Best Compact Binoculars: 2018’s Top Picks, Reviews and Buying Guide
Whether you are a hiker, a birdwatcher, a theatergoer or a sports enthusiast, it’s always convenient to have a quality pair of compact binoculars nearby.
Not only are these binoculars small and light enough to carry with you at all times.
The common misconception exists that when it comes to compact binoculars, quality will always be sacrificed in order to minimize size.
This may be the case with a lot of small binoculars on the market, but if you make sure to invest in a reliable and durable pair from a reputable and well-known brand then you will have no problem at all when it comes to quality.
Table of Contents
- Features to Consider When Selecting Compact Binoculars
- Which Compact Binoculars is the Best for You?
Choosing the right pair of compact binoculars for yourself will depend on a few things. This includes your budget, which features are most important to you and what type of situations you are going to be using them in.
The following compact binocular reviews and a compact binocular buying guide can help you in picking out the best pair that will fit perfectly into your lifestyle.
Features to Consider When Selecting Compact Binoculars
There are a few things that you will have to take into consideration when picking out a pair of compact binoculars. The first feature that you should be looking at is the weight of your binoculars. Luckily, most compact binoculars that are currently produced are very lightweight, which makes it easier to both carry around and hold while viewing.
The next feature that you should be aware of is the lens size of your binoculars. Since compact binoculars are much smaller than regular binoculars, you shouldn’t expect to find a lens diameter larger than 28mm.
Most pocket-sized binoculars have lens diameters of about 26mm. Lens size is important because your compact binoculars’ lens diameter will affect your viewing quality. Therefore, a bigger diameter means that the magnification of your binoculars will be greater and light sensitivity will be much better.
The one feature that you might struggle with a bit when looking for a pair of compact binoculars is magnification, especially if you are used to normal sized binoculars. The higher the magnification of binoculars, the further you will be able to see with them.
Therefore, if you are specifically searching for binoculars with very high magnification and a narrow field of view, then you should rather think about buying a full-sized pair. However, with a wide field of view and a magnification between 4x and 8x you will still be able to see quite a distance inadequate lighting conditions.
For compact binoculars, this is perfect since the low zoom means that it will be much easier to keep your equipment steady and maintain focus.
When it comes to magnification, compact binoculars that feature a magnification of over 10x aren’t normally recommended. The reason for this being that it can become quite difficult to keep your binoculars steady. The more powerful your binoculars are, the more magnified your hand vibrations will become.
Furthermore, the more powerful a pair of binoculars become, the more likely you will be to need a tripod for viewing. Carrying a tripod with you isn’t always ideal and a lot of smaller binoculars don’t have tripod fittings in order to reduce size and weight. Therefore, if a pair of compact binoculars has a magnification of over 10x, you might have to look out for a pair with image stabilization features.
When picking out a pair of full-sized binoculars, eye-relief won’t necessarily be something that you are going to consider. This is because most of these larger binoculars provide sufficient eye relief for eyeglass wearers.
When buying tiny binoculars, on the other hand, this is a very important feature to keep in mind, since it can become quite a challenge to find a pair with large enough eye-relief. Eye-relief is basically the measurement of the distance between your eye and the eyepiece.
Where most compact binoculars should do the job for a non-eyeglass wearer, if you wear glasses you should look for binoculars with a larger eye relief size that will not interfere too much with your glasses.
Canon 10×30 IS Ultra-Compact
Weight: 21 oz
Lens Diameter: 30mm
Eye Relief: 14,5mm
Field of View: 314 feet at 1000 yards
Close Focusing: 13, 8 feet
Best Use: IS makes it best for bird watching or outdoor sports
The Canon 10×30 IS Ultra-Compact is a reasonably priced small binocular that is both sturdy and light enough to hold for long periods of time. These binoculars produce high-quality images that are sharp and shake-free. This is made possible by the unique Doublet Field Flattener, the Super Spectra multi-coating on the lenses and the image stabilization.
When adjusting the distance between eyepiece lenses so that they suit your eyes, you will be using a central hinge on most binoculars. With the Canon 10×30 IS, however, the eyepieces move completely independently from the body.
The highlight feature of these binoculars is without a doubt its image stabilization (IS). This helps to reduce image shake when viewing. In some cases, it can even eliminate image shake altogether.
Along with this, the Canon IS also minimizes eye fatigue and headaches that can be caused by swaying images. So if you have shaky hands or you are tracking moving objects such as birds, these binoculars will be the perfect buy for you. As an added bonus batteries, a neck strap and a carry case are included with the Canon 10×30 IS. According to me, these are the best value compact binoculars that you can find on the market.
Weight: 7,94 oz
Lens Diameter: 20mm
Eye Relief: 13,5mm
Field of View: 354 feet at 1000 yards
Close Focusing: 8,53 feet
Best Use: Most Compact Binoculars
The Carl Zeiss Optical Victory Compact 8×20 may not be the cheapest pair of binoculars around, but they are definitely worth every penny. The Victory Compact is a high-quality pair of tiny binoculars that is both 100% waterproof and fog-proof. This compact waterproof binocular also has nitrogen filling which makes it extremely resistant to internal condensation.
Furthermore, because of its rubber armour, the Victory Compact is shockproof and the LotuTec coating on the lenses helps to prevent dirt and water from sticking to the lenses.
The asymmetrical design of the Victory Compact might come across as a bit strange at first, but these highly versatile binoculars will be able to fit perfectly into your lifestyle.
At only 7,94 ounces and 4 inches in length, the Victory Compact is one of the most compact binoculars that you will be able to find on the market. You will barely even feel these feather-light Zeiss compact binoculars around your neck when you are hiking or travelling.
Weight: 10,41 ounces
Lens Diameter: 22mm
Eye Relief: 10mm
Field of View: 369 feet at 1000 yards
Close Focusing: 11,48 feet
Best Use: Best Compact Hunting Binoculars
The Steiner 234 8×22 Predator Pro has been designed to be taken anywhere and can be used in extreme weather conditions. In these conditions, a firm grip is ensured by the tough aluminum housing that has a specially designed armour covering. These waterproof compact binoculars are small, light, rugged and provide good magnification and a wide view.
The fast-close-focus on large centre focus wheel also requires you to make fewer rotations in order to get from close focus to infinity. This center wheel also operates perfectly even in wet, cold weather.
The Steiner Predator series has been specifically designed with hunters in mind. This means that they need to be lightweight, easy-to-use binoculars that have all-around capabilities in optics and produce bright pictures in any lighting conditions.
The green tinted lenses of the Predator Pro help to filter out both haze and foliage colors, while at the same time emphasizing earth tones. These special color adjusted transmission coatings, along with great low-light performance makes it the perfect pair of binoculars for any type of hunter. Due to their low price they are considered to be the best low cost compact binoculars on the market.
Weight: 8,5 oz
Lens Diameter: 20mm
Eye Relief: 15mm
Field of View: 341 feet at 1000 yards
Close Focusing: 7,2 feet
Best Use: High-quality waterproof binoculars
These Leica compact binoculars are perfect to take along when bushwhacking, hiking or backpacking. The Leica Ultravids can fold up very neat and small.
When it is folded up, it will quite literally fit into almost any pocket. Not only are they light and small, they have also been engineered to be close to indestructible with their aluminum body and shock absorbent rubber exterior. What’s more, they will be able to assist you in any type of weather conditions, since they are both fog-proof and watertight up to 16,5 feet.
To further protect your binoculars an eyepiece cover, a woven carrying strap and a Cordura carrying case with a belt loop are included with the Leica Ultravid.
Along with being a rugged pair of binoculars that can be used in any conditions, the Leica 8×20 Ultravid definitely does not lack in viewing quality. The optics are very sharp and surprisingly bright for such a small pair of binoculars and they produce crystal clear images that are color-fringe free with the highly advanced coatings on its lenses.
All in all, the Ultravid is a perfect example of binoculars that combine great quality, perfectly clear images, and a rugged design. Due to this versatility, they are considered to be the best compact travel binoculars.
Weight: 12,3 oz
Lens Diameter: 24mm
Eye Relief: 13mm
Field of View: 241 feet at 1000 yards
Close Focusing: 13,1 feet
Best Use: Best affordable zoom binoculars
The Nikon 8-24×25 is an affordable compact zoom binocular that enable you to observe from afar and after identifying a target, zoom in further. The variable zoom is able to magnify an image to any magnification between 8 and 24 times. For a pair of compact binoculars, the brightness and image quality is relatively good.
The multilayer coated lenses on these Nikon compact binoculars feature multiple layers of anti-reflective coatings. These coatings help boost light transmission in order to get a brighter image and thus better performance in low light situations. The Nikon 8-24×25 are unfortunately not fully multi-coated, meaning that they only have anti-reflective coatings on some of their air to glass surfaces.
The only drawback with these binoculars is that because of their price, they may not necessarily be able to compete with their more expensive competitors. For the price range that the Nikon 8-24×25 falls into, they are not bad at all. They even come with a carry case for extra protection, a neck strap, and lens covers.
Which Compact Binoculars is the Best for You?
Compact binoculars are able to offer you something that any full-sized binocular can’t – portability. Being able to have a pair of binoculars on you at all times means that you can just pull them out and view anything at any moment. The best compact binoculars for you, though, will depend on both your budget and what you will be using your binoculars for.
If you don’t have a very limited budget, then Canon 10×30 IS, Carl Zeiss Victory Compact 8×20 and Leica 8×20 Ultravid are great options to consider. If you are looking for the best compact binoculars under 200 dollars, on the other hand, you should consider the Steiner 8×22 Predator Pro or the Nikon 8 24×25.
If you are looking for a pair of binoculars that will be able to brave any type of weather conditions, then the waterproof Carl Zeiss Victory Compact 8×20, Steiner 8×22 Predator Pro, and Leica 8×20 Ultravid will be your perfect companions. At 15mm, the eye relief makes the Leica 8×20 Ultravid the best compact binoculars for eyeglass wearers.
Any of the above reviewed compact binoculars can take you pretty far depending on what you use them for. At the end of the day, the best compact binoculars for you depends on how much you are willing to spend and what you want your compact binoculars to do.
With any of these high-quality compact binoculars, you never have to be in a situation again where you do not have your binoculars on you. Simply pull them out of your cubbyhole or pocket and enjoy the view.