Getting the best binoculars means having a clear idea of what you want to use them for, how much weight you're prepared to carry around and how much you can afford to spend. High-end binoculars are, not surprisingly, pretty expensive, but you don't have to spend a fortune to get perfectly good pair ideal for your favorite pastime or hobby.
If your subjects will be a long way away then you'll need decent magnification, though be aware that the higher the magnification, the harder it's going to be to keep the image steady, though a tripod can help you out here for extended periods of wildlife spotting.
If you're using binoculars in low light, and especially for astronomy, then you'll also need light-gathering power, and for this you need big objective lenses. The bigger the lenses, the easier it will be to make out faint or dim objects – and a good pair of binoculars can reveal more detail in the night sky than you could ever imagine. But big lenses also mean more weight and potentially more arm-strain, which is why astronomers often mount their binoculars on a tripod to reduce shake and fatigue.
In general use, then, you'll want to pick a compromise between magnification, light-gathering power and weight. Sports fans and casual ramblers will often pick binos with modest specs in both regards, just to get binoculars small enough and light enough to fit in a jacket pocket.
Below we list the best binoculars available today, from a range of manufacturers. We've selected specific models here, but remember that many of the binoculars in this list are also available in other sizes and magnifications.
We've also put a more detailed section on how to choose the best binoculars right at the end of this guide, just in case you'd like a little more information before deciding.
The best binoculars in 2022
All of Canon’s current range of binos have the ‘IS’ suffix in their model name to denote the fact they’re image-stabilized binoculars. This battery-operated option enables you to get a wobble-free image by just pressing in a button on the binoculars – and the stabilizing effect is both instant and jaw-dropping.
From the broad range of Canon IS options available, we've picked the rubber coated Canon 10x42L IS WP model as the best. As the name suggests, they’re also waterproof, so ideal for an even broader range of long-distance pursuits. Plus, Canon’s ‘L’ series is its premium line up, providing a super steady view in the most adverse of conditions.
As well as rock-solid stability, these porro prism binoculars sit comfortably in your hand and sport a comfortably long (at 16mm) eye relief, plus a large 4.2mm exit pupil for a bright field of view. They also offer a closest focusing distance that’s closer than most, at just 2.5 metres.
• Read our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review
Offering the perfect balance between portability, durability and image quality, the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 manages to straddle the divide between affordability and quality. They offer good views across the board, with the optical highlight including a wide field of view and a close focus.
We were also impressed by the extras in the box, particularly a harness housed in a small stuff sack. If you’re after a step-up pair of full-size binoculars with a slice of quality then the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 is a great candidate.
Nikon is a reassuring name when it comes to optical quality, and its binoculars are made with just as much care and attention to detail as its lenses. So much so in fact that this pair of Nikon binoculars won a Red Dot design award.
These binoculars are armoured and come with a non-slip construction, available in 8x42 and 10x42 configurations. The highly reflective silver alloy mirror coating on the surface of the prism lenses delivers a light and clear view that's comfortable to enjoy for long periods thanks to the long eye relief.
The binoculars are also fog-proof, with a sealed O-ring and nitrogen-purged innards. As an all-round option at an affordable price point, these are the best binoculars you can buy today.
• Read our Nikon Prostaff 3S 10x42 binocular review
Something of a bargain, this pair of Celestron BaK-4 prism binoculars boasts 8x magnification and multi coated optics to keep your view as clear as possible. This isn't the only size available – you can get these Outland X binoculars in other magnifications and sizes too. They're suitable for outdoor use by birders and wildlife watchers, thanks not only to said magnification but also a sturdy polycarbonate build and waterproofing.
The decent-sized 42mm objective lenses on offer here gather a lot of light, making these binoculars suitable for use in dim conditions as well as regular daylight. A large smooth-feel focus wheel aids operation and a long 18mm eye relief delivers viewing comfort. Capable of being tripod mounted if desired, a strap, lens cloth and carry case comes as standard, plus a limited lifetime warranty.
To shoot for the stars, you obviously need a pair of binoculars with a high magnification factor, as well as ones with excellent light gathering abilities. You'll find both here with the splendidly named ‘SkyMaster’, ensuring this affordable pair is tailor-made for amateur astronomers, allowing for use at dusk, dawn and night.
Multi coated lenses combine with BaK-4 prisms to allow for increased light transmission and therefore high contrast images with bags of detail. Stargazers will also benefit from the fact that this option can be tripod mounted, while it also has its own centre support rod for increased stability.
A polycarbonate and aluminum build provides both robustness and portability, while you also get a product that is waterproofed and fog-proofed with it, which is especially useful on cold winter nights.
The low-cost Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 binoculars are portable, waterproof and contemporary-looking porro prism binoculars, and they’re as suited to youngsters as they are adults. In fact, this range – 'Savanna', rather than 'Savannah' – is said to be usable by children aged 7+ without fear of eyestrain.
As well as being compact enough for little hands, they’re relatively lightweight too, at a little under 500g, while offering a relatively wide field of view for curious eyes and minds. The 6x magnification doesn’t make them the most powerful pair of binoculars on the block, but you can upgrade to the 8x30 model – weighing just a few grams more – for just a little more outlay, which represents something of a bargain in itself.
Read more: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 binocular review
This bright, sharp and reliable model from the Olympus Pro line up (a new 8x42 version is also available) features nano coating for the first time in the range. Olympus is renowned for its optical expertise, so it’s no surprise that we get the same high performance Zuiko optics that it deploys with its camera systems. Indeed, the claim here is these binoculars' optics offer unprecedented light transmittance for their class.
They're compact, ergonomically designed and of rugged construction that prevents any ingress from water if submerged at a depth of one metre for five minutes. Close up performance is also impressive, with the ability to view subjects as near as 1.5m.
Nitrogen filling prevents fogging while the design is slim and simple. An extendable eye relief provides comfort for spectacle wearers, as do a dioptric adjustment ring, flip down lens cap and a new strap mount. A 15-year warranty provides extra peace of mind.
• Read our Olympus 10x42 Pro binocular review
One of the newest premium binoculars on the market comes from Nikon in either 8x30 or – as we’ve selected for our top pick – 10x30 options. The Nikon Monarch HG 10x30 binoculars are not only compact and relatively portable at 450g, the magnesium alloy build has the benefit of being water and fog proofed too. The idea is that these ape the performance of Nikon’s Monarch HG 42mm diameter version, but in a smaller body.
Use of extra low dispersion (ED) glass corrects chromatic aberration that can cause colour fringing, while comfort is provided via a soft-to-the-touch neck strap. Both Nikon’s 10x and 8x options are supplied with a semi hard-type case for protection when transporting. A tripod adaptor for each is an optional extra. If you’re looking for the best compact binoculars, this pair from the camera stalwart takes the crown.
• Read our Nikon Monarch HG 10x30 binocular review
The Leica Trinovid-HD 10x42 are the best binoculars for bird watching. And they're a solid all-round option in general too, combining state-of-the-art image performance with a ruggedness that will withstand whatever the outdoors may throw at you.
Their ergonomic design and steady grip allows for accurate and precise focusing, delivering both razor sharp close-ups of our feathered friends, plus long distance clarity. The performance stays consistent too, whether you’re viewing subjects at first light or at dusk.
Good contrast and colour fidelity are key for bird watchers and these binoculars offer that in spades, as well as several choices of model, from Leica Trinovid HD 8x32 to the 10x42 we’ve selected.
• Read our Leica Trinovid HD 8x42 binocular review
The Vixen SG 2.1x42 is all about immersion and not magnification. You would never use them for birdwatching and nor would you want to take them on a safari, but used as a second pair of specialist binoculars for stargazing they impress. Yes, the magnification is lacking, but that's how they’re able – in conjunction with some excellent glass within a superb all-round build – to create an addictive wide-angle view of the night sky.
If you've always preferred naked-eye stargazing to the close-up views offered by telescopes and binoculars then the Vixen SG 2.1x42 can take you to the next level by supercharging your night vision while retaining and extending your wide-eyed view of the night sky.
The Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 are about as basic a pair of binoculars as you can get. The Celstron brand makes many different models of binoculars, some exceptionally high-end, but this pair of 10x50’s represent the most affordable available.
Will they suffice or do you need a more expensive pair? That depends on what you're after. Equipped with 10x magnification and 50mm objective lenses, the UpClose G2 10x50 are both powerful and fast, offering plenty of magnification and also able to collect a lot of light.
That makes them theoretically usable in both bright light and in low light conditions, including complete darkness. So why are the UpClose G2 10x50 so affordable? That's partly down to the lack of any niceties, with no quality accessories or coverings.
While the Bushnell Powerview 2 10x42 may be a pretty basic pair of binoculars in terms of features, the aluminium-alloy chassis gives them a real premium feel. You certainly get the impression this pair could survive a knock or two (though we wouldn't recommend testing this on purpose).
The reasonably large objective lens ensures good light transmission, and the ridged focus control wheel is satisfying and intuitive to use. With rubber grips for a secure hold, the Bushnell Powerview 2 is an all-around well designed set of binoculars, at a pretty reasonable price.
There are binoculars from Celestron’s Nature range, with even higher magnification and larger objective lenses, and likewise there are devices that cost less with smaller lenses and less magnification, so we’ve gone for a good value option in the middle that, with a 10x56 spec, ticks our essential boxes and makes for a decent all-rounder, particularly with the facility to focus as near as 3m too.
As well as being great in low light, they're suitable for outdoor use, thanks to a durable polycarbonate construction filed with dry nitrogen gas to prevent fogging in cold and wet conditions. Add in multi-coated optics and this is a robust, well-specified pair of binoculars suitable for everyone from beginners to intermediate users.
Binocular specs: what to look for
Binoculars have lots of different specs, but there are two key ones that are best to focus on if you want to keep things simple. These are: magnification and lens size.
Most binoculars will list both in their name. When you're browsing for binoculars, you'll quickly notice that their names tend to include something like "10x20" or "6x30". These two numbers refer respectively to the magnification factor, and the size of the lenses. So in this example, we've got binoculars with 10x magnification and 6x magnification. You might think it'd be a matter of picking the binoculars with the largest magnification, but in practicality, it limits your field of view, which can make things harder to spot.
The second number refers to lens size. A larger lens will make the image brighter and clearer, especially in low light, but will also make the binoculars bigger and heavier (and probably more expensive)
This means that for your hobby or subject, it's worth thinking about what the best combination of magnification of objective lens size will work for you.
• See also: Best binocular harness
Best binoculars for astronomy: If you're planning on stargazing, we'd recommend a binocular size of around 7x50. The 7x magnification will work well for astro viewing as a compromise between field of view and magnification, while a 50mm lens will provide plenty of light transmission for spotting fainter celestial objects.
Best binoculars for horse racing and other sports: Sports tend to happen in the day, so a bright objective lens is less of a concern. Something like an 8x30 will hit the spot, as the 8x magnification should be plenty to see what's going on from the stand. There's no point getting something big and heavy if you don't need it!
Best binoculars for nature: A high magnification combined with a smaller and lighter objective lens will make for a good combination here. Some binoculars offer 10x26, and anything in that ballpark should work. However, if you do want to use a heavy pair, consider choosing one that can be affixed to a tripod. That way, you don't have to get tired arms from holding it!
• Read more: Best spotting scopes
More expensive binoculars will also have handy features like weatherproofing and fog-resistance, and some even have image stabilisation on board!
More buying guides
We've got buying guides to far more than just binoculars! Check out or list of buying guides below, for advice on everything from astronomical telescopes to opera glasses...
• Best budget binoculars under $100
• The best monoculars
• Best binocular harness
• The best spotting scopes
• Best rangefinder binoculars
• The best opera glasses
• The best night vision goggles and binoculars
• The best telescopes for astrophotography
• The best microscopes
• Best borescopes and inspection cameras
• The best portable hides for wildlife photography