Whether you're looking for an inexpensive first pair of binoculars, or want a good, secondary, compact pair that won't break the bank, the Vortex DiamondBack 8x28 will serve you well. These relatively small bins tip the scales at just 15 ounces, yet can provide enough brightness and clarity to identify small birds on a bright day. Top that off with high-quality construction and a smooth focus knob, and you've got an excellent pair of budget bins.
Our small army of volunteers rated the models on a 1 to 5 scale for a variety of factors, including clarity, brightness, focus response, and eye relief. (For a fuller explanation of our methods, see the below story on how we made our rankings.) For the sake of consistency, we reviewed 8x32 (pronounced “eight by thirty-two”) or 8x42 optics. Most birders prefer 7- or 8-power binoculars because they’re bright and have a wide field of view, making it easier to find birds and to follow them in flight. Optics with objective lenses—the glass at the fat end of the tube—larger than 42 mm are heavier, and those smaller than 30 mm, while lightweight, aren’t bright enough to show detail in poor light.
It’s a whole other galaxy like our own, shining across the vastness of intergalactic space. Light from the Andromeda Galaxy has traveled so far that it’s taken more than 2 million years to reach us. Two smaller companions visible through binoculars on a dark, transparent night are the Andromeda Galaxy’s version of our Milky Way’s Magellanic Clouds. These small, orbiting, irregularly-shaped galaxies that will eventually be torn apart by their parent galaxy’s gravity.
I know what you’re thinking — these bins have the exact same magnification and lens diameter as the pair we discussed earlier, so why are they twice the price? First off, 8x42 is a great combo popular with many brands; that magnification and lens diameter pairing allows for a good field of view that’s ideal for seeing deep into dark forests, tracking birds across the sky, or watching parades and football games. But this pair also has an ESP dielectric coating, which simply means the lenses deliver excellent contrast and color fidelity, helping you see the often-minute patterns and hues on a bird’s feathers.
Most believe that Canon was the first company to have image stabilized binoculars due to very good marketing and bringing the price down to within reach of the consuming public, even if it's a long reach! Their introduction in 1997 was based on the work they had done for years in stabilizing video camera images. It quickly caught on and image stabilized Canon binoculars have many devotees. While the Canon technology doesn't seem designed to stabilize the larger movements encountered on boats/ships, speeding cars/trucks, and airplanes/helicopters, it does well with hand movements such as those often associated with health and age. The engagement of the stabilization mechanism and electronics is said to often result in a somewhat softer image which lacks the crispness found in Fujinons. We anticipate publishing a review of the Canon image stabilized binoculars.
Binoculars’ exit pupil diameter is determined by dividing the objective by the magnification: so a 10x42 binocular has a 4.2mm exit pupil diameter. That’s a generous size, and larger than the pupil of the eye most of the time. But a 10x25 pair of binoculars has an exit pupil of just 2.5mm, which is smaller than the average pupil dilation and will be harder to see through clearly.
Field of view is measured at a thousand yard distance because you'll only really notice a difference when looking far into the distance. So if you're looking for bins to scope out lines on a distant ridge, you'll probably appreciate a wider field of view. If you're using binoculars to watch wildlife, which will generally be within a couple hundred feet of you, you probably won't be able to notice the difference between a 300 foot and 450 foot field of view, as the difference will be negligible at that distance.
For outdoor activities like bird-watching, hunting or even viewing a sports game from a high-up stadium seat, these binoculars provide an excellent view. Top Ten Reviews lauds these binoculars for their durability and ease of use. "Add this to its unparalleled viewing experience, and you have the best binoculars we reviewed," Top Ten Reviews states. While these binoculars do provide an impressive view, with12x magnification, they're also heavier than average, weighing in at 36.2 ounces (1 kilogram). Eyeglass wearers won't have a problem using these binoculars; you can adjust the eye-relief distance to make these fit with or without glasses on. These binoculars are fog-proof, waterproof and super-durable, so you don't have to worry about damaging them with outdoor use. And according to Top Ten Reviews, these binoculars work great in low-light situations, so you can use them for nighttime skywatching as well as daytime sport.
Lens coatings are films applied to lens surfaces to reduce glare and reflections, increase light transmission and contrast, and help make colors look more vivid. Any light reflected is light that never reaches the viewer’s eyes, so by eliminating reflections, the image ends up being brighter and sharper. Coatings, in general, are good, provided that the coatings do something. It’s easy to put a cheap coating on a lens to give it a cool-looking orange tint, but the coating might not do anything to improve image quality. If you aren’t able to test a pair of binoculars before buying, the best you can do is research the brand, look for user reviews, and ask questions before you buy.
Bottom Line The best all around bins that we tested, but they also carry a high price tag. High-end bins that are nearly as good as the Swarovskis, but not quite. High end binoculars that live up to their pedigree, but have some downsides compared to other high-end models Just about the best clarity/brightness you can get without a quadruple digit price tag Good optical quality, but not the best in the price range
But not all binoculars are created equally, and they are not one-size-fits-all either. Subtle differences in performance and quality can mean the difference between enjoyment and frustration. Active Junky pulled together some of the best binoculars on the market from reputable brands to help you choose which pair is right for your favorite activities. And don’t forget to sign up for Active Junky for cashback on your gear purchases.
Binoculars are tools and, just as you wouldn't get far using a Phillips screwdriver on a slotted screw, you'll want to match the binocular to its task. The astronomy binoculars with 60mm diameter objective lenses or larger will be appropriate to consider for your next astronomical binoculars. First, most star watchers want to have a basis for evaluating their binoculars so we'll stop long enough to consider how to do that.
Generally, you’ll find that models with longer eye relief have a smaller field of view than similarly priced models with shorter eye relief. Accomplishing superlative specifications in both categories is an expensive process of optical engineering. It is always good to have a broad viewing area, so decide how much eye relief is necessary for you and buy the binoculars that otherwise give the widest field of view. Field of view is discussed in greater detail below.
A nitrogen-filled housing provides a fogproof performance, while its rubber armoring and textured ridges deliver a slip-resistant grip. A broad interpupillary adjustment range allows the Yosemite to be comfortably used by those with smaller faces, such as children or young adults. Twist-up eyecups and a long 18mm eye relief help to provide a comfortable viewing distance for all users. This version of the Yosemite comes with a carrying case, neck strap, and lens cloth.
Carl Zeiss lenses are made in Germany and are world-renowned for their clarity, quality, and optical capabilities. In terms of image quality, you cannot buy much better range-finding binoculars. Well balanced, waterproof, with superb optics and range finding ability, the Carl Zeiss Victory RF Binoculars make calculating distance a snap. They are all-around excellent, and we can recommend them without any reservation. This product is an absolute joy to use.
The Bushnell Legend 8×42 give you great color depth and clarity for the price, and is my choice as the best budget birding binoculars. If you are coming from cheaper pairs costing less than $150, you will be surprised at the upgrade you get for about 1.5x the price. At 8x, its magnification is smaller than other 10x budget pairs, but when you look through it, you won’t be disappointed by the view.
Though a bit on the portly side at 23.6 ounces, there’s a simplicity of design and ease of use that’s hugely gratifying in the field. This may sound like small potatoes, but the tethered lens covers and rain guard are far and away the best I’ve ever come across. Most require substantial wrestling, while these slide right on and off. For what it’s worth, I also didn’t have a minor cardiac event while adjusting the neck strap. With a field of view upwards of 340 feet at 1,000 yards, and amped-up magnification for long-range birding, the Ranger EDs feel like a rare triumph of design over wallet slenderness.
The Leupold Shadow Gray 6x30 BX-1 Yosemite Binocular features a compact form-factor outfitted with traditional BAK4 Porro prisms and a fully multi-coated optical path to display more depth of field than similar roof prism designs. The resulting images transmitted by the Yosemite binocular have lifelike depth and are crisp and clear with high-contrast and accurate colors across the field of view.
The little brother to the underwhelming 10x42 submitted in the full-size category, this 8x32 charmed the test team with its compactness and relatively better optics. Like on the full-size Fujifilm, the chassis of the mid-size KF feels flimsy, and the boxy style seems retro without the cool. On the upside, the testers liked the four-position eyecups and the overall balance of the open-bridge design. Very good image scores—including low-light brightness—elevated the KF’s ranking.
No-quibble returns: given how difficult it can be to get “hands on” time with high-quality optics in some places, some mail order companies (particularly in the US — but increasingly in Europe) offer a no-quibble return policy allowing you to order with confidence, try the binoculars for a few weeks, and return them for a full refund if you’re not happy, no questions asked.
If binoculars aren’t 100% indispensable to bird watching, they’re pretty close. For almost any bird that crosses your path, a good pair of binoculars will show you fine details, make colors pop out of shadows, and improve your chance of identifying what you’ve seen. For most bird watchers, binoculars soon become almost an extension of their bodies.
Bucking the trend, Walker Golder, Deputy Director of Audubon North Carolina, is a shore-bird specialist who uses an old pair of Leica 8x32 binoculars. For closer views, he switches to a spotting scope, but the 8x32s are, according to him, “small enough for me to put around my neck and they don’t get in the way as I move and get in and out of boats.” He generally recommends 10x for shorebird viewing for others.
The quality of the glass or prism used in the rangefinder binocular makes a great difference in measuring the range. Using a generic glass or prism can dent the quality of the image given by the binocular. A slight bend in the glass or prism would result in making the colors look off and give an odd projection of the target. Glasses which are low or extra low dispersed glasses are ideal to give you non-distorted image quality. These glasses are also called specialized glasses. It transmits the light without bending it, giving you crystal clear images without any colors looking oddly off. So, do get to know the type of glass or prism which is used by the manufacturers for the rangefinder binocular.
Eyecups on the binoculars ensure that your eyes will be at the correct distance, but if you wear glasses, you can't get your eyes as close to the lenses, so you need to adjust the eyecups to ensure that even with your glasses on your eyes are the correct distance from the ocular lenses. Binoculars with a longer eye relief are ideal for those who wear glasses as they basically project the image further beyond the ocular lens, giving you plenty of room to play with. So if you wear glasses, you should be looking for an eye relief of at least 15mm, to see the full image full image.
The Fusion ranges out just a tad less than its competitors, but nevertheless, it’s still a full 1,760 yards – a complete one mile. Bushnell is straight-up with its specs as they disclose that its soft-target ranging is only 500 yards. While that might seem on the low side for a high-powered and expensive optic, we do appreciate the truth of its abilities. However, 500 yards is still pretty, doggone far!
Pros: Testers noted that the Vanguard Endeavor ED were easy to operate and to focus. A wider objective lens of 42mm brings in a good amount light for better viewing in low-lit situations, and a close minimum distance of 2.5m allows you to see fine details in birds, plants and insects. A weight of nearly 24oz is average, and these binoculars are tripod compatible as well.
Since you're not looking at really far distance, I don't think you need anything more than 6x or 7x...this lower power will bring the subject in close while maintaining a wide field of view. If you need more power, I wouldn't go any higher than 8x. Also, depending on the objective lens diameter you go with, keeping the power to the 6-7x range you'll also benefit from a wide exit pupil and (generally) longer eye relief.
Built for power, performance, and versatility, the 10-30x50 Level Zoom Binocular from Barska (B&H # BA1030X50B) integrates a thumb lever that allows you to take in a large field of view at a low magnification, and with a quick slide of the lever, increase the magnification to make detailed observations at a distance. Utilizing large objectives, anti-reflection fully multi-coated optics, and a traditional Porro prism optical path, you are provided with a rich depth of field and high-contrast images that are bright and clear with color rendition. Its protective rubber armoring is textured to provide a slip-resistant grip, and if you're planning on glassing for extended periods the Level Zoom can be mounted on a tripod using an optional adapter.
Another feature we deemed essential was proper functioning for users with glasses. Your binoculars work only when the proper distance between your eye and the binoculars’ ocular lens (the lens on the eyepiece end) is maintained. Glasses would increase that distance if you didn’t have a way to adjust the inboard or outboard position of the ocular lens. This feature is called eye relief, and the standard recommendation is that those who wear glasses need a minimum of 15 mm of adjustability. Old-fashioned eye relief meant a pair of rubber cups that rolled down to bring your glasses to the proper distance; those cups are still found on some binoculars, but we don’t recommend them, because they’ll eventually stiffen or even tear. Preferable are eyepieces that twist downward into a more compact position, a feature that all of our picks have.
That being said, I feel like I can give you some places to start looking. If you want to see that level of detail, and you're looking at roof prisms, make sure the prisms are phase corrected. This will improve contrast, clarity, and resolution. Also, consider non-standard magnification like 8.5x that will boost the image size without drastically limiting the field of view or exit pupil like a 10x might.
So, you found the Andromeda galaxy (M31) with your 2-lb.,10x60 binoculars. Now you want to actually see it without all that zigzagging round, turning your stars into lightning bolts. And you also want to show it to your partner. Wouldn't it be nice to just park your binoculars in position on the sky? To do that, you need to be sure your binoculars have a screw mount point for a support system.