5 Best Binoculars for Safari in 2020

We have booked our African Safari and are super excited! I know that having a great pair of binoculars is a must. We don’t want to miss the excitement of seeing elephant drinking at a waterhole or a lioness chasing an impala for the kill.  

The Safari organizer will have binoculars available. But, I guess they are of lower quality and battered from excess use. The thought of missing a great outdoor scene, while waiting to grab the shared set from a travel mate, will certainly frustrate me! 

So, we want to take along our own pair. Deciding which to buy was a challenge. Factors to consider are price, weight, features, lens size, and magnification. Here is a list of the five 5 best binoculars for a safari that I reviewed.

We Recommend

Best value/price ratio

Vortex Optics Viper
HD Binoculars

Best for the money

Swarovski EL
10×42 Binocular

Best budget option

Steiner Safari
10×26 Binoculars

Porro-prism vs. roof-prism binoculars

One challenge when choosing safari binoculars is to decide on the type of prisms. I learned that there are two types – Porro Prisms and Roof Prisms. Binoculars use prisms to reflect the light and bring you the image. 

Porro-Prisms. This design places the prisms at right angles to one another, allowing them to redirect the light many times, from left to right and top to bottom. Binoculars that use porro-prisms are easier to manufacture. The prisms take up less space inside the tube. Binoculars have a broader shape with a hinge between the two oculars, for adjusting to the size of your face. 

Roof-Prisms. Roof-prisms have surfaces that look much like a house roof. Inside, are two roof-prisms, placed to give a double reflection. This allows the image to enter and reflect without having to flip it. Binoculars with roof-prisms give high-quality images. The design of the binocular is slimmer, with an H-shaped style. The cost of producing roof prisms is higher than that of producing porro-prisms. 

Main Differences. Adjustment of porro-prism binoculars uses a focus wheel that shifts the eye-pieces. This design requires external moving parts. Roof-prism binoculars adjust by moving the lenses inside the tubes. There are no outside moving parts and less chance of failure or breakage. Porro-prism binoculars are generally cheaper. Roof-prisms’ designs are sleeker and more streamlined. 

Which is best for Safari? Both are suitable for a safari adventure. If you are happy to spend more, the roof-prism design is a premium, sleek, and compact choice. 

What is the best magnification for safari?

When shopping for binoculars, you see numbers that look something like 10×42 or 8×30. The first number indicates the magnification. This is how many times larger the image is when viewed through the lens. 10x means that an image is 10 times larger than you would see with your naked eye. For safari, a magnification of 10x to 12x is perfect. If the magnification is too big, your binoculars will be heavier, more difficult to carry, and focus. 

On safari, you are either walking or traveling in a safari vehicle. There is no time nor space to set up a tripod. Your binoculars need to be hanging around your neck, ready to be lifted and focused at a moment’s notice. 

The second number is the size of the lens in millimeters. 30 indicates a 30mm lens. Larger sizes allow more light to enter, giving better views. When on Safari, your most exciting viewing takes place at dawn and dusk. Lenses smaller than 30mm won’t give a good image in dim light. Lenses bigger than 42mm make the device larger and heavy to carry.

Exit pupil size is another number to consider. It also determines the amount of light entering the binoculars and the quality of the image. An exit pupil of 7mm is ideal for safari viewing. 

Our guide has recommended binoculars of size 7×35 or 8×40 as quite adequate. For a lightweight binocular for animal viewing and birding, go for 8×30 or 8×20. For a walking safari, the Leica 8×20 is a good option as it is small. However, the 20mm lens would not work as well as a 30mm in low light. 

You need “safari proof” binoculars

Everything about a safari is rough! Rough roads, high temperatures, frequent movement, dust, humidity, rain, and the chance of dropping your binos at some stage! Your model must be up to the challenge.

Waterproof – Getting wet on a safari drive will happen. Your model must be waterproof and possibly fog proof. Some models can even be used underwater if you are brave enough to dive and look at the crocodiles.

Shockproof and tough – Travelling on rough, bumpy sand roads will shake you and your equipment around. Even though safari vehicles are pretty comfortable these days, you are bound to drop or bash your binoculars at some time during your holiday. Models with rugged armoring absorb bumps and bashes. A flimsy model will be easily damaged, ruining your chances of an amazing sight! Choose a pair that comes in a good quality protective carry case. 

Long eye relief – This means that you will be able to hold your binoculars further away from your eyes and still see a clear image. In the hot African sun, you will probably wear sunglasses, or you may wear eye-glasses. Keeping them on is important, even when looking through the binoculars. Eye relief of 12mm to 18mm will give you enough distance to suit your needs. 

Weight – Packing for safari means taking a lot of things. There are also weight limitations on planes and limited luggage space in the vehicles. You need lightweight binoculars. Choose a model that weighs between a light 10 ounces to a heavier 30 ounces.  

How to choose the right binoculars for safari?

Magnification – A magnification of 10x to 12x is ideal. 8x will probably be too small to get great views of faraway animals. Bigger magnifications make the binoculars heavier to carry. 

Lens diameter – A lens diameter of 26mm to 42mm is good for safari. The bigger the lens, the heavier the binoculars will be. I was very happy with a 30mm lens, and got great views even at dusk and dawn in lower light. 

Field of view – The field of view needs to be as wide as possible. Choose binoculars that range between 4° and 6°. You will be doing a lot of scanning in areas enclosed by undergrowth, bushes and trees. The wider field of view will help you spot animals quickly in these conditions.

Lens coating – As this may be the first time you are seeing exotic wild animals, you want to see them clearly! Choosing the best optical coatings will cut down on light reflection, giving you sharp images. Look for fully multi-coated or high-contrast coatings. 

Eye relief – Long eye relief is important. You will be spending a lot of time looking through your binoculars. They must be comfortable, especially if you wear spectacles or sunglasses.

Weatherproof – The weather can be unpredictable! Choose waterproof models and if possible, fogproof. Look for rugged outer armor coatings that protect against rough weather as well as dropping and bashing. 

Weight – You will be doing a lot of walking and climbing in and out of your Safari vehicle. Being weighed down by a monster binocular around your neck is not what you want. Choose models between 10 to 30 ounces. 

Best binoculars for safari

The Nikon 16000 PROSTAFF 7S 8×30 Binocular was the first model we reviewed. It is reasonably priced at under $200 and is ideal for outdoor use. 

It features a rubber-armored body that protects against wet weather. The rubber armor also protects the binoculars in the event of dropping or rough handling. 

With a 30mm lens and an 8x magnification, the clarity and color of the images were impressive. 

We saw giraffe, impala, crocodiles, and even a pride of lions resting at a waterhole! The binoculars have fully multilayer-coated lenses and phase correction coated roof prisms. 

Eye-relief is great, with turn-and-slide rubber eyecups. My better half wore glasses and was able to easily adjust the binoculars for perfect views. The set comes in a soft case.  

Check the price of Nikon 16000 PROSTAFF 7S 8×30 Binocular here

What we liked

  • Good value for the lower price 
  • Lightweight and easy to hold
  • Advanced ocular system for clear images
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Rubber armored body protects in rugged conditions
  • Waterproof and fogproof
  • Turn-and-Slide rubber eyecaps

What we didn’t like

  • May be too simple for a professional 
  • Eye-piece covers and straps are not top quality
  • A lot of reflection near exit pupils

Aperture: 30mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens diameter: 30mm 
Field of view: 6.25° 
Eye relief: 10.4mm
Weatherproof: Waterproof and fogproof
Weight: 14.6 ounces

Also well priced, the Steiner 10×26 Safari UltraSharp Binoculars is a great choice for a Safari. It has a tough, mean look that delighted the kids! 

We loved the fast Close-Focus feature that made it look as though we could touch the animals. This model has a 26mm lens and a 10x magnification. 

There are Steiner High-Contrast coatings on every lens, giving clear and sharp images. 

For bad weather and rough conditions, the binoculars have a waterproof construction and rugged armoring that absorbs bumps and bashes. 

The ergonomic eyecups fold down for use with eyeglasses, a great perk that my hubby enjoyed. These binoculars are very light, weighing only 10.5 oz. They come with a handy padded carry case.

Check the price of Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×26 Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Well priced for great value
  • Lightweight and easy to hold
  • Steiner High-Contrast coatings on every lens
  • Rubber armored body to protect in rugged conditions
  • Waterproof and fogproof
  • Ergonomic eyecups that fold down
  • Padded travel case

What we didn’t like

  • May be too simple for a professional 
  • Lack of lens covers

Aperture: 26mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens diameter: 26mm
Field of view: 5.9° 
Eye relief: 11mm 
Weatherproof: Waterproof 
Weight: 10.5 ounces

This model is great for use by professional hunters. We were not planning on hunting but took them along on our Africa Safari to view the wild game. 

The clarity, sharpness, and color of the images were impressive. The binoculars have a large 42mm lens and a 10x magnification. 

They are exceptionally tough but light enough to carry around your neck. The amazing Color Adjusted Transmission system amplifies the contrasts, allowing us to spot game in difficult conditions. 

For the fast acquisition of images, there is a Fast-Close-Focus focusing wheel that requires minimal rotation to quickly obtain a sharp view. The binoculars are waterproof and fog-resistant. 

An amazing perk was the ClicLoc System, which attaches and releases the neck strap with a one-finger push-button. It also keeps the binoculars hanging straight and ready for action. 

Check the price of Steiner Optics Predator 10×42 Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Great value for money
  • Ideal for professional hunting 
  • Color Adjusted Transmission
  • Fast-Close-Focus central focusing wheel 
  • N2 Injection System for fogproof viewing
  • Clicloc System keeps binoculars hanging straight 
  • Heritage Warranty – Lifetime repair / replacement of defective products 

What we didn’t like

  • Heavier than some other models
  • The eye-piece wrappers may be small for some

Aperture: 42mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 5.0°
Eye relief: 16mm
Weatherproof: Waterproof and Fog resistant
Weight: 26.5 ounces

This is a higher-priced binocular, ideal for safari wildlife viewing and hunting. It has a 10x magnification and 42mm lenses.

The high-end design is compact with an easy-to-grip rubber armored chassis. We loved the thumb indents that prevent the binoculars from slipping out of damp hands! 

The XR anti-reflective lens coatings give exceptionally clear views, even in dimmer light. The focus wheel in the middle is large and easy to use, turning effortlessly for quick sharp views. 

My hubby wears glasses and he enjoyed the twist-up eyecups which rest comfortably against the face and provide customized eye relief. The binoculars feature Argon purging and O-ring seals, making them waterproof and fog proof. 

I carried them using the Glass Pak Chest Harness, which provides comfortable strain-free carrying and easy access when I needed to grab them to view an animal. 

Check the price of Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Ideal for professional hunting and shooting 
  • Rubber armored chassis with thumb indents
  • XR anti-reflective lens coatings give bright views
  • Great for low light situations
  • Argon purged for waterproof and fogproof
  • Glass Pak Chest Harness for easy carrying 
  • Twist-up eyecups for customized eye relief
  • Smooth center focus wheel

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price
  • Shoulder straps are could be more comfortable

Aperture: 42mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 5.5°
Eye relief: 16mm
Weatherproof: Waterproof and fogproof
Weight: 28.8 ounces

After experiencing the amazing sensation of seeing wild game up close, we decided to spoil ourselves and try out the very expensive SWAROVSKI EL 10×42 Binocular. 

At this high price, I expected exceptional views and I certainly got them! The views are so sharp. I almost felt that I was sitting next to the massive gorillas. 

The binoculars have a 42mm objective lens and a 10x magnification. The set comes with a field bag, eyepiece cover, objective lens cover, and lift carrying strap. 

Like most Swarovski models, it has a Swarovski Optic Lifetime Warranty. This model is waterproof with a submersion tightness up to 13ft deep. I even took a plunge into the water to view some stunning underwater scenes up close.

Check the price of SWAROVSKI EL 10×42 Binocular with FieldPro Package here

What we liked

  • Exceptional clear views
  • Great for hunting in low light
  • Waterproof up to 13 feet deep
  • Comes with field bag, eyepiece cover, objective lens cover 
  • Comes with lift carrying strap
  • Easy to hold and focus
  • Lifetime warranty on optics

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price

Aperture: 42mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.0°
Eye relief: 20mm
Weatherproof: Waterproof, submersible, fogproof
Weight: 29.6 ounces

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