Best Binoculars for Travel / Gift / Sports Viewing and General Use 32

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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 traveling, general use, sports watching or a special gift to your loved one. We’ve also listed our Top 5 All-Around Binoculars for 2018. 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 £1,500. Our more affordable brands include Nikon, Avalon, Olympus, Fujinon (FujiFilm), Bushnell, Bresser, National Geographic, Celestron, Vortex and others. These all offer excellent binoculars for every type of user. Prices range from £50 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 £30. 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 £50-£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 5 All-Around Binoculars for 2018

** Note: All 5 binoculars recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **

Discovery Pocket 8×21 – Just need a pair of compact binoculars? Discovery 8×21 have a very compact folding design, lightweight (165g) and attractive price. Surprisingly these are actually very good quality binoculars! Image clarity is noticeably better than most compact binoculars on the market. £69 inc. free delivery

 

Avalon 10×42 PRO HD Binoculars – World’s lightest professional level binoculars by Avalon Optics. Excellent power combined with a mid-sized, lightweight stylish design. Ideal for nature, bird watching, safari, sports watching or travel. Produce beautiful sharp images. A perfect gift to a nature lover! £149 inc. free delivery

 

Celestron 20×50 – Ideal for seeing more detail from a longer distance (2-5 miles). With an impressive 20x magnification they are extremely powerful yet still easy to handle. Large 50mm lenses allow for a brighter, sharper image. Can be used with or without a tripod. Discounted and available for £159 inc. free delivery

 

Nikon Prostaff 10×42 – Nikon’s best seller and our favourite model at this price range. Outstanding image quality, waterproof, fog proof, wide field of view, light and comfortable design. Great all-around binoculars with Nikon’s best quality optics. Also available in 8×42. Discounted to £279 inc. free delivery

 

Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 – Professional level binoculars suitable for any use. Enjoy crystal clear images and flawless performance even during low light conditions. Beautiful design. Waterproof, fog proof and shockproof. Recommended if you want to invest in that extra optical quality. £539 (limited time offer)

 

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32 Comments

  1. 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
  2. Hi Adam,
    Thanks and well done for the clear and helpful website.

    I have a pair of Zeiss 8×30 bins which I bought 30 years ago. They are still great and suit me well for watching sport in the main and also for nature watching. I like them because of the bright optics and at the size (c.550 gms) are light enough to hold comfortably for considerable lengths of time and are also weighty enough to keep still.

    I am coming up for a special birthday and with the world athletic champs to look forward to I thought I might treat myself to an upgrade.

    1. I fancy the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42. Given your advice though that often for general use folks find 8×42 more practical and with a weight of 720 gms might I be better with Nikon Prostaff 8×42 or the Avalon 10×42 which are lighter again and similar in weight to my current bins?

    2. Do you have a physical location where customers can actually try the recommended products.

    Thanks
    Freddie

    1. Hi Freddie,

      Thank you for your comment and kind words. We stock over 400 binoculars here at Procular UK, so it can get a-bit overwhelming sometimes to pick the right ones! Even for us.. We are online only, with all products sent fast and free to anywhere within the UK and world wide. We don’t operate a showroom where you can physically test the binoculars but we do offer quite a-lot of info as well as demo videos, specs, reviews etc. to help people choose. Frankly even in a retail shop it is impossible to truly test binoculars as you need to be outdoors to do so. We also offer a 30 days return policy which allows you to quickly test them at home. But in a case of return or exchange it is essential that you keep all original boxes, accessories etc. intact and in brand new condition.

      As your binoculars are 30 years old you can certainly find an upgrade here. Regarding your question and the 3 models discussed above, all are excellent quality binoculars which is why we like and recommend them here. What you can look at is quality vs. price vs. size and weight. As you already have a pair of 8×30 we would lean towards the 8×42 / 10×42 models. These days they are quite light and easy to handle, especially the Nikon 8×42 and Avalon 10×42 PRO HD. The Nikon might have a slightly wider field of view but the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD come VERY close in terms of image quality. 90-95% we would say. They are significantly cheaper so fantastic value for money!! Both are lightweight binoculars and very easy to handle. You will benefit from the larger lenses (42mm) while still be able to use them for extended periods of time. Another small advantage of the Nikon 8×42 is their longer eye relief which makes them perfect for use with glasses on. Although the Avalon once again come close and can normally be used with glasses too. Most people take their glasses off when viewing as the binoculars already magnify and enhance the image. The Zeiss Terra ED have better low light performance than both previous options but as you mentioned are also heavier. For most folks, excluding hunters perhaps, the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD or Nikon Prostaff 8×42 are favourable. We get a-lot of positive feedback on these models, especially the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD which are extremely popular. You can read more about the Avalon binoculars, including a video, specs and customer reviews here:

      https://procular.co.uk/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

      And about the Nikon Prostaff 8×42 here:

      https://procular.co.uk/nikon-prostaff-7-8×42-binoculars/

      We are certain that with any of these two models you’ll be very pleased 🙂

      Adam Murray, Procular
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. I have a pair of Nikon Travelite EX 12×25 binoculars which are out of collimation for the second time after fairly minimal use – 2-3 weeks per year. The first time, in 2013, they were dropped about a foot onto the deck of a boat and I got them repaired. This time they were in a rucksack and suffered no obvious knock. I now have a fairly jaundiced view of binoculars and of Nikon in particular, so can you tell me if mid priced brands like Bushnell will be more robust.
    Thanks, Bob

    1. Hi Bob,

      The issue is not specifically with Nikon but with the Travelite EX model as it is an entry level one and not very durable. Nikon does make more durable models such as the Nikon Prostaff and Nikon Monarch binoculars. The main thing is to go for mid-range ones that are stated as waterproof, fog-proof and shockproof. Binoculars designed for hunting, such as mid or high end models by Bushnell, Vortex and Zeiss would be your best bet! These offer excellent durability. If you look at the various reviews on this site, as well as products pages, you will find some excellent options depending on your intended use and size of binoculars. (compact or mid-sized). Compact ones like your Nikon’s but more durable we recommend the Bushnell H2O 10×25 below: https://procular.co.uk/bushnell-10×25-h2o-compact-binoculars/ , mid-sized binoculars (8×42 or 10×42) we have plenty that are durable depending on your budget.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. Thank you so much for your prompt and informative reply, I will definitely heed your advice.
    Regards, G

  11. 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
  12. Thank you very much, very helpful indeed!

  13. 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
  14. 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
  15. 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

    1. Hi Graham,

      We had the Canon image stabilising binoculars for sale here on Procular. Unfortunately we no longer supply these. They are excellent quality binoculars but very overpriced (small ones around £500 and full-size ones over £1000). The image stabilisation is a nice feature but for that kind of money you can purchase some of the world’s best optics + enjoy the smaller lightweight design and the waterproofing. The image stabilised binoculars are not waterproof and definitely not lightweight. If you need binoculars that feature sharp images, weather proofing and good stabilisation we recommend getting a pair of 8×42 binoculars. They are very easily handled and stabilised with no need for electronic image stabilisation. Specific models we can recommend are the Nikon Prostaff 8×42 below: https://procular.co.uk/nikon-prostaff-7-8×42-binoculars/ and within the high-end binoculars the Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 below: https://procular.co.uk/carl-zeiss-terra-ed-8×42-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular

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