Are you looking for the best compact binoculars to travel with? For those that have limited pocket or bag space but still want good views of birds, wildlife and the stars compact binoculars are the best way to observe. We've ranked the best of the world's smallest, lightest binoculars. What's more, we thoroughly test the binoculars in our compact binoculars review pages — you can find more in-depth information in our reviews linked down below.
While serious astronomers will likely go for larger binoculars or even tripod-mounted telescopes, generalist observers require something more portable while giving great views of the cosmos. But several of the models on this list also serve as the best compact binoculars for viewing wildlife, too.
When it's time to upgrade to something with more viewing power, check out our best telescopes and best binoculars guides. We even offer an in-depth look at the best binoculars for kids so young astronomers can enjoy the night sky. Wonder what are the best compact binoculars? Read on below.
For casual skywatchers, the portable Olympus 8x25 WP II boasts an excellent optical system for clear views of the moon and bright targets with superb contrast. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 10 oz (285g)
Best for portability
These small and stylish binoculars bring a prestige brand into the affordable range. Easy to tuck into a pocket at just 3.4 x 4.1-inches in size. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 6.9 oz/195g
Best build quality
While the Minox are a little pricey they're durable and built to last. They're IPX7-rated waterproof, fogproof and have 16mm of eye relief. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 10.2 ox (289g)
These 10x binoculars perform better than their 8x counterpart due to their better twilight factor, at 15.8 instead of 13.0 for better low-light results. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 11 oz/311g
Best budget option
More than suitable for multi-purpose daytime use and some astronomy viewing, these pocket-sized binoculars are compact and well made. Read more below
Design: Porro prism
The Opticron Aspheric's feel like a full-size binocular in a pocket-sized package. They benefit from 16mm of eye relief a 10-year warranty. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 10.4 oz/295g
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Best waterproof model
With Multi-coated optics and a waterproof and fogproof design these compact binoculars from Bushnell feature BaK-4 glass and multi-coated optics. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 10.23 oz/290g
We love the design, colors, and light weight of these Pentax UD compact binoculars and they're fully multi-coated, too. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 6.87 oz/194g
Best for travel
Tiny but still offer fantastic clarity and performance to compete with the big-name brands, they have plenty of grip for use in all weathers. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 8.8 oz/249g
Best for ultra low-budgets
The Apexel PB's are cheap and light, yet packed with desirable features such as fully multi-coated optics with BaK-4 prisms. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 8.8 oz/249g
Best for high magnification
Sunagor packs an ambitious 18x magnification in their Mini Pocket binoculars but eyeglasses wearers may need to look elsewhere. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 6.4 oz/181g
Best for versatility
These Pentax binoculars can be disassembled to provide two 4x monoculars and also screw together to create a 16x spotting scope. Read more below
Design: Roof prism
Weight: 12.17 oz/345g
Best compact binoculars 2023
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Best compact binoculars 2023 ranked
Olympus WP II 8x25
Olympus has long been a leading manufacturer of optics, and these Olympus WP II 8x25 binoculars are available in either a stylish purple or green. Beyond that, they provide plenty more than just good looks.
In our Olympus 8x25 WP II binocular review, we found that its objective lenses, which have a 25mm diameter and a modest 8x magnification, produce good relative brightness for a compact model, allowing you to see more sparkling stars. Faint objects will appear brighter in these than in comparable 8x21 or 10x25 binoculars. This clarity is enhanced by full multi-coating on the lenses and BaK-4 prisms with phase coatings — they tick all the boxes for optical quality.
This pair of binoculars is highly durable and can withstand harsh conditions. They are completely waterproof and filled with nitrogen to prevent internal fogging, making them perfect for use on a chilly evening when taken out of a warm pocket. They measure just 4.48 x 4.52 x 1.77 inches and, at 9.17 oz, are pretty lightweight. All of this does result in a higher price point than other items on this list, but true quality is never cheap.
- Read our full Olympus 8x25 WP II review
Nikon Aculon T02 8x21
These Nikon Aculon T02 8x21 binoculars are extremely compact, at just 3.4 x 4.1-in, and lightweight at only 6.9 oz. Their portability is a little hampered by their limited ability to fold at the single central hinge, unlike many compact binoculars, which use two hinges. The single hinge's adjustment range of 56 to 72 mm between the eyes, however, should allow for comfortable use by both adults and kids.
The Aculon T02 looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. They are available in several colors (which may vary depending on which country you are buying in). We especially like the addition of white, which makes these binoculars easy to find if laid in the dark when stargazing — something you might not immediately consider. They are priced at the lower end of Nikon's extensive binocular range, but this still makes them more expensive than many other brands. Despite some minor flaws, their attractive design and impressive optics make them worth considering.
- Read more: Best Nikon binoculars
Minox X-Lite 8x26
For the best compact binoculars, select the X-Lite 8x26 pair — they are more affordable than the company's alternative X-Active range but still boast high performance. Although Minox goods are rarely cheap, this pair appears to be a good deal for anyone looking for a pair of entry-level binoculars. The X-Lite range is versatile and perfect for all your outdoor activities, be it hiking, traveling, bird watching, or stargazing. These optics are the go-to for all your needs.
They are on the heavier side at 289g, which is relative to the robust build quality, and they are still nicely compact at 4.61 x 4.53 x 1.57 inches. For a compact pair, the open bridge design is unusual and comes with a tripod mount (adapter required, as with all but the largest binoculars).
With a 6.8-degree field of view and K9 glass roof prisms with a phase correction coating, they provide a surprisingly wide field of view for an 8x compact. They also have turntable eyecups which are ideal for anyone who wears glasses. These binoculars have been nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging from the inside and they meet the IPX7 waterproof standards.
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Celestron UpClose G2 10x25
Celestron is a brand that is widely recognized and appreciated for its exceptional range of high-quality telescopes and binoculars. We've included the UpClose G2 binoculars in our list of the best compact binoculars as they offer attractive features at a reasonable price.
We'd opt for the Celestron UpClose G2 10x25 over the similar UpClose G2 8x21 due to their better twilight factor, at 15.8 instead of 13.0, which means the higher powered (and larger objective) pair gives better low-light results.
These binoculars come with a rubber coating that provides durability and are designed to resist water damage. Additionally, they feature fold-up rubber eyecups to accommodate those who wear glasses. They are easily pocketable at 7.5 x 5.5 x 11cm.
The Celestron UpClose G2 isn't the highest specification binoculars, with partially multi-coated lenses and BK-7 glass roof prisms (as opposed to the more desirable BaK-4 glass). Still, they are well-priced and come with the reassurance of a limited lifetime guarantee.
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Nikon Travelite EX 8x25
These Nikon Travellite EX 8x25 binoculars are incredibly compact, weighing only 355g and measuring just 110mm x 116mm. You can easily carry them in your pocket thanks to their small size. They have winding eyecups with a decent range of movement (15.5mm) making them good, but not perfect, for spectacle wearers.
Though they're primarily designed for multi-purpose daytime use, we found in our Nikon Travelite EX 8x25 review that they performed surprisingly well when we used them for astronomy. When we pointed them at the moon we could easily see craters and loads of detail in the light & dark areas, and views of the stars were sharp and highly defined. They were able to capture even the faint pinpricks of light from distant stars that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
They are waterproof up to a depth of 5 meters, fog is prevented by O-ring seals and nitrogen gas within the optical system.
Opticron Aspheric 3 10x25
The Opticron Aspheric 3 binoculars may not be the smallest in size, measuring 10.9 x 10.6 x 3.3 cm and weighing around 300g, but their comfortable design is perfect for users with larger hands. These binoculars' aspheric lenses produce sharper images and less distortion throughout the whole field of view, which, at 5 degrees, comes a little below par for 10x magnification.
We rate these as one of the best compact binoculars because we love the excellent eye relief of 16mm which makes them friendly for glasses wearers, and the twist-in rubber eyecups will make them comfortable for all users. They are designed to be water-resistant, nitrogen gas-filled to prevent fogging and come with a generous 10-year warranty for added protection.
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Bushnell H20 8x25
These Bushnell H2O binoculars have impressive specifications for a very reasonable price, including multi-coating (although not fully multi-coated) and BAK-4 roof prisms. We especially appreciate the large, tactile center-focus knob that enables adjustments on chilly evenings without needing to remove gloves. The 6.9-degree field of view is very respectable too.
The Bushnell H20 8x25's eye relief isn't particularly generous, so it's probably better to stay away from them if you wear glasses. They have a rubberized coating to protect them from knocks and improve grip, and they are lightweight and easy to hold.
At 12.7 x 10.16 x 6.95cm, they're not quite compact enough to easily fit into your pocket, but you can throw them in your backpack for an outdoor camping trip and you'll hardly notice they're there. According to Bushnell, the optics are both waterproof and fog-proof, and they also offer a return-to-manufacturer guarantee.
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Pentax UD 9x21
If you're struggling to choose between the easier-to-hold 8x magnification or 10x magnification for closer views (especially noticeable on the moon and planets) then here's a compromise — 9x magnification, offering most of the benefits of both.
These Pentax US binoculars weigh just 194 grams and measure 13 x 11.6 x 5.5 cm, making them incredibly lightweight. Despite this, they still boast high-quality, fully multi-coated optics. These are the lightest binoculars in the Pentax range, helped no doubt by using plastic instead of a metal chassis, and there is no rubber protective armor. Instead, there are two small thumb rests that help improve your grip.
The large focus wheel's exceptional quality and handling is surprisingly impressive, requiring only two rotations to move through the entire focus range. The 6-degree field of view is adequate, although not as good as some of the UD's serious rivals. There's a tripod mount (which requires an adaptor), and a lug on the right-hand barrel to attach the carry strap to. Finally, we love that there is a choice of five colors, including vibrant lime green and hot pink.
Watch out for the 10x21 version of the Pentax UD, as they are not fully multi-coated, have less eye relief, and have an even smaller exit pupil at 2.1 mm compared to 2.3mm here. These 9x21 binoculars are a much better buy.
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In our recent Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars review, we were pleasantly surprised at the optical performance of this tiny pair of binoculars.
While we wouldn't use them as our main pair of binoculars, or in low light (for anything other than lunar observations), they make an excellent 'second pair'. They can fit in a fairly small pocket and would certainly not take up to much space in your glove box or center console.
The non-slip rubber and textured stippling make them easy to hold one-handed, for both small and large hands. Although they are advertised as waterproof, we are hesitant to fully submerge them as they may not provide complete protection. Having said that, these would work well in mild rain conditions and provide a secure grip even with wet or sweaty fingers.
During our review, we were impressed with the relative lack of color fringing, even when compared to comparable models from better-known brands. They are probably best avoided if you wear glasses though, due to the relatively short 15mm eye relief.
- Read our full Occer 12x25 compact binoculars review
Apexel PB 10x25
These affordable reverse Porro small binoculars are made by Apexel, a Chinese company famous for its smartphone lens accessories. These binoculars boast a lightweight construction of only 178 grams, thanks to their ABS plastic body. Despite their weight, they feature fully multi-coated lenses and high-quality BaK-4 roof Porro prisms.
These devices are easy to use, and even toddlers with small hands can operate them comfortably. Additionally, they have a broad field of vision (6.5 degrees), which ensures that people who wear glasses can use them without any discomfort. They are also pretty rugged and waterproof for extra peace of mind. Check out our buying guide for the best kids binoculars if that's what you're in the market for.
These binoculars won't win any awards, but they are great value for money. You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck as these are impressive specifications for inexpensive binoculars and you're covered with a 12-month guarantee.
- Read more: Best telescopes to see planets
Sunagor Mini Pocket 18x21
Sunagor specializes in producing high-power binoculars, and they claim that these are the smallest and lightest 18x magnification binoculars available on the market. They weigh less than 200g and are undoubtedly portable and pocketable, yet due to their single-hinge design, they don't fold up particularly small.
These lenses may not have full multi-coating and no assurance of premium glass in the barrels, but they do offer an impressive 18x magnification and the image clarity is satisfactory for regular usage.
One drawback of this is that the high magnification makes it difficult to hold by hand, and there is no tripod socket available so you'll need to be able to hold your binoculars steady without external support. We wouldn't recommend kids using them as the inevitable wobble will quickly become frustrating.
With objective lenses of just 21mm, these binos are of limited use for astronomy duties. Still, we include them here because they will deliver the 'wow' moment when turned looked at the moon for the first time with 18x magnification.
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Pentax VD 4x20
When is a pair of binoculars not a pair of binoculars? When it's a pair of monoculars. Pentax's slightly gimmicky binos can disassemble to provide two 4x monoculars and then screw together to create a 16x spotting scope. Although they are not the lightest on the market, weighing in at 12.9 oz (345 g), they feel more substantial and less toy-like than others. You'd be hard-pressed to find something more compact.
Although this optical instrument is undeniably versatile, it does come with a set of compromises. For a start, each tube has to be focused independently, which soon becomes tedious. Even though they only give a 4x magnification in binocular mode, they do have a very wide field of view.
If the magnification makes you feel underwhelmed, you can simply convert to telescope mode for 16x magnification. Bear in mind that this results in a very narrow field of view of just 2.6 degrees, so the usefulness of this is questionable. We would expect it to give a worthwhile view of the moon, but not much else in the night sky.
When separated into monoculars, two users can benefit from the additional light-gathering power over the human eye, making it easier to spot more stars and celestial objects. However, this is a rather expensive option for buying low-power instruments — you'd be better off buying two decent pairs of binoculars instead. Although they may not be a top recommendation, we've chosen to include these binoculars for their cleverness and novelty.
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Compact Binoculars FAQ
Jase Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. They won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. After completing their Masters Jase has spent a good chunk of two decades studying and working in photography and optics shooting and writing all over the world for big-name brands and media outlets. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com their speciality is in low light optics and camera systems.
Which compact binoculars are the best?
Although we've rounded up the best compact binoculars in this useful guide, you may be wondering 'which compact binoculars are the best for me?' The main things to consider when shopping for compact binoculars are the binocular numbers. That is: Magnification — usually 8x or 10x and sometimes referred to as power— and the diameter of the objective (front) lenses. Because compact binoculars are small and light, it's easier to hold them still and so you don't need to worry about higher magnification causing unusable wobble, negating the need for a tripod. Remember though, lower-power binoculars will give a brighter image, making faint objects such as nebulas more visible.
- Related: How to hold binoculars steady
It is best to go for the largest lens diameter you can get. Bigger lenses mean more light-gathering power and thus better views for you. Compact binoculars tend to have objectives in the 20-25 mm range. However, it is worth noting that even the largest of these will collect only a quarter as much light as a pair of conventional 50 mm binoculars. We don't recommend compact binoculars with a zoom feature, as this is simply asking too much of the smaller objective lenses on this type of instrument.
Compact binoculars are usually roof prism types, as this arrangement provides straight tubes and lends itself to foldability. It is rare to find conventional Porro prism compact binoculars, but some use the reverse-Porro arrangement, resulting in objective lenses closer together than the eyepieces. Check what type of glass the prisms are made from; the best you can get is BaK-4, while budget binoculars often use BK-7 or K9 (these two are more or less equivalent).
Multi-coated or fully coated optics?
You should consider the type of lens coating that is used. Lenses will be described as coated, multi-coated, or fully multi-coated. The best will be fully multi-coated with phase coating on the prisms. The best will also be nitrogen filled to eliminate the risk of internal fogging. Some compacts are waterproof or water-resistant, which is always a good idea for use in all weather and gives the user extra peace of mind.
Which brand of binoculars are best?
When shopping online, you may come across lots of lesser-known brands offering what seem to be unmissable bargains but, as ever, buyer beware. Products are not always described accurately, particularly when sold by traders on third-party websites, and we advise treating claims with suspicion. Ask yourself if you believe these very cheap binoculars have all the features they claim or whether some of the claims might be lost in translation.
Sometimes the comfort of a trusted, known brand that offers a warranty is worth paying that little bit extra for. That said, you will see a couple of models in this guide that are lesser know, but that we've reviewed and would recommend as good-value-for-money.
How we test the best compact binoculars
To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best compact binoculars to buy here at Space.com, we make sure to put every binocular through a rigorous review to test each instrument fully. Each telescope is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and how it performs in the field.
Each pair of binoculars is carefully tested by 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 the length of eye relief can be adjusted for spectacles wearer (the more the better), if a binocular comes with appropriate accessories (lens caps, neck strap, cleaning cloths) 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.