Reviews

Best Binoculars in 2020 – Reviewed

Whether you are birding or want to get a closer look at something during a hike or hunt, a quality pair of binoculars makes a big difference to your enjoyment of the great outdoors. Whilst the better brands give you excellent clarity and protection from the elements, the low-quality products break easily and can be costly to repair.

Their versatility makes them a popular product but if you want to know a little more about them before you buy then consult our buyers guide below. It can be difficult to find quality in a crowded market. This is why we have created the following list of the best binoculars available. Each product has something to offer and all budgets are catered for.

Quick Summary of Binoculars

 Editor’s Choice 

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26 Binoculars  (review)

 Best Fully Multi-Coated Lenses 

Athlon Optics Midas Roof Prism UHD Binoculars  (review)

 Best Budget 

Carson VP Series Full Sized or Compact Waterproof High Definition Binoculars  (review)

 Best For Stargazing 

Celestron – SkyMaster 25X100 Astro Binoculars  (review)

 Best For Bird Watching 

Nikon 7583 MONARCH 5 20×56 Binocular (Black)  (review)

 Best Compact 

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Compact Roof Prism Binocular  (review)

Reviews

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26 Binoculars

 Editor’s Choice 

Steiner makes a variety of products in the world of binoculars and their UltraSharp 10×26 are the best binoculars on our list. With high-contrast coating on every lens, they are protected and ensure the quality as you look at the stars or a bird in the distance. You can switch between the settings easily and the fast close-up option makes it easy to see around 11 feet away with a sharp and clear view.

With an impressive field of view of 1,000 yards and waterproof construction, they are robust and give you plenty of viewing options. They are also some of the best-protected binoculars on our list as the rugged exterior gives plenty of protection against common bumps. At 10.5 oz they won’t weigh you down, nor will the 10 x magnification let you down.

PROS:

  • Sharp and clear view
  • 1,000-yard field of view
  • Rugged construction
  • 10 x magnification
CONS:

(none)

Athlon Optics Midas Roof Prism UHD Binoculars

 Best Fully Multi-Coated Lenses 

The optics on these quality binoculars are so impressive, they are often compared to products that are ten times as expensive. The ED lens offers greater clarity than most and it features dielectric coating, a multi-layer prism that brings you brighter and clearer images by reflecting light to your eyes by 99%. This is also what makes colors look more accurate than other brands where they tend to look a little washed or fuzzy.

The fact that they are fully multi-coated lenses is surprising given the reasonable price and they have even been argon purged to protect them, providing better waterproofing. The long eye relief allows anyone who wears glasses to get a full field of vision.

PROS:

  • ED lens offers excellent clarity
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Long eye relief
  • Rugged exterior
CONS:

  • Focus ring can be a little tricky when used for the first time

Carson VP Series Full Sized or Compact Waterproof High Definition Binoculars

 Best Budget 

For hunting, bird spotting, festivals, camping, surveillance, and anything else, these are the best budget binoculars and can be picked up for a fraction of the price of other brands. You still get a quality pair of binoculars which includes 10 x magnification and a 42mm objective lens. This is why you get a field of view of 330 ft and 1,000 yards along with 15 mm eye relief.

They are fully multi-coated and phase-coated and attach to a tripod in seconds to take the strain off your arms. They O-seal has been nitrogen purged to ensure they are waterproof and fog proof and you get everything you need to keep the binoculars safe and clean including a pouch, neck strap, along with a cloth and lens cover. You don’t have to compromise as much as you think if you’re on a tight budget which is why these binoculars are so popular.

PROS:

  • Fully multi-coated
  • Excellent value
  • Includes pouch and neck strap
  • Nitrogen purged O-seal makes them waterproof and fogproof
CONS:

  • Not as much clarity as more expensive options

Celestron – SkyMaster 25X100 Astro Binoculars

 Best For Stargazing 

When looking to the stars you need a whole lot more in terms of magnification which is what you get with these quality stargazing binoculars. With 25 x magnification and huge 100 mm objective lens they bring the stars to you in a way that other brands just cannot provide for the price. This also means you can watch the stars in low light.

You get a tripod adapter included which makes it easy to obtain a stable view and with bak-4 prisms for the brilliant light transmission you get a truly sharp image. They feel grippy in your hands and have a water-resistant exterior and if your budget doesn’t stretch as far as the 25 x 100 version you can pick up the 25 x 80 for a more reasonable price.

PROS:

  • 100mm objective lens
  • Sharp images
  • Great in low light conditions
  • Water-resistant
CONS:

  • Quite heavy so best to use a tripod

Nikon 7583 MONARCH 5 20×56 Binocular (Black)

 Best For Bird Watching 

If you are new to bird watching or are looking to upgrade your binoculars, these are among the best around. This comes with a steeper price but what you get is going to give you excellent clarity through Nikon’s ED glass that compensated for light fringing. The 20 x magnification makes them ideal for observing wildlife and because of the 56 mm objective lens you get a large field of view that makes it possible to see, even low light conditions.

The flip-down lens caps are convenient and the grippy texture makes sure they won’t fall from your grasp. Their close focus distance is 16.4 ft so if a bird lands closeby you get to take a clear view. Both waterproof and fog proof, with a comfortable high eyepoint you get rich accurate colors that most brands just cannot replicate.

PROS:

  • 20 x magnification
  • Premium binoculars
  • Extreme clarity
  • Comfortable
CONS:

  • Can be a bit pricey for some people

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Compact Roof Prism Binocular

 Best Compact 

If you want a set of compact binoculars to take to a sporting event and aren’t so bothered about the more expensive features you can find on premium models, these are a great option. They are both waterproof and fog proof so even if the weather is putting a dampener on things they won’t let you down.

The bak 4 prisms make them reasonably clear for the price and with 12 mm of eye relief they are fine for anyone who wears glasses. The multi-coated optics give a good amount of light transmission and the focus knob in the middle is easy to use to make your images clear. With a soft texture for grip and twist-up eyecups they offer good value for casual use.

PROS:

  • 12 mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Focus knob is easy to use
CONS:

  • Not as much clarity as more expensive brands

Binoculars Guide

Before you start to consider what the best binoculars are you need to think about what you are going to use them for. Anyone looking for a cheap set can find a compact product more convenient whilst the keen bird watcher will want added clarity and magnification among other features. It can be hard to find a quality product that you aren’t sure what the best is capable of.

With this in mind, we have created the following buyer’s guide. Because the best binoculars are not cheap, this can help save you a lot of money. 

What To Look For In Binoculars

Magnification

A lot of people assume that the greater the magnification the better but this isn’t necessarily true. Sometimes, the more magnification you get the more the focus shakes with minor hand movements. This is where a tripod can be useful, especially for stargazing where you need more magnification to get a good look. 

Anyone birding will find that 8 x magnification is a good amount to ensure everything is still in focus as too much magnification can make it difficult to hone in on what you are trying to find.

Objective Lens

These are the front lenses and the size is vital to how much light they let in. The larger they are the more clarity you are likely to get at greater distances and the better the colors look. Any low light conditions will result in needing a larger objective lens size and for birding, you need full-sized binoculars as compact lenses do not have the objective lens size to allow enough light for adequate clarity.

Coatings

With several coatings to choose from it can be difficult to tell which are good and which are to be avoided. We will discuss this in greater detail below but the better binoculars are fully multi-coated. This is what reduces glare in your view and affects light transmission for sharper images. 

Weight

Being able to hold them for long periods can be desirable under certain conditions which is why weight is more. important to some people than others. Lighter binoculars can mean you can scan the terrain from a bird-watching hut but certain activities like stargazing require a heavier product that will need to be mounted on a tripod.

Waterproof and Fogproof

There is little point in buying premium binoculars without adequate waterproofing as the elements can cause you to ruin an expensive product. The best tend to have been nitrogen purged to ensure they are airtight and the likes of dust and water cannot get inside to ruin the clarity. 

Grip

The weather can change at any moment and although you need your binoculars to be waterproof they should also have a decent amount of grip to make sure they do not slip from your hands. Although most have a robust body to prevent breakages via the odd accident, they are not bulletproof.

Prisms

You will see a lot of brands use the term bak-4 to explain their prisms but essentially they are describing the glass quality. Bak-4 is considered the premium version whilst the other common type is bak-7 but this can distort the image.

How To Tell The Spec of Binoculars At A Glance

If you know the sort of magnification and objective lens you are looking for then you can tell what products are right for your need via the numbers. Most products tend to describe themselves as magnification x objective lens, for example, 10 x 26. This gives you a quick indication as to the spec of the product and if it is right for your needs.

How Much Do Quality Binoculars Cost?

You can buy quality binoculars for around $250 and although these are great for intermediate birdwatching and other activities they do not quite offer the same clarity and quality as premium products.

Anyone looking for something high-level should expect to pay over $750 with the truly premium products costing well into the thousands. However, beginners will find that $150 – $250 will get them a mix of quality and value. 

Binocular Coatings

The most common types of binocular coatings can be found below and affect the overall quality of the product to enhance clarity, colors, and beyond. 

Coated

The most basic of coatings, usually in the form of one element receiving one coating. Most commonly magnesium fluoride and is found in the cheaper models.

Multi-Coated

With more than one coating on multiple sides to minimize lens reflection, this is considered the mid-range of the coating. This makes more than one side anti-reflective.

Fully Multi-Coated

This is often considered the premium type of coating as all lens surfaces have multiple coatings to enhance the quality and reduce glare. It does not always guarantee a high-level product but it is often a sign of better quality and enhanced clarity.

What Is The Best Magnification for Binoculars?

This all depends on the type of activity you are looking to use them for. It is not practical to find binoculars for bird watching and use them for stargazing as the ideal magnification and objective lens size will be different.

A lot of people consider 8 x and 10 x magnification best for bird watching with the latter being better for gazing at a distance but handshake might be more of a problem if you aren’t using a tripod.

For stargazing, find binoculars with greater magnification as they should be used with a tripod so handshake does not become an issue. Common magnification for this is 15 x and 20 x magnification for moderately price models although 25 x can make the experience more enjoyable.

Anyone looking to use binoculars for observing wildlife should look for a similar product to bird watchers as 8 x and 10 x magnification allows you to stay at a comfortable distance to not scare the wildlife and in the case of a safari, this will allow you to stay at a safe distance. 

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