Recommendation: unless you’re looking to use your binoculars for a particular specialist task choose something in the 8x to 10x range for general bird watching and wildlife observation. Try out different magnifications to see which suits you better. Generally if you’re doing a lot of long distance observation (like scanning wading birds on estuaries or lagoons, for example) you may appreciate the higher magnification of a 10x. If you do a lot of wildlife watching at close quarters, or in enclosed places like woodlands trying to track small, fast-moving subjects, then the wider field of view of an 8x may suit you better.
To find a manageable group of testing finalists, we first eliminated companies that make only one model and that don’t exist outside of their Amazon presence. We also ruled out companies with just one model in our target price range, based on the logic that those binoculars are less likely to be widely available in the future, particularly if they get damaged and you need to return them. This left us with 17 models of 8×42 binoculars, priced mostly under $350:
We hope potential buyers use this information to their advantage to learn about and decide upon the model that is best for their needs. Preparing this information by conducting research on each model and comparing it to others, we’ve created these rangefinder binocular reviews. Our research involves testing the units optical performance, accuracy, ranging abilities, ballistics, ergonomics and more.
For most people a 42mm full-size binocular or 32mm mid-size binocular offers the best balance of brightness and portability for extended periods of hand-held use in the field. Generally speaking a full-size binoculars will outperform a comparable mid-sized binocular in low light early in the morning or late in the evening… but better coatings and optical components mean high-end mid-size binoculars will often outperform mid-range full-size binoculars, at a price.
High-performance features include: fully multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms, and custom adjustment with center and right diopter focus knobs. They have an extra-large field of view with crystal clarity from edge to edge; Ultra-smooth center focus that's easy to operate, allowing you to pinpoint your subject, Right diopter adjustment so you can fine-tune your viewing.
With 10x and even more powerful binoculars you will get more detail which is good for spotting birds of prey, waterfowl, and large birds or wildlife. These birds tend to be slower moving and are often out in the open, where the narrow field of view will also not be such an issue. When using a very high-powers (approx. 12x or more), you will need a very steady hand or tripod or some sort of image stabilization and it is very important to stay away from cheap binoculars with high magnifications.
Next when purchasing a binocular you must consider the purpose or what are you buying the binocular to observe-star gazing, sports, and birding. What? Binoculars are great for doing a variety of things such as an accessory to the telescope to star hop to those deep sky objects you want to find or an asteroid. Also binoculars are great for learning the constellations, following sunspots across the sun(DANGER-BE SURE TO USE THE PROPER SOLAR FILTERS), the motion of the planets among the constellations, the phases of the moon, sky conditions, comets, variable stars, and nova.For astronomy the 7 x 50 and the 10 x 50 have been the traditional choice. For your first pair of binoculars, get this standard size over the giant binoculars. The 7 x 50 or 10 x 50 is good for general purpose viewing and portable. The 7 x 50 is good for dark country skies. The 10 x 50 is good for the city or the suburbs due to its smaller exit pupil. The 10 x 50 though can be hard to hold for some and may require a tripod due to its 10x magnification. Even the 7 x 50 view improves with the use of a tripod. There are several tripod setups on the market, which allow steady viewing, overhead viewing, and easy scanning of the sky without neck cramps. In fact, for certain types of viewing like variable star, comet, and asteroid observing, binoculars on a tripod is essential to give a steady view of the field, take notes, and use star charts. Also more detail can be seen when observing the moon or star clusters.
Each month, as the moon goes through its regular phases, you can see the line of sunrise and sunset on the moon progress across the moon’s face. That’s just the line between light and dark on the moon. This line between the day and night sides of the moon is called the terminator line. The best place to look at the moon from Earth – using your binoculars – is along the terminator line. The sun angle is very low in this twilight zone, just as the sun is low in our sky around earthly twilight. So, along the terminator on the moon, lunar features cast long shadows in sharp relief.
More resolution - With all other aspects being equal, the larger the objective lens, the better the resolution in the image. But you pay, with increased weight and size. How much resolution you need depends on how much you're going to magnify an image. For a magnification of 8x or 10x, a 42mm objective lens provides plenty of resolution and there is no need to exceed your eyes' ability to see. The reason some people might choose larger objectives would not be for increased resolution but for more brightness in poor light and bad light or for use at night for astronomy.
The 15x70 version is one of the most popular models in the series. Celestron's 15x70 SkyMaster binoculars are one of the leaders in the low-price giant binocular arena. The SkyMasters include multicoated optics and BaK-4 internal prisms, two features that promise brighter, better images, and key points to look for when judging a pair of binoculars.
Compact binoculars have a tough job. Their glass must be clear enough to transmit images through relatively small objective lenses, and their sized-down controls need to be tight and precise to work within the smaller frame. This Leupold gets those details right. The controls are nice, the image is bright and big for the compact platform, and we really liked the close focus. The Tioga got the highest durability score in the category, and it has a lifetime transferrable warranty should you need it.
Combine Nikon binocular performance with the extreme speed and ranging technology of a 1900-yard laser rangefinder and you have LaserForce, Nikon’s new 10x42 Rangefinder Binocular. Quite simply the single optic solution for serious hunters who depend on both their binocular for picking out distant animals and their rangefinder for getting the exact distance before taking the shot. Featuring ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass and Nikon’s ID Technology to compensate for incline or decline angles, LaserForce puts ranging precision, optical performance and rugged performance within your reach.
One of the easiest ways to take a spacewalk without ever leaving Earth is to scan the night sky with binoculars from the comfort of a reclining lounge chair on a clear, dark night. But for the best experience, you better make sure those binoculars are actually designed for astronomy. To see our picks for the best binoculars of various sizes and specialties, read our Best Astronomy Binoculars: Editors' Choice wrap-up. If you'd like help picking for yourself, there are a few things you need to know.