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.
OutdoorGearLab subjects a dozen binoculars to extensive hands-on field testing, rating them in categories including brightness, clarity, ease of adjustment, construction quality and field of view. Each model receives a side-by-side comparison of those category ratings, an overall comparative score, and an in-depth review that covers how well it performed in the field.
The author, a professional ornithologist, spends more than 100 hours field-testing 17 pairs of binoculars against his own $2,500 Leica Ultravids, easily considered the gold standard for high-end binoculars. The testing includes a research trip to the rainforests of southern Mexico. The extensive, in-depth analysis of the test results includes picks for best overall, a runner-up, and budget and upgrade picks.
Several experts put 27 full-size binoculars through rigorous testing. Each model is evaluated in seven categories, and a comprehensive paragraph details the pros and cons of its features and performance. Elsewhere on the site, a review of 10 new binoculars all priced under $1,000 is useful, and another author tests four pairs of binoculars, each less than $100, and reports back on their performance.
The authors, both expert birders, have updated a 2015 review of several titans of the high-end binoculars world. The in-depth comparison includes a chart listing features and comparative scores. Each model also receives several paragraphs of in-depth analysis after hands-on testing. Elsewhere on the site, the authors also review a selection of pocket-size binoculars.
These short reviews are based on hands-on testing from an unidentified group of reviewers. The testers evaluated all the models in each category, helping them assign comparative rankings (out of five points possible) in several categories. The editors then computed a weighted average, prioritizing birding-friendly factors like close-focus capacity.
Editors from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology employed more than 60 staff and local birdwatchers to evaluate more than 100 pairs of binoculars. They end up with 28 top picks in five price ranges. Each one receives comparative ratings for feel, clarity, eyeglass friendliness and overall quality, along with very brief comments about how they performed.
Testers with Outdoor Life evaluate more than a dozen full- and mid-size binoculars, looking for the best combination of good optics at a reasonable cost. Of particular note, their evaluations include repeated evaluations on a resolution range in varied lighting conditions. Each model receives a comparative score out of 100, along with a paragraph or two describing their performance.
Cabela's is an especially good source of feedback on how well binoculars perform for hunters, although we found some comments from birders here, too. They offer almost two hundred models of binoculars, although reviews are collected together for different magnifications within the same lines, and they also republish reviews from some manufacturer websites. Still, the reviews -- with many models having at least a dozen, and some having hundreds -- are useful for judging the binoculars' real-world performance under rough handling.
As always, Amazon offers a wealth of user reviews from customers with a wide variety of backgrounds. Like Cabela's they offer several hundred brands, models and magnifications of binoculars and some draw hundreds of user reviews. However, the same model can be listed multiple times from different sellers, with each listing receiving its own separate reviews; this can be confusing.