5 Best Compact Binoculars in 2021 Reviewed

Want to upgrade your gear with a pair of compact binoculars? Then you’ve come to the right place! Our handy Best Compact Binoculars overview contains the top-rated, best-value choices, as rated by experts and other outdoor enthusiasts. Zooming in on the best products available on Amazon, to instantly navigate you towards binoculars that are worthy of your attention, and your money.

We know that finding a pair of compact binoculars can be quite a challenge. When shopping, you’ll come across lots of complicated, fancy-sounding terminology. Let us take the guesswork out of buying, and use our Best Compact Binocular overview to get a comprehensive understanding of the options. We can help you save time and money, eliminating the bulk of online products, and presenting a curated selection of top-rated styles that deliver. 

In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:

Sale
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
  • Quality optics with stunning HD clarity; Exit Pupil: 4.2 millimeter / 0.165 inch

Discover our other top picks below and treat yourself to one of these best compact binocular products: 

Preview
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision, Large Eyepiece Waterproof Binocular for Adults Kids,High Power Easy Focus Binoculars for Bird Watching,Outdoor Hunting,Travel,Sightseeing
Bushnell Powerview 12x50 Wide Angle Binocular, Black
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
SWAROVSKI 46211 CL Pocket 10x25 Binoculars (Green)
Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 10x42
Title
Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars 
Bushnell Powerview Binoculars
Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars
Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars 
Vortex Optics Viper HD Binoculars
Magnification
12x
12x
10x
10x
10x
Objective Lens Diameter
25mm
50mm
42 mm
25 mm
42 mm
Size
4 x 4.4 x 1.9 inches
8.25 x 8.25 x 3.25 inches
7 x 6 x 3 inches
7.2 x 7.6 x 3.2 inches
8.7 x 7 x 3.8 in
Weight
0.65 pounds
1.86 pounds
1.56 pounds
1.55 pounds
1.56 pounds
Waterproof
Price
$35.99
$68.14
$99.99
Price not available
$499.00
Rating
-
-
-
-
-
Preview
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision, Large Eyepiece Waterproof Binocular for Adults Kids,High Power Easy Focus Binoculars for Bird Watching,Outdoor Hunting,Travel,Sightseeing
Title
Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars 
Magnification
12x
Objective Lens Diameter
25mm
Size
4 x 4.4 x 1.9 inches
Weight
0.65 pounds
Waterproof
Price
$35.99
Rating
-
Preview
Bushnell Powerview 12x50 Wide Angle Binocular, Black
Title
Bushnell Powerview Binoculars
Magnification
12x
Objective Lens Diameter
50mm
Size
8.25 x 8.25 x 3.25 inches
Weight
1.86 pounds
Waterproof
Price
$68.14
Rating
-
Preview
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
Title
Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars
Magnification
10x
Objective Lens Diameter
42 mm
Size
7 x 6 x 3 inches
Weight
1.56 pounds
Waterproof
Price
$99.99
Rating
-
Preview
SWAROVSKI 46211 CL Pocket 10x25 Binoculars (Green)
Title
Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars 
Magnification
10x
Objective Lens Diameter
25 mm
Size
7.2 x 7.6 x 3.2 inches
Weight
1.55 pounds
Waterproof
Price
Price not available
Rating
-
Preview
Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 10x42
Title
Vortex Optics Viper HD Binoculars
Magnification
10x
Objective Lens Diameter
42 mm
Size
8.7 x 7 x 3.8 in
Weight
1.56 pounds
Waterproof
Price
$499.00
Rating
-

From budget-friendly binoculars that still offer essential functionality, to high-end designs that come with state-of-the-art perks: there’s a perfect match for every outdoor enthusiast! All our best binoculars score highly in user reviews and can provide crisp images in every scenario. Whether you’re a bird watcher, hunter, camper, hiker, or fisher: investing in small binoculars pays off big time. 

Best Compact Binoculars – Overview

 


Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars 

Sale
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision, Large Eyepiece Waterproof Binocular for Adults Kids,High Power Easy Focus Binoculars for Bird Watching,Outdoor Hunting,Travel,Sightseeing
  • 【HIGH-POWERED LARGE EYEPIECE BINOCULARS】 This binoculars has 12x magnification, 25mm objective lens and wide field of view, 273ft/1000yds, letting you look farther and see wider. Coating with FMC...
Cheap and cheerful: the Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars are a great example of how sometimes you don’t have to pay a premium, to nab a great deal. Even though it might not have all the bells and whistles of high-end designs, this affordable pair of binoculars ticks all the boxes on basic functionality. And is an excellent value-for-money deal for those birders or outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 4 x 4.4 x 1.9 inch
Magnification: 12X
Objective lens diameter: 25mm
Eyepiece diameter: 15mm
Exit pupil: 20mm
Field of view: 273ft/1000yds 
Prism Type: Porro Prism
Near focal distance: 16.4 ft (5m)
Weight: 0.65 pounds
Waterproof grade: low

As you can see, these Porro-prism type binoculars have the recommend 12x magnification, which can enlarge objects or targets up to 12 times their original size. The 25mm objective lens offers a wide field of vision, ideal for birdwatching or wildlife spotting. We’d rate this as a perfect choice for beginning birders, because of its affordable pricing and ease-of-usage. The large 15mm eyepieces and focus knob allow for easy, precise focal adjustment in a few simple steps. Other perks are that the Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars are coated with a non-slip rubber armor: making it comfortable to handle and providing an ergonomic grip. Plus, the rubber armor adds durability and can protect against impact if you accidentally drop them on hard undergrounds. The Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars also includes a neck strap for extra portability, a cleaning cloth, and a carry bag for secure storage. 

Not waterproof!

There are some cons. Even though the product description and full title on Amazon mention that the Occer Compact Pocket Binocular is waterproof, the truth is: it isn’t. If you dive in deeper, you’ll discover that the manufacturer states that these binoculars ‘can only resist small water droplets, but can not be used in heavy rain or be soaked in the water.’ And, in our books, if an item is only able to resist small water droplets, it does not qualify as ‘waterproof’. That said, for regular weather conditions, this affordable pair of binoculars should work just fine. But it is something to keep in mind if you often go birding, hunting, or hiking in rainy weather… Also, the product description mentions excellent clarity in low light conditions, but this is once again dubious. A 25mm objective lens diameter is a bit small to provide optimal brightness in low-light conditions. This is confirmed in certain customer reviews that confirm that thought the binoculars work great during the daytime, they lose some of their performance at dusk.

Overall, we rate the Occer Compact Pocket Binoculars as a great-value buy, offering plenty of functionality, magnification, and clarity for most amateur birders and outdoor enthusiasts. However, you will have to compromise a bit of durability, waterproof ability, and low-light visibility; which we think is a fair trade-off if you’re on a strict budget. 

 

 


Bushnell Powerview Binoculars

Though only a bit more expensive than the previously listed Occer model, the Bushnell Powerview Roof Prism Binoculars offer double the objective lens diameter: 50mm. With an equally powerful 12x magnification, yet improved performance in low-light conditions, it makes spending a few extra dollars certainly worth the money. Another reason we rate this product highly is that Bushnell, the manufacturer, is firmly established as a go-to brand for quality binoculars and hunting gear. Giving you the peace of mind that you’re buying from an authentic, expert brand instead of taking a risk on an unknown name. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 8.25 x 8.25 x 3.25 inches
Magnification: 12X
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Eye relief: 7 mm
Exit pupil: 4.2 mm
Field of view: 267ft/1000yds 
Prism Type: Roof Prism
Near focal distance: 40 ft (12 meters)
Weight: 1.86 pounds
Waterproof grade: low

Looking at the specifications, you’ll see that the Bushnell PowerView Wide Angle Binocular ticks all the important boxes on performance. However, its larger objective lens diameter does make it a bit bulkier and heavier than regular 25mm designs. That said, we can’t fault it on that, as one of the main reasons we picked this product for this list is its improved functionality in low-light conditions. Its increased performance is due to the larger BK-7 lenses and special multi-coated optics (multiple layers of coatings on all the lens surfaces to enhance light transmission and brightness. 

Another pro of the Bushnell PowerView is its high-quality standard and great durability. Made of premium materials, and thoroughly quality-tested by the manufacturer, it scores top marks on sturdiness. The design’s non-slip rubber armor protects it from scratches and abrasions, plus makes it comfortable to hold. Its comfortable usage is further enhanced by fold-down eyecups. And that’s not all. The Bushnell PowerView is also simple to use. Thanks to a well-positioned focus system that makes adjusting vision easy and straightforward. 

Limited lifetime warranty

And even though the Bushnell PowerView is relatively budget-friendly, you still get to enjoy additional bonus items such as lens covers, a lens cleaning cloth, and a carrying case included in the product packaging. Oh, and remember what we said in the first paragraph about Bushnell being a risk-free choice, due to their expertise and quality assurance? Well, the manufacturer is so confident in the quality of its designs, it even provides a limited lifetime warranty to cover potential manufacturing defects. 

Of course, as with any product, there are some minor cons. Firstly, the design is not waterproof, meaning you’ll have to handle it with care in wet weather conditions. Secondly, some customer reviews mention the center focus bars are very sensitive to a micro-adjustment and move at the slightest touch. This can be a pro if you want quick adjustment. However, it also means that you may accidentally change the focus when you brush against the bars – which, according to some, can happen quite easily. Thirdly, some consumers also mention the design tends to fog up when experiencing rapid changes in temperatures, which can be an annoying side-effect of the binoculars and lenses not being waterproof. 

That said, overall customer reviews on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive, praising the Bushnell PowerView for its great optics and low-light performance. As one of the best-selling, top-rated products in its price range, we’re confident you’ll get lots of bird watching enjoyment out of this highly-recommended purchase.

 

 


Bushnell Waterproof H20 Roof Prism Binoculars

Sale
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
  • Quality optics with stunning HD clarity; Exit Pupil: 4.2 millimeter / 0.165 inch
If you like the style and features of the Bushnell PowerView, but want an upgraded version that is fully waterproof to withstand any kind of weather conditions, then consider the Bushnell Waterproof H20 Roof Prism Binoculars instead. Though slightly more expensive, this design is worth the investment if you often find yourself in heavy downpours, or don’t want the risk of ruining your binoculars when you accidentally drop them in a stream, pond, lake, etc. Do note, the Bushnell Waterproof H20 Roof Prism Binoculars compromise a bit on magnification, but the 10x zoom should still be sufficient for nearly all wildlife spotting scenarios. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 7 x 6 x 3 inches
Magnification: 10X
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Eye relief: 17 mm
Exit pupil: 4.2 mm
Field of view: 305ft/1000yds 
Prism Type: Roof Prism
Near focal distance: 12 ft (3.6 meters)
Weight: 1.56 pounds
Waterproof grade: 100% waterproof

Though sometimes the term ‘waterproof’ can be misleading, the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars truly deliver on this promise. These binoculars are specially designed to withstand all water conditions, including submersing them. The silhouette is 100% waterproof and is O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged. This not only makes it water-resistant but also prevents the design from fogging up: giving you fog-free, crystal clear optics even in challenging conditions. This model also has a wider field of view than the average compact binocular: 305ft/1000yds, enabling you to see clearly even over long distances. 

Just like the previously listed PowerView model, the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars lives up to the high-quality standard that fans of the brand have come to expect. The design’s BaK 4 prisms and multi-coated optics improve light transmission and brightness, ensuring it doesn’t lose functionality in darker surroundings. The 42mm objective lens provides a wide field of view, whilst the non-slip rubber armor helps you maintain a firm and comfortable grip. These great binoculars are also easy to use, with a center focus knob and twist eyecups allowing for quick focal adjustments. Long eye relief of 17mm also makes this style compatible with regular prescription eyeglasses or hunting goggles.

A risk-free choice

Cons are minor, but we still want to list some to give you a comprehensive understanding of where this product may lack slightly. Certain reviewers comment that thee H20 Roof Prism Binocular is slightly expensive when compared to the brand’s regular, non-waterproof silhouettes. Other Amazon reviewers had issues with chromatic aberration (the focussing of lens colors), whilst some reported the lenses were not 100% fog proof. And did fog up on occasion. That said, just like the PowerView, the H20 Roof Prism Binocular also comes with a limited lifetime guarantee by Bushnell. Serving as a testimony of the confidence the manufacturer has that this pair of lightweight binoculars will truly live up to, and exceed expectations.

 


Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars 

If you want crystal-clear optics and bright, vivid color, and outstanding durability, the Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars may be your match. A word of warning though: these roof prism binoculars do not come cheap, making them less accessible to bird watchers or outdoor enthusiasts on a budget. However, by spending a pretty penny, you also get to enjoy a premium level of image quality, neatly compacted into a small bundle that easily slips into a trouser pocket. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 7.2 x 7.6 x 3.2 inches
Magnification: 10X
Objective lens diameter: 25 mm
Eye relief: 14 mm
Exit pupil: 2.5 mm
Field of view: 294ft/1000yds 
Prism Type: Roof Prism
Near focal distance: 8.2 ft (2.5 meters)
Weight: 1.55 pounds
Waterproof grade: waterproof and fog proof

Though the Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars are comparable in specs to cheap binoculars, the product reigns supreme when it comes to performance, durability, and comfort. The high-quality optics provide vivid, ultra HD- images, crisper than any low-budget binocular is capable of. The designs adjustable eyecups are made of hypoallergenic materials for maximum comfort, whilst the lightweight silhouette ensures no strain is put on your hands, neck, or wrists. 

Another perk is that the aluminum housing of the Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 46211 doesn’t just make it lightweight, but the material is also corrosion-proof and waterproof. This means that even in bad weather conditions, the design by Swarovski maintains its functionality – without the risk of damaging. When it pours, simply wipe the lenses and keep spotting! The roof prism design comes with a foldable bridge, allowing you to compact it into a small bundle that can easily slip in any pocket or backpack. The design also includes a luxurious carry case/field bag for secure storage on the go, or between uses.

A worthwhile investment

Customer reviews on Amazon rate the design 5-stars and say that even though it’s expensive, it’s worth the investment if you have the money to spend. Some reviewers say that compared to other high-end compact binoculars, such as the Leica Ultravid and the Zeiss Compact, the Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 46211 reigns supreme. It is praised for its long eye relief, comfortable eyecups, solid grip, and the brightness and clarity of the image, without the annoyance of geometric distortions (as are sometimes found in cheaper models). Minor cons are – of course – the high price tag, and that compared to other luxury binoculars the Swarovski is still relatively heavy at 1.55 pounds.

The Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25 46211 may not be for everyone, but for those that want premium performance and don’t mind paying a premium price to get it: this could be your superb match! 

 


Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars

Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 10x42
  • 10x magnification and 42mm objective lenses, the 2018 Viper HD is a high-end, full-size yet compact binocular that is suited for any hunt. An easy-to-grip, rubber armored chassis with perfectly placed...
The Viper HD by Vortex Optics is a full-sized yet compact binocular with outstanding clarity. Though quite pricey, we’d rate it as a mid-budget option compared to cheap binoculars such as the Bushnell Powerview, and quite expensive options such as the Swarovski 46211 CL Pocket Binoculars. This product falls in the middle on price point, but don’t be fooled: it’s pretty high-end in quality and durability. 

Specifications

Dimensions: 8.7 x 7 x 3.8 in
Magnification: 10X
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Eye relief: 17 mm
Exit pupil: 4.2 mm
Field of view: 341ft/1000yds 
Prism Type: Roof Prism 
Near focal distance: 8.2 ft (2.5 meters)
Weight: 1.56 pounds
Waterproof grade: waterproof and fog proof

The Viper HD by Vortex Optics scores highly on all the important buying factors when shopping for the best compact binoculars. The designs 10x magnification, 42mm objective lenses have special anti-reflective lens coatings for bright, full views even in low-light conditions. Enjoy optimal clarity in a wide field of view thanks to the High Density (HD) extra-low dispersion glass, one of the premium perks of Viper HD. The binoculars are easily adjustable via a right-eye diopter that tailers each barrel’s focus exactly to your eyes. You can enhance fine line focus even further with the center focus wheel, quickly sharpening your view. 

The style is also fully waterproof thanks to its argon purging and O-ring seals, which also prevent the lenses from fogging up. The Viper HD by Vortex Optics comes in a rubber armor chassis with thumb indents for a superior, ergonomic, non-slip grip. The special ArmorTek coating on the exterior of the lenses also makes them more scratch-resistant and protects the binocular against other hazards such as dirt, mud, and debris. 

Chest Harness included

You’ll also get to profit from the Glass Pak Chest Harness, included with your purchase. This carry harness allows you to strap in your binoculars for easy carrying, keeping them at close and ready to grab, whilst keeping both hands free on the go. 

There are some cons. Firstly, the Viper HD by Vortex Optics may not be as expensive as the Swarovski model previously listed, but it still has quite a hefty price-tag. Granted, or a high-end model, it’s reasonably priced, but we want to acknowledge that it’s not very budget-friendly. Secondly, some reviewers report that in low-light conditions, the Viper HD may perform below expectations, compared to similarly priced models such as the Tract Toric. Which, when you’re spending this much on a pair of binoculars, it is something to take into account if you plan to use it a lot early morning or after sunset. Lastly, some reviews confirm the Viper HD listed on Amazon is an upgraded version from models sold in prior years, but that this also means the model may be slightly different from the one you’re used to if you already own a Viper by Vortex, and wish to replace it. 

 


 

 

Verdict

Each of the 5 products on this Best Compact Binocular list ticks the boxes when it comes to magnification, value-for-money, and performance. However, some models do offer more durability and versatility than others. When it comes to budget-friendly binoculars, you’ll find that most lack the waterproof coating needed to use them in heavy rain or wet conditions. On the other hand, as they cost a fraction of what more expensive, waterproof models are listed for, it’s a fair trade-off if you’re willing to compromise. The more expensive, high-end alternatives come with all the bells and whistles, such as special anti-reflective coated lenses and fully waterproof casings, making them a top-grade choice to spot objects with optimal clarity. The downside is that you’ll have to pay to enjoy this first-class performance, and their price-tags render them inaccessible to birdwatchers on a budget. 

Rest assured: each product on the list scores top-marks on the factors that matter most, as rated by other outdoor enthusiasts on Amazon. Meaning you can’t go wrong with any of them, as long as you make the choice that fits your preferences and budget best. If you need more tips on how to find the perfect fit for you, and/or want to learn more about the basic factors to consider when shopping for compact binoculars, then don’t forget to check out our handy Buying Guide at the bottom of this post!

Winner

Preview
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
Title
Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars
Magnification/Objective Lens Diameter
10x / 42 mm
Size
7 x 6 x 3 inches
Weight
1.56 pounds
Field of View
305ft/1000yds 
Waterproof
Price
$99.99
Rating
-
Preview
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 10 x 42-mm, Black
Title
Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars
Magnification/Objective Lens Diameter
10x / 42 mm
Size
7 x 6 x 3 inches
Weight
1.56 pounds
Field of View
305ft/1000yds 
Waterproof
Price
$99.99
Rating
-

If we had to pick a favorite, the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars comes to mind. The style has a powerful 10x magnification, combined with a large 42 mm diameter objective lens. This wide lens means it still performs in low-light conditions, whilst 10x magnification is the sweet spot for bird watching and wildlife spotting. Too much magnification can make an image shaky when not using a tripod, so for a handheld binocular, 10x is perfect. Plus, with a large 17mm eye relief, this model is also suited for those outdoor enthusiasts that already wear prescription eyeglasses – making it accessible to every type of consumer. The 305ft/1000yds field of view is also more than adequate, whilst the 1.56-pound weight is not super light, but still manageable out in the field.

However, the biggest reason for listing the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars is that this model is truly waterproof. Unlike comparable budget models that only can withstand a few droplets of rain, the Bushnell H20 Roof Prism Binoculars can withstand a whole deluge thanks to their special waterproof coating. Plus, the waterproofed silhouette is also more resistant to dust, dirt, and mud – making it low-maintenance whilst improving its durability and longevity. That is why we think its a great value-for-money buy for any outdoor enthusiasts. Regardless whether you want to spot birds, wildlife, or simply want an increased field of vision on hikes: the Bushnell Waterproof H20 Roof Prism Binoculars gets the job done, even when the weather is not on your side!

 


 

 

Best Compact Binoculars – Buying Guide

 

When you want to find the best pair of compact binoculars for your needs, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of the possible functions and features. There are some important factors to consider when shopping for binoculars, such as type, magnification, objective weight diameter, size & weight, and waterproof coatings.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to invest a lot of time and effort into your buying research: we’ve got you – and your shopping needs – covered. In the Buying Guide below, we’ll quickly go over the most essential information, providing you with the basic knowledge needed. Once you know what to look out for (excuse the pun), finding a perfect fit will be easy! 

These are the most important factors to consider when buying a pair of compact binoculars for camping, hiking, backpacking, bird watching, hunting, fishing, or any other type of outdoor activity:

Type

When shopping for a pair of binoculars, the first step is determining the type of design you want. Generally, binoculars can be divided into two categories: the Porro-prism, and the roof-prism. Each has its pros and cons, and special characteristics.

Porro-prism

Porro-prism type binoculars are the more traditional style. When thinking of a pair of classic binoculars, this is the image that will come to mind for most people. The style features small eyepiece lenses (those you view through) and larger objective lenses (those that are pointed at the object which you want to magnify.

This style of binoculars has a jog in the light path through each barrel and creates an erect image using two prisms on each side. 

Roof-prisms

Roof-prism designs were introduced as a more streamlined alternative to often bulkier Porro-prism binoculars. Unlike the Porro-prism silhouette that kind of zig-zags the image from the flared out objective lenses to the eyepiece, roof-prism binoculars feature objects lenses that are directly in line with the eyepiece lenses. Or, to summarize: as the optical path at the objective side and eyepiece side are almost completely straight, you need less ‘space’ to create a clear, magnified image. Meaning roof-prisms binoculars are a lightweight, compact alternative to classic Porro-prism styles.

Which is better?

So, which is better: Porro-prism or roof-prism? Well, this depends on how much you’re planning to spend on a pair of binoculars. Through the roof-prism style is much lighter and compact, it also requires a top-grade quality standard to work as effectively as Porro-prism binoculars. Low-budget roof-prism binoculars may be small and compact but often may lack the magnification ability and clarity needed to spot your target. 

In contrast, Porro-prism type binoculars may be a bit bulky, heavy, or less ergonomic to handle, but tend to produce great image quality. This means that when you buy cheaper, low price Porro-prisms, the image quality can be as good as that of an expensive roof-prism. However, when buying a low price roof-prism, the image quality is almost guaranteed to be less adequate than that of a similarly-priced Porro-prism. 

Or, to simplify it: 

If you’re on a strict budget: choose a Porro-prism binocular if image quality is the top priority, or a roof-prism binocular if portability is a priority. 

If you have the money to spend: choose a top-grade, high-quality roof-prism binocular to profit from both increased portability, and excellent image quality. 

Magnification

Magnification is one of the most important buying factors – if not the most important – when investing in a new pair of binoculars. Generally, magnification is indicated by a number, followed by an x, for example 10x or 15x. This formula is fortunately very easy to understand. A 10x magnification binocular will magnify an object up to 10 times its actual size. A 15x binocular will magnify an image up to 15 times its actual size, etc. 

Now, you might automatically assume that the higher the magnification factor, the better a pair of binoculars is. Technically speaking yes, you’re right. However, when it comes to actually using it in nature, sometimes less is more. 

If you plan to use your binoculars hand-held, instead of mounting them on a tripod or stand, any magnification over 12x will be a challenge. Why? Because binoculars with a magnification of more than 12x need to be kept super still and stable to produce a clear image. Any hand movement, shaking, or even minute adjustments of your grip can lead to blurry images, a loss of focus, and a loss of brightness of the image.

So, if you plan to hold your binoculars, instead of mounting them on a stand, stick to a magnification between 8x and 12x. These mid-range options are most convenient for wildlife enthusiasts, bird watching, hunting, and other ‘spotting’ activities. It offers enough magnification to see objects in nature clearly, whilst not losing focus when being hand-held. 

Also, We wouldn’t recommend a pair of compact binoculars with a magnify ability below 6x, as these tend to fall short on ability when used in the great outdoors. Plus, we’re confident you can upgrade to an 8x magnification model without actually having to spend a lot more. Giving you more value and performance, for a similar price-point. 

Objective Lens Diameter

The magnification ability of binoculars (10x, 15x, etc.) is often followed by another number: the objective lens diameter. For example, a pair of binoculars listed as ‘10×30’ offers 10 times the magnification of an object, through 30mm objective lenses. The number behind the ‘x’ refers to how large the objection lenses of the binoculars are, measured in millimeters. 

The larger the objective lens, the more light a pair of binoculars gather. This means that when viewing an object in semi-dark or shaded conditions, larger objective lenses are more capable of producing a brighter image. A downside is that large objective lenses also make the silhouette bulkier, and heavier. 

As a general rule of thumb, an objective lens diameter around 30mm should already offer sufficient brightness for regular daytime conditions. However, if you want a pair that also performs well in darker, low-light conditions, an objective lens of 40mm or more is recommended. 

Size & Weight

Both Porro-prisms and roof-prism binoculars come in all shapes and sizes. Generall, roof-prism binoculars are more streamlined and compact, but these can be a big size & weight difference between individual products. Check the product’s dimensions and weight carefully before you buy, to avoid purchasing a pair that will weigh you down when on the go. The smaller and compacter a pair of binoculars, the easier they are to store away when hiking. And the less strain they put on your arms/wrists/fingers when handling them. That said, larger and bulkier designs tend to be more durable and impact-resistant, which could also be a consideration.

For handheld binoculars, look for a design that weighs 3lbs or less to ensure comfortable handling. Anything heavier than that can quickly become cumbersome and uncomfortable.

Waterproofing

One thing we always recommend hikers, campers, or other outdoor enthusiasts, is to invest in waterproof gear. And this is no different for the best compact binoculars. As you’ll be using your binoculars outside, you need a design that can withstand all types of weather conditions and heavy-duty scenarios. Whether it’s keeping your binoculars safe from a downpour during a storm, or protecting the mechanism and lenses from dust and mud: a waterproofed design is always a great idea. 

Plus, not only will a waterproof coating keep the internal working of your binoculars dry, but they are often also fog proof as an added benefit. This means they can prevent the lenses from fogging up during temperature changes or humid conditions. You may have to spend a bit more on a waterproof design versus a non-water-resistant pair, but trust us, it’s worth the investment for the increased durability and functionality.

Eye Relief

The eye relief of binoculars refers to the distance between your eyes and the eyepiece, to see clearly. As a general rule of thumb: the higher the eye relief metric, the less strain it will put on your vision. Cheaper, low-grade models often compromise on eye relief, giving you sore eyes or even headaches due to their inadequate eye relief. Anywhere between 12mm and 17mm is recommended by experts. If you normally wear prescription glasses, look for binoculars with a slightly higher eye-relief ratio to accommodate your specs. 

 

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Caleb Cole

Caleb Cole

I grew up in Montana, spent my free time camping, hunting and fishing. I began writing as a side hobby while camping. Very happy to be working with the guys here at Outdoor Command and look forward to providing best in class outdoors content for you.