We think the best binoculars should provide observers with bright, sharp views, be appropriately priced for your budget and be reliable to use in all weathers and temperatures. It doesn't matter if their purpose is for stargazing or tracking wildlife, or even spotting planes and other automotive vehicles at sports events, the best binos should give excellent viewing no matter the subject.
Binoculars dedicated to astronomy must have certain features. Stargazing binoculars should have a large magnification to bring the distant cosmos close enough for observing and the objective lenses need to be as big as possible to let that dim, distant starlight reach your eyes uninterrupted.
Some binoculars are so good for astronomy they can be a budget-friendly alternative to the Best telescopes and still provide excellent night sky views. Below, we've tested, rated and reviewed every pair we could get our hands on and picked only the best of the best. There's something to suit every budget and all astronomy skill levels.
But if you need to work to a smaller budget check out our Binoculars deals page where we highlight the best binocular deals right now. Or for something smaller check out the Best compact binoculars and Best binoculars for kids guides. 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.
Best binoculars deal March 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 in 2023
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Best binoculars 2023: Ranked
These are simply the best binoculars for skywatching, however, they have a price tag to match. 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 are also staggeringly 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
In our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review, we loved these so much that we found them hard to fault. The optics are top-quality and we found almost zero chromatic aberration. This is thanks to Nikon's multilayer coatings on all glass elements and the included 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 and fogproof thanks to the secure sealing and nitrogen-purging in the binos. That means you can move freely inside and out without missing a beat (or an observation).
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 the 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).
Although there are some negative points to these binoculars like the requirement for collimation when we reviewed them and them being prone to fogging, we think that for their price and intended entry-level use they are a great option if you're looking to shed weight when backpacking and 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 wear eyeglasses, 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 Astronomy way 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 1kg 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 and fogging, giving you more viewing time. The eye relief is a generous 18mm, comfortable for eyeglasses wearers. The field of view of 5.8 degrees is satisfactory, although not outstanding.
During our hands-on Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review we discovered a binocular that's not only suitable for astronomy but performs well across a wide range of observation environments such as looking for birds, other wildlife and spotting athletes at the sports game.
- 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.
Gemma is a contributing writer to Space.com, Live Science, science and space magazines How It Works and All About Space, history magazines All About History and History of War as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) kids education brand Future Genius. She is the author of several books including "Quantum Physics in Minutes", "Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual to the Large Hadron Collider" and "Haynes Owners’ Workshop Manual to the Milky Way". She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master’s in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Previously, she worked for Nature's journal, Scientific Reports, and created scientific industry reports for the Institute of Physics and the British Antarctic Survey.
Which binoculars are best?
You may ask yourself which types of binoculars are best and while it's a tricky question to answer, binoculars come in two kinds: Porro-prism and Roof-prism. To look at, the Porro-prism designs have the most common look of any binocular. They feature a gradual and stepped-up appearance, forming part of the housing which includes two exit pupils, eyecups, central focuser, objective lenses and optical system. You’ll find that these designs are best for observing due to their affordability.
Meanwhile, the Roof-prism binocular boasts a “H”-shaped appearance that lends well to a smaller, and lighter-weight design. These instruments have complicated optical designs, which means that observers need to spend a substantial amount of money to own a reliable binocular of this type. Unlike the Porro, a good Roof-prism binocular isn’t ideal for those on a budget, or casual observers.
What do binocular numbers mean?
Examine any binoculars and you’ll discover that one of several combinations of numbers separated by a 'x' will be visible — for example, 7x40, 10x50, 8x40 and so on. These numbers, which are often located close to the eyepieces, tell you the magnification and aperture of the optical system. For example a 10x50 binocular has a magnification, or 'power' of 10x with front lenses with a diameter of 50mm. It’s these numbers that reveal which objects you can observe by telling you how much you can magnify them by and how much light your binoculars can collect.
The larger the aperture, the easier it will be to see fainter night sky targets such as galaxies and nebulae. As a rule of thumb, and under decent observing conditions, 7x35 binoculars will reveal a hundred thousand stars and 10x50s will show the finer details of the Moon, planets, Andromeda Galaxy (Messier 31) and the Orion Nebula. Larger, heavier binoculars such as 20x80s and 20x100s, will open up a wealth of objects such as the fainter spiral galaxies Messier 65 and NGC 3628 and a selection of globular clusters and star-forming regions.
Some models of binocular will have their field of view printed on the barrels or somewhere close to the magnification and aperture. Given in degrees, this number tells you how wide you can see when peering through the eyepieces. The larger the number, the wider the scene. Ten degrees will allow the Big Dipper’s bowl to fit comfortably in your field of view.
Which is best BaK-4, BK-7 or K9 binoculars?
As you shop around for your next piece of observing kit, you’ll come across the terms BaK-4, BK-7 and K9. These refer to the formulations of glass found in the prisms of spotting scopes, binoculars and monoculars.
BK-7 and K9 glass can be found in cheaper products, and refer to borosilicate formulations. While used across a wide range of brands, this glass is said to lead to problematic exit pupils — in particular the field of view isn’t perfectly round, which can leave the observer with poor clarity around the edges of their chosen target. We must stress that this isn’t true for all pieces of kit, so we advise giving your chosen binoculars a test before parting with your cash.
While a touch more expensive than BK-7 and K9 prisms, the BaK-4 — or barium crown glass — is preferable for binoculars. With this type of prism you’ll achieve a higher quality of image, particularly when combined with a well-made optical system.
Multi-coated vs fully-coated binoculars
Without coatings on the optics of binoculars, images would be blurry and lack contrast since light transmission would be poor, glare would become prevalent and light would be lost through internal reflections. A poor, disappointing view would be had by the observer.
It’s easy to find out if your binocular’s lenses feature a coating: you’ll see an even dark appearance when you peer through the barrels, while the glass will feature a bluish or greenish tint thanks to a layer of magnesium fluoride. If you see a brownish tint, then your optics are coated with calcium fluoride. Both offer the same outcome — they halt the reflection of some wavelengths, allowing more light to enter your eyes through the exit pupils.
Binoculars largely come in two varieties when it comes to coatings: they’re either fully coated or multi-coated. In both versions, all lenses, glass surfaces and prisms feature at least one layer of magnesium fluoride or calcium fluoride. Binoculars with multi-coated optics are the most superior kind you’ll be able to find on the market, with at least one of the surfaces featuring several layers of anti-reflective compounds.
Which binoculars are best for astronomy?
Comparing binoculars, you’ll discover that those used for travelling and sightseeing will have smaller apertures, are lighter and less expensive than those used for astronomy. This is because for a decent observing experience in the dark, the best binoculars for stargazing must have an optical system that is able to collect as much light as possible to pick out those faint targets. In other words the larger the aperture, the better. We advise purchasing at least 10x50 binoculars for comfortable views of a selection of targets; they’re light enough to hold for long periods of time, while offering good views of a selection of night-sky targets. The larger the binocular, the more you’ll be able to see, but be warned: they’ll also be heavier and will require a tripod for steady sights of the heavens.
It isn’t just the aperture that you need to be mindful of. The quality of the optical system is an essential feature to consider for high-definition, excellent contrast and crystal clear views. You’ll discover two major kinds of binoculars at reputable stockists: the porro-prism and roof-prism. Choose the Porro-prism design for a reliable and affordable piece of kit, making sure that the lenses feature a coating and the glass is of a decent quality (we can vouch for multi-coated optics and BaK-4 prisms). If you wear spectacles, we advise choosing binoculars that offer eye relief of at least 14 to 15mm.
Whichever model you decide to go for there are plenty on the market to suit a variety of budgets, observing interests and level of skywatcher.
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.