Best binoculars {year}: Top picks for stargazing, wildlife and more

Cloudbet

While telescopes are often thought of as the astronomer’s best friend, in the world of the best binoculars there’s some stiff competition. For many, they’re a cost-effective alternative to telescopes but they come in helpful for finding the stars, wildlife and other far-away objects, too. You’ll be able to scope out all of the best binoculars available on the market today in this handy guide. 

The more popular models of binoculars for stargazing offer 8x, 10x and 12x magnifications, but larger models can go up to 20x and 25x. Higher magnifications don’t always mean better views, however, as brightness drops off with magnification, and you should consider the size of the objective lens — the one that you point at the sky — as larger objective lenses allow the binoculars to collect more photons than the naked eye alone, delivering the bright, sharp views you want from your nights stood under the stars. 

Size and weight can also increase quickly as both magnification and objective lens size increase. For optical quality, we recommend looking at models that offer multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms. Those features will mean quality optics, and combined with a good-sized objective lens, will give you the clearest vision of whatever it is you’re looking for, environmental and atmospheric conditions permitting, of course.

We’ve searched everything on offer right now to find the best binoculars in 2022 and put them in this detailed guide to aid in your search. We’ve also scoured the internet to find where to purchase the listed models at the best prices.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Buying binoculars is not just a case of buying the biggest ones, especially if you’re looking for something that’s easy to pack up for traveling or to suit a younger stargazer with small hands. You should check out our best compact binoculars and best binoculars for kids guides for that sort of thing, or if you’ve got your heart set on a specific brand, then we also have useful guides for brands, including Vortex deals, Bushnell deals and Leica deals to help you out.

There’s something for every level of astronomer and every budget in this guide so, without further ado, here are the best binoculars we’ve found on the market right now.

The best stargazing binoculars

(Image credit: Canon)

Hands down the finest stargazing binoculars money can buy

Specifications

Magnification: 10x

Objective lens diameter: 42mm

Field of view: 6.5 degrees

Eye relief: 14.5mm

Weight: 39.2 oz

Reasons to buy

+

Optical Image Stabilizer 

+

Rugged build quality 

+

Lots of eye relief 

Reasons to avoid

Bulky size 

Lens caps are loose 

AAA batteries required 

These are the very finest binoculars available for viewing the night sky, with a price tag to suit. Not only are they optically excellent, but the gyro-stabilization Canon has installed, taken from its most expensive camera lenses, means all the additional wobble introduced by being handheld and larger magnifications goes away. It’s almost like they’re being steadied by an invisible tripod, just don’t try to walk away and expect them to float in mid-air.

The glass is the same as in Canon camera lenses too, taking the ‘L’ designation that marks out some of the best, and most expensive, lenses ever to sit in front of a digital image sensor. You can expect sharp, bright, stable views through these excellent binos.

As always, there are some downsides. This is a heavy pair of binoculars and would be hard to hold steady for long periods were it not for the electronic stabilization. Their price is eye-watering, though, so while we’ve picked out the 10×42 pair as being ideal for astronomy, there are others in the range, including 18×50 IS AW (opens in new tab) and 15×50 IS AW (opens in new tab) models which are not quite as expensive.

Best binoculars under $300

(Image credit: Celestron )

For under $300 these are the best binoculars you can buy today

Specifications

Magnification: 8x

Objective lens diameter: 1.7″ (42 mm)

Angular field of view: 8.1 degrees

Eye relief: 0.7″ (17 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

No fogging 

+

Bright images 

+

Wide field of view

Reasons to avoid

Carry case can’t house harness strap

Lack magnification for serious astro

The TrailSeeker 8×42 from Celestron offers a slightly different view from the norm because of the amount of light their 42mm apertures collect. Their slightly lower magnification also gives you a wider field of view. 

This means Earth’s moon will appear slightly smaller when compared with 10×50 binoculars, but the optical system mixed with the lens multi-coatings offers a sharper, brighter view compared to other binoculars we’ve tested. Thanks to nitrogen purging and a waterproof design, the optics don’t fog up either, perfect if you’re using them in a variety of ambient temperatures and moving between the warmer indoors and frostier outdoors.

Another advantage of the Celestron TrailSeeker 8×42 is the lack of false color — also known as chromatic aberration — which often takes the form of a purple or blue hue around brighter targets. Very little could be seen in the field of view, particularly along the limb of the moon. 

The TrailSeeker 8×42 binocular is also quite light at 2 lbs (~1 kilogram). But over long periods of observing time, we discovered that our arms began to shake making it difficult to get a steady hand-held view: if you’re prone to trembling arms, a tripod is definitely a recommended accessory.

Best budget binoculars

(Image credit: Opticron)

Our best budget binocular pick for 2021

Specifications

Magnification: 10x

Objective lens diameter: 2″ (50 mm)

Angular field of view: 5.5 degrees

Eye relief: 0.7″ (17 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Lightweight design

+

Long eye relief

+

Excellent optics for a low price

Reasons to avoid

Build feels slightly cheap

FOV could be wider

If you wear glasses, the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10×50 (opens in new tab) really are some of the best binoculars out there thanks to the excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78mm). Issues faced by the people wearing glasses typically include not being able to move the eye as close to the eyepieces as desired or required, meaning possibly having to remove glasses to get a better view (which of course causes problems with actual eyesight), but that’s not the case with this pair and the aforementioned eye relief means there should be no problems using these as a glasses wearer.

The binoculars also feature twistable eyecups that can retract or extend, making the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10×50 even more comfortable for all users. 

The optics are excellent and provide great contrast, showing all the usual suspects well: open star clusters like the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull) and the Beehive (Messier 44) in Cancer (the Crab) were picked out with ease and viewed with high clarity, while bright double stars — particularly Mizar and Alcor in the constellation of Ursa Major (the Great Bear) — resolve well under the magnification. 

Weighing in at 1.7 lbs (0.77 kg) these binoculars can be held comfortably for long periods of observing time. 

Best binoculars for sturdiness

(Image credit: Vortex)

4. Vortex 10×50 Crossfire HD Binocular

If you need sturdy binoculars, this is the pair to buy

Specifications

Magnification: 10x

Objective lens diameter: 2″ (50 mm)

Angular field of view: 8.1 degrees

Eye relief: 0.7″ (17 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Sturdy, well-constructed build

+

Multipurpose optics

+

Manageable weight

Reasons to avoid

A little false color in views

Slight blurring at the edge of FOV

If you’re looking for a reliable and robust pair of binoculars for wildlife viewing and occasional stargazing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better than the Vortex 10×50 Crossfire HD (opens in new tab).

The image is crisp and clear, with stars appearing as perfect pinpoints of light. You may find you can detect a small degree of false color when observing brighter objects, although this optical defect isn’t unusual at this price point.

It’s the build quality that really makes these binoculars excel. Well-constructed with a solid, heavy-duty focusing knob that’s a breeze to adjust even when wearing thick gloves to fend off chilly winter temperatures, their eye relief is also adjustable thanks to twistable eyecups. At 1.89 lbs (0.86 kilograms), astronomers who like to dabble in nature-watching and globetrotting will be grateful for the modest weight too.

Best for kids

(Image credit: Celestron)

5. Celestron Cometron 7×50

An inexpensive option ideal for kids

Specifications

Magnification: 7x

Objective lens diameter: 50mm

Field of view: 6.8 degrees

Eye relief: 13mm

Weight: 27.3 oz

Reasons to buy

+

Great value 

+

Wide exit pupil 

+

BK7 glass

Reasons to avoid

Not waterproof 

Not drop-proof

The 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses make the Celestron Cometron 7×50 perfect for kids. There’s a common tale that kids need small binoculars, but their eyesight is actually better at seeing in the dark than adults’, so why penalize them with a pair that can’t let in enough light?

What kids do need is something that is lightweight and comfortable to hold as they may not be as good at holding binoculars still and may tire quicker. Alternatively, consider tripod-mounting a pair.

These compact binoculars partner a 7x magnification with a large 50mm objective lens, they don’t need much bulk but still allow a lot of light in. Although these are compact and lightweight they aren’t waterproof, but that is to be expected in this price range.

(Image credit: Celestron)Best high magnification binoculars

6. Celestron SkyMaster 25×100 Binocular

See the Universe close up and in stereo, but don’t plan to take them anywhere

Specifications

Magnification: 25x

Objective lens diameter: 3.9″ (100 mm)

Angular field of view: 3 degrees

Eye relief: 0.6″ (15 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

High magnification 

+

Tripod adapter included

+

Great clarity and contrast

Reasons to avoid

Very heavy, tripod needed

Quite expensive

As if a mad scientist had blended a pair of telescopes together using an experimental teleporter, touring the heavens with these is like viewing the night sky using two four-inch (100 mm) refractors, with added 25x magnification. 

They’re not for everyone and will undoubtedly need support: at 15.3 inches (388.62mm) in length and weighing in at 8.75 lbs (4 kilograms), you will need a heavy-duty tripod for prolonged use. The eye relief is decent at 0.6 inches (15.24 mm), which may be a little close for glasses wearers.

Under a dark, clear night sky, you can just about make out Jupiter’s atmospheric belts using these. Sweeping through the Milky Way, particularly the dense star fields of Sagittarius, is a sight that has to be seen to be believed, the Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24) is especially impressive. The multi-coated optics are exquisite, with bright images and stunning contrast. 

The Celestron SkyMaster 25×100 binoculars are definitely a worthy investment. Their tough, rugged and reliable build means users will enjoy many years of stargazing.

Best constructed binoculars

(Image credit: Nikon)

7. Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211 Binocular

A sleek and well made binocular model

Specifications

Magnification: 10x

Objective lens diameter: 2″ (50 mm)

Angular field of view: 6.5 degrees

Eye relief: 0.4″ (11.8 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Great optics 

+

Wide field of view

+

Sleek design

Reasons to avoid

Eye relief isn’t brilliant

Not water resistant

All the usual binocular subjects can be picked out easily with these, from Jupiter’s disk to the crescent moon, with the optical system revealing crisp shadows at our natural satellite’s terminator. The aspherical eyepiece lens built into the Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211 binoculars works like a charm and eliminates any kind of image distortion. Meanwhile, on the exterior, the rubber armor allows for a firm, shock-resistant grip that makes the binoculars pleasing to hold.

With a fairly large 6.5-degree field of view, these binoculars are perfect for those occasions when the moon passes through or close to a large star cluster, such as the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull). Pinpoint stars litter the backdrop of a dark night sky right to the edge of the frame, with excellent contrast.

Where the Aculon A211s slightly let themselves down, however, is with the rather close eye relief of just 0.5 inches (16.51mm), which might be problematic for spectacle wearers.

Best specialized binoculars for stargazing

(Image credit: Celestron)

8. Meade Instruments 15×70 Astro Binocular

Excellent, specialized stargazing binoculars

Specifications

Magnification: 15x

Objective lens diameter: 2.8″ (70 mm)

Angular field of view: 4.4 degrees

Eye relief: 0.7″ (18 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Excellent eye relief

+

Sharp views with good contrast

+

No fogging

Reasons to avoid

A heavy, tripod is required

Some problems with collimation

Another reliable name in the world of optics, particularly telescopes and eyepieces, is Meade Instruments. The 15×70 Astro Binoculars will satisfy even the most seasoned astronomer with spectacular views of the lunar surface, planets and the brightest deep-sky objects. 

The binocular is reasonably priced for its level of magnification, with only a slight degree of false color as we moved from one bright target to the next. What’s more, there’s no fogging on the optics when the temperature changes.

Through the 15×70 Astro Binocular, we were able to spot the flat shape of Saturn’s rings but weren’t able to resolve them any more clearly. Meanwhile, Jupiter appeared as a bright disc, but the magnification isn’t quite powerful enough to see the gas giant’s atmospheric bands or Great Red Spot

This pair of binoculars aren’t the lightest, they weigh 3.1 lbs (1.4 kilograms). For that reason, we’d recommend using them with a tripod and adapter.

Best lightweight binoculars

(Image credit: Nikon)

9. Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42

These lightweight binoculars are easy to hold for long periods

Specifications

Magnification: 8x

Objective lens diameter: 42mm

Field of view: 7.2 degrees

Eye relief: 5.3mm

Weight: 19.9 oz

Reasons to buy

+

Rubber coating for grip 

+

Waterproof and shock-resistant 

+

Long eye relief design 

Reasons to avoid

Lacks a tripod adaptor 

Average lens caps 

Low magnification

These are fantastic entry-level binoculars that punch well above their price tag. They’ve been on the market since 2016 and still hold their own against more expensive binos. 

They have a lightweight design and are comfortable to hold thanks to the non-slip rubber coating, they have a shockproof outer layer so shouldn’t break should you drop them accidentally. The focus wheel is easily rotatable, even when wearing gloves. They are also waterproof and fog-proof which is very impressive for their price.

The eye relief is very long at 20.2mm and the eyecups are adjustable — this is excellent news for glasses wearers.

The downside to this pair of binoculars is that there is no tripod adaptor. They are lightweight at just 565g so would be great for handheld nature spotting or taking on your travels without tipping your luggage allowance over the limit, but we wouldn’t necessarily recommend them for exploring the night sky.

Best large aperture binoculars

(Image credit: Celestron)

10. Celestron SkyMaster 8×56 binoculars

Large aperture handheld binoculars perfect for the deep sky

Specifications

Magnification: 8x

Objective lens diameter: 56mm

Field of view: 5.8 degrees

Eye relief: 18mm

Weight: 38 oz

Reasons to buy

+

Waterproof and fog-proof design 

+

Large objective lenses 

+

Generous eye relief

Reasons to avoid

Reasonably heavy 

Tripod adaptor not included 

Suited to experienced users

The Celestron Skymaster 8×56 binoculars won Space.com’s Editor’s Choice award for Best Medium Binoculars for Astronomy all the way back in 2014, but we still think they’re a top performer today. They weigh just over 1 kilogram so aren’t the lightest pair on this list, but they certainly aren’t the heaviest and it isn’t impossible to hold them for long stints.

The are nitrogen filled and sealed so you can be confident they can perform in all weathers without condensation. The eye relief is a generous 18mm and comfortable and the field of view which is 5.8 degree’s is satisfactory, although not outstanding.

Best for stereo image

(Image credit: Vixen)

Let these Galilean-design binoculars give you a new way of looking at the night sky

Specifications

Magnification: 2.1x

Objective lens diameter: 42mm

Field of view: 25 degrees

Eye relief: 8.4mm

Weight: 14.5 oz

Reasons to buy

+

Very easy to keep steady 

+

Widefield 3D stargazing 

+

Small, light and easy to carry 

Reasons to avoid

Very low magnification 

Blurry at edges 

Lens caps are easy to lose 

Are you ready for a completely different kind of binocular experience? Put a pair of the Vixen SG 2.1×42 (opens in new tab) to your eyes and you’re faced with the same night sky you can see naked-eye, only zoomed-in 2x. Why would anyone buy a pair of binoculars with such a low magnification? If your goal is to glimpse deep-sky sights such as galaxies, or even get a close-up of Jupiter’s largest moons, then the Vixen SG 2.1×42 is definitely not for you. However, if sussing-out constellations, and generally getting a wide-eyed view of the cosmos is what you’re after then you’ll adore the Vixen SG 2.1×42.

Using lenses composed of five multi-coated elements and with stunning build quality, they offer eye-opening stereoscopic depth. The drawbacks include blur around the edges of the field of view — a hangover of their simple Galilean design — and some pop-off lens caps that are pretty easy to lose.

(Image credit: Celestron)Best low budget binoculars

If you’re looking to save weight and space, these binoculars are a good pick

Specifications

Magnification: 10x

Objective lens diameter: 2″ (50 mm)

Angular field of view: 6.8 degrees

Eye relief: 0.5″ (12 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Compact and lightweight

+

Waterproof and fog-resistant 

+

Shock resistant

Reasons to avoid

Lenses need collimating 

Greater magnification needed for astro

These are entry-level skywatching binoculars that would suit anyone with a tight budget or who is a beginner wanting good value for money. While there are some true wins to this model, there are a few reasons why they’re cheap.

The view they present is very reasonable: the fuzzy glow of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is pleasing and we could just make out three stars in the Trapezium Cluster at the nebula’s heart — greater magnification would be needed to tease out the fourth bright star in this star-forming region. 

The moon looks stunning, fitting in the field of view comfortably and with only a slight degree of false color. In July 2020, the UpClose G2 10×50 binoculars (opens in new tab) served as an excellent optical aid for studying the naked-eye comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). 

Where the view was let down is by the collimation of the lenses being off, this can be adjusted via small screws but it’s a bit frustrating having to do this with a pair that’s straight out-of-the-box. The lenses are also prone to fogging, which can be irritating, but not a major dealbreaker. We’d still recommend the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 binocular because of its lightweight design and low cost.

Best for reliability

(Image credit: Nikon)

13. Nikon Action EX 12×50 Binocular

A reliable binocular model, but one you need a tripod for

Specifications

Magnification: 12x

Objective lens diameter: 2″ (50 mm)

Angular field of view: 5.5 degrees

Eye relief: 0.6″ (16.1 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Wide field of view

+

Clear, crisp observations

Reasons to avoid

Heavy, tripod required

Slight field curvature

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 binocular (opens in new tab) makes for a good comparison with regular 10×50 binoculars, in that you get the same aperture at 50 mm but a greater magnification of 12x. The construction is excellent with comfy rubber grips and a big focus knob. Eye relief is 0.51 inches (13 mm).

Since you’re magnifying the same amount of light collected by 10x50s, a higher magnification usually means images are less bright. However, thanks to the multi-coated lenses and high-refractive-index prisms of the Action EX 12×50, this loss of brightness is not really noticeable. What you get are great, high-contrast images. Saturn offered a test of this binocular: its rings were not resolvable on their own, but the skywatcher will notice definite ansae — the extension of the rings at either side of the planet, giving Saturn an oblate shape.

When viewing stars, the images are sharp and pinpointed at the center of the field. Around the edge of the 5.5-degree field of view though, there is some curvature. This makes it slightly distracting when spanning across the Milky Way or wanting to observe larger star clusters. But this doesn’t take away from the fantastic package the skywatcher gets in the Action EX 12×50.

The Nikon Action EX 12×50 is quite a heavy binocular, weighing in at 2.3 lbs.(1.04 kilograms). The higher magnification will enhance any shakiness so a tripod is recommended.

Best binoculars for galaxies

(Image credit: Celestron)

14. Celestron Nature DX 12×56 Binocular

Fantastic magnification makes these ideal for galaxies

Specifications

Magnification: 12x

Objective lens diameter: 2.2″ (56 mm)

Angular field of view: 5.5 degrees

Eye relief: 0.63″ (16 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Great for galaxies

+

Manageable weight

+

Waterproof, fog-proof and durable

Reasons to avoid

Slight distortion at field’s edge

Surface isn’t as grippy as other rubber coated bins

This relatively unusual combination of 12x magnification and 56mm aperture objective lenses combines power with light-gathering ability, while still being small and light enough to be handheld comfortably with steady hands. 

It’s noticeable how much better they show galaxies than smaller models — the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) appears disk-shaped with hints of structure, while the neighboring Bode’s Galaxy (Messier 81) and Cigar Galaxy (Messier 82) in Ursa Major (the Great Bear) look outstanding in the same 5.5-degree field of view. Turned towards the moon, the craters exude superb clarity and contrast. 

There is a slight amount of distortion through the optical system that begins about three-quarters of the way from the center of the field, with some stars displaying a degree of softness. These stars took the appearance of smudges rather than crisp points of light. The Celestron Nature DX 12×56 (opens in new tab) is waterproof and also keeps fogging at bay.

In terms of build, the binoculars are satisfactory. The handholds, made of rubber, are comfortable, the 0.6 inch (15mm) eye relief is generous and at 2.27 lbs (1.03 kilograms) they weigh slightly less than the Nikon Action EX 12×50, but with more light gathering ability.

Best for detailed magnification

(Image credit: Celestron)

These binoculars have superb magnification and detail, but they’re a heavy unit

Specifications

Magnification: 15x

Objective lens diameter: 2.8″ (70 mm)

Angular field of view: 4.4 degrees

Eye relief: 0.7″ (18 mm)

Reasons to buy

+

Great price for giant binoculars

+

Excellent eye relief

+

Optics offer good detail

Reasons to avoid

Heavy, requires tripod

Some softness around edges

The SkyMaster line of binoculars was never intended to be top of the range but they still provide top-quality views for an affordable price. This is certainly the case for the 15×70 ‘giant’ binoculars. It’s a sturdy binocular with a bit of bulk to it and users will be pleased with the quality of views provided for the price range. 

At 11 inches (280 mm) in length and weighing 3 lbs (1.36 kilograms) the Celestron SkyMaster 15×70 binocular certainly has a lot of heft but using them handheld isn’t impossible. It would however be more comfortable to mount them to a tripod.

Despite the larger 70 mm objective aperture, the higher magnification of 15x reduces the apparent field of view to 4.4 degrees, compared to typical 10x50s or 12x50s that provide a degree more. 

That said, the more light gathered and higher magnification makes details pop out that are vague, or fuzzy when observed through smaller binoculars. There is some softness and blurring towards the edge of the field, which is disappointing but not unexpected considering the low cost. If you’re a spectacle-wearer then you’ll be delighted to read that the SkyMaster 15×70 has an impressive 0.7 inches (18 mm) of eye relief. 

Source: space.com

Liked Liked