Home > Fitness & Sports > Binoculars > Best Compact Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars

By: Lisa Maloney on May 10, 2018

The best value binoculars

We're happy to report that the quality of binoculars in the $200 to $300 range has been steadily increasing over the years, and you can now get excellent, sharp images and good durability in this price range. One stellar example is the Vortex Diamondback 8x42 (Est. $220), a redesigned version of a long-time favorite. This new version was introduced in 2016 and often retails at or under $200.

The new Diamondback retains many of the features that drew praise for the older model, including its fully multicoated optics, dielectric-coated roof prism and 5.3 mm exit pupil that performs wonderfully in low light. But the new version also offers a notable step up in image quality. The 10x42 version draws compliments from Field and Stream for its image and build quality along with a nod from the Audubon Society, and users say the weatherproof, gas-purged, rubberized housing feels significantly sturdier in their hand than anything else in this category.

The redesign brought a few other small, but notable changes, including an increased range of interpupillary distance, now 55 - 75 mm, and a weigh of just 21.8 ounces, almost 4 ounces lighter than the previous model. The field of view has decreased just slightly from 420 feet at 1,000 yards to 393 feet at 1,000 yards, but remains near the top of its class. Eye relief is 17 mm -- plenty of clearance for eyeglass wearers. The unlimited lifetime "Very Important Promise" warranty is another very attractive high point for users, as is Vortex's very responsive customer service.

Another excellent compact binocular that's worthy of your hard-earned dollars is the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 (Est. $140), a smaller version of our top pick for value binoculars. The Diamondback 8x28 earns a "Best Buy" designation after extensive hands-on testing from OutdoorGearLab, where the editors laud them for the clear, crisp visuals provided by fully multicoated optics and a dielectric-coated roof prism. Their big downside is that, because of their size, they have an exit pupil of just 3.5 mm, so they're best for use during the day.

That said, for small binoculars, the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 has a good field of view -- 332 feet at 1,000 yards -- and an eye relief of 18 mm, which eyeglass wearers may appreciate. The Diamondback 8x28 is also waterproof, with rubberized armor and an argon-purged interior to prevent fogging. However, like most compact binoculars, we find some user concerns about durability.

Another good inexpensive binoc is the Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 8x30 (Est. $120), which draws a nod from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for being good for smaller birders. These binoculars provide a bright, clear image -- often markedly better than more expensive models in the store -- and focus in easily, even at long distances. They're also fully waterproof and nitrogen-purged, with rubberized armor, fully multicoated lenses and a limited lifetime guarantee -- an unheard of combination for binoculars that frequently sell for less than $150.

You can also get the BX-1 Yosemite in 10x30 power or 6x30, although 8x30 is the sweet spot for most people. The field of view for 8x30 -- 389 feet at 1,000 yards -- is also excellent. An exit pupil of about 3.7 mm means these binoculars are at their best in bright light, but still perform decently in limited light conditions. If you want full-size binoculars or better low light performance in this price range, we refer you back to the newly redesigned Vortex Diamondback 8x42.

Durability is the biggest drawback to this model but, again, they do better than what you might expect in this price range; Lawrence Pyne with Field and Stream calls them out for enduring torture tests with nothing but surface scratches.

Walking further down the price ladder, we have our eye on a new entry in this report: The Nikon Aculon A211 8x42 (Est. $80). Pyne, reviewing a selection of inexpensive binoculars for Field & Stream magazine, praises them for their great sharpness, clarity and ergonomics. One user says he was able to count pieces of corn at a deer bait station from 100 yards away. These binoculars' field of view -- 420 feet at 1,000 yards -- is also excellent. The Nikon Aculon A211 8x42 has multicoated lenses and an exit pupil of 5.3 mm, and users say they perform well in low light.

On the potential downsides, the Nikon Aculon A211 8x42's 12 mm of eye relief is just on the edge of adequate if you wear eyeglasses, and durability is questionable. These binoculars are neither waterproof nor fogproof, and users give mixed reviews for how well they hold up. They're also fairly bulky, but that's to be expected from any binoculars with porro prisms, which sacrifice some size and weight to deliver good optics at a low price. The Aculon A211 is also covered by Nikon's lifetime repair and replacement policy.

If price is your absolute bottom line, you simply can't beat the Bushnell Powerview Compact 10x25 (Est. $35). You get what you pay for, users warn -- but if all you want is something cheap that gets the job done at concerts, sporting events, the shooting range or identifying birds in the mid distance, these tiny, featherlight binoculars will do the job.

There are, of course, a few caveats inherent in the under-$50 price tag. The close focus on these binoculars is 21 feet, and they offer just 9 mm of eye relief -- so if you wear eyeglasses, these aren't the binoculars for you. At exit pupil of 2.5 mm means they're not ideal for use in low light conditions. They're also not waterproof or fogproof, although they do come in shock-absorbing, non-slip rubber armor, and have a respectable (for their size) field of view of 300 feet at 1,000 yards. You can also get them in a number of other sizes, from another compact 10x32 to a hefty 16x50, and they're covered by an "Ironclad" lifetime warranty, although Bushnell sets a defined limit for the lifetime of each product, usually 20 to 30 years.

Recently Updated
Binoculars buying guide

What every best Binoculars has:

  • A magnification of 8x to 10x.
  • A wide field of view.
  • An exit pupil of at least 2 mm for day use, 5 mm or more for low light.

Read More »

Learn More »