Best Compact Binoculars in 2020 – Reviewed

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When it comes to scanning the field during a hunt or just spotting some birds on the other side of the water, a heavy pair of binoculars can weigh you down. Anyone who is camping during their trip will know how important it is to shed some of the weight of your bag and one way to do this is with compact binoculars.

Just because they are smaller in size doesn’t mean you have to compromise on some of the key features such as zoom and clarity. Compact binoculars can be just as good as their larger counterparts and to help you find the perfect pair we have created our list of the best on the market.

Quick Summary of the Best Compact Binoculars

Editor’s Choice: Steiner Tactical 10×28 Binoculars

From one of the best brands in binoculars comes one of the best compact binoculars available. We rate them highly and we’re not alone. A lot of people comment on how durable they are, making them great for withstanding the knocks and occasional bumps that can happen when you’re in the great outdoors.

The prism design on the roof allows them to fold easily and become even more compact and on top of this, they are lightweight compared to a lot of the competition. The Steiner brand is used by a variety of militaries which is why it is no surprise that you’re getting fog-proof vision that can withstand extreme colds and heat. For something so small, the 10 x zoom capability is impressive and provides some of the clearest image quality around.

What we liked about it
  • 10 x magnification
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Excellent clarity
  • Reputable brand

Best Budget : Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32 Binocular (Green)

It is hard to find a better pair of compact binoculars for the price and consider they are regularly priced under $100 if you can find them, a lot of people will tell you to just buy them. The optics are fully coated and with 8 x magnification and 32mm objective lens, they are also capable of focusing at 6.5ft for a clear close-up.

Anyone getting started in birding or hunting will appreciate the clarity and even those who are experienced can pick up a pair if they’re on a budget. The polycarbonate housing is rubber-coated to ensure it is waterproof and fog proof and the twisting eyecups make sure that anyone can wear them comfortably. Amazingly, it includes everything you need to get going including lens covers, a sturdy carry case, neck strap, and more.

What we liked about it
  • 8 x magnification
  • Great value
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Includes lens covers, carry case, strap, and more

Best For Birdspotting: Nikon 16000 PROSTAFF 7S 8×30 Inches Compact Binocular (Black)

From the reputable camera brand comes an impressive compact binocular in terms of both value and functionality. The fully multilayer-coated lenses offer you vibrant colors to complement the clarity that comes from the coated roof prisms.

With turn and slide rubber eyecups Nikon make it easy for anyone wearing glasses to get the most out of them and the rubber armor to the side of the body ensures you get a reliable grip even in wet conditions. Giving you 8 x 30 magnification, others can be used a little further away but few that can match Nikon’s clarity. Nitrogen filled and with an O-ring to protect everything inside they are water and fog proof and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

What we liked about it
  • Easy to grip even in wet conditions
  • Excellent colors and clarity
  • Water and fog proof

Best For Extreme Temperatures: Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED Compact Pocket Grey-Black Binocular

There are plenty of reputable brand features in our list of the best compact binoculars and Zeiss ensures they don’t stop either. With an objective lens of 32mm and 8 x magnification capability, you can get up close to the bird you are trying to scope with some impressive clarity.

They weigh just 10.9 oz which is super light, especially when you consider that there are plenty of monoculars out there that weigh more. The lenses are multi-coated and are great for repelling water and fog to keep your vision clear whatever the weather tries to do. At 1,000m you get a field of view of 119m and a waterproof body that can withstand extreme temperatures from -4 degrees F to 145 degrees F.

What we liked about it
  • Fold up incredibly small
  • Weighs just 10.9 oz
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • 8 x magnification

Best Lightweight: Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars with ED Glass

For some great contrast and resolution, these are a great option. With ED glass you get a truly sharp image and 8 x magnification and an objective lens diameter of 32 mm they are good value even at the price. You might expect a few extras considering they aren’t the cheapest but you do get a sturdy carry case and neck strap. There is also a shoulder harness and lens covers so you do get everything you need.

In terms of the compact binoculars themselves, they are coated with textured armor to make them grippy and feature fully multi-coated lenses giving you a high-quality image. Expect a field of view of 392 ft at 1,000 yards and adjustable eye relief. Weighing just 1.2 lbs they won’t slow you down, nor will they let you down.

What we liked about it
  • 8 x magnification
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Comes with everything you need
  • Weigh just 1.2 lbs

Best Value: Leupold BX-1 McKenzie Binocular

With one of the longest ranges, the Leupold BX-1 gives you 10x magnification and fold up small enough to fit in your pocket. Although they measure at 8 inches long there is still enough quality inside to give you a clear image when looking through the fully multi-coated lenses that give you excellent color fidelity and clarity.

The back 4 prisms offer minimal edge distortion and add to the crisp look of the image. The twist-up eyecups make them some of the most comfortable compact binoculars for extended viewing and the focus system is easy to navigate. Sturdily designed they are lightweight but still feel solid and are 100% water and fog proof.

What we liked about it
  • 10 x magnification
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Minimal distortion for a clear image

Compact Binoculars Guide

When you are hiking or just like to enjoy the great outdoors from time to time, a pair of compact binoculars can add to improve your time when you’re out and about. For those who like to hunt or enjoy bird spotting, they are considered an essential tool that is better for longer walks because of their size and weight.

The best compact binoculars not only last a long time but give you incredible clarity no matter what the magnification. This is only possible when you know what to expect from a decent pair which is why we have created the following guide.

What To Look For In Compact Binoculars

Size

Of course, the word compact means they aren’t going to be overly bulky but a lot of people like a product they can comfortably fit in their pocket and who can blame them. This also affects the weight of the compact binoculars so look for a product that isn’t going to weigh you down and one you can carry on a long hike.

Optical Quality

There are some excellent options for you out there and all of the best compact binoculars will excel when it comes to optical quality. Don’t settle for anything less than a multi-coated lens as they are known for their quality but better still, a fully multi-coated lens will be even better.

These ensure more light gets through and reduces reflections to improve the clarity and color you see which makes it one of the most important traits of a quality product.

Magnification

A compact binocular might be small in appearance but as the products we have reviewed have shown, they can also pack a punch in terms of magnification. A full-size binocular might give you more but you still shouldn’t have to settle for anything less than 8 x magnification.

Grippy Body

You never know when the weather might turn but even on a hot day, a sweaty palm can be cause for concern. To ensure you don’t drop your compact binoculars at a crucial moment it should have a tough yet grippy material such as rubber or grooves to stop it from slipping.

Weatherproofing

The heavens can open and your compact binoculars should still be able to work just fine after being drenched. This is especially important when you invest in a more expensive model but being waterproof and fog proof is expected of the better brands. A cheaper product might give you impressive magnification but do not have the durability to withstand adverse weather or a bit of dirt.

These are to be avoided unless you plan on using them sparingly.

Accessories

This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for you but it is always good to buy a quality pair of compact binoculars that come with everything you need. This can be in the form of a sturdy carry case and a lanyard but there are plenty of reputable brands that even give you shoulder straps and lens covers as well.

Value

This is subjective as what might seem like good value to you might not to someone with a bigger or smaller budget so the first thing you should do is consider compact binoculars within your budget and try and find the highest quality available.

Value can come in the form of a durable product that lasts a long time or extra magnification that you might not expect within a certain price range. You can also find products that come with a warranty to ensure your purchase is protected.

Compact Binoculars Vs Monoculars

These are the two types of magnification that are most popular for hikes and hunting when you need to keep an eye on something fast. The benefits of both make them handy so a lot will be down to personal choice but consider the following.

Monoculars are lighter and can fit into your pocket a lot easier but they do not always give you as much of a view or depth of field. It also leaves less room for error so if an animal or bird is on the move a monocular can make it difficult to track. Then there is the quality, you can get great clarity in both and a lot of the time they are both waterproof and fog proof.

If this was between a monocular and a pair of binoculars you would have to say that monocular wins when it comes to portability but this isn’t as much of an advantage compared to compact binoculars.

Monoculars are better for spotting something fast but when you want to sit and watch then compact binoculars give you more.

Compact Binoculars and Fog Proof Gas

One of the major benefits of better products is their ability to ensure the lenses do not fog and this can be done in one of two ways.

First of all, a coating can be applied and because this is the cheaper option for a manufacturer, it is less reliable. The better quality products will use a fog proof inert gas inside to seal it from within. The only way this can fail is if air gets inside.

Popular Glass Types in Compact Binoculars

With a major impact on quality and performance, keep an eye out for the type of glass used in the compact binoculars you are considering.

BK7  – A popular type of glass used in binoculars because it is affordable and still has the quality to ensure optimal light transmittance.

BAK4 – This tends to be found on pricier products as it costs more to produce but you should expect an all-round better quality glass that is good in a variety of light conditions.

ED Glass – This is glass that has been developed by Nikon hence why it might sound familiar that reduces distortion around the edges in a way that another glass is not able to replicate.

Fog proof – We’ve covered this briefly but by replacing the oxygen inside with inert gas it allows the compact binoculars to remain fog proof.

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