Best Binoculars for Gift / Travel / Sports Viewing and General Use 41

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Choosing the right binoculars for the right price can be somewhat confusing. There are plenty of brands and models to choose from and many technical aspects to consider. This guide covers the basics of choosing a good pair of binoculars for general use, traveling, sports watching or a special gift to your loved one. We’ve also listed our Top 3 All-Around Binoculars for 2020. If you’re looking for birding, astronomy, hunting or marine binoculars, you might want to check out our more specific Buyer Guides.

Choosing travel and general use binoculars


What Do the Numbers Mean?

Binoculars are always represented by two numbers. The first number being the magnification, also referred to as the power or zoom, and the second number being the lens size. 10×42, for example, means 10x magnification and 42mm lenses.

What is the Ideal Magnification?

High magnification means you will be able to see further. For general use and travel binoculars 7x 8x or 10x will be plenty. The problem with any more than 10x magnification is that you will NOT be able to get a steady image while using your binoculars. Every little hand movement or shake will be magnified resulting in an unstable image. This can only be resolved by using a tripod. So for good, affordable and easy to use binoculars simply go for 8x or 10x magnification.

What is the Best Lens Size?

Bigger lenses mean more light coming in which means a brighter image. If you will be using your binoculars only at daytime or where there is plenty of light, then this is not an issue. You can choose any size lens (20mm to 42mm). Small lenses mean compact and lighter binoculars that are easy to carry around anywhere. If you intend to use your binoculars early mornings, twilight or even at night, you will want to choose 42mm or 50mm binoculars. You will then enjoy brighter images but also suffer from a heavier, bulkier pair of binoculars. That said, many people are more than happy to carry and hold large binoculars to get better, brighter images. Some actually find large binoculars easier to hold and stabilise. The most common choice for binoculars and a good balance between power and size is 8×42 or 10×42.

What Other Features Should I Consider?

Features like waterproof and fog-proof are not a must but are definitely favourable. Especially for frequent use in extreme weather conditions. 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 wearing your glasses or sunglasses while using the binoculars. Most mid-priced binoculars have a long enough eye relief for all users. So you will be able to use them either with or without your eyeglasses.

Which Brand Should I Get?

When it comes to binoculars, European brands have the best optics. This is why they are also the most expensive ones. Carl Zeiss binoculars are perhaps the best around if you can afford them. Prices for this brand average between £500 to £2,000. Our more affordable brands include Avalon, Nikon, Olympus, Fujinon (FujiFilm), Bushnell, Bresser, National Geographic, Celestron, Vortex and others. These all offer excellent binoculars for every type of user. Prices range from £100 to £400 for a perfectly good pair, which can often last you a lifetime.

How Much Should I Spend on Binoculars?

You can buy very basic binoculars for as cheap as £50-£80. Russian binoculars as well as lower range models of Simmons, Tasco, Vanguard and others. Unfortunately, these will often have a blurry image – especially when using the higher magnifications. Cheap binoculars will also provide a darker, fuzzier image in low light conditions and might be harder to focus. Here at Procular, we believe in providing the right binoculars to the right users and at the right price. We only stock quality brand name binoculars you will love to use! And you can purchase a solid quality pair of binoculars for as low as £100-£200. With optics, you really do get what you pay for but we do have a few outstanding choices for very affordable prices. Below is a list of our best-selling travel / general use binoculars that we believe are also the best bang for your buck:


Our Top 3 All-Around Binoculars for 2020

** Note: All 3 binoculars recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **

Discovery Pocket 8×21 – If you need a pair of compact binoculars these have a tiny folding design, lightweight (165g) and attractive price. Surprisingly they are actually very good quality binoculars! Clarity is noticeably better than most budget compacts on the market. £69 + free delivery

Avalon 10×42 PRO HD Binoculars – World’s lightest professional level binoculars by Avalon Optics. Outstanding image quality, waterproof & fog-proof. Excellent power combined with a mid-sized stylish design. Ideal for nature, bird watching, safari, sports watching or travel. Produce beautiful sharp images. Exceptional value and a perfect gift to any nature lover! £189 + free delivery and lifetime warranty

Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 – Professional level binoculars ideal for any use. Crystal clear images and flawless performance even at low light settings. Beautiful waterproof, fog-proof and shockproof design. Recommended if you want to invest in extra optical quality. £639 (limited time offer)

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41 Comments

  1. My husband has always talked about getting binoculars to look at landscapes in the distance…we live on a side of a hill. He’s also a tree climber and I imagine will use them at the top of a tree…any recommendations please?

    1. Hi Abi, we would recommend something lightweight for using from tree tops but also enough power to see landscapes. The Avalon 10×42 PRO HD binoculars should work well otherwise the even smaller model Avalon 8×32 Mini HD if he will often use them while climbing and size is an issue.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  2. good morning

    i am looking to get some binoculars to watch horse racing when at the racecourse, I have no idea what would be the right ones as I have never had them before, I would also like them to be in a hard/leather case with a flip-top lid that i can hang around my shoulder and put them in and out without having to remove them from my shoulder between races, can you advise me on this please, thank you

    1. Hi John,

      We have a good guide on choosing horse racing binoculars. Please have a look here: https://procular.co.uk/best-binoculars-for-watching-a-horse-race/ — all models recommended in that guide include a small carry case for the binoculars which you can hang around your shoulder. Some of the provided cases which come with the binoculars might need a-bit of personal adjustment or even a change of strap etc. if you want to use your own strap for example. but the binoculars are all fit for use at the races.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  3. My husband enjoys watching cricket. He has a very old but good pair of binoculars but he often complains about them being too large. As he has a significant birthday approaching I thought I would treat him to a compact pair. What would you recommend? Are the small ones as good a a larger pair?

    1. Hi Christina,

      Overall compact binoculars are never as good as full sized ones. They usually don’t have as bright or sharp image due to their small objective lenses. That said, modern binoculars, standard size, are already much more compact, lightweight and easier to handle than the old ones your husband probably owns. So to enjoy the best of both worlds we normally recommend a good pair of 10×42 binoculars like the ones reviewed in the post above. Try the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD binoculars below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-platinum/ — they are outstanding value and quality and the perfect multipurpose / medium sized binoculars. Alternatively within the high-end models we like the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 but they are also slightly heavier than the Avalon’s. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/zeiss-terra-ed-10×42-binoculars/

    2. My husband enjoys watching cricket but has a job to see the score board I would like to get him a pair of binoculars But not to expensive but a fairly good pair he has a birthday coming up so would like to get then for that please advise on what would be best many thanks

      1. Hi Vera,

        To see the score board, basically any 10x or even 8x binoculars would work fine. You can view our full range of binoculars here: https://procular.co.uk/binoculars/ — The cheap compact binoculars, Discovery 8×21, also reviewed above should do the job but they are only simple ones for basic viewing. If he wants to also use the binoculars to follow the cricket action up close and enjoy a better image quality then we recommend investing in the Avalon 10×42 ones below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

        Adam Murray, Procular
  4. I havnt bought a pair of binoculars before, I have no clue about them at all.
    We are going to The Galapagos, which binocular would you recommend ? Must be
    lightweight , hopefully small, able to use on land and large boat..not ship. Budget
    prices please

    1. Hi Sarah,

      We can recommend the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD Binoculars for your Galapagos trip as well as other use. They work extremely well from both land or onboard boats. They have an outstanding image quality for their price range but are quite compact and lightweight. Avalon 8×32 Mini HD Binoculars are 100% waterproof and fog-proof. You can use them easily either with or without glasses. We have personal experience with this model viewing wildlife, marine life, birds, surf conditions, sports and travelling! they work very well for any use. You can read more about the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars, including a video, specs and customer reviews here:

      https://procular.co.uk/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      They are also available in the new Platinum colour (very popular!) below:

      https://procular.co.uk/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars-platinum/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  5. Hi could you tell me what are the binoculours to get to go on safari

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thank you for your comment. We have many customers who are going on safari and asking for the best binoculars to take along. We have therefore published an excellent buyer guide on choosing them. At the end of this guide you will also find a shortlist of our most recommended binoculars for safari. You can read this guide here: https://procular.co.uk/best-safari-binoculars-the-complete-guide/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. I’m looking for a reasonabley priced binocular to watch motorcycle racing and and all round use ,what would you recommend, I would like a good clear close up view not to heavy and decent quality

    1. Hi Peter,

      There are two options you could go for. The first is a good all-around model of binoculars such as the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD reviewed in the post above. These binoculars will work well for watching motorcycle races as well as nearly any other use. Basically an ideal “all-arounder”. They are mid-sized, weighing only 550 grams and offer excellent magnification (10x) and an outstanding image quality for their price. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

      The second option would be binoculars with less magnification (7x) but a wider field of view. These are designed to easily follow fast moving objects and will work best if the races are quite close to you (less than 100 feet away). In that case we recommend the Nikon Aculon 7×35 binoculars. They are small, lightweight and with an extremely wide view. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/nikon-aculon-7×35-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  7. Hello,

    I have bought a property with lovely far reaching and panoramic views over Snowdonia which I would like to home in on.
    I spontaneously bought an Inspire 80mm AZ telescope and tripod from Maplins but was disappointed with the locallised field of vision, the setting up and the magnification and so took it back.
    I have borrowed a pair of older Commodore 10-50 binoculars which widen the field and are more practical. If I were to consider a new pair of binoculars what would you recommend and would they be substantially better than the Commodores for distance viewing.
    I have also looked at Spotting Scopes and was considering the Avalon 80mm Venture HD but wonder whether they would have the same restrictive results as the telescope.
    Also if I bought either your recommended Binoculars or the Spotting Scope would a tripod be advisable and if so which one.
    Can you advise please
    Darryl

    1. Hi Darryl,

      The 80mm AZ telescope is an astronomy model which is one of the reasons it does not work very well for daytime and/or landscape viewing. Regarding a better tool for the job, both binoculars and spotting scopes are suitable for daytime (and dusk/dawn/basic night viewing). It is important to note that the more magnification you have, the narrower the field of view will be. This is true for both binoculars and spotting scopes. But is even more notable with spotting scopes as they have a single monocular view. So although you can get more power with a scope, binoculars will probably work better in your case and allow for wider views. It sounds like you will be viewing from quite a distance (often over 2-3 miles away?) – so you can use high-powered binoculars such as 16×50, 20×50 or even 25×70. For the last two options we recommend using a tripod to achieve a more stable view and avoid image shakiness caused by the high magnification. Please have a read about choosing high powered binoculars on our buyer’s guide below: https://procular.co.uk/choosing-high-powered-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
      1. Thank you for your informative reply.
        So I am now thinking of the Celeston 25 x 70 (or is the a better 20×50 option) with your recommended tripod.
        Will these be significantly better than the old Commodore 10-50 I have borrowed?
        Thank you

        1. Hi Darryl,

          Yes, for astronomy use they will be much better than the 10×50 and also better than any 20×50 option. Their oversized 70mm objective lenses achieve very bright images at low light or night. You will notice this when viewing. The tripod is also essential as they have powerful 25x magnification.

          Adam Murray, Procular
  8. Hi, I am seriously looking at your Avalon 10 x 42. When buying binoculars though, what is the advantage if any of having 10 x 50 lenses ? is 42 adequate ?

    1. Hi Jim,

      Thank you for your comment. There is very little advantage of having 10×50 binoculars instead of 10×42’s. These are the older style binoculars, which are porro prism design (angled barrels vs. the new roof prism designs which have straight barrels such as the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD). The larger 50mm lenses do allow for better light intake in general, but if you opt for good quality 10×42 binoculars you achieve nearly the same brightness, and sometimes better, while keeping your binoculars significantly lighter and easier to handle. All in all, most of our customers favour the 10×42 models over the bulkier 10×50’s. This includes binoculars for general use, bird watching, hunting, sports viewing and nearly any use! The only exception where you would benefit from 10×50 binoculars, or even more from 70mm binoculars, is astronomy use. Viewing the moon for example is absolutely fine with 10×42 binoculars. But if your main goal is purely astronomy, you will be best off with very large astro binoculars, mounted on a tripod, such as the Celestron 25×70 binoculars below: https://procular.co.uk/celestron-25×70-skymaster-binoculars/ — for any other use, the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD are perfect! Details below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  9. Hi, I am looking at Strathspey binoculars, the ones that I am looking at have roof prisms, & Bak 4coating, could you tell me what your thoughts are on this make of binoculars? I am looking at a pair of 10 x 42 compact.
    Thank you.

    Robert Hallas
    1. Hi Robert,

      Thank you for your message. We are unfamilier with the Strathspey brand of binoculars unfortunately so unable to give an opinion on them. We stock over 400 models here on Procular UK but only the more known/popular brands. For 10×42 binoculars we have personal experience with Avalon, Zeiss, Nikon, Bushnell and others which we can recommend. You can view our buyer guides below which are good to follow for choosing binoculars according to their intended use: https://procular.co.uk/how-to-choose-binoculars/ — also, on every product page here you can scroll down the page to see a video demo of the products (to see how the product really looks like in terms of size, weight and design). On every product page there is also a tab for “Addition Information” which has the specs for the specific binocular. We hope this helps.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  10. Hello I want to treat myself to some binoculars. We have fantastic views from our section so I need binos for wildlife watching, plus boat spotting out to sea and finally also for viewing the Milky Way which we also have fantastic views of as there is no light pollution where we live. Also for occasional live rugby/cricket watching. Would we be better off getting different binoculars for night sky gazing?
    As I’m getting older I don’t want them to heavy. I don’t wear glasses but my husband does if that makes a difference. As regards price I don’t want to go crazy but am willing to pay a reasonable amount.

    1. Hi Stephanie,

      Ideally you will be best off with full size binoculars and with higher magnification. 16×50 to be exact. They are not ideal for watching sports though and are quite on the heavy side (around 2 pounds). The high magnification allows you to see the boats in more details. The large lenses allow you to sky watch better as the image is brighter at night. If you don’t mind the weight then the Nikon Aculon 16×50 would be our go-to model for all these uses. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/nikon-aculon-16×50-cf-binoculars/

      Alternatively, and this is also a good option, you can opt for mid-sized binoculars with less power. These are better for viewing sports and for general viewing. If the optics are good, they produce nearly as much brightness as the 16×50’s so can be used for watching the milky way or moon and stars. They are much lighter too. If this sounds better than 10×42 binoculars will be a good choice. The 10×42 models recommended in the guide above will work in this case.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  11. hi could you tell me what is the difference between porro and roof prism binoculars also bak 4 and bak 7 lenses

    1. Hi Terry,

      Porro prism binoculars are the older style design where the barrels are angled (wide, bulkier design like the ones you see on safari films). Roof prism binoculars have straight barrels so a more compact design. But these are more expensive to make so you will be paying more for Roof prism binoculars with the same (or better) quality than porro prism versions. BAK4 and BAK7 are descriptions of the type of glass used to make the prisms. BAK4 is abbreviated from the German for Barium Crown glass, with higher refractive power. It enables the light coming out from the prism to completely fill the exit pupil, whereas with BAK7 glass, the corners are clipped. This clipping reduces performance in dim light, when maximum light output is needed.

      Adam Murray, Procular
      1. Lots of good advice on this site but you’ve slipped up over BaK4 and BK7 – nothing to do with coatings, These are descriptions of the type of glass used to make the prisms. BaK4 is abbreviated from the German for Barium Crown glass, with higher refractive power. It enables the light coming out from the prism to completely fill the exit pupil, whereas with BK7 glass, the corners are clipped. This clipping reduces performance in dim light, when maximum light output is needed.

        1. Thanks for the correction Mike. Very true. We have updated our explanation accordingly.

          Adam Murray, Procular
  12. I was once told that a good pair of binos are best when the optical size is divided by the lens size exactly. Is this still the case or have things changed in the last 20yrs? Also I have a pair of binos that have suddenly developed a fault- last week they were ok but this week they have developed a double image and can’t seem to focus, as far as I know they have not been dropped or any other way damaged. Is it worth getting them repaired?.
    Regards nick

    1. Hi Nick,

      Quite a-lot has changed in optics since 20 years ago. The guide above is a very good read on how to understand binoculars basics + some good recommended models. We wouldn’t bother fixing binoculars with double image as this is a very serious issue and normally not worth repairing.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  13. My husband has taken to birdwatching in our garden, he would need a pair of binoculars that he doesn’t need to use with his reading glasses. They would need to be lightweight and easy to use.

    Many thanks

    Irene Barker
    1. Hi Irene,

      With any decent pair of binoculars your husband will not need his reading glasses. This is because the binoculars will already magnify and enhance the image. The more important feature when using in the garden (which could present a problem with the wrong binoculars) is that they need to be able to focus from close range. This is regardless of his eye vision or glasses. We can recommend the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. These are fairly compact and lightweight, 416 grams but with good optical quality for bird watching and very easy to use. They can be used with or without glasses. They focus from as close as 10 feet. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  14. Thank you so much for your prompt and informative reply, I will definitely heed your advice.
    Regards, G

  15. Hi
    I’m going on a cruise and wondered if a tripod combined with a 20 x 50 binocular set-up could work? Especially when trying to view passing ships and landmarks from my cabin balcony?Or do you think it would be better to go with a good all-rounder and hand held such as a 8 x 42 or 10 x 42? If so what would you recommend?
    Regards, G

    1. Hi Grant,

      To view the passing ships from your cabin this setup will work well (with a tripod). But on a cruise ship or boat you will not be able to achieve a stabilised image with anything stronger than 8x binoculars. Even if you use a tripod as the tripod is also placed on the moving platform. If you need binoculars for both onboard the cruise and viewing from the cabin we recommend a pair of 8x binoculars – preferably a waterproof model such as the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars below:

      https://procular.co.uk/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  16. Thank you very much, very helpful indeed!

  17. What would be a good spec for both land and sea based whale watching please? Something like a 10 x 50? Thank you

    1. Hi Karen,

      Unfortunately 10x binoculars are very hard to use onboard a ship. Nearly impossible due to image shakiness. We recommend 7x or 8x magnification at the most. Note that many people like 8x binoculars more than 10x even if watching from land. The difference in magnification is not that large while the image is a-lot nicer and easy to stabilise. So in your case we could say either 7×50 marine binoculars or 8x waterproof ones. The Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars are a fantastic choice for example. They can be used for whale watching from both onboard a ship as well as viewing from shore. Details below: https://procular.co.uk/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  18. Are the Zeiss Terra binoculars also suitable for bird watching?

    1. Hi HJ Jackman,

      Yes they are! The Zeiss Terra are actually our most recommended birdwatching binoculars.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  19. Want to buy a good pair of binoculars. It has been suggested we should buy some thing like..
    Canon Image Stabilising IS.

    Is there some thing similar, would you recommend the above.

    Main requirements, not heavy, weatherproof . good vision. Stabilising

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