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The best opera glasses in 2022: pocket sized binoculars for theater 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 – 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

Eschenbach La Scala Black 3x18

(Image credit: Eschenbach)

1. Eschenbach La Scala Black 3x18 Opera Binoculars

Best opera glasses overall

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Well-constructed
+
Bright and clear magnification

Reasons to avoid

-
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)
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2. Vixen 3x28 Opera Glasses

The best folding opera glasses

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely portable
+
As light as they come

Reasons to avoid

-
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)
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3. Braun 3x25 Opera Glasses

The best budget opera glasses

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Decent price for what you get
+
Compact size and weight

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

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: Carson)
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4. Carson 4x10 Operaview

For discrete watchers that want a pocketable pair

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and lightweight
+
Discrete design
+
Decent 4x magnification

Reasons to avoid

-
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. 

(Image credit: Levenhuk)
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5. Levenhuk Broadway 325N Opera Glasses

Best opera glasses with a handle

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Elegant telescopic handle for comfortable viewing, 
+
Built-in LED light for finding your seat or studying the program

Reasons to avoid

-
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: Amazon)
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6. Senmonus hands-free binocular glasses

Steampunk-like contraption for watching the opera ‘hands free’

Specifications

Magnification: 3x
Objective diameter: 34mm
Field of view at 1000m: Not given
Closest focusing distance : Not given
Eye relief: Not given
Weight: 68g
Dimensions: 9.3x10.2x3.2cm

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable and compact
+
Made for ‘hands free’ use

Reasons to avoid

-
‘Just’ 3x magnification so lacks the power of a  dedicated pair of compact binoculars

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.

(Image credit: Vanguard)
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7. Vanguard Vesta 8x21

Best option is you want high magnification

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective diameter: 21mm
Field of view at 1000 yards: 371 yards
Closest focusing distance : 13.1 feet
Eye relief: 10mm
Weight: 190g
Dimensions: 93x102x32mm

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable and compact
+
Unobtrusive in use (won’t block your neighbor’s view)
+

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks  retro style appeal of your typical  opera glasses

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.

Read more:

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)
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For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specialising in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound and many more for various advertising campaigns, books and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected in to BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa and Sinar and has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI and everything in between. His work covers the genres of Equestrian, Landscape, Abstract or Nature and combines nearly two decades of experience to offer exclusive limited-edition prints to the international stage from his film & digital photography.