Binoculars are one of the first things to pack when going on your next African safari. In this guide, we will cover what to look for when choosing good binoculars for safari as well as a few handy tips and recommendations. We’ve been getting a lot of requests lately by customers planning their African safari trips and needing some expert binocular advice. So here it is:
Do I Really Need Binoculars for Safari?
There are plenty of times where you will get close to the animals anyways, but in many cases, you won’t. So binoculars are almost a MUST. Good safari binoculars definitely enhance your safari experience and allow you to see the animals up and close. Most tours will have one or even two shared pairs of cheap binoculars on board. But these are usually low quality, beaten-up binoculars and not that great for sharing among the passengers. If you want a good view and not miss the right moments because someone else is using the shared pair – it is highly recommended that you bring your own.
Do I Need the Highest Quality or Expensive Binoculars for Safari?
Certainly not! There is no need to go overboard. Especially if you’ll only be using them once or twice in a lifetime. If you are a dedicated birdwatcher or a regular observer, then check out our birdwatching binoculars guide, otherwise just get a pair of good quality, mid-priced binoculars.
What’s the Best Magnification for Safari Binoculars?
High magnification is always nice to have. Unfortunately, it is nearly useless for safari! The problem with too much zoom is that your image becomes unstable. There is no space in the safari vehicle for using a tripod so powerful binoculars are not a good option. Another reason is that higher magnification also means a narrower field of view. In safari, you will often need to spot animals hiding around large bushy areas. A wide field of view will allow you to achieve that. So, in our opinion, 8x or 10x is the perfect magnification for safari. Any more than that will result in an unstable image.
What’s the Best Lens Size for Safari Binoculars?
Bigger lenses mean that you can view in lower light conditions. Because you will be out there in the field early mornings and at dusk, you will benefit from 32mm to 42mm lenses. Smaller than that means your image will be too dark at those times. Larger than 42mm means a lot of glass making your binoculars heavier, bulkier and harder to carry, use and stabilise handheld.
What’s the Optimal Size and Weight for Safari Binoculars?
Obviously, you will be better off with lighter, smaller binoculars for safari. They are just easier to put up to your eyes and spot the action right away. That said, you still need some decent magnification and big enough lenses for viewing in low light conditions. So bottom line: go for mid-sized (8×32, 8×42 or 10×42) binoculars. These will be the perfect balance between magnification, lens size and weight.
What Other Features Should I Look for in Safari Binoculars?
Safari means rough roads, high temperatures, frequent movement, dust, humidity and possible drops or hits to your new binoculars. So features like waterproof and shockproof are not a must but are definitely favourable. Another feature to look for is long eye relief. In plain English, this means that you will be able to hold your binoculars further away from your eyes and still see a clear image. This is important if you’ll be using your glasses or sunglasses while using the binoculars.
Which Brand and at What Price?
We won’t sugarcoat it; with optics you simply get what you pay for. Top-notch European brands like Carl Zeiss offer superior image quality and nearly indestructible binoculars. But these can cost you over £1,000 for an 8×42 pair.
Cheaper binoculars between £50 and £80 might work as long as there’s always enough light around. Another downside to cheaper models is that they will have blurry, dark or distorted images when using the full magnification. If you want those beautiful views of the magnificent wildlife around you, then mid-range binoculars would be your best bet.
Our Top 2 Safari Binoculars for 2017
Here at Procular UK, we stock over 400 different binocular models. Our top pick for safari binoculars would have to the Bushnell 10×42 Powerview Binoculars and the higher-end Nikon Prostaff 8×42 Binoculars. They both deliver an extraordinary image quality for their price range and have a wide field of view to capture the wildlife around you. These two models are waterproof, fog-proof, very durable and easy to use. They also work perfectly in low light (early mornings and dusk).
Bushnell 10×42 Powerview Binoculars
Current Price: £149
These are Bushnell’s best quality binoculars yet offer excellent value for money. The Bushnell 10×42 Powerview Binoculars are available for £149, which puts them in the low to mid-range when it comes to pricing. Considering that they are manufactured with the best optical features, they are a very good choice regarding both price and quality.
These binoculars have all the great features to maximise your safari experience including a higher 10x magnification, wide field of view, good weight (670g) and fully multicoated lenses. They have a long eye relief for use with or without glasses on. Their non-slip rubber armouring provides a secure and comfortable grip, as well as added shock-resistance.
All in all, if you want to get an affordable pair of quality lightweight binoculars, that are wonderful for safari, then the Bushnell 10×42 Powerview Binoculars are an excellent choice.
Nikon PROSTAFF 8×42 Binoculars
Current Price: £259
This pair of Nikon binoculars has wonderful optics, multilayer-coated lenses and is very affordable for being Nikon’s high-end range. This is perhaps the main reason why this particular binocular is so popular. The Nikon PROSTAFF 8×42 are superior to most binoculars at this price range in a few ways: They are lighter, more compact and easier to handle for longer periods of time. Image wise, the colours appear more vibrant and sharper thanks to Nikon’s top-end lenses.
The Nikon PROSTAFF 8×42 offer a wide field of view; they are waterproof, fog-proof, and highly durable. They provide a clear, bright image even in low light conditions. These are the perfect binoculars for safari, bird watching or any type of wildlife observation. Basically they are an all-around high quality pair of binoculars for a very good price.