Binocular is probably the most important gear for watching and observing nature, birding, sporting, hunting, stargazing and other outdoor adventures that let you see the world up close.
Over the years I’ve owned many binoculars everything from inexpensive to premium ones. I pride myself in that I have reviewed only those ones that I have actually used and tested. I have used and researched hundreds of binoculars and selected the very best binoculars for 2020. Whatever your budget is, whatever your requirements are, whatever expertise you have, you will learn something new by reading through my reviews.
The internet is littered with fake reviews. So, if you have no idea where to start I hope my reviews and buying guide will help you in choosing the right pair of binoculars.
Best Binocular Reviews
The idea for ‘Top Binocular’ website came about from my obsessed mind that always seeks for better performance at cheaper price. Thus the aim of Top Binocular is to help you in some way by providing real information on binoculars and scopes, while avoiding biased reviews with tips and guides to those looking into buying a pair. You may find binoculars for as little as $10. But remember, you will get what you pay for. From my experience I can tell that a minimally decent 8×32 or 8×40 porro prism binocular should cost at least $40, and a roof prism binocular of at least $60. Once you buy and find that your binoculars are not of good quality, it would be difficult to enjoy them. So, do not be coaxed with marketing hypes of high end specs (fully multi-coated, Bak 4 roof prism, etc.). There are so many important factors to consider that you may not be aware of.
Keep in mind, binoculars are specific to purpose, and a jack of all trade wouldn’t be satisfactory. All binoculars look good in the manufacturer’s website or in a display case but only the expert eyes can make the difference between the good and bad. The purpose of this website is to help you choose the best binoculars for your intended purpose. I, along with my small team, have carefully chosen and reviewed the top binoculars after a close comparison of the top-rated options that we have in the market.
Top Bird Watching Binoculars 2020
With the bird watching season approaching, it’s best to get your gear in check – and there’s no better way for doing this than with binoculars. With a crisp and clear view, all you have to do is to sit back and marvel at nature’s magnificence.
Here, certain elements matter: a professional birdwatcher would require something a little bit different than an occasional, recreational, backyard birdwatcher.
As professional birdwatchers spend longer time and observe more details of bird habits, they may need more sophisticated optics, and more comfortable design. To the professional birdwatchers, the best binoculars are those that won’t give eyestrain for prolonged uses (accurate optical alignments matter), that have minimal chromatic aberration and image distortion (quality optics matter), that have higher light transmission capabilities for low light situations (optical coatings matter). Certainly, those binoculars are much more expensive but you’ll get what you pay for [Leica Noctivid, Leica Trinovid HD, Zeiss Victory SF, Zeiss Conquest HD, Swarovski El].
However, for the occational or recreational birdwatchers the following three should be the perfect choice.
If optical performance and design can fully define a binocular, then Meopta MeoPro HD is at the top of its class. The first thing that struck me about Meopta MeoPro HD 8×42 binocular is how well combination of quality, performance and price it is. From the great optics quality and collimation to the long narow design with rubberized armour, 3 click stops eye-cups, indentations for thumbs, fully darkened inside, it has been designed with practicality in mind. It feels very premium and well-balanced at hand. I hope birders will appreciate them.
Small things often make the difference between good binoculars and great binoculars. Here comes Vortex Viper HD 8×42 binoculars; when you hold them, you’ll feel how premium they sense at your hand. They use really very high-quality optics that I would be confidently using at any condition at any circumstances. A real highlight on these vortex binoculars is their minimum close focusing distance of only 5.1 feet which is about 1.6 meters and anything under six feet is very good. They allow a lot more light in low light situations, so they can be use for bird watching as well as for multipurpose uses. Indeed, this binocular is built to give you the best performance from all quarters.
Wingspan SkyView 8×42 binoculars come with everything a birdwatcher needs in order to capture those breathtaking and memorable views that makes bird watching so much fun. The wide field of view mean you can easily find birds as they fly by. The phase correction coating on the prisms and the ED glasses keep the colors as clear and bright as you in the pictures. They are lightweight, waterproof, fog-proof so you can use them in any whether, any time. The best part with this pair is that they come with life-time warranty.
Top Binoculars for Nature or Mountain Viewing
I don’t know how a mountain trip would be great without a pair of binoculars! The zig-zag mountains paths and scenic beauty of rare flora and fauna can’t be fully enjoyed without a pair of binocular. As you maneuver your way deep in the forest or across the countryside, a binocular in hand would help you find your way as well as get a good glimpse of natural beauty.
While choosing binoculars for enjoying wide countryside beauty or mountain view I would emphasize on wide field of view. Choose a pair that has at least 350 feet linear field of view at 1000 yards. If you like butterflying or want to observe close-up views of flowers, caterpillars, etc. then the best binoculars will be something that have a minimum close focus distance of 6.5 feet (2.0 m) or less.
The Bushnell Nature View 10×42 binocular was created purposefully to watch birds, nature and wildlife. Due to its sophisticated design, full water, and fog proof and non-slip rubber coating, they are preferred for an outdoor trip. If it slips and falls, the rugged case encased in rubber is going to protect it from getting damaged. Since I sweat a lot when on my nature walk, I would go for this to secure their inner components. I wouldn’t like something damaged quarter way on my nature walk. Out camping and wouldn’t mind an evening, relaxing by the side of your tent viewing the extensive nature; the Bushnell is easily attachable on a tripod stand. You get a crisp and clear view since it is made out of the best BaK-4 prism design. This is a higher quality glass that offers brighter images with better sharpness.
As is with any product, there is always something else comparable. Consider the Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binocular. It is still great for wide angle view, also it is a lightweight product. I wouldn’t like to carry something heavy for an excursion; it would make it boring. Something light and compact is what you need; it would be easy to carry on long excursions.
Hawke Endurance ED 8×32 binoculars are the perfect choice if you want to observe nature and mountain view. These binoculars are extreamly lightweight (only 1.2 lbs) and high quality build. They feel very solid and premium at hand. They come with fully multi coated ED glasses that will guarantee the perfect image quality and a quick elimination of the color aberration effects. Another good thing with these binoculars is that the prism is treated with Silver Mirror Coating which is very common with flagship models only.
Top Compact Binoculars 2020
Compact binoculars usually have smaller front lens (objective lens) which is the second binocular number. In general, binoculars with an objective lens of 28 mm or less are considered compact. Compact binoculars should fit in your pocket. They are ideal for travel, hiking and safari.
The best quality binoculars usually use comparatively large optics that need extra materials to give the binoculars a bigger shape. But to deal with the challenges of outdoor environment you need the compact and lightweight design. This contradiction has been a real challenge for binocular manufacturers. Recently the technology has improved so fast that binocular manufacturers can produce very compact models while not sacrificing the quality that much. But this comes with price.
While we understand that compactness and affordability don’t come together, we tried to make a balance between the two.
If you are looking for compact binoculars with exceptionally sharp image, then Bushnell 8×25 H2O binoculars could be your best choice. These waterproof compact binoculars deliver high optical performance with its 8 power and 25-millimeter objective lenses. It comes with high quality BAK 4 roof prisms as well as fully multi-coated optics which provide enhanced contrast for ultra-sharp image clarity across the entire field of view. Even with compact design it can resolve fine details of objects. Avalon Binoculars are designed and manufactured by Avalon Optics. Avalon 8×32 mini HD binoculars are one of my favorite models for its unique and compact design. They produce very sharp image quality with wide field of view. Avalon 8×32 mini HD binoculars use fully multi-coated optics that produce very good beautiful vivid images. They are protected with 100% waterproof and fog proof technology. So, are Avalon Binoculars Any Good? Yes, comparing a number of Avalon binoculars models, including the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD and the Avalon 8×32 mini HD binoculars, I must admit that this model is a great one. They are designed for birding, concerts, boating, butterfly spotting, and many other nature-walk activities.
Enter the Nikon Trailblazer 10X25 Binoculars – a multipurpose, compact binocular with a huge fan base. If you are looking for a backup pair, to keep in your backpack, then this will be a perfect spare. It is also one of the best pocket binoculars 2020 in current market. When procuring a compact binocular, five inches is sufficient and the fact that this one weighs less than a pound. The double hinge system allows it to fold and keep it away in your travel case. Although the product compromises a little bit on the exit pupil, well, for day use, you are going to be okay since you also have a broad view as well as multicoated optics with a BaK-4 glass prism. What you get are a high resolution and quality image. For a compact binocular, it is an excellent value for money with a price tag of below $100. Small designs are great for sightseeing, hiking, and birdwatching which are mostly outdoor events.
Don’t fool by their sizes! I have carefully tasted these 3 binoculars; the performance is really good.
Best Long Range Binoculars 2020
Long range binoculars can be used to observe objects in the distance such as watching water birds from your deck out on the the lake or purpose-built hides, or observing wildlife animals while hunting, or watching ships from the beach, and even for watching night skies or stargazing. While 10x magnification is best for all purposes (including observing dim celestial bodies), sometimes you may want higher magnification to resolve objects even better (especially for sky objects). It’s important to mention that the greatest magnification requires the largest objective diameter. Otherwise the image quality deteriorates as magnification increases.
Taking into account that you would like to observe mostly the night sky, it is still best to select 10×50 binoculars. Smaller ones are not that much cheaper, but the larger ones are much more expensive if same quality optics is to maintain. With a 10×50 model the exit pupil is expected to be 5 mm and at the same time the magnification still enables us to observe the sky without a tripod. The field of view (FoV) should be at least 6° (that the higher magnification binos can’t achieve), which is a good indication of better eyepieces and more appropriate for astronomical observations. Numerous experienced observers agree with this choice (10×50, 6°) that makes excellent value for money.
Nikon Action Extreme 10×50 ATB is ideal for astronomy use to observe dim celestial bodies. Although mainly made for this, some daytime activities like birdwatching and sightseeing aren’t out of the question. ATB in the name denotes All-Terrain Binocular; extreamly rugged and can go anywhere. This binocular offers the best viewing experience at the cheapest cost. This is a full-sized binocular, so the weight is an insignificant worry when you compare its objective lens capability. Well, you get more light, making your night-time viewing of celestial being detailed.
Another great pick for astronomical use or bird watching is the Canon 10×42 L IS. This pair of binoculars is fully waterproof and comes with image stabilized functionality. Bird watching experience is all about clarity and you wouldn’t like your crisp, clear images to be destroyed by blurriness. Just push the IS button, and you get a perfect view of the birds or at the night time the view of nebula or the galaxy. Considering its versatility, you can even utilize it for other outdoor activities. It is compact, lightweight, water-resistant and of high quality.
If you are interested in a telescope but something less bulky. The Orion Resolux 15×70 is perfect. What differentiates a binocular from a telescope it’s the ease of movement. It is easy to carry this binocular anywhere if you are interested in an extended view without the tiring set up of a telescope. What you get are sharp and clear images from quality BaK-4 prisms and multi-coatings. If you are an eye-glass wearer like me, this offers you an impressive 18 mm eye relief; something that you can hold by hand perfectly.
Best Value Binoculars 2020
Binoculars are made for different outdoor pursuits. But the best value binoculars should be an all-around performer. They should give sharp, bright images with accurate color rendition and little observable distortion. As you want the better image quality at a lower cost that won’t give much image distortion, the ideal model should be something in between 8×32 and 8×42. The build quality is another important factor because it affects the comforts and image quality. Sometimes we found the two optical tubes are not completely parallel to obtain good image quality. The quality of the optics, coatings applied on the lenses and other additional features matter quite a lot too. Considering all the attributes we have selected the following models as the best value binoculars in 2020.
There are some debates that whether the Athlon Binoculars can be called the Titans of the optics world. I know there are other Titans from Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss but Athlon is somehow different from them in a way. Yes, this is the price range – quality at an affordable price. The Athlon Midas 8×42 is one such model that is better in many ways than most other similar priced models from other brands. That being the case it offers all the features (Bak-4 prisms, dielectric coating, phase correction coatings, ED glass, fully multicoated lenses) you get from the other Titans but at a much lower price tag.
Next in line is the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD Binoculars. They are one of my favorite models for unique and compact design. They come with a standardized 8X magnification power offering decent wide view. Ideally small in size but with a big appetite for performance, this mini HD binocular like the name suggests will be best suited for traveling adventures, ideal for travel, hiking, bird watching sprees, boating, events, or live concerts.
My last pick is Meade Wilderness 8×42. Meade produces good quality binoculars at such an affordable price! Meade Wilderness 8×42 binoculars are also no exception. The wilderness series has several models ranging from compact size to full-size binoculars. My review team has tested the most popular model Meade 8×42 and became surprised that they outperform many other big contenders both in design (feels very solid at hand) and performance. This 8×42 model can be used as a general-purpose binocular i.e., in birding, hiking, safari or even in hunting. These Meade binoculars are obviously one of the best choice binoculars for both price and performance. I was very satisfied with their performance and buil quality.
The money you spend may be excessive for the relatively small gain in performance. So as you can see “good value” is related to what you perceive to be a reasonable amount of money. Throughout our website, we have tried to exclude the binocular models with unnecessary cost but with good value for money.
Top Wide Angle Binoculars [Fish-eye]
A binocular magnification and field of view (FOV) are closely connected. As I said before the more powerful magnification is, the narrower your field of view tends to be. There are many situations where a really wide field of view is preferable to a powerful magnification. When you go on a sightseeing, visit tourist attractions, or watch sports, concerts, opera you may prefer more wide views rather than high magnification.
With a wider field of view, it means that you will find moving objects faster and easier. This is why the best affordable binoculars for birding or safari tend to come with lower magnifications and higher FOV’s. This is more true for sporting binoculars. Wide view binoculars tend to have reduced eye relief so they may need eye-cups.
Wide angle binoculars should have Angle of View (Real field of view) of around 7.5° or more and FOV of around 132m at 1,000m (396ft at 1,000 yards).
The Bushnell 4X30 Spectator Sports Binocular befits this purpose perfectly. First, they are manufactured utilizing great quality optics. With Permafocus Technology, you don’t have to keep adjusting to view distant object or put them in focus. It is a waterproof binocular as well as fog proof. This pair is probably the best one I have ever tested for concert and sports view.
Another amazing product from Celestron is the Celestron Granite 8×42 Binocular. It is a great looking bino with practical advantages. You get a perfect grip that is less weighty. I usually prefer holding my binocular in a comfortable grip; whereby it cannot get intertwined with branches as I maneuver my way in the forest. Also, when in a hilly landscape, I would prefer something that is light, not too bulky; I wouldn’t like to add weight when climbing up.
Indeed, quality and great attention to detail matter a lot in wide angle binocular. The Eschenbach Trophy D 8×56 ED Binoculars is a proud expression of attention to detail.
Determining the High (Best) Quality Binoculars
Over the past few decades technology have improved to the extent that binoculars of average quality can be manufactured very cheaply. So, in most of the cases people tend to be satisfied with poor to average quality unless they have tried better optics with which to compare it. As a result, binoculars that may have been rejected by quality control get accepted to some customers, particularly if the price is low. But once you use high quality binoculars it would be really difficult to be satisfied with average or poor quality ones. Hence, it is important to understand some features and testing methods of binoculars before you buy.
Here is the guide to choosing high quality binoculars for your next big outdoor adventure:
You know ‘you get what you pay for’. Quality binoculars are of course pricey, but also there are some best binoculars for money as well. If you research you may get some top quality binoculars at very decent price range. So set a budget before you set out to shop. Know what you are willing to spend and how comfortable you are while spending it. There isn’t any need to spend on impulse.
Apart from the price, understand the reasons why you need the pair of quality binoculars. What are you going to use it for? If you are a n occational birdwatcher an astrological binocular may not be exactly what you need. This is because the design and overall optical quality of an astronomical binocular should be different than the terrestrial binoculars.
Magnification & Objective
There are two numbers that you will find on good binoculars for example 8×42, 7×20, or 10×42. These numbers refer to the magnification and objective respectively. A 10×42 pair for instance means it has a 10X magnification power (the object can be seen 10X closer than they actually are); while the 42 refers to the objective lens diameter in millimeters. The larger the objective lens diameter the brighter the view you will get.
Lens Glass Type
The types of glass that are used in quality binoculars also play a huge role. High quality binoculars contains a sophisticated combination of lenses to give you different view variations. Generic glasses could have specific imperfections thus needs great polishing to bend the light correctly. It is therefore important to focus on specialized glasses for instance low dispersion or even extra low dispersion glasses that are virtually engineered to have minimum distortion when transmitting light. When this is done, the resulting image will always remain clearer, crisp, sharper, and with the correct color rendition and possibly a higher contrast.
BAK 4 Prisms
Barium Clown Glass commonly referred to as the BAK4 is viewed as the very best glass if you are looking for a good quality prism material. It boasts of a high refractive index and enjoys a lower critical angle compared to the BK7 and the SK15 glasses. It is therefore no surprise that the BAK4 will transmit light better with pretty much less or no light lost at all. Buying good binoculars with this prism would be a plus.
These are films of coatings (usually magnesium fluoride, MgF2) that are often applied on the surfaces of the binocular’s lens so as to reduce the glare and light reflections while at the same time increasing the contrast and light transmission. An uncoated lens will reflect at least 4 percent of the light or more. By using right coatings, this can be reduced to as low as about 0.15 percent and will leave you with more vivid colors and also bright images.
Apart from the lens coatings are the prism coatings. These ones will also increase light reflections and consequently improve the brightness and the contrast of the images. A common coating for the prism is the “phase-correction” coating that corrects the “phase-shift” and gives you a great image.
Field of View
The field of view (angle of view) refers to the amount of scenery that you are able to view clearly under the lens when measured horizontally. A wide and comfortable view is always a plus (usually 8×42 and 10×42 models). But some people also like narrow field of view (usually 8×32 and 10×32 models) because it helps them concentrate on the object under observation.
Finally, you should choose a durable build quality binocular. Hard plastic covers are much more durable especially when fixed with additional metallic alloy/ plates. The components of your binoculars should not move when shaken. The external cover should be close contact with the binocular housing.
With so many models in the market today, it’s important to have the right info. It is out of this knowledge that we decided to help. We consist of a group of highly experienced optics experts and enthusiasts. We had one objective in mind – to get every vital fact about optics and share it with the world. We have tried hundreds of binoculars, and dozens of spotting scopes and telescopes and other optical devices. Evaluating a product is a complex process – that’s true. We buy optics, find loved one who own other pairs, and borrow from binoculars suppliers for over a month or two. This allows us to have enough time to review every model that we give you here. Once we have collected them, we run similar tests on every one of them. We do comprehensive field tests for each optical device. Then we write our reviews meticulously. It takes time and it needs patience – but we love what we do. Our tests are designed to make every binocular user to learn and profit from them. And while every binocular looks good in the display shelf it is never the case. So it’s important to have carefully chosen and reviewed binoculars. Our work is to provide you with that review.