While telescopes are often thought of as the astronomer's best friend, a pair of the best binoculars are also a must-have because of the views they offer. For many, they're also a cost-effective alternative to telescopes, and you'll be able to scope out all of the best binoculars available on the market today in this handy guide.
The more popular models of binoculars for stargazing offer 8x, 10x and 12x magnifications, but larger models can go up to 20x and 25x. Higher magnifications don't always mean better views, however, as brightness drops off with magnification, and you should consider the size of the objective lens - the one that you point at the sky - as larger objectives allow the binoculars to collect more photons than the naked eye alone, delivering the bright, sharp views you want from your nights stood under the stars.
Size and weight can also increase quickly as both magnification and objective lens size increase. For optical quality, we recommend looking at models that offer multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms. Those features will mean quality optics, and combined with a good-sized objective lens will mean you will have a clear sight of whatever it is you're looking for (light pollution and weather conditions permitting, of course).
We've searched the internet to find all the best binoculars for 2022 that are available right now and put them in this detailed guide so you know what to look for. We've also included links to the models so if you're looking for some new stargazing equipment, you know where to find it.
Getting the best binoculars is not just a case of buying the biggest ones, especially if you're looking for something that's easy to pack up for travelling, or to suit a younger stargazer. You should check out our best compact binoculars and best binoculars for kids guides for that sort of thing, or if you've got your heart set on a specific brand, then we also have useful guides for brands, including Vortex deals, Bushnell deals and Leica deals to help you out.
There's something for every level of astronomer and every budget in this guide so, without further ado, here are the best binoculars on the market right now.
The best stargazing binoculars
The very finest binoculars available for viewing the night sky. Not only are they optically excellent, but the gyro-stabilisation Canon has installed, taken from its most expensive camera lenses, means all the additional wobble introduced by being handheld goes away. It's almost like they're being steadied by an invisible tripod, just don't try to walk away and expect them to float in mid-air.
The glass is the same as in Canon camera lenses too, 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, stable views through these excellent binos.
There are some downsides, of course. This is a heavy pair of binoculars, and would be hard to hold steady for long periods were it not for the electronic stabilisation. They're also eye-wateringly expensive. While we've picked out the 10x42 pair as being ideal for astronomy, there are others in the range, including 18x50 IS AW and 15x50 IS AW models.
Best binoculars under $300
Tthe TrailSeeker 8x42 from Celestron offers a slightly different view from the norm because of the amount of light their 42mm apertures collect. Their slightly lower magnification also offers you a wider field of view.
This means Earth's moon will appear slightly smaller when compared with 10x50 binoculars, but the optical system mixed with the lens multi-coatings offers a sharper, brighter view compared to other binoculars we've tested . Thanks to nitrogen purging and a waterproof design, the optics don't fog up either, perfect if you're using them in a variety of ambient temperatures and moving between the warmer indoors and frostier outdoors.
Another advantage of the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 is the lack of false color — also known as chromatic aberration — which often takes the form of a purple or blue hue around brighter targets. Very little could be seen in the field of view, particularly along the limb of the moon.
The TrailSeeker 8x42 binocular is also quite light at 2 lbs. (1.0 kilograms). 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, a tripod is definitely a recommended accessory.
The Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 is hard to come by in the U.S, so prices may be higher than normal. Try these great alternatives instead:
Best budget binoculars
If you wear glasses, the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 really are some of the best binoculars out there. Issues faced by the bespectacled typically include not being able to move the eye as close to the eyepieces as desired, or having to remove the glasses to get a better view, but that's not the case with these.
An excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78 mm) — eye relief being the distance from the eyepiece at which the user can still see the entire field of view — means there should be no problem using binoculars and glasses together. The binoculars also feature twistable eyecups that can retract or extend, making the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 more comfortable for all users.
The optics are excellent and provide great contrast, showing all the usual suspects 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 with ease and viewed with high 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 1.7 lbs. (0.77 kg) these binoculars can be held comfortably for long periods of observing time.
- Read our full Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 review
Best binoculars for sturdiness
If you're looking for a reliable, and well-built pair of binoculars for wildlife viewing and the occasional bit of stargazing, you'll be hard-pressed to find better than the Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD.
The sights are crisp and clear, with stars appearing as perfect pinpoints of light. However, we did detect a degree of false color when observing brighter targets, though this optical defect isn't unusual at this price point.
It's the build quality that really makes these binoculars stand out. 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 also adjustable thanks to twistable eyecups.
At 1.89 lbs. (0.86 kilograms), astronomers who like to dabble in nature-watching and globetrotting will be grateful for the manageable weigh, too.
Best for kids
The 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses make the Celestron Cometron 7x50 perfect for kids. There's a common canard that kids need small binoculars, but their eyesight is actually better at seeing in the dark than adults', so why penalise them with a pair that can't let in enough light?
What kids need is something lightweight, as they may not be as good at holding binoculars still. Alternatively, consider tripod-mounting a pair.
These binoculars partner a 7x magnification with a large 50mm objective lens, meaning it doesn't need much bulk but still allows a lot of light in, making this a great compact model. Although these are compact and lightweight they aren't waterproof but that is to be expected in this price range.
Best high magnification binoculars
As if a mad scientist had blended a pair of telescopes together 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.
They're not for everyone, and will need support: at 15.3 inches (388.62 mm) in length and weighing in at 8.75 lbs. (4 kilograms), you will need a heavy-duty tripod for prolonged use. The eye relief is decent at 0.6 inches (15.24 mm), though.
Under a dark, clear night sky, you can just about perceive Jupiter’s atmospheric belts using these. Sweeping through the Milky Way, particularly the dense star fields of Sagittarius, is a sight that has to be seen to be believed: gaggles of stars dominate view, especially in the Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24). The multi-coated optics are exquisite, with bright images and stunning contrast.
The Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 binoculars are a proven worthy investment. Their tough, rugged and reliable build means users are able to enjoy years of stargazingl.
- Read our Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 review
Best constructed binoculars
Nikon is one of the most recognized and trusted optics brands out there, and the quality shines through in the 10x50 Aculon A211 binocular.
All the usual binocular targets can picked out with ease using these, from Jupiter’s disk to the crescent moon, with the optical system revealing crisp shadows at our natural satellite's terminator. The aspherical eyepiece lens built into the Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars works like a charm, eliminating any kind of image distortion. Meanwhile, on the outside, the rubber armor allows for a firm, shock-resistant grip that makes the binoculars a pleasure to hold.
With a fairly large 6.5-degree field of view, these 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 litter the backdrop of a dark night sky right to the edge of the frame, with excellent contrast.
Where the Aculon A211s slightly let themselves down is with the rather close eye relief of just 0.5 inches (16.51mm), which will be problematic for spectacle wearers.
Best specialized binoculars for stargazing
Another reliable name in the world of optics, particularly telescopes and eyepieces, is Meade Instruments. The 15x70 Astro Binoculars will satisfy even the most seasoned astronomer with top quality views of the lunar surface, planets and the brightest deep-sky objects.
The binocular is reasonably priced for its magnification, with only a slight degree of false-color as we slewed from one bright target to the next. What's more, there's no fogging on the optics during temperature changes.
Through the 15x70 Astro Binocular, we were able to spot the oblate shape of Saturn’s rings, but weren't able to resolve them any more clearly. Meanwhile, Jupiter appeared as a bright disc, but the magnification isn’t quite powerful enough to see the gas giant's atmospheric bands or Great Red Spot.
This is a pair of binoculars that will require some muscle to use, as they weigh 3.1 lbs (1.4 kilograms). For that reason we'd recommend using them with a tripod and adapter.
Best lightweight binoculars
Best large aperture binoculars
Best for stereo image
Are you ready for a completely different kind of binocular experience? Put a pair of the Vixen SG 2.1x42 to your eyes and you’re faced with the same night sky you can see 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 is definitely not for you. However, if sussing-out constellations, and generally getting a 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. Drawbacks include blur round the edges of the field of view – a hangover of their simple Galilean design – and some pop-off lens caps that are easy to lose.
Best low budget binoculars
Here's a set of entry-level skywatching binoculars that is set to suit anyone with a tight budget or who is a beginner wanting good value for money. However, while there are some true wins to this model, there are a few reasons why they're as cheap as they are.
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 — greater magnification would be needed to tease out the fourth bright star in this star-forming region.
The moon is a stunning sight, fitting in the field of view comfortably and with 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).
Where the view was let down is by the collimation of the lenses being off, but this can be adjusted via small screws — albeit this shouldn’t have to be done for a new binocular straight out of the box. The lenses also have a habit of fogging over, which can be irritating, but wasn't a major dealbreaker: the Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binocular is still recommended for its lightweight design and low cost.
- Read our full Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars review
Best for reliability
The Nikon Action EX 12x50 binocular makes for 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 and sports comfy rubber grips and a big focus knob that features a good range. Eye relief is also very good at 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, thanks to the multi-coated lenses and high-refractive-index prisms of the Action EX 12x50, this loss of brightness is not really noticeable. What you get are 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 pinpoint at the center of the field. Around the edge of the 5.5-degree field of view though, 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 is a heavy binocular though, weighing in at 2.3 lbs. (1.04 kilograms), and the higher magnification will enhance any shakiness, so skywatchers are strongly recommended to procure a tripod.
Best binoculars for galaxies
This relatively unusual combination of 12x magnification and 56 mm aperture objective lenses combines power with light-gathering ability, while still being small and light enough to be handheld comfortably with steady hands.
It’s noticeable how better they show galaxies than smaller models — the Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) appears disk-shaped with hints of structure, while the neighboring Bode's Galaxy (Messier 81) and Cigar Galaxy (Messier 82) in Ursa Major (the Great Bear) look outstanding in the same 5.5-degree field of view. Turned towards the moon, the craters exude superb clarity and contrast.
There is a slight amount of distortion through the optical system that begins about three-quarters of the way from the center of the field, with some stars displaying a degree of softness. These stars took the appearance of blobs rather than points of light. The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 is waterproof and also keeps fogging at bay.
In terms of build, the binocular is satisfactory. The handholds, made of rubber, are comfortable, the 0.6-in eye relief is generous and at 2.27 lbs. (1.03 kilograms) they weigh fractionally less than the Nikon Action EX 12x50, but with more aperture to enjoy.
Best for detailed magnification
The SkyMaster line of binoculars isn't intended to be top of the range but provides top-quality views for an affordable price. This is certainly the case for the 15x70 'giant' binoculars. It's a sturdy binocular with a bit of bulk to it 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) the Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 binocular certainly has a lot of heft, but using them handheld isn't impossible. Though strength and stability in the arms is desired, it's more comfortable to mount 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 makes details pop out that are vaguer, or fuzzy when observed through smaller binoculars. There is some softness and blurring towards the edge of the field, which is disappointing but not unexpected for this price point, but if you are a spectacle-wearer then you’ll be delighted to read that the SkyMaster 15x70 has an impressive 0.7 inches (18 mm) of eye relief.