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5 Best Compact Binoculars

Jul 18, 2020

 

Steiner Tactical Compact Binoculars

 

Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binoculars

 

Bushnell H20 Compact Binoculars

5 Best Compact Binoculars

Jul 18, 2020

The benefits and features of full sized binoculars rolled up into compact, lightweight and easily portable binoculars is a challenge outdoor enthusiasts know well. In addition to high quality viewing power, the durability to withstand challenging conditions and adverse weather are important factors when considering a set of compact binoculars.

With these factors in mind we’ve compiled a list of the top rated compact binoculars currently on the market. Furthermore, we will also highlight the features to consider when deciding on a set of binos. 

Ergonomic design coupled with razor sharp optical precision of images both close and far away make these binos outstanding for hiking and bird watching.  Extra-low-dispersion glass featuring a hydrophobic multi-coating repels water buildup in adverse weather conditions. They are extremely compact, waterproof and the fiberglass reinforced body makes them very durable while still remaining lightweight at 10.9 ounces.

Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binoculars Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens: 25mm
  • Weight: 310g
  • FOV: 390 ft 

These binos by Bushnell are our pick for best budget priced pair. At under $100 you get BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics for crystal clear viewing. The body is encased with non-slip rubber pads that make for a comfortable firm grip while also providing extra protection against drops. If you wear glasses, the twist up eye-cups provide for more comfortable viewing. These compact sized water & fog proof binos are perfect for those looking for quality construction while wanting something a bit more wallet friendly.

Bushnell H20 Compact Binoculars Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens: 42mm
  • Weight: 25oz
  • FOV: 305 ft 

Vortex redesigned their Diamondback series to offer improved optics and a more streamlined design. These compact binoculars have an extra wide field of view of 340 ft. The 10x magnification and 32mm objective lenses are great for low-light viewing.  Fully multi-coated lenses provide bright and clear image quality. Their short hinged frame with rubber pads and thumb indents makes these binos easy to grip and comfortable to use.

Vortex Optics Diamondback Compact Binoculars Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens: 32mm
  • Weight: 15.4 oz
  • FOV: 340 ft 

Nikon, known for their excellent camera picture quality, bring that level of quality to their binoculars as well. With phase correction coated roof prisms, the color accuracy of these binos are top notch. In addition, the lenses and prism surfaces are all coated with multiple layers, resulting in higher light transmittance and less reflection interference. They are both waterproof and fog proof and the sturdy rubber armored body can withstand many outdoor activities and conditions. 

Nikon Prostaff 7S Compact Binoculars Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens: 30mm
  • Weight: 14.8 oz
  • FOV: 315 ft 

When you think Steiner you think toughness. Known for providing optics to the military around the globe, you can rest assured these compact binoculars can survive anything. With 10x magnification and a 266 ft. field of view, these binos are ideal for hunting and bird watching. High definition multi-coated lenses produce images that are clear and crisp even in low light conditions. Overall, these binos pack high powered performance and quality into a compact and lightweight body.

Steiner Tactical Compact Binoculars Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens: 28mm
  • Weight: 12.7 oz
  • FOV: 266 ft 

Things to Consider When Purchasing Compact Binoculars

  • Size & Weight
  • Magnification 
  • Field of View
  • Objective Lens
  • Lens Coating
  • Lens Glass
  • Prisms
  • Exit Pupil

Size & Weight

Binoculars are divided into three main sizing categories, full, mid and compact.

Objective Lens Size

  • Full – over 40mm
  • Mid – 30-40 mm
  • Compact – under 30mm

Larger sized binoculars, though extremely powerful, are too heavy to hold for long periods of time. Compact binoculars easily fit inside backpacks and are lightweight making them ideal for outdoor excursions.

 

Magnification

There are many levels of magnification power but the most common are 8 and 10.

    • 8x power –  wider field of view
    • 10x power – closer, detailed view

Binos with 8x magnification objects will appear eight times closer, 10x magnification ten times closer and so forth. The higher the magnification the more susceptible binoculars are to hand movement so it’s something to keep in mind if you plan on being in an unsteady environment such as being on the water.  

 

Field of View

Field of view refers to the viewable area of binoculars and is typically measured by a rate of 1,000 yards.  This is directly affected by the level of magnification power. Higher levels of magnification let in less light because the field of view is narrowed. This is best for viewing stationary objects because the zoomed in field of view would make keeping track of moving objects difficult. Lower magnification has an expanded field of view and lets in more light. This is best for situations that require a panoramic view, such as bird watching.

 

Objective Lens

Binoculars are typically labeled with a set of numbers like 8×25, 8×32, 10×42 and so on. The first number is the level of magnification (8 times closer, 10 times closer) and the second number is the size of the objective lens. This lens is measured in millimeters across and determines how much light your binoculars can obtain. Higher numbers indicate larger lenses and capture more light which result in brighter images.

 

Lens Coating

What does it mean to have a multi-coated lens? The coating on lenses helps to reduce glare and allow more light in. The less reflection that is picked up, the clearer the image quality. More expensive binoculars tend to have multiple coatings on all lenses.

 

Coated: Single layer on at least one lens.

Fully-Coated: All air-to-glass surfaces have a single coating.

Multi-Coated: Multiple layers on at least one lens.

Fully Multi-Coated: All air-to-glass surfaces have multiple layers.

Lens Glass

BK7 Glass: Borosilicate crown glass that is commonly used for lenses and prisms in the lower priced range of binoculars.

Bak4 Glass: A barium crown glass that has better optical properties than BK7 glass but is more expensive to manufacture. A way to tell the difference between BK7 and Bak4 is by looking at the exit pupil. If the exit pupil is squared off and darker on the edges it’s BK7 glass, if it’s round without any darkness it’s Bak4 glass.

ED Glass: Extra-Low-Dispersion is a special glass that has a very low refractive index. These lenses reduce chromatic aberration otherwise known as color fringing and produce crisp, true-to-color images.

Schott ED Glass: High definition glass produced by Schott Optics that has very low chromatic aberration. This can be found in the Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binoculars.

 

Prisms

These act like mirrors inside your binoculars that reflect bends and refracts light to bring the images back into your eyes. There are two types of prisms in binoculars: Roof Prism & Porro Prism

Roof Prism: Here the prisms overlap closely resulting in a more compact bino because the objective lens lines up directly with the eyepiece. 

Porro Prism: Here the objective lens is offset from the eyepiece resulting in a wider field of view and greater depth.  

Exit Pupil

The exit pupil determines how well a bino will perform in dim light. It is measured by dividing the objective lens by the magnification. Typically the diameter is between 2-8mm. A larger exit pupil lets in more light so it’s an important factor to consider in twilight conditions. 

 

Compact Binoculars FAQ’s

Q: How do compact binoculars differ from full sized binos?

A: Compact binoculars are smaller and more lightweight. They are ideal for backpacking and hiking as they easily fit inside a backpack without weighing you down. Though they are not as powerful as full sized binos, they still provide excellent image quality for activities such as bird watching.

 

Q: What are the best inexpensive binoculars?

A: Our vote is for the Bushnell H20 Compact Binoculars. For under $100 they feature multi-coated BAK4 lenses are lightweight, waterproof, and rubber padding making them easy to handle.

 

Q: What do the numbers on binoculars mean?

A: The numbers tell you their strength (8x, 10x) and size of the objective lens (25, 28, 32). For instance binos that are 8×25, have a magnification power of 8x and objects will appear eight times closer. The objective lens here is 25mm and that indicates how much light is let in, the larger the number, the brighter the image.

 

Q: Why are some binoculars more expensive than others?

A: Price is determined by the inner mechanisms, specifically the optics. Higher quality optics, such as fully multi-coated ED glass lenses will be priced significantly more than BK7 lenses despite having similar specs.

 

Q: What additional features should I look for when deciding on a pair of binoculars?

A: Depending on your intended usage, things such as water-proof construction, fog-proof lenses and rubber padding may be things you look out for. 

Conclusion

 

When selecting a pair of compact binoculars there are many different factors to look at. Most importantly, the primary reason you will be using them. 

If backpacking or hiking, size and weight is key. Also keep in mind to stick to a magnification of 8 or 10 as the higher the magnification the more susceptible to unsteady hand movement. 

If birdwatching, a magnification of 10 might seem like a good option to get up close and detailed views, but an 8 power magnification has a wider field of view, which is important in locating birds. The Zeiss Terra 8×25 ED pocket binocular is a great option for this purpose. 

If durability is of utmost importance coupled with high definition optics then the Steiner Tactical Compact Binoculars are what you’re looking for. 

When deciding on a pair of compact binoculars, make sure to evaluate all the features and options of each according to your needs. There are plenty of options available and we’ve covered a few of our favorites that span many different outdoor experiences. 


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