We set out to test some binoculars that have been getting plaudits because we wanted to know the best binoculars for 2018. You appreciate a good view, whether for hunting, bird watching or even astronomy.
Binoculars come in various price ranges, so we focused on performance first, and found some low priced options that perform better than many of their pricier counterparts.
Factors that we took into consideration included clarity, magnification, focus and width of viewing angles. Most people use binoculars outdoors so we took care to find out sturdy options that can withstand use.
Best Binoculars 2018
ANGLE OF VIEW
Athlon Optics Midas - Editor's Choice
Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 - 2nd Editor's Choice
1. Athlon Optics Midas - Editor's Choice
- Power - 8x
- Objective lens diameter - 32mm
- Type of prism – BAK-4
- Field of view - 362feet/1000 yards
- Tripod adaptable
- Waterproof/ fog proof
- Dimensions (LxWxH) - 4.5 x 4.5 x 1.75 inches
- Weight – 0.95 pounds
- FMC Coated
- Lifetime warranty
Athlon has great confidence in its products considering that it offers a lifetime warranty. So we wanted to find out if the Midas is good enough and we were pleasantly impressed.
These binoculars are bright. They mustered the light show the different colors of a perched warbler against a bright sky so that we still saw its distinct colorations. It was also efficient in picking up the odd bird in dense vegetation- something, not all binoculars do well.
We liked its ability to bring out the color even in harsh conditions, and we could easily spot robins at 400 yards during a field trip. Its field of view was also wide at 8.1 degrees.
It was easy to adjust the focus smoothly, and we could get the fine focus needed to get great views of butterflies.
These binoculars are made of magnesium, which is a light but tough material, and it showed. Its rugged design means it can go with you on hikes and work fine.
- 8x magnification
- 42 mm objectives
- 25 mm exit pupil diameter
- 17 mm eye relief
- Fully multi-coated (FMC) optics
- 28 relative brightness
- BaK-4 prisms with phase and dielectric coatings
- 8.1 degrees field of view
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Weight 1.45 pounds
This is a well-designed pair of binoculars made of magnesium alloy; a sturdy material that protects the inner components despite being quite light. It weighs only 1.45 pounds.
The Celestron Trailseeker is waterproofed using nitrogen as a fill; this protects the lens and prisms from damage.
The Trailseeker’s optics are fully multi-coated and we could see the colors were bright. Its field of view was impressive; 426 feet at 1000 yards.
We noticed that these binoculars have excellent light gathering abilities, picking out a flying robin with clarity against a cloudy sky when the sun was going down.
- Field of View: 393 ft. at 1,000 yards
- Minimum Focus Distance: 6.6 feet
- Eye Relief: 17mm
- 8x Magnification & 42mm Objective Lens Diameter
- Fully Multi-Coated & Phase Coated.
- BAK-4 Prisms
- Weight: 1.55 lbs.
- Waterproof and Fogproof
These are sleek, compact binoculars that we wanted to test the moment we saw they cost less than 200$.
We started with dipping a pair into a bucket of water because it is advertised as completely waterproof and fog proof- we don’t advise you to do the same. It worked well without showing signs of damage to the lenses.
We found its field of vision to be extensive; 426 feet at 1000 yards. It outperforms most models in the same price tag.
It was also light and easy to hold although you will find it a little narrow if you have a wide head. We liked its sharp image focus. These binoculars also have a generous eye relief; they are a good choice if you wear glasses.
We saw sharp and reasonably bright images while tracking the progress of some hikers as they went up a hill. These binoculars will work well for hunting, birding, and general use. Other features that impressed us include:
- 1.4lb weight
- Extensive Viewing the Surroundings: 430 feet/1,000Yards
- Waterproof, Dust-proof, and Shockproof
- 7.28x2.95x6.49inch size
- 8x magnification,
- 50mm object lens diameter
We tested these binoculars for both day and night performance and found them suitable for astronomy, hunting, and bird watching.
These binoculars, while compact, are a bit uncomfortable to hold so you might want to consider using a tripod if you are stargazing. We saw a few craters on the moon on an evening just after sunset.
While we got great images of trees as far as two miles away and it seemed like the binoculars could do more, the sharpness and clarity were just short of the excellence we saw with other binoculars.
While these binoculars proved more than capable of performing, we were impressed with the rubber grip but found them uncomfortable to hold.
- Weight 1.5 pounds
- Multi-coated optics and phase corrected prisms
- Waterproof and fog proof protection
- Rain guard
- Tethered objective lens covers
- 6.5 degree viewing angle
These binoculars come in the price range between 200 and 300 $, so we wanted to know if customers were being ripped off or it is worth the money. We got hold of one to test.
When we started scanning the landscape with the brand new Vortex Optics binoculars, we noticed the smooth and fast focusing that allowed us to see fine details like a perched eagle almost hidden from view with excellent clarity.
They have a high magnifying capability and are less tolerant of hand shake, but if you can keep steady, these binoculars perform well.
We were also impressed by its extensive field of view; we don’t expect binoculars with 10x magnification to have a wide viewing angle. These binoculars are good for scanning if you go out hunting.
These roof prism binoculars feature multi-coated lens that minimize reflection. The result is sharp images with precise colors. The binoculars also displayed excellent light gathering abilities (we tested at dusk) and the objects were impressively clear. Other things we liked include:
- Rain guard HD water-repellent lens coating
- Lightweight, magnesium chassis
- Waterproof & fog proof
- 6.46 degree field-of-view
- Long eye-relief
- Weight- 1.5 pounds
- Magnesium chassis
The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD lenses are made using ED Prime glass, which reduces color dispersion. We appreciated the amount of light these binoculars could gather, with clear images at dusk. They also boast of a good focus at 6.5 inches.
These binoculars use Bak-4 roof prisms, so they have that compact design, and their optics are multi-coated to reduce loss of light.
A permanent RainGuard HD coating showed us that we could use it in the shower and we happened to test on a day with sporadic showers. The binoculars held up, and we could still see clearly. However, they are not totally waterproof; do not immerse in water.
We liked its field of view; objects at the edges were still sharp, and the 340 feet field of vision at 1000 yards is respectable for binoculars that have 10x magnifying power.
We tried focusing on a fence about a 300 yards away and were lucky enough to see a squirrel running down a post. We even focused and got a clearer view of the post, but the squirrel was too fast and disappeared from view before we could examine it in greater detail. Even then, we were impressed with the clarity.These binoculars are versatile because of these qualities, they are suitable for stargazing, watching nature and even hunting.
- Magnification power: 10x
- Objective diameter: 42mm
- Eyepiece Diameter: 18mm
- Prism: BAK4
- Lenses coating: FMC
- Exit pupil diameter: 5mm
- Exit pupil distance.:12mm
- View of field: 307ft/1000yds
- Mini focus length: 5m/16.4ft
- Eyecups system: Twist-up
- Product weight: 1.55lb
These binoculars fall into the unique category of binoculars that are priced at less than a hundred dollars. The features impressed us enough to think we were dealing with something pricier.
We were pleasantly surprised at the crisp images that these binoculars form. The phone adapter feature is cool, and we wonder why other binoculars do not have it.
These binoculars are compact and they look good. Their narrow view of 307 feet at 1000 yards may not be up to standard with other binoculars with the same magnifying power. You might want to choose options with a wider viewing angle if a lot of your use involves scanning.
Considering that these binoculars cost less than half of most options in this list, it is fair to say that it exceeds expectation and is a low budget option for all-round use from birding, astronomy and even viewing live sports and concerts.
- Magnification: 8X
- Objective Lens Diameter: 30mm
- Weight: 17.1 ounces
- Tough rubber-armored housing; long 20mm eye relief
- Rainproof, fog-resistant construction
- 6.8 degrees angle of view
- Measures 6.8 x 2.4 x 4.6 inches (W x H x D);
- weighs 1.125 pounds
The first thing that struck us when we got a hold of these binoculars was their unique look and feel. They are in the 200 to 300$ price range, and they did not disappoint. These binoculars are surprisingly easy and comfortable to hold despite their unusual shape.
For something with the words ‘military’ and ‘marine’ in the name, we expected something rugged. By just looking at the exterior and feeling the frame, we could tell that this was one sturdy pair of binoculars. They feel like they can go for years, which explains their 10-year warranty.
We wanted to try out these binoculars in the fields, hoping to see a rabbit, but all we saw were some dogs playing. However, we tried to focus on a blade of grass 70 yards away, and we noticed that it focused and resolved pretty well.
Objects over 20 yards away are supposed to be always in sharp focus with these binoculars according to the manufacturer. We found that to be true, but sometimes we need to focus on objects more than 20 yards away.
However, all objects beyond 60 yards were always in sharp focus when we tested. This is convenient if you are looking at moving objects or watching sports.
These binoculars have a reasonable field of view spanning 362 feet at 1000 yards; this makes them suitable for scanning when hunting vermin.
The binoculars are also waterproof and fog proof, and from their build, they can withstand a few bumps too.
9. Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binoculars - 2nd Editor's Choice
- ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) Glass
- Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups
- Fully Multicoated Eco-Glass lenses
- Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings
- 1.3 pounds weight
- Waterproof and Fog proof
These are lightweight, compact binoculars that seem suited for a lot of things from bird watching to hunting and even stargazing.
These binoculars are filled with nitrogen and sealed with O-rings to prevent damage by water, moisture, and fog. They can serve you well, whether you hunt or hike on a rainy day.
We could see bright colors with these binoculars, even where whites and blacks were adjacent we saw clear images. The objects also look natural, in part due to multi-coated optics which allow more light to reach your eyes by minimizing reflection.
- Power - 8x to see 8x closer
- Objective lens diameter - 42mm
- Type of prism - roof /BAK4
- Focus system - center
- Exit pupil diameter - 5.2mm
- Exit pupil dist. - 17.8mm
- Field of view - 393 ft/1000 yds
- Minimum focal length - 2m
- Water proof
- Phase coated
- Ed glass
- Dimensions (LxWxH) - 6 x 5 x 2 inches
- Weight – 1.375 pounds
These are specialist binoculars that provide high levels of clarity to bird watchers. The first thing to strike us was its wide field of view. This is advantageous for bird watching, and it is a quality of most Wingspan Binoculars.
ED glass is used to make the lenses of the Wingspan; this helps the binoculars create sharp, vivid images with minimal color aberration.
When choosing the right binoculars, consider the performance, convenience, and price. Binoculars can cost tens of dollars or several grand. The quality of materials used is what determines the price and performance. Below is an in-depth summary of factors to consider when choosing binoculars:
When you read a binoculars measurements to be 8x42, the numbers say something about the binoculars. The figure to the left of the x, which is 8 in this case, shows the magnifying power.
In the 8x42 example, the binoculars can magnify the object you are viewing to 8 times the size of what you could see with your naked eye.
High magnification is desirable, but there is a tradeoff between magnification and field of view. High magnification means you can see objects that are farther away. And the price you pay is that your angle of viewing becomes narrow.
Birdwatchers may desire more extensive fields of view, especially when observing flocks of birds. Hunters may also require more full fields of view, in both of these cases, a magnification of 8 times is enough. Use binoculars with high magnification like 12x or 10x in open spaces like plains and the seas.
Another interesting fact about magnification is that higher magnification needs steady hands. Shaky hands can lead to blurry viewing. Binoculars with lower magnification are not affected as much.
For astronomy, stars and heavenly bodies are too far away, so the difference in magnification is not as apparent as in terrestrial viewing.
Size of objective lens
Manufacturers usually describe binoculars using two numbers separated by an x for instance, 8 x 42. In this section, we will look at the number to the right of the ‘x’ which is 42.
42 denotes the size of the objective lens in millimeters. The objective lens is what lets light into the binoculars. A larger objective lens will let in more light, and a small one will not let in as much.
Consequently, you get brighter images with the large objective lens. So if you are looking for lens that you might use in twilight or at night, a bigger objective lens is more efficient.
What it affects
The size of the objective lens also has a direct effect on two important characteristics of the binoculars, the overall size, and the weight. It is true then that larger binoculars let in more light than smaller binoculars.
When choosing binoculars, there is a tradeoff between brightness and portability that you cannot avoid. Options with big objective lens are not so mobile because of their size and weight. You also need to mount them on tripods to get clear views.
Choose a larger objective lens for:
- Astronomy- If you want to marvel at the Milky Way and track the heavens using binoculars, consider binoculars with objective lens measuring 63 millimeters or thereabouts.
- Sailing- To get clear views even on days with overcast skies, consider binoculars with objective lens measuring at least 42 mm.
- Twilight hunting- Binoculars with objective lens that measure 42 mm or more can show clear images even on dull days.
Smaller binoculars are easier to carry, but they are not going to give the best results in dim light. Binoculars with objective lens that measure 42 mm are small enough to carry around, though they won’t fit into a purse. Use them for hiking and even hunting.
If you need that extra mobility, choose smaller binoculars for activities that can include:
- Sporting events
Binoculars use prisms to flip images. Otherwise, the images would appear inverted. The two main types of prism are Porro and roof prisms. They affect the size and shape of binoculars.
Porro prism binoculars tend to cost less, but they can be slightly bulkier than binoculars with roof prisms and the same specs. Roof prisms allow for more compact and narrow binoculars.
Prisms are usually made using various materials:
- BAK-4: This is a barium crown glass has a high refractive index and forms bright and well-defined images when compared to BK-7
- BK-7: This borosilicate glass has a lower refractive index, so its images are slightly less sharp than what BAK4 produces.
This aspect only matters in dim light because pupils become smaller in bright light. In the dim light, you need binoculars with larger exit pupil because the pupils expand to let more light in. To calculate the exit pupil, consider the measurement like 8x42. 8 is magnification while 42 is the size of objective lens. Divide 42/8 to get the result. In this case, it is 5.25.
So a pair with dimensions like 8x 25 has a smaller exit pupil (25/8=3.125). This works well during the day because the human pupil remains at around 3 mm in bright light. However, it will restrict the light reaching your eyes when it is dim because pupils can expand up to 7 mm.
Most binoculars have the focus knob on the bridge between the two oculars. They are good if you are sharing. Individual focus options let each eye focus independently, they are harder to focus, use them for marine use or astronomy where adjustments are rarely needed. Focus free binoculars do not give you the same focusing options.
This is a focusing feature that lets you adjust the binoculars according to your eye strength. In case the eyes have different clarities of vision, you can adjust the diopter.
Only one side of the binoculars usually have a diopter. Diopters are situated on the eyepiece or the main focus wheel.
In case you wear glasses, the binoculars should still give you great images by allowing adjustments of the eyecups.
Angle of view
Binoculars come with varying angles of view. Wide angle views are ideal for wildlife watching and scanning. If you can find what you’re looking for without a lot of scanning, an option with high magnification and lower angle of view will do.
When watching objects keenly, maybe birds, you might want to look at the minute details. Binoculars with high magnification also have high focus.
Another aspect of focus is the depth of field. It decreases as magnification increases. The depth of focus is important when watching many objects together for instance perched birds or a herd of deer.
The surfaces that make the inner parts of binoculars need to transmit light to the eye rather than reflect it away. Coatings help reduce the loss of light through reflection leading to clearer images. The levels of coating on the optics vary:
- Coated (C) - Only one lens surface has the anti-reflective coating.
- Fully Coated (FC) - Several anti-reflective coatings on one or more surfaces.
- Multi-coated (MC) - All air to glass lens surfaces have a single anti-reflective coating.
- Fully Multi-Coated (FMC) - All air to glass surfaces have multiple anti-reflective coatings.
Some binoculars are well built to prevent water damage by light showers, fog, and mist. Others are designed to work even after submersion. Options include weatherproof, fog proof and waterproof binoculars. All fog proof binoculars are also waterproof, but not all waterproof binoculars are fog proof.
After the rigorous testing that took several days, we had no doubt about the best pair of binoculars; the Athlon Midas 8x42 edged out the rest of the field. It’s all around performance was a little better than any other option in this list.
For those on a budget, the Gosky proved more than capable for various uses due to its versatile performance. The Nikon Monarch was another impressive performer, its only undoing is the narrow field of view.