12 Best Zoom Binoculars Worth the Money (2020)

Binoculars are essential for wildlife viewing. For birders, great binoculars can help you get close to the action and observe the details of birds in their native habitats.

Zoom binoculars offer a lot of value but it’s quite difficult to choose the right pair of regular binocularse not to mention zoom binoculars.

This guide will cover everything you need to know on how to pick the best zoom binoculars for yourself.

We recommend

Best price/value ratio

Olympus 8-16X40
Zoom DPS I

Best compact option

Nikon Aculon
Compact 8-24×25

Best bundle option

Nikon Aculon
A211 10-22×50

Types of Binoculars

There are a few different types of binoculars. Before you purchase a pair, it’s important to know the differences and determine which binoculars will be best for you.

  • Galilean Binoculars– These are compact binoculars that use the same structure Galileo Galilei used when he viewed the night sky in the 17th century. Most frequently these binoculars are used as opera glasses. The design which features two convex lenses and two concave lenses, without the use of a prism, make these binoculars less than ideal for viewing wildlife. 
  • Roof Prism– Many sport binoculars use a roof prism in conjunction with 2 convex lenses. This allows for a wider field of view and brighter, clearer images. Roof prism binoculars are more compact and are a great option for anyone planning to take their binoculars with them on a long hike. 
  • Porro Prism– Many sport binoculars also use the porro prism system. This system still uses the 2 convex lenses allowing for wider field of view and clear images. But the design of the porro prism makes the binoculars much larger and heavier. These binoculars may be ideal for backyard bird watchers who want to see birds up close from the comfort of their home. 
  • Fixed Lens Binoculars– Fixed lens binoculars feature either a roof prism or porro prism system. These binoculars includes only one magnification setting and a focus knob to clear up the finer details within an image. Higher-end fixed lens binoculars offer exceptional image quality.
  • Zoom Binoculars– Unlike most other binoculars, zoom binoculars feature a range of magnification. These binoculars can be bulkier but you’ll have the option to zoom onto your subject to get a closer look at the object you are viewing. 
  • Astronomical Binoculars – Astronomical binoculars are massive. With a high magnification and a very wide optical diameter to allow light to pass through, these binoculars are fairly specialized and not a great option for someone interested in backyard bird watching. 

Understanding Your Binoculars

When purchasing binoculars you’ll notice that there are certain numbers attached to the description. For example, these numbers may appear as 8×42, 10×25, or 10-22×50. 

To better understand what these numbers mean, we need to break down the description. 

  • The first number refers to the magnification. Fixed lens binoculars will only have one number here, but a zoom binocular will include a range.
  • The second number refers to the optical diameter. This is important because larger optical diameters allow more light to filter through the lens. More light will result in clearer, brighter images. 
  • Another important thing to look for when purchasing binoculars is field of view (FOV). FOV may appear as a measurement like: 350 feet at 1,000 yards. This refers to how wide a view you may have at a distance of 1,000 yard. The wider the FOV the more picture you will see. Smaller FOV can result in a shaky image and perhaps make it difficult to locate the object you are trying to focus on.

Well-balanced binoculars will have a decent magnification working in conjunction with the optical diameter and FOV to produce high-quality images. 

Zoom Binocular Pros and Cons

Zoom binoculars are an excellent choice for birders, however there are some downsides to owning zoom binoculars. Here are the pros and cons of zoom binoculars:

Pros:

  • Zoom binoculars feature a range of magnification allowing you to zoom in on an object with physically moving.
  • Zoom binoculars can offer excellent image quality at lower magnifications that rival fixed lens models.
  • An affordable option for spotting wildlife at long distances.

Cons:

  • Magnification may be too strong depending on how far away the subject is. (Backyard bird watchers with small backyards may want to shy away from zoom binoculars.)
  • Image quality may decrease at higher magnification. For this, consider a superzoom camera instead.
  • Images may appear shaky at higher magnifications, so it may be a good investment to purchase a tripod as well.

How to Choose Zoom Binoculars?

Now that you’ve learned about zoom binoculars, how do you determine which model is best? The answer to that question completely depends on the intended use. 

Before purchasing zoom binoculars, ask yourself: Am I planning on hiking with these binoculars? How much distance do I anticipate there being between me and the objects I’m viewing? Do I value magnification over image quality? Will I need a tripod? Etc.

When answering these questions think about what priorities you might have when using your binoculars. Your priorities may include:

 

  • Durability– If you plan on taking your zoom binoculars out for a hike or while travelling, you may want to invest in a pair that are well-built, weather resistant, and ergonomic. 
  • Size– Zoom binoculars are by nature large, but there are compact options on the market. If you go with a smaller pair, you may sacrifice some image quality and usability. 
  • Image Quality– If you are prioritizing image quality the big thing you’ll want to look for is a good balance between magnification, optical diameter, and field of view. These specifications directly impact the quality of the images you’ll be seeing. Magnification determines how closely you can view an object. High optical diameter corresponds to better low-light performance. Wide field of view allows for better ease-of-use.
  • Zoom– Exactly how much zoom do you need? A magnification between 10x-20x can get you exceptionally close to birds and other wildlife. Magnification that is 20x plus may be a bit more than you need. Viewing at higher magnifications may also require the use of a tripod to ensure image stability.
PS! Also don’t forget a proper binocular harness for your binos. Yes, it’s essential if you don’t plan to buy new one each month!

Best Zoom Binoculars

1. Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 10-22x50 (Best All-Round Binocular)

This Nikon 8252 ACULON is a great option for anyone looking to purchase zoom binoculars. 

This set offers great magnification for birds and wildlife while also maintaining a reasonable optical diameter to balance the light and field of view. 

Although larger compared to other fixed lens models, these binoculars are durable and ergonomic, making them great for backyard bird watchers or any birders hoping to take them on a hike.

Nikon offers some of the greatest mid-range binoculars on the market. These zoom binoculars are no exception. 

For the price, users will be pleased with the clear images that these binoculars can produce in low light and at high magnification.

Check the price of Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 here

What we liked

  • Clear Images
  • Quality Low Light Performance
  • Durable, Ergonomic
  • Good Value for the Money

What we didn’t like

  • Not Waterproof
  • Large Size

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Wildlife, Bird Watching, and General Use
Optical diameter: 50mm
Magnification: 10x – 22x
Near focus: 49.2 feet
Field of View: 199 feet at 1,000 yards
Prism Type: BAK-4 Porro Prism
Focus style: Central Focus Knob
Weight: 2 lbs
Tripod Compatible: Yes, includes free tripod adapter.

2. Nikon ACULON Compact Zoom Binocular (Best Compact Binocular)

If you’re looking for a compact zoom binocular, the Nikon ACULON Compact 8-24x25mm is a solid choice. 

These binoculars are perfect for someone who doesn’t want to deal with bulky binoculars, but still hoping to get high magnification. 

The Nikon ACULON Compact 8-24x25mm has exceptional zoom for its size. 

The handy zoom switch on the top makes changing the magnification simple. 

Anyone interested in purchasing these zoom binoculars should know that these binoculars may not be the best option for observing detailed images of birds. 

The small optical diameter does not allow sufficient light to enter the lens in low-light situations, making images appear dark and fuzzy. Users may also find it difficult to maintain a stable image when viewing objects at high magnification.

Check the price of Nikon ACULON Compact Zoom Binocular here

What we liked

  • Compact
  • Lightweight
  • Impressive Zoom
  • Easy-to-Use Magnification Switch

What we didn’t like

  • Poor Low Light Performance
  • Difficult to Maintain Stable Images at High Magnification 

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: General Use
Optical diameter: 25mm
Magnification: 8x – 24x
Near focus: 13.1 feet
Field of View: 241 feet at 1,000 yards on 8x magnification
Prism Type: BaK-4 High Index Porro Prism
Focus style: Central Focus Knob & Zoom Magnification Switch
Weight: 0.7 lbs
Tripod Compatible: No

3. Nightfox 100V Widescreen (Best for Nocturnal Viewing)

For the birders who are not afraid of the dark, the Nightfox 100V Widescreen offers a unique viewing experience ideal for locating wildlife at night. 

The Nightfox100V Widescreen zoom binocular captures night-time images and projects them onto a digital screen. 

These binoculars include a 3x fixed lens magnification and also a 2x digital zoom.

Users will find that these night vision binoculars are easy to use and provide quality imaging even in the dead of night. 

Savvy bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts, who may find themselves at the right place at the right time, may be able to capture glimpses of nocturnal wildlife such as foxes, raccoons, and owls.

Check the price of Nightfox 100V Widescreen here

What we liked

  • Night Vision Capable
  • Compact
  • Easy-to-Use
  • Good Value for the Money

What we didn’t like

  • Low Magnification
  • Narrow Field of View

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Nocturnal Wildlife
Optical diameter: 20mm
Magnification: 3x Fixed Zoom (Plus 2x Digital Zoom)
Near focus: Not Listed
Field of View: Not Listed
Prism Type: N/A
Focus style: Central Focus Wheel & Digital Zoom Button
Weight: 1.3 lbs (without batteries)
Tripod Compatible: Yes

4. Celestron SkyMaster 15-35x70 Binocular (Best for Long Distance Viewing)

The Celestron SkyMaster 15-35×70 Binocular offers a range of high magnification settings. 

These binoculars are intended for astronomical viewing so casual birders may find these binoculars impractical. 

However, paired with a proper tripod the Celestron SkyMaster can transform into an affordable spotting scope setup, perfect for viewing waterfowl or other birds and wildlife in open spaces.

Celestron is a renowned company that specializes in sports optics. Their low-to-mid range wildlife binoculars offer bird watchers great quality at a low price. 

The Celestron SkyMaster 15-35×70, though large, is durable and also water resistant. Serious birders may find these binoculars a great option for viewing migratory waterfowl that flock to freshwater lakes and ponds.

Check the price of Celestron SkyMaster 15-35×70 Binocular here

What we liked

  • High Magnification
  • Reasonably Priced
  • Water Resistant
  • Low-Light Imaging 

What we didn’t like

  • Large
  • Narrow Field of View

Waterproof: Water Resistant
Best for viewing: Night Sky, Wildlife, and Waterfowl (at great distances)
Optical diameter: 70mm
Magnification: 15x-35x
Near focus: 73.8 feet
Field of View: 115 feet at 1,000 yards
Prism Type: BaK-4 High Index Porro Prism
Focus style: Central Focus Knob
Weight: 3.31 lbs
Tripod Compatible: Yes, tripod adapter included. 

5. Barska 10-30x50 Zoom Gladiator Binocular (Best Budget Zoom Binocular)

If you are new to bird watching and hoping to get affordable binoculars, the Barska 10-30×50 Zoom Gladiator Binocular is a great option. 

It provides users the opportunity to use higher magnifications to view objects at a distant, but the lower settings also offer a great balance to ensure quality imaging. 

The easy-to-use magnification lever allows you to simply increase the magnification with a quick switch. 

Unfortunately, Barska binoculars do tend to be less durable then their competitors. One drop may easily result in a misalignment (low-price has its downfalls).

Check the price of Barska 10-30×50 Zoom Gladiator Binocular here

What we liked

  • Price, Anti-Reflection Coated Lenses
  • Zoom
  • Easy-to-Use Magnification Thumb Lever

What we didn’t like

  • More fragile than competitors

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Wildlife, Bird Watching, and General Use
Optical diameter: 50mm
Magnification: 10x-30x
Near focus: 26 feet
Field of View: 350 feet at 1,000 yards on 10x magnification
Prism Type: BK-7 Porro Prism
Focus style: Central Focus Knob & Thumb Lever for Magnification Changes
Weight: 2 lbs
Tripod Compatible: Yes

6. Pentax UP 8-16x21 Compact Zoom Binoculars

The Pentax UP 8-16×21 Compact Zoom Binoculars is a pair that features a unique design. 

Single housing design allows Pentax to provide superior performance. This enables synchronized eyepiece movement. 

It also helps to reduce the number of moving parts needed to give you a great view of wildlife, birds, and other subjects far away. 

The uni-body design of the binoculars also contributes to better durability. This ensures the binoculars can be used on frequent occasions without worrying about wearing it out. 

Multi-coated optics help to ensure light transmission works flawlessly. All surface elements are coated. This helps to minimize the amount of flare and glare in the binoculars. 

This pair of Pentax compact zoom binoculars provide easy customization of the zoom level. The zoomable binoculars have a magnification level that can be adjusted between 8x and 16x. 

Check the price of Pentax UP 8-16×21 Compact Zoom Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Compact size
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Minimizes internal flare
  • Uni-body design
  • Aspherical lens elements
  • Edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Bright view

What we didn’t like

  • Only one color option
  • Low zoom compared to some alternative models
  • Single housing design is not a preference for everyone

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Wildlife, birds
Optical diameter: 21mm
Magnification: 8 – 16x
Near focus: n/a
Field of view: n/a
Prism type: n/a
Focus style: Center knob
Weight: 12 ounces
Tripod Compatible: No

7. Olympus 8-16x40 Zoom DPS I Binocular

When it comes to looking for a great pair of zoom binoculars, the Olympus 8-16×40 Zoom DPS I Binocular stands out. 

This is due to its ability to provide a close minimum focus distance. The sturdy construction offered by the binoculars also contributes to improved usage. 

The binoculars offer a compact and lightweight design. The compact zoom binoculars are easy to carry around – even on your neck – as it will not weigh you down. 

These binoculars zoom between 8x and 16x, which you can adjust with the use of a ring-type zoom system at the top of the device. The zooming binoculars also use a BK-7 Porro prism for better performance, providing a much clearer view of subjects at a distance from your current location. 

The field of view allows you to see for 1,000 yards out front. There is a minimum focusing distance of the only 32.8ft. The lens has an anti-reflective coating to help reduce flaring in the binoculars. 

Check the price of Olympus 8-16×40 Zoom DPS I Binocular here

What we liked

  • BK-7 Porro prism
  • 1,000 yards field of view
  • Built-in eye relief
  • Improved brightness
  • Anti-reflective coating
  • Adjustable zoom
  • Durable construction

What we didn’t like

  • Low maximum zoom
  • No waterproof function
  • Single-lens coating

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Wildlife, general use
Optical diameter: 40mm
Magnification: 8 – 16x
Near focus: 32.8ft
Field of View: 1,000 yards
Prism Type: BK-7 Porro
Focus style: Center knob
Weight: 27.9 oz
Tripod Compatible: Yes

8. BetaOptics 144X Military Zoom Binoculars

For those looking to get their hands on a pair of high power zoom binoculars, you cannot go wrong with the BetaOptics 144X Military Zoom Binoculars. 

These are not only the best zoom binoculars for birding, but for all other purposes too. 

These are also high zoom binoculars, offering a maximum magnification setting of 144x. The lowest magnification provided by the binoculars is 20x. 

When looking at a zoom binoculars review, the BetaOptics 144X Military Zoom Binoculars will usually be included in the list. The lenses are made from a BaK7 glass component and feature a special coating. 

The coating helps to provide a significant reduction in flares and glaring while you are viewing a subject. The lenses feature a 70mm diameter. 

A focus wheel with a Porro prism system is included in the design of these binoculars. This allows you to easily focus on any subject, even if they are far away. 

Check the price of BetaOptics 144X Military Zoom Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Military-grade binoculars
  • Up to 144x magnification
  • 70mm lenses
  • BaK7 glass
  • Center focus wheel
  • Comes with carrying case
  • Long-zoom binoculars 

What we didn’t like

  • Heavyweight
  • Higher price tag than many alternatives

Waterproof: Yes
Best for viewing: Wildlife, general use
Optical diameter: 70mm
Magnification: 20x to 144x
Near focus: 18mm
Field of View: 131 feet @ 1,000 yards
Prism Type: Porro
Focus style: Center focus wheel
Weight: 5lbs
Tripod Compatible: No

9. Bushnell Legacy WP Zoom Binocular

The Bushnell Legacy WP Zoom Binocular is another high-quality option that is great for professional use. 

These binoculars can be used as a standard pair of zoom binoculars, or they can be used with a camera. 

The Bushnell zoom binoculars come in a variety of models for better customization in your selection. 

The binoculars feature a lightweight design for easier traveling. These are also the best compact zoom binoculars for people who frequently use these devices outside. 

They offer a fully waterproof construction. The binoculars are also fog-proof and shockproof. This ensures they do not break when you accidentally let them fall. 

The binoculars feature a rugged design. The device uses long eye relief and 42mm lenses. There is a limited lifetime warranty that comes with the purchase of these binoculars with zoom. 

Check the price of Bushnell Legacy WP Zoom Binocular here

What we liked

  • Waterproof
  • Fogproof design
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Absorbs shock
  • Various size options
  • Porro prism system
  • BaK-4 prism lens

What we didn’t like

  • Some warranty limitations
  • Some options may be a little expensive

Waterproof: Yes
Best for viewing: General use 
Optical diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 8x
Near focus: n/a
Field of view: n/a
Prism Type: Porro
Focus style: Center knob
Weight: 34.2 oz
Tripod Compatible: No

10. Nikon Aculon A211 10-22x50 Binoculars

If you prefer a pair of Nikon zoom binoculars, then the Nikon Aculon A211 10-22×50 Binoculars is a good option to consider. 

While these aren’t the highest zoom binoculars on the market, they do offer a durable structure. 

This ensures the binoculars can be used over the long term with no issues. 

It is also a rugged set of binoculars, making this a perfect option for bird watching and looking at wildlife subjects. The binocular magnification rate goes from 10x to 22x. 

You can easily adjust between the various zoom options through the use of the ring system. The ring system was designed to provide easy access while the binoculars are in use. This is a bundle that does not only come with the zoom binoculars. 

The bundle also includes a tripod adapter. This allows you to easily use the binoculars with a tripod. Do take note that a tripod is not included with the bundle. 

Check the price of Nikon Aculon A211 10-22×50 Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Complete bundle
  • Comes with a tripod adapter
  • Magnification can be adjusted
  • Focus ring
  • Fingertip zoom system
  • Rubber coating
  • Rugged design

What we didn’t like

  • Price may be a little high for some
  • Tripod adapter included but no tripod
  • Low maximum zoom

Waterproof: Yes
Best for viewing: General
Optical diameter: 50mm
Magnification: 10x to 22x
Near focus: n/a
Field of view: n/a
Prism Type: BaK4 Porro Prism
Focus Type: Focus ring
Weight: 2.12 lbs
Tripod Compatible: Yes

11. BARSKA Gladiator 25-125x80 Zoom Binoculars

Next up is a pair of super zoom binoculars. The BARSKA Gladiator 25-125×80 Zoom Binoculars were made to provide superior performance for distant observation. 

This is the best zoom binoculars if you are planning to use a large tripod with the device. 

A braced-in tripod adapter is included with these binoculars. It is also one of the top options mentioned in a zoom binocular review you may find. 

The zoom of these binoculars can be adjusted between 25x and 125x. The lenses feature an 80mm diameter for better performance. 

The optics are made from top-quality glass, while also featuring a BAK-4 prism system. The optics are also multi-coated. This helps to provide a significant improvement in image quality. Views are crystal clear, even at maximum zoom. 

There is a carrying case that comes with the binoculars. This makes traveling and carrying the binoculars much easier. 

Check the price of BARSKA Gladiator 25-125×80 Zoom Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Comes with a braced-in tripod adapter
  • Green lens
  • Up to 125x zoom
  • Provides a detailed look
  • High-quality optics
  • BAK-4 prism system
  • Multi-coated optics

What we didn’t like

  • Can be an expensive option for some buyers
  • Does not include a tripod

Waterproof: No
Best for viewing: Distance observation
Optical diameter: 80mm
Magnification: 25x to 125x
Near focus: n/a
Field of View: 54ft  @ 25x
Prism Type: BAK-4
Focus style: Knob
Weight: 71.04 oz
Tripod Compatible: Yes

12. Sunagor Mega Zoom Binoculars 30-160x70

Another great option, whether looking for manual or electronic binoculars, would be the Sunagor Mega Zoom Binoculars 30-160×70. 

The binoculars feature top-quality materials in its construction. The zoom range can be adjusted to your liking. 

While not the best small strong binoculars, the larger design of the device does provide better durability in outdoor conditions. 

The binoculars provide a superior focusing system. This helps to provide a sharp view of objects that are at a distance. The zoom can be adjusted between 30x and 160x. 

There is a built-in dioptric eyepiece correction system. This helps to adjust the binoculars to your own eyesight and comfort. 

A sliding level is used to adjust the zoom level of the binoculars. The device also features a focus knob on the center of its structure. This makes it easier to focus in on any subject.

Check the price of Sunagor Mega Zoom Binoculars 30-160×70 here

What we liked

  • Centre focus knob
  • Sliding zoom lever
  • Dioptric eyepiece correction
  • Up to 160x magnification
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Uses BAK-4 prisms
  • Rubber armored body

What we didn’t like

  • High price tag
  • Limited waterproofing

Waterproof: Yes
Best for viewing: Distant subjects 
Optical diameter: 70mm
Magnification: 30x to 160x
Near focus: n/a
Field of view: n/a
Prism Type: BAK-4
Focus style: Ring
Weight: 3.2 lbs
Tripod Compatible: Yes

Frequently asked questions

What is the best zoom on binoculars?

Various zoom options are available. The Sunagor Mega Zoom Binoculars currently have the highest zoom rating, with a maximum magnification of 160x. 

What is the strongest magnification for binoculars?

The strongest magnification is provided by both a great zoom level and appropriate coatings for a clear view. The BetaOptics 144X Military Binoculars can match such needs. 

Can you zoom in with binoculars?

Some binoculars do offer a zoom function. The zoom is often controlled with the use of a lever at the top of the device. As you turn the knob, you get more or less magnification. 

How does binocular zoom work?

Some use electronic systems to provide a view on subjects that are far away. Others rather adjust the lenses for magnification. The lens elements move as the zoom knob or ring is turned.

Scroll to Top