The right set of binoculars does not always focus on viewing power. If you are usually on the go and cannot concern yourself with the weight problem, then it is best to compromise on the quality of the image and get yourself a pair that wouldn’t add to your load.
The right set is always a challenge to find due to the variety of models available and heavy optics. That’s why you will learn in this guide, how to pick the best compact binoculars for your next adventure.
Three types of binoculars
Binocular sets are divided into compact models to make them simple to understand. However, you must remember that models having the same size of the objective lens can still differ in weight and size due to differences in construction, design, and optics.
The standard binocular sizes are:
Compact Binoculars – these binoculars contain a 30 mm objectives lens size (8×25, 10 x 28, etc.). Any binocular consisting of number 26 of the second binocular or less than that is a compact binocular. They come in two basic types of the prism; roof prism and porro binoculars. Compact binoculars are perfect for traveling purposes, country skiing, hiking, and even canoeing.
Midsize Binoculars – These have an objective lens size of 30 to 40mm (10 x 30, 8 x 32, etc.). The midsize models can be held comfortably and offer brighter images. These are best for wildlife and bird watching as midsize binoculars offer high magnification.
Full- Size Binoculars – these binoculars contain an objective lens that measures more than 40 mm in size (8 x 42, 10 x 50, etc.). These have a bigger lens and should be used for events in which you require a lot of light. If you are planning an activity that needs a bigger scope of magnification spotting, then this size model is the perfect fit for you.
Compact binoculars tradeoffs to consider
When you set out to buy a compact binocular, there are certain pointers to consider. You can regard them as benefits or tradeoffs as per your goals.
With a mini binocular, you have to compromise on the field of view, which is measured in area width visible at 1000 yards.
- Compact binoculars have a smaller size of the objective lens, hence the narrow FOV. Thus, you must refrain from buying a high in magnification set, as it will narrow down your field of view to a great extent.
- What you need is the right balance between FOV and magnification in the pocket binoculars. You, therefore, need to be activity-specific when choosing a small binocular so that the aperture and magnification align with your requirements.
- The aperture will be around 300 mm or less, which means a narrower field of view with a higher power range. Opting for a larger aperture will get you approximately a 6 x 30 low-power magnification but a wide field of view. These specs are not ideal for hunters but are perfect outdoor men, bird watchers, event participants, and hikers.
- The prices may also vary depending on the application of coating types, quality of optics, and certain other features.
What do the numbers mean?
All binocular are labeled with numbers such as 7x 50, 8x 30, and so on.
The first number and the x denote the power and magnification. This tells us how the degree of enlargement of the object in focus. For instance, 8x binocular makes the object in view appear 8 times closer than the naked eye would view.
The second number is the aperture in the code. It denotes the diameter of each objective lens in millimeters. Therefore, 8x 30 means the objective lens in the binoculars is 30 mm in diameter.
Some examples of the common sizes of compact binoculars are:
It is important to note that more power means a narrower FOV. Wide FOV is unsuitable for those wearing eyeglasses. This is not an important concern for bird watchers, but for glass wearers, it is important to select binoculars wisely.
Picking the right size for several activities is always challenging, so here some suggestions to start with:
- For backpacking and hiking, it is best to use wide-angle binoculars with 7x to 10x ranges of magnification.
- For birding and hunting, the best options are 7x to 10x. For long ranges, we recommend a magnification of 12x to 16x. The standard birding set is 8×42, but for greater distances, consider 10x or 12x magnification.
- For marine and whale watching, the most common ones for this activity are 7x, 8x, and 10x. The objective lens should be around 42 or 50mm. Also, look for rubber armoring, waterproofing, and a larger objective lens for marine and boating activities.
- For astronomy and stargazing, the most recommended is a 50 mm aperture with a 10s50 center focus. For stargazing, you may want to look at 20×70 and 15×70 ranges.
- For traveling and safari, you may consider 7x or 10x ranges. The best are compact models, which you can strap around your neck or easily pocket. These provide a wide-angle and a perfect FOV.
The compact binoculars price timeline
We are all aware of the purpose of binoculars and perhaps even used one at some point in life. But when it comes to buying one, we are often hesitant, mainly because we are unfamiliar with the specifications. However, if you are a bird watcher, a nature enthusiast, or a sports lover, then you must be very serious about binoculars. Here is a simple guide to help you select the right one as per your needs:
Starters up to 100$ – With a budget of $100 or less, you can find a set with a magnification of 10×42 lens size. Models under this price range will be lightweight and ergonomic. They are good for activities such as traveling, hunting, wildlife viewing, bird watching, and sports event watching. Some sets under this budget will also provide you rubber eyecups, a rubber-armored coating for durability and a central knob. A great option for beginners and average users!
Bargain $100-$150 – Under this price budget, you can find models equipped with a magnification of 10x and 42mm lens size and also 8x with a 42 mm lens. The choices in this range are great for those who love outdoor activities and a fog-proof and waterproof set of binoculars. Certain products within this budget also come complete with multi-coated optics and Bak-4 prisms.
Budget $150-$250 – Being limited on a budget does not mean you have to settle for an inefficient pair of binoculars. Under this price range, you can get yourself a set consisting of ED glass or Extra Low Diffraction. Most models under this budget will also have adjustable eyecups. Binoculars in this category are mostly not lightweight. But you can surely get a large FOV, a fog-proof and waterproof set, variable zoom options, very close minimum distance with specifics up to 22x 50mm.
Mid-range $250-$500 – This price range will find you a pair of binoculars that will more than fit your needs. From dependability to a high quality to durability, you can literally get it all. Within this budget, you can get magnifications and an objective lens of 10x 42, 8x 42, 8x 20, and 10x 50. At this budget line, you will surely find an upgrade in quality, especially the build, image, and coating quality. Additionally, you will also most certainly find an Eco- glass, ED glass, High point design, and Dielectric coatings in a model within this range. This category is the most preferred among hunters.
Advanced $500 to $1000 – This price range brings with it some serious optics and glassing options. Within this price range, you get the best of roof prisms, multi-layer coating and HD Lens system, aluminum protective coating, apparent angle view of 66 degrees, twist-up eyecups and large focusing wheels, fog-proof and waterproof elements and comfortable, enhanced designs. This is the top tier binocular price range, which offers ample eye relief elements additionally. Within this price range, you will also get a model of 10x magnification with a 50mm objective lens size.
How to choose the right compact binoculars
When we consider miniature binoculars, the focus remains on the small size and lower power. However, this does not call for compromise on quality, weather-proofed, and FOV. If you desire the best quality for money, be brand specific, but most importantly, determine what particular design, power, aperture, and platform will suit your needs the best. Size is irrelevant when everything else you want is present.
Weight – Consider the weight of a binocular before you buy it. Verify if prolonged use will tire you. Most compact binoculars should weigh at half kg or a pound or less. Larger ones may weigh from 3 pounds to more.
Aperture – Aperture is the front width of a binocular or objective lens in millimeters. It is necessary as it gathers light to make objects viewable. General use binoculars should have an aperture of 7x to 10x.
Magnification – The power of magnification directly affects the field of view. Most binoculars have a field of view between 6 to 7.5 degrees. Most good quality models have a FOV of 300 to 375 feet at 1000 yards.
Coatings – Lens coatings and make up on the glass minimize reflection and increase brightness and clarity. Most binoculars have the concave eyepiece and a convex objective lens. There are also multi-coatings on the inside and outside of the glasses to reduce reflections.
Eye relief – The best eye relief in a binocular is 16 mm, although some models have a 15 mm or even less eye relief at times.
Weatherpoof – The best weatherproofing in binoculars is done with hermetical sealing and nitrogen filling.
Best compact binoculars
1. Nikon Aculon A30 10x 25mm Binoculars
This product contains an arsenic-free and lead eco glass. It offers high-resolution images with high-index BAK 4 prism roofs.
It comes with full mufti-coated optics that maximize light transmissions. The binoculars are water and fog-proof, with nitrogen filling and consist of a rubber-armored body.
This pair of binoculars requires less adjusting when one wants a good image. It is lightweight and small to travel with conveniently but mighty in its functionality. It’s qualitative with high magnification.
The product performs flawlessly with good image quality and requires minimal adjusting. These binoculars are great value at a very reasonable price. With high magnification and compact design, they make an ideal companion for musical concerts, operas, bird watching, and any place where the subjects are brightly lit.
What we liked
- This model is lightweight
- Super sharp focus
- Magnification of 10 x
- Is good for concerts and sports use
- Sharp lenses
- Comes at a reasonable price
- Compact physical size
What we didn’t like
- Strap lacks a solid design and cannot support the binoculars
- Not ideal for glasses wearers
- Have slight limitations on the distance
2. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x25 Compact Binoculars
This product is lightweight, rugged magnesium chassis with an ergonomic design and a double-hinged closed bridge.
Has a close focus of 6.0. It has exception optics with ED Prime Glass, 10x magnification Bak4- prisms, Rainguard HD lens coating for water repellence.
It has a 10x magnification and objective compact prisms of 25mm. It has a soft-touch grip and is fog-proof and water-proof.
It consists of an ultra-wideband of anti-reflective lens coating. It optimizes light and boosts brightness.
Product has superior class- dominating optics, an ultra-compact format for easy pocket traveling. The product has a double-hinged and closed bridge, which affords it a fine optic trim profile.
With these binoculars, you can rest assured of years of dependable use. The ED glass lenses offer an exceptional viewing performance and provide fantastic color rendition, vivid contrast, and enhanced resolution.
What we liked
- Compact and light weight, and perfect for traveling
- Crystal clear viewing potential
- Cost efficient
- Fully weather proof
- Has high quality optics
What we didn’t like
- Slightly difficult to hold steady
- Colors tend to be a little less saturated
3. Nikon 16000 PROSTAFF 7S 8X30 Compact Binocular
This prostaff brings you clarity and color together. It is best for scenery and wildlife viewing.
It is fully layered with multi-coated lenses and roof prisms coated with phase correction.
This model is perfect even for eyeglass wearers. It consists of rubber eyecups, which can turn and slide as needed.
A sleek, compact design to suit most outdoor activities and excursion.
It has an Eco-glass lens with full multi-coating and roof prisms coated with phase correctors. This product guarantees to deliver sharper images with optical clarity and brightness.
This product offers high-resolution images with color reproduction right on the spot. The multilayer coatings provide an even greater transmittance of light across the entire spectrum of light that is visible. The lightweight and ergonomic design make it very comfortable for long use.
What we liked
- Has a rubber armored body
- Can be steadily held even in wet conditions
- Possesses easy focus
- A choice for general purpose binoculars
- The lenses have proven to perform better than others
- Provides excellent eye relief
What we didn’t like
- Not the most compact option available
- Are a bit pricey
4. Zeiss 8x25 Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular
It has an 8x magnification. Delivers quality images enlarged. The model offers a FOV of 119m.
It is weatherproof with a temperature range of -4 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a waterproof body and can work under extreme conditions.
The design is smooth and easy to use with an exact focus on any activity. This set is best for nature observation, bird watching, and outdoor activities and traveling.
The size is compact and can be easily carried due to its foldable design and weight as low as 310 grams. With the hydrophobic multi-coating and optical precision, these binoculars can meet all requirements of versatile use.
The coating ensures the reliability of the binoculars even under extreme uses and adverse weather conditions. The ZEISS TERRA ED also delivers sharp images of objects at great distances.
What we liked
- Non-intrusive viewing
- Accurate powered views
- Ease of portability
- Satisfactory ergonomics
- Natural color presentation
- Crystalline resolution
- Has a satisfactory and stereoptic depth of field
What we didn’t like
- Diopter adjustment does not have a lock
- Contains a smaller exit pupil
5. Swarovski 46201 CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars
This is an extremely portable model with a foldable bridge design. It offers a unique optical experience and contains color-true and sharp images, high contrast, and robust and ergonomic design.
This Swarovski comes with large eyecups made out of hypoallergenic material.
This product of Swarovski is a convenient and lightweight model. It has a close mid-range optic that combines image and build-quality quite well, which nature enthusiasts simply love.
This model also features a dual-hinge bridge with a scallop on the underside. This makes it possible for the barrel to fold under the concave and create a reduced footprint.
Some additional user-friendly features of this product include twist-up eyecups made with hypoallergenic materials, a focus wheel with a textured center with a slight recession into the bride to offer a better-streamlined silhouette.
What we liked
- Sharp and bright FOV
- Can easily adjust focus
- Can be easily traveled with
- Light enough to comfortably hang around the neck
- Superb balance
- Best for the money
What we didn’t like
- Does not provide a cover for the optics
- The case cannot attach with a neckstrap