5 Best High-Powered Binoculars in 2020 (Astronomy & Wildlife)

Enjoying the outdoors, at the coast or inland, is greatly enhanced by the fun and excitement of viewing images close up through binoculars. Perhaps you want to do bird watching, ship watching, or try your hand at hunting. You may be considering buying binoculars for sky-gazing. 

Choosing the correct binoculars comes with many questions. What is the best brand, magnification, lens size, tripod, and price? We have reviewed the 5 best high powered binoculars, giving a summary of the main features, highlighting the good and bad. This will help you make an informed decision when deciding which model is best for you. 

We Recommend

Best value/price ratio

Vortex Kaibab
HD Binoculars

Highest magnification

BARSKA Blueline
Jumbo Binocular

Best for the money

Swarovski 15×56
SLC Series

What is the strongest magnification for binoculars?

When you shop for binoculars, you will see numbers that look something like 20×56 or 8×30.

  • The first number indicates the magnification. This is how many times larger the image is when viewed through the lens. 20 means that an image is 20 times larger; 8 means that the image is 8 times larger.
  • The second number is the size of the lens in millimeters. In this case, 56mm or 30mm. This will affect the size and weight of the model you choose. 

Depending on what you want to view, the magnification is important. Binoculars we reviewed generally have a magnification of between 18 to 25x. The BARSKA Blueline Jumbo is an exception and comes with 2 lenses, one offering an extra-large magnification of 40x.

Like me, you would probably choose the largest magnification possible to see the best images! After some investigation, I found that this is not the case. Buying binoculars with the largest magnification does not always give the best images. They can be less sharp, blurred, and even distorted. The technical term for this is “coma”. Coma causes the image at the edges of the lens to be wedge-shaped. 

You need to decide what you want to view! 

What are you going to view?

Choosing the best high powered binocular will depend on what you want to view. From birds to scenery, sports events, ships, hunting, and star-gazing, there are different features to consider.

Binoculars power ranges from 8x to 20x. High powered binoculars start at around 15x. For example, viewing a sailing boat 3km from shore, you would choose binoculars with a magnification of 16x to 20x. High magnifications sound great, but in reality, less is more! High magnifications do not always give the best images.

Weight is important. An outdoor adventure where you have to carry the binoculars is different from setting up a model in your garden for moon-gazing. For wet weather, you would certainly need a weatherproof model.

  • Astronomy. Best mounted on a tripod as you require long viewing times. 25×100 binoculars are a good choice. It can be heavier, provided that your tripod supports it.
  • Hunting. Must be lightweight, weatherproof with fast image acquisition. 15x to 20x is a good range.
  • Birding. Choose lightweight binoculars with fast image acquisition. 15x to 20x is a good range.
  • Marine. For marine viewing, stabilization is critical. Binoculars need to be waterproof and fog proof. Magnifications of 15x to 25x are suitable.
  • Low-light. Models specifically designed for viewing in low-light will have larger lenses and are heavier.
  • Overall wildlife. Being outdoors calls for lightweight, weatherproof, and easy-to-hold binoculars. Magnifications of 15x to 25x are a good choice.

Image steadiness is the key

Nothing is more disappointing than buying an expensive gadget and finding that it does not work for you. When choosing binoculars, it is vital to consider image steadiness. This can be a deal-breaker if you choose a model that you cannot hold in a steady pose. No one has 100% steady hands! Eventually, your arms will tire and your image starts bouncing around. The worst enemy of handheld optics is instability!

The importance of image steadiness depends on what you view. Grabbing binoculars for a quick look at passing scenery is very different from star-gazing. Binoculars with lower magnifications are smaller, lighter, and easier to hold. As the magnification increases, the device gets heavier and tricky to keep steady. I was able to handle a 15×56 or a 16×50 and keep them steady. This is probably the best range for an average person – like me!

Here are some suggestions to improve image steadiness.

  • When outside, look for a post, fence, or tree. They are great make-shift supports to hold your binoculars steady.
  • Choose smaller powered binoculars, starting at a low 8x up to 15x.
  • Use a tripod. Not all binoculars come with a tripod, so check this. A well-priced tripod is the BARSKA Professional Tripod.
  • Buy image-stabilized binoculars. The excellent range of Canon IS Binoculars use electronics to stabilize the image. On the downside, the added electronics make them heavier and more costly than optical-only devices.

The importance of prism, glass and coatings

When light passes through a lens, a large amount of light lost due to reflection. The more light lost, the less clear your image will be. High-quality binoculars need to retain as much light as possible to offer the best results.

To do this, manufacturers coat the lenses and prisms with a variety of high-tech coverings. The type of coating will affect the price of the device, and will also determine the quality of the image.

These are the most common coatings.

  • Coated. This is the simplest coating made from anti-reflective magnesium fluoride. Manufacturers apply it as a thin, single layer to one side of one of the lenses.
  • Fully Coated. It has one coating on both sides of the lenses and also on the prism.
  • Multi-Coated. Binoculars have multiple coatings with different refractive indices covering a wide range of wavelengths. The coatings will be on one or more of the lens surfaces.
  • Fully Multi-Coated. Found on high-end models. The coatings are on all prisms and lens surfaces. There are also multiple layers with different refractive indices. This will cover the whole light spectrum giving the best possible results.
  • Phase Coating. This is the most complex type of coating found in inexpensive models. Light passing through a prism exits with what is called a phase shift. Phase shift causes a loss in the brightness and contrast of the image. Phase Coating reduces the problem. 

How to choose the right high powered binoculars?

Here are some of the main features to consider when choosing your binoculars.

Aperture. This is the size of the lens in millimeters. You will find apertures of 56mm and 100mm on the devices we reviewed. The bigger the lens, the larger and heavier the binoculars will be.

Field of View. This is the circle of land or sky visible through the eyepiece. The higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view.

Lens Coatings. Cheaper binoculars have lenses coated with a single layer to stop light reflection. As the models become more expensive, the coatings get more sophisticated. Fully multi-coated lenses and prisms give exceptionally good clarity and color.

Eye relief. This the optimum distance your eye must be from the lens. Binoculars with a larger eye relief are ideal for people who wear glasses. Eye relief varies from 14mm to 18mm.

Weatherproof. If you are planning on camping, hiking or hunting, you must have weatherproof binoculars. These devices have Argon filled tubes which prevent fogging. They also have rugged exteriors that can withstand rain and rough conditions.

Weight. Weight is an important consideration if you are carrying the binoculars for bird, game viewing or hunting. If you are planning on setting up binoculars for sky-watching, you can choose a heavier model. Ensure that your tripod supports the weight.

Best high-powered binoculars

1. Orion 9326 Giant View 25x100 Astronomy Binoculars

This was the first binoculars we reviewed and comes in at the lowest price. It features 100mm lenses and strong 25x magnification. 

This model is ideal for viewing terrestrial and sky objects

The kids were excited to take it down to the coast to watch ships on the horizon. 

The binoculars have high-quality BAK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics. 

This gave us sharp images and a great contrast with maximum light. It has an 18mm eye relief, which made viewing easy, especially for my better half, who wears glasses. The binoculars are quite heavy and don’t come with a tripod. This is an added expense to keep in mind.

Check the price of Orion 9326 Giant View 25×100 Astronomy Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Well priced for a beginner
  • 25x magnification
  • Handy carry case
  • Great for astro and terrestrial viewing
  • Sharp images with great contrast
  • Fully multi-coated optics
  • Long 19mm eye relief

What we didn’t like

  • A bit on the heavy side
  • Does not come with a tripod
  • Need strength to spread the eye pieces

Magnification: 25x
Lens diameter: 100mm
Field of view: 2°
Eye Relief: 18mm
Weatherproof: No
Weight: 10.1 pound
Best For: Terrestrial and astro viewing
Handheld: A bit heavy, needs a tripod

2. Nikon 7583 MONARCH 5 20x56 Binocular

We loved these binoculars! At only 2 pounds, they are lightweight and my kids were able to use them easily. 

The price is in the middle range but, you can get away without a tripod, removing an additional cost. 

These Nikon binoculars feature the renowned ED, Extra-low Dispersion, glass lenses, which give exceptional clear views with no aberrations

The lenses are 56mm with a 20x magnification. 

We took them into the country to do game watching and the weather was bad! The binoculars, however, have a durable rubber-armored coating that provides a non-slip grip, even in the rain. 

They performed extremely well, even when the light started fading. This model has superior light gathering ability and continued to give sharp, high-contrast views.

Check the price of Nikon 7583 MONARCH 5 20×56 Binocular here

What we liked

  • Great value for money
  • Large 56mm lenses with 20x magnification
  • Light enough to hand-hold 
  • Renowned Extra-low Dispersion glass lenses
  • Rubber-armored coating for rugged conditions
  • Great light gathering ability for dim light viewing
  • Turn-and-Slide rubber eyecups for custom fit 

What we didn’t like

  • May not suit a professional
  • Some users said that the interpupilary distance was too big 

Magnification: 20x
Lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 3.3°
Eye Relief: 16.4mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 2 pounds
Best For: Hunting, outdoor adventures, bird and game watching
Handheld: Yes

3. Vortex Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars

After getting hooked on the bird, game, and ship viewing, we tried out the Vortex Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars

They offer exceptional viewing at extreme distances, something that we found difficult to do with other models. 

This set has an 18x magnification and 56mm objective lenses. The optical system offers premium, high density, extra-low dispersion lenses that provide long-range clarity. 

The lenses are fully multi-coated with XR plus anti-reflective coating. For wet weather, the binoculars have a durable non-slip rubber armor cover. 

The lenses are also protected, featuring ultra-hard Armortek coatings. We loved the fine control of this set, with a focus wheel that operates with a slow, delicate movement, giving precise image focus.

Check the price of Vortex Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars here

What we liked

  • 18x magnification and 56mm objective lenses
  • High density, extra-low dispersion lenses for long range clarity
  • Fully multi-coated lenses with XR plus anti-reflective coating
  • Fine control on the focus wheel
  • Argon purging for waterproof and fogproof
  • Customized eye relief
  • Adjustable interpupillary distance for customized fit

What we didn’t like

  • Slightly higher priced
  • Handheld, but may be heavy for some users

Magnification: 18x
Lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 3.7°
Eye Relief: 16.4mm
Weatherproof: Waterproof and fogproof
Weight: 3 pounds
Best For: Hunting, game watching, long distance views
Handheld: Fairly suitable, may feel heavy after extended time

4. BARSKA Blueline 20x,40x100 Waterproof Jumbo Binocular

Barska Jumbo Binocular carries a higher price and offers dual power with interchangeable 20x and 40x magnification eyepieces. 

It comes with high-quality optics – large 100mm objective lenses and BAK-4 prisms. 

The views were exceptional – bright, sharp, and crystal clear. 

As a family, we were able to view both celestial and terrestrial objects, giving us hours of fun. 

The binoculars also work well in dimmer light. 

They are waterproof, so we didn’t have to worry about damage in the rain. The binoculars come in a sturdy, foam-lined hard carry case, making it easy to transport. These binoculars are heavy and are not ideal for hand-holding. They don’t come with a tripod, so that was an additional expense.

Check the price of BARSKA Blueline 20x,40×100 Waterproof Jumbo Binocular here

What we liked

  • Dual power with 20x and 40x magnification, 100mm lens
  • Great for long distance viewing with clear images
  • Waterproof construction with all-metal body
  • Foam-lined hard carry case
  • Great for celestial and terrestrial viewing
  • Great for low light viewing

What we didn’t like

  • Higher price
  • Heavy for hand-holding
  • Does not come with a tripod

Magnification: 20x and 40x
Lens diameter: 100mm
Field of view: 2.5° to 1.25°
Eye Relief: 23.6mm at 20x, 18.4mm at 40x
Weatherproof: Waterproof and fogproof
Weight: 16 pounds
Best For: Terrestrial, celestial, shipping, scenery viewing

5. Swarovski Optik 15x56 SLC Series Water Proof Roof Prism Binocular

After becoming hooked on outdoor viewing, we decided to spoil ourselves and try out the amazing, but expensive, Swarovski Optik 15×56 SLC Series. 

This is a premium model, perfect for professionals who want to do specialized, high definition viewing. 

The binoculars have a 56mm lens and 15x magnification. They come with a field bag, eyepiece cover, objective lens cover, and carrying strap. 

Another great perk is the lifetime warranty on the optics. 

The binoculars are easy to hold with a non-slip grip. They have a large field of view and rapid target acquisition, making them ideal for hunters. 

We found that the rugged design was ideal for rough outdoor conditions. We especially enjoyed the innovative rotating strap connector, which adapts to your movement and does not twist!

Check the price of Swarovski Optik 15×56 SLC Series Water Proof Roof Prism Binocular here

What we liked

  • HD Optical system fluorite-containing glass 
  • 56mm lens with 15x magnification
  • Superior Swarovski glass design
  • Lifetime warranty on optics, 10-Year warranty on parts
  • Innovative rotating strap connector
  • Rugged for rough outdoor use
  • Secure ergonomic grip

What we didn’t like

  • High price
  • No tripod mount or tripod

Magnification: 15x
Lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 4.5°
Eye Relief: 18mm
Weatherproof: Yes
Weight: 5.15 pounds
Best For: Hunting, professional use
Handheld: Yes

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