To spot birds, stars, sleepy villages and wildlife from afar, you’ll need a pair of binoculars that are fit for the task at hand. Not unlike hiking boots, bike racks and pocket knives, binoculars differ from one model to the next, and the pair you need depends on what activities you plan to use them for. Some are designed with hunters in mind and others are suited for stargazers, but, ultimately, the best binoculars will help you see what can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Sure, you can grab any old pair of binos that you have around the house and still see better than you would without them. But there’s no doubt that you’ll have a more rewarding experience if you pick a pair tailor-made for the activity. In other words, the best pair for scoping out birds in your backyard isn’t necessarily going to be the preferred option for studying landscapes.
Whether you’re a hunter, stargazer or birds watcher, it pays to have the best binoculars for your … [+]
There are an untold number of styles, fits, specs and add-ons to consider, so it’s important to opt for binoculars that aid your endeavors. We’re here to help make the choice easier no matter the activity at hand, rounding up the best options based on reviews and independent testing. These are our top picks for binoculars that have good clarity, brightness, magnification and more.
Dimensions: 5.7 x 5.1 x 2.1 inches | Weight: 1.39 pounds | Field of view: 335 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
The Nikon Monarch M5 8 x 42 binoculars embrace all the basics you want from a pair of field glasses, plus a few features you didn’t even know you needed. An upgrade over the competent Monarch 5, the M5 employs a sophisticated, tacky rubber coating to improve grip that doubles as a shock absorber should they take a fall.
Under the hood, Nikon outfits the M5 with extra-low dispersion lenses that deliver incredible clarity, allowing you to spot everything from markings on birds at close range to sleepy towns tucked high in the mountains from afar. Additionally, the lenses deliver quality brightness to a degree that separates these binoculars from similarly-priced competitors—look for better brightness and you’ll wind up forking over lots of money.
Of course, the Monarch M5 binoculars aren’t perfect, but basic features like a locking diopter, waterproofing and easy adjustments help them check every box. You could easily spend more, but you really don’t have to.
Dimensions: 4.25 x 4.25 inches | Weight: 11.8 ounces | Field of view: 357 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
Exemplary clarity and light transmission is what makes these binoculars a star. They’re super lightweight, with an ergonomic shape that allows for a comfortable grip (inspired by the classic BMX handlebars) for most in hand.
What makes these binoculars really stand out in the budget category is the fact that they offer 8x magnification, have a IPX7 waterproof certification (meaning they can be submersed for up to 30 minutes), and they have nitrogen-filled internal chambers that make them fog proof. You can even take a photo with your phone through them—they serve as a 400mm camera lens.
The lenses are multi-coated, giving the binoculars edge to edge image clarity. Overall, these binoculars have quality craftsmanship, are solidly built, and offer good value. All-in-all, they would make for a good starter set. As an added bonus, the lifetime warranty actually covers all manufacturing defects for life, and they come in a variety of fun colors and with a drawstring pouch, neck strap and lens cloth.
Dimensions: 12.5 x 10.85 x 11.05 inches | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Field of view: 409 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
If you’re looking for binoculars with excellent resolution and color fidelity that’s ideal for birding, these are a good bet. The visibility is superb, especially for a set with such a moderate price point. Performance in low-light conditions is particularly good—you won’t have to worry about the binoculars being bright enough to catch a bird mid-flight. The lenses are high definition, have a scratch-resistant and anti-reflective coating and include a non-slip rubber grip that makes them easy to hang onto. There’s also a tripod adapter socket, a locking diopter and they come with a rugged and well-designed chest harness case.
Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.6 x 1.6 inches | Weight: 1.03 pounds | Field of view: 388 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
If you’re going on a hike, you probably don’t want heavy binoculars weighing down your pack. On the other hand, you don’t want a pair that’s subpar, even if they are lightweight. This pair from Maven lands squarely in the Goldilocks zone. They have fantastic sharpness and light transmission, while also weighing just over a pound. The B.3 features premium extra-low dispersion ED glass, multi-coated lenses, a Schmidt-Pechan prism, and an easy to use focusing mechanism.
Not a hiker? The compact size of these would also make it easy to stash in a glove box, and even though you get a compact form factor, Maven gives you three very practical magnification options to choose from: 6x, 8x and 10x—though the 8x is probably your best choice for most situations.
Dimensions: 5.5 x 4.9 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Field of view: 426 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
If you’re new to the hobby, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t actually need a telescope for stargazing. You just need binoculars that can deliver a bright and sharp image with minimal aberration (which refers to how blurry or distorted distant objects appear because different wavelengths of light focus slightly differently). This pair from Celestron has a generous field of view at 426 feet and lenses that are entirely multi-coated with extra-low dispersion (ED) to allow for maximum light transmission, meaning they will work even in low-light conditions. For the price, they really deliver in range, quality, field of view, and vibrancy of colors. This pair would be good for beginners and experts alike.
Dimensions: 6.8 x 5.3 inches | Weight: 2.05 pounds | Field of view: 359 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
These binoculars from Swarovski aren’t messing around and include features designed expressly for hunters. Each pair comes with Tracking Assistant technology that can pinpoint the GPS location of the target. That’s handy for finding a downed animal as well as for getting close enough to ensure a clean shot. Other stellar features include personalized onboard ballistics for great precision, internal angle-compensation, and a easy to use menu operation.
If all that weren’t enough, several customers rave about the brightness and clarity. Each kit comes with a field bag, snap shot adapter, ocular lens cover, objective lens covers, CR2 battery, and neck strap. Yes, the price point makes it one of the most expensive binoculars on the market, but if you’re trying to fill your freezer, they’re worth it.
B&H Photo Video
Dimensions: 5.9 x 4.8 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds | Field of view: 443 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
If you’re looking for binoculars that are top-tier, these binoculars from Leica are it. Leica’s Noctivids have a reputation for producing binoculars of that are the best of the best. They are built to reduce scattered light, which can negatively affect the three Cs: color, contrast, and clarity. They have Schott high-transmission glass and 12 lens elements that equal a preferred overall viewing experience. They also have an magnificent field of view at 443 feet—one of the best of all binoculars in this roundup—and are designed in a way that allows for outrageous clarity from end to end, with zero distortion. Considering how much they offer, it’s surprising (and a rarity) that they’re only 1.9 pounds. With these, you’ll be able to spend hours in the field, no problem.
Dimensions: 5.6 x 5.1 inches | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Field of view: 435 feet | Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
Considering these binoculars were crafted by one of the best known camera brands in the world, it makes sense that they make you feel like whatever you’re viewing is right there. Why? Because the Monarch M7 has a wide viewing angle that helps provide a truly immersive viewing experience.
With the Nikon optical system (ED glass, multilayer lens, and prism coating) the images that come through them have fabulous resolution and vibrant, lifelike colors, even from great distances. Other bonuses include turn-and-slide eyecups, a locking diopter, waterproof and fog proof design, and a rugged body.
When the time comes to invest in a pair of binoculars, we rely on expert advice and online reviews to help us find the best pair for every type of buyer. We also take into consideration the factors most important to specific use cases. These include not only how you plan to use your binoculars, but also how they perform—dimensions, weight, field of view and durability are key features worth considering. We also rely on first-hand experience from those of us on the Vetted team that use binos, and by compiling all this information, we’re able to provide a talented, robust range of options for your specific needs.
Just like there are many different pocket knives that fulfill different tasks, there are plenty of binoculars to choose from too. Consider these factors when making your selection.
If you plan to use your binoculars for a specific activity, it’s good to select a pair that is an appropriate size, has good magnification and includes necessary features. For hiking, consider investing in a model that’s small and durable to save weight and reduce the likelihood of damage. For stargazing, pick something with the highest level of magnification possible. And if you’re using binoculars in the elements, a waterproof set is a good idea for activities like kayaking, paddle boarding or venturing in the rain.
Binocular sizes are listed with two numbers, like 8×25. The first number is the magnification; the second is the aperture (the diameter of the front lenses in millimeters). So an 8×25 pair of binoculars magnify the scene by eight and have a 25mm lens. When the time comes to compare one model from the next, consider these dimensions as they will directly impact your experience. If you intend to use your binoculars for bird watching, 8x magnification should do the trick as it’s considered the standard for general birding. If you require a wider field of view for, say, stargazing, consider options with an aperture of 35 to 60 millimeters.
This relates to what activity you’re planning to use your binoculars for. For backpacking, you’ll want something compact like the Nocs Provisions Standard Issue Binoculars Mentioned Above. Weight is less important, however, if you’re planning on going birding in the park or using your binoculars in a casual setting.
Simply put, field of view (FOV) is how wide an image is. The wider the FOV, the easier it is to observe wildlife and their surroundings. While the FOV may be different from one pair to the next, keep in mind that a wider FOV makes it easier to spot objects because they provide a wider image—you don’t have to move or adjust the binoculars to find an object.
Considering most binoculars don’t have electrical components and are reasonably rugged by nature, it might be surprising to learn that waterproofing (and fog proofing) is vitally important for the lifespan of your binoculars. If water gets in, it can distort the image and decrease the quality of what you intend to see. Waterproofing also usually means that the binoculars are dust resistant. One important thing to note: be wary of the words “weather-proof” in the product description. It often means the instrument is not fully sealed and therefore not as high quality.
Not unlike hiking backpacks, camping blankets or stoves, there’s no single brand that builds the best binoculars. It simply depends on your needs and how you intend to use them. That said, brands known for producing stellar optics such as Nikon, Leica and Swarovski will often outrank the competition, but you should also expect to pay a pretty penny for these. When the time comes to purchase a pair of binoculars, consider how you intend to use them and how much you’re willing to pay before settling on a brand.
Generally speaking, you should consider investing in binoculars with a magnification between 6x and 10x. But again, the ideal magnification depends on your needs. For instance, if you intend to spot animals from a distance, look into options with 10x magnification. And if you need something a little more compact for, say, a backpacking trip, choose from a wide variety of 8x options to save weight and space.
Before you simply invest in a pair of binoculars, take a closer look at the figures to better understand what you’re buying. The first number in the series represents the magnification strength (in this case, 10x magnification), while the second number represents the objective lens diameter (50 millimeters or 42 millimeters), which will help you understand how big the binoculars are.
If you’re looking for a pair of binoculars for general use, pick up a pair of 10×42 binoculars that are smaller, simpler and ideal for everyday scenarios. If you’re in the market for a larger, nicer pair of bins, upgrade to the 10×50 option for larger lenses that produce a brighter image and perform better in low light.
Expensive binoculars cost so much more because they’re made using refined materials, components and processes. But whether or not they’re worth the money is a matter of personal preference. If your job or hobby requires a pair of powerful, high-end binoculars, you might consider the aforementioned Leica Noctivid 8×42. And if you simply want to take a pair of binoculars for a spin, you could pick up the budget-friendly Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8×25 just to give the experience a try.
Both the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. issue the Newcon Optik 7×50 AN Binoculars With M22 Reticle. As a rugged, full-size pair of binoculars, they perform well in low light conditions and are made with a rubber-coated metal to withstand the wear and tear that comes with field operations. They’re also waterproof and nitrogen-purged to eliminate fogging and feature an M22 reticle that gauges distances to objects and their approximate size.