Best binoculars 2024: Top picks for stargazing, wildlife, birding and more

Expert holds one of the best binoculars while observing
The best binoculars are a powerful tool for viewing anything from wildlife to the night sky or sports events. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

The best binoculars are the perfect companion for anyone who wants to get a closer look at wildlife, sporting events or concerts, and they can even be used for a spot of stargazing. They tend to be cheaper and more portable than telescopes, providing you with a convenient way of observing the sky during your nighttime wanders. 

Ideally, binoculars should be comfortable to hold, easy to carry around with you and weatherproof for when you unexpectedly get caught outside in the elements. If you're hoping to use them for stargazing, you'll also want to look for a pair with large objective lenses to soak in as much light as possible from distant stars. Our reviewers have scoured the market to bring you a list of the very best binoculars for different purposes and budgets, so check out our top picks below.  

If you're on the hunt for a highly portable pair, take a look at our guide to the best compact binoculars for small and lightweight models, and if your little ones want to get involved, we also have a guide to the best binoculars for kids. Those looking to take their stargazing to the next level may also want to check out our guides to the best telescopes and best beginner telescopes

With Amazon Prime Day taking place this week (July 16-17), you can hope to grab a fantastic deal on your next pair of binoculars. Here at Space.com, we'll be keeping you up to date with all the best deals on photography and stargazing equipment, so be sure to check back on the day once the deals go live. Last year, we spotted the Celestron SkyMaster 20x80 binoculars for only $90.86 on Amazon, saving you an impressive 55%, and we're expecting similar offerings this time around. 

Gemma Lavender Headshot
Dr Gemma Lavender

A contributing expert to Space.com, Live Science, All About Space and more, Gemma is the author of several books including 'Quantum Physics in Minutes'. She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master's in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics and became fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Gemma is also the Communications and Outreach Office at the European Space Agency.

The quick list


Best binoculars we recommend in 2024

Why you can trust Space.com Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test and review products.

Best overall

Best binoculars overall: The finest stargazing binoculars money can buy with in-built stabilization

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.5-degrees
Eye relief: 14.5mm (0.57-inch)
Weight: 39.2 oz / 1.1kg

Reasons to buy

+
Optical Image Stabilizer 
+
Rugged build quality 
+
Lots of eye relief 

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky size 
-
Lens caps are loose 
-
AAA batteries required 
Buy it if

✅ You want the best of the best: Other than price and size, we really couldn't find major fault with these binoculars — we gave them 5 stars in our review.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a casual user: These are an expensive pair of powerful binos, so if you're a casual sky-watcher or wildlife spotting, they'll be overkill.

❌ You want a lightweight binocular: These are undeniably heavy and bulky, so if weight is important to you, we'd suggest looking elsewhere.

The bottom line

🔎 Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars: They're not perfect, but they’re as close as you’ll get for hand-held astronomy. They're an outstanding choice for super-steady stargazing thanks to their image stabilization, waterproof design and large objective lenses. ★★★★★

For hand-held astronomy, the Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars are among the best you can get. Their standout feature is Canon's Optical Image Stabilization (IS). This clever technology uses gyroscope motion sensors to detect arm movements and a vari-angle prism to correct them by up to 0.8 degrees. With the push of a button, you can eliminate the movements caused by your hands shaking and get a steady image. This comes in particularly handy during long viewing sessions when your arms might get tired.

The Canon 10x42L IS WP use premium L-series glass with Canon's multi-layered anti-reflective lens coating (known as 'Super Spectra') to increase light transmission and reduce lens flare. This ensures a bright and clear view with accurate color reproduction. During our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review, we were really impressed with the incredibly sharp image which featured no chromatic aberration, which is just what you need for observing stars.

The downside of these high-tech binoculars is that the IS system is quite power-hungry. It will go through a few AAA batteries during a long sky-watching session, so it's worth making sure you take some spare ones with you. We also weren't wholly satisfied with the accessories provided with these binoculars, especially considering the price point. We struggled to get the one-piece lens caps to stay in place, and the carry case was a bit basic and flimsy, so you might want to upgrade it. But overall, these are still the best stargazing binoculars on our list thanks to the astronomy-centric glass and clever image stabilization feature.

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AttributesNotes
DesignRugged build quality, but bulky.
PerformanceProduce bright and colorful images.
FunctionalityOptical image stabilization.

Best optical performance

Best optical performance: Some of the best optics on the market in an easily transportable roof prism design

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.9-degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.67-inch)
Weight: 1.5 oz (680g)

Reasons to buy

+
Highly portable
+
Sharp views across the whole field of view

Reasons to avoid

-
No image stabilization
-
Negligible color fringing
Buy it if

✅ You want some of the best on the market: If you're prepared to pay for them, these binoculars have a premium finish and deliver stunning optical performance. They'll last you for years to come.

Don't buy it if:

You specifically want image stabilization: This may be the only thing missing from this pair of binos, so if that's important to you, there previous option in this guide might be better for you.

The bottom line

🔎 Nikon Monarch HG 10x42: A premium package with a premium price, these binoculars are not ideal for beginner users unless you have deep pockets or a real passion for wildlife- or sky-watching that you plan on pursuing for years to come. ★★★★½

If your primary concern is optical quality, then the Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 binoculars may be the pair for you. The optics on these binoculars are absolutely stunning thanks to their specialist Field Flattener Lens System, which ensures sharpness across the whole field of view, and their Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass, which all but eliminates chromatic aberration. During our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review we tested these binoculars in a range of challenging conditions and were pleased with the results every single time. 

Whilst they're undeniably pricey binoculars, we feel you're getting real quality for your money with this pair. Everything about them feels premium. The magnesium alloy body is slim and lightweight enough to slip into a coat pocket, but they feel balanced in the hand and come coated in a grippy rubberized armor. They're also entirely waterproof, so you don't need to worry about getting caught out in bad weather, and they're nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging as well. 

Even the accessories feel high-quality. These binoculars come with a cushioned neck strap, objective lens caps and a premium carry case that has a secure safety catch to prevent them from falling out during transit (no relying on velcro here). We also enjoyed other unexpected details like the locking mechanism on the diopter adjustment ring which means it can't get accidentally knocked out of place. The only thing they lack is image stabilization technology. 

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AttributesNotes
DesignPremium finish all over.
PerformanceRazor sharp views from edge to edge.
FunctionalityOnly way to improve would be inclusion of image stabilization.

Best for affordable stargazing

Best for affordable stargazing: A wide aperture and 12x magnification make these excellent for observing the cosmos

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 5.5 degrees
Eye relief: 16mm (0.63-inch)
Weight: 36.2 oz / 1028g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Close focusing

Reasons to avoid

-
A little heavy for prolonged use
-
Image could be a touch sharper
Buy it if

✅ You want to take them anywhere in any weather: They were created with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, and they're waterproof and fogproof so you can use them anywhere.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to use them for prolonged periods: They may become quite heavy if you plan on using them for long periods.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Nature DX 12x56: They offer bright and clear views, with a wide aperture for gathering light and excellent magnification for stargazing and wildlife spotting. ★★★★½

The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 binoculars are a great deal for under $250, perfect for casual wildlife spotting, bird watching or stargazing. The build quality is fantastic: They have a full rubber housing and they're completely waterproof, fogproof and nitrogen-purged. The Nature DX 12x56 binoculars include a tripod mount that could be useful for longer viewing sessions and a rain guard that protects the lenses from getting watermarked.

The focus knobs turn smoothly and easily. During our Celestron Nature DX 12x56 review, we appreciated that the binoculars can focus on objects less than 10 feet away, making them great for spotting wildlife in your backyard. If you wear glasses, you'll appreciate the 16mm eye relief provided by the twist-up eyecups.

The optics on these binoculars are comparable to some more expensive models as they feature phase-coated BaK-4 prisms with multi-coated optics. They may not have the sharpness to satisfy professionals, but for casual users looking for an affordable pair to invest in, the Celestron Nature DX 12x56 are some of the best you can buy.

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AttributesNotes
DesignFogproof and waterproof.
PerformanceBright images even when observing in low light.
FunctionalityA little heavy for prolonged use.

Best binoculars under $300

Best binoculars under $300: Fogproof and waterproof for use in all weathers

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 8.1 degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.7-inch)
Weight: 23.1 oz / 654g

Reasons to buy

+
No fogging 
+
Bright images 
+
Wide field of view

Reasons to avoid

-
Carry case can’t house harness strap
-
Lack magnification for serious astro
Buy it if

✅ You want to travel with them: We found these binos were lightweight enough to travel with them easily, although perhaps not the best for prolonged periods of handheld use.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're serious about astro: These binos lack the magnification needed for dedicated astro use, particularly for observing deep sky objects.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars: Traveling stargazers will love them as they work well after dark and strike a balance between quality, affordability and portability. The TrailSeeker 8x42’s minimalist design makes them a more attractive option than large and heavy deep-sky astronomy-centric binoculars ★★★★½

We think the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars make a great pair for amateur astronomy, whilst also having the flexibility to be used for a range of other pursuits. Their price point sits just above the more affordable mass-market binoculars, and this means that you get high-quality BaK-4 glass and multi-coated optics, as well as waterproofing and nitrogen purging to make these binoculars safe to use in any weather conditions. 

In our Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars review we were very pleased with the build quality on these binoculars. They're constructed from a lightweight magnesium frame with rubber coating for grip and protection. They also come with a useful range of accessories, including a thick and comfortable neck strap, a padded carry case and an innovative harness strap that spreads the weight of the binoculars over your shoulders for longer viewing sessions.  

The 8x magnification and 42mm lens diameter means that they're at the lowest useful end for stargazing purposes, but the wide viewing angle they offer is ideal for spotting star clusters and scanning the Milky Way. Unlike more expensive pairs, they don't have Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass, so we did notice a little bit of color fringing when viewing bright objects like the moon. Celestron do offer a model with ED glass, but they're substantially more expensive. 

Glasses-wearers will also find this pair easy to use thanks to their generous 17mm eye relief, which can be set in three different positions depending on your preference.  

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AttributesNotes
DesignFogproof and waterproof.
PerformanceGood quality optics, slight color fringing.
FunctionalityWide field of view.

Best budget binoculars

Best budget binoculars: Space and weight saving binoculars to take on your travels

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 6.8 degrees
Eye relief: 12mm (0.47-inch)
Weight: 27 oz / 765g

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and lightweight
+
Waterproof and fog-resistant 
+
Shock resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
Lenses need collimating 
-
Greater magnification needed for astro
Buy it if

✅ You're a beginner: If you've used binoculars before, then these are unlikely to impress you, but they're perfectly suited to beginners.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You specialize in astro: While they do give decent views of the night sky, anyone focusing solely on astronomy would likely want to go for a more powerful pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Binocular: A great value pair of binoculars, well suited for entry-level and all-round use. They're also great for occasional night sky use and are easy to set up, use and adjust. If you're an astronomer on a budget, these are a decent choice, although we do question their longevity. ★★★★½

These are affordable skywatching binoculars that would be ideal for anyone just starting out who wants to get the most for their money. 

In our Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binocular review, we found the moon looks amazing through these binoculars, easily fitting into the view with just a hint of false color. In July 2020, the UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars were very effective in spotting the naked-eye comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). We managed to spot three stars within the Trapezium Cluster near the center of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42), but you'd need a pair with higher magnification if you want to see the fourth bright star in this star-forming area.

We think these binoculars are a great choice for beginners on a budget who are just starting on their stargazing journey. They're lightweight and perfect for trekking, but we did find them a bit cheap in some ways we discuss in our review. For a start, you need to adjust the alignment of the lenses (collimation). You'll also need to be aware of the fact they can also fog up in certain conditions.

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AttributesNotes
DesignBasic build design and quality.
PerformanceSurprisingly little chromatic aberration.
FunctionalityNeeds greater magnification for astro.

Best for moon views