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Last updated by Craig McInally 5 days ago
There is a huge spectrum of binoculars that range from high-end optics that can cost as much as a car to neat little compacts that for as little as £20! There are also all the optical terms and numbers to get your head around, so for someone new to the world of binoculars it can be a little daunting, however, choosing the best binoculars will depend primarily on what you want to use them for. If your subjects are going to be far away then you might want to opt for a higher and more powerful magnification, however, this means you will have a narrower field of view and might struggle with getting a steady image (for anything above 10x magnification every little hand movement or shake will be magnified resulting in an unstable image unless you're using a tripod). If you're using binoculars in low light conditions (e.g. for stargazing and astronomy) then you'll need a larger objective lens to allow in as much light as possible.
For general use, you might want to consider a balance between magnification, light-gathering power, and weight. As a rule of thumb, the larger the objective lens, the bigger and heavier the binoculars will be so if you're planning to take on a hike then maybe a decent pair of lightweight compact binoculars would be best.
Unlike a lot of other review sites online that create listicles without ever having laid eyes on (let alone used or tested) the binoculars in question, we hold physical stock allowing us to thoroughly review and test each model. We also conduct customer surveys throughout the year to get feedback from people who have purchased and have a long-term insight into reliability and performance, which also forms part of our selection process. Our reputation is extremely important to us and our list is updated throughout the year as and when we test new models and/or get additional feedback from end users.
So, read on to discover our top picks!
Simply the best binoculars for the money - fantastic optics, incredible value!
Our Best Buy Binoculars for Bird Watching in 2023! Knocking the Viking Kestrel off the top spot for Best Buy are the new Vistron ED. They're quite simply a better pair of binoculars, equipped with higher quality extra-low dispersion ED Glass that make them worth the slightly higher cost; at £250 mark they offer the same quality as even far more expensive ED models we’ve tested and incredible value for money. We would recommend the larger 42mm lens with the 8x magnification as the perfect companion for bird enthusiasts (though there is a 10x42 & 8x32 option as well) for a brilliantly wide field of view. Viking Binoculars are backed by a 10-year warranty and the Vistron ED feels solidly built with a nice tactile finish and easily adjustable metal focus ring with smooth action. They are also suitable for glasses wearers too thanks to the adjustable twist down eyecups and generous eye relief. Nitrogen-filled to stop internal fogging, they are also fully waterproof so should stand up to anything the Great British weather can throw at them. They offer the same quality as some far more expensive models we tested so represent excellent value for money. You simply won’t get a better pair of binoculars for birdwatching at this price!
The best binoculars for bird watching - bright, sharp, and great value for ED glass!
Our Best Buy Binoculars of 2023 is also our top pick for birdwatching. Equipped with high quality extra-low dispersion ED Glass they offered comparative performance as even far more expensive ED models we’ve tested, which is why they've topped our list. We'd recommend the larger 42mm lens with 8x magnification as the perfect companion for bird enthusiasts for a brilliantly wide field of view, however, there is a 10x42 variant (if you have steady hands) and an 8x32 if you prefer something more compact. Viking Binoculars are backed by a 10-year warranty and the Vistron ED feels solidly built with a nice tactile finish and easily adjustable metal focus ring with smooth action. They are also suitable for glasses wearers too thanks to the adjustable twist down eyecups and generous eye relief. Nitrogen-filled to stop internal fogging, they are also fully waterproof so should stand up to anything the Great British weather can throw at them. We were blown away by the quality of these binoculars and don't think you'll get a better quality pair of binoculars for birdwatching at this price!
Our favourite pair of binoculars for stargazing
The best binoculars for astronomy of the year are Celestron’s Skymaster Pro 15x70. Compared to their standard, entry-level Skymasters these are a huge step-up in terms of build quality and optical performance. From the all-metal tripod adapter to the fully multi-coated optics and fully sealed, nitrogen-purged chassis, there is no doubt that whilst they come with a more premium price tag, the increase in expense is met with a commensurate improvement in quality. For astronomy and viewing bright objects in the night sky the Skymaster Pro offered up sharp clear images and looking at the moon through them was particularly impressive (and provided much more detail compared to viewing through a pair of 8x42 or 10x50 binoculars). We opted for 15x70 model over the Celestron SkyMaster Pro 20x80 Binoculars as we preferred the versatility of a wider field of view (if you’re want a more powerful magnification then you’re probably better off with a telescope) and believe they offer excellent value for money.
Perfect all-round binoculars - worth every penny!
Our Best Buy Binoculars for 2023! These are truly a top-class pair of binoculars, which really impressed us out in the field with sharp focus, good brightness in varying light conditions, and excellent colour reproduction. The Hawke Endurance ED (available in various configurations) are built to last and backed by the manufacturers Lifetime Guarantee. They are produced in a robust polycarbonate, which may not be as classy as a magnesium chassis but is incredibly lightweight and robust - it also helps to lower costs and focus on high-quality optical components. The binoculars are fully sealed and nitrogen-purged, which means they are waterproof and fog proof and intended to provide you with decades of enjoyment and use. The Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) Glass yields crisp and clear views and drastically cuts down on chromatic aberration (colour fringing) and they are fully multi-coated lenses to aid light transmission. Overall, these are excellent binoculars which offer comparable optical quality to much more expensive optics making them incredible value for money and our pick for Best All Round Binocular!
Budget friendly compacts with some high-end features
Within their price range, the Hawke Nature-Trek are an excellent pair of compact binoculars that compare well for their build quality and use of materials and coatings. A fully-sealed body and nitrogen-filled optics is not always a given in this class and the fact that the optics on the Hawke Nature-Trek Compact binoculars are fully multi-coated is, at this price level, excellent. They offer a brilliantly wide field of view for a compact pair of binoculars with 8x magnification, and the close focus distance is also very good. As a general use pair of compacts these are fantastic. They are comfortable in the hand and the focus wheel is easy to reach and turn accurately, even whilst wearing gloves!
Sharp focus and incredible value make these one of our top picks!
Boasting incredibly sharp focus with 10x Magnification the Avalon PRO HD 10x42 offer exceptional quality and value. They feel very well made yet are one of the lightest pair of full-size binoculars on our list, weighing in at only 550g and come with a Limited Lifetime Warranty for peace of mind. We found that they performed extremely well in low light conditions with clear true-to-life images and the focusing wheel is easy and precise. There was a little bickering over the benefit of the stay-on lens caps - personally I found them to be very convenient but others felt they got in the way (however, worth noting that they can be removed completely). Overall, these are seriously impressive optics for under £200!
Perfect entry-level binoculars for kids - excellent optics, excellent value!
Our top pick for children are the Viking Otter Binoculars. A perfect entry-level Binocular combining quality BAK-4 prisms and rubber armouring. The fully coated optics provide a bright crisp image and a wide field of view make it easy to find birds. And the lightweight construction makes them more comfortable for children that need an easy to carry binocular. A neck strap, rainguard, lens caps and carry case are all included.
Seriously impressive optics - if money is no object then this is our top choice!
The Viking Osprey ED are the most expensive binoculars in our round-up of Best Buys and if money were no object then these would be our choice for No.1. They are flat-field binoculars and best suited for enthusiasts looking for a premium set of optics. The sharpness and colour of images is superior to anything else we’ve tested (included even pricier models), meaning they're a joy to use out in the wild. There is a nice weight to them, and the action of the focus wheel and eyecups is excellent. As you might expect from such a high-end pair of birdwatching binoculars the Osprey are equipped with ED glass and high-quality dielectric coatings on the prisms. They are also nitrogen-filled and waterproof up to 1 metre. At nearly £500 these aren’t for casual use, but for an optics enthusiast looking for a trusty pair of high-end optics that will last for many years to come, these will not disappoint!
Best Binoculars for Under £200
Offering excellent performance and optical quality within their price range the Hawke Nature-Trek are a great choice of binoculars for general use. Featuring high-quality BAK-4 Roof Prisms and fully multi-coated lenses they offered us brilliant colour reproduction and handled low-light very well. The inclusion of phase correction coatings on the prism is excellent and well beyond what you find on many others at this level. As well as this their minimum focus, field of view and eye-relief are all good. At under £200 the Hawke Nature-Trek are our Best Buy!
Affordable quality - an excellent pair of binoculars for beginners
Next up is another entry from Viking Optical. The Badger range are designed for the casual or birdwatching beginner and the 8x42 offers an excellent viewing experience for the price. Still manufactured with excellent optics including fully multi-coated lenses and twist-up rubber eyecups for complete comfort with or without glasses. Their armouring provides a secure and comfortable grip, and they are nitrogen purged so completely waterproof. Overall, we loved the Badgers and they’ve received numerous 5-star reviews from our customers. If you’re looking for an affordable pair of high-quality binoculars for under £100, then you won’t get much better than these!
If you’re looking for a new pair of binoculars then we would recommend considering how much you plan on using them and their general purpose. If you’re an avid nature watcher and regularly go birdwatching then it might be worth investing in a high-end pair. However, if you’re relatively new to birdwatching or only do so infrequently then it’s probably wise to start off with a more budget-friendly option. The quality of low-mid range binoculars has improved a lot over the past 20 years and you can get a really decent pair of optics for around £100 (or below).
Specification wise, magnification is really important because it affects your field of view (how far and wide you’ll be able to see). The higher the magnification the more susceptible to handshakes and tremors too. To find out the magnification of binoculars you’ll be interested in the first numbers that come after the name, e.g. 8x42. The first number is the binoculars’ magnification, which tells you how many times larger an image will appear compared with that seen by the naked eye so in the case of 8x42 the object of focus through the binoculars will appear eight times closer than it does in real life. The second number refers to the size of the objective lens and the larger this number the more light that the binoculars will be able to let in. This can be great if you plan to use your binoculars in low light e.g. dusk or dawn. However, the larger the objective lens then the larger and heavier the binoculars will be.
Offering a exceptionally bright and sharp images with excellent detail and colour, the Viking Vistron ED are a perfect pair of binoculars for general use and wildlife watching. Focus is quickly and easy and optically the offer exceptional performance for their price range (on a similar level to binoculars of double the price bracket) so represent incredible value for money.
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