Opera glasses needn’t just be for watching the soprano hit their high notes – the best opera glasses 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 (opens in new tab), 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 2022
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(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
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.(opens in new tab)
Keep your hands free in order to focus on that tub of ice cream you purchased in the interval with this non-branded pair of binocular-slash-opera glasses available via the likes of Amazon. The magnification on offer here is 3x – so better than our own eyes if we’re stuck in the back rows – but admittedly falling short of the typical 8x magnification of a pair of non-wearable compact binoculars. Boasting what it calls ‘low level night vision’, thanks to a green-ish tint users are able to keep viewing in what may be otherwise weak lighting conditions. Eye spacing is adjustable, as are the nose pads for added comfort and a more secure fit. You may feel a bit socially awkward wearing this Heath Robinson-styled contraption to the opera; but luckily no one will notice you in the dark.(opens in new tab)
If we’re wanting something sleek and practical for a night at the opera that doesn’t necessarily look as if it was fashioned in Victorian era, then we need look no further than this compact and practical solution from Vanguard that boasts pocket sized proportions, a manageable weight of just 190g, a pocket money friendly price tag plus pearlescent finish. These roof prism type binos are both weatherproof and fogproof with it, should inclement weather strike just as we’re exiting the theatre. Eyepiece covers and a lens cloth are provided to aid comfort and viewing, while a 8x magnification married to a 21mm objective lens is practically useful given their size and portability.
Opera glasses: What we look for
Because you’ll generally be sitting down with a comfortable viewing distance of your subject via the naked eye anyway, the magnification factor needn’t be so huge as a typical pair of binoculars, while a more modest magnification factor helps keep any possible image shake to a minimum. So, typically, opera glasses, sometimes referred to as opera or theater binoculars, regularly provide a magnification factor around 3x, very occasionally creeping up to 4x - to help improve your view, without adding unnecessary weight with bigger magnifications.
Just as significant as the magnification of the opera glasses you’re considering buying is the field of view they provide. You’ll want a large or wide field of view so you can catch all the 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.
The binoculars in 2022 (opens in new tab)
Best budget binoculars under $100 (opens in new tab)
The best spotting scopes (opens in new tab)
Best telescopes for astrophotography (opens in new tab)
The best night vision goggles (opens in new tab)
Best monoculars (opens in new tab)
Best loupes for jewelers, dentists and photographers (opens in new tab)