While telescopes are often considered the astronomer's best friend, a pair of the best binoculars for stargazing will open up a whole new world to skywatchers. For many, they're also a cost-effective alternative. You'll be able to scope out the best astronomy binoculars available for stargazing in this handy guide.
The more popular models of binoculars for stargazing offer 8x, 10x and 12x magnifications, but larger astronomy binoculars can go as high as 20x and 25x. It's 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). Larger objective lenses allow the binoculars to collect more photons than the naked eye can, delivering the bright, sharp views you want from your nights standing out under the stars.
For the best optical quality on a pair of binoculars for astronomy, we recommend multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms as a minimum. Size and weight can increase quickly as magnification and objective lens size change. These features mean quality optics combined with a good-sized objective lens. You'll get the clearest vision of whatever you're looking for, environmental and atmospheric conditions permitting.
We've scoured the stores to find everything on offer right now to summarize the best binoculars in 2022 so you can get started stargazing with binoculars. We've put them in this detailed guide to aid you in your search. Also included are links to purchasing the listed models at the very best prices.
Buying binoculars is not just a case of buying the biggest, highest magnification pair, especially if you're looking for something easy to pack up for traveling or to suit a younger stargazer with small hands. You should check out our best compact binoculars and best binoculars for kids guides for those requirements. If you've got your heart set on a specific brand, 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 to suit every budget in this guide, so, without further ado, here are the best binoculars we've found on the market.
The best stargazing binoculars
These are simply the finest binoculars for skywatching, with 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 18x50 IS AW (opens in new tab) and 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 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 full Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review
Best binoculars under $300
When we reviewed the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars, we thought they struck a great balance between quality, affordability and portability.
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.
They are great if you'll be moving 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.
Another advantage of the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 is the lack of false color — also known as chromatic aberration — which often 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, we advise using a tripod.
- Read our full Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars review
Best budget binoculars
If you're a glasses wearer, the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 are some of the best binoculars, 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 eyesight). That's not the case with this pair and 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.
During testing of the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 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 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 handheld comfortably for long periods of observing time, we confirmed this during our hands-on review.
- Read our full Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 review
Best binoculars for sturdiness
You'll be hard-pressed to find better than the reliable and robust Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD for wildlife viewing and occasional stargazing, thanks to the wide field of view.
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 manages to produce 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.
During our Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD binocular review we realized that despite being sold with a chest harness, the padded case forms part of the harness so you can't use one without the other which makes it a little redundant.
- Read our full Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD binocular review
Best for kids
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 which means 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.
What kids do need is something lightweight and comfortable to hold as they may not be as good at holding binoculars steady and may tire quicker. Alternatively, consider tripod-mounting a pair.
We weren't too excited about reviewing this pair of binoculars as they don't look great on paper, but to our surprise, we ended up loving them. They are an inexpensive way to enter the world of sky watching and if it doesn't work out, very little is lost.
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. See our hands-on review of the Celestron Cometron 7x50.
- Read our full Celestron Cometron 7x50 review
Best high magnification binoculars
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 undoubtedly 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. 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
Best constructed binoculars
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 for spectacle wearers.
In our hands-on Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars review, our verdict is that while we think they are a bit bulky for taking 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
Best lightweight binoculars
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. 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 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.
Best large aperture binoculars
The Celestron Skymaster 8x56 binoculars won Space.com's Editor's Choice award for Best Medium Binoculars for Astronomy back in 2014 thanks to their affordability and versatility, but we still think they're a top performer today. You can get yourself a pair for around $250. They weigh just over 1 KG so aren't the lightest pair you can pick up, but they certainly aren't the heaviest and it isn't impossible to hold them for long stints at a time.
They are nitrogen-filled and sealed so you can be confident they can perform in all weathers without condensation. The eye relief is a generous 18mm and comfortable and the field of view of 5.8 degrees is satisfactory, although not outstanding. See what we thought of the binoculars in our Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review.
- Read our full Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review
Best for stereo image
If you're ready for a completely different kind of binocular experience, put a pair of the Vixen SG 2.1x42 to your eyes and you're confronted 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 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.
Our verdict when we reviewed the Vixen SG 2.1x42 is 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 full Vixen SG 2.1x42 review
Best low budget binoculars
These are entry-level skywatching binoculars that would suit anyone with a tight budget or who are 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.
- Read our full Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars review
Best for reliability
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 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 quite a heavy binocular, weighing in at 2.3 lbs. (1.04KG). The higher magnification will enhance any image wobble, so we advise using a tripod.
- Read our full Nikon Action EX 12x50 binoculars review
Best binoculars for galaxies
These are some of the finest handheld binoculars you'll find for stargazing and wildlife observation. The Extra-low dispersion (ED) objective lenses produce sharp images that are aberration-free.
To review the Celestron Nature DX ED 12x50 binoculars, we took them to several events, partly because they are lightweight and compact so can be carried with ease 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. Eyecups aside, the Nature DX ED 12x50 have excellent build quality and are protected from water and knocks with tough rubber armor.
Although they are on the expensive side, these binoculars will keep stargazers and nature spotters entertained for many years.
- Read our full Celestron Nature DX ED 12x50 binoculars review
Best for detailed magnification
Celestron didn't produce the SkyMaster line of binoculars to be top-of-the-range products, but they still provide excellent views for an affordable price. This is the case for the 15x70 'giant' binoculars. It's 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 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 smaller pairs pop out. There is some softness and blurring towards the edge of the field, which is disappointing 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.
- Read our full Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 binocular review
How we test the best binoculars
In order 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 telescope is reviewed based on a multitude of 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.
- Read more: How to clean binoculars
- Read more: How do binoculars work?
- Read more: Stargazing with Binoculars: Beginner Tips
We look at how easy they are to operate, whether eye relief can be adjusted for spectacles wearer, if a binocular comes with appropriate accessories or carry bags and also make suggestions 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.