18 Best Compact Binoculars in 2019 Review & Buying Guide

When it comes to binoculars, the best pair is the one you’ll actually have on you when you need them. That’s where compact binoculars shine!

Sure, it would be great to have full-size binoculars on you at all times, but when you’re hiking, birding, hunting, or traveling that’s just not practical.

In my experience, the coolest views and animals always appear at unexpected times. Compact binoculars are nice because they’re lightweight and can easily be placed in a pocket or backpack for those types of moments.

In this guide, I’ll cover binocular terminology you should know before you begin shopping, and, of course, discuss what I think are the best compact binoculars.

Compact Binoculars with a Carry Case

Here is a navigation menu that can help you navigate to the respective part of the article you’re interested in. If you’re new to optics and binoculars, I recommend you read the supplemental information before jumping into the reviews so you have an understanding of what to look for and basic terminology that will be used in the reviews.

What the Numbers on Binocular Mean

When shopping for compact binoculars, you’ll see a lot of numbers that might be confusing at first, but don’t worry, they’re actually easy to understand. The first number represents the number of times the image is magnified, and the second number tells you the size of the objective lens (the lens closest to the object you’re viewing).

Example: 8×25 (a common size for compact binoculars)

The first number, 8, stands for 8 times. That means the objects being viewed will appear 8 times closer than they actually are. The second number, 25, stands for the size of the front lens, the objective lens, in millimeters.

What Size Binoculars Are Considered Compact?

Binoculars are categorized by the size of their objective lens. There are three main sizes of binoculars, here are some approximate sizes and what they’re best used for.

Full size – (Common Specs 8×42 and 10×50)

Best for detailed wildlife viewing or use on boats. The main benefit of full-size binoculars is that they have large objective lenses that can take in a lot of light. This gives them very high quality, steady images and a wider field of view than smaller optics. That makes them popular for serious wildlife viewing, and the preferred size for low-settings, which is what they’re popular for activities that often take place during dusk or dawn, like boating or stationary hunting.

Mid-Size (Common Specs 7×35 and 10×32)

Offer a good balance of size and light transmission. Mid-Size are still a little large for activities that involve a lot of hiking or movement. They’re great for stationary hunting, birding, etc.

Compact (Common Specs 8×25, 8×28)

Best for travel where portability, weight, and size matter, like hiking. Compact binoculars can be used for hunting, but be aware that due to the size of their objective lenses, they will not perform very well in low-light settings and are better suited for daytime use. Some compact binoculars are small enough to fit into a shirt or pants pocket, and most come with a carry case that can be attached to a belt loop.

The category of compact binoculars includes binoculars with objective lenses from 25mm to 34mm in diameter, but 34mm is pushing the limits in terms of size and are better categorized as mid-size or mid-compact binoculars.

Pocket Binoculars (Common Specs 8×21 10×21)

Sometimes pocket binoculars are also categorized as compact binoculars. These are very convenient because they can easily fit into a shirt or pants pocket. However, because of their small size they really suffer as far as performance. Personally, I’m not a fan of binoculars in this category and feel they’re better suited for kids or those on a very tight budget.

Note: I also have a review on my favorite binoculars across all size categories if you’re interested.

Most Important Takeaways Binocular Sizing

Larger objective lenses can capture more light, have better image stability, a wider field of view, and generally better eye relief. That means If you’re looking at the same model of binoculars and it’s available 8×25 and 8×30, the 8×30 will generally give you better performance.

If you’re looking for compact binoculars and don’t mind if they’re a little larger, in that example, I’d recommend the 8×30 binoculars over the 8x25s.

If you want something super portable that’s easy to carry with you at all times, I’d recommend the 8x25s in that example. There is always a tradeoff between performance and portability.

You can get small compact binoculars that will still give you crystal clear, bright images but you have to fork up a little more dough.

Compact Binocular Reviews

Alright, let’s jump into the reviews. Keep in mind there are literally hundreds of compact binoculars on the market, so there is no way I can review them all. Also, because everyone’s eyes, facial shape, budget, and preferences are different, it’s impossible to say what the best compact binoculars will be for you. I’ll label my favorites in each price range. The review will start with binoculars under $50 and the price range will increase as you move down the page.

Here Are the Best Compact Binoculars

1. Vortex Diamondback (Best for the Money)

Vortex Diamondback Binoculars

Price Range: Around $150

My review: I’ve found just about anything Vortex makes is good, and their Diamondback Series binoculars are no exception.

Their durable, light, and for the money, they’re nearly impossible to beat.

They’re available in multiple sizes, so you’ll have to consider the tradeoffs between size and performance. Models with larger objective lenses will give you better performance, but theyll be heavier and bulkier.

Vortex calls these the workhorse of their product line. While some of Vortex’s higher-end binoculars, like the Viper, do have better glass, most people who look through both can’t tell the difference. Considering these are a fraction of the cost, I don’t think I need to explain why these are some of the most popular mid-grade binoculars out there.

They have dielectric, fully multi-coated lenses that prevent light from reflecting off the object lens, allowing more light to be transmitted, resulting in a clear and bright image. They’re argon purged and sealed, making them both waterproof and fog-proof.

The focus knob is smooth but firm enough that it isn’t going to move around too easily and overall they’re very durable.

Just like all Vortex products, if you do manage to destroy them, they’re covered by Vortex’s VIP warranty, so you’ll have nothing to worry about. Vortex’s unlimited lifetime warranty is fully transferable and no receipt is needed. If you buy these you’ll never need another pair of binoculars in your life. You can read more about the Vortex VIP Warranty here.

They offer this warranty across all their product lines, including spotting scopes, rifle scopes, red dots, rangefinders, tripods, and binoculars.

As mentioned, they’re available in many sizes. The 8×28, 10×28, 8×32, 10×32 models are all great choices as far as compacts. If you’re using these for hunting specifically, I recommend you consider bumping up to the 8x42s or 10x42s. They’re considered mid-size, but they will serve you better for hunting applications around dusk or dawn.

If you’re planning on hooking a Votex’s tripod adapter up to these or you have very steady hands, you may want to go with the 10x magnification. I know some birders like 10x magnification so they can get a very up-close view. Hunters also sometimes like 10x because it helps them count points on deer and size other game at longer ranges.

Overall, if you’re looking for a pair of high-quality binoculars that won’t require you to tap into your children’s college fund, I’d have to say this is one of my top choices. They’re not as small and compact as some of the 8×25 models on this list, but still very portable.

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens: 28 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 332 feet
Weight: 14 ounces

Key Features

  • Enhanced, dielectric fully multi-coated lenses
  • Comes with a durable neck strap
  • Thumb indents and comfortable grip
  • Good eye relief (18 millimeters)
  • Right eye diopter
  • Backed by Vortex’s VIP Warranty
  • Argon purged
  • Twist-out eyecups make these easy to use with glasses

2. Zeiss 8x25 Compact Binoculars

Zeiss 8x25 Compact Binoculars

Price Range: Under $300

My review: In my opinion, these are the best compact binoculars under $300

If you know anything about Zeiss, you already know these are quality binoculars, because that’s the only kind they make! Zeiss is the company that came up with the concept of roof prisms, which are incorporated into most high-end compact binoculars.

The Terra ED compact has an outstanding binocular with a double hinge design that makes them foldable.

The ED glass limits chromatic aberrations, giving a nice, bright image with contrast and color rendition. The binoculars are nitrogen purged, making them water and fog proof, even on cold days.

They have twist adjustment eyecups, making them easy to adjust into a comfortable position, regardless if you’re wearing eyeglasses or not.

They have a textured rubberized covering that protects them and makes them easy to grip. The center focus wheel and right eye diopter are very smooth. They come with a neck strap and a washable storage pouch with a lens cleaner inside

They have a very wide field of view for compact binoculars, at 390 feet at 1000 yards.

With an operating temperature between -4 to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, these are perfect compact binoculars for birdwatching, traveling, and other outdoor activities.

Zeiss also backs these binoculars with a limited lifetime transferable warranty.

Overall, these are a very solid pair of binoculars. Zeiss doesn’t recommend them for hunting, but they certainly could be used for that.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 119 meters (390 feet)
Weight: 310 grams (10.9 ounces)

Key Features

  • Dielectric, fully multi-coated lenses
  • SCHOTT ED Glass
  • Top of the line Schmidt-Pechan prism
  • Comes with a durable neck strap
  • Close focus of 1.9 meters (6.2 feet)
  • Comes with a carry case
  • Made in Japan

3. Wingspan Fieldview (Best Under 100)

Wingspan Fieldview Binoculars

Price Range: Around $75

My review: At around 75 dollars these are very impressive binoculars. If you’re looking for the best compact binoculars for birding specifically and have to stay under $100, look no further.

They’re some of the smallest 8x32s I’ve ever seen and are still very small and easy to carry. They’re also great for concerts and could even be used for hunting although not ideal.

The come with a neck strap, nylon mesh carrying case, lens and eyepiece covers, and a lens cleaning cloth.

Speaking of compact binoculars under $100, you can’t go wrong with these or the ones made by vortex above. These have slightly better performance, but the ones by vortex are smaller and better suited for hiking and travel specifically.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 32 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 362 feet
Weight: 15.2 ounces

Key Features

  • Tripod adaptable
  • BAK4 Prisms
  • Close focus of 9 feet
  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • Tripod adaptable
  • Non-slip grip

4. Vortex Vanquish

Vortex Vanquish

Price Range: Under $100

My review: The Vanquish is unique because it utilizes a Porro prism.

Most compact binoculars use roof prisms because they’re more compact and streamlined than Porro prisms.

The downside of roof prisms is that they don’t allow for quite as much light transmission, so you have to spend more to get a prism of equal quality/performance.

Vortex did something really clever with the Vanquish and utilized a reverse Porro prism design that allowed them to use a Porro prism, while still keeping the binoculars compact. Doing so allowed them to give you a better performing prism for the same price. The only real downside is the shape is a little odd, but I don’t mind it.

The Vanquish is covered in a fully rubberized armor shield that pretty much makes these binoculars indestructible.

They’re fully waterproof and nitrogen sealed to prevent them from fogging, which is pretty impressive for a pair of compact binoculars under 100 dollars.

Weighing in at only 360 grams, these binoculars are very light. The rubber body that is super durable and non-slip. They also have twist and lock eye cups make it easy to use these binoculars with glasses in the down position, or twisted back without eyeglasses.

Overall, I would say these are the best compact binoculars under 100 dollars for hiking and travel. Leupold and Nikon have models that are very similar to these (also on this list). The Vortex model just seems more durable to me and I love their VIP warranty.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 26 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 352 feet
Weight: 0.7 pounds

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Reverse Porro prism design
  • 15mm of eye relief
  • Close focus of 7.6 feet
  • Fully rubberized armored is non-slip
  • Twist and lock eyecups for glasses
  • Nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed

5. Celestron Outland X (Best Under 50)

Celestron 71340 Outland X Binoculars

Price Range: Under $50

My review: As far as 8×25 binoculars, this model and the next pair on this list from Bushnell H20 (reviewed below) are by far the best compact binoculars under $50.

When I initially saw that these binoculars were under $50 and contained a roof prism (you can easily tell by the straight and sleek barrel shape of the binocular) I was a bit concerned, but after learning more about these binoculars I was quite impressed. Typically, to get a high-quality pair of roof prism binoculars you have to shell out some serious cash.

While these certainly won’t give you the performance of high-end binoculars, they’re impressive for binoculars under $50. They have BaK4 prisms that you’d find in much more expensive binoculars, along with multi-coated lenses and nitrogen purged housing that make them waterproof and fog-proof.

The twist-out eye caps they make them user friend with or without eyeglasses. They’re also easy to focus with a large focus wheel located on the pivot point.

They come with a carry case that can be attached to a belt loop, making these perfect for travel, concerts, hiking, birding, or even just a good pair of binoculars to keep in the center console or glove compartment of your car.

Keep in mind that while these are some of the best cheap compact binoculars, they aren’t going to be as bright or crisp as higher-end compact binoculars. They’re made in China and don’t have the build quality or any type of warranty, like many of the higher end binoculars on this list. That said, for the price, these are great compact binoculars for beginners and an absolute steal as far as the price!

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 430 feet
Weight: 11 ounces

Key Features

  • Twist-up eyecups
  • Multi-coated lenses and BAK4 Prisms
  • Waterproof and Fog-proof
  • Neck strap and lens caps included
  • Protective rubber coating
  • 10mm eye relief
  • Near focus of 15 feet
  • Not tripod adaptable

6. Zeiss Victory Pocket Binoculars (Best Overall)

Zeiss Victory Pocket Binoculars

Price Range: Around $850

My review: Available in both 8×25 and 10×25, these binoculars are the poster child of the slogans “you get what you pay for” and “buy once, cry once”.

Of all of the optics on this entire list were lying on a table and you asked me to only pick one, these are the binoculars I would choose. For small binoculars with a 25mm objective lens, these binoculars offer a bright, crystal clear image.

They also have the widest field of any binocular in class with a 25mm objective lens (390 feet at 1000 yards).

They have good eye relief and can easily be used with glasses.

Their high quality phase-corrected Schmidt-Pechan prisms and fluoride glass gives these binos very incredible image quality. The top-notch prisms along with top-notch glass also give these binoculars better light transmission and performance in low light settings.

Along with the top-tier glass, they have an offset pivot point that actually allows them to fold up a little more flan than other binoculars this size with a central pivot point. This also puts the focus knob in a little better position because with most binoculars your fingers naturally rest of the focus knob. This can cause you to accidentally bump them out of focus.

You can easily fit this in a side pouch of a backpack or carry them on you in a belt pouch.

As expected, they are nitrogen-filled and sealed, meaning they are both waterproof and fog-proof.

Overall, in my opinion, these are the best compact binoculars for hiking, travel, and birding with 25mm objective lenses on this entire list. They’re also great for safaris and just about any outdoor activity. Personally, I would go with the 8x magnification unless you’re planning on using these on a bipod or have a very steady hand, then the 10x would be great as well.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25mm
FOV at 1000 yards: 357 feet
Weight: 10.9 ounces

Key Features

  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Extra low-dispersion fluoride glass
  • Phase-corrected Schmidt-Pechan prisms
  • Asymmetrical folding design allows them to easily fit in the palm of your hand
  • The close focus distance of 6.2 feet is great for birding
  • Fluoride glass gives extremely sharp and detailed images
  • 16.5 millimeters of eye relief
  • Waterproof/nitrogen purged

7. Bushnell H2O Compact Roof Prism Binoculars

Bushnell H2O Compact Roof Prism Binoculars

Price Range: Under $50

My review: Bushnell is a very reputable company in sporting optics and outdoor products industry.

At the time of this review, these compact binoculars are just a tad bit over $50, which is why I didn’t rank them as the best under $50.

They also have high-quality BAK4 roof prisms, are nitrogen sealed to make them fog-proof, and have multi-coated lenses for increased light transmission.

They’re built like a tank and are actually more compact than the Celestron binoculars (which are also $50) above when collapsed.

If you’re looking super durable compact binoculars to throw in a pack while your out doing some serious backpacking for hunting, but have to stay at a budget or around $50, I’d go with these. To me, these just seem a little more durable than the Celestron’s and I like that they’re made in the USA. I also feel a little better recommending them knowing they’re made by a reputable company like Bushnell and at least have a limited lifetime warranty. That means if for some reason you get a defective pair you have at least some protection. Although that’s not a huge deal because if you buy a pair on Amazon and it turns out to be a lemon, they’re usually very good with customer service and returns.

These have twist-out eye caps they make them user friend with or without eyeglasses. They’re also easy to focus with a large focus wheel located on the pivot point.

As mentioned before, for $50 you can’t expect too much. Sure, they’ll get the job done, but don’t expect the image brightness or crispness of higher-end compact binoculars.

Overall, for the price these are great compact binoculars. They’re durable enough to throw in a pack and cheap enough to not make your bank account cry.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 360 feet
Weight: 0.75 pounds

Key Features

  • Multi-coated lenses and BAK4 roof prisms
  • Nitrogen purged and O-ring sealed
  • 12mm eye relief
  • Twist-up eyecups

8. Leupold BX-1 Rogue

Leupold BX-1 Rogue

Price Range: Under $100

My review: The Leupold BX-1, like the Vortex Vanquish, has that unique reverse Porro prism design.

Leupold’s goal was to pack all the features of a full-sized binocular into a compact binocular. Honestly, that’s not realistic with 25mm objective lens, but these are great binoculars for the money.

Just like the other optics on this list that are very quality, they have multi-coated lenses that offer great clarity, contrast, and color.

They’re built to last by one of the most reputable optic companies out there, and if anything does happen they are backed by Leupold’s lifetime warranty.

While I do feel the Vortex Vanquish is a little more durable with its rugged rubberized shell, these are a little less expensive. These are perfect for birding, travel, concerts, or really any outdoor activity.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25mm
FOV at 1000 yards: 337 feet
Weight: 12.7 ounces

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Reverse Porro prism design
  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • 15mm of eye relief
  • Close focus 14.1 feet
  • Comes with Go Afield Shoulder Strap, binocular case, lens covers, and a lens cloth.
  • Leupold limited lifetime warranty

9. Celestron Nature DX Binoculars

Celestron Nature DX Binoculars

Price Range: Under $100

My review: Celestron DX Binoculars have 32mm objective lenses.

While they do have a little better specs than the Wingspan Fieldviews above (ranked as best under $100), they have a little larger build than I think most people are searching for in compact binoculars That said, these are outstanding and are very popular for birding.

Their fully multi-coated phase-coated BaK4 Porro prisms give this optic a bright and clear image that I wouldn’t expect to find in binos at this price point.

It has a close focus of 6.5 feet, which allows these to be used even for up-close viewing.

Their housing is fully waterproof and filled with dry nitrogen gas to make them completely fog proof. On top of that, they’re compact, lightweight, easy to focus, and their rugged rubber waterproof body makes them durable enough to throw into a day pack without having to worry about them.

They have good eye relief and the twist telescopic eye cup feels nice and sturdy.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 32 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 388 feet
Weight: 1.25 pounds

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Phase coated BAK4 prisms
  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • Tripod adaptable
  • Impressive 17.5 millimeters of eye relief
  • Close focus distance of 6.5 feet

10. Carson RD Series

Carson RD Series

Price Range: Under $100

My review: The Carson RD Series is open bridge and lightweight. They come in multiple compact and full-size models. All models are nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed, making them water and fog-proof.

They have BAK4 prisms, along with multi-coated glass giving them super sharp and precise images.

All RD series binoculars are tripod mountable and come with a hard lens case, lens covers, lens cloth, and neck strap.

Carson backs these binos with a no-fault, no-hassle warranty, meaning if your binoculars get damaged for any reason Carson will replace them.

The wide bridge design isn’t quite as compact, but they are easy and comfortable to grip.

They come with some nice accessories, including lens covers, hard case, and a lens cloth.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 26 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 356 feet
Weight: 0.6 pounds

Key Features

  • Multi-coated lenses
  • BAK4 Porro prisms
  • Nitrogen filled and 0-ring sealed, making them waterproof and fog-proof
  • Twist-up and down eyecups make these easy to use with glasses
  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • Good eye relief (16 millimeters)
  • Tripod mountable

11. Nikon Travelite Small Binoculars

Nikon Travelite Small Binoculars

Price Range: Under $100

My review: Specifically designed for travel, these seem to be solid 10x power binoculars

I haven’t personally tested these so I can’t say for sure, but after looking at the specifications and reading customer reviews these seem to be a great buy at under $100.

They have Multicoated Eco-glass and with BAK4 high index prisms for “extra-high resolution image”.

The aspherical lens design is said to minimize field curvature, enhancing image sharpness, especially at the edges.

They also have a durable protective rubberized coating, which is nice if you’re planning on taking this along with you on hikes or on other adventures where they make take some abuse.

Overall, Nikon is a reputable brand in the optics world and the specs on these seem pretty impressive. If you’re a Nikon fan these may be a good option for you.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 293 feet
Weight: 9.3 ounces

Key Features

  • Under 1 pound
  • Good eye relief for a compact binocular
  • Small, lightweight, and ergonomic design
  • 14mm of eye relief
  • Aspherical lenses for reduced distortion
  • Click-type diopter adjustment ring prevents unwitting rotation
  • Close distance focus of under 10 feet
  • Includes a Nikon travel case, the binoculars, and lens covers
  • Available in 8x, 10x and 12x magnification

12. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD

Price Range: Under $150

My review: Bushnell has been around a while, but it’s still one of the best for the money.

These binoculars don’t have the greatest carrying case and there are a few minor flaws, but the image quality on these binoculars really is incredible for being around $150.

The ED lenses provide amazing color rendition and vivid contrast.

The lenses are coated in Bushnell’s proprietary ultra wideband coating system that maximizes light transmission across the entire visible spectrum.

It has almost everything you could ask for in a reasonably priced compact binoculars. It has Bak-4 roof prisms, ED (extra-low dispersion) Prime Glass, ultra-wideband coating, and a RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating. Their double-hinged design is very compact and durable.

I do wish they had better eye relief considering these are 10x magnification. The included neck strap is a little bulky and makes it very hard to fit them in the case with it attached.

Includes a carry case, neck strap, microfiber lens cloth, and a harness.

Overall, these are pretty solid binoculars. Personally, these would not be my first choice but they’re still one of the better models at this price point.

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: unspecified
Weight: 0.51 pounds

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • ED prime glass and BAK4 roof prisms
  • Ultra-wideband coating
  • Waterproof and fog-proof lenses
  • PC-3 phase-coated prism
  • Close focus distance of 6 feet

13. Steiner Military Marine Binoculars (Most Durable)

Steiner Military Marine Binoculars

Price Range: Under $200

My review: If you’re looking for military-grade compact binoculars that can withstand anything you throw at them, look no further. These have a unique autofocus system that allows you to focus the eyepiece to your vision once, then it keeps images in focus from 20 yards to infinity. This is great for objects on the move.

They have a floating prism system that uses flexible silicone lenses that can absorb shock and impact without causing damage.

Along with being super durable, they have very quality glass. They have Bak4 prisms and fully multi-coated lenses.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: unspecified
Weight: 1.45 pounds

Key Features

  • Made in Germany
  • Autofocus system
  • 16-17mm eye relief
  • Includes lens cover and strap
  • Can withstand 11 Gs of impact
  • Housing is a durable polycarbonate with rubber armoring

14. Zeiss 10x25 Terra ED Compact

Zeiss 10x25 Terra ED Compact

Price Range: Under $400

My review: I’ve already reviewed the 8×25 model which is why this aren’t high on this list. Just to be thorough, I’ll list out what you should know about this optic. This is a super compact and streamlined binocular with a double hinge design.

The ED glass limits chromatic aberrations, resulting in a bright, colorful image with excellent contrast.

Like almost all of the binoculars on this list, this optic is waterproof and fog-proof.

Overall, they look and feel very well made and have smooth adjustment wheels. They have a textured rubberized covering that protects them and makes them easy to grip. Included with the binoculars are a neck strap and a washable storage pouch.

They’re backed by Zeiss’s limited lifetime transferable warranty.

Overall, these are a very solid pair of binoculars. Zeiss doesn’t recommend them for hunting, but they certainly could be used for hunting except for around dusk or dawn.

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 97 meters (318 feet)
Weight: 310 grams 10.9 ounces

Key Features

  • Hydrophobic Zeiss multi-coated lenses
  • Schmidt- Pechan prism system
  • Schott ED glass
  • Close focus of 1.9 meters (6.2 feet)
  • 16 millimeters of eye relief

15. Nikon 7507 Binoculars

Nikon 7507 Binoculars

Price Range: Under $500

My review: Nikon 7507s have a very good field of view for 10x compact binoculars. They also have good eye relief (15mm) and a very good close distance focus rate of 7.8 feet.

The binoculars use Nikon’s exclusive Eco-Glass and the lenses are coated with a proprietary anti-reflective compound, giving a bright, crisp image.

Like most of the binoculars on this list, these are 0-ring sealed and nitrogen filled, making them waterproof and fog-proof.

With their 15mm of eye relief and turn and slide rubber cups with multi-click adjustments, these are very eyeglass wearer friendly.

To top it off, these are backed by Nikon’s 25-year limited warranty and no fault repair and replacement policy.

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 282 feet
Weight: 10.5 ounces

Key Features

  • Lenses are coated with multiple layers of propriety anti-reflective compounds
  • Phase corrected roof prisms
  • 15 millimeters of eye relief
  • Lightweight magnesium chassis
  • Waterproof and fog-proof
  • Backed by Nikon’s 25-year limited warranty
  • Phase-Corrected, Silver Coated Roof Prisms

16. Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 Small Binoculars

Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 Small Binoculars

Price Range: Under $800

My review: The Ultravid Series has been around for a while now, and binoculars in this series are known as some of the highest-end binoculars in the world with top-tier glass. They’re made by Leica, which is one of the oldest companies in the optics world. They’ve actually been producing optics for over 100 years.

These are some of the highest-rated compacts out there, and being 10x magnification with crystal clear glass these are some of the best compact binoculars for birding out there.

Personally, I’d go with the Zeiss compacts reviewed above, they seem a little more durable to me and I give preference to Zeiss, but these are a close second.

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 273 feet
Weight: 9 ounces

Key Features

  • Unique single knob diopter correction
  • Waterproof to 16.5 feet
  • 15mm of eye relief
  • Eyepieces for eyeglass wearers
  • Full-body rubberized armor

17. Carson 3D Series High Definition 8x32

Carson 3D Series High Definition

Price Range: Around $250

My review: For binoculars with 32mm objective lenses, these binoculars are very compact and ergonomic.

They also have great eye relief and twist-out eyecups that make these binoculars to easily be used with glasses. The thick rubber grips have thumb grooves that give them a very solid feel.

They have a nitrogen-purged body and o-ring seal that makes these binoculars waterproof and fog-proof.

One great thing about Carson is they really believe in their products. They boast “Americas Best Binocular Warranty” and they will replace the binoculars if they’re damaged, regardless of the cause at no cost. Also, if for some reason your binoculars arrive with a defect, don’t panic, Carson will repair or replace them free of charge.

They come with some nice accessories, including a quality carrying case, neck strap, shoulder harness, lens cloth, and lens covers.

Overall, these are great binoculars that are good for just about anything from birdwatching to hunting.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 32 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 392 feet
Weight: 1.2 pounds

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • 19.5mm eye relief
  • Dielectric coated BAK4 Porro prism
  • ED Glass and BAK-4 prism
  • Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
  • Close focus of 6.5 feet

18. Swarovski Pocket 8x25

Swarovski Pocket Binoculars

Price Range: Under $1000

My review: All Swarovski optics are made in Austria and have a reputation as being very high quality. I know I’ve said that a lot in this review, but this is a “best of the best” list so it’s to be expected.

This particular model is available in 8×25 and 10×25. Swarovski also sells a universal tripod mount that can be used with these binoculars.

They feature large eyecups, long eye relief (17 millimeters), and twist-in eyecups for those of you that wear glasses.

These suckers aren’t cheap, so as expected they have high-end prisms and glass that offer high-contrast, sharp, and color-true images.

The double hinge design with a bridge makes them very comfortable to hold and use, along with very portable. These can easily fit in the side pocket of a backpack or carried on you with the induced field bag carrying case that has a zippered closure, accessory pocket, and a ripstop nylon interior linking.

They have water-sealed aluminum housing that is shock-resistant and performs well even in extreme conditions.

While these wouldn’t personally by my first choice, they’re still some of the best small binoculars out there and have ratings and reviews that speak for themselves.

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens size: 25 millimeters
FOV at 1000 yards: 357 feet
Weight: 12.2 ounces

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Close distance focus of 8.2 feet
  • Hypoallergenic eyecup material
  • Textured center focus wheel that is slightly recessed into the bridge for a more streamlined silhouette
  • 17mm eye relief

What Are Compact Binoculars

There is no hard and fast rules as to what classifies binoculars as compact. Generally, the category includes binoculars that have objective lenses 25mm to 34mm in diameter, but 34mm is pushing the limits in terms of size and are better categorized as mid-size or mid-compact binoculars. Sometimes you’ll see binoculars with objective lenses from 20-25mm also classified as compact, but these are better categorized as pocket or super-compact binoculars. Again, there is no hard and fast rule.

Advantages of Compact Binoculars

The main benefits of compact binoculars over medium to full to full-size binoculars is their size and portability. You can easily carry them on you, and some compact binoculars can fit in your shirt or pants pocket. Their lenses are smaller, however, which means they don’t have the same light-gathering capabilities as mid-size or full-size binoculars.

Compact binoculars are perfect for activities that take place in good conditions lighting conditions like birding, travel, concerts, and hunting. Be aware that if you’re looking for binoculars for hunting during dusk or dawn, compact binoculars will struggle to gather enough light to give you a bright image during those times when the sun is rising or setting.

How Compact Binoculars Work

Compact binoculars work the same way regular binoculars do. Using a series of mirrors, lenses, and prisms, compact binoculars bounce and bend light to create a magnified sight picture. This allows you to view objects with incredible clarity from far away.

The front lens of the binoculars, called the objective lens, takes in light rays from the distant object and focuses that image a short distance behind the lens. The reason it’s called the objective lens is that it’s closest to the object you’re trying to view.

The next lens picks up that image and magnifies, but because light rays that pass through a convex lens cross over they cross over, they’d look upside down without the use of a prism (large wedges of glass). The first prism rotates the images 90 degrees onto its side, then the next prism does the same, allowing the viewer to view the image right-side-up.

Types of Prisms and Why it Matters

Prism type and quality is a bigger deal than you might think because, along with affecting performance, it affects the size and shape of the binoculars. Porro prisms and roof prisms are by far the most common types of prisms found in binoculars today. I’ll give a brief overview of each below and explain the tradeoffs between each.

Porro Prism

These are the original and simplest type of prism used in binoculars. Although simpler, they’re not necessarily inferior to roof prisms as far as performance. While they are less common, you’ll still see very high-quality compact binoculars that utilize Porro prisms. On average, Porro prism binoculars are less expensive than roof prism binoculars. Because of the shape of the prism, Porro prism binoculars have the traditional binocular look, where the barrels start out narrow and then bump out, or with compact Porro prism binoculars, you’ll actually see them start wide and get narrow. Porro prism technology is older and less complex than the next type of prism, but it does have some advantages over the next type of prism.

Roof Prisms

This is by far the most common type of prism found in compact binoculars. While searching for a way to create more compact binoculars, Zeiss created a more streamlined (but also more complex) type of prism called a roof prism. Roof prism binoculars are easily distinguished by the straight barrel streamlined look of the binocular. While they are super compact, lightweight, durable, and easy to waterproof, there are some tradeoffs. In a roof prism system, light has to reflect 6 times, compared to 4 times in a Porro prism binocular, which from what I’ve read can actually decrease light transition by around 10-15 percent. However, because of the popularity and obvious benefits of roof prisms, companies have spent a lot of time and money investing into research and development, so nowadays you can get roof prism binoculars that perform just as well as Porro prism binoculars, but they do typically cost a little more. You’ll see a lot of budget compact binoculars utilize Porro prisms instead of roof prisms because you can still get great performance at a lower price.

Anatomy and Terminology of Compact Binoculars

Objective lens

At the front of the binoculars, you have the objective lens. An easy way to remember its name s by remembering it’s closest to the object you’re trying to view. The size of the object lens is very important. Larger object lenses, in general, can collect more light than smaller lenses. More light results in a brighter, crisper image. Under average to good lighting conditions this is not an issue, but under poor lighting conditions around dusk or dawn, having a larger objective lens is a big advantage. The disadvantage of a larger objective lens is mainly that is larger. Compact binoculars are best known for their portability and durability. Smaller binoculars are easier to carry and take up less space in a pack.

Ocular lens

The lens is located closest to your eyes, and this is the lens that actually does the magnifying.

Magnification level

Most binoculars will have its magnification level clearly listed on the focus wheel.

Important note: While increased magnification is great, it does narrow your field of view. Another thing you’ll notice when looking through a highly magnified optic is that you’ll seem to but much less stable. This is because your movements are magnified with along with the image. When you start seriously magnifying an image without a tripod or other stabilization method, it can be very difficult to stay on the object your trying to view. That’s why for compact binoculars I personally prefer 8x magnification of 10x. 8x also has better light transmission.

Field of View

Most binoculars will tell you a field of view at a certain distance, usually 1000 yards. Field of view is typically measured in degrees or feet at 1000 yards. The maximum field of view is a complete circle or 360 degrees. To give you a point of reference when viewing binoculars field of view, keep in mind that humans naturally have around a 210-degree field of view.

A wide field of view is great for scanning or viewing objects on the move, while a narrow field of view is better for looking at slow-moving or stationary objects up close.

There is always a tradeoff between the magnification level and field of view. As you increase the magnification level, you narrow or decrease the field of view. Having a narrow, highly magnified image of an animal is great, but you may also miss out on other things happening nearby.

Example: 300 feet at 1000 yards.

That means that if you look at an object 1000 yards away, you will be able to see 300 feet of terrain.

Eye relief:

Eye relief basically means how far your eye has to be from the eyepiece in order to get a clear slight picture. Optics with a longer focal length typically have better eye relief. Eye relief is important for all users, but especially eyeglass wearers. If you wear eyeglasses, look for binoculars with eye relief of at least 11mm. Some binoculars have eyepieces that can be adjusted to accommodate for the use of glasses.

Exit Pupil

Exit pupil is measured in millimeters and indicates how bright an object will appear in low light situations. A larger number means in low light means a brighter image and it will also be easier to maintain a full image if you’re shaking and moving. To calculate exit pupil, take the size of the objective lens and divide by it the magnification power.

Since the human pupil can widen to around 7mm in low light, if your binoculars have an exit pupil of less than 7mm, they will be less than optimal for use in low light settings (an exit pupil of 5 or above is considered good for low light conditions like dusk or dawn.

Example: 8×34 mm binoculars

8×34 binoculars are considered mid-compact, which are not preferred for low light settings, but let’s do the math to see why.

34 divided by 8 is 4.25, which is less than 7. That means binoculars with 8x magnification and 34-millimeter objective lenses will perform less than optimally in low light conditions. In normal lighting conditions during daylight hours, the human pupil can constrict to around 2mm, meaning that almost all binoculars will work find during daytime hours in normal lighting conditions.

Focusing Your Binoculars

While viewing objects at different distances, you’ll have to be readjusting the focus to get a very clear image. Most binoculars have two focus wheels, but the location varies from model to model.

Central Focusing Wheel

This is located between the two barrels and adjusts the focus for both eyes. Because both eyes are typically a little different, when focusing your binoculars, you’ll want to close the eye that is on the same that can be adjusted by the diopter knob.

Diopter

The other wheel is called the diopter. This wheel can also be located between the two barrels but is most often found on one of the eyepieces, usually the right. This knob will only focus one side of the binocular. This is nice because it allows you to adjust both sides of the binoculars into perfect focus, even if you have a different prescription in each eye.

Lense coating

A lens coating is typically applied to lenses in order to reduce reflection or glare. Having a coated lens will maximize the amount of light that actually passes through the lens, resulting in the clearest picture possible.

Glass Quality Ratings

Lens quality is one of the biggest things you should be looking at when choosing a pair of compact binoculars. While cheap glass will get the job done, if you’re looking for high performance and super crisp images, you’ll want to look for high-end glass. Low-quality glass just can’t give you the same image quality, mostly because cheap lenses suffer from chromatic aberration, which basically means they struggle to focus colors at a point. There is a lot of science behind it, and you can read more about chromatic aberration here if you’re interested. What you need to know is that low-quality glass means a lower quality image.

BK7 Glass – this is a type of glass you’ll find in cheap binoculars. This type of lens does the job, but it won’t offer anywhere near the quality of higher-end glass. This is the type of glass you’ll find in very cheap binoculars.

BAK-4 Glass – This is a common glass that you’ll find in quality binoculars. It has a low reflective index and offers great image quality.

ED Glass – Extra-Low Dispersion is found in very high-end binoculars.

Fogproof

There are two ways manufacturers can make their binoculars fog-proof

Fogproof lens coatings: The first and less expensive way is to simply add a fog-resistant coating to the interior or exterior of the lense.

Inert Gas: The second way, which you’ll find in some very high-end compact binoculars, is through the use of inert gas. Instead of allowing atmospheric gases that contain a lot of moisture inside the binoculars, manufacturers will fill the inside of the binoculars with a gas that won’t fog unless the integrity of the seal is compromised, allowing air to leak in.

Waterproofing and dust-proofing

Quality compact binoculars will typically have a rating that tells what degree of dust and waterproofing they have. The higher the number the greater the amount of protection.

There is an IPX standard most companies use.

IPX0 means there is absolutely zero water resistance. As the number increases water resistance increases. So, for example, IPX7 is more water-resistant than IPX4.

Most people shopping for compact binoculars are looking for something portable. When hiking and traveling you’re going to want something that can take a little bit of abuse and withstand the elements. If you’re planning on taking these along with you on some serious adventures, you’re going to want to choose a pair of compact binoculars that have some amount of waterproofing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions people have when shopping for binoculars. Obviously, I cannot answer every question here, so if there is something you’d like to know that I have not specifically included on this page, feel free to let me know in the comments and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

How Do I Clean Binoculars and Maintain Them?

Since you’ll be taking your binoculars with you on trips and adventures, there’s no doubt that they will at some point need some love and care. It’s not uncommon for dirt, soil, and dust will find its way into cracks and crevices of the binocular. This is especially problematic over time because it can cause the adjustment knobs hard to turn or even lock depending on how dirty you get them.

Many binoculars include a lens cleaning cloth. Don’t underestimate the importance of keeping the objective lenses and eyepieces clean of dust and debris. Otherwise, you’ll notice spots or hazy images while viewing.

DO NOT breath or splash water on the lenses and wipe them with your t-shirt, this is not only a VERY ineffective way to clean them but can also scratch the lenses and cause permanent damage.

The general procedure and techniques to clean binoculars are generally the same. You can use a damp cloth to gently wipe the rims, barrels, and knobs of the binoculars. I would avoid the eyepieces and objective lenses, and only clean those with a cloth specifically designed for lenses. As mentioned, most binoculars come with a lens cleaning cloth. If for some reason yours did not, they’re cheap and can be found at most retail stores that sell electronics, and, of course, on Amazon. Lens pens are also a great tool for cleaning lenses. If you manage to get an oily substance on the lense, it may be difficult or impossible to clean it thoroughly using only a lens cloth. In this case, it is best to use a small amount of lens cleaning solution to get the oily substance off the lenses.

While almost all of the binoculars listed above are waterproof, I don’t recommend running them under a sink or anything like that to clean them even if they are very dirty.

To clean the cracks or crevices of the binoculars you can use compressed air to blow out dirt and debris.

To be on the safe side, I would refer to the product manual that comes with your binoculars. They will give you more detailed instructions on the best ways to clean your particular model.

What’s the Best Way to Store or Carry My Binoculars?

If you want your binoculars to last a long time and prevent the delicate lenses from being scratched, you’re going to want to think about how you’re going to store them. This is especially true with compact binoculars because they’re often carried while hiking or placed in a pack with other gear.

You’ll want to ensure that when the binoculars are not in use you have the lens covers attached. Most binoculars come with a carrying case of some kind that will be sufficient. If you’re placing them in a backpack, be sure to not have them beneath any heavy gear that could crush the case they are inside. Almost all of the binoculars I chose to have on this list are very durable, and if stored properly binoculars can last decades without needing to be replaced

How Can I Ensure My Binoculars Aren’t Damaged

Some of the best compact binoculars on this list are expensive, the last thing you want is to damage them soon after you buy them. Here are some basic tips for using binoculars that will ensure they aren’t damaged.

When hiking with binoculars around your neck, ensure you have at least one hand on them and that they aren’t just swinging around. I’ve seen binoculars smash into rocks as people were climbing because they did not have them secured as they were managing tough terrain. Long term exposure to sunlight and intense heat can damage binoculars, so ensure you don’t just leave them in your car with the sun beating on them for days or weeks at a time. If you’re driving with them, keep them in a center console or glove compartment. You don’t want them slamming into the dashboard if you have to brake suddenly.

What Should I Do If I Get Salt Water On my Binoculars

If your binoculars have a lot of metal components you’ll want to make sure they are cleaned thoroughly if they are exposed to saltwater. If you’ve ever done any boating on the ocean or saltwater fishing you already know how fast salt can cause metal components to rust, and when you have moving parts that adjustment knobs and hinges it cause them to lock completely over time.

What Are The Best Compact Binoculars for Hunting?

If you’re planning on using compact binoculars for hunting, larger objective lenses are better because hunting often takes place when animals are the most active, around dusk or dawn. Larger objective lenses will be better at gathering light in these low light settings. I would choose binoculars closer to the mid-compact size. For scanning terrain, 8x binoculars let you scan a lot of terrain quickly. If you’re looking to count antler points at a distance, 10x binoculars are better. One great combination is to carry 8x binoculars on you then have a spotting scope in your pack, but it really depends on the type of hunting. The Vortex Diamondbacks are great for hunting.

What Are the Best Compact Binoculars for Birding?

Any of the binoculars on this list are suitable for birding. If you’re planning on hiking or want something super portable that you can put in your pocket or carry on a belt pouch, something like an 8×25 would suit you well. Some birders like to get an up-close view, so they opt for 10x binoculars. The downside of 10x is you may seem very shaky and 10x binoculars naturally have a littler poorer light transmission. If you do decide to buy 10x binoculars, you may want to consider buying a pair that is mountable to a tripod. I’ve already mentioned this several times but I’ll say it again here. Binoculars with larger objective lenses will give you better performance and a wider field of view than binoculars with smaller lenses (assuming they are the same model). So if the size isn’t a huge deal to you, consider binoculars with 30mm to 34mm objective lenses for birding.

What Are the Best Compact Binoculars for Travel?

For travel, you’ll probably want a binocular with a 25mm objective lens because they’re the most portable. Some of them you can even fit in a pant or shirt pocket. You can choose a larger binocular, but just be aware they may get annoying to carry around after a while. For travel, 8x or 10x magnification binoculars would be fine.

Wrap up

There are many things to consider shopping for compact binoculars and there are always tradeoffs between size and portability. Compact binoculars do offer many distinct advantages over medium and full-size binoculars. Now that major optic companies are investing large amounts of money into research and development, even small binoculars can offer pretty impressive performance.

There was a lot covered in this article. There are so many use cases for binoculars and everyone has a different budget. If you have a trip planned or already know what you’ll be using the binoculars for but can’t decide between the different models, let me know your situation in the comments and I will almost always reply within 24 hours.

I also wrote a review on my favorite binoculars (all sizes and price ranges) so if after reading this article you feel you would be better served by a larger optic, check out that page before you go. I also have a review on spotting scopes, which are great if you’ll be birding, hunting, or observing wildlife from a stationary position.

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