Bring Every Detail Into Focus With a Pair of Great Binoculars

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

Binoculars are relatively simple to use but have incredibly complex inner mechanisms — to be able to magnify with such great detail is an amazing feat of engineering. And some are even specialized to the task you’d like to use them for. Whether you’re going birdwatching or stargazing in the dead of night, you’ll want a set that can help you enjoy those experiences to the fullest. With so many options, there’s a set out there that’s right for you.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Improvement and Outdoor Lab loves to test products that can change your outdoor experience for the better. We copiously research and get hands-on with everything from the best lawnmowers to car-top carriers and mosquito repellants to ensure you can maximize your time in the great outdoors. To choose the best binoculars, our team of experts reviewed the technical specs of dozens of binoculars on the market to find the ones with the best balance of features, cost and high-quality construction.

Our top picks:

Keep reading after our top picks to learn more about the most important features to look for when shopping for binoculars as well as a guide to understanding binocular specifications.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

1) Monarch M7 8×42 Binocular


The Nikon Monarch M7 is a powerful set of binoculars due to their impressive magnification and objective lens size (the lens closer to the object, not the one you look through). They have a 435-foot linear field of view (FOV), which means that when you look through the binoculars, you will see a 435-foot tall area. On top of the large field of view, these binoculars have a relatively small close focus of 8.2 feet. This means that the closest thing you can focus on with these binoculars has to be at least 8.2 feet away. A pair of binoculars with a close focus of fewer than 10 feet is ideal for birding.

When using binoculars, you have two main ways to focus: Diopter rings focus one eye at a time, and the central focus knob focuses both at the same time. Having these two different methods of focus allows you to get optimal clarity by accounting for any visual acuity issues in either of your eyes. When we tested these binoculars, we liked how the diopter ring was able to lock, preventing any accidental adjustment while using them. We also love that the lenses on the Monarch M7 have special coatings to help improve color brightness and resolution.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

2) Prostaff P7 10X30


The Nikon Prostaff P7 are binoculars with 10x magnification but a smaller objective lens of 30mm, making it ideal for daytime observations. Our lead tester wears glasses, and he was able to comfortably look through the binoculars without any extra vignetting that could possibly obstruct his view. (Vignetting is a shadow you see when you look through binoculars that aren’t properly oriented over your eyes.) The Prostaff P7 comes with lens caps for both sets of lenses to help protect them from scratching. We just wish the lens covers were connected so they wouldn’t be so easy to lose. These binoculars are light and fairly compact, allowing for comfortable viewing with one hand. They have a locking diopter ring on the right eyepiece lens, preventing any accidental adjustments while viewing.

The brand claims the binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof and special lens coatings help to provide clarity and a more pronounced image. Nikon also adds an extra oil- and water-repellant coating on the lens to help with viewing during inclement weather.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

3) TrailSeeker 8×42 Roof Binoculars


The TrailSeeker 8×42 is one of Celestron’s more powerful outdoor activity binoculars. While we have yet to be hands-on with this specific model, they have over 400 five-star reviews on Amazon and we have had wonderful experiences with the brand. They have 8x magnification with a 42 mm objective lens, which equates to a bright, clear image and a large field of view (FOV). If you’re a bird watcher, this means you hopefully won’t miss a bird even as it’s flying around. You can even focus on things as close as 6.5 feet. That’s why we weren’t surprised one online reviewer pointedly noted these binoculars were “a game-changer for birdwatching.”

In order for the binoculars to be most effective, special coatings are put on the lenses and the prisms within the binoculars to increase the light being brought in. This helps increase the resolution and contrast of what you are looking at and more distinctly shows colors.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

Compact Binoculars


The Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars are the best-selling binoculars on Amazon with over 14,000 five-star reviews. They have extremely strong 12x magnification, but smaller 25 mm objective lenses. While you’ll have a smaller field of view of 273 feet, these still offer strong magnification for a cheaper pair of binoculars. They have extendable eyecups to prevent glass from touching glass if you are a glasses wearer, and their non-slip rubber grip feels comfortable in one hand. The binoculars have a built-in neck strap adapter and come with a neck strap included. They also come with a special cleaning cloth to protect the lenses against scratching.

Utilizing Bak4 prisms, these binoculars have better-than-average contrast and resolution. Occer also puts a special coating on the lenses to increase light transmittance, which then provides a brighter and clearer image. One verified reviewer summed it up well by saying, “The field of view is good, the image is clear, they feel solid and they are lighter than the more expensive ones.”

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

5) Midas 8×42


Athlon has been in the scope game for a very long time. The brand is known for its sport optics (e.g., spotting scopes, rifle scopes, etc.) as well as binoculars. These Midas binoculars are advertised for bird watching, general nature viewing and even hunting. They have a wide FOV, allowing more room to see movement. They’re lightweight — just under 1.5 pounds — making them easy to take on a hike or excursion. They’re durable with a rubberized exterior, and they’re purged with argon to help provide a stronger moisture-resistant seal. If you wear glasses, they have a 17.2 mm eye relief, meaning you have a little bit of space, so you don’t have to press your glasses against the binoculars.

While we haven’t had hands-on time with these binoculars yet, the brand claims they have special coatings on every piece of glass to help enhance the performance of the binoculars. They note the coatings are designed to help increase light transmission, which translates to high-contrast images with great color retention.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

6) Diamondback HD Binoculars 10×42


The Vortex Diamondback HD Binoculars are powerful 10x magnification binoculars, with 42 mm objective lenses. Both the lenses and prisms inside the binoculars are coated to provide the most color-accurate images. The minimum length that the binoculars can focus on is 5 feet, which is great if you want to see things nearby. There’s a linear field of view of 330 feet per 1000 yards, so you get a rather large field of view. While Vortex says these binoculars are durable due to their rubber covering, on the off chance something does break, Vortex has a lifetime no-questions-asked warranty where the brand will repair or replace broken binoculars for free. Many online reviewers noted they were impressed not only by the binoculars but by the exceptional customer service. It’s no surprise these binoculars have over 5,500 five-star ratings on Amazon!

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

7) Engage X 10×42 Binoculars


Bushnell has been creating optical and outdoor sports equipment since the 1940s, and these binoculars are top-rated on Bushnell’s website. They’re lightweight (under 1.5 pounds) and highly resistant to water with an IPX7 rating, meaning they’re protected against temporary submersion in water. And while we didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature, these binoculars feature something called an EXO barrier, which is a Bushnell-exclusive feature that, according to the brand, is supposed to “provide a clear image no matter the weather.” And should damage come to the device, Bushnell has a full 20-year warranty.

The lenses are fully coated, providing great clarity at all times of the day. While we didn’t get hands on this device, one Amazon reviewer said, “Beautiful clear lens, easily adjusts to quickly focus… would recommend for nature watching.”

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

8) 12×42 High Definition Binoculars


Adasion is an optical company that makes binoculars and monoculars and the 12×42 High Definition Binoculars are Amazon’s third best-seller, with over 10,500 five-star reviews. Extremely strong 12x magnification and wide 42mm lenses will elevate your birdwatching or sightseeing. They have adjustable eye caps, which can extend the eye relief for glasses wearers from 13.6mm to 19.6mm. A large eyepiece of 18mm allows you to see more and make full use of the 12x magnification. If you are worried about holding these binoculars, they come with both a tripod and a smartphone adapter, which is a rare perk that’s perfect for helping a birdwatcher take great pictures.

Utilizing multi-coatings for the lenses creates impressive contrast and provides high-quality color imaging. These binoculars are lightweight, only about a pound, so don’t worry about lugging them around while on a hike. The central focus wheel focuses both eyes at once, and a diopter focuses the right eye, which helps to provide better visual acuity between both eyes. It also has an IP55 rating, meaning that it has great resistance against dirt and decent water resistance.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

9) 8×21 Compact Lightweight Binoculars


These POLDR 8×21 binoculars are not only extremely affordable but also Amazon’s second most popular binoculars! With over 5000 five-star ratings, reviewers love the size and how easy they are to travel with. One reviewer even said, “You won’t believe how great these binoculars are. We use them at the theater and they are perfect.” While these have a central focus ring that focuses both eyes at once, they also have a diopter adjustment on the right eye. This is to account for any visual differences for your eyes to make sure you are looking at the sharpest image possible.

These binoculars have an incredible field of view of 369 feet at 1000 yards. These binoculars would be great for anything involving traveling or hiking, as they are so lightweight and compact. They have an eye relief of 16mm, which is great news for people who wear glasses.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

10) SkyMaster 25X100 Binoculars


Celestron has been in business since 1964, producing incredibly high-powered and high-quality optics from telescopes to microscopes. With the Skymaster 25×100 binoculars, they’ve produced an extremely strong binocular. It has 25x magnification and 100 mm objective lenses. So not only do they zoom almost double the amount of the rest of the binoculars on the list, but they also have the largest objective lenses by far. A lens this big allows for more light to come in, making it ideal for nighttime stargazing or other low-light activities.

These are Porro Prism binoculars, so they have excellent light reflectivity, giving you a high-quality image. With its Bak4 prisms multi-coated lenses, the Skymaster 25×100 is capable of creating brighter-colored images. These binoculars are not meant for short-distance viewing. It has the longest close focus of any other binoculars on this list, at 80 feet meaning you can only focus on things that are at least 80 feet away. Because this is such a big set of binoculars, they weigh close to 9 pounds. That can be a struggle to hold to your eyes all the time, but they have a built-in tripod adapter if you want to add an ultra-stable base.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

How we test sunscreens

While we have only gotten hands-on with a few products in this roundup so far, we thoroughly vetted the market to determine our selections to ensure they had the best balance of attributes and performance features possible. Our pros understand the physics of binocular construction and the properties of an effective lens, so we researched best-selling products and newer products from brands we’ve tested and loved, to find the best of the best for you.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

How we test sunscreens

Binoculars utilize prisms in order to magnify distant objects. Prisms are thick pieces of glass that help to direct light through the binoculars. As the light goes through the prism, each reflection it creates helps to magnify the image and direct them — and properly orient them — to your eyes. There are two types of prism binoculars: Porro prism and Roof prism. Long story short, Porro prisms tend to be heavier but have great reflective properties. These reflective properties tend to provide better light quality and can create higher-clarity images. Porro prisms are easier to make, which makes them cheaper and more accessible. On the other hand, Roof prisms are more lightweight, more durable, tend to have a more modern-looking design and overall can provide stronger magnification. They tend to be more expensive due to the way the prisms are constructed. Also, in order for a Roof prism’s image quality to be as strong as a Porro prism, the prisms need to be coated. More on that below.

So which Prism is better? It depends on what you need. While you can get cheaper Porro prism binoculars with great quality images, you’d lose out on the durability that Roof prism binoculars provide. And at the same time, if you’re on a budget, why pay for Roof prism binoculars if a Porro can do nearly as well? Our experts believe that if you are a more casual binoculars user, go with Porro prism because you will still be able to see some great high-quality images for much cheaper. If you are looking into well-built, long-lasting, professional-style binoculars get yourself a Roof prism — ideally coated to provide the same type of quality Porro prism binoculars can provide.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

How we test sunscreens

There’s a lot of technical jargon surrounding the marketing of binoculars. Below, find some of the terms you can expect to see when you’re shopping for a set: ✔️ Eyepiece Lens vs. Objective Lens: The eyepiece lens is what you look through, and the objective lens is the bigger lens on the other side. A bigger objective lens allows for more light to shine through, allowing for a more accurate view of what you are looking at. A larger objective lens also leads to a bigger field of view, so that you can see a larger area.

✔️Linear Field of View (FOV): The linear field of view is how much you can see in a straight view from the binoculars. It’s usually measured in feet per 1000 yards. For example, if you have a linear FOV of 300 ft./1000 yards, that means that when you are at a distance of 1000 yards away, the height of the image you see will be 300 feet. This is an important piece of information as depending on what you are looking at, the more you can view, the more you can catch, whether it’s animals, constellations or even sports.

✔️Magnification x Objective Lens (e.g., “10×42”): This number configuration will appear on all binoculars you buy. The first number signifies the level of magnification and the second number is the size of the objective lens in millimeters. For a pair of 10×42 binoculars, “10” would represent 10x magnification and “42” would represent an objective lens with a diameter of 42 mm. This is the quickest way to choose binoculars. Different sizes will provide different benefits. For example, if you’re hiking, you’ll want a smaller binocular as it will be lighter and more compact to carry around, so go for a device with a smaller objective lens. But if you’re going to watch sports from the nosebleed sections, you’ll want a bigger lens, so you can see more of what’s going on. The majority of binoculars will be between 8x and 10x magnification. If you happen to be using them while moving, 8x will also provide more stable viewing than 10x. Magnification amplifies the movement of your hands, so binoculars with magnification powers greater than 10 will be even harder to stabilize.

✔️Vignetting: If you’ve ever looked through binoculars and it seems like the shadows are closing in on the center part of the image, that’s vignetting. Vignetting occurs when the binoculars aren’t properly oriented over your eyes, and glasses wearers are more prone to it. To prevent it, look for binoculars with larger or adjustable eye relief.✔️Inter-Pupillary Distance (IPD): The inter-pupillary distance is the distance between the center of your left and right pupils. Match the IPD of your eyes and your binoculars by rotating the barrels in or out until you see a single image free of shading.✔️Argon- vs. Nitrogen-purged: Binoculars are typically filled with a non-reactive gas, such as nitrogen or argon. This is how binoculars remain moisture free, thus making them fog-proof and waterproof (to certain levels). Nitrogen purging tends to make binoculars cheaper, but argon purging tends to create a better moisture sealant. ✔️Close Focus: This is the closest distance that a pair of binoculars can focus on. A good birdwatching binocular tends to have a close focus of less than 10 feet.✔️Diopter Ring/Adjustment: There are two elements to focusing binoculars: the central focus wheel (which focuses both eyes at the same time) and the diopter ring (which focuses whichever eye the diopter is connected to). The diopter ring allows you to make slight adjustments to the focus on one eye if your eyes focus slightly differently.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

How we test sunscreens

✔️ Lens Coating: Lens coatings provide better light transmittance properties in the binoculars, allowing for higher clarity in the image. There are different terms for the different levels of coating, from least coated to most coated: coated, fully coated, multi-coated and fully multi-coated. You want as much coating as possible, as the more it’s coated, the better the reflectance and the sharper and clearer the image. ✔️ Prism Coating: Since Roof prisms aren’t as reflective as Porro prisms, the prisms themselves need to be coated to help create a clearer image. The two main coatings to look for are phase coating and dielectric coating. While there are a few others, having phase coating or/and dielectric coating yields the best results. Dielectric coating provides more color to the image, and phase coating prevents a loss of resolution, creating a more high-contrast image.✔️ Eye Relief: This is the maximum distance from the eyepiece lens to the eye where the entire field of view is visible without vignetting. The larger this number is, the easier it is to use the binoculars while wearing glasses.✔️ Types of Prism Glass: There are two main types of Prism glass: Bak4 and Bk-7. Bak4 uses much better glass with a higher refractive index. This means that the light travels more slowly through the binoculars, making images clearer and brighter. Bak4 also tends to be more circular than Bk-7, so when you look through the binoculars, you get a more circular view. While Bk-7 isn’t as good, it tends to be cheaper and it can still get the job done.

✔️ IP Rating: An IP rating is a professional standard developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission. This is a rating to determine a product’s resistance against dust and liquids. It is read “IPXX,” where the first “X” represents dust and the second “X” represents fluids. The higher the number, the better the device is sealed from external objects. The dust rating can go up to 6, while the fluid rating can go up to 9. ✔️ Accessories: Most binoculars come with basic attachments. This means a carrying case, lens covers, neck straps and a lens cleaning cloth. Since binoculars can get pretty heavy they are typically tripod-adaptable, though tripods are usually sold separately. You can usually purchase a phone adapter that allows you to put your phone in the perfect position to look through the binoculars and take a picture.

lifestyle, amazon, bring every detail into focus with a pair of great binoculars

How we test sunscreens

Alec Scherma is a mechanical engineer with over five years of experience testing products and equipment. He’s worked on all types of machinery, from HVAC to semiconductors. He uses his experience and knowledge to simply explain more complex terminology.

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