A pair of compact binoculars can be a great addition to any travel pack and can come in handy in a wide variety of environments and situations. You might want a pair of the best compact binoculars when you are out hiking or exploring the great outdoors. For bird watchers or wildlife spotters, they are an absolutely essential piece of kit, allowing you to see animals from far off, whether you are on safari or are just out walking in the countryside.
Photographers too will find that binoculars are a great addition to their equipment, allowing you to pick out great shots, or to find excellent locations or hidden spots in the distance for that perfect composition. The best compact binoculars are small, lightweight and have excellent range, while also being rugged and durable.
There are a lot of choices out on the market, with a wide variety of capabilities and prices, so to help you decide which is the right pair for you, here’s our guide to the best compact binoculars.
Best Compact Binoculars
|Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binocular|
- 10.9oz / 310g
- 4.5 Rating
|Nikon Monarch Compact Binocular|
- 19oz / 538g
- 4.8 Rating
|Vortex Diamondback Compact Binocular |
- 24.6oz / 697g
- 4.8 Rating
|Leica BCR Ultravid Compact Binocular|
- 8.5oz / 240 g
- 4.8 Rating
|Wingspan Optics SkyView Ultra HD|
- 22oz / 620g
- 4.8 Rating
Quick Answer: The Best Compact Binoculars
- Best Overall Compact Binocular – Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED Compact Binocular
- Best Value For Money Compact Binocular – Wingspan Optics SpectatorPro 8X32
- Best Multi-purpose Compact Binocular – Nikon Monarch 7
- Best First-Time Compact Binocular – Leica Ultravid BR 8×20 Compact Binocular
- Best Waterproof Compact Binocular – Nikon Monarch 7
- Most Powerful Compact Binocular – Sunagor 30-160x70s
- Compact Binocular With The Highest Quality Image – Leica Ultravid BR 8×20 Compact Binocular
How to Choose the Best Compact Binoculars
Perhaps the most important quality you need to consider when choosing the best compact binoculars is the size of your chosen model. The very fact that you are after compact binoculars, means that the size of them is going to be integral to your purchasing decision.
Smaller binoculars will save you room in your pack for other essentials, especially if you are out hiking or are traveling around a lot. More compact binoculars are also easier to stow away or to have around your neck or in a pocket while you are tackling the outdoors. The best compact binoculars will fold up small, so you hardly even realize you’re carrying them.
The weight of your compact binoculars will be just as important as the overall size and shape of them, and of course, the lighter they are, the easier they are to carry. The lightest models on the market can weigh as little as 200 grams, ensuring that they add little to your overall equipment weight, but give you an extra dimension on your travels, or for your photography.
Of course, though, lighter binoculars will inevitably cost more if you still want to retain the same level of quality and optics as a bulkier pair, while some of the lightest models may not pack as much performance if they are aimed at a lower price bracket.
Porro Prism vs Roof Prism Binoculars
The size, weight and quality of your compact binoculars can depend on its design, and most pairs will generally fall into one of two categories, being classified as either Porro Prism or Roof Prism. Porro Prism designs are the classic binocular style and are the most common type on the market. They are generally the cheapest, but they are also much bulkier and of inferior quality.
Roof Prism Binoculars are much more compact, due to the shape of the ‘roof’ they are designed with. They fold up much smaller but can be much more expensive. Roof Prism Binoculars can have much better quality glass and optics and are really the best choice out there if you can afford to pay a higher premium for them.
Quality of Glass
The quality of glass can affect not only the price of your compact binoculars but your user experience, with better glass costing more but providing you with much higher quality viewing. Many camera lens companies also produce high-quality binoculars, using their expertise in this field too to give customers a great piece of equipment.
Good optics will ensure that you have little blurring or distortion when looking through them, and this will remain constant no matter the magnification you are at. Cheaper binoculars with inferior quality optics can produce distortion, glare and blurring, particularly at higher magnifications.
As well as being optically good though, you will also want to consider other factors such as whether or not the glass is UV coated. UV coating costs more, however, it can be worth the upgrade, in the long run, to keep glare out of your field of vision, and to protect your eyes from any potential sun damage
Field of View
The Field of View refers to the area you can actually see through your binoculars and is related to the magnification of the glass too. A wide Field of View is fantastic for wildlife lovers and bird watchers, as you are able to see a much broader area ahead of you, and are therefore more likely to spot what you are looking for.
A narrower Field of View will give you a closer crop, but you sacrifice the broader picture for this, potentially making things difficult to find again in the distance if you take your eye off of it. The Field of View is often expressed in feet, and a measurement of 356 feet, will give you a wider view than a pair of binoculars with say a 256 feet capability.
The total magnification of your equipment could well be a deciding factor when you choose the best compact binoculars. Magnification is the ability to zoom in on your chosen subject – which narrows your field of view as you do so. The higher your potential magnification is, the better the range your binoculars have, and the best models will allow you to have both a wide field of view and high magnification potential.
Good magnification sizes are held to be x8 or x10, but you have to realize that the higher the magnification is, the shakier and blurrier your image can be. Cheaper optics will produce distortion at high magnifications, while even expensive pieces of glass aren’t immune to your own handling of them, and even the best compact binoculars can result in shaky viewing when you are at your highest range.
Higher magnifications will also result in a larger pair of binoculars, so you may well need to compromise if you want to keep things light and compact.
Fogproof and Waterproof Binoculars
You will, of course, be taking your binoculars outside, and it’s likely that you will encounter bad weather at some point during your equipment’s lifespan. As well as being rugged and durable, and made from solid material that can handle hiking and that won’t break on the first outing, you might also want a pair of binoculars that are waterproof and fog proof.
Waterproofing will cost you more, however in the long run if it will be worth the extra investment, allowing you to use your binoculars in more extreme weather conditions than you would otherwise be able to. You’ll also want to ensure that your binoculars are protected against fogging up. Having a sealed design, with fog proof lenses will ensure that when it’s hot or humid, your optics don’t suffer. Again fog proofing costs more, but it’s a wise investment.
Having waterproof and fog proof binoculars will enable you to use them in extreme environments, such as jungles, deserts or mountains, while still retaining excellent quality viewing and making sure your product survives for many more trips to come.
Although it may seem trivial, you will want to consider the aesthetics when picking the best compact binoculars for your needs. If you are planning on using them for bird or wildlife spotting, you will certainly want to make sure you have a dark or even camouflaged pair of binoculars depending on your environment. You won’t want to stand out in the wild after all!
Best Compact Binoculars – Product Recommendations
There are some great compact binoculars out on the market, with a range of products that will suit any budget and requirements. Here are just a few of the best to choose from.
Zeiss is a company that is perhaps better known for its professional range of camera lenses, but they also produce top quality binoculars that are some of the best on the market. Their Zeiss Terra compact binoculars are perfect, offering 8x magnification, as well as a weatherproof and durable design. These compact binoculars will give you some of the clearest views, but you can expect to pay towards the higher end of the spectrum for them.
Get your own pair: Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED
Nikon is another famous camera company that also designs excellent binoculars too, making use of their extensive optical knowledge to market some of the best binoculars in the business. Their lightweight Monarch series comes in at a mid-range price, and for serious wildlife enthusiasts, they are perfect. They are rugged, weather sealed and although not the cheapest, they also won’t break the bank either, and with Nikon, you are always guaranteed great optics.
Get your own pair: Nikon Monarch 7
Vortex produces a fantastic range of compact binoculars in the Diamondback series, and there are various different options to choose from when it comes to the overall magnification of the lenses. Vortex is a solid brand, offering high-quality optics alongside weatherproofing and an incredibly durable build. Although they aren’t exactly a bargain, they are still a great value if you are an enthusiast, offering uncompromising quality and ruggedness that will last a lot longer than your first hike.
Get your own pair: Vortex Diamondback Compact Binocular
Wingspan Optics SpectatorPro 8X32 Compact Binoculars
The Wingspan Optics SpectatorPro is a great choice for a budget-priced pair of compact binoculars. They come with many of the great features (fully coated optics/glare-free viewing) that those $1,000 pair of compact binoculars for 10% of the price. The Wingspan Opticals SpectatorPro are great compact binoculars for birdwatching, traveling, backpacking or on a safari, weighing only 15 ounces and are 4.5 inches long and wide by 1.5 inches high.
A few key features are: Nitrogen purged, fog proof and 100% waterproof with a rubber coating that allows you to grip on to them easily. Fast and easy focus wheel that allows you to quickly lock on to your object. Withstands hard drops up to 5 feet without damage. I also love that the Wingspan comes with a case and lends cover that helps keep it protected while it is in my backpack.
Get your own pair: Wingspan Optics SpectatorPro 8X32
Leica Ultravid BR 8×20 Compact Binocular
If you are looking for a compact binocular that comes with all of the features that those high-end binoculars come with the Leica is your answer. I feel the Leica Ultravid binoculars are great for that first timer and they are a compact binocular that will last the test of time with its rugged compact shape. They also produce the highest quality image for compact binoculars.
The Leica Ultravid binoculars have easily adjustable eyecups, with a quick focus wheel, and right eye diopter adjuster for the perfect comfort and view, even if one eye is slightly different than your other eye. This pair of compact binoculars are 100% waterproof, sealed case and inert gas internal filling mean that you won’t have to worry about fogging from the inside. This is huge for those who may be using them while birding in a hot and muggy climate like the Amazon rain forest.
Get your own pair: Leica Ultravid BR 8×20 Compact Binocular
Best Compact Binocular Accessories
Below we have put together five of the best compact binocular accessories out on the market that you must have. All of the listed items work with all of the compact binoculars out on the market.
- Waterproof Binoculars Cover
- Binocular Harness Strap
- Binocular Harness Strap With Hood
- Universal Binocular to Tripod Adaptor Mount
- Binocular Car Or Truck Window Mount
- Cell Phone Binocular Adapter Mount (So you can take photos through your binoculars)
Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.
- Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
- Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
- Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
- Shop Backcountry – If you are looking for anything to do with camping, this is the place you need to check out.
- Shop Sierra Trading Post – You can get some of the best prices on outdoor camping goods here, but most items they have are last year models for about 40% off.
- Shop Bass Pro Shops – They are the leader in outdoors goods, you can find great travel clothing to tens, backpacks and so much more.
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