The broad rule of thumb when choosing a binocular is the greater the magnification power, the closer the view we’ll be able to enjoy of our subject from afar, while the bigger the objective lens in use, the brighter and the clearer said view will be.
There is a catch, though: the greater the magnification and the larger the lens, the physically bulkier, weightier and typically pricier the binocular typically is. It’s also difficult to use a larger device handheld and avoid a shaky view, which means karting a travel tripod around with us too. Unless, that is, our binocular of choice has image stabilization built-in. Some do, but again these are the pricier examples.
A good choice therefore for any one of us wanting a portable, everyday pair of binoculars which we can use handheld and avoid a judder-y view is to seek out a device with a 8x42 specification. This combination also makes for a good option for anyone buying their first binocular. We get sufficient magnification, denoted by the 8x, to be able to view birds in the trees and skittish wildlife from afar, while a respectably large 42mm diameter objective lens in most cases enables us to comfortably keep viewing said wildlife at dusk, or when light levels drop.
While the equally popular 10x42 binoculars will provide a bit more poke in terms of magnification, letting us get that smidgeon closer still, we’ll be paying a bit more for the privilege while typically finding them not quite as portable.
Ideally, before buying a pair of binoculars we’ll want to try them out in our own hands to check size and weight is a good fit, though understandably that’s not possible when buying online. So let’s for now suggest some considered recommendations for those currently in the market for the best 8x42 binoculars we can buy…
The best 8x42 binoculars in 2023
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Suitable for both bird watchers and sports enthusiasts, this entry-level roof prism binocular is considerably more affordable than Nikon’s Monarch series, but incorporates high-quality optics and durable rubber-armored exterior nonetheless. While we can imagine the slip-on lens caps and eyepiece protectors getting mislaid over time, we can appreciate the fact that this binocular is waterproof to a depth of a metre for 10 minutes and fog-proof. At 465g the product is also manageably lightweight yet commendably sturdy with it. Multi-layered coatings to the lenses maximize light transmission while a provided dioptre ring allows for fine-tuning beyond the large centrally mounted focus ring. While certain aspects here betray a budget price, we still feel this is a value-for-money option from a reliable brand that delivers respectable results. The conclusion that for most intents and purposes we ‘can’t go wrong’ can certainly be applied here.
Read our full Nikon Prostaff P3 8x42 review
This compact and waterproof mid-range binocular option marries durability to excellent image quality for those seeking a multi-purpose device for travel, or simply for venturing out into the great outdoors with. The construction comprises a roof prism design with class-leading BaK 4 prisms that impress in daylight, providing clean, clear, and colorful views.
Unusually, given that size and lightweight nature of the build, we’re still provided with a tripod thread, but it’s unlikely we’ll ever need it. To be particularly picky, we spotted a very slight issue with color fringing in common with more budget models, but otherwise found little to fault here. The magnesium alloy build quality is excellent and will no doubt provide long-term durability, while a neck strap and pouch is conveniently provided out of the box. This one is the complete package, in other words.
See our full Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 review
A further option from the good quality, value for money Celestron brand, this rubber-encased, waterproof and nitrogen-purged binocular is suitable for a wide variety of purposes, and for use both in daytime and dimmer conditions.
A case in point: we used these binos in light rain and full sunshine, in wooded areas and open fields without noticing any dip in performance. Multi coated optics again maximize light transmission while avoiding the adherence of dust and dirt, focus adjusted via a large and obvious wheel that sits betwixt the eyepieces.
The binocular is also foldable, to a degree, which enables the distance between the eyepieces to be tweaked to best match the user. In short, this is a good value option for those who don’t have the luxury of spending ten times the price for an alternative from Leica or Zeiss that’s a smidgeon sharper still.
See our full Celestron Outland X 8x42 review
Entry-level, solid-feel roof prism binocular that provides BaK-4 prisms and plenty of detail. This makes it an excellent candidate for a first pair for fledgling wildlife watchers. We also liked the fact that the product is fully waterproofed and nitrogen purged to prevent fogging in damp conditions, with the faux rubber-coated barrels making it easy to achieve a firm grip.
Rubber caps are provided to protect both the eyepieces and front glass, while a small padded case and neck-strap is also included. In terms of image quality, results are bright and clear, though we did notice a fall off in sharpness towards the outer edges. Still, the eye relief is comfortable, especially for spectacle wearers, and focusing is swift via the centrally located knob. In summary, this is low on price but high on usability and, ultimately, viewing quality too.
See our full Celestron Nature DX 8x42 review
Leica is a luxury brand from Germany with a long and acclaimed history of optical excellence, so it’s no surprise that these are priced towards the premium end of the scale. We were impressed with the solid, water-resistant build quality given the compact dimensions, and the fact that the binocular delivers razor-sharp viewing and color in daytime, as well as decent results in lower light.
The binocular would be best suited to wildlife watchers and nature lovers who want to travel light, though at times we found ourselves yearning for a 10x magnification version to just get ourselves that bit closer still. For those seeking added reassurance for this fairly sizeable investment, Leica claims its Trinovid HD 8x42 is impact-resistant and nitrogen purged to prevent fogging. It also provides O-ring sealed water resistance to a depth of 13ft, or four metres. Small yet sturdy and offering noticeably improved image quality over more budget-priced contenders, this one’s a good bet if our wallets will stretch that far.
Read our full Leica Trinovid HD 8x42 review
Zeiss is world-renowned for its optics gracing the likes of cameras from Sony, while on its own it’s seen as being the best of the best. It follows on then that the luxury Zeiss Victory SF 8x42 prism binocular is going to be as far from a ‘budget buy’ as we can get. It’s more likely that if we’re choosing this one it’s with the thought that it’s likely the only 8x42 binocular we’re ever going to buy.
The device comes supplied with a shoulder strap, attractive pouch-style carry case, lens cleaning cloth, and rubber caps for both the eyepieces and lenses. Though surprisingly weighty in present company at 790g, it feels good in the hand thanks to a rubberized exterior that makes for a firmer grip, while the length of eye relief is manually adjustable for comfort. Even when viewing objects on the horizon, the view delivered via the coated lenses of this binocular is noticeably crystal clear and relatively judder-free, thanks to a balanced design and high quality optics, with natural true-to-life color delivered. If you can afford it and are only intending to buy one binocular to last your lifetime, this could be the one.
Read our review of the similar, but more powerful, Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 binoculars.
An alternative to Leica’s Victory is its Conquest, described by its maker as something of an all-rounder. While the core features of an 8x magnification and 42mm lens diameter are the same as its sibling, it doesn’t quite offer the same field of view or achieve as close a focusing distance. This one’s also just a smidgeon heavier despite being physically smaller.
That said, this water-resistant bino is pretty marvelous nonetheless. Coated lenses maximize light transmission to provide identifiably razor-sharp results. A large and obvious focus wheel is close at hand and can be used even when wearing gloves, while ergonomically it feels well balanced when gripped with both hands. Slanted eyecups provide comfort, nitrogen-purged construction avoids fogging, while the aluminum build, once again, is robust. A solid option, then, in every sense of the word.