Finding a good pair of binoculars is critical to successful birding, glassing, and surveying land. Check out this list to find the best high-end binoculars at every budget.
Binoculars are vital to a variety of outdoor activities like birding, glassing for game, surveying and, and even stargazing. Their magnified views bring nature to life with color and details. It’s crucial to find the perfect binoculars for your purposes because one, they’re fairly expensive and two, to get their settings just right so your eyes and the optics move like one. Just like finding a new pair of jeans or boots, it might take some time to find the best fit, and you’ll need to break them in, so you’re comfortable using them for hours.
While you don’t need to break the bank for a high-end pair of binoculars, you do need to know which features matter most for your preferences. A bit of research will go a long way to ensure you know exactly what you’re paying for in terms of quality. This list will give you a few questions to consider so that you can feel confident in choosing the best high-end binoculars to add to your pack.
How Will You Use Your Binoculars?
It is possible to get your hands on a high-end pair of binoculars and stay within your budget, but you need to determine what you plan to use them for most often. For instance, higher magnification binoculars with larger objective lenses will typically cost more than those with lower magnification. A first-time buyer might think they should spend on the highest power available, but there are plenty of reasons why low magnification binoculars will be more than enough. According to experts at REI, birders will do just fine with 8x magnification and a 32 – 42 mm objective lens, while backyard astronomers might prefer a 10x with a larger 42 or 50 mm objective lens. In these cases, it’s no longer a debate on whether higher or lower magnification is best, but rather which is best for you.
Higher magnification will also typically mean a decrease in your field of view. For long-distance sharpshooters or stargazers, the field of view might be less important, whereas whitetail hunters and those surveying land will need a wider field of view.
Lastly, you’ll want to consider the weight of the binoculars you’re purchasing. A larger objective lens and certain prism designs will generally increase how much your optical tool weighs. If you’re hiking to a single spot and mounting your binoculars on a tripod, the weight will probably be less of a factor in your decision making. In contrast, if you’re trailing game for several miles, you probably want to add as few pounds as possible to your pack.
How Much Are You Willing To Spend?
I’ve always heard you shouldn’t talk about money with a stranger, but in the case of binoculars, it’s all about your budget. Binoculars run a broad price range from under $100 to several thousand dollars, so have a game plan for how much you’re willing to spend on your optical tool.
It’s possible to find high-end binoculars at various price points, and a big factor that will drive up costs is the prism used to create those bright, vivid images. There are two main types of prisms, the Perger-Porro prism system, and the roof prism system. Each prism has pros and cons, but as a rule, binoculars with a roof prism system will come with a larger price tag than a Porro prism.
Both prisms can work perfectly fine under a variety of conditions. A Porro system has off-set prisms so that light is bounced in a zig-zag pattern. When paired with a high-quality lens, the Porro system provides a sharp, detailed, and bright image with very few distortions. You’ll also experience a wider field of view due to the additional light transmission. A disadvantage of this design is the size and weight. Binoculars with the Porro system tend to be heavier and bulkier due to the multiple prisms it houses.
Roof system prism designs have become more popular in recent years. In a roof system, the prisms line up but reflect light in a much more complex pattern than the Porro system. This can result in color-fringing and reduced brightness. The best manufacturers will add in a “phase correction” to ensure the image reaches your eye perfectly intact and bright. Given the precise engineering required to produce these types of binoculars, it’s no wonder that they cost more than a Porro design. Despite its complexity, the roof system is a huge advancement for making more compact and lightweight binoculars that long-distance hunters and tacticians will appreciate.
With these factors in the back of mind, let’s take a look at some of the best high-end binoculars that will fit your outdoor needs.
Leica 8×42 Noctivid Binoculars
Leica is a brand best known for its high-end cameras, so it only makes sense that they would produce binoculars of the highest quality and caliber. The Leica 8×42 Noctivid is a high-class product for birders, hunters, nature lovers, and those running tactical operations. These binoculars have 8x magnification, which is about mid-power, paired with a 42 mm objective lens. The larger objective lens on this 8x is going to give you a better twilight factor and help you sight faster-moving prey.
The Leica Noctivid is a roof prism design, and pairs this with a premium optical system. This Leica model boasts having a 12 lens set-up constructed with Schott high-transmission glass. According to Schott, the glass manufacturer, these high-transmission lenses are specifically designed to decrease energy absorption by the glass and produce better brighter colors. The Leica lenses are also fully multi-coated with an anti-reflective layer. Since this is a roof prism design, it also features a phase corrector to ensure you’re getting the best images money can buy.
You can expect excellent eye relief at 19 mm and adjustable eyecups for those who wear glasses. While some roof designs are known for not being durable, these binoculars are waterproof to endure your travels. Unfortunately, all of these features come at a steep cost, usually around $2,500. You’ll find no complaints about these binoculars, but perhaps a smaller balance in your checking account.
Leica 8×56 Geovid HD-B Rangefinder Binocular
Another incredibly high-tech option from Leica is their 8x 56 Geovid HD-B Rangefinder. Right away, you’ll notice the 56 mm objective lens on these binoculars that are going to increase your performance and ability in low-light conditions. These binoculars are an excellent choice for hunters who prefer dawn or those running late evening drills for optimal preparedness.
Unlike the other Leica product on this list, the Geovid HD-B is designed with a Porro prism. You would expect these binoculars to be clunkier, but their design is instead sleek and compact. However, these binoculars weigh much heavier than what you might expect at 6.2 lbs. All this weight, though, comes with many advanced features most long-distance shooters will enjoy.
Incredibly, Leica built in its exclusive Advanced Ballistic Compensation technology so that shooters can collect and learn from their data. According to the company, there is an integrated microSD card so that you can upload your data. Then, your Geovid HD-B binoculars run a series of calculations to determine the adjustments you should make for increased target acquisition. These results are generated within a matter of seconds on an LED illuminated screen.
Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars
The Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars will get you high-end quality for a lower budget price. This set has relatively high magnification at 10x and a 42 mm objective lens. The lens is fully multi-coated with additional anti-reflective layers so that you have optimal light transmission. The Crossfire HD also gives you maximum control over your optics with a center wheel that adjusts both barrels as well as a diopter for making individual eye adjustments.
While the Crossfire HD uses a roof prism design, it may not provide the same quality as others on the market. As previously mentioned, roof prism designs are typically much more expensive than the Crossfire HD because of the level of engineering required. Some reviewers also commented on a reduced depth of field. You may look at another pair of binoculars if you have more to spend and are itching for a roof prism design.
The Crossfire HD comes with the durability and accessories you need though for any trek through the woods. This product is 100% waterproof and fog proof with rubber, non-slip grip external protection. It also comes with an incredibly convenient GlassPak harness so that your binoculars are never far from sight. This product is also extremely lightweight, weighing in at 23 ounces.
Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 8×42
The Viper HD is another roof prism system binocular set from Vortex Optics but at a much higher price point. These binoculars also have a lower magnification at 8x, but still keeps the 42 mm objective lens. While the magnification power might be lower, the large objective lens will create brighter images and reveal more texture as you sight your target.
These binoculars also have an optical system that pairs well with the complexity of a roof prism design. The lenses are made of high-density glass, which will help correct for any color distortions. There is also a wide field of view of 409 feet at 1,000 yards, and the high-quality glass plus sizeable objective lens will ensure you have clear images from edge to edge. Some reviewers have commented that the center focus wheel is difficult to adjust while holding and might be quite stiff.
The Viper HD also has excellent eye relief at about 18 mm, which will be quite comfortable for hours of viewing. The eyecups are adjustable and twist up to cut down on light-transmission for users that do not wear glasses. You’ll always have a hold on these binoculars due to their rubber-armored exterior and thumb indents. These binoculars are also 100% waterproof and fog proof, even if you do manage to drop them. Similar to the Crossfire HD, these binoculars are also lightweight at only 24.5 ounces.
Carson 3D Series High Definition Binoculars
The Carson 3D Series High Definition Binoculars are another great budget option that’s still of the highest quality. These binoculars are also a roof prism design at a lower price point, but make special mention of their Dielectric Coated Prisms and are phase-corrected to help prevent any distortions. The Carson 3D also uses BAK-4 prisms, which won’t have the pesky black border sometimes seen with a BAK-7 prism. The lenses are also fully-multicoated to guarantee a clear and bright image.
These binoculars have a decent field of view, 392 feet at 1,000 yards, and an excellent eye relief of 19mm. Unfortunately, some reviewers still claim that there is a bit of blurriness around the edges of their view. However, this could be due to improper adjustments to their binoculars, but also might be a result of a roof prism system on a less expensive set of optics.
If you go with these binoculars, you can expect some neat accessories to pair with your purchase. These binoculars come with a deluxe carrying case, neckstrap, shoulder harness, lens cover, and cleaning cloth. These accessories will keep your binoculars scratch- and debris-free. These are also built to last with shock-resistant rubber coating and are waterproof and fog proof.
Pentax SP 16×50 Binoculars
The Pentax SP binoculars are the most powerful on our list with 16x magnification. These binoculars are best for hiking, long-distance shooting, and even stargazing. The high power magnification and large objective lens mean that these binoculars can give you access to explore the night sky.
These binoculars are a Porro prism design, and combined with the large optical system, are indeed a bit bulkier than the others on our list. However, you can’t get much more compact and still have the power of these binoculars. The lenses are made of extra-dispersion glass and are fully multi-coated. These also feature BAK-4 prisms for a clearer, brighter, and wider view.
The high magnification does mean the field of view will be narrower than others on this list but is still a respectable 183 feet at 1,000 yards. The eye relief is also only about 13 mm.
Find Your Purpose
As you can see, there are many excellent options for high-end binoculars at many different price points. The key to selecting the best pair is to know how you plan to use your binoculars and the features you want. If keeping your pack light or sighting fast-moving targets are important, invest in an advanced roof prism design. If you’d rather save some money and still enjoy a magnificent view, maybe a Porro prism is better. Regardless of your budget or purpose, binoculars are non-negotiable for maximizing the best sights of the outdoors, hunting, or taking care of your land.