While you may think that a pair of binoculars is suitable for providing magnification power only, there’s so much more to consider when thinking about purchasing binoculars. As a matter of fact, many factors overlap and affect each other, and it’s your job to find a choice that comes with a breakeven point between the elements into consideration.
Well, I’ve spared you that effort and made it my job. In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the best compact binoculars on the market and also prepared a buying guide that you can refer to for more information or clarification regarding what each spec or number means. Without further ado, let’s delve right into it!
|Bushnell H2O||10 x 42mm||7 x 6 x 3 inches||25 ounces|
|Zeiss Terra ED||8 x 25mm||1 x 4.5 x 4.4 inches||10.9 ounces|
|Steiner BluHorizons Binoculars||8 x 22mm||4 x 4.6 x 1.8 inches||8.8 ounces|
|Nikon 16576 Monarch||10 x 30mm||4.7 x 5 x 1.9 inches||15.7 ounces|
|Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker||10 x 42mm||5.5 x 2 x 5.1 inches||22.5 ounces|
|Nikon 7579 Monarch||8 x 30mm||4.6 x 4.8 x 1.18 inches||15.3 ounces|
|Vortex Optics||10 x32mm||6.1 x 7.2 x 3.5 inches||28 ounces|
|Celestron 71346||8 x 42mm||7 x 3 x 8 inches||32 ounces|
The 8 Best Compact Binoculars in 2022
Now that we’ve gone over the options and their specs quickly, let’s delve into each of the choice’s details, including pros, cons, and most notable features.
1. Bushnell H2O – Best Overall
Bushnell H2O 10x42mm Binoculars, Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binoculars for Boating amd Travel
If you’re in the optical instruments business, you’ve definitely heard of Bushnell. This American company is well-known for its high-quality gadgets, and the Bushnell H2O doesn’t disappoint. It measures 7 x 6 x 3 inches and weighs 25 ounces, which aren’t the smallest numbers on the list but still very compact and lightweight overall.
From the name, you can tell that this pair of binoculars comes with waterproofing. It’s also fog proof and offers decent images thanks to the roof prism. With the non-slip rubberized body, you can be sure that the Bushnell H2O won’t slip out of your hands if they do get wet.
In case they do, though, there’s a rubber material that covers the gadget’s body to protect it against any shocks or bumps.
Moreover, the pair is infused with nitrogen in its O-ring seal to further enhance performance in the presence of fog, which would probably be abundant at dawn.
This Bushnell model comes with 10x magnification power and a 42mm objective length, which means that you get around 4.2 of exit pupil, and that’s why it best suits daylight activities.
What’s more, the Bushnell H2O binoculars come with several coating layers to provide you with the best light transmission as well as let enough light get through to your eyes – the 42mm objective lens does a very good job in this aspect.
If your center of focus needs adjustments, you can easily do so using the knob on the binoculars. Not to mention, the eyecups are sliding ones to provide relief and comfort. Finally, the Bushnell H2O comes with a lifetime warranty, which should put your mind at ease if you’re not sure about the quality of this pair of binoculars.
The Bushnell H2O will provide you with plenty of value for a pretty reasonable price. Though its images are not of the highest quality, the pair does give you a solid exit pupil, grip, and weatherproofing that suits the whole year and all seasons.
2. Zeiss Terra ED – Best for ED Glass
ZEISS Terra ED Pocket Binoculars, 8x25, Grey
With almost two centuries of experience in the binocular industry, Zeiss has brought the Terra ED to the table of compact binoculars, and it doesn’t fail to impress. This one is one of the most compact binoculars on the market, measuring 1 x 4.5 x 4.4 inches and weighing only 10 ounces (second lightest on the list), so it’s no trouble to take along on camping or hiking trips.
The 8 x 25mm model is even called “Pocket” to refer to how portable it is. Those numbers mean that the Zeiss Terra ED can magnify images up to 8 times compared to the naked eye, and while the 25mm objective lens size is a little small, it’s a very viable choice if you’re going to use the set in daylight.
The ED in its name refers to the fact that it uses ED glass for the lenses, and that’s why it can provide a wide field of view without compromising optical precision. Not only that, but the lenses are also coated with Hydrophobic Zeiss MC coating, which helps keep the natural colors of the objects you’re viewing, no matter how close they may be; everything will retain all the details.
Moreover, the Zeiss Terra ED design makes it easy to grip and handle, with the focus wheel falling right below your index finger naturally.
Finally, this pair of binoculars comes with a 2-year guarantee, so you can rest assured that you’ll be getting value for every penny you spend on it.
If you’re looking for high-quality and compact binoculars, you’ll love what the Zeiss Terra ED has to offer. From the ED glass lenses’ portability to its sharp images, there’s nothing to complain about except the pair is a little more expensive than other options on the list.
3. Steiner BluHorizons Binoculars – Most Compact
Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars - Unique Lens Technology, Eye Protection, Compact, Lightweight - Ideal for Outdoor Activities and Sporting Events
If you’re willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of compactness and portability, you should definitely opt for the Steiner BluHorizons. It weighs 8.8 ounces and measures 4 x 4.6 x 1.8 inches, which are the lowest numbers you’ll find on the list, and probably across the market.
The Steiner BluHorizons binoculars come with a decent 8x magnification power and a 22mm objective lens, compromising a little on the exit pupil. This means that its use is limited to morning time.
Still, its roof prism and narrow optical rubes make it easy to handle, and combined with the Autobright lens technology that automatically adapts to the surrounding environment, you’ll be getting substantial resolution, clarity, and enhanced contrast.
To further enhance the target object’s sharpness and details, the Steiner BluHorizons binoculars come with left-eye dioptric correction that you can adjust according to your needs.
The Steiner BluHorizons binoculars are ideal for those who are completely unwilling to compromise any compactness or portability. Despite being the most compact on the list, they offer a solid viewing experience with high-quality images and very convenient use.
4. Nikon 16576 Monarch – Premium Choice
Nikon Monarch Hg Wide Field of View Binocular, Black (16576)
Weighing 15.7 ounces and measuring 4.7 x 5 x 1.9 inches, the Nikon 16576 Monarch is adequately compact and lightweight, yet has incredible performance to offer.
It comes with a 10x magnification power and a 30mm objective lens, which leaves you with an exit pupil of 3. And while that’s not so high, the magnification is reliable, and the objective lens lets in plenty of light.
Nikon 16576 Monarch’s lenses are made of eco-glass with super-low dispersion, while the prisms are dielectric-coated and come with reliable phase correction.
Not to mention, the optics are entirely multi-coated, which makes images very clear and visible. And in the case that you want to make any adjustments, you can easily do so with the twist-up eyecups and locking diopter.
To enhance durability, the Nikon 16576 Monarch is nitrogen-filled for proofing against water and fog. It also uses a robust magnesium chassis for the body.
If you don’t mind paying a premium to get top-notch performance and unmatched features on a compact pair of binoculars, the Nikon 16576 Monarch would be an excellent choice for you.
5. Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker – Best for Accessories
Celestron – TrailSeeker 10x42 Binoculars – Fully Multi-Coated Optics – Binoculars for Adults – Phase and Dielectric Coated BaK-4 Prisms – Waterproof & Fogproof – Rubber Armored – 6.5 Feet Close Focus
The Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker comes at 22.5 ounces and measures 5.5 x 2 x 5.1 inches, which is a pretty good balance. With a 10x magnification power and a 42mm objective lens, you’ll be getting plenty of light passing through, and therefore a brightly-lit and sharp image.
Moreover, the Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker comes with a magnesium alloy body, which means that you’ll be getting a high durability gadget that would suit very rugged use.
The lenses are also coated multiple times to give you the ideal contrast, sharpness, and accuracy of colors to make images appear life-like with true colors.
What’s more, the Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker comes with a wide field of view that allows you to get a good look at the environment around your object and also to move within it, even if your binoculars aren’t in motion.
The eye cups on these binoculars are made of metal and equipped with multi-stops that you can adjust by twisting up the cups to adjust the position to the stop that best suits your preferences.
The Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker comes with all the accessories you could need, including a strap, case, objective lens covers, a binocular harness, and a rain guard. You can also attach the binoculars to a tripod if you want to use them for hours on end without arm fatigue. It also comes with a limited lifetime warranty and a 2-year warranty.
If you’re willing to pay a bit of a premium for a fully integrated pair of binoculars, you should definitely opt for the Celestron 71406 TrailSeeker. The gadget comes with a wide field of view, robust construction, high-quality images, and all the needed accessories, so you won’t have to spend any extra money on anything else.
6. Nikon 7579 Monarch – Best for Close Objects
Nikon 7579 MONARCH 7 8x30 Binocular (Black)
The Nikon 7579 Monarch measures 4.6 x 4.8 x 1.18 inches and weighs 15.3 ounces, making it one of the most compact and portable choices on this list. For a compact option, though, it comes with a vast field of view that reaches 435 feet at a thousand yards.
Also, the Nikon 7579 Monarch comes with a 7.8-foot close focus distance. Combined with the field of view, you’ll get binoculars that are incredibly suitable for close-range action.
Its optics are multi-coated, its chromatic aberration is negligible, and its glass minimizes dispersion while the prism is dielectric-coated for phase correction. This is why the Nikon 7579 Monarch provides you with very decent and reliable optical quality.
Moreover, the pair is also very durable thanks to the reinforced ATB polycarbonate body and nitrogen-filled chambers that make it waterproof and fogproof.
For convenience, these binoculars come with twist-up and click-stop eye cups and a detachable adapter that you can attach whenever you need.
If you’re someone that wants to get the big picture on things, you’ll enjoy the 435-foot field of view this set of binoculars has to offer. However, you have to be a daylight adventurer to enjoy the images this pair has to offer.
7. Vortex Optics – Best for Hunters
Vortex Optics Diamondback 10x42 Roof Prism Binocular
If you’ve been in the optics business for a while, you’ve probably heard of Vortex’s Diamondback binoculars, which provide a lot of value at inexpensive prices.
This one comes with a 10x magnification power and a 32mm objective lens, so you’ll be getting plenty of light passing through your gadget. You can simply place it on a tripod and enjoy uninterrupted hunting or bird watching, especially with a 393-foot field of view, which is pretty wide.
However, the closest you can be to the object of focus is 7 feet; otherwise, images will begin looking distorted.
This pair of binoculars weigh 28 ounces and measure 6.1 x 7.2 x 3.5 inches, which is quite compact and sufficiently lightweight for taking on long trips where you do a lot of hiking or trekking.
The focus knob is very ergonomic as it doesn’t have any slack or backslap, which makes adjusting it require a lot less effort.
If you’re looking for a very compact pair of binoculars that would serve you well while you’re hunting and give you a wide field of view, you should opt for the Vortex.
8. Celestron 71346 – Best for Short Distances
Celestron – Outland X 8x42 Binoculars – Waterproof & Fogproof – Binoculars for Adults – Multi-Coated Optics and BaK-4 Prisms – Protective Rubber Armoring
With an 8x magnification power and a 42mm objective lens, the Celestron 71346 provides you with a 5.25 exit pupil, which means that you’ll be getting plenty of light passing through and into your eyes.
Despite that, the binoculars come at compact dimensions of 7 x 3 x 8 inches and weigh 32 ounces. Though these are not the lowest numbers on the list, they’re still pretty great for compact choices.
To give you more clarity, higher resolution, and color accuracy, this pair is equipped with a bak4 prism.
The lenses on the Celestron 71346 come with several coatings to improve the contrast and brightness, no matter how rough the conditions are. This is especially true thanks to the rubber case that covers the binoculars’ body, and that’s why they suit several purposes, including hunting, bird watching, landscape watching, fishing, stargazing, and general outdoor activities.
To give you a wider field of view, the Celestron 71346 comes with adjustable eye relief, and with 14mm specs, they suit even those who wear glasses. During use, this pair provides you with reliable resistance, thanks to the fact that it has no slack. By just a ¾ turn of the knob, you can go through the entire range of focus.
You can definitely rely on the Celestron 71346 to have your back even in wet or foggy environments as it’s infused with nitrogen to make it both fog and waterproof.
The Celestron 71346 is the perfect pair of binoculars for anyone looking for a gadget that provides clear images, good for use throughout the entire year, and feels comfortable without having to pay a fortune.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the fact that many aspects that influence the performance of a pair of binoculars overlap and that some even have inverse relationships makes the process of choosing a solid pair very hard. That’s especially true if you consider all the jargon involved, which could deter people who aren’t well-versed with these gadgets.
For these reasons, I’ve prepared this comprehensive buying guide that includes all the information you may need and covers all the bugging questions you may have in mind.
Magnification Power and Size of the Objective Lens
The magnification power and objective lens size are two numbers that go hand-by-hand, but don’t necessarily correlate to one another.
To illustrate, let’s take the Celestron 71346, for example. Its magnification power is 8 x 42mm, which means that the images you look at will appear 8 times bigger than they would to the naked eye, while the size of the objective lens measures 42 millimeters.
The first part is pretty straightforward, and through the first measurement, you’ll be able to gauge the number of details you’ll be getting.
However, bear in mind that with the magnification power, a bigger number isn’t always better. This is because, with higher levels of magnification, the binoculars are bound to move around a lot due to your own natural movements, which would make the images look shakier.
As a rule of thumb, 8x magnification power is good for general purposes like bird watching and so on.
On the other hand, the second number, which is the lens’s size, seems obvious but entails more details. The objective lens is the one that sits furthest from your eyes, and in the Celestron 71346’s case, it is 42 millimeters in size.
In terms of sizes and their relation to compactness, a 42mm objective lens is not the most compact, but it’s still good enough for throwing inside your backpack without taking too much space.
The real indicator behind the objective lens size is how much light it would allow into your eyes. The bigger it is, the more light it would allow to pass through, consequently enhancing your vision.
That’s why you should opt for bigger objective lenses if you’re going to use them for low-light conditions. However, if you’re going to use them at dusk or in the morning, they might be too bright and compromise visibility.
Magnification Power, Field of View, and Exit Pupil
The field of view is another aspect that involves magnification power. It refers to how much area you’d be able to see when your binoculars magnify the image of the object you’re looking at. Generally, the average field of view on the market would range between 310 and 340 feet.
Usually, the higher your binoculars’ magnification power, the smaller their field of view would be. So, if you’re concerned with more visibility of the object, you can sacrifice the field of view for a higher magnification power. While if you’re bird watching or checking out landscapes, you should get the widest field of view at the expense of magnification power.
Finally, the exit pupil is basically the diameter of the objective lens divided by the magnification power. So, the Celestron 71346 would have a 5.25 exit pupil (42 / 8), a measurement of the light that reaches your eyes.
Generally, an 8 x 56mm would be the brightest you could get for practical purposes. It would give you an exit pupil of 7, and the average person’s ability to receive light is around 6 millimeters. So, that’s why you don’t see options with numbers higher than that.
When you’re considering binoculars, you’ll be faced with two types: objective (the one furthest from your eyes) and ocular (the one closest to your eyes).
Both of them are made of glass that’s specifically designed to magnify objects. Still, the difference in the speed of differently-colored light waves passing through them can cause a distortion that’s known as “chromatic aberrations.”
To deal with such distortions, manufacturers have to add coats to the lenses whose job is to unify the speed at which all light rays travel to process them simultaneously and correct the aberrations. Alternatively, extra-low dispersion (ED) can be used, which does the same job with no special coats.
However, binoculars with ED glass are usually more expensive, and it’s harder to find a compact pair of binoculars with ED glass.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some coated lenses have better performance than others, so make sure you know what you’re opting for before making the purchase.
There are two types of prisms: Porro and roof. They work on fixing the images that would otherwise appear upside down and backward.
A Porro prism is the one that’s more commonly used, especially on older binoculars. It works by sending the length of the prism’s image, sending it to another prism for a 90-degree turn, and then sending it to the ocular lens for another 90-degree turn. And though the mechanism might sound outdated, Porro prisms still give high-quality images at very affordable prices.
On the other hand, roof prisms are located at the roof of your gadget and use advanced, roof-looking prisms. Though they’re a little pricier, the most significant advantage of roof prisms is that they’re ideal for compact binoculars. Bear in mind, however, that they also usually have smaller objective lenses and a smaller field of view.
On the topic of prisms, roof ones take the cake when it comes to durability, which is why they’re amazing choices for outdoor activities like camping, hiking, or hunting.
It wouldn’t make sense to look for the most durable pair of binoculars and pay extra money for a roof prism if you’re going to use it for bird watching from the patio, though, so make sure you match the specs and features to the purpose.
Another thing to be on the lookout for is whether your binoculars are gas-sealed or not. A gas-sealed pair comes with a main chamber filled with nitrogen or argon. Generally, they take out the oxygen and pump it with an inert gas to prevent any fog or vapor from distorting your vision by gathering it on the lens.
What’s more, you should opt for waterproof binoculars if you’re going to use them during winters or rain. Also, if you’re going marine life-watching, you can’t compromise on a water-resistant pair of binoculars. Getting ones with a reliable outer coat is also another way to make sure that water won’t invade them if you drop them and provide a good grip, even if they become wet.
A diopter is typically found on the right eyepiece, which you can use to make adjustments if the center of focus goes out of alignment due to small bumps or hits that your binoculars are bound to take. The diopter enables you to align the left and right eye’s strength to have the same focus.
Binoculars with eye relief would be a lot more convenient as they have retractable eyecups that provide more comfort for those who wear glasses or extend to provide extra shade. The best ones are those with multi-adjustable and durable eyecups.
If you wear eyeglasses, set the eyecups to the minimum position and make sure you don’t see any black rings encompassing the image. If you don’t find any, then the pair has enough eye relief for you.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t make a verdict depending on the accessories as they can be replaced or bought, but they just add more convenience to the experience and give you a greater overall value if they come with the set of binoculars.
The handiest ones would be a carrying case, a wiping cloth to keep the lenses clean, lens caps to protect the lenses during storage and periods in which you won’t use them, and a neck strap for more effortless mobility when you have the binoculars on you.
Binoculars According to Specific Uses
If you’re not sure how to match certain specs of your binoculars to the features we’ve discussed, here are the most popular uses and the types that suit them.
If you’re going to travel around a lot with your set of binoculars, you should opt for mid-range magnification and field of view, which you can easily find on compact and lightweight models.
- Watching Birds
This purpose requires a wide field of view and magnification power of around 7x. You can go for a higher number as long as it doesn’t compromise on the field of view.
- Outdoor Activities
If you’re going to take your binoculars while you’re hiking, camping, or hunting, you should opt for models that combine a lot of portability and durability. Usually, a magnification power ranging between 8x and 10x would be good enough for outdoor activities’ general purposes.
You have to make sure you get a pair with a large objective lens diameter to take in more light and reliable coating to provide reliable performance in both low light and bright conditions.
- Marine Life
For this purpose, you’ll need a wide field of view and vibration reduction. Needless to say, you have to get a pair with solid waterproofing.
This purpose is a little particular, and for it, you’ll need particularly large objective lenses and exit pupils. Also, make sure the pair comes with reliable aberration correction.
If you want to watch your favorite team play using binoculars, you should opt for more expansive fields of view and magnification power of around 7x to 10x. If you can land one that’s capable of zooming in and out, that would be a jackpot!
- Museums or Theater
To get the best vision of a stage performance, you should opt for compact binoculars with magnification powers ranging between 4x and 10x. Make sure the pair is lightweight and has a focus distance below the 6.5-foot mark.
What is the best size binoculars for general use?
8 to 10x magnification
Is 10×42 good for binoculars?
10×42 are best for things like bird watching, hunting, concerts, sports events, etc, because they have high magnification, good light quality, and yet are still easy to hold steady.
How much does a good set of binoculars cost?
The top-scoring binoculars in the $150–$300 range.
Now that we’ve reached the end of our reviews on the best compact binoculars, hopefully, you’ve been able to make up your mind about something. If not, here’s a quick recap.
If you’re looking for a pair that gives you a little of everything, you should opt for the Bushnell H2O for their robust construction, portability, weatherproofing, and reliable imaging.
However, if you’re looking for high-quality ED glass lenses, which are a little rare on compact binoculars, you should definitely opt for the Zeiss Terra.
The Steiner BluHorizons binoculars would be the best option for those who don’t want to sacrifice a gram of compactness and lightweight, while the Nikon 16576 Monarch would be the top choice for those who are looking for ultimate performance and don’t mind spending a handsome amount on it.