Best binoculars 2024: Our picks for stargazing, bird watching and observing wildlife

The best binoculars will not only be optically proficient but suitable for the subject you're observing. Whether you're bird watching, stargazing or nature spotting while hiking, each application requires different specifications and features to get the best results.

Luckily, we've reviewed and tested the very best binoculars for all these areas and have covered a wide range of binocular types - from porro to roof prism - and sizes. So we know exactly what binocular is right for your needs. Read below to discover how we test the best binoculars.

Want to observe the dim starlight in the night sky? You'll need binos with large objective lenses to soak up as many photons as possible. Bird watching binoculars typically have sharp edge-to-edge performance and give adequate magnification to track flighty subjects. However, more generalist binoculars may need to meet stricter budgets and be suitable for all-sized hands in the family.

While we’ve taken a broad remit in this buyers’ guide to highlight the best binoculars on the market, if you have more specific requirements, such as seeking out the best binoculars for stargazing, or the best binoculars for kids, then follow our links to be taken to an alternative product selection. 

The quick list

Best binoculars we recommend in 2024

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Best overall

Best overall: Premium build with powerful magnification suitable for just about any observational pursuit

Specifications

Magnification: 15x
Objective lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 256 ft / 78m
Eye relief: 21mm
Weight: 2.2 lbs / 1kg

Reasons to buy

+
Durable construction
+
Precision engineered
+
Multiple lens coatings boost clarity

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires steady hands or preferably a tripod
-
Not exactly pocket sized
-
Focus wheel can get slippery if wet
Buy it if

✅ You wear glasses: They have a very generous 21mm eye relief.

✅ You want high magnification: The 15x magnification is great for seeing far-away subjects.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something compact: They weigh over 2 lbs and are quite large.

❌ You're on a budget: They're incredibly expensive — but you get what you pay for.

The bottom line

🔎 Bushnell Forge 15x56: These excellent binoculars offer an above average 15x magnification, and a larger than normal 56mm objective lens for increased light gathering. This results in a larger than average pair of binoculars, although they are not prohibitively unwieldy. ★★★★

Bushnell is a reputable brand known for their outdoor pursuits products like trail cameras, scopes and binoculars. Known for their good value and reliable performance, the Forge 15x56 binoculars are no exception.

A huge 15x magnification means you get up close and personal with your subjects so they're ideal for spotting small songbirds or distant aircraft. However, they also boast large 56mm objective lenses. This big opening on the front of the binoculars allows a lot more light through than a generalist binocular and as such performs well in low light conditions, whether that's skywatching at night or tracking animals deep into twilight.

Rain or shine, these binoculars are great for the outdoors as they’re waterproof, which we appreciated in our Bushnell Forge 15x56 review. In addition to this, its large objective lens lets in as much light as possible and sharpness is boosted via prime ED glass (a generous application of lens coatings to improve light transmission).

Inevitably these aren’t the lightest binos to use, at around 1kg, though a neck strap is provided for added comfort. And it has to be noted that flagship, premium build binos such as these do command a premium price, even from the normally cost-conscious Bushnell. You do get a few extras, however, such as Bushnell’s exclusive ‘EXO’ barrier protection — a lens coating that bonds to the glass at a molecular level which prevents scratches while repelling water, oil, debris and dust.

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AttributesNotes
DesignLarge and heavy.
PerformanceGood 15x magnification.
FunctionalitySuitable for most types of long viewing.

Best value

Best value: An able travel companion, these portable roof prism type binos are for bringing wildlife closer

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 43 ft / 13.1 m
Eye relief: 16mm
Weight: 1.5 lbs / 670g

Reasons to buy

+
Shrugs off any inclement weather
+
Compact and portable
+
Delivers decent magnification…

Reasons to avoid

-
… although an even greater magnification may be beneficial for wildlife watching
-
High-end features mean high-end prices
Buy it if

✅ You don't want anything too heavy: They aren't the lightest option, but they're easy enough to carry around.

✅ You want to use them in all weathers: They're waterproof, and the lens coatings are oil-repellent.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want image stabilization: These binoculars don't have it.

❌ You want more magnification: The 8x is fine for wildlife watching, but for other uses you may want to consider 10x or 12x.

The bottom line

🔎 Olympus 8x42 Pro: They're well-built and protected against the elements, and offer great optics for viewing birds and other wildlife. They're a little pricey, but you get what you pay for. ★★★★

Wildlife watchers who love being out in nature may want to consider the Olympus 8x42 PRO binoculars from a brand that is well-known for their optics and camera production.

Olympus is all about packing a punch, feature-wise, in an affordable product and is much more affordable than the much more expensive Leica or Zeiss. This pair provides a good balance when it comes to size and weight, especially as they offer peace of mind courtesy of a whopping 15-year warranty. We were impressed when we tested them out during our Olympus 8x42 Pro review.

Defined as a ‘Pro’ option, they feature the same nano-coated high-performance ‘Zuiko’ optics, complete with ED lenses, as the Olympus camera range. This results in unprecedented light transmission for their class. With a slender and simple nitrogen-filled construction, we get the ability to focus on subjects as close as 1.5 m, as well as 1,000 m away. Plus, a dioptric adjustment ring and extendable eye relief provide comfort for those who wear glasses.

Those wanting something even more powerful and willing to spend a little bit more are directed to the alternative 10x42 model, also from Olympus. However, you may need to mount these on a tripod with a compatible binocular tripod adapter, especially when observing for long periods, simply due to their high 15x magnification.

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AttributesNotes
DesignWell built and reassuringly weighty.
PerformanceClear and sharp images all across the frame.
FunctionalityWaterproof and fogproof.

Best styling

Best styling: Mid-range multi-purpose binoculars suitable for observing nature in the great outdoors

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 315 ft / 96m
Eye relief: 16mm
Weight: 2.26 lbs / 1.03kg

Reasons to buy

+
Large objective lens for better quality in low light
+
Rugged polycarbonate construction
+
Multi-coated optics to further optimize light transmission

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy in the hand when used for extended periods
-
Tripod adapter not included
Buy it if

✅ You enjoy stargazing: They are good for stargazing and wildlife watching alike.

✅ You want to mount them to a tripod: They have a mount to attach them to a tripod for longer sessions.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want something lightweight: They can become heavy after long periods of handheld use.

❌ You want the sharpest views possible: They're fine for the price, but anyone wanting sharper views will want to spend more.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Nature DX 12x56: Their focal length and light weight are perfect qualities for stargazing handheld or for casual birding and wildlife use. ★★★★½

As the binocular lenses get bigger, they perform better in low light and the Nature DX's 56 mm objective lenses on this variant of the line make it a great option for those who want to continue observing nature into the twilight hours, as we mentioned in our Celestron Nature DX 12x56 review. They’re also suitable for any wet and wild adventures due to the binoculars’ housing being nitrogen-purged to avoid fogging in damp conditions, as well as being waterproof.

Long, twist-up eyecups provide comfort, which will be a relief to anyone wearing eyeglasses, negating the need to take them off during use but ideally, we'd like to see slightly more than the 16mm provided. 

To further aid visibility the lenses are multi-coated to protect against ghosting and flares. The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 has a durable polycarbonate construction and a closest focusing distance of 3 m.

However, a large lens does result in a heavy device, with these weighing in at just over a kilo, and this means that extended use may result in weary limbs. Yes, it can be attached to a tripod, but you’ll need to buy an additional adapter to be able to do that. Nevertheless, this is a great value option for those seeking a brighter pair of optics, despite the weight.

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AttributesNotes
DesignComfortable to use with good grips.
PerformanceNot the sharpest image.
FunctionalityClose focusing down to 9.8 ft (2.9m).

Best for sharpness

Best for sharpness: Well-constructed flagship binoculars marry a respectable 10x magnification to a large-ish objective lens

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 394 ft / 120.2m
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 1.5 lbs / 680g

Reasons to buy

+
Edge to edge image sharpness
+
Easily transportable

Reasons to avoid

-
No on-board image stabilization
-
Occasional color fringing visible around areas of high contrast
Buy it if

✅ You want something portable: They have a narrow, slender design and only weigh 1.5 lbs / 680g.

✅ You want outstanding optics: They have excellent light transmission, edge-to-edge sharpness and practically no chromatic aberration.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: If you want top-of-the-line optics, you'll need deep pockets.

❌ You want image stabilization: These binos don't have image stabilization.

The bottom line

🔎 Nikon Monarch HG 10x42: Able to perform in all weathers they're waterproof and fogproof so whether you're caught outside in a shower or moving between inside and outside these premium binos from Nikon will be able to keep up with you. ★★★★½

There's a reason these binoculars sit at the very top of Nikon's binocular line. A jewel in the crown, the Monarch HG 10x42s are far and away some of the best we've ever tested, as we mentioned in our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review. They're built exquisitely, feel great in the hand and have off-the-charts optics that are pin-sharp edge-to-edge.

A roof prism design ensures it’s compact enough to slip into a jacket pocket, or alternatively, there’s a cushioned neck strap for when you're hiking or traveling around. 

They'll work anytime anywhere because they're waterproof and nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging inside. That means rain doesn’t stop play when wildlife watching, even if you jump straight out of a warm house or car into a cold winter snap outside.

Their soft all-over rubberized armor meant we could always keep a firm hold, keeping these premium binoculars secure during use.

Light transmission is good too, ensuring we can keep using these even when light levels drop. Simple and elegant with a high level of finish and great performance, this Nikon example is one of the best binoculars on the market.

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AttributesNotes
DesignNarrow and slender design.
PerformanceImage circle is sharp right to the edge.
FunctionalityFully optical, no image stabilization.

Best compact binos

Steiner 10x26 Safari Ultrasharp on a white background

Tiny, lightweight and easy to travel with, these compact binoculars are suitable for sightseeing. (Image credit: Steiner)

Steiner 10x26 Safari Ultrasharp

Compact and ultra-portable binoculars suitable for sightseeing, and that’s just for starters

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 26mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 331 ft / 101m
Eye relief: 11m
Weight: 10.5 oz / 297g

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra-compact and lightweight
+
Good value for money option
+
Decent quality waterproof construction
+
Respectable results

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great in low light
-
No tripod connectivity
-
Low eye relief
Buy it if

✅ You're on a budget: These binos are very affordable.

✅ You want small and lightweight: They're very compact and only weigh 10.5 oz / 297g — ideal for travel.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You wear glasses: The 11mm eye relief isn't enough for users who wear glasses.

❌ You want to use them after dark: For stargazing or wildlife watching at night, there are better options.

The bottom line

🔎 Steiner 10x26 Safari Ultrasharp: These ultra-portable binos are affordable and can turn their hand to a broad range of uses. They deliver great results for the price, but more experienced users will likely want to invest in a better pair. ★★★★

Steiner is another well-respected binocular brand. This ultra-compact offering is perfect for anyone wanting to watch sports or who just requires a small yet powerful option when traveling. In short, the ‘Safari’ in Steiner 10x26 Safari Ultrasharp doesn’t even begin to convey the broad range of uses these binos offer.

The 26 mm objective lens appears modest on paper compared to the alternatives in our buyer’s guide, but these polycarbonate binos make an ideal companion for those seeking an all-in-one device: They’re waterproof, fog-proof and their rubber eyecups are comfortable whether used with or without glasses — although the 11mm eye relief will be disappointing if you do wear glasses. Plus, their rubberized finish, with a ridged and roughened body, feels great to grip.

The UV glass-coated Steiner 10x26 Safari Ultrasharp binoculars maintain sharpness across the field of view and commendably into the corners. Even when conditions aren’t the best, these deliver accurate colors and reasonable brightness.

Due to the lightweight build, it’s tricky to hold the binos completely steady, particularly when viewing objects at greater distances. That said, for operability and an almost pocket-money price, these German-brand binoculars are hard to beat.

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AttributesNotes
DesignCompact and lightweight build.
PerformanceSharp images across the whole frame.
FunctionalityWaterproof and fogproof.

Best for color reproduction

Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD binoculars

(Image credit: Leica)

Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD

Best for color reproduction: Premium build allied to a premium performance that’ll last a lifetime

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 405 ft / 123.5m
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 1.61 lbs / 730g

Reasons to buy

+
Razor sharp viewing
+
Accurate color fidelity
+
Broad depth of field
+
Water-resistant construction

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive when compared with other brands boasting similar features
-
Power users may be better off spending a bit more on the 10x42 option
-
Weighty
Buy it if

✅ You wear glasses: The 17mm eye relief is great for users who wear glasses.

✅ You want durability: They're water resistant, fog resistant and will last you for years.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a budget: They are quite expensive, and they're only Leica's 'entry-level' option.

❌ You want high magnification: 8x magnification isn't the highest on this list.

The bottom line

🔎 Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD: These binoculars tick a lot of boxes, from optics and power to size and weight. They aren't cheap, and you may get similar specs from other brands, but they'll last a lifetime.

While they may be pricey when compared with ‘budget’ binoculars, this series is actually Leica’s entry-level option. However, if you’re looking for a well-crafted pair of binoculars that’ll last a lifetime, we believe that the Leica Trinovid 8x42 HD is worth investing in.

German brand Leica’s ‘Trinovid’ comes with an ergonomic construction, true internal focusing, and superior optical performance. These binos are roughly the width of a CD case when unfolded and offer a closest focusing distance of 1.8m. We particularly love that when gripped with both hands, the central focusing wheel falls directly under the forefinger.

For power users, Leica offers a 10x42 version, but as ever it’s a tradeoff between power, physical size and price. With this brand, we get durability too, with the claim being that they’re water resistant to a depth of 4m, along with the fact they’re O-ring sealed and nitrogen purged to prevent fogging.

In short, if we really are looking for the best binoculars, then this device has most of the boxes that matter ticked. Years of use will reward those brave enough to put up the cash.

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AttributesNotes
DesignExtremely well crafted.
PerformanceAccurate color fidelity and braod depth of field.
FunctionalityWaterproof to 4m and fogproof.

Best small waterproof model

Best small waterproof model: Affordable entry-level pair of binoculars that are foldable for added portability

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 25mm
Field of view at 1,000 meters: 354 ft / 108m
Eye relief: 15mm
Weight: 0.63 lbs / 285g

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and portable thanks to folding design
+
Waterproofed plus nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging

Reasons to avoid

-
Central focusing wheel is a bit stiff
-
A larger objective lens would improve view clarity
Buy it if

✅ You want something lightweight: They weigh just 0.63 lbs / 285g — ideal for long sessions.

✅ You're on a budget: They're incredibly affordable at under $100.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You wear glasses: The 15mm of eye relief might be a little short.

❌ You want high magnification: The 8x might not be enough for users who want to see more detail.

The bottom line

🔎 Olympus 8x25 WP II: They offer solid build quality and high-quality optics in a waterproof shell that makes them ideal for taking out and about. ★★★★

Those looking for one of the best budget binoculars should look no further than the Olympus 8x25 WP II. Suitable for a wide range of scenarios, this foldable option from Olympus is waterproofed and is also rubber coated for an improved grip. 

Providing fuss-free operation, we were able to pluck these binos from the box and start using them straight away when we tested them during our Olympus 8x25 WP II review.

A centrally positioned focus knob affords easy adjustment and prevents needing to take a step forward or backward. Similarly, the multi-coated lenses ensure sharpness into the corners, for crisp and clear observation, while the on-board dioptric correction can be adjusted to suit individual eyesight – handy for those who wear glasses.

While these binos are obviously designed to bring the faraway up close and personal, they also have a close focusing distance of 1.5 meters. All this coupled with a whopping 25-year warranty make the Olympus 8x25 WP II one of the best binoculars out there.

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AttributesNotes
DesignCompact but incredibly well-built.
PerformanceBetter than expected image quality, but not ideal for low-light.
FunctionalityFully multi-coated lenses along with top tier BaK-4 porro prims.

Best for shaky hands