The best binoculars are not only budget-appropriate but should give good reliability, optical clarity and be easy to operate in all weathers. Whether you're using them to gaze at the stars or track wildlife, spot planes at an aviation show or get a better view at the sports field the best binoculars should provide ample views no matter where you are.
Of course, binoculars for astronomy require certain criteria to be met: large enough magnification and objective lenses big enough to drink in the dim light from distant stars. Some are so good at this that they can be a cost-effective alternative to the Best telescopes and still provide excellent night sky views. Below, there's a pair to suit every level of astronomer and every budget but if your priority is tightening the purse strings while getting the most binoculars possible, check out our Binoculars deals page. Want something a little smaller? Alternatively, if you need something to photograph the night sky be sure to read our Best cameras for photos and videos or Best cameras for astrophotography pages.
It's worth remembering that bigger doesn't always mean better when it comes to the best binoculars so if you're after something easy-to-pack and transport or to suit a budding scientist then you should check out our best compact binoculars and best binoculars for kids. If you know what make of binocular you like you can always check out our brand-specific guides for Vortex deals, Bushnell deals and Leica deals too.
Below, you'll find a detailed list of all the best binoculars currently available with something to suit everyone and every budget. We've also included key information and links to buy (at their lowest price) the best binoculars if you're interested. So regardless of your desired use, check out the best binoculars on the market today.
Best binoculars deal February 2023
Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15x70 Binoculars:
was $119.95, now $90.04 at Amazon (opens in new tab).
A decent saving of 25% makes this binocular deal a good investment if you're in the market for binoculars that are excellent for low-light and long-range conditions. The large aperture and multi-coated optics mean you get clear sights and the carry case, neck strap and adapter for a tripod mount mean this is even better value.
Best binoculars 2023: Ranked
These are simply the finest binoculars for skywatching, however, they have a price tag to suit. Not only are they optically excellent, but the gyro-stabilization Canon has installed, taken from its most expensive camera lenses, means all the wobble introduced by being handheld and larger magnification goes away. It feels like they are being held on an invisible tripod.
The glass is the same as in Canon's camera lenses, taking the 'L' designation that marks out some of the best and most expensive lenses ever to sit in front of a digital sensor. You can expect sharp, bright, and stable views through these excellent binos.
As always, we can expect some downsides. These are a heavy pair of binoculars, and you'd struggle to hold them steady for long periods were it not for the electronic stabilization. They're also eye-wateringly expensive. While we've picked out the 10x42 pair as ideal for astronomy, there are alternatives in the range, including Canon 18x50 IS AW (opens in new tab) and Canon 15x50 IS AW (opens in new tab) models that are not quite as painful on the wallet.
In our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review, we thought that, while they are expensive, they are almost perfect for hand-held astronomy so we think the price is worth it if you can stretch to it.
- Read our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review
Here we have a beautiful pair of binoculars, no expense has been spared and every part of the build is finished to outstanding quality. In our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review, we loved them so much that we found them hard to fault.
The optics are excellent, and there is almost zero chromatic aberration. This is thanks to Nikon's Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements. The image is sharp from edge to edge thanks to the clever inbuilt field-flattened system, this is especially useful for wildlife watchers, as is their wide field of view.
Weighing just 680g and with a slim body, the Nikon Monarch HG are highly transportable. It's even possible to fit them into a big pocket and the low weight means they are comfortable when holding for long skywatching periods.
You won't have to worry about using them in inclement weather, as they are entirely waterproof. No need for rain to stop play. They are also nitrogen purged so they won't fog up when moving from one temperature to another (e.g., indoors to outdoors).
For the outstanding optics and premium finish, they aren't cheap, but we think they are excellent value for money if you can afford them.
The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 binoculars, are a perfect buy if you're into wildlife spotting, bird watching and stargazing and were designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. You essentially get a mid-range pair of binoculars with a beginner price tag.
They have outstanding build quality and full-weather sealing. They are also nitrogen purged so you can use them in various climes.
You get good optics that rival those in more expensive models including BaK-4 prisms with multi-coated optics. The wide aperture and 12x magnification are perfect for sky-watching and the 16mm eye-relief makes them comfortable for spectacle wearers.
In our Celestron Nature DX 12x56 review, we especially liked the close (10 feet) focus on these binoculars, allowing for backyard bird spotting and up-close wildlife watching. Binoculars without close focus wouldn't allow for this type of use. We even liked them so much, we bought ourselves a pair!
- Read our Celestron Nature DX 12x56 review
In our conclusion of our Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars review, we thought they struck a great balance between quality, affordability and portability. Especially for skywatchers.
The TrailSeeker 8x42 from Celestron offers a slightly different view from the norm because of the amount of light their 42mm apertures collect. Their marginally lower magnification also gives you a wider field of view. The Earth's moon will appear slightly smaller when compared with 10x50 binoculars. Nevertheless, the optical system mixed with the lens multi-coatings offers a sharper, brighter view compared to other binoculars we've tested.
These are great binoculars if you'll move between temperatures (e.g., from inside with the central heating on to the great outdoors on a frosty night) thanks to the nitrogen purging and a waterproof design which means they won't fog up, giving you more observing time.
There is also a notable lack of false color when using the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42. This false color is also known as chromatic aberration and it forms a purple or blue hue around brighter targets. Very little could be seen in the field of view, particularly along the lunar limb during our review.
The TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars weigh a modest 2 lbs. (1KG) but over long periods of observing time, we discovered that our arms began to shake, making it difficult to get a steady hand-held view: if you're prone to trembling arms, or will be using these for long sessions, we advise pairing them with one of the best tripods for astrophotography or the best travel tripod.
If you're ready for a completely different kind of binocular experience, put a pair of the Vixen SG 2.1x42 to your eyes. You'll see the same night sky as the naked eye, only zoomed in 2x.
Why would anyone buy a pair of binoculars with such a low magnification? If your goal is to glimpse deep-sky sights such as galaxies or even get a close-up of Jupiter's largest moons, then the Vixen SG 2.1x42 are not for you. However, if sussing-out constellations and generally getting a super steady, wide-eyed view of the cosmos is what you're after, then you'll adore the Vixen SG 2.1x42.
Using lenses composed of five multi-coated elements and with stunning build quality, they offer eye-opening stereoscopic depth. The drawbacks include blur around the edges of the field of view – a hangover of their simple Galilean design – and some pop-off lens caps that are pretty easy to misplace.
In our Vixen SG 2.1x42 review, we concluded that they are a niche choice for stargazers who are looking for something a little different, they let a lot of light in and have an immersive 3D depth.
We wouldn't recommend them for spectacle wearers due to the lack of eye relief and rubber eyecups, but for a pair of highly portable, easy-to-adjust, low-power binoculars, these might be your new best friend.
- Read our Vixen SG 2.1x42 review
These are entry-level skywatching binoculars that would suit anyone with a tight budget or who is a beginner wanting to get the most value for their money. While there are some true wins to this model, there are a few reasons why they're cheap, and we discussed them in our Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binocular review.
The view they present is very reasonable, the fuzzy glow of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is pleasing, and we could just make out three stars in the Trapezium Cluster at the nebula's heart. You would need greater magnification to tease out the fourth bright star in this star-forming region.
The moon looks stunning, easily fitting in the field of view and with only a slight degree of false color. In July 2020, the UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars served as an excellent optical aid for studying the naked-eye comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
What lets down the view is the collimation of the lenses being off, you can adjust this via small screws, but it's a bit frustrating having to do this with an out-of-the-box pair. The lenses are also prone to fogging, which can be irritating, but not a dealbreaker. We'd still recommend the Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars because of their lightweight design and low cost. Pop them in your backpack and go exploring.
Celestron didn't produce the SkyMaster line of binoculars as top-of-the-range products, but they still provide excellent views for an affordable price from a trusted brand. This is the case for the 15x70 'giant' binoculars. They are a sturdy pair of binoculars with a bit of bulk, and users will be pleased with the quality of views provided for the price range.
At 11-inches (280 mm) in length and weighing 3 lbs. (1.36 kilograms), we found in our Celestron SkyMaster Pro 15x70 binocular review that they certainly have a lot of heft, but using them handheld isn't impossible. You'd be most comfortable if you mounted them to a tripod.
Despite the larger 70 mm objective aperture, the higher magnification of 15x reduces the apparent field of view to 4.4 degrees, compared to typical 10x50s or 12x50s that provide a degree more.
That said, the more light gathered and higher magnification make details that might be vague or fuzzy on less powerful pairs pop out. There is some softness and blurring towards the edge of the field, which is a little distracting, but not unexpected considering the low cost. If you're a spectacle-wearer, you'll be delighted to read that the SkyMaster 15x70 has a respectable 0.7 inches (18 mm) of eye relief.
If you wear glasses the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 are some of the best binoculars for providing maximum comfort, thanks to the excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78mm). Issues faced by the people wearing glasses typically include not being able to move the eye as close to the eyepieces as desired. In turn, this means they may have to remove their spectacles to get a better view (which of course causes problems with actual vision). That's not the case with these; the eye relief mentioned above should negate this problem. The Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 also features twistable eyecups that can retract or extend to provide even more comfort.
While testing these binoculars in our Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 review we thought that although the binoculars lacked a premium feel to the touch, the optics are excellent and provide excellent contrast, showing all the usual subjects well.
Open star clusters like the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull) and the Beehive (Messier 44) in Cancer (the Crab) were picked out easily and could be seen with impressive clarity, while bright double stars — particularly Mizar and Alcor in the constellation of Ursa Major (the Great Bear) — resolve well under the magnification.
Weighing in at just 1.7 lbs. (0.77 kg), these binoculars can be handheld comfortably for long periods of observing time, we confirmed this during our hands-on review.
Thanks to the wide field of view, you'll be hard-pressed to find better than the reliable and robust Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD for wildlife watching and occasional stargazing.
The image is crisp and clear, with stars appearing as perfect pinpoints of light. You may find you can detect a small degree of false color when observing brighter objects, although this optical defect isn't unusual for this price point. That being said, the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 produces a great balance between brightness and sharpness across the field of view. In our review, we only noticed a tiny drop-off towards the very edges of the fields of view.
It's the build quality that makes these binoculars stand out. They are well-constructed with a solid, heavy-duty focusing knob that's a breeze to adjust even when wearing thick gloves to fend off chilly winter temperatures. Their eye relief is adjustable thanks to comfortable twistable eyecups. At just 1.89 lbs. (0.86KG), astronomers who like to dabble in nature-watching and globetrotting will be grateful for their light weight.
Although these binoculars come with a harness, we realized during our Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD binocular review we realized that the padded case forms part of the harness so you can't use one without the other which makes it less alluring.
The 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses make the Celestron Cometron 7x50 (opens in new tab) perfect for kids (see them featured in our best binoculars for kids guide). Kids can see better in the dark than adults, meaning they don't need a top-of-the-range pair to see a similar amount of light as an adult would with a stronger pair.
Children need something lightweight and comfortable to hold as they may not be as good at holding binoculars steady and may tire faster. Alternatively, consider mounting them on a tripod.
Having reviewed the specs on paper, weren't too excited about reviewing this pair of binoculars, but to our pleasant surprise, in our Celestron Cometron 7x50 review, we ended up loving them. They are an inexpensive way to enter the world of sky-watching, and if it doesn't work out, the risk you made was $40.
These compact binoculars partner a 7x magnification with a large 50mm objective lens, they don't need much bulk but still allow a lot of light in. Although these are strong, durable, compact and lightweight, they aren't waterproof, which we would expect at this low price.
- Read our Celestron Cometron 7x50 review
As if a mad scientist had blended a pair of telescopes using an experimental teleporter, touring the heavens with these is like viewing the night sky using two four-inch (100 mm) refractors, with added 25x magnification.
The Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 binoculars are a worthy investment. Their tough, rugged, reliable build means you'll enjoy many years of stargazing as you can read in our full Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 review.
They're not for everyone and will definitely need support. At 15.3 inches (388.62 mm) in length and weighing in at a hefty 8.75 lbs (almost 4 kilograms), you will need a heavy-duty tripod such as the Manfrotto 190 Go! tripod. The eye relief is decent at 0.6 inches (15.24 mm), but this may be a little close for glasses wearers.
Under a dark, clear night sky, you can just make out Jupiter's atmospheric belts using this pair. Sweeping through the Milky Way, particularly the dense star fields of Sagittarius, is a sight that you have to see to believe, the Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24) is especially impressive. The multi-coated optics are exquisite, with bright images and stunning contrast. Back in 2015, we chose them as our Editor's Choice for large astronomy binoculars.
- Read our full Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 review
The aspherical eyepiece lens built into the Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars works like a charm and eliminates any kind of image distortion. All the usual nighttime binocular subjects can be picked out easily, from Jupiter's disk to the crescent moon, with the optical system revealing crisp shadows at our natural satellite's terminator. Meanwhile, the rubber armor on the exterior allows for a firm, shock-resistant grip that makes the binoculars pleasing to hold.
With a relatively sizeable 6.5-degree field of view, these binoculars are perfect for those occasions when the moon passes through or close to a large star cluster, such as the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull). Pinpoint stars dot the backdrop of a night sky right to the edge of the frame, with excellent contrast.
The Aculon A211s slightly let themselves down with the rather close eye relief of just 0.5 inches (16.51mm), which might be problematic (but not impossible) for spectacle wearers.
In our hands-on Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars review, our verdict is that while we think they are on the bulky side if you plan on taking them traveling or backpacking, they are bright and sharp enough to use for entry-level astronomy. They are great value for money with good optical quality.
- Read our full Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars review
These are fantastic entry-level binoculars that punch well above their modest price tag. They are new to the market and hold their own against more expensive binos because, as we found during our Nikon Prostaff P3 8x42 binocular review, the optics are fantastic for the price. The eye relief is very long at 20.2mm and the eyecups are adjustable — this is excellent news and makes for a comfortable viewing experience for all, including spectacle wearers.
They are a lightweight design, made from strong fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin, and are comfortable to hold thanks to the non-slip rubber coating. They have a shockproof outer layer and shouldn't break if you accidentally drop or knock them. They are also waterproof down to 3.3 ft and Nitrogen filled, so fog-proof, which is impressive for their price tag.
The focus wheel is easily rotatable, with just the right amount of resistance, even when wearing thick gloves.
The downside to this pair of binoculars is that there is no tripod adaptor but with the 8x magnification and lightweight body (572g) you shouldn't need one. They are a great choice for handheld nature spotting or taking on your travels without tipping your luggage allowance over the limit. Still, we wouldn't necessarily recommend them for hours of exploring the night sky.
The Celestron Skymaster 8x56 binoculars won Space.com's Editor's Choice award for Best Medium Binoculars for Astronomyway back in 2014 thanks to their affordability and versatility, but we still think they are worth the cash today. You can get yourself a pair for around $250. They weigh just over 1 KG so aren't the lightest, but they certainly aren't the heaviest and it isn't impossible to hold them for long stints at a time. If you want to mount them on a tripod, you will need a tripod adaptor.
They are nitrogen-filled and sealed so you can be confident they can perform in all weathers without condensation, giving you more viewing time. The eye relief is a generous 18mm, comfortable for glasses wearers. The field of view of 5.8 degrees is satisfactory, although not outstanding. See what we thought of the binoculars in our hands-on Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review.
- Read our Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review
The Nikon Action EX 12x50 binoculars make a good comparison with regular 10x50 binoculars in that you get the same aperture at 50 mm but a greater magnification of 12x. The construction is excellent, with comfy rubber grips and a big focus knob. Eye relief is 0.51-in (13 mm).
Since you're magnifying the same amount of light collected by 10x50s, a higher magnification usually means images are less bright. However, this loss of brightness is not noticeable due to the multi-coated lenses and high-refractive-index prisms of the Action EX 12x50. What we found in our Nikon Action EX 12x50 binoculars review is that you get great, high-contrast images. Saturn offered a test of this binocular: its rings were not resolvable on their own, but the skywatcher will notice definite ansae — the extension of the rings at either side of the planet, giving Saturn an oblate shape.
When viewing stars, the images are sharp and pinpointed at the center of the field. Around the edge of the 5.5-degree field of view, there is some curvature. This makes it slightly distracting when spanning across the Milky Way or wanting to observe larger star clusters. But this doesn't take away from the fantastic package the skywatcher gets in the Action EX 12x50.
The Nikon Action EX 12x50, weighing in at 2.3 lbs. (1.04KG) is too heavy for long bouts of stargazing. The higher magnification will enhance any image wobble, so we advise using a tripod.
These are some of the finest handheld binoculars you'll find for stargazing and wildlife observation. The Extra-low dispersion (ED) objective lenses produce aberration-free sharp images.
For our Celestron Nature DX ED 12x50 review binoculars, we took them to several events, partly because they are lightweight and compact so can be carried easily in their padded case. We tested them at a motor race and were delighted with the bright and sharp views, even at dusk.
We were especially impressed when using these binoculars at night time, where there was no evidence of color fringing, and the stars within the Pleiades star cluster were sharp across the field of view, only dropping off ever so slightly at the edges.
The only aspect we didn't really rate was the eyecups which are pretty average quality and don't offer much eye relief, especially for spectacle wearers. Eyecups aside, the Nature DX ED 12x50 has excellent build quality and is protected from water and knocks with tough rubber armor.
They sit just below the $300 mark, which is reasonable and will keep stargazers and nature spotters entertained for years to come.
Binocular types explained
There are two main types of binocular: porro prism and roof prism. Porro vs roof prism binoculars, which is best? They both allow light to pass through lenses and internal prisms to allow observers to view the scene magnified, but porro binoculars generally have fewer pieces of glass for the light to pass through. This can provide brighter views which is better in low light situations such as using binoculars for astronomy. However, because of this, porro binoculars are often wider, larger and heavier than a similar spec roof binocular.
Roof binoculars are the better binocular for travel because their internal lenses and prisms are stacked in alignment, meaning they're smaller and more compact. However, they inherently have a shallow depth of field and cut down on light a little more than porro binoculars. As such, roof prism types are great binoculars for birding, plane spotting or used as binoculars for travel but aren't usually the best type of binoculars for stargazing.
There are very good quality binoculars of both types though, so we'd recommend you check out our binocular reviews if you have a specific need for your binoculars.
Binocular numbers, what do they mean?
Binoculars are always denoted with two numbers after the model name. 8x12, 8x32, 10x42, 20x80, 25x100 — there are many different options, but what do binocular numbers mean?
The first number refers to the amount of magnification. A larger number denotes greater magnification and a closer view of the observable subject, and vice versa. The second number after the X refers to the size of the objective lenses (opposite end from where you view) in millimeters. The larger this number, the larger the lenses will be and the more light can pass through. Greater light throughput means brighter views which are favored in lower light conditions, such as astronomy.
Which binoculars are best for astronomy?
For wide-field astronomy with binoculars 12X magnification is suitable but higher magnifications such as 20X or 25X are more suitable for deep sky observations. Though, higher magnifications make it difficult to handhold binoculars so users will need to mount them on a tripod with a binocular adapter.
It's also important to remember that higher magnifications don't always mean better views. As brightness drops off with higher magnification, you should consider the size of the objective lenses (the ones you point at the sky).
The night sky is dark and starlight is distant and dim. As such, binoculars with larger objective lenses capture more light and so make it easier to see stars, galaxies and nebulas. Serious about binocular astronomy? Look for an objective lens size of 60mm minimum. The Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 is ideal for astronomy due to its 25X magnification and 100mm objective lenses.
What's the difference between BaK-4, BK-7 and K9 binocular glass?
There are three different types of glass used in binocular prisms. Each performs perfectly well in binoculars but they each have different levels of refraction and, therefore, different light transmission. Prisms made from BK-7 (and K9) glass have a higher refractive index so give poorer views than a similarly constructed prism design made from BaK-4.
As a result, BK-7 and K9 binoculars are generally less expensive so are used for beginner binoculars and in budget models. Whereas, binoculars using superior BaK-4 glass tend to be more expensive and reside in higher-end models.
Multi-coated vs fully-coated optics
Binocular manufacturers (at least, the reputable ones) don't just put untreated glass in lenses and binocular prisms without treatment. Coatings can be applied to the surfaces of glass to help light transmission, reduce flare, glare and even help alleviate chromatic aberration (color fringing).
There are many different types of optical coatings and each are labeled with proprietary terms depending on the manufacturer who produces them. On the whole though, you're likely to encounter both multi-coated optics and fully-coated optics. What's the difference between multi-coated and fully-coated binoculars?
Fully-coated binoculars, as reported by Celestron refer to optics that have a coating layer on all glass surfaces and lenses in the binocular. Multi-coated binoculars provide an additional coating (or several coatings) on a minimum of one integral optical element in the binocular. Therefore, we would recommend multi-coated binoculars as a preference, should budget allow.
How we test the best binoculars
To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best binoculars to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every binocular through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each binocular is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.
Each pair of binoculars is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each binocular and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.
For example, comparing a pair of 25x100 mammoth binoculars to a compact pair of 8x25s wouldn’t be appropriate though each binocular might be the best pick in their own class.
We look at how easy they are to operate, whether eye relief can be adjusted for spectacles wearers, if a binocular comes with appropriate accessories or carry bags and suggest if a particular set of binos would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.
With complete editorial independence Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on binoculars, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.