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The best opera glasses: pocket sized binoculars for theatre and stage

best opera glasses
(Image credit: Lena Volo/Getty Images)

Opera glasses needn’t just be for watching the soprano hit their high notes – they can be used for a range of pursuits, including concerts, music festivals, trips to the theater and more. But which are the best opera glasses you can buy right now, and what should you be looking for when considering a purchase?

A close cousin to a pair of regular binoculars, opera glasses are likewise a magnification tool to bring the faraway nearer. They come in many styles but generally have a classic or vintage look and feel to differentiate themselves from their regular binocular brethren. 

Because you’ll generally be sitting within comfortable viewing distance of your subject via the naked eye anyway, the magnification factor needn’t be so huge as a typical pair of binos, while a more modest magnification factor also helps keep any possible image shake to a minimum. So, typically, opera glasses, also sometimes referred to as opera or theater binoculars, regularly provide a magnification factor around 3x, very occasionally creeping up to 4x.

Arguably, just as significant as the magnification of the opera glasses you’re considering buying is the field of view they provide. You’ll generally want a large or wide field of view so you can catch all the collective action happening on the stage, not just a narrow section of it. So, beware of very compact designs that may result in image blurring at the edges of your view. After all, you’ve come to see a production, not just a solo performance.

As with binoculars, also consider not just the magnification factor but also the size of the objective lens in use. Typically with opera glasses 25mm or 27mm lenses are provided, while some even go down to 18mm. While smaller lenses will enable a smaller pair of opera glasses overall, be aware that they will let in less light overall, which may put you at a disadvantage in a darker theater or auditorium.

With the above in mind then, let’s examine some key contenders for the best opera glasses, opera binoculars, theater glasses and more you can buy in 2020…

Best opera glasses in 2021

(Image credit: Eschenbach)

1. Eschenbach La Scala Black 3x18 Opera Binoculars

Best opera glasses overall

Magnification: 3x | Objective lens size: 18mm | Closest focusing: Not given | Eye relief: Not given | Weight: 140g | Dimensions: Not given

Bright and clear magnification
More expensive than most

Simple, practical and stylish, albeit for a higher price tag, these German-made premium opera glasses in matt black with a silver bridge deliver. Operationally, a smooth focusing knob helps speed things along, while we get clear and bright images due to high quality lenses with an 18mm diameter, while a 3x magnification is helpful in dragging the far away that little bit closer. An imitation leather case is provided for transportation and protection. Further peace of mind comes via the fact that Eschebach has been making precision optics for over 100 years. Other color variations are available: black and gold, white and gold, or pearl and gold

(Image credit: Vixen)

2. Vixen 3x28 Opera Glasses

The best folding opera glasses

Magnification: 3x | Objective lens size: 28mm | Closest focusing: Not given | Eye relief: Not given | Weight: 59g | Dimensions: 1x11.6x7cm

Extremely portable
As light as they come
Plastic look and feel
Not the highest optical quality

Resembling something out of Space 1999, these retro-looking slightly plastic-y opera glasses have the distinct advantage of folding flat when not in use, and popping up when they are required. The casing has a depth of just 6cm, which means that they will slip readily into a shirt or jacket pocket to be retrieved as required. Otherwise the specification here is pretty standard for a pair of opera glasses: 3x magnification married to a 28mm objective lens size, with an distance of 2.5-inches between viewing lenses. A weight of just 2.20z makes this option one of the lightest and most portable around, while the pricing won’t break the bank. If the ultimate in portability, as opposed to optimum quality, is a factor, then these slender fold-up opera glasses are worth a look.

(Image credit: Braun 3x25 Opera Glasses)

3. Braun 3x25 Opera Glasses

The best budget opera glasses

Magnification: 3x | Objective lens size: 25mm | Field of view: 6° | Closest focusing: 3mn | Eye relief: Not given | Weight: 140g | Dimensions: 110x50x32mm

Decent price for what you get
Compact size and weight

Braun Photo Technik is another trusted German brand when it comes to producing opera glasses, but the keen pricing here demonstrates that precision doesn’t necessarily mean costly. For a bargain price, the core specification for this retro designed pair of opera glasses is a standard issue 3x magnification married to a 25mm objective lens. A carry bag and cloth to keep everything clean is provided, while a weight of 140g is still very manageable in terms of portability and practicality. For the price, we’re struggling to find anything to grumble about here.

(Image credit: Bresser)

4. Bresser Scala CB 3x27 Opera Glasses

Art Deco design offers good value for money

Magnification: 3x | Objective lens size: 27mm | Field of view: Not given | Closest focusing: 3m | Eye relief: Not given | Weight: 240g | Dimensions: 105x57x33mm

Good value
Stylish design
Spacing adjustment doesn’t allow for the eyepieces to be moved closer together
The case provides is of poor quality

This compact pair of opera glasses boasts a black lacquered body with funky chrome colored adornment rings, while adjustment is simple via a centre wheel and foldable bridge. Delivering a bright image via its 27mm objective lens size in combination with a useful 3x magnification, also provided is a case, lens cloth and instructions. Again, the appeal here, apart from the value added price, is the discrete design, decent optics and workmanship that have, in combination, resulted in a pair of coated optics that feels durable as well as practical, while a 10 year warranty provides further peace of mind. A neat solution and an affordable one, allowing you to spend more on those top tier seats, or drinks in the theater bar afterwards.

(Image credit: Levenhuk)

5. Levenhuk Broadway 325N Opera Glasses

Best opera glasses with a handle

Magnification: 3x | Objective lens size: 25mm | Field of view: 6° | Closest focusing: 3.5 metres | Eye relief: 5mm | Other features: LED light plus telescopic handle | Weight: 136g | Dimensions: 13x9x6cm

Elegant telescopic handle for comfortable viewing, 
Built-in LED light for finding your seat or studying the program
Handle may be too ostentatious for some
Compact size means some may find them  too narrow

This classic looking pair of opera glasses from the European manufacturer boasts a couple of neat tricks. Firstly there is a built-in LED light powered by two LR41 lithium batteries for help finding your seat in the dark (or just where you’ve dropped that boiled sweet). Secondly the lorgnette design means there is an extendable handle for maximum viewing comfort and a dash of retro elegance. Whilst those features differ from the norm, the nitty gritty of the spec involves a fairly standard 3x magnification factor and a 25mm lens diameter. Also provided are a carry pouch and cleaning cloth. With a gold and black lacquered finish to its metal body and multi-coated BaK-4 optics, these classic opera glasses are decent value even with the extra features.

(Image credit: Carson)

6. Carson 4x10 Operaview

For discrete watchers that want a pocketable pair

Magnification: 4x | Objective lens size: 10mm | Field of view: 525ft @ 1000 yd / 160m @ 1000 m | Closest focusing: 4.9ft' / 1.5m | Eye relief: 5ft | Other features: - | Weight: 2.2oz / 62 g | Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.3 x 5.1cm

Compact and lightweight
Discrete design
Decent 4x magnification
Not as bright as some

Lots of opera glasses are designed to look the part for at a premiere of a Broadway show... But what if you want something more discrete that will fit in a jacket pocket, and not look as flashy? This pair of miniature binos from Carson are just the ticket. They weigh just a couple of ounces, but they still have a central hinge so that you can adjust them to fit the distance between your eyes. 

best opera glasses -ESSLNB 4x30 Opera Glasses

(Image credit: ESSLNB)

7. ESSLNB 4x30 Opera Glasses

The best high magnification opera glasses

Magnification: 4x | Objective lens size: 30mm | Field of view: Not given | Closest focusing: Not given | Eye relief: 13.5mm | Other features: LED light plus telescopic handle | Weight: 272g | Dimensions: 13x9x6cm

High 4x magnification
Big objective lens 
Curved cylindrical design
Heavier than rivals

One of the highest magnification factors twinned with the biggest objective lens you can buy in the opera glass market right nowWhile not exactly being a brand name that would readily spring to mind, this offers a high magnification factor plus a large objective lens to boot – here 4x and 30mm respectively. So if you want something just a bit brighter and stronger in terms of pulling that soprano on stage that much closer, this aluminum build option in a choice of three colors (gold, black or red) is worth investigation. This product also comes with provided lugs and a chain attachment, for wearing around your neck. A center focus knob allows for easy operation while the curve of the cylinders is supposed to make them more comfortable to hold. Like the others here, a carry bag is provided too.

(Image credit: Nikon)

7. Nikon Aculon A30 8x25

Best option is you want high magnification

Magnification: 8x | Objective diameter: 25mm | Design: Roof prism | Field of view at 1000m: 105 metres | Closest focusing distance : 3 metres | Eye relief: 15mm | Weight: 275g | Dimensions: 125x115x44mm

8x magnification
Not true opera glasses

When considering opera glasses, it is always worth asking whether a pair of budget binoculars might actually be a better option. If you are in a theater, they won't be - as they will undoubtedly be too powerful - but the extra magnification is exactly what you need if you are right at the back at a festival or big arena gig. The Nikon Aculon's are a small yet perfectly formed budget priced roof prism binoculars, that  are foldable so slip into a pocket. A centrally located focus knob allows for quick and easy adjustment, while a diopter control is also provided via the right eyepiece to allow our view to be fine-tuned. A 25mm objective lens married to a 8x magnification further ensures you get a significant boost in image size compared to true opera glasses. 

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Gavin Stoker

Gavin has over 30 year experience of writing about photography and television. He is currently the Editor of British Photographic Industry News. He writes on a number of subjects for Digital Camera World, including on binoculars and spotting scopes. He has also written for a wide range of publications including BBC Focus, Empire, NME, Radio Times, MacWorld, Computer Active,  What Digital Camera, T3, and Rough Guide books.