Binoculars are necessary if you’re going to do any hunting or animal watching, but if you want to trek far, you don’t need all the extra weight and space. Compact binoculars offer a good compromise between visibility and space saving.
Compact binoculars are excellent tools for your hobby and sporting needs, but it might be difficult for you to decide which ones to get. If you aren’t sure how to pick a set of binoculars, we have reviewed ten of the best compact binoculars currently available.
Leica’s Ultravid model has a ten times magnification with 25mm front lens diameter. It has excellent views without color fringing and greatly reduces stray light that can affect clarity. They’re waterproof up to 16.5 feet and weigh nine ounces. Leica doesn’t disclose the type of glass it uses, but it’s clear and without imperfections. It uses multi-coating on all air-to-glass surfaces to prevent stray light, along with phase correction and a dielectric coating on the prisms. Leica comes about as close as you can to full-sized binoculars in a compact form factor. They’re easy to adjust and have eyepieces for eyeglasses wearers. Full rubber armor improves grip and durability. Field of view is just ok, however, at 273 feet at 1000 yards. Close focus range is good for this type of binocular at 10.3 feet.
Who they’re for: People with on-the-go hobbies.
Our next pair of compacts uses a BaK-4, Porro prism system for clear images in a small style. It uses a three-time zoom capability to help you zero in on your target, while multicoated lenses remove stray light and help reduce color fringing. The zoom control lever is a single finger operation.
They have a rubber coating along the grips, which improves durability and keeps them from slipping. They have twist-up eyecups at 13mm, which should be enough for most eyeglasses wearers.
Field of view is about 240 feet at 1000 years. It’s not awesome, but it gets the job done. Our main concern is the zoom feature wobbles a bit on the highest magnification, making it harder to track targets at that distance. Close focusing is about 13 feet, which is not excellent, but it is enough for most average binocular users.
Who they’re for: People at sporting events or for all-purpose use.
These Steiner binoculars are designed to withstand adverse weather. They’re fog-proof and waterproof with a polycarbonate chassis that resists an impact of about 11G. The lenses are coated with Steiner’s proprietary blend of lens coatings to reduce stray light and prevent color aberrations. A BaK-4, Porro prism is highly durable with a field of view of 356 feet at 1,000 yards. They’re good for keeping wildlife in view and for keeping up with moving targets. The close focus is only about 20 yards, but they’re excellent in low light conditions. They use something called sports autofocus, so you may have to get used to focusing without a center focus knob. You adjust the eyepieces to your individual eyesight and then leave it alone. Eye relief is 20mm. They’re on the heavy side, but if you’re in an environment where the weather is an issue, these binoculars are worth considering.
Who they’re for: Boaters, water sports enthusiasts, whale watchers.
Bushnell Powerview binoculars use a quality roof prism design but substitute BK-7 prisms. They’re a good budget pair for this range, but we’d like to see BaK-4 prisms with this design. The most significant selling point is the price, so these are good for beginners and as backups. That said, they do offer clear views with fully coated lenses that help reduce stray light and color fringing. Eye relief, at 12mm should be acceptable for most people, but it might be short for some. They aren’t fog proof or waterproof, so be careful going out in wet conditions. They’re coated in rubber armor to help with impact resistance. At just over ten ounces, they’re lightweight and fold up for easier packing.
Who they’re for: Beginners and people who need backups.
Nikon has excellent sports binoculars, and this particular pair performs well for its price range. It has a very comfortable carbon fiber body with a rubber armor coating that improves grip. The central focusing system is intuitive for most beginners. They have BaK-4 prisms with multicoating to prevent color fringing and stray light. Aspherical lenses block distortion towards the edges, but the field of view is only about 262 feet at 1000 yards. This is standard at ten times magnification, but birders may want something with a broader field of view. Eye relief, at 11mm, could be much better, so glasses wearers may want to look elsewhere. However, these binoculars are good for those who want clear focus up at full distance without distorting or losing color variations.
Who they’re for: Hunters and spectators
These small binoculars use a BaK-4 prism and multicoated lenses to produce clear images with little stray light or color aberrations. Twist up eye cups provide eye relief of 20mm – plenty for all but the pickiest users. Despite ten times magnification, the field of view is excellent. Most binoculars begin to lose field of view the higher the magnification, but this pair has great FOV for the magnification range. They do extremely well in low light, making them excellent for changing light conditions.
They’re waterproof and dustproof. The rubber coating helps with impact resistance, and a central focus knob is intuitive for most users. They’re affordable and compact. They are a good option for older children seeking their first “grown-up” binocular set.
Who they’re for: Beginners, older children, and slow game observers.
These tripod mountable binoculars are another good pair for older children and beginners. They feature 20mm eyepieces with BK-7prisms and multicoated lenses. The central focus wheel is intuitive for most users and easy to master. We love that these are tripod mountable because it makes it easier to see those very distant targets. They’re good for slow game and star gazing. They have an acceptable field of view for this magnification level, and the rubber coated exterior improves grip and reduces impact.
They aren’t going to win awards, but they do offer older children a chance to practice with a pair of real binoculars. They’re also water resistant.
Who they’re for: Stargazers and those who need a tripod.
These fog-proof and water-proof binoculars have a full field of view for catching moving targets or for sporting events. They use BaK-4 prisms and a no-slip, rubber grip for durability. The eye relief is a respectable14.8mm, which is enough for most people. The field of view is 362 feet at 1,000 yards. They’re tripod adaptable, fog proof, and waterproof. They satisfy a wide variety of uses and with excellent clarity, and they can be used for most hobbies. They’re a very manageable size but are a little bit heavier at almost a pound.
Who they’re for: Birdwatchers and hunter/trackers.
The Occer 12×25 has a smooth center focus knob plus right eye focus options. They’re intuitive to use but give you plenty of choices. The BaK-4 prisms are coated with a multilayer band that reduces color fringing and improves overall visibility. They’re lightweight and fit easily into a pack. Nonslip rubber armor improves grip and durability, but the body is ABS plastic, which feels a little cheap. They work well in low light. The field of view is 273 feet at 1000 yards, which is respectable for this magnification. They’re water and shock resistant as well as fog proof. We don’t recommend testing them to the limit, but they can withstand unexpected weather or drops.
Who they’re for: Casual outdoor hobbyists.
Our final pair uses BaK-4 roof prisms to achieve a sleek, ergonomic design. Fully multicoated lenses prevent stray light and color fringing while maintaining clarity up to the edges. Nitrogen filled for fog proofing, they’re also waterproof. They’re good in low light because of green and blue coatings. The shockproof body uses rubber armor for better grip and resistance. They have a good field of view at this magnification at just over 300 feet at 1,000 yards. The center focus wheel is intuitive for most users. The extra low dispersion glass ensures a crisp image even at full magnification and in lower light. They’re a bit heavier than we would like for compact binoculars, but if you can live with the extra weight, the Elltoe is both ergonomic and comfortable to hold.
Who they’re for: People with low light requirements.