Best Binocular Reviews in 2018

Best Binocular Reviews

For our money, we’d recommend the Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular for the majority of people. The zoom is about right for a wide variety of applications and the Monarch design is an absolute classic. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something a bit more specialized then we’ve got you covered. There’s a lot of sets out there, and there’s definitely something for everyone.

Binoculars are handy items to have around, but finding a good pair can be something of a pain. Since they’re such a technical object, it takes some time in order to make sure that you’ve got the best pair possible. It’s not nearly as hard as some people make it out to be, however, but finding a great pair as opposed to a good one can mean all the difference. At the end of the day it really depends on how exactly you’re planning on using your set.

Best
overall
pick!

Nikon 7576 MONARCH

Best overall: Nikon 7576 MONARCH

For the majority of users, the Nikon Monarch 5 is a great all-around binocular which is usable for a wide variety of activities but they’ll cost you a good amount.

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Top 5 Binoculars

Name Zoom Rating
Nikon 7576 MONARCH 8×42 or 10×42 5/5 Check Price
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof 10×42 4.5/5 Check Price
Bushnell Legend L-Series 10×42 4/5 Check Price
Bushnell Powerview Compact 8×21 3.5/5 Check Price
Bushnell Falcon 133410 7×35 4/5 Check Price

1. Best Overall Binoculars

Nikon 7576 MONARCH

Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular

Product Rating
5/5




Unless you’re going to spend thousands of dollars, we strongly recommend that you consider the Monarch 5 series by Nikon. They’re fantastically constructed and come in both 8×42 and 10×42 zoom sizes.

With large objective lenses and great, coated lenses you’ll be able to get a ton of optical clarity. You’ll also find the center zoom is super easy to use and they come with a rubberized, durable body which can take a mild hit without any difficulty.

For birdwatchers and star gazers, these are an absolute godsend. Even hunters will get quite a bit of usage out of these, since the large objective lens allows for quick sighting and quite a bit of light retention even in twilight conditions.

For the majority of users, the Nikon Monarch 5 is a great all-around binocular which is usable for a wide variety of activities but they’ll cost you a good amount.

Pros and Cons

  • Awesome optical clarity with coated lenses
  • Tough body
  • Smooth central focus
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Expensive
  • Lens caps are subpar

2. Best Birdwatching Binoculars

Bushnell H2O Waterproof:Fogproof

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular

Product Rating
4.5/5




With a sleek design and roof prisms, this pair of Bushnell binoculars makes a great accompaniment for birdwatchers. Even in the foggy early mornings you’ll be able to see clearly thanks to their waterproofing and coated lenses.

The outer design is great as well. This pair of binoculars is both sturdy and easily graspable, so you can maintain a tight watch on what you’re doing during the day. They’ve got a 10×42 zoom configuration as well, with a big objective lens that doesn’t get into a ridiculous size.

Our only issue is that the center focus of these binoculars is a bit cumbersome, so most of the time you’ll have to be fixed on the position already to get the absolute best view. The zoom also isn’t great for observing the sky at night, you’ll want to relegate these to daytime duty for the most part. This is due to the coating, which makes the lenses pretty dang good but not the best in class. On the other hand, they’re a lot better than you’d expect for the price.

If you’re into birding, however, then you’ll quickly find that these are your favorite new companion. The ability to stand up in any weather combined with the perfect size and lenses makes them stand out from the competition.

Pros and Cons

  • 10×42 zoom configuration
  • Awesome, durable body to hold onto
  • Perfect size for carrying on short trips
  • Completely waterproof
  • Clarity suffers in low light conditions
  • Center zoom is a bit cumbersome

3. Best Hunting Binoculars

Bushnell Legend L-Series

Bushnell Legend L-Series 10x42mm Binoculars

Product Rating
4/5



Hunting is a specialized activity, and those who participate in it tend to get pretty picky about their gear. Fortunately, these 10×42 binoculars have more than enough to keep most hunters happy.

They have a lightweight magnesium body which is extremely durable, a camouflage coating, and are waterproof. In addition to that, the prism coating keeps you with clear optics no matter what might be going on around you with the weather.

The only thing that we’d really like to see extra on them is a bit more ridging along the tops for grip, but paired with the right harness it’s barely a concern at all.

If you need a pair of binoculars for hunting, you’ll find that the Bushnell Legend L-series makes for the best combination of affordability and great optics possible. Pick them up and don’t miss a thing while you’re in the woods

Pros and Cons

  • 10x42mm with wide field of view
  • Camouflage coating for decreased visibility
  • Coated lenses and prism
  • Waterproof
  • Could use some more grip
  • Lens covers have a tendency to get lost

4. Best Compact Binoculars

Bushnell Powerview Compact

Bushnell Powerview Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular

Product Rating
3.5/5



Compact binoculars are made for different uses than full sized ones. We love this pair of Bushnells, they have a great zoom to objective lens ratio for something which will easily fit in your pocket.

Since they fold up, most people can fit them in just about any bag they might have on them without issue as well. This is awesome for those who are hiking and just need to get a bit better of a look at the terrain.

The center focus is also remarkably well placed for being used while you have your eyes on the cups, which is awesome. Of course, with this small of an objective lens you’ll be kind of out of luck in lower light condition but they’ll still be better than nothing.

If you’ve been looking for an awesome pair of compact binoculars then put these Bushnells in your bag and never have to worry about going without optical enhancement ever again.

Pros and Cons

  • Highly portable due to folding design
  • Great magnification for size
  • Easy to use center focus
  • Rugged outer coating
  • Small objective lens
  • Not waterproof

5. Best Budget Binoculars

Bushnell Falcon 133410 Binoculars

Bushnell Falcon 133410 Binoculars with Case

Product Rating
4/5



If you’ve been looking to ensure that you end up with a great pair of binoculars, but you aren’t keen on spending a ton of money to get them, then the Bushnell Falcon is right up your alleyway.

They’re about as cheap as we can recommend in good conscience, and don’t expect them to live up to the others on our list, but these 7x32mm Porro prism binoculars will definitely do in more than a pinch.

They focus extremely well and quickly, which makes them awesome for spotting moving targets, but they don’t really have the requisite power for star gazing. As a cheap, beginner’s pair of bird watchers they’d do just fine.

If you’re looking for the best binoculars you can find in a super low price range, these are them. If you have the budget we’d recommend something a little bit more specialized, but they’re definitely good enough for a first pair.

Pros and Cons

  • Super cheap for the quality
  • Extremely fast focusing
  • Great for bird watching and hunting
  • Come with a fantastic carrying case
  • Not the best for stationary night time gazing
  • Rather large and heavy

Uses for Binoculars

Binoculars are generally used by hunters and bird watchers, of course, but there are a ton of different uses if you’re looking to make sure that you get the most out of your purchase.

Give some of these uncommon uses a shot:

  • While camping or hiking, binoculars are a great thing to carry along. Even a small compact pair can help you see trail conditions ahead as long as you have the proper vantage point.
  • Sporting events are another great place to bring your optics. You’ll be able to see the action up close even if you’re in the nosebleed seats. They also work excellent for concerts for that exact reason.
  • You should always have a pair of binoculars while on a boat, particularly for marine uses. They can be used to spot other vehicles, stranded swimmers, and other aquatic life.
  • Sky gazing while out in the wild is a great use as well, especially since they’re more portable than your average telescope. With a lack of light pollution you’re going to get a serious view in many areas.

As you can see, having a pair of good binoculars pays for itself pretty quickly in one way: experience.

Everyone should pick up some, they’re simply fantastic to have around.

Picking Your Binoculars

Portability and Waterproofing

Despite their relatively low tech construction, you’ll find that there’s a lot of technical stuff that you want to pick up on when it comes to making sure the binoculars you have fit your needs.

Let’s dive into it, to make sure that you’ve got a good idea of what you’re looking at when you snatch a pair.

Zoom

The zoom is one of the most important features behind your binoculars.

You’ll see a lot of things like 10×42, which can be confusing for someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking at just yet. In that instance, you’d be looking at 10x optical zoom with a 42mm objective lens.

Your objective lens determines the resolution, or clarity, that you’ll get throughout the zoom. Basically, larger lenses make for a clearer picture.

Of course, they also make for a more difficult time carrying the binoculars you’re looking at, so if you’re looking for a compact model for ultralight backpacking or the like then you may have to sacrifice some of the resolution for more portability.

The best way to do that is to not max out on the zoom size when you’re looking at a smaller objective lens. Really, if everything blurs out then you’re not going to get much use out of them.

As a general rule, anything under 30mm is going to suffer greatly in quality. There are some exceptions, usually expensive exceptions, to this rule but it’s a good way to check things out if you’re not buying from one of the big brands.

As a general rule 8x-10x is the most common magnification and the preferred one for hunters and hikers. Something with a little bit less zoom is more appropriate for shows and games, unless you’re really in the nosebleed section.

Larger objective lenses are also recommended for hunters and bird watchers, since they can allow you to quickly and easily identify movement of camouflaged animals due to the increased resolution.

Big objective lenses are also better for low light conditions. Keep that in mind as well and you’ll be in good hands.

Eye Relief

Picking Your Binoculars

The eye relief of your binoculars is important for those who wear glasses. Retractable eye cups can allow you to get a good picture with or without glasses.

Adjustable cups are really something to look for when it comes to pretty much anyone. Being able to set things up perfectly for yourself is awesome, and it can lead to a much better viewing experience.

Overall Construction

Binoculars come in two basic prism types: roof prisms and Porro prisms.

The former keep things straight in line. While they look to be simpler in construction, the light has to follow a more complex pathway to reach your eye using them. This means that their construction has to be a bit more in-depth in order to make sure you’ve got a great pair.

As a general rule, roof prism binoculars are going to be more expensive for the same amount of clarity but also more compact than Porro prisms.

They also have less moving parts, which makes them ideal for those who are hiking or hunting, although a truly useful pair for the latter application is going to end up costing you quite a bit.

Porro prisms are best for those who want a ton of zoom and a big objective lens without spending a small fortune.

Basically, a Porro prism can be bought with higher optical qualities but less durability for the same money as a roof prism model with a higher durability but lower opticals.

For stargazing and bird watching, Porro prisms are probably the best but for rougher applications you may want to look into spending the extra money on a roof prism model.

You also need to take a look at the overall construction of the binoculars you’re looking at. Most of the big names, like Bushnell, are going to be a good bit sturdier than some no-name brand, as well as having better optics.

For the most part, reputable brands like Bushnell and Nikon will put out the best quality across the board. Knock off brands, on the other hand, will tend to be a bit on the poorer side of things.

Portability

The weight of your binoculars is another important factor to take into consideration. While you can work around something like not having straps that come with them, you really can’t lighten them up.

For some applications it certainly doesn’t matter nearly as much, but if you’re planning on hiking with them then you’ll want something a bit lighter to ensure that they don’t weigh you down on your trek.

Of course, them coming with straps and a carrying case is a definite bonus for the average user.

Compact models are great for sporting events and travelers. For stargazing and birdwatching you may want to go with a larger set, if you think you can handle the weight.

Waterproofing

We highly recommend waterproof binoculars. If you’re just going to be star gazing it might not seem important, but for hunters and hikers it can be a big deal when a single misstep can land you in a creek.

Getting water in your binoculars can pretty much make them defunct if your model can’t handle them.

The only problem here is that waterproofing often adds quite a bit to the price since the whole system has to be closed. If you can’t afford a waterproof set of binoculars, you’ll want to be careful while you’re in the field.

Focus Types

Cleaning and Maintaining Binoculars

Focus type makes a big difference.

Center focuses are a bit more complex to use, but a lot faster once you get the process down. We recommend that hunters and birdwatchers, for whom focus time is a big factor, learn to use their chosen pair before using them “in the field.”

On the other hand, individual eye focus lenses can be used pretty easily for stargazers and travelers and often lower the cost of a model substantially. Give them a shot for slower purposes since they tend to be cheaper overall.

Lenses

The lenses, in addition their size, matter quite a bit. Different lens coatings lend different qualities to them, so keep an eye out for them.

The best will be able to handle rising and setting sun conditions in addition to being scratch-resistant.

The quality is largely going to be dependent on the brand. Real enthusiasts might want a high-end pair of Swarvoski’s, which can run into the thousands of dollars but most people will be fine as long as they stick to known brands like Nikon or Bushnell.

Cost

The cost of your binoculars is always going to be a factor. We recommend that beginners don’t smash their budget just to buy a pair of binoculars, but if you’re a hunter or other heavy binocular user you may want to spend a bit more money to ensure you get the best ones possible.

Each person is going to have their own comfortable price point, but expect to spend at least a hundred dollars to get a truly good pair of binoculars and expect diminishing returns once you get over the five hundred dollar mark or so.

As a general rule, try to avoid anything under $50 for anything but novelty purposes.

Cleaning and Maintaining Binoculars

Cleaning and maintaining your binoculars is an important part of making sure they’re still usable after a long period of time.

Dust and dirt can scratch the lenses over time, and moisture can infiltrate them which will make things foggy. Get into a good routine and you’ll be able to enjoy them much more than if you were to just throw them back in the bag and forget about them.

Each time you use them and get home, consider doing the following:

  • Use a damp microfiber cloth to wash off the outside of the binoculars. Be particularly careful with the lenses to avoid scratching them, you may want to let the rag dry out for the most part before approaching the lenses.
  • A lens brush is a great idea for getting at the lenses as well, they’re readily available and many pairs will even come with their own.
  • Use compressed air to get at the dirt and dust which can build up in tight spaces on the exterior of the binoculars as well.

In addition, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of making sure you have the lens caps on your binoculars whenever they’re not in use. Even if you’re keeping them in their bag, you’ll be quite happy with the results.

As a general rule, avoid the temptation to wipe the lens in the field with a bandanna or sleeve. It’s quite easy to scratch them up without really applying too much force, especially if there isn’t a good protective coating on your lenses.

Don’t attempt to repair binoculars yourself. Seriously, if any damage happens to them then see if they’re covered under warranty and send them to a service center.

Conclusion

Rather than snagging a cheap and fuzzy pair, it’s really nice to have the best binoculars by your side. Whether you’re hunting, hiking, or just enjoying the starry abyss during a slow night they can be a great accompaniment to your life. Give one of our favorites a shot, you’ll be surprised at just how often they come in handy.

References

  1. https://www.rei.com/
  2. http://www.skyandtelescope.com/
  3. http://www.audubon.org/