Having a pair of binoculars on hand can open up a new world of interesting and helpful details. For many people, a standard pair of binoculars is too heavy or cumbersome to have readily available. This is why compact binoculars are exactly what many people need. There is a real convenience about taking a pair of binoculars with you while not slowed by the size or weight of the set; this is especially helpful if you are carrying a lot of other gear. Compact binoculars compliment today’s on the go lifestyles. Whether enjoying sporting events, bicycling, hunting, bird watching, or hiking, the compact binocular will bring details up close and not get in the way.
The term compact binocular generally refers to a binocular that has a lens of 32mm or less;(which is denoted by the second number in the description, for example, the number 32 in 8 x32) although the smallest are in the 24mm range and will easily fit in a purse or a large pocket. The size range of 26mm to 28mm is universally the most popular and is easy to handle and store. Compact binoculars come in two prism types, the compact porro binoculars and roof prism. The roof prism style is a well-liked design where the eyepieces and front lenses are in a straight line, makes for a very slim profile. In the porro prism binoculars, the eyepieces are wider than the front lenses which create a bulky and distinct shape.
What To Look For In Compact Binoculars
To be sure that the compact binoculars are the best set for your purpose, consider these features when choosing. Judge the relevance of the features by your intended use of compact binoculars.
A well designed compact binocular will allow you to focus with one finger. The focusing knob should be easy to turn and should be large; especially if the binocular will be outdoors in varying weather conditions and extreme temperatures.
- Field of View
The size of the front lens does not determine a binocular’s field of view, the width of landscape you see when you look through a binocular. The amount of magnification and eyepiece design controls a binoculars field of view. A compact binocular can have the same general field of view as a full size binocular with larger front lenses.
When considering magnification in compact binoculars the adage “less is more” applies. Because they are light, compact binoculars are difficult to steady so a higher magnification results in lower image steadiness. The optimal magnification (first number in the sequence) for all around use is 8x, although 10x can still be steadied with minimal effort, anything higher will require a stand or tripod which effectively negates the convenience of compact binoculars. It is also best to avoid investing in compact binoculars with a zoom lens. These are difficult to steady to the extent that they are almost unusable and are prone to optical and mechanical problems as well.
- Eye Relief
Eye relief, the distance from your eyes to the binocular eyepieces which allows a full field of view, is a crucial specification especially for those who wear glasses. Wearing eyeglasses keeps your eyes a greater distance away from the binocular lens than users without eyeglasses. While eye relief varies for individuals, the preferred range is between 13mm and 15mm. This is an area where it is important to shop and compare carefully.
This is not an essential feature for compact binoculars, but it is helpful if you use the compact binocular in extreme climate, wet weather, or near bodies of water. In addition to protecting against moisture, waterproofing seals protect against dirt and debris. When looking for this feature be certain to look for the label waterproof, not climate proof, weather proof, or rain proof. These terms do not guarantee the same degree of protection to the binocular as the term waterproof.
When choosing from the many compact binoculars available, it is easy to become overwhelmed. Each maker claims their binocular is the best. Here are some top products at varying price points to help streamline the decision-making process.
Best Compact Binoculars Review
BEST VALUE COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 1
Emarth 10X26 Portable Compact Binocular High Definition for Bird Watching / Viewing / Outdoor
The Emarth made this binocular with outdoor adventure in mind. It is portable at 5.2 x 5 x 2.7 inches and weighs 15.2 ounces, and is an excellent value at $27.99. This high definition, roof prism binocular has 10x magnification, 26mm objective lens, 13mm eye relief, and a field of view 105m/1000m. Along with the binocular, you get a carrying case with a wrist strap, a neck strap, lens covers, and a lens cleaning cloth. Emarth offers a 12-month warranty and a 30-day money back return policy. Additionally, the Emarth 10X26 includes:
• Dual Focus with a diopter corrector compensates for vision differences between your left and right eye
• Full wide angle view
• Twist-up eye cups
• Multi-coated green film optics and BAK-4 prisms
BEST VALUE COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 2
This Carson Scout binocular is impressive for its size and its price. This compact binocular is just 3.5” x 2.75”x 1.5” and weighs a mere 4.5 ounces. The Scout series is available for $23.00 and comes with Carson’s no-fault no-hassle warranty which covers any type of damage regardless of circumstance. The Scout has a Porro Prism, which gives a field of view of 489 feet at 1,000 yards, close-focus viewing distance is 8.2 feet and the Carson Scout has an eye relief of 10.5mm. This highly portable binocular is ideal for hiking and camping as it folds to become more compact; it is equally useful for sporting events and concerts because it is lightweight. The Carson Scout binoculars come with a soft pouch, wrist strap, and a lens cloth. They also feature:
• A center focus knob for easy adjustment
• Independent adjustment on the right diopter allows fine tuning
• Fully coated BK-7 prisms
• Soft eye cups for use with eyeglasses
BEST MODERATELY PRICED COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 1
The Bushnell H2O is a great compact binocular at the reasonable price of $52.00. This binocular is ideal for use on or near the water and is a great companion on fishing or for other water excursions like sight-seeing cruises or whale watches. While small enough to tuck in the palm of your hand when folded, Bushnell H2O gives a 10x magnification, 25mm objective diameter, and a 15-foot close focus. These binoculars are 100% waterproof, sealed with O-rings and nitrogen purged to assure they are fog-free. BaK-4 prisms used in the design and allow improved light transmission. This small yet powerful binocular weighs 14.4 ounces and its dimensions are5.1 x 4.1 x 2.8 inches; it comes with a handy storage pouch and also has a lifetime limited warranty. Moreover, The Bushnell H2O features:
• Soft Texture Grip that absorbs shock
• HD clarity, non-slip rubber armor
• twist up eyecups for a comfortable fit
• 12mm eye relief
• center-focus knob large enough for effortless adjustment
BEST MODERATELY PRICED COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 2
The Nikon Trailblazer is perfect for hunting, but it is also a great all-around compact binocular. Nikon is a well-known manufacturer of high-quality products this set has a price tag of $84.00, which makes it a solid piece of outdoor equipment at an affordable price. The Trailblazer is an asset for hunters or others looking for an easy to use binocular that is also light and compact. It weighs 11 ounces, its dimensions are 4.1” x 1.8” x 4.5″m and it will fold small enough to fit into a pocket. It is easy to hold this binocular steady to take advantage of the 10X magnification. The Trailblazer has a 65.0 FOV at 1000 yards, 342 ft. close focus distance and an 18 mm eye relief. Lead-and arsenic-free Eco-Glass optics enhances viewing with this binocular as does Nikon’s addition of multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds on the lenses. The Trailblazer Hunting Binoculars come with a case and a strap so they are easy to take along anywhere you go. This binocular also features:
• Waterproof and fog proof
• Bak 4 roof prism
• Multi-layer rubber coating for comfortable grip
• Full lifetime warranty, even if you are not the original owner of the binoculars
BEST MID-RANGE COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 1
The Bushnell Elite is a Porro Prism binocular, yet it is ergonomic and goes wherever the action is. It weighs 12 ounces, its dimensions are 9.2” x 8.8” x 4”, and it offers an ample 16mm eye relief. This binocular fits easily into the palm of your hand and will pack easily into a purse or backpack. The Bushnell Elite is versatile and is suitable for bird-watching, sporting events, and concerts. Twist-up eyecups add to the comfort of this binocular which has a 7-foot close focus distance and 363 feet field of view at 1,000 yards. The Bushnell Elite sells for $200.00 and includes a comfort strap and a waterproof case. This binocular also features:
• Patented RainGuard® HD coating wipes out lens fogging, increases clarity and disperses moisture
• Fusion hybrid lens system with fully multi-coated optics supplies 99.7% light transmission for each lens
• Tripod adaptable
• No Questions Asked Lifetime Warranty
BEST MID-RANGE COMPACT BINOCULAR: Choice 2
Steiner presents a rugged and compact binocular modeled after their military binoculars which are still popular with the military after decades of use in various conditions. With nearly seventy years’ experience, the Steiner Company designed this compact binocular with ease of use and durability in mind. Priced at $250.00, this binocular is well suited for spotting game because of the unique20-yards-to-infinity automatic focusing system. The Military/Marine Binocular is 6.8” x 2.4” x 4.6”, weighs 18 ounces and has an extra-large eye relief of 20mm. The field of view is 360 feet at 1,000 yards, and the high-quality lenses allow ample light. The diopter strength is adjustable or will automatically adjust based on your eyes. Additionally, the Steiner Military/Marine Binocular offers:
• Rainproof and fog resistant
• Increased depth of view
• Rubber-armored housing
• A 10-year manufacturer’s warranty
BEST HIGH-END COMPACT BINOCULAR
Swarovski’s CL Companion Binocular is at the head of its class. This is a well-crafted; binocular that is suitable for all outdoor activities as well as sporting events and concerts. The CL Companion’s price is $1,100.00 making it a luxurious, top of the line choice for the discerning customer. This binocular has a 5.7-degree angle of view, tt weighs 18 ounces, is 8.4” x 8.2” x 4.1”, and has light optimizing BaK-4 prisms. These roof prisms provide phase correction which improves the binoculars resolution and contrast. The Swarovski binocular is ideal for bird watching, hiking, and wildlife spotting. However, it would be equally at home on a hunt or at sporting events or a concert due to its rugged construction. The individually adjustable eyecups are made of a hypoallergenic material and the Swarovski’s CL Companion works well in a variety of light conditions including low light. The lightweight binocular comes with front and back lens caps, neck and wrist straps, and a durable case. The CL Companion Binocular also offers:
• Waterproof up to 13 feet of water as optics are sealed with O-rings locking out moisture, debris, and dirt
• Aluminum housing with a nitrogen filling
• Functional temperature between -13 F to +131 F storage temperature between -22 F to +158 F
• High-contrast images enhanced by the addition of exclusive SWAROBRIGHT™, SWARODUR™ and SWAROTOP™ coatings
The wide variety of features and price points can make choosing a compact binocular tricky. When shopping remember to make your planned use of your compact binoculars as a primary consideration, go over the product reviews, and soon you will be enjoying the freedom of compact binoculars for years to come.