easily compete with many of the older, more popular brands in a crammed market.
At the top end of Wingspans power, these 10x binoculars are right in that reasonable range where they are very useful for a wide variety of pursuits. They were specifically designed for birding but don’t let that turn you away if you follow other hobbies. With quite good, fully multicoated optics, the Eaglescout has a great image that is high contrast and preserves the overall color very well. Combine with a true BaK-4 roof prism, you will get as much or more out of these than you would most more wildly recognized brands.
Even though you are unlikely to be birding in a late fall thunderstorm, these binoculars are capable if you are willing. With full water, fog, and drop proof construction, they can take the elements better than you can. They are anti-slip and super tough for the price.
These are a full-sized model though options exist for more compact varieties if that is more fitting to your needs. The Eaglescout itself isn’t going to fit in a pocket but weighs just over a pound. Not great for packing but light enough to carry anyway.
With a lifetime guarantee, these cheap but not cheaply made binoculars are a great option for first-time buyers. They offer all of the quality you could want at a price that is hard to beat. These are one of the most popular binoculars at the moment and for good reason. You can get better but you can get a whole lot worse.
Nikon has been a long time leader in the optics market and their Aculon line has been well received in many hobbies. There is a good reason for this with the above average overall performance and quality. These are a perfect mid-range binocular that fits well into just about any pursuit.
Though there are some fixed power binoculars in the Aculon lineup, let’s focus on the most vertical, the zoom model. Starting with a reasonable 10x, these superpowered binoculars can ramp up to 22x for those times you need to maximum magnification. For their size, these are some of the most powerful binoculars you can get.
Using Nikon’s own premium multicoated and eco-friendly glass, these are nothing but optically amazing. Everything is bright and crystal clear which is only added to by the classic BaK-4 Porro prism design. Color is well preserved and contrast is very high for amazing views anywhere you go.
With a rubberized, non-slip coating, these are water resistant but not fully waterproof. In generally bad conditions they will still perform very well and if something should happen, Nikon has your back. With their no-fault policy, they will fix anything that isn’t covered by their limited lifetime guarantee.On the heavy side at just over 2 pounds, these large binoculars were designed more for power than portability. If you don’t mind the size and weight, they are the ultimate in power and some of the best binoculars for the price when you want maximum magnification.
Great for sports, birding, and hunting in better weather, these are just some outstanding binoculars. They are a great first set but even better as a spare set for when your friends come along. The power is sure to blow their minds!
At some point on this list, we need to get down to the truly powerful binoculars and who to trust more with that than someone used to making telescopes. The SkyMaster is definitely among the most powerful set of binoculars you can get and probably the best binoculars around for stargazing.
With a jaw-dropping 25x magnification, the most powerful of the SkyMaster series is a serious optic. You can get them in either 15x or 12x if you need a little moderation but for watching the night sky, you need all the power you can get.
Being a Celestron, the optical quality is always going to be good, in this case, it is truly stellar! Fully multi-coated with large 70mm aperture lenses, these are made for pure brightness and vibrancy. If you plan on using them at night, they have to be.
With a not so standard BaK-4 Porro prism, Celestron has shown the ability to adapt to their user’s needs. In a roof prism, these would be too large for comfort. The offset ergonomics is the way to go and works perfectly. It also keeps the price down and the image quality up.
The downside of these binoculars is their overall lack of durability. Truly intended for gentler pursuits, they will resist a little moisture but are not waterproof. They also need a little care which isn’t surprising in such a fine-tuned piece of equipment.
It should come as no surprise that these are not a small binocular. With power like this, you have to have some length to fit the hardware in. Not great for hunting but if you need power in your peaceful hobbies, these are an amazing and powerful choice.Not to leave out one of the best points of these already amazing binoculars, you won’t believe the value. There is nothing else like it anywhere else and that’s a promise.
As a part of Nikon’s premier line, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see it make any list of the best binoculars. This was the pioneering model that first brought many of the highest end features into the world for the common man. That was over 20 years ago but the innovation never stopped.
This was one of the first Nikon products to use their premium extra-low dispersion glass. Something that has been moved into many of their product lines since. It was also the first Nikon to use a roof prism design. Both of these facts created an astoundingly good optic with amazing HD views.The whole idea was to have lenses that allowed for maximum light transmission across the color spectrum. They wanted to preserve every tiny speck of color through these binoculars. This was mostly done for wildlife viewing which has become a staple market for the Monarch.
All Nikon binoculars are made with some durability in mind. They may not be the most shock resistant but they are amazingly waterproof and fully resistant to fog. This makes them handy when the weather turns mid-trip.
The Monarchs are a full sized line so don’t expect to fit them in your pocket. With a weight of just over a pound, they are easy to deal with otherwise. Great for throwing in a pack or carrying at the ready, you won’t go wrong with any outdoor pursuit.
As a hunter, I may opt for something else but otherwise, these are solid enough. Sports fans have found hope with the power of the Monarch series as well as the intended birdwatchers. However, they will work for most anyone if great quality glass is your primary concern.
Not all binoculars are created equal. This isn’t just from a quality standpoint but just in their power, features, and construction. You may benefit from one type of binocular for hunting that could be completely different from the best binoculars for birding. To help you get this all straight, here is what you are looking at with any of the best binoculars.
These are the most powerful binoculars by far and can reach powers of 50x but more reasonably have powers in the range of 20x. This is more than enough to see for thousands of yards if the glass is good enough. This is more of a specialist product that won’t appeal to most outdoors folks.
These binoculars are quite heavy and large. They can be hard to pack around and often come with their own carry case. Intended to be used from a tripod to support the weight and keep them stable, these only work if you are looking at staying in one place such as with ocean viewing. Most spotting binoculars are used for viewing distant landscapes and wildlife. They can be the best binoculars for any time you are going to be somewhere with wide open spaces. They have also found use in the military for spotting distant targets.
For the hunter or long-range shooter, there is a place for spotting binoculars. They often lack the power of a spotting scope but are more versatile and can be easier to use. If you are just using your binoculars for locating game, these may not be the best binoculars but if you are using them to see your bullet impacts, they can be useful.
For bird watching, these are often very cumbersome to move around the way you will need to. For sports fans that are in the same location, you may find a purpose for these but they may be hard to get to your seats, especially with tight security.
Right in the middle of the pack are field binoculars. They tend to be used for just about any hobby with more reasonable power and a smaller, lighter package. They aren’t the smallest but are far from what spotting binoculars weigh.
With powers that can reach the high teens or even as much as 20x, these are quite strong and capable of seeing anything at a good distance. This makes them a great choice for most any outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t mind a little extra weight.
These tend to be the preferred binocular by both sports fans and bird watchers. The power to weight ratio is just about perfect for their needs. When you need to see detail, these are a great go-to choice for those who won’t be carrying them mile after mile.
Hunters are occasional users of field binoculars which are commonly called full-sized binoculars. Found most commonly being used from blinds or some tree stands, these are about the best binoculars when you need a little more power. In the past, these were a tool you would hardly find a hunter without.
Being the average in size and power makes a set of field binoculars the most versatile tool. They are not the best binoculars for any specific task but fit well into any role you need them to fill. Well worth considering no matter your interest.
These are the lowest power and smallest binoculars you will find. Some are close to a field binocular in size but can be as small as a wallet. They can be easily carried almost anywhere making them the most popular binocular type.
With powers into the teens, these are no joke. For the size, and often the price, these can be some of the best values on the market. Very popular with every type of outdoorsman and even those who are only occasional hikers.These are probably the best binoculars for hunting. The ease of carrying and overall light weight makes them a perfect companion and they still have plenty of power for game spotting. Many models are specifically geared toward the hunter.
For birdwatching, these are a great backup binocular. They lack the power that most birdwatchers would want most of the time. For shorter outings or just to keep around for just in case moments, these are a fine choice.
Those into sports are also big fans of the compact binoculars. This is especially true of those who frequent local sporting events and may not need the power of a larger pair of binoculars. They have plenty of power for the home field.
While they are far from the most technical device, understanding all of the numbers and terminology used to describe any optic is very important in making a good decision. Here are some notable topics to understand before rushing in to get a pair of binoculars.
The whole point of getting a pair of binoculars is to make things look closer or bigger, depending on how you want to think of it. The more magnification the better for some applications while others will benefit from more modest magnifications.
When we look at a set of binoculars, we will see a designation like 20×55. The first number, the 20, is the factor of magnification. Anything seen through these binoculars would look 20 times bigger than it does with the naked eye. Saying that it looks 20 times closer would be close to accurate but not precisely.
Getting a set of binoculars that are appropriately powered for your use can be tricky. This is very situation for you and your needs but doesn’t assume that more power is always better. There are a few downsides to having massive amounts of magnification.
The Negatives of Magnification
One of the most noticeable negatives of a large amount of magnification is the lower field of view. What this means is that at a given range you will see less area. Your view will be more focused. There are some ways to combat this in some binoculars.Another negative is the focus when trying to look at something closer. There is a minimum range that your binoculars will have a clear view, the higher the magnification, the farther this distance is. While this may not commonly come up, it can be a factor to consider.
The more magnification you have, the duller the image will look unless the company has done something to aid in light transfer. There are several potential solutions to this problem such as a larger objective lens (covered below). Of course, the best binoculars will have a lens treatment that helps but we will cover that later as well.
Some, perhaps most, binoculars now have what is called zoom. It allows you to adjust your power settings to a level appropriate to your current need. Instead of the example above, it may be written as 8-20×55.
Only the best binoculars had this feature just a decade ago but it has grown increasingly common. Most people find a set of zoom binoculars to be the best fit for them and their hobbies. Having the ability to adjust for closer or farther targets is a powerful advantage.
Binoculars of this type are often the best for hunting. They allow you to see at a distance but can be scaled back if you are in a dense forest and can get by with less magnification. Of course, anyone can benefit from the same versatility.Zoom binoculars do have more moving parts which can break. Purchasing a good brand with a solid reputation will prevent most issues. Be cautious of cheap zoom binoculars. They are appealing in price but are often not worth the money.
You may also notice those zoom binoculars loose image quality as you zoom in. They may get dimmer or your image may look more washed out. This is usually a sign of poor quality glass or an improperly sized objective lens.
A good set of zoom binoculars will often cost more than fixed magnification binoculars. This is if everything else is equal. Usually, the cost is more affected by the other traits of a set of binoculars than by the zoom feature itself.
These are the lenses opposite where you put your eyes represented by the number 55 in the example above. This is the measurement in millimeters of the lens itself. The housing of the lens is not included in this measurement.
They are far more important than just the magnification they provide. Most companies have their objective sizes down to a science but are worth paying attention to just to make sure. Poorly sized objective lenses are a huge problem.The most important factor to think about with the objective lens is the amount of light that the scope lets in. The larger the objective, the more magnification you can have without the image getting too dim. They scale up as your magnification increases.
Of course, the larger the objective lens, the overall heavier and larger the binocular will be. You will have to consider how much you are willing to carry. After considering this, choose a binocular with magnification and objective lens size that matches with your need.
After magnification and everything that goes along with it, the next most important aspect of a set of binoculars is the overall quality of the lenses. There are a lot of factors that go into the production of good quality glass for lenses. Much of it very technical.
The important thing to understand is that lenses aren’t just made of glass. There are specific types and recipes of glass that make better lenses. This increases the cost of the glass and the binoculars overall.There is nothing you can do short of looking through a set of binoculars to tell how good the glass actually is. No one is going to flat out tell you they have poor lens quality. The brand may be the best indicator of glass quality.
Always go with a recognized brand if you are worried about the best binoculars lenses. These companies have their own recipe and specifics for the glass they use and it will be far superior to cut-rate products. This is not to say that all affordable binoculars have poor glass, many are good quality.
The lenses themselves are not the only thing that makes for a good image. Most companies have treatments that are applied to the glass to make it more functional and better overall. Each company will have their own recipe with its own effects.
Most coatings are intended to filter light which can make the image brighter, more vibrant, or increase the contrast. Others may have treatments that reduce glare or tint the light color to make spotting some targets easier. You may also see treatments that reduce the chance of fogging.
No two companies do this the same and some use no coating at all. When choosing binoculars, you will need to determine what the overall product does more than just the coating. That said, there are 4 categories of coating to be familiar with.
Coated Lenses: This refers to lenses that have a single chemical coating, usually on the objective lens. This is the lowest level of coating technology and doesn’t have a highly noticeable effect.
Fully Coated Lenses: This is the same coating as above but this time it is applied to all surfaces where glass contacts the air outside. This is an improvement but not a huge one.
Multicoated Lenses: This time there are a variety of chemicals applied to one lens and can do a lot more. Depending on the chemicals applied, this can have a dramatic effect on the overall quality of the image.
Fully Multicoated Lenses: Now you have that same recipe of chemicals applied to all glass-to-air surfaces. This is the most advanced coating technology and is the gold standard of the best binoculars.
As you go up the scale, the binoculars get more expensive. Though with changes in technology, multicoated lenses have become vastly more affordable. This can be a hard technology to understand. Luckily the folks over at Spectrum Scientifics have a good write-up on coatings and lenses overall.
When you look through a set of binoculars, you aren’t just looking through a glass tube. There is a prism inside that directs light from the objective to the eyepiece. These prisms are necessary for a proper light patch. The quality of the prism will have an astounding effect on the overall image quality.
The old technology for binoculars was the Porro prism. You can tell these binoculars by the offset objective lenses. While these may not be the newest technology, they are far from obsolete. A good set of Porro binoculars with good glass can have a great image, they will just be a little larger.
Roof prism binoculars were invented in the 60s and revolutionized the way binoculars were designed. Producing these straighter binoculars is more complicated believe it or not. These binoculars will have a smaller overall size but cost more.
Since there is little quality difference, the choice is up to you. If you want smaller and slimmer, the roof prism works best. Otherwise, the Porro prism will save you some money for the same quality. Overall the roof prism will need to have higher quality glass than the Porro prism to have the same image.
If you would like to know more about prisms and the specifics, check out Binocular Glass 101 which offers a great insight into everything you could ever want to know about prisms and lenses.
BAK-4 and BAK-7
When looking at binoculars you will probably see these terms in reference to glass quality of the prism. It doesn’t matter what prism type you are looking at, both will use one of these two materials. While both produce decent binoculars, they are not equal.
The difference is in the chemicals the glass is produced from which changes the reflective properties of the glass. Less reflectiveness decreases light transfer and makes the overall view dimmer. You need one of these two glass types to have any quality at all.
BAK-7 is the older glass and is less quality overall but still not bad. It does have an overall lower reflectiveness but that can be offset somewhat by lens coatings and objective size. If you are out to save some money, there are many fine binoculars with BAK-7 prisms.
BAK-4 is the revolution. It may cost more but it is much more reflective and gives you an overall brighter image. The best binoculars will have BAK-4 and a cost that is somewhat higher. If you want quality, the price is well worth paying. The difference is huge.
To add a little complexity to this, not all BAK-4 prisms are created equal. There are some BAK-4 prisms that may be made of the same material but are not the same quality overall. They are not properly formulated leading to an image worse than BAK-7. The only way to know is to buy quality, to begin with.
Binoculars and Durability
If you invest in a good set of binoculars, they need to last. Things like image quality should be a given but don’t ignore the features that make your investment last long enough to be worth the cost. There are a lot of features and options for durability, get as many as you can.
Of course, the best binoculars for hunting or any outdoor activity will have to have some form of water protection. The first barrier to water will be the shell of the binoculars themselves. Many use a rubber coated armor that will keep water out.
This usually has the additional effect of providing some shock and drop protection. This is invaluable as well. Accidents happen and you want your binoculars to come out any spills in the same shape they always were. The quality and material of this coating will vary by company.
Another great feature to keep water, dust and everything else out is having a purged and sealed interior. Using an inert gas like argon or nitrogen to fill the internals before they are sealed with the lenses makes them much less likely to have any issues. This will also prevent fogging and condensation on the inside of your binoculars.
In addition to sealing in general, some will use O-ring seals. This makes the inside stay sealed as the weather changes. There is just enough give for things to shift with temperature fluctuations without breaking the seal open. This is somewhat rare but is available on the best binoculars.
You can’t ignore the body construction when it comes to durability. With a number of materials from plastic to steel, binoculars cover the spectrum of body construction. The strongest are often made of several materials at key spots.
As for the rest, don’t think that any one material is inferior. Plastic, aluminum, and magnesium make for lighter binoculars but can be strong. Steel is the strongest but often costs more and is much heavier. If you are interested in seeing what a good set of binoculars can take, check out this video:
Those are among the toughest binoculars on the plant and have a price to match. Its just good to have a reference as to what can be done with a little effort. Still, shooting your binoculars with a shotgun or running over them with a truck is not advisable.
The Best Binoculars
Though there are a variety of uses for binoculars and a great many different hobbies that can benefit from their use, there are some specifics. Understanding what these specifics are can be helpful in making an individual choice. This brief guide will point out those specifics.
Best Binoculars for Hunting
If you are a hunter, you know that sometimes the best time to be in the field is in weather that is not the most comfortable. It may be cold and rainy or blowing sand and dust. Your primary concern is a pair of binoculars that can stand up to the elements. Even the best glass with the clearest view won’t help if your binoculars are waterlogged.
You may also want to choose something that small and light. As a hunter, you have enough gear to contend with without adding more. A pair of compact pocket binoculars will give you an edge without weighing you down more. No one thinks that 3 pounds is much until they add it to a 20-pound kit and carry it for several miles.
Power wise, most hunters won’t need massive amounts of magnification. Something in the teens is plenty of power for most hunters. Unless you are shooting hundreds of yards out west, you won’t need more. You can often get by with less than 10x but you lose versatility.
For anyone, image quality is important but for the hunter it is vital. When it comes to seeing game in a dense copse of trees at a distance, you need the best image quality possible. Don’t waste your time on cheap binoculars, get the best you can afford.
Best Binoculars for Bird Watching
Birding is one of those hobbies that is almost dependent on a good set of binoculars. Probably more so than any other hobby. Getting the appropriate set may cost a little more for birding than other hobbies but it will be money well spent.
Because birding is generally a fair weather activity that happens at a more leisurely pace, durability isn’t the number one concern. Your gear should still be water resistant including your binoculars but there is little need for fully sealed and rubber armored binoculars. Dropping is still a threat but less so than with hunting.
Weight is dependent on how you conduct your birding and how much you are willing to carry. Often birdwatchers carry very little kit and can get by with a heavier set of binoculars. This gets them a little more power and range when trying to get a view of the more elusive species.
When it comes to power, you want as much as you can get but preferably with a variable magnification. You never know how close you are going to be until you get there. This is one sport that could make a solid argument for the most powerful spotting binoculars.
When it comes to image quality, color preservation is much more important than other factors. Brightness is great but not at the cost of seeing the actual color of the bird you are looking at. Proper identification can be tough when everything has an orange tint.
Best Binoculars for Sports Watching
This will depend on where you watch sports at. There is a huge difference between the local high school field that seats 500 hundred and a stadium that seats 50,000. A pair of binoculars that covers both don’t exist.
With sporting events, the worst weather that can happen usually will. Opt for waterproof for a minimum. On the other hand, usually, you aren’t going to have to deal with your binoculars getting banged into trees or the ground so they don’t have to be as rigid.
Power is purely up to where you watch sports. At the local field, 10x is probably reasonable for spotting your kids on the field. If you are in the nose-bleed section at a stadium, 30x may not be enough. Less is often more but something in the teens probably has the most versatility.
Weight can be as much as you want to carry and the same with size. Generally, you won’t have to carry your binoculars far. Most people will use pocket binoculars for sporting events and they do work very well but don’t be concerned about getting something larger.
Of all hobbies, sporting binoculars probably have the most leeway on image quality. You don’t have to worry about colors, brightness, or most other issues that others will deal with. Clarity enough to read a jersey or uniform is often plenty.
Because of the traits needed by those watching sports, they can often get by on much more budget-friendly binoculars.
Best Hiking and Landscape Binoculars
As an avid hiker, I love taking a set of binoculars with me. They come in very handy on those most impressive landscapes and for viewing distant wildlife. This is much more leisurely than other pursuits meaning you don’t have to do anything a certain way.
For hiking, I want durable binoculars. Falls happen and so does weather. Getting something that is waterproof is a must and some sort of rugged armor is preferable. These may get crammed in a pack with everything else, they need to be able to hold up.
Weight is probably the most defining point in a set of hiking binoculars. Lighter really is better in every respect when you have to carry it for miles. A set of compact, pocket binoculars does the trick very well for viewing distant landscapes.
Power is less of an importance. Usually, you are just trying to get a better view of something you can see anyway. You want the vistas more than to pinpoint anything specific. This may be different in when animal watching but that is a rarer use.
Image quality is much the same. You don’t need the best image for hiking. Durability and size are more important. Vibrance and color are good to have, more so than any other traits. You can get by with just about anything. It will be better than your naked eye no matter what you carry.
Best Binoculars for Stargazing
Though it is not the most common use, binoculars for stargazing are growing in popularity. This is a unique use where detail isn’t the goal. You are just looking to pinpoint a single thing in the sky and don’t need to worry about scanning.
For stargazing, you want the most power you can get. There is no limit where it becomes less useful in your pursuits. Get the largest and most powerful you can manage. You will never be sorry for having too much.
Because it often happens in sedate areas with no cloud cover, durability isn’t a huge concern. Large telescopes are very sensitive and are used for the same job. A little water resistance never hurts but don’t go overboard with ruggedness when there is no need.
Size is not an issue. Get the big spotting binoculars if you can afford them. You will get more use out of them than any other hobby. You will often be transporting them by car all but the last little distance, so why not?
Where you need to spend money is on image quality. You need the best! Brightness, clarity, and color preservation are vital to identifying what you are looking at and making out any details. This is one place where you can spend enough.
All in all, stargazers will spend more on binoculars than anyone else just because of the power and image quality factors. Take pride in your tools, they are worth it! If you want more details on this amazing hobby, check out this article by Earthsky for all the details you need!
Hopefully, you are now much closer to knowing what binoculars you need and what will work best for your particular hobby. There are very few wrong choices as long as you invest in the best binoculars you can afford. They don’t have to cost a fortune to be great, they just need to have the right combination of features.
So, no matter what your hobby is there is a set of binoculars out there that is right for you. That can be purchased for a reasonable price when you are on a budget but will get the job done. Choosing is up to you.
The guide above is the most concise description of the many aspects of good binoculars you are likely to find. With a little searching, you can get plenty of details if you are the curious sort. Hopefully, that won’t be necessary, all the details that came to mind are included above.
Be cautious when buying your first set, binoculars are one of those things that people can’t get enough of. What starts out as a budget pair captures the imagination and before you know it, you are searching for a rare set of Zeiss, Swarovski, or Steiners. You have been warned.