If you need binoculars that you can easily carry around, then get the best compact binoculars you can.
|Table of Contents|
|Why do you need Compact Binoculars?||What to look for in Compact Binoculars|
|5 Best Compact Binoculars [LIST + REVIEWS]||Mike’s Top Choice|
From its name, compact binoculars are a pair of telescopes mounted side by side and pointed in the same direction, only smaller than the traditional and regular size. If you want to get up close and personal with nature without endangering yourself or doing some physics-defying stunts, you need to get binoculars.
|Best Compact Binoculars|
|Read Full Review||Read Full Review||Read Full Review||Read Full Review||Read Full Review|
Because it is technically two telescopes in one, you get two views as well, although merged into one to create a three-dimensional image with an impression of depth. Aside from the obvious difference that you need only one eye to look into a telescope and two eyes to look into binoculars, the telescope is the more powerful tool of the two. It can see farther into the distance. But again, binoculars offer depth and 3D image.
Compact binoculars, however, are less powerful than the regular size and the telescope. Its advantage on size and weight comes with reduced capability.
Why do you need Compact Binoculars?
Good binoculars can make the wildlife appear that they are just grabbing distance from you. A pair can let you have clear visual of approaching friends or foes from a distance. It can also help you scour a vast area and find whatever or whoever you are looking for.
For compact or mini binoculars, though, you can’t do all those things, just some, depending on the size and type you have. Nevertheless, the compact kind has a lot of advantages. It’s lighter and smaller so you can keep it in your bag or even pockets. It is more comfortable to hold and use in a prolonged period of time. If you are packing light, you wouldn’t want to bring binoculars and its tripod because those weigh a lot. However, mini binoculars would be the perfect weight and size.
A pair can be perfect for light activities, such as watching sports, concerts and theater. It can also be great for bird-watching. It’s just overall an elegant and handy equipment to own.
What to look for in Compact Binoculars
Buying small binoculars should be easy if you know what you are looking for. It’s not just about the price, although it’s a heavy factor to consider, but also about its make. There are several things to consider when getting mini binoculars, all of which depend on your preference and where you will use it.
Look for the following criteria: magnification, lens, focus, prism design, eye relief, other features (such as if it’s waterproof or water-resistant), and where it’s made.
The main reason why you need binoculars is to see far objects clearly as if they are near you, which means they are magnified. The best compact binoculars should have good magnification at least without destabilizing the image. You can see their magnification factor in the numbers a pair of binoculars is referred to.
First thing you need to learn is what the numbers next to the binoculars’ name stand for. These are two set of numbers separated by an “x” in between. The first number is the magnification factor, while the second one is the diameter of the main lenses in millimeter.
For example, your binoculars have the magnification of 8×32. This means that it have eight times the power of magnification and 32mm lenses. Divide the second number (32) by the first (8) and you get the exit pupil value, or the measurement of the measurement of the circle of light that reaches your eye. In this case, 32 divided by 8 is 4 millimeters.
Is it better if the magnification is higher? For compact binoculars, it’s not. High magnification allows you to see farther, but it also makes for dimmer image. You will find it more difficult to stabilize the image because even a slight shake of your hold on it is magnified as well. And if you have small binoculars, it means that you only hold it with your hands and you don’t rely on tripods. So if you have higher magnification binoculars, like 10x and higher, you will need a tripod to hold it steady.
Lower magnification not only gives a more stable image, it also provides wider field of view, allowing you to see more. Higher magnification, on the other hand, provides smaller field of view, which is the size of an area you can see through the binoculars. If you need your compact binoculars to see sporting events like racing you would want wider view because you also need to see how the other contestants are faring against the one you are betting on. You also need wider field of view if you are watching theater plays because you would want to see the whole stage, not just the lead actor.
The best compact binoculars usually have 4x to 10x magnification.
The larger the lenses are, the more light allowed into the binoculars, which means the images are brighter. However, larger lenses are also heavier and bulkier. And when you want small binoculars, you don’t want bulky and heavy. You will go for smaller lenses. But again, smaller lenses do not work well in poor light conditions.
The best compact binoculars typically have small to medium lenses, around 20mm to 26mm. These are the ideal sizes to use during daytime. Small binoculars with 28mm to 30mm push the accepted meaning of compact. However, they are preferred to use in limited light conditions.
Apart from the lens size, also consider the type and its coating. Most have glass lenses because they generally provide better image quality. They are more expensive than plastic lenses, which generally provide poorer image quality.
Because glass lenses can reflect the light hitting them, they are coated to compensate for this. If you look at the sea through your binoculars and you see glare coming off the water from the sun shining on it, then that means the lenses of your mini binoculars are not coated. Coatings help remove the glare while allowing light to enter the optics.
There are four levels of glass coating: coated, fully coated, multi-coated and fully multi-coated. Coated means only at least one lens has a single layer of coating. Fully coated means all air-to-glass surfaces of lens have a single layer of coating. Multi-coated means at least one lens has multiple layers of coating. Fully multi-coated means air-to-glass surfaces have multiple layers of coating. The last ones are superior to single coatings but they also add to the cost.
There are small binoculars that have no adjustable focus. They claim to be already pre-set so you wouldn’t need to adjust the focus anymore. However, these often cause eyestrain because your eyes would try to focus on other objects. Also, as they are meant to work within their designed range only, you cannot use them outside that range.
It’s best to look for good binoculars with adjustable focus to avoid this. They may have a diopter, which is an adjustable eyepiece, and a center-post device so you can adjust the individual eyepieces to your needs.
When you read binocular reviews, you will encounter the words BAK-4, BK-7, roof and porro. These are prisms, which act like mirrors and are located inside the binoculars. The images that the lenses reflect are upside down, that’s just how they work. Prisms correct this, inverting the image, so you can see the image in its normal right-side up.
There are two types of prism system: roof and porro. And then there are two types of glass that prisms are made out of: BK7 and BAK4. Here are the differences:
Binoculars with roof prism system have two prisms overlapping closely. This allows the objective lenses to line up directly with the eyepiece, keeping light waves entering and exiting the binocular in a straight line. When light enters in the objective bell, the light path is led through a course of six reflections, producing a horizontal and vertically erect image. The light exits the binocular through the eyepiece in the same straight line that it entered. The result is a slim, streamlined shape.
With roof prism, the binoculars can be more compactly built and have lighter weight. They are also usually more optically superior to binoculars using porro prisms. However, roof prism is more expensive.
Porro prism system, on the other hand, has the objective lens offset from the eyepiece. The light waves only reflected off surfaces only four times, fewer the roof prism’s six times. When light comes in through the objective bell, it is directed through the porro prisms in a Z patter with four reflections bringing the image forward and in its right positon.
It has two types: standard and reverse. Both have offset eyepieces to objective lenses. However in standard porro prisms, the eyepieces are closer together and the objective lenses are farther apart. Reverse porro prism has the eyepieces farther apart while the objective lenses are closer together.
As porro prism only uses four reflections, the loss of light is less likely to happen than with roof prisms. Porro prism system is also less expensive but it is more difficult to weather proof. It can also make the binoculars bulky, that’s why compact binoculars usually use roof prism system.
As for the type of glass the prisms are made of, it could either be BK7 or BAK4, which both can be found in either roof or porro prism systems.
BK7 is highly reflective and is made out of borosilicate glass. It tends to square off one size of the image. It has slightly lower refractive index rate compared to BAK-4 at 1.5168. It is also more affordable.
BAK-4, meanwhile, delivers sharper and rounder edges of images. It’s highly reflective and a has slightly high refractive index rate of 1.5688. It is the more expensive of the two, however, which is why more expensive best compact binoculars use BAK-4 glass.
Eye relief is the distance a binocular can be held comfortably away from the eyes. Regular-sized binoculars normally provide relief for users who wear glasses. That is why it isn’t such a concern if you buy binoculars. However, for compact binoculars, it is an important subject because only a few provide adequate eye relief. Longer eye relief reduces eyestrain. That’s good news especially for people who wear eyeglasses.
The best compact binoculars typically have at least 15mm eye relief. If you wear eyeglasses, you would need to rest the eyepiece lenses from your eyes farther than those who don’t wear eyeglasses.
Other Features: Waterproof, Water-Resistant and Fog-Proof
Just because a binocular can be used during light rain shower it doesn’t mean it is waterproof. It can just be water-resistant. Waterproof binoculars imply water cannot enter the device, but there are degrees of waterproofing. Your compact binoculars may be waterproof at normal atmospheric pressure. However, if there’s a change in pressure, if it’s submerged in deep under water for example, it may not be waterproof anymore. If there’s no indication on the label, we can just assume that waterproof means it can be fully under water under a short period of time.
However, be careful on trusting that label too much. There are waterproof binoculars that claim to be as such but are only actually water-resistant, which means they can withstand light splashes of water but that’s it. You can’t get them wet very often as well.
There’s another thing you should consider when buying waterproof binoculars.
They should also be fog-proof.
When you expose your compact binoculars to high levels of humidity or to rapid temperature change, they can fog up. The inside lenses of your binoculars will mist up, which can either make your binoculars temporarily ineffective or permanently useless.
This is where the term nitrogen-purging comes in. This is the process where the oxygen is removed from the inside of the body and replaced with dry nitrogen gas to stop the fogging. Nitrogen-purging also gives protection from corrosion, which your binoculars may get if you use them often around water.
But keep in mind that even the best compact binoculars that are fog-proof are only protected against moisture in their internal lenses, not their exterior ones. So if the outside surface of your lenses fog up, it’s most probably normal if the binoculars are exposed from cold to warm environment. If this happens, just allow the binoculars to adjust to the temperature.
Where It’s Made
You also probably want to know the country where your binoculars are made. Some are fussy about this because they feel like the quality depends on it. However, knowing the country of manufacture matters if you are buying binoculars made by certain brands. This is to guarantee you are buying the legitimate thing from the brand and not a knock-off.
5 Best Compact Binoculars
Mike’s Gear Reviews has put together a few items for its binoculars review. All are under $100 and have at least three-and-a-half-star rating. You might find the best small binoculars for you here.
Bushnell is a well-known American company specializing in optics products for more than 65 years, so it really know what it’s talking about when it comes to binoculars. The Powerview Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular is one of their more affordable offerings.
With a magnification and objective lens of 8×21, this China-made pair of mini binoculars certainly fits into the compact category.
It has fully coated lens, roof prism and BK-7 prism glass. It boasts of a wide field of view and close focus of 21ft/6.4m.
On paper, it looks like really good, inexpensive compact binoculars, but it has several faults that you might not be able to overlook. Here are the pros and cons of the Bushnell Powerview:
|Small and light||Not waterproof|
|Adjustable focus||Not fog-proof|
|Inexpensive||Can’t be mounted on tripod|
Here are the specifications of the product:
- Roof-prism binocular with 8x magnification and 21-millimeter objective diameter
- Multicoated optics guarantee superior light transmission and brightness
- Center focus system makes it easy to sharpen your view
- Nonslip rubber armor absorbs shock, 21-feet close focusing distance
- 378-feet field of view at 1000 yards, weighs 7 ounce, limited lifetime warranty
- Contemporary styling
- Fold-down eyecups and center focus system
- Lens Coating: Fully
- Prism System: Roof
- Prism Glass: BK-7
- Not water/for proof
- Do not adapt to tripod
- Limited lifetime warranty
For its price, you can’t expect much than the basics from the Bushnell Powerview.
Its weight of 7 ounces makes it feel like a lightweight toy.
According to some buyer reviews on Amazon, once moisture enters the lenses, the binoculars would be completely damaged. So don’t use it in high humidity places.
It won’t be included in the best binoculars ever list, that’s for sure, but it isn’t too bad for a starter binocular.
Although cheaply priced, it has fully coated lenses. Reviewers said it is perfect for the theater. So rather than buy separate and more expensive opera binoculars, this can work. Bird and animal watchers also don’t have a problem with it either.
SkyGenius doesn’t have the history and reputation of Bushnell; it just started in 2013. However, it didn’t do so badly with its 8×21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars.
Like the Bushnell above, this one also serves the basics. It’s a little bit heavier at 180 grams but still lightweight.
It also comes with adjustable focus, with an eyepiece diameter of 13mm and eye relief of 16mm. It uses BK7 prism glass and has a roof prism system. It has fully multi-coated green optics, allowing users to see clearer image.
It’s an American company but the products appear to come from China. Here are the good and bad things from this product, according to the people who own it:
|Compact design||Not waterproof|
|Decent price||Not fog-proof|
|Good optics||No instructions included|
Its specs, as listed on Amazon, are as follows:
- Large field of view: 369ft/1,000yds & 131m/1000m, 8x magnification, 21-millimeter objective diameter
- Compact size: 4.14×3.62×2.35in, 0.38lb, foldable design, mini pocket size, lightweight to carry with
- Easy on focus: Adjust by smooth “center-focus knob” and right eye lens, easy on focus even for kids
- Good quality: BK7 roof prism and FMC Green Multicoated Optics offer more clear image
- Application: Perfect for adults, kids, concerts, theater, opera, plays, shows, travel, hiking, camping, sport events, bird watching, etc. – any short distance viewing
At $22, SkyGenius 8×21 Small Compact Lightweight Binoculars are more expensive than the first item in this binoculars review list, but it’s still decently priced. The name says it all: It is small, compact and lightweight, although just a bit heavier than the Bushnell above. According to the reviews, this has a solid, adequate hefty feel to it that it doesn’t look like a toy.
The first thing you would notice when you open its box is it doesn’t come with instructions. If that’s an issue for you, the seller will email it to you. It could be a bother, though, as a physical copy of the instruction could be more useful to someone who would rather have one than a digital copy.
But apart from the missing instruction booklet, SkyGenius’ compact binoculars are said to be difficult to focus. Many of the low-rating reviews commented on how difficult the product is to adjust and get a clear, single image. Most of them said that no matter how they adjust the focus, the images don’t seem to blend together into one, leaving them with double vision. And once you’ve successfully adjusted it, you would have to readjust the focus if you accidentally shook it slightly.
Nevertheless, other reviewers swear by its good optics. It gives clear vision and sharp focus for something so tiny. It is apparently perfect for bird-watching. It’s not waterproof and fog-proof so that limit the activities you can use this to.
It’s a powerful little thing, though. You can use it for light activities like game-watching. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but that’s expected with the price. It does what it needs to do: provides good magnification with clarity and focus. It is also small enough to fit in a pocket or purse. It is truly a beginner’s pair. You can watch birds and animals with it but if you want to up your game, you should also look for a more substantial pair.
For serious bird-watchers, they might be familiar with the company Wingspan Optics.
This American company specializes in binoculars and monoculars that are especially for birding activities. So if that’s the main reason why you need the best compact binoculars, then you can’t go wrong with Wingspan Optics.
Because it is waterproof and fog-proof, you can use this for other outdoor activities as well, if you’re not so inclined to bird-watch. It’s the most expensive in this binoculars review list, but it has its reasons.
Here are the pros and cons of using Wingspan Optics Spectators 8×32:
|Fog-proof||Heavy for a compact type|
Check on the specs as they appear on the Wingspan Optics website:
- Perfect Compact Binoculars For Bird Watching And Any Other Outdoor Activity: Great lightweight and pocket-sized binoculars for bird-watching, nature-watching, star-gazing or other outdoor activities enjoyed by adults or children
- Wide Field of View – View an Entire Field of Action Then Focusing In On Your Target For Brilliant Detail at 1000 Yards Out: A Wide Field of View makes these the best small but high-powered compact binoculars you can buy
- Bright and Clear – Feel Like You’re Inches Away With Powerful 8×32 Magnification: Want to see feather tips fluttering in the wind? Adults or kids will marvel at the clear and bright views you get with these compact birding binoculars
- Non-Slip Grip Means You Can Go Bird-Watching or Watch Outdoor Games or Concerts for Hours Without Fear of Damage: Use them for any outdoor activities such as bird-watching, watching games or concerts outdoors, even star-gazing too.
- Lifetime Warranty Plus 30-Day Money Back Guarantee make these the last pair of binoculars you’ll ever need to buy because we will replace them if damaged. And the only pair of lightweight high-powered binoculars you’ll want to take everywhere.
- Power: 8x
- Object lens diameter: 32mm
- Type of prism: BaK4
- Focus system: Center
- Exit pupil diameter: 4
- Exit pupil distance: 14.8
- Field of view: 362ft/1000yds
- Min. focal length: 3m
- Diopter System: Eye, right
- Diopter Comp.: ± 3
- Interpupillary Distance: -56mm~74mm
- Tripod adaptable: Yes
- Waterproof/fog proof: Yes
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 4.5×4.5×1.75 inches
- Weight: 15.2 ounces
The Wingspan Optics Spectators 8×32 Compact Bird Watching Binoculars is the most expensive in this list but still fairly affordable compared to other compact binoculars that have the same specs. It could just be one of the best small binoculars out there. It’s not as small as the others, but it’s still considered compact in design. Don’t expect it to be lightweight as well, because 15.2 ounces is a substantial weight.
It is waterproof and fog-proof so it’s perfect for use outdoors. It is tripod adjustable and it uses BAK-4 prism glass. Its box says “made in China,” which could only refer to the product itself. It has a lifetime warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee for your peace of mind.
About being waterproof binoculars, don’t be too trusting on that label, though. As discussed above, it could just be that it’s water-resistant. And according to its users, it’s more likely that’s the case because it can’t withstand being submerged in water. It’s fog-proof, though, and that’s always a good thing.
Careful on the zoom wheel as well! Most of the low-star rating reviews complained about the zoom wheel being flimsy. It apparently completely messes up with the focus because it just spins endlessly. So if you buy this pair of mini binoculars, know that the zoom wheel is delicate.
This next item has a confusing name. The numbers 30×60 do not correspond to its magnification power and the objective lens. According to its specs, it has 8x magnification and 21mm objective lens. The night vision label in its name is also questionable but not entirely incorrect. It’s more of an inaccurate label.
It is the cheapest entry in this compact binoculars list. It also comes with a few accessories, including a carry bag and strap. And with the price that low, it could be very well a contender for the best binoculars 2017-2018. But again, here are the pros and cons of owning this product:
|Handy||No night vision|
And here are the specs (from Amazon):
- Magnification: See things 10x closer and get clearer and brighter range of view with 50mm lens
- Lightweight and can be folded, very convenient and easy to carry
- Lens coating: Fully multi-coated green/blue
- Ideal for birding, traveling, sightseeing, hunting, observation of sporting activities and concerts, etc.
- Strategically placed center-focus knob for easy adjustments
- Field of View: 127m/1000m
- Night vision: No (low-light level night vision but can’t see in complete darkness)
- Prism type: BAK-4
- Focus: Dual focus capability
- Material: Metal (inside), rubber (outside)
Let’s get right to the most complained about issue: the non-existent night vision. The words “night vision” is on its name itself but it doesn’t have one that you might expect a night vision is supposed to be. You will not see images in green when you use it at pitch black night, as what you would see if it truly did have night vision. However, if you have little light, it could provide clear vision. Say for example you use it at night while the moonlight is adequate, then it can provide clear vision at night. But again, it’s not night vision in the most known way per se.
That is why you can use this at concerts or perhaps the opera. Venues and theaters provide low light, which is sufficient enough to see clearly through the compact binoculars.
Second, the 30×60 label is not true. Where did the company get those numbers, it’s unclear, but there’s no way the diameter for the objective lens is anywhere near 60mm. And the specs clarified that it’s 21mm (for the black and black02 versions) or 25mm (for the black03).
According to OutNowTech’s official website, it appears that the Ultra Compact Folding Binoculars 10×25 is the only binoculars it offers. The rest of its products are other outdoor tools must-haves. With 80 reviews, these compact binoculars are a solid 4-star rating on Amazon.
Here are the pros and cons of using it, according to reviewers:
|Small and compact||Heavy|
|Water-resistant body||Has chemical odor|
The specs, as Amazon has listed them, are as follows:
- Superior Optics for a Better View: These compact binoculars feature BAK4 roof prisms wit 10x magnification power with a 25mm objective, giving great viewing with minimal shaking, for quick and easy access and effortless extended use, so you can watch the birds and bears, mountains and waterfalls, or keep a close eye on the game.
- Built to Last Rugged Construction for Active Outdoors Use: The heavy-duty binoculars sports housing is rubberized to absorb impacts and guard against damage. Plus, the non-slip rubber surface and the built-in finger grips keep the binoculars safely in your hands.
- Easy to Carry Safely: The folding binoculars are so easy to tuck away in a shirt or coat pocket, and they come complete with a soft case with a belt loop for convenient carrying on the trail. They are small enough to fit in the hand, yet open out to fit adult-sized faces. They are great for both adults and kids and tough enough for both.
- Weatherproof for Tough Outdoor Conditions: Designed to withstand typical rain and splashes you can encounter any time you are out, and the binoculars sports housing will keep its stylish look after use with just a simple wipe down. The lenses can be cleaned with small special cloth that’s included, or you can use the same kind of cloth you use for camera or spectacle lenses.
- OutNowTech Lifetime Warranty: As well as a 30-day no-quibble return period, OutNowTech offer a Limited Lifetime Warranty to cover any manufacturing faults. You can have peace of mind with our ‘Got You Covered’ OutNowTech Manufacturer’s Warranty.
Looking trendy and tough in yellow, these mini binoculars have a lot of things to offer. It has lifetime warranty and 30-day return period, which are always welcome. It is weatherproof and water-resistant, making it perfect for a rough outdoor adventure.
At about $45, it’s not cheap. However, it’s also far from being in the unreasonably priced level. And with a magnification of 10x, it is a powerful little thing.
Eyeglass wearers might not find this the most comfortable to use. It has eye relief of 10mm. However, its eyepieces have rubber covers that can be folded back so if you wear spectacles, they would rest comfortably on the eyepieces.
Mike’s Top Choice
Based on our binoculars review, the OutNowTech Ultra Compact Folding Binoculars is the best compact binoculars in this list. It is small and handy enough to be called compact, but has significant weight to it so it’s not mistaken for a toy. It also provides powerful magnification and adequate light so you can use it without compromising one for the other.
For beginners who want to start on with something less expensive, the Aurosports 30×60 Folding Binoculars are a good bet. Never mind the couple of inaccuracies in its name, though. It performs really well for just $15.