Binoculars for Travel: What to Look For (2023)

For travel enthusiasts, a good pair of binoculars can make all the difference to fully experiencing and appreciating the natural beauty of a new place. Whether you're birding, hiking, or just wanting to get a closer look at something in the distance, having a reliable pair of binoculars can enhance your travels. However, with so many options on the market, it can be difficult to know which binoculars are best for traveling. In this article, we will discuss some key factors to consider whenchoose binocularsfor your travels.

types of binoculars

Roof Prism Design vs. porro prism

Binoculars can be designed with roof prisms or Porro prisms, which affect the shape and size of the binoculars, as well as image quality.

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Ceiling prism binoculars have a more compact and streamlined shape because the prisms are aligned in a straight line and the binocular barrels are parallel to each other. This design allows for a more compact and lightweight body, making them suitable for travel. However, roof prism binoculars may not have as good an image quality as Porro prism binoculars due to additional reflections caused by the prisms.

Porro prism binoculars have a more traditional and familiar shape, with the barrels of the binoculars spaced apart from each other. This design allows for better image quality as light travels in a straight line through the prisms and there are fewer reflections. However, Porro prism binoculars are typically larger and heavier than roof prism binoculars due to the larger prisms and angled barrels.

It is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each design when selecting binoculars, as the type of prism can affect image quality and the size and weight of the binoculars. Roof prism binoculars may be more suitable for travel due to their compact size, while Porro prism binoculars may be preferable for activities that require a higher level of image quality, such as birding or stargazing.

Compact vs. full size binoculars

Binoculars can also be classified as compact or full size based on the size of the objective lenses and the overall size of the binoculars.

Compact binoculars have smaller objective lenses, usually in the 20-30mm range, and are generally more portable and easier to carry around. They are suitable for a wide range of activities including sightseeing, bird watching and wildlife viewing. However, compact binoculars may not have as good an image quality as full-size binoculars due to smaller objective lenses, which collect less light and result in a darker, less sharp image.

Full-size binoculars have larger objective lenses, usually in the 32-50mm or larger range, and generally have better image quality due to the larger objective lenses. They are suitable for activities that require a higher level of image quality, such as birding or stargazing. However, full-size binoculars are larger and heavier than compact binoculars, which can make them less convenient to carry around.

Key features to consider

Objective Lens Size

The objective lens size of a pair of binoculars refers to the diameter of the lens on the front of the binoculars, which is typically measured in millimeters. The size of the objective lens plays a key role in the performance of binoculars, as it determines how much light the lens can collect. A larger objective lens allows more light to enter the binoculars, resulting in a brighter, clearer image. This is especially important in low-light conditions, such as at dawn or dusk, when less light is available.

However, it is important to note that larger objective lenses also make the binoculars larger and heavier, which may not be ideal for travel. Compact binoculars with smaller objective lenses are generally more portable and easier to carry, but may not perform as well in low-light conditions. It's a trade-off between image quality and portability, and it ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences.

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Magnification and field of view

The magnification of a pair of binoculars is indicated by a number, such as "8x" or "10x", and refers to the amount of magnification of the image. Higher magnification can provide a clearer, more detailed image, but it also has a narrower field of view and is more sensitive to hand movement. A lower magnification may have a wider field of view and be less sensitive to hand movement, but may not provide as much detail.

The field of view is the width of the area that the binoculars can see at a distance of 1000 yards. It is usually measured in feet or meters at a distance of 1,000 yards. A wider field of view is useful for tracking moving objects or scanning a wide area, while a narrower field of view can provide more detail but can be more difficult to use for tracking moving objects.

It is important to consider magnification and field of view when selecting binoculars, as both affect the usability of the binoculars. A higher magnification may be desirable for certain activities, such as birding or stargazing, while a lower magnification may be more suitable for other activities, such as tourism or wildlife viewing.

Lens coatings and quality

Coatings on the lenses and prisms of a pair of binoculars can greatly improve the image quality and contrast of the binoculars. Multi-coated prisms and lenses have multiple layers of coating, which helps reduce flare and improve light transmission. This results in a brighter, clearer image with better contrast and color accuracy. Coated or uncoated lenses and prisms may not perform as well in terms of image quality and contrast.

In addition to improving image quality, high-quality coatings can also improve the durability and scratch resistance of binoculars. Optics with coatings applied by vacuum deposition or ion-assisted processes tend to be more durable and scratch resistant than those with coatings applied by other methods.

It is important to consider lens coatings and quality when selecting binoculars as they can greatly affect the performance and longevity of the binoculars. Higher quality coatings and lenses may be more expensive, but may provide a better overall experience and be worth the investment.

focus system

The focusing system of a pair of binoculars refers to the mechanism used to adjust the focus of the lenses to bring the image into sharp focus. There are two main types of focus systems: central focus and individual focus.

A central focusing system allows you to adjust the focus of both binoculars' barrels at the same time using a single focus knob or lever. This is generally easier to use, as you only need to adjust one control to focus on an object. A center focus system is suitable for most types of general use, including birding, tourism and stargazing.

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An individual focus system, also known as a separate focus system, allows you to adjust the focus of each barrel separately using a focus knob or lever for each barrel. This allows for more precise focusing as you can adjust the focus of each barrel to match your eyesight. Typically, those who must wear glasses or have a significant difference in vision between the two eyes prefer an individual focus system. However, it can be more difficult to use and can take longer to focus on an object compared to a center focus system.

Durability and waterproofing

Durability and waterproofing are important factors to consider when selecting binoculars for travel, as you may be using them in harsh or wet conditions.

To ensure durability, look for binoculars with sturdy metal housings or with rubber armor or other protective coatings. These features can help protect the binoculars from bumps and scratches and can also help improve grip. It's also a good idea to choose binoculars that have been tested and evaluated for durability, such as those classified as "rugged" or "military grade."

Waterproofing is also an important factor to consider, especially if you plan on using the binoculars in damp or wet conditions. Look for binoculars rated waterproof or water-resistant, as they can withstand immersion in water or rain or other wet conditions. Waterproof binoculars are usually sealed with O-rings or other types of seals to prevent water from entering the binoculars. Waterproof binoculars may not be suitable for submersion in water, but they can withstand light rain or humidity.

price ranges

Budget Options (under $100)

There are a wide variety of inexpensive binoculars available for less than $100. These binoculars may not have the same level of image quality or features as more expensive models, but they may still be suitable for general use and casual activities such as sightseeing or bird watching.

Inexpensive binoculars may have smaller objectives, which can affect image brightness and clarity. They may also have simpler focusing systems and fewer coatings on lenses and prisms, which can affect image quality and contrast. However, they can still provide a satisfying experience for anyone looking for a basic pair of binoculars for occasional use.

Cheap binoculars may not be as durable or waterproof as more expensive models. They also may not have as wide a field of view or as much magnification, which can affect the usability of the binoculars. However, for those on a tight budget or just need a basic binocular for occasional use, budget options can be a good choice.

Intermediate options ($100 to $300)

These binoculars may have better lenses, coatings, and focusing systems than budget options, and may be more durable and waterproof. They are suitable for a wide range of activities and can be a good investment for anyone who uses their binoculars frequently.

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Mid-range binoculars may have larger objective lenses, which can improve image brightness and clarity. They may also have more advanced coatings and focusing systems, which can improve image quality and contrast and make the binoculars easier to use. Additionally, mid-range binoculars may have more durable construction and be rated as waterproof or water-resistant, which may make them suitable for use in harsh or wet conditions.

You should consider the features and performance of mid-range binoculars when selecting them, as they can vary greatly. Some mid-range binoculars can offer excellent value and performance for the price, while others may not be as valuable.

High-end options (over $300)

High-end binoculars are usually the most expensive and offer the best image quality, features and durability. They are suitable for serious enthusiasts or professionals who need the best performance and are willing to pay more for it.

High-end binoculars often have the largest objective lenses, which can provide the brightest, clearest images. They can also have the most advanced coatings, prisms and focusing systems, which can further improve image quality and contrast. In addition, high-end binoculars are usually built with the highest quality materials and are classified as waterproof or water-resistant, making them suitable for use in any conditions.

High-end binoculars may provide the best overall experience, but they may not be the best value for those who don't need the highest level of performance or who don't use their binoculars that often.


If you're on a tight budget and looking for a basic pair of binoculars for occasional use, the Bushnell H2O Waterproof Binoculars are a good choice. These binoculars have a compact, lightweight design and are rated waterproof, making them suitable for use in wet conditions. They have a central focusing system and multi-coated lens, which can improve image quality and contrast.

If you need a good balance between image quality and value, one option to consider is the Diamondback Roof Prism binoculars from Vortex Optics. These binoculars have a compact, lightweight design and are rated waterproof and fogproof, making them suitable for use in a wide variety of conditions. They have multi-coated lenses and a central focusing system, which can improve image quality and contrast.

If what you want is the best image quality and performance, one of the best options is the Swarovski EL Binoculars. These state-of-the-art binoculars have a compact, lightweight design and are rated waterproof and fogproof, making them suitable for use in all conditions. They have large objective lenses, advanced prisms and coatings, and an individual focus system, which can provide the best image quality and contrast.

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As you might suspect, these are just a few examples of the many options available, and the best binoculars for you will depend on your specific needs and budget. It's a good idea to read reviews and compare different models to find the best binoculars for your needs.

In short

Selecting the right pair of binoculars for travel can be a challenging task as there are many factors to consider and a wide range of options available. It is important to consider the size and weight of the binoculars, image quality, durability and waterproofing, ease of use and price. Each of these factors can affect the overall experience and suitability of the binoculars for travel.

To make the selection process easier, it's a good idea to determine your specific needs and budget and consider the type of binoculars that best suits your needs. There are inexpensive options available for those on a tight budget, mid-range options that offer a good balance of image quality and value, and high-end options that offer the best image quality and performance.


How do I choose travel binoculars? ›

Look for an objective lens between 35mm and 42mm. You can use a pair of binoculars with an objective lens of 50, but it will add weight. For magnification, stick to 7x, 8x, or 10x. Lower magnification will give you a wider field of view, and higher magnification will provide more detail.

Which is better 10x42 or 20x50 binoculars? ›

If you are looking for a pair of binoculars for general use, then the 10x42 binoculars are a great choice. The 10x50 binoculars are the next step up in terms of quality and versatility. The wider lenses provide a brighter image in comparison and will perform better in low-light conditions.

Which is better 12x50 or 10x42 binoculars? ›

When comparing the 10x42 UHD to the 12x50 UHD, you get an instant boost of 18.18% in magnification, an increase of 11.42% in weight, a decrease of 18.30% in FOV, but only a 6.45% increase in cost.

Which is better 10x50 or 20x50 binoculars? ›

A: The first number is the magnification so 10 times compared to 20 times, so 20x50 is stronger.

Which is better 10x32 or 10x42 binoculars? ›

Still, comparing those two, the 10x42 will outperform the 10x32 because the exit pupil is much bigger – 3.2 mm on 10x32 and 4.2 mm on 10x42. Regarding comfort, bigger binoculars are more comfortable to look through because the exit pupil is bigger, so they are not as sensitive to the eye position.

What is the best size for travel binoculars? ›

For general use, 8x to 10x magnification is standard. Keep in mind that the higher the magnification, the more movement will affect your image. You'll want to have very steady hands with high-magnification binoculars.

What are 12x50 binoculars good for? ›

With 12x magnification and 50 mm objective lenses, the Nature DX ED 12x50 are among the most versatile and solid binoculars and are ideal for travel, safari and general astronomy.

What numbers should I look for when buying binoculars? ›

Model numbers on binoculars essentially tell you their strength (magnification power) and size (objective lens diameter). In 8x42 binoculars, for example, “8” is the magnification power and “42” is the diameter (in millimeters) of the objective lenses (the lenses closest to the object you're viewing).

How far can you see with 12x50 binoculars? ›

This is where we need to talk about compromise between different power binoculars. A typical 10x42 will offer about 330 feet of FOV at 1000 yards, while the average 12x50 is just under 300'; 15x binoculars are generally under 250'.

Can you hand hold 12x50 binoculars? ›

I believe that increased mass and size are beneficial to hand-holding binoculars. Most 10x50 and 12x50 are however made to be relatively small and light which is counterproductive. Attaching something to the instrument would help. A 12x60 may also be easier to hand hold than a 12x50.

What are 20x50 binoculars used for? ›

20x50 High Power Binoculars for Adults with Low Light Night Vision, Compact Waterproof Binoculars for Bird Watching Hunting Travel Football Games Stargazing with Carrying Case and Strap.

Why is 8x42 better than 10x42? ›

8x42's will also look to have a brighter image in low light and thus will make a better choice if you often operate in woodlands, forests or when the sun is at or just below the horizon. 10x42 binoculars work best for normal to good light conditions over mid to long distances.

What are 60x60 binoculars used for? ›

This Binocular Brings You Closer to The World To Enjoy High-Resolution Images and Rich Colors Close To Nature. And It's Perfect for Bird Watching, Travel, Sightseeing, Hunting, Wildlife, Fishing, Outdoor Sports, Concerts, and More.

Which binocular is best for long distance viewing? ›

  • Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binocular. ...
  • Vixen SG 2.1x42. ...
  • Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Binocular. ...
  • Celestron SkyMaster Pro 15x70 Binocular. ...
  • Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 Binocular. ...
  • Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD Binocular. ...
  • Celestron Cometron 7x50. ...
  • Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 Binocular.
Feb 2, 2023

What are 10x42 binoculars good for? ›

🔆 Answer: 10x42 means the binoculars have 10x magnification power (compared to the naked eye) and 42mm objective lens diameter. 10x42 are best for things like bird watching, hunting, concerts, sports events, etc, because they have high magnification, good light quality, and yet are still easy to hold steady.

How far can you see with 10x28 binocular? ›

Magnification: 10x. Objective Lens: 28mm. Field of View (@ 1,000 yds): 298 yds. Eye Relief: 15mm.

How far can you see with 10 22x50 binoculars? ›

Nikon Aculon 10-22x50 Specs
Magnification10 to 22x
Objective Lens Diameter50 mm
Angle of View10x: 3.8° (Actual)
Field of View10x: 199' @ 1000 yd / 66.1 m @ 1000 m
Minimum Focus Distance49.2' / 15 m
5 more rows

How far can you see with 16x32 binoculars? ›

This binocular is very good for light duty observing, as long as you use it in daytime and don't use it under severe weather conditions, you will be totally fine and satisfied with its performance. The vision is clear, the power is enough for long distance, you can see a pigeon's eye at 200 yards.

Is 10x magnification enough for binoculars? ›

Generally, binoculars with a magnification of 6 to 10x are easier to use, but for birdwatching, tracking moving objects, and keeping shaking to a minimum, 8 to 10x magnification is best. For theatergoing, a somewhat lower magnification is easier to use, and portability is an important factor.

How do I know what size binoculars I need? ›

For most situations, users should look for binoculars from 7x to 10x power. Theatergoers should choose something in the range of 3-5x, depending on your seats; sports fans will be happy with a 7x model; while big-game hunters would need 10x or higher for long-range observations.

What is better 8x40 or 10x50 binoculars? ›

For stellar targets, there's a usefull "binocular performance index" that's been defined as magnification x square root of aperture. For 10x50 this is 70.7, for 8x40 it is 50.6. Simplistically, you could say that you'd see 40% more with the 10x50s.

Is 12x42 or 12x50 better in binoculars? ›

The only thing that you have to decide is whether you want a smaller or bigger lens size. If you want binoculars that are not as heavy, then go with the 12x42. If you would like to have binoculars that perform a bit better in low-light situations, then go for the 12x50.

What is better 10x42 or 12x42 binoculars? ›

12x42 binos have a narrower field of view, a more detailed image because of the higher magnification, a smaller exit pupil (3.4 mm), so in comparison to the 10x42 binos, these do not perform as good in low light.

What are 20x80 binoculars used for? ›

These high-performance 20x80 binoculars are ideal for astronomical viewing or terrestrial (land) use - especially over long distances. This SkyMaster model of Celestron 20x80 astronomy binoculars features high-quality BAK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics for enhanced contrast.

How can you tell if binoculars are good quality? ›

Look for rugged models with waterproofing, portability and durability. Ideal magnification is between 8x and 10x. Also look for large objective diameter and good lens coating so that it works well in rising and setting sun conditions. Look for waterproofing with a wide field of view and vibration reduction if possible.

What are the best binoculars money can buy? ›

Best binoculars
  • Best overall: Vortex Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 8x42. Courtesy of Amazon. ...
  • Best for low prices: Celestron Outland X 8x42 Binoculars. Courtesy of Amazon. ...
  • Best for stargazing: Celestron SkyMaster 20x80 Astro Binoculars. Courtesy of Amazon. ...
  • Best binoculars for kids: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binocular.
Dec 18, 2022

What do the numbers 12x50 mean in binoculars? ›

The second number after the x is expressed in millimeters and indicates the diameter of the objective lens. A 12x50mm binocular will have a 50mm diameter objective lens, while a 10x42mm will have a 42mm lens.

What is the difference between 8x42 and 10x42? ›

Indeed most brands will list their 8x42 and 10x42 models within the same series as having identical size and weights. Size-wise they will be the same as they will almost certainly use the same body, however, a 10x42 is often a fraction heavier than an 8x42 as they need slightly thicker glass to create the higher power.

What does 8x42 and 10x42 mean on binoculars? ›

These refer to the magnification and objective diameter. An example is: 8x42. This indicates the magnification of the binoculars is 8x power and the objective (front) lens is 42mm in diameter.

Are 10x50 binoculars better than 8x42? ›

In terms of comfort, 8x42 is better regarding the size and weight – on average, there is about 200 g of difference. When you use them with glasses, 10x50 usually has a longer eye relief – 1 mm to 2 mm on average.

Is 8x or 10x magnification best? ›

The universal consensus is that the 10x has to be better because of its higher magnification. Many hunters, shooters, and birdwatchers argue that being able to bring an object 10 times closer versus 8 times closer is the most important aspect of a binocular.

What are 10x42 binoculars best for? ›

🔆 Answer: 10x42 means the binoculars have 10x magnification power (compared to the naked eye) and 42mm objective lens diameter. 10x42 are best for things like bird watching, hunting, concerts, sports events, etc, because they have high magnification, good light quality, and yet are still easy to hold steady.

How far is 8x magnification good for? ›

Sights With 5-8x Magnification

If you're shooting targets up to 200 meters away or hunting in forests or other closed landscape areas, 5-8x scope magnification is a good fit and will provide a view that is up to eight times larger than the actual target.

Which is more powerful 10x42 or 10x50 binoculars? ›

Optical Differences

More light means more information and thus if all else is equal, there is the potential for brighter, better quality views through 10x50 binoculars versus 10x42 binoculars. However just being able to capture more light does not automatically make for a brighter, better quality view.


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