If you are looking for great binoculars with all-around capability, then the Steiner Predators are your best choice. We have found them to function with speed and ease.
The Predator binoculars are waterproof and fog-resistant making them an ideal companion for adventurers, birders, astronomy enthusiasts, and hunters. The glass used in these binoculars is incredibly clear, producing crisp images even at dusk.
The attached lens covers are on a bit heavy and are not very stable while viewing your target.
Best Hunting Binoculars
The Diamondback was designed with price and performance in mind. They are comfortable in hand, have a wide field of view making them the best binoculars for hunting.
They are great for spotting game and discerning its characteristics. When we were out in the wetlands, having fully packed gear; the reduced size and weight of these binoculars were a great benefit for the hunt.
When panning while viewing, there is a very noticeable “fish-bowl” effect, with the edges of the visual field appearing closer than the center.
Best Compact Binoculars
The Wingspan Optics Spectator Binoculars are the best overall compact binoculars you can find. We were pleasantly surprised to find a pair of compact binoculars at such a great price!
While bird watching, we found them to have a wide field of view with the capability to quickly focus with incredible detail. We even took them to a Washington Capitals game and these compact binoculars did not disappoint.
The lens caps on the outgoing end have a ring that slips over the binocular. However, they slip off easily and give a false sense of security that they will stay attached.
Best Birding Binoculars
The entire Monarch line of binoculars are built with Nikon’s premium Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Glass. The Ed Glass give these a sharp, clear, and vivid field of View.
These are very lightweight compared to other 8×42’s. We really love the color and how clear birds appear through them. The multicoated ED lenses coupled with the nitrogen purged barrels set these apart as best birding binoculars.
If you are willing to spend much more money; you can find a better pair of birding binoculars. When it comes to birding binoculars, these are truly the best value available.
Best for Astronomy
The SkyMaster 15×70 are our top choice based on cost, durability, sharp focus, and nighttime images. They are an excellent value and top pick for best astronomy binoculars.
The portability factor and ease of use are what make these a great choice for those interested in astronomy. These can either be mounted on a tripod or can be handheld. The Celestron SkyMasters are the best binoculars for astronomy.
If you plan on spending extended time with these in your hand; you will get fatigued. A tall tripod for extended star gazing along with an upgraded tripod mount is worth the cost.
-Tim Warner, Sports & Fitness, Director of Testing
Binoculars Buying Guide
Binoculars are very popular instruments consisting of two telescopes that are mounted on a frame that is made from either metal or plastic. The viewer can view subjects from a long distance and they will look like they are right there next to them.
There are many different types and styles of binoculars. Some are better suited to certain types of viewing such as astrological or long-range viewing and others are for more basic use such as bird watching in the backyard.
When looking for the best pair of binoculars available you will first need to determine what you are looking for. Do you want binoculars that are powerful enough to view the night sky in low light conditions, or are you just looking for a basic pair that will be useful for scouting the area you’re hiking in?
Whatever your personal needs are, you must know what they are so you can choose the pair of binoculars that can meet those needs. This guide will provide you with the knowledge and information needed to make a confident decision on the pair that will be just right for you.
How to Choose the Right Binoculars
There are several important things to consider before purchasing a pair of binoculars.
- Your budget – Budget is important if you only want to spend a specific amount of money on a pair of binoculars. These instruments are available in price points that range from very inexpensive to professional level models that can cost thousands of dollars.
- Primary purpose for the binoculars – Do you want to start bird watching in your backyard or do you take a lot of hikes and want something powerful to observe nature around you? Are you an avid astronomy fan and want to spend hours looking at stars, the moon, and other night sky phenomenons? What you want to look at with your binoculars is important to know because, with all the choices out there, you can find several that are perfect for your preferred activity. This enhances your viewing experience.
- Special needs (wears eyeglasses, vision impairments, etc.) – If you or someone else who will be using the binoculars have special needs such as vision impairments or you wear glasses, there are binoculars that can make the experience just as great without losing any clarity or performance.
- What size binoculars do you want? – Binoculars come in all shapes, sizes, and weights. If you are purchasing a pair for a young person you won’t want to get a heavy pair that will be hard for them to hold for any length of time. If you’re on the go a lot you will want to get a model that can easily be stored in your pocket or pack without adding a ton of weight. In general, small binoculars are great for watching sports and traveling. Medium-sized binoculars are perfect for bird watching and hunting and full sized binoculars are great for night time viewing in low light conditions. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, as there are smaller binoculars that offer powerful capabilities. Having an idea of the size you are looking for will give you a direction in which to start your research.
Once you have the answers to these questions it is a lot simpler to eliminate the selections that won’t work until you have two or three choices that meet your needs; then it comes down to personal preference.
There are several terms that are beneficial for you to know and understand. These terms are all related to different aspects of the binoculars and determine what the model’s capability will be.
- Exit Pupil – One of the terms you will hear when researching binoculars is exit pupil. This represents that circle of light that is present when you hold the binoculars away from your eyes at a short distance and look through them. The exit pupil determines how well your binoculars perform in low light conditions. Ideally, you should look for models that have an exit pupil that is comparative to your own pupil. If you plan on using the binoculars in low light conditions you want to look for models that offer an exit pupil of around 5-7mm which matches what the naked eye’s pupil does in conditions where light is limited.
- Eye Relief – Another thing to take into consideration is eye relief, especially if you wear glasses. Eye relief refers to the distance in which the binoculars can be held away from your eyes and still offer the full field of view. If you wear eyeglasses look for binoculars that offer long or extended eye relief that will significantly reduce eyestrain. Models with eye relief over 16mm will be good for those who wear glasses.
- BAK-4 Prism – Binoculars have prisms that are located inside that resemble and behave like mirrors. The glass has a reflective coating on it that refracted and bends light to bring the images to your eyes. Images that pass through the lenses are upside down initially because of how the lenses work. Prisms inside the binoculars fix this inverted image and return them back to normal. BAK-4 prisms are made from high-quality glass that produces excellent edge to edge crispness and sharp images. Most high-quality binoculars use BAK-4 prisms.
- Porro Prism – Porro prism binoculars offer viewers a wider field of view as well as better depth perception. The objective lens in porro prism binoculars is not in line with the eyepiece.
- Roof Prism – The prisms in roof prism binoculars overlap lining up the objective lenses with the eyepieces of the binoculars resulting in a streamlined shape that line up the prims and lenses in a single straight line.
- Field of View – The area that can be viewed with the binoculars is known as the field of view. High powered binoculars tend to have a field of view that is smaller and lower powered binoculars will offer a greater field of view. The preferable field of view for your needs will be dependent upon what type of viewing and results you are looking for.
- Lens Coating – Binoculars that do not have lens coatings can get a glare that will affect the quality of the images. Lens coatings help to reduce and eliminate glare while allowing as much light inside the optics as possible. There are four different levels of coating a lens can have:
- Coated – A minimum of one lens has a single layer coating on it.
- Fully-Coated – All air-to-glass surfaces have a single layer of coating on them.
- Multi-Coated – Several coating layers on a minimum of one lens.
- Fully Multi-Coated – Several layers of coatings on all lenses that are air-to-glass.