Binoculars are versatile tools that provide enlarged images of distant objects. Note that binoculars are made of two telescopes mounted on a single frame, which allows the use of both eyes.
The design of binoculars has evolved significantly over the centuries. Although the phenomenon of magnification was highly valued in the ancient world, the first reflector telescope was invented in the 17th century, with spectacle-maker Hans Lippershey being credited as the inventor of the telescope and Galileo Galilei as the scientist who pointed the telescope towards the skies. Interestingly, the first binoculars consisted of pairs of Galilean telescopes, followed by box-shaped models for terrestrial use (produced by notable scientists such as Dobler, Cherubin dÓrleans, and Pietro Patroni). The first real binocular was built in 1825 by J.P. Lemiere. In 1854, Ignazio Porro introduced the use of prism-erecting systems to correct image orientation, which was launched by Porro and Hofmann in 1860. Binoculars were further improved by Ernst Abbe and Carls Zeiss, and the first modern pair of binoculars was sold in 1894.
Now, some of the major brands that offer high-quality telescopic products (including camouflage models, spotting scopes, and night-vision devices) are Bushnell, Celestron, Vortex, Carson, Nikon, Zeiss, and Eyeskey.
Choosing a Binocular: Factors to Consider
Binoculars are fascinating instruments, highly popular in a variety of settings, such as hiking, wildlife viewing, birding, hunting, boating, stargazing, sports, and theatre. However, given the wide number of telescopic products available on the market, choosing a model can be a challenging task. The main factors to consider before purchasing a pair of binoculars are:
- Total costs
Requirements: Before purchasing binoculars, users should refine their goals and requirements. As there are different models suitable for different purposes, buyers should decide what they’ll use their unit for (e.g., birding, hiking, hunting, ship spotting) and where they’ll be using it (e.g., low-light conditions). If a new pair of binoculars will be used outdoors, factors such as weather conditions and light should be considered. Note that low-light performance is usually increased by using bigger objectives and an exit pupil of over five mm. That being said, the size of the unit also matters. There are three types of objective lens sizes: full-size (ideal for hunting and wildlife viewing), mid-size (used for hiking and sports), and compact (perfect for daytime activities and young learners).
Here we should note that for people who wear eyeglasses and sunglasses, the eye relief distance is another vital characteristic to consider. The longer the eye relief is, the better (e.g., of at least 10 mm). Extendable eyepieces can further improve the user experience.
Specifications: Magnification and lens diameter are the two main specifications to consider when purchasing a binocular unit. Usually, binoculars have two indications (e.g., 7×50); one is the magnification level (e.g., 7X), the other one is the diameter of the lens (e.g., 50 mm). Note that a bigger diameter translates into more light-gathering. Certain magnification rates, on the other hand, suit certain activities: lower magnification provides a bigger field of view and helps users hold a steady image, while higher magnification is ideal for activities like stargazing. That being said, recent advancements in lens technology provide image stabilization to correct the blurs caused by high magnification and hand movements. The most common magnification rates are 5X, 7X, 8X, 10X, and 12X.
The type of focusing system also matters, especially for beginners. There are two types of focusing systems: central focusing (units that are equipped with a central knob that controls the two tubes simultaneously) and individual focusing (models with two diopter adjustment rings for each eyepiece).
Total costs: Deciding on a budget is paramount. Usually, high-quality products and those designed for stargazing and long-distance use (e.g., train, plane, and ship spotting) can be costly. The material used can also affect prices, with plastic lenses being cheaper than glass lenses. We should mention, however, there are pricey plastic lenses offering high optical and impact-resistant performance. Coatings are another factor that can impact the total cost of a unit, with fully multi-coated binoculars being pricier than other models.
Last but not least, buyers should consider buying accessories for their binoculars. Bags and straps made of sturdy materials are essential to protect binoculars from harsh weather and accidental drops. Waterproof and dustproof units and equipment are required for activities, such as hiking, ship spotting, and hunting. Some binoculars, such as those units with high magnification rates, might require additional support (e.g., tripod, monopod) to help reduce the effects of hand tremor and fatigue.
Best Binoculars on the Market
When it comes to binoculars, users can choose from a large number of products used in different areas, such as hunting, hiking, birding, astronomy, plane spotting, and sports. Based on different specifications, areas of use, and user reviews, here are the best binoculars on the market:
- Hunting: Hunting binoculars are highly popular, with units with magnification rates of 7X-10X (e.g., 7×35, 8×40) being sufficient for general hunting. Note that portability and field of view are essential factors to ensure a positive user experience.
1.1. Bushnell 131055 PowerView Porro Prism Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×50
Bushnell 131055 PowerView Porro Prism Binoculars are one of the most popular units on the market. The model features high-quality BK-7 prism multi-coated optics, fold-down eyecups, and beautiful camouflage patterns. Additionally, it has an InstaFocus system, 50 mm lens diameter, and 10X magnification. With a variety of extra features, such as a carry case, lens covers, cloth, and a neck strap, Bushnell 131055 PowerView Porro Prism Binoculars are simply ideal for hunting and outdoor adventures.
1.2. Nikon 8264 ACULON A30 Binocular
- Parameters: 10×25
Nikon 8264 ACULON A30 Binocular is another advanced model for hunting, with 10X magnification and 25 mm aperture. The unit is easy to hold and its beautiful camouflage patterns make it blend in almost any green environment. Nikon 8264 ACULON A30 Binocular is a beautiful and light model, ideal for anyone interested in hunting.
1.3. Bushnell Green Roof Trophy Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×42
Bushnell Green Roof Trophy Binoculars is a powerful 10×42 hunting unit, featuring fully multi-coated optics, BaK-4 prisms, and a FastFocus system. Note that this pair of binoculars comes with soft-touch thumb grips and flip covers for the lenses. Bushnell Green Roof Trophy Binoculars is also fog and waterproof, which makes them ideal for extreme weather conditions and changing environments.
- Hiking: Hiking is another activity that requires the use of binoculars. Note that models with parameters of 7×35-7×50, 8×30-8×42, and 10×30-10×42 are highly suitable for outdoor adventures. Rubber armor and non-slip grips should be considered.
2.1. Celestron 71348 Outland X Binocular
- Parameters: 10×50
Celestron 71348 Outland X Binocular is a versatile 10×50 product with a compact design and durable polycarbonate housing, which makes it ideal for camping, hiking, hunting, birding, and low-light conditions. The unit has BaK-4 prisms, multi-coated optics, twist-up eyecups, and 17.4 mm eye relief. Celestron 71348 Outland X Binocular also comes with a binocular strap, a lens cloth, and a protective case to ensure long-lasting use.
2.2. YouThink Wide Angle Binoculars Fast Focus Porro Prism System
- Parameters: 10×50
YouThink Wide Angle Binoculars Fast Focus Porro Prism System is an excellent unit featuring 10X magnification, 50 mm lens diameter, and 5 mm exit pupil. This pair of binoculars are equipped with BK-7 prisms, high-quality optics, a large center focus knob, and a diopter adjuster. Additionally, the unit comes with a carry case and a neck strap to ensure comfort and safety. YouThink Wide Angle Binoculars Fast Focus Porro Prism System is simply ideal for hiking, camping, hunting, sports, concerts, and traveling.
2.3. Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Compact Binocular 132514
- Parameters: 8×21
Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Compact Binocular 132514 is a compact and light roof-prism model, ideal for long hikes and traveling. It has a magnification rate of 8X and a lens diameter of 21 mm. The unit features fully coated optics and rubber armor; it comes with a case and a neck strap for convenience. Last but not least, Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Compact Binocular 132514 has a stylish and compact design.
3. Observing birds and wildlife: One of the most wonderful activities supported by the use of binoculars is observing wildlife (including marine life and birds). As portability and field of view are essential factors to consider, units with parameters of 7×35 and 8×42 are often preferred. However, for small details (e.g., bird feathers), 10×42, 10×50 or 12×50 models might be more suitable.
3.1. Wingspan Optics FieldView Compact Binoculars for Bird-Watching
- Parameters: 8×32
Wingspan Optics FieldView Compact Binoculars for Bird-Watching is a great model suitable for bird-watching, watching games, and other outdoor adventures. This pocket-sized unit comes with 8×32 parameters, a wide field of view, and a non-slip grip. Wingspan Optics FieldView Compact Binoculars for Bird-Watching makes an excellent present for anyone interested in exploring the wilderness.
3.2. Bushnell NatureView 8×40 Backyard Birder Binocular Kit
- Parameters: 8×40
Bushnell NatureView 8×40 Backyard Birder Binocular Kit is an advanced 8×40 unit ideal for bird-watching and camping. With its fully multi-coated optics and BaK-4 roof prisms, this pair of binoculars ensures bright and crisp viewing. Moreover, the unit is fog and waterproof, with a beautiful design and durability to last. Note that Bushnell NatureView 8×40 Backyard Birder Binocular Kit comes with numerous features, including a bird-watching CD.
3.3. Celestron 71336 DX Nature Binocular
- Parameters: 12×56
Celestron 71336 DX Nature Binocular is a powerful model featuring 12X magnification and 56 mm lens diameter. It is equipped with fully multi-coated lenses, phase-coated BaK-4 prisms, twist-up eyecups, and waterproof housing. Additionally, the unit comes with numerous accessories, including a case, lens caps, an eyepiece rainguard, a neck strap, and an instruction manual. Celestron 71336 DX Nature Binocular is one of the best binoculars for outdoor use.
3.4. Eyeskey Grampus 8×42 Compact and Lightweight Binoculars for Adults
- Parameters: 8×42
Eyeskey Grampus 8×42 Compact and Lightweight Binoculars for Adults is a compact 8×42 binoculars. Its anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics and BaK-4 prism light path ensure crisp images and high resolution. The unit is fog and waterproof, which is ideal for wildlife watching and traveling. Its compact design makes Eyeskey Grampus 8×42 Compact and Lightweight Binoculars for Adults simply stand out.
3.5. Orion 09437 ShoreView Waterproof Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×42
Orion 09437 ShoreView Waterproof Binoculars is a fully waterproof unit, ideal for watching marine life, birding, and observing scenic landscapes. The unit is equipped with 42 mm multi-coated objective lenses, BaK-4 prisms, rubber armor, twist-lock eye guards, 14 mm eye relief, and an adjusting center focus wheel. With numerous features, Orion 09437 ShoreView Waterproof Binoculars is ideal for extreme and humid conditions and changing environments.
3.6. Bushnell Marine 7×50 Waterproof Binocular
- Parameters: 7×50
Bushnell Marine 7×50 Waterproof Binocular is a powerful unit with a magnification of 7X and an objective configuration of 50 mm. The unit is equipped with BaK-4 prisms, fully multi-coated optics, and UV protection. Its Porro prism system ensures a wild field of view and crisp imaging. Bushnell Marine 7×50 Waterproof Binocular is not only beautiful but resistant and 100% waterproof – simply ideal for marine environments.
- Sports: Binoculars can be used for different activities, including sports viewing. Note that 4×21, 8×25, and 10×25 models are preferred for stadium sports. Other popular models are units with a wild field of view (e.g., 7×35, 10×50, or 12×50).
4.1. Nikon 7540 MONARCH 8×42 Binocular
- Parameters: 8×42
Nikon 7540 MONARCH 8×42 Binocular is a powerful unit with reflected phase correction coated roof prisms and fully multi-coated lenses. Note that its magnification power is 8X and its objective diameter is 42 mm. The unit comes with a multi-click turn, slide eyecups, and a large eye relief distance, which makes it ideal for eyeglass wearers. Nikon 7540 MONARCH 8×42 Binocular is a versatile product, ideal for watching sports and outdoor adventures.
4.2. Hawke Endurance ED 10×31 Binocular
- Parameters: 10×32
Hawke Endurance ED 10×31 Binocular is ideal for playing golf and watching sports. Note that this 10×32 unit is made of ED glass for extra clarity and fully multi-coated optics for crisp imaging. It comes with a neck strain, a carry case, lens covers, and a lens cloth. Hawke Endurance ED 10×31 Binocular is suitable for both beginners and experts.
4.3. Bushnell 190125 Legend Ultra HD 10×25 Roof Prism Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×25
Bushnell 190125 Legend Ultra HD 10x25mm Roof Prism Binoculars is a sophisticated unit equipped with BaK-4 roof prisms, RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating, fully multi-coated optics, and twist-up eyecups. With a magnification level of 10X and an aperture of 25X, Bushnell 190125 Legend Ultra HD 10×25 Roof Prism Binoculars is ideal for a wide range of outdoor events and activities.
- Events: From outdoor concerts to live performances, binoculars can be used in a variety of settings. Note that vintage models are often preferred for formal events, such as theatre, opera, and ballet.
5.1. Vanguard 10×25 Orros Compact Waterproof Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×25
Vanguard 10×25 Orros Compact Waterproof Binoculars is a versatile and compact product ideal for viewing sports and music events, as well as studying butterflies and wildlife. The unit features 10X magnification and 25 mm lens diameter; it has a field of view of 115m/1000m, a 12.5 mm eye relief distance, and waterproof armor. Vanguard 10×25 Orros Compact Waterproof Binoculars is resistant and compact all at the same time.
5.2. Olympus 118802 Roamer 8×21 RCII
- Parameters: 8×21
Olympus 118802 Roamer 8×21 RC II is a wonderful unit with a magnification of 8X and an aperture of 21 mm. Its foldable and ultra-compact design makes it perfect for watching sports and performances. Additionally, its rubber armor ensures a convenient grip and user comfort. Given its light design and extra features, Olympus 118802 Romaer 8×21 RC II is one of the best binoculars on the market.
5.3. HQRP Opera Binoculars Crystal Clear Optic
- Parameters: 3×25
HQRP Opera Binoculars Crystal Clear Optic is a beautiful unit designed specifically for theatre and opera visits. Note that its magnification is 3X. The unit comes with an illuminating LED system and provides clear viewing, with a field of view of 105m. Note that its stunning lorgnette foldable handle ensures both elegance and practicality. HQRP Opera Binoculars Crystal Clear Optic is simply a wonderful telescopic unit.
5.4. Levenhuk Broadway 325F Opera Glasses
- Parameters: 3×25
Levenhuk Broadway 325F Opera Glasses is another elegant unit, perfect for opera visits. These Galilean binoculars come with LED illumination and a fancy chain, which can help anyone find their seat in complete darkness. The unit comes with a cleaning cloth and a pouch, which can fit in a purse. Levenhuk Broadway 325F Opera Glasses is a chic present for all theatre lovers.
- Plane and ship spotting: Binoculars can facilitate long-distance viewings, such as plane and ship spotting. Units for marine use, in particular, can benefit boating and fishing. Shock and waterproof designs are required.
6.1. Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars
- Parameters: 18×50
Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars provide clear images and an extra-bright field of view. The unit comes with 8X magnification, 50 mm lens diameter, 15 mm eye relief, and 2.8 mm exit pupil. Moreover, this pair of binoculars has built-in optical image stabilization (note that it uses two AA batteries). As Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars are shock and waterproof, it is suitable for a wide range of activities, such as plane spotting, hiking, sports events, and watching wildlife.
6.2. Fujinon Mariner 7×50 WPC-XL Porro Prism Binocular
- Parameters: 7×50
Fujinon Mariner 7×50 WPC XL Binocular is 100% waterproof, ideal for boating, fishing, and wildlife observations. This 7×50 unit comes with fully-coated Fujinon optics and an eye relief distance of 18 mm. Additionally, there’s a compass, a reticle display, and built-in LED illumination. Fujinon Marner 7×50 WPC XL Binocular is perfect for your nautical adventures.
6.3. Barska Floatmaster 10×30 Waterproof Floating Binocular
- Parameters: 10×30
Barska Floatmaster 10×30 Waterproof Floating Binocular is perfect for boaters and water lovers. The unit comes with BK-7 roof prisms, a large center focus knob, lens covers, a carrying strap, and a case. Note that this pair of binoculars is waterproof and buoyant. Thus, Barska Floatmaster 10×30 Waterproof Floating Binocular is suitable for kayaking, fishing, boating, and marine observations.
6.4. Aomekie 7×50 Compass Waterproof Binoculars
- Parameters: 7×50
Aomekie 7×50 Compass Waterproof Binoculars is a powerful pair of binoculars, with 7×50 parameters. The unit is waterproof IPX7 and it can stay for approximately 30 minutes one meter deep. At night, the ruler and the compass included can be illuminated. With its versatile design, high-quality optics, and additional features, Aomekie 7×50 Compass Waterproof Binoculars is an excellent marine binocular.
6.5. Nikon 7440 OceanPro 7×50 Waterproof Binocular
- Parameters: 7×50
Nikon 7440 OceanPro 7×50 Waterproof Binocular comes with a long eye relief (22.7 mm), rubber armor, 7.1 mm exit pupil, a massive field of view, and a magnification rate of 7X. It also has an illuminated compass for easy navigation. Nikon 7440 OceanPro 7×50 Waterproof Binocular is a powerful unit suitable for harsh conditions and water activities.
- Tactical and police binoculars: Tactical and police units are highly beneficial for guarding and patrolling streets, coastlines, and borders. Usually, such units work well in low-light conditions, with 7×50, 8×42, or 10×50 models being highly popular.
7.1. Steiner Model Military-Marine 8×30 Binoculars
- Parameters: 8×30
Steiner Model Military-Marine 8×30 Binoculars is a powerful and durable unit that provides excellent military optics for both professionals and civilians. It has an 8X magnification level, flexible silicon lens mounts, and an excellent focusing system. Given the high quality of the materials used, Steiner Model Military-Marine 8×30 Binoculars are suitable for harsh conditions, changing environments, low-light settings, and high humidity.
7.2. Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Binocular 132050
- Parameters: 20×50
Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Binocular 132050 is another powerful unit with a magnification of 20X and a lens diameter of 50 mm. It has multi-coated optics, BK-7 Porro prisms, and InstaFocus system. Additionally, the unit can be attached to a tripod for additional comfort. Bushnell PowerView All-Purpose Binocular 132050 is suitable for both outdoor adventures and professional use.
- Astronomy: Astronomy binoculars are highly popular, especially among amateur astronomers who are not completely familiar with using telescopes. Astronomy binoculars have high magnification powers (10X-20X) and large objective lenses, which makes them more costly than other binocular units.
8.1. Celestron 72031 SkyMaster Pro Binocular 20×80
- Parameters: 20×80
Celestron 72031 SkyMaster Pro Binocular 20×80 is one of the most powerful units on the market, ideal for stargazing and camping. The unit has 80 mm objective lenses suitable for low-light conditions and astronomical viewing; it also has a magnification of 20x, which allows the observation of numerous celestial objects and distant objects. Note that there’s a detachable RSR rail for attaching a red-dot finderscope and a build-in tripod adapter rail designed for a tripod. With its BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics, Celestron 72031 SkyMaster Pro Binocular 20×80 offers clear images and a unique experience.
8.2. Vanstarry Optics 10×42 High Powered Binoculars
- Parameters: 10×42
Vanstarry Optics 10×42 High Powered Binoculars is another wonderful product suitable for stargazing, wildlife observations, and traveling. It has fully multi-coated optics, BaK-4 prisms, sufficient eye relief (14 mm) and attractive features. Vanstarry Optics 10×42 High Powered Binoculars is suitable for both beginners and seasoned users.
- Digital binoculars: Digital units combine binoculars with digital cameras, allowing users to take pictures, store their images on a memory card, and share their adventures with their loved ones.
9.1. Solomark Night Vision Binocular Digital Infrared Scope
- Parameters: 7×31
Solomark Night Vision Binocular Digital Infrared Scope is a sophisticated hand-held digital night-vision unit that has a built-in 3W infrared LED system and an 850nm infrared illuminator, allowing viewing in normal to dim conditions, as well as viewing in full darkness. It provides outstanding optics, 7X magnification, 2X digital zoom, and a large field of view. Moreover, the unit is not only infrared night-vision binoculars but an IR camcorder, with users being able to save and transfer their images freely. With its 4-inch screen, Solomark Night Vision Binocular Digital Infrared Scope is both comfortable and appealing.
- Binoculars for kids: Units for kids are a wonderful way to trigger a young learner’s imagination and their love for knowledge. Some binocular units are designed smaller to suit any child’s needs.
10.1. Gskyer BaK4 Folding Sightseeing Binoculars for Kids
- Parameters: 8×25
Gskyer BaK4 Folding Sightseeing Binoculars for Kids features 8X magnification, 25 mm lens diameter, auto-focusing Porro prism, and compact design. This unit can be used for sightseeing, hiking, wildlife watching, and sports. Gskyer BaK4 Folding Sightseeing Binoculars for Kids is simply a wonderful pair of binoculars for the young explorers in your family!
Taking Care of Binoculars
Binoculars are complex systems that can be used in a wide range of settings, such as hiking, patrolling, hunting, stargazing, bird-watching, and theater. Yet, such systems require adequate maintenance. Some of the main steps to ensure accurate use and long lifetime are:
- Adjusting binoculars: Binoculars should be adjusted according to an individual’s needs. Therefore, diopter adjustment and focusing are vital. As explained above, there are two types of focusing systems: central and individual focusing.
- Handling binoculars: Binoculars should be held firmly to ensure sharp and clear images. Neck-straps can be used to prevent accidental drops, while tripods can be used to support heavy units with high magnification.
- Cleaning binoculars: Cleaning telescopic devices and their optical elements are crucial. Use a special cloth, wipes, compressed air, or solution to clean your pair of binoculars and extend its lifetime.
- Storing binoculars: Units should be stored accordingly to reduce any possible adverse effects caused by moisture, sunlight, and excessive heat. Carry bags, for example, are a must-have accessory.
Binoculars are versatile tools that provide enlarged images of distant objects, used in a variety of settings, such as hiking, wildlife viewing, birding, hunting, stargazing, golf, sports events, and theater. Note that binoculars are made of two telescopes mounted on a single frame that allow the use of both eyes. While binoculars have undergone drastic transformations over the centuries, today’s binoculars come in different shapes and sizes, with Bushnell, Celestron, Orion, and Eyeskey being among the most reputable brands on the market.
Prospective buyers should consider three main factors: requirements, specifications, and total costs. Note that different fields of application require different units. To provide an example, astronomy models should have high magnification and lens diameter, while hunting models should be durable and waterproof to resist harsh weather and changing environments. That being said, taking care of a unit is also essential to guarantee long use. Maintaining, cleaning, and storing binoculars accordingly can only prolong a unit’s lifetime; thus, carry bags, neck-straps, and cleaning cloths become must-have accessories.