CAMPING & HIKING

The Best Compact Binoculars: Overview of the Top Gadgets On The Market

Compact binoculars review
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

The thought of being able to quickly whip out a compact binoculars from a pocket or waist pouch is the stuff of dreams for people on once-in-a-lifetime safari trips, adrenalin-drenched outdoor activities and action-packed sporting events.

For those of you who couldn’t care to battle with the inconvenient size and weight of a full-frame binoculars, let’s explore the various advantages of the best compact binoculars.

Just like compact cameras, compact binoculars are smaller counterparts of their regular-sized cousins. The use of smaller frontal lenses is what makes a binoculars small.

Sometimes, you’ll see sets of numbers such as 10 x 26 or 12 x 50. What do they mean? Well, the first number refers to the number of times the binoculars can magnify objects and bring them closer to you. The second number refers to the size of the frontal lenses in millimeters. Generally, a binoculars with a number of 26 or smaller can be considered a compact binoculars.

Compact binocular on the table

For example, if a pair of binoculars is 10 x 26, this means it has 10x magnifying power and an objective lens measuring 26mm.

Things to Look Out For

Quality of glass used

While some compact binoculars are priced at substantially lower levels than full-framed units, bear in mind that their manufacturers could have used a lower grade glass that fall short of image quality compared to top-end, more expensive compact binoculars made of quality glass. Frankly, what good are binoculars if all it gives are blurry images?

Porro prism vs roof prism

Be it compact binoculars or a full-frame one, they’re usually classified into two types: porro prism and roof prism. These affect the binoculars’ shape and handling ease.

Porro prism vs roof prism

While porro prism designs are usually cheaper, as they don’t need some of those hefty-priced coatings to achieve the same kind of optical quality as a roof prism design, it usually sports a rounded shape which may come across less compact than a streamlined roof prism design. However, if your jacket pockets or carry pouch is big enough, the more affordable porro prism compact binoculars may not be a bad choice after all.

Less is more for magnification

While having a small size and being lightweight could be some of the main reasons that you’re looking for a compact binoculars, one common complaint with compact binoculars is that it can be tricky to stabilize, due to the very same factors which prompted you to buy it in the first place.

Unless you can always find a tree or a solid wall to brace yourself against for more stability, it’s recommended that getting a compact that offers 8x magnification is good enough for all-round general purposes and something you can easily hold steadily.

Compact binocular magnification

However, why is 8x magnification deemed easier to stabilize? Why not higher magnifications since those enable you to look further? How about zoom compacts that seem to offer more usage flexibility? For a start, at higher magnifications, say 10x, your every subtle movement will also be magnified, thus affecting your viewing experience.

Moreover, an 8x binoculars offers a wide enough field of view that makes it easier for you to spot that elusive elephant or bird. When it comes to zoom compact binoculars, they tend to present severe optical issues at higher magnifications which is a great damper on your viewing experience.

Ease of focusing

You should be able to easily turn and adjust focusing with just one finger on a thoughtfully-designed compact binoculars. If you’re planning to use your compact binoculars outdoors or in extreme climates, this ease of one-finger operation on a sizable focusing button is all the more important if you think about it.

While a tiny, dainty focusing button may be a unique design feature on some compact binoculars, these are best suited for use indoors, say at the opera theater.

Field of view and eye relief

This refers to the width of the view when you peep through your binoculars. Due to space constraints that don’t allow for sophisticated eyepiece designs within a small body, compact binoculars seldom list ‘wide angle views’ among its features. However, most compact binoculars are designed with plenty of field of view. Make sure you check the field of view specifications on your desired compact model.

Field of view and eye relief

Eye relief means the distance of your eyes from the eyepieces of the binoculars that allows you to see a complete field of view.

This is especially important if you’re wearing spectacles. As your spectacles will prevent your eyes from getting as close to the binoculars eyepiece as a non- spectacles wearer, it’s important that you check the specifications of your potential buy for enough eye relief. Sure, you can always remove your spectacles before peeping into your binoculars.

However, isn’t that a bit of a hassle? Compact binoculars are meant to be a breeze to use, not another hassle while you’re trying to spot fleeting signs of a wild rhino. So look out for binoculars with enough eye relief, especially if you’re extremely myopic. Generally, most spectacles-wearing folks need a minimum of 14mm of eye relief to see enough field of view with their spectacles on. However, the amount of eye relief may vary from one individual to another.

Built to last, waterproof and with armoring

Think about how you’ll be using your compact binoculars. It’ll usually be during action-packed outdoor activities such as dirt biking, cross-country cycling and kayaking, among others.

You’ll also love to have your compact binoculars in hand at hot, sweaty sporting events or dusty safari trips, bush walks or bird watching expeditions. So your pair of second eyes should be able to withstand a few bumps, falls, dust, sweaty palms and be waterproof.

Compact binocular waterproof

Being waterproof not only guards against moisture and changes in temperature, the binoculars will also usually be better protected against dust and dirt. If the compact binoculars has the waterproof feature, retailers will usually highlight it.

Look for the word “waterproof” in binoculars specifications. Bear in mind that other labels such as rain proof, weather proof or climate proof may mean very different things from being waterproof.

If the advertisement of your desired compact binoculars says “with armoring”, that means it’s outfitted with certain features that makes it more comfortable to use in extreme temperatures or easier to have a better grip. Note that armoring doesn’t make a binoculars waterproof as that has got to do with internal seals and not an outer covering.

Single vs double-hinged

With all things being equal, a single-hinged design will almost always fold up into a smaller shape than a double-hinged one. Thinking about the occasions where you’ll be bringing along your compact binoculars. Decide whether a smaller size will make a marked difference in your user experience.

Buy from a reputable brand

Since you’re going to invest in a compact binoculars, why gamble with lesser-known brands?

Swarovski-CL-Pocket-8x25-Binoculars-Minox3-Large

While the technology of binoculars making have improved tremendously, you’ll have more peace of mind, quality assurance and comprehensive warranty protection with names that have been around for a while and are recognized for their world-class optical equipment and technology.

Top Product On The Market

Now that you’re armed with knowledge on what to look out for in a good compact binoculars, here are some recommendations to start you off on your binoculars hunting journey.

Tasco Essentials Binoculars

Tasco Essentials Binoculars

Weight: varying from 0.41 – 0.71 pounds

Key features:

  • Balances amazing performance and sturdy construction at a reasonable price
  • Rubber armor provides protection from the elements and bumps for peace of mind when you’re outdoors
  • Lightweight body combines the best performance in its class without the unwanted weight
  • Sleek roof prism design with 8x magnification, 21mm objective lens and 383ft field of view
  • Fully coated optics for clear and bright images
  • Most Essentials models come with a convenient pouch and neck strap
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Pros: some first-time binoculars users love the Tasco Essentials Binoculars 8x magnification which many think is ideal for untrained optics user. Bespectacled users like the fold-down rubber eyecups as they don’t have to remove their spectacles to look through the Essentials.

People marvel at the crisp images and  easy-to-use focusing button. Other users are also pleased with the neck strap which is long enough for any neck size and sturdy enough for the rough-and-tumble outdoors.

Cons: some people who wanted to spend some time watching out for birds complain that the Essentials binoculars doesn’t let them watch for anytime longer than a few minutes before their eyes start to hurt. Others say that they’ve a tough time trying to get the binoculars to focus and there’s severe image degradation and distortion off-center.

Others are a little disappointed to realize that there’s a lot of degrading in image quality in low-light situations. A couple of users are unhappy that the glue on the adjustable eyepieces isn’t strong enough to hold the eyepieces securely in place.

Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Binoculars

Bushnell Falcon 10x50 Wide Angle Binoculars (Black)

Weight: 1.68 pounds

Key features:

  • High quality optics empowered by HD clarity
  • Sturdy design with rubber, abrasion-resistant armor
  • Porro prism design with quality coated lenses for sharp imaging
  • 10x magnification to bring objects nearer, 50mm lens offer magnificent clarity and brightness
  • 9mm eye relief makes it easier for bespectacled people
  • 25 ft close focusing distance ensures clarity at any distance with InstaFocus for fast focusing
  • Fitted with rubber eyecups for maximum comfort and to exclude light from seeping in

Pros: some users are pleasantly surprised at how clearly the stars appear when they used it on clear, starry nights. Others used it for bird-watching and are happy with the clarity, brilliant colors and ease of adjusting focus. Some give it to their kids and the little ones found it so lightweight and easy to use. Of course, there are several thumbs-up for the reasonable price tag as well.

Cons: the warranty on Bushnell Falcon 10×50 Wide Angle Binoculars isn’t inclusive of shipping costs which can be easily half the cost of the binoculars. Some users are upset that their binoculars are poorly made and most metal edges have rough edges due to shoddy milling. The lens cap are loose and have the tendency to fall off too.

BEILESHI 20X50 HD Binoculars

BEILESHI 20X50 HD Magnification Climbing Waterproof Telescope Binoculars

Weight: 1.8 pounds

Key features:

  • Features sturdy porro prism design with rubber, abrasion-resistant armor
  • Equipped with night vision feature for better viewing in low-light conditions
  • Boasts 20x magnification with 50mm objective lens and swift auto-focusing
  • Has diopter adjustment for users of all ages to see clearly

Pros: BEILESHI 20X50 HD Magnification Climbing Waterproof Telescope Binoculars is for pro-users of binoculars, the 20x magnification and fast focusing more much-relished features. Some active bikers are very happy that the rubber exterior offers a fantastic grip even with sweaty palms.

Cons: some users are rather upset over the many poorly-made and loosely put-together parts of the binoculars. There are also complaints of being difficult to focus and getting it to hold the focus.

8-24X50 HD Binoculars

8-24X50 HD Wide-Angle Zoom Central Portable Binoculars Telescope

Weight: 2.13 pounds

Key features:

  • Quality porro prism design with 8x – 24x magnification and a 50mm lens
  • Suitable for both indoors and outdoors such as at indoor concert or sporting events
  • Equipped with a rubber, abrasion-resistant finish for extra protection
  • Auto zoom mode for ease of use
  • Night vision feature for clarity in low-light conditions (doesn’t work in total darkness)
  • Comes in a carry case for ease of transport and protective lens cloth

Pros: users like the fact that the 8-24X50 HD Wide-Angle Zoom Central Portable Binoculars Telescope is very user-friendly and is suitable for many purposes, from spectator sports, sky lines to indoor concerts. It’s suitable for both beginners or expert users as it has an adjustable bridge shape.

Cons: the center cover in the middle keeps falling out and frustrated a few users. Some female users are not too happy with the rather hefty weight of the binoculars as their arms start to feel a little tired after holding it for some time.

Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip Binocular

Tasco Essentials 7x35 Zip Binocular (Black)

Weight: 1.41 pounds

Key features:

  • Offers beautiful HD clarity and brilliance
  • Durable porro prism design that delivers superior optical quality at an affordable price
  • Features rubber armor for protection from abrasion, shocks and bumps
  • All-purpose binoculars with an amazing 500 ft field of view
  • 7x magnification which brings far objects seven times closer
  • Comes with carrying pouch and neck strap

Pros: some users brought along the Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip Binocular (Black) on hiking and bird-watching trips and they’re pleasantly surprised by its wide field of view, clarity, ease of focusing  and how light it is. One bespectacled user claims that he can comfortably use the binoculars without removing his spectacles.

Cons: Some customers complain that the description on field of view is not accurate and the actual field of view is narrower. Others are also upset that it’s impossible to focus.

Nikon 7218 Action 10×50 Binoculars

Nikon 7218 Action 10x50 Binoculars

Weight: 0.5 pounds

Key features:

  • Features multi-coated, aspherical lens and BaK4 prisms which offer bright, quality images under all lightings
  • Great for viewing at sunrise or dusk with its large exit pupils
  • User-friendly focusing knob makes for intuitive focusing at different distances
  • Built-to-last with rubber protective armor for a firm grip in all weather conditions
  • Made with arsenic and lead-free Eco-GlassTM

Pros: users love Nikon 7218 Action 10×50 Binoculars for its ultra-sharp clarity and its versatility for general use without breaking the bank. People love using this binoculars at dusk, dawn and for leisure backyard astronomy as it offers stunning details every time.

The fact that it’s extremely well-made at an affordable price from a reputable name in optical technology makes the binoculars a worthy buy.

Cons: some users are unhappy that the binoculars are not fog-proof and would even fog up while using it in the living room or back porch. People also mentioned that the optics sometimes become misaligned and produce blurry images.

50X50 Surveillance PowerView Binoculars

50X50 Surveillance PowerView Auto Focusing Porro Prism Binoculars Telescope

Weight: 2.1 pounds

Key features:

  • Boasts a whopping 50 magnification to let you see every detail
  • Hi-resolution 50mm objective lens
  • Porro prism design with auto-focusing function for convenience
  • Fine focusing achievable with diopter adjustment
  • Offers superior optical quality and sturdy construction at an unbeatable price
  • Comes with protective carrying pouch and quality lens cloth

Pros: users like the rubberized armor which makes for a steady and comfortable grip and its abrasion-resistant quality. People with poor eyesight are glad that they’re able to tweak the focusing easily.

Other users also give thumbs-up for the fantastic 20x magnification power and  outstanding clarity of the lens.

Cons: 50X50 Surveillance PowerView Auto Focusing Porro Prism Binoculars Telescope isn’t as lightweight as it’s thought to be and some users said that they feel tired after holding the binoculars for a little while.

Some people, especially first-time binoculars users regretted their choice of a 20x binoculars as they find it tough to get steady images as their own little movements are magnified to a great extent as well.

New Arrival 5X Binoculars

New Arrival 5X Black Kids Toys Telescope Hot Selling Children lovest Binoculars

Weight: 0.25 pounds

Key features:

  • 5x magnification lets kids see things faraway
  • Extremely lightweight and of a suitable size that makes it easy for little hands to manage
  • Big focusing knob in the middle means easy focusing

Pros: the kids are endlessly thrilled by how close the world has suddenly become with New Arrival 5X Black Kids Toys Telescope Hot Selling Children lovest Binoculars.

Their parents also use this as a prop in adventure games and could dream up many more creative scenarios. The binoculars’ light body and neck strap makes it easy for the little ones to carry it around.

Cons: the adults are surprised at the lack of exciting colors and patterns for this kiddy binoculars. Moreover, it’s also not very well-made and could easily crack upon dropping on the ground. Some older kids complain that the binoculars couldn’t focus and they’ve to put up with blurry images.

Wrap Up

While there may not be a “perfect binoculars”, it’s possible to choose a pair that suits your needs and budget. Are there any compact binoculars we might have missed?

Compact binocular testing

Leave your comments down below with your recommendations!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Tyler Johnson

    I was looking for a medium-powered pair of binoculars for back yard astronomy. I had picked up a pair of Bushnell 10X50’s for a few dollars less than the Nikon’s and I was disappointed with the quality (there was something wrong with the optics… could not get them to ever completely focus). I promptly returned them and picked up these. What a difference! They were much clearer than the Bushnell’s, and the focus is extremely sharp in the center. I take them out just about every night and they offer me a great view of the sky. If you’re looking for a good all-around pair of binoculars that’s worth more than what you’re paying, look no further, the Nikon is here!

  • Walker John

    Have been using the Tasco Essentials 7×35 Zip Binocular for some time now. These are wide angle binoculars. They are roughly one third bigger field of view than conventional binoculars. I have not found the 500 ft at 1000 yards field of view in any binoculars at this price. I have splashed water and mud on them and while not advertised as waterproof, I have not had any problem. If I do – so what! They cost about $25!

  • Daniel Carraway

    Nikon is a trusted brand so I’m not surprised that you like their products better than the Bushnell 10x50s. Make sure you check out the other brand to see how they fare compared to the Nikon.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Some users complain that they have difficulty focusing. Have you encountered difficulties in this area Walker? I would appreciate a feedback on this. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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