There are many ways to appreciate the natural world and many tools to help you do it, but perhaps no piece of equipment is as rewarding and versatile as a good pair of binoculars.
To help you decide on the best binoculars for you, our roundup of the best binoculars of 2023 has something for everyone. Even if you can’t find the perfect pair of binoculars on our list below, our buyer’s guide and FAQ sections at the end of this article include all you need to know when buying your next pair of binoculars. For side-by-side spec comparisons, check out our specs chart. You can scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category you’re looking for here:
The Best Binoculars of 2023
- Best Overall Binoculars: Nikon Monarch M5 8×42 Binoculars
- Best Budget Binoculars: Celestron Outland X 10×42
- Best Binoculars for Birdwatching: Vortex Viper HD 10×42
- Best Binoculars for Hunting: Maven C.3
- Best Binoculars for Kids: Obuby Real Binocs for Kids
- Best Premium Binoculars: Maven B1.2
- Best Monocular: Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube 8×32
Nikon Monarch M5 8×42 Binoculars
- Clear, striking image — even in low light
- Easy-adjust dial
- An average close range of focus
Celestron Outland X 10×42
- Most affordable adult binoculars on our list
- Durable design
- A good option for bulk purchase or outfitting an outdoor program
- Touchy adjustment knob sometimes gets itself out of focus
- Binos don't hold up well in wet and rainy conditions
Vortex Viper HD 10×42
- Close focus for birding, optical technology
- Simple and elegant design
- Industry-best warranty
- Wear down with heavy use
- High-contrast image quality
- Easily adjustable focus wheel
- Durable design
- Excellent value
- Narrow field of view
Obuby Real Binocs for Kids
- Fun colors/designs
- Can handle wear and tear
- Strong enough optics to enhance nature observation for children
- Not the most durable lenses
- Challenging to adjust for younger children
Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube 8×32
- Super compact size
- Built-in grip texture
- Tripod compatible
- Not as broad a field of view as binoculars
- More susceptible to shaky hands
Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 ATB Binoculars
- Not the best in low light
- Narrower-feeling field of view
Celestron Trailseeker 8×42
- State-of-the-art optics for optimal viewing
- Excellent balance of price and quality
- Ergonomically designed for comfortable use
- Focus dial can become weak or rust if not cared for properly
Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42
- Incredible value for the quality of optics
- Great viewing
- Excels in low light
- Excellent warranty and customer service
- Focus wheel and right eye diopter are a bit clunky
- Included harness is not the easiest to use
Carson VX Series 8×42 Binoculars
- Durable feel
- High-quality image (and good price for Porro prisms)
- Coated lens helps reduce glare
- A little bulky
Nocs Provisions Pro Issue 8×42 Binoculars
- Compact without compromising optic power
- Durable/ IPX7 waterproof construction
- Lifetime warranty
- A bit heavy
Binoculars Comparison Chart
|Binoculars||Weight||Close Focus Range||Eye Relief||Magnification|
|Nikon Monarch M5 8×42 Binoculars||1 lb., 6 oz.||8.2′||19.5 mm||8x|
|Celestron Outland X 10×42||2 lbs.||14.8′||18.2 mm||10x|
|Vortex Viper HD 10×42||1 lb., 8.6 oz.||5’||17 mm||10x|
|Maven C.3||1 lb., 12 oz.||8.2′||15 mm||10x, 12x|
|Obuby Real Binocs for Kids||5.9 oz.||Unavailable||10 mm||8x|
|Maven B1.2||1 lb., 10.7 oz.||4.9′||18.1 mm||8x, 10x|
|Nocs Provisions Zoom Tube 8×32||8.5 oz.||9.8’’||9 mm||8x|
|Nikon Trailblazer 8×25||9.9 oz.||8.2′||10 mm||8x|
|Celestron Trailseeker 8×42||1 lb., 7.2 oz.||6.5′||17 mm||8x|
|Vortex Diamondback HD 8×42||1 lb., 5.2 oz.||5′||17 mm||8x|
|Carson VX Series 8×42||1 lb., 5.7 oz.||Unavailable||17 mm||8x|
|Nocs Provisions Pro Issue 8×42||1 lb., 6 oz.||6′||17 mm||8x|
Why You Should Trust Us
You don’t want binoculars to fail you in the field, and neither do we. At GearJunkie, we know how important crisp, reliable vision is — whether you’re scouting for a bull elk to fill your chest freezer come fall, spotting a bucket list owl, or glassing the night sky.
We tested over a dozen binoculars (and a monocular) to see just how well they worked for different uses, budgets, and even hand sizes. The littlest tykes deserve a good viewing experience, too!
Compare and contrast testing left us with the best of the best. We’ve focused the dials, taken them out in the rain, and maybe even dropped them a few times. We’ve put these binoculars through the wringer so you can, with confidence, too.
Reviewer Kylie Mohr knows the value of top-of-the-line binoculars firsthand. As an environmental journalist, she has accompanied snowy owl researchers out into the field in search of the beloved bird. Weather conditions at the northeast tip of Alaska are no joke, even in the summer, and Mohr spent long hours staring into binoculars looking for a flash of white on the brown and green tundra.
Cold hands and biting wind made easy-to-adjust models extra important, and high-powered magnification was essential to find nest sites. Today, she tests binoculars on jaunts throughout Montana’s many mountain ranges.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Binoculars
While similar in appearance, each pair of binoculars is unique. There are many different features and measurements to consider when trying to find the best binoculars for you. By working through our list and prioritizing your needs, finding the best binoculars for your needs should be simple.
Those new to buying binoculars will notice a few significant numbers while shopping through different options. The magnification power followed by the objective lens diameter is the numbers you see presented as “8×40” or “10×42” and communicates very important bits of information.
The first number is magnification and is relatively easy to understand. This number indicates how many times closer what you’re viewing will appear to you. A set of binoculars with 8x magnification makes objects appear 8x closer. A set of binoculars with 10x magnification makes objects appear 10x closer.
Objective Lens Size
The second number, the objective lens size, is a bit more complicated. At a basic level, the measurement of objective lenses gives you an idea of how bulky the binoculars are to handle.
Perhaps more importantly, this number indicates the length in millimeters across the lens and, in turn, how much light your binoculars let in when viewing. Higher numbers mean larger lenses and more light, resulting in brighter images. Binoculars with smaller objective lenses are smaller and more portable.
Field of View
The field of view is a critical piece to consider when buying binoculars. The field-of-view measurement denotes the width you’ll be viewing through your lenses. Our favorite binos for birdwatching, the Vortex Viper HD 10×42, and our favorite premium pair, the Maven B.1, were especially notable for their crisp and clear field of view.
A wide field of view offers users the opportunity to see more of an area, whereas a smaller field of view is more zoomed into a smaller geographical space. The relationship between objective lenses and magnification and binocular design, in general, plays into the field of view measurement.
The field of view is presented in either feet or degrees. Most high-quality binoculars have a field of view between 6 and 8 degrees, or 300-400 feet when viewing a spot 1,000 yards away.
If you wear glasses, it should be noted that binoculars with a wide field of view often have shorter relief and may not be the best choice.
Eye relief is significant to consider for those who wear eyeglasses. The distance you should have your eye away from the eyepiece when using your binoculars is referred to as “eye relief.” Eyeglass-wearers should seek out binoculars with an eye relief measurement long enough to accommodate their glasses. The Nikon Monarch M5 has the most eye relief of all our favorite binos.
If you don’t wear glasses but found the perfect pair of binoculars that happen to have long eye relief, don’t fret! Most binoculars have extendable rubber-coated eyecups. This serves as a correction and makes binoculars usable for both those with and without glasses.
Binoculars can generally be broken into two subcategories: Porro prism and roof prism.
Without diving too far into each technology, Porro prism binoculars typically have a wider field of view with better depth perception and more contrast. Their design, however, is much more complex and expensive to manufacture. The Celestron Trailseeker 8×42 and the Celestron Outland 10×42 (as well as a few others on this list) share the same type of Porro prism and provide an incredible viewing experience.
Roof prism binoculars are a more comfortable shape to handle, with lenses and prisms aligned inside the binoculars themselves. Because roof prisms have a more straightforward design, they are more affordable. The technology has come a long way in recent years, and they have become the choice style of binoculars for many wildlife watchers.
That said, many Porro prism binoculars are higher-performance when compared to roof prism alternatives at a similar price point.
Close Focus Range
Virtually all makes and models of binoculars prioritize focusing on objects in the distance. However, all binoculars are also capable of focusing on items much closer.
The close focus range on a pair of binoculars is the measurement given to the closest distance that a specific pair of binoculars can focus. This distance enables users to examine intricate details of nearby objects. This distance is at least 25 feet for most binoculars. The close focus range of higher-quality binos comes in at under 10 feet, with the Vortex Viper HD 10×42 having the closest range — 5.1 feet — on this list. Great for getting up close and personal with whatever you’re sighting!
Binoculars vs. Monoculars
Is two better than one? It depends! Monoculars and binoculars both excel in different situations. Due to the singular nature of their viewing tube, monoculars can be smaller, more compact, and a good choice for users concerned about size and weight.
Monoculars can also be cheaper. But if you plan on using a device for extended periods of time (observing a bull elk or watching a hawk preen), binoculars are likely a better choice. Staring with magnification on one eye and not the other with a monocular causes eye strain if done for too long. Binoculars also have a wider field of view.
Packed Size & Weight
Depending on your desired use, the size and weight could be key considerations. When you’re hiking and hunting, having the lightest pair possible will make trekking that much more enjoyable. We also like having a small pair handy in the car in case a good animal peeping opportunity arises. Our favorite compact binoculars for adults are the Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 Binoculars, Nocs Provisions, and the much pricier Maven C.3.
Binoculars have both a magnification number (or strength), and a size (the diameter of the objective lens), which is most often expressed as a combination of two figures, such as 8×42 or 12×50.
The magnification number is the first figure given and relates how much closer images through the binoculars will appear. For example, many of the binoculars in our review provide an 8x or 10x magnification, where images appear 8 to 10 times closer than they are.
Higher magnification numbers will provide a more punched-in view, but oftentimes can be more difficult to hold steady. We’ve found that an 8x binocular is ideal for viewing landscapes, and that a 10x can aid in spying small wildlife like birds.
The lens size ultimately tells you how much light the binoculars are able to gather, and can be thought of as the aperture on a camera. The larger the lens size, the more light can be allowed in.
When choosing the magnification for your binoculars, you need to consider how you’ll primarily use them. As an outdoor site, we would recommend everyone to purchase binoculars with a minimum magnification of 7x.
Binoculars with high magnification, such as 10x or greater, are suitable for long-distance viewing and are often the go-to choice for hunters and the most serious birders.
Binoculars with notably smaller magnifications — in the 3x-5x range — can be good compact options for ultralight backcountry use or viewing concerts, theater productions, and sporting events from the nosebleeds.
Both 10×42 and 8×42 binoculars share a 42 mm objective lens. This example, however, provides two binoculars that differ in magnification. One pair has a 10x magnification while the other has an 8x magnification.
As you likely deduced, the 10x magnification binoculars are more powerful than the 8x. This allows you to view objects a bit more clearly and also hone in on more intricate details.
While the 8x magnification lens may not be as powerful, it does offer a more stable viewing experience. This means users can more easily stay focused on their subject matter and need to worry less about maintaining a steady hand.
Both 10×42 and 8×42 binoculars serve their purpose, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which magnification will better suit your needs.
The best binoculars are the ones you’ll actually use. And oftentimes, that means going with a more compact pair. Luckily, you can get a packable pair without sacrificing too much.
The main thing with compact binoculars is light transmission. It won’t be too much of a problem during the day, but at sunrise and sunset, you may notice the quality of the image decrease.
Bottom line — if you plan to use your binoculars often or for important tasks like hunting or birdwatching, it’s worth investing more and hauling a bigger set. If your use is casual, a compact pair will work great.
You can birdwatch with any pair of binoculars, and serious birdwatchers have multiple pairs in their arsenal. At a bare minimum, select a pair of binoculars with at least 8x magnification.
Binoculars of this caliber offer a wide enough field of view to find and follow birds without compromising the magnification needed to identify your avian subject.
If you’re doing most of your birdwatching from a considerable distance, try a pair of binoculars with a 10x magnification. While slightly shakier and generally with a smaller field of view, the larger magnification allows you to focus closely on the bird at hand and observe its most intricate details. As you become more experienced, you’ll likely discover the value of having various binoculars on hand.
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