The best opera glasses aren't just for watching sopranos hit the high notes. They can also be used for a range of cultural events, including theater shows, concerts, music festivals, and more.
Similar to regular binoculars, opera glasses are a magnification tool to give you a better view of what's on stage. They come in many styles, but generally have a classic or vintage look, to differentiate themselves from their binocular brethren.
When choosing between them, you'll want to know how much magnification they provide, what field of view, and the size of the objective lens in use. While smaller lenses enable the opera glasses to be smaller and (arguably) more stylish, be aware that they'll let in less light, which may put you at a disadvantage in a darker theater.
With all that in mind, we present the best opera glasses (also known as opera binoculars or theater glasses) available today, and the information you need to choose the right option for you.
Best opera glasses in 2023
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These German-made premium opera glasses, in matt black with a silver bridge, are simple, practical, and stylish. A smooth focusing knob helps you get clear and bright images from the high-quality, 18mm diameter lenses, while a 3x magnification helps drag the far-away that little bit closer.
An imitation leather case is provided for transportation and protection. Further peace of mind comes from the fact that Eschenbach 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)
Lots of opera glasses are designed to look the part 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 from Carson is 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. The 4x magnification brings you closer to the stage, while a five-foot minimum focus distance allows you to focus on nearby subjects of interest too.
If the ultimate in portability, as opposed to optimum quality, is what you seek, these slender fold-up opera glasses are worth a look. Weighing 2.20z, they're among the lightest and most portable you can buy, while the pricing won’t break the bank.
Resembling something out of Space 1999, this 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. And the casing has a depth of just 6cm, which means that it 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 a distance of 2.5 inches between viewing lenses.(opens in new tab)
Braun Photo Technik is another trusted German brand when it comes to producing opera glasses, but in this case, precision doesn’t 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. The 140g weight is manageable, and you get a carry bag and cloth too. For the price, we’re struggling to find anything to grumble about here.(opens in new tab)
This classic-looking pair of opera glasses from the European manufacturer boasts a couple of neat tricks. Firstly, there's 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 a cleaning cloth. With a gold and black lacquered finish to its metal body and multi-coated BaK-4 optics, these classic opera glasses are of decent value even with the extra features.(opens in new tab)
Want to keep your hands free, so you can focus on that ice cream you bought in the interval? Then you'll love this non-branded pair of binocular-slash-opera glasses available via the likes of Amazon.
Along with 3x magnification, they boast what's called ‘low-level night vision’: thanks to a greenish tint, you can 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. Some may feel a bit socially awkward wearing this Heath Robinson-styled contraption to the opera, but fans of Steampunk will love it.(opens in new tab)
This compact and practical solution from Vanguard boasts pocket-sized proportions, a manageable weight of just 190g, a low price tag, and a pearlescent finish. These roof prism-type opera glasses are both weatherproof and fog proof, should you be at an open air performance. Eyepiece covers and a lens cloth are provided to aid comfort and viewing, while an 8x magnification married to a 21mm objective lens is practically useful given their size and portability.
What level of magnification do opera glasses provide?
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 (which may also be known as opera binoculars or theater glasses) regularly provide a magnification factor of around 3x, very occasionally creeping up to 4x, to help improve your view, without adding unnecessary weight with bigger magnifications.
What field of view should opera glasses have?
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.
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