*** IMPORTANT NOTE: This guide refers to choosing binoculars for whale watching from onboard a boat / ship / cruise. If you are whale watching from shore then please refer to our guide on choosing high-powered binoculars.
Whale watching can be a great opportunity to witness the ocean’s most spectacular creatures. Equipped with the right pair of binoculars one can really view and capture this rare experience up close. But if you are looking to buy binoculars specifically for whale watching there is no need to go overboard. This guide covers the most important features to look for in whale watching binoculars and how to choose the best ones at an affordable price.
Marine Binoculars – The Basics
It is important to know that two numbers always mark all binoculars. The first number is their magnification (or power/zoom) and the second number is the size of their objective lenses. For example, 8×32 binoculars mean that they have 8x magnification and 32mm lenses.
As you will be viewing from onboard a moving platform (boat or ship), it is recommended not to use binoculars with any more than 8x magnification. This is because every shake of the boat is also magnified resulting in an unstable image.
While whale watching, the whales are not that far away from the boat, so you will not need any more than 7x or 8x magnification. If you intend to view whales from shore, then you can go with higher magnification binoculars. If you intend to use your whale watching binoculars from onboard a boat then 7x or 8x magnification binoculars would be the ideal choice.
Waterproofing for Whale Watching Binoculars
Good marine binoculars can cost up to $2,000 – as mentioned before, for the purpose of whale watching alone you do not need to spend that kind of money. Any medium range waterproof binoculars will do the job. The advantage of waterproofing in binoculars is that it usually comes with fog proofing. This means that your binoculars will not fog up in varying temperatures. Good waterproofing will also prevent moisture inside your binoculars and extend their lifespan.
Size and Weight
Standard marine binoculars, normally 7×50, can be quite bulky and heavy. So if you want to use your binoculars for other activities besides whale watching, then you should consider a slightly smaller pair. From our experience, 7×35 or 8×32 binoculars work best for whale watching. They have the ideal magnification BUT are also more compact and easy to handle.
Note that 7×35 or 8×32 binoculars work great for marine use as well as hiking, bird watching, viewing sporting events and general use. Another advantage of using this size of binoculars is that you can operate them single-handed while freeing your other hand to hold onto the rail of the boat. Compact to mid-sized binoculars also make the whale watching more effective as you can first spot the whale and then quickly point your binoculars in the right direction.
Our Top 3 Whale Watching Binoculars for 2018
We stock over 400 different binoculars here at Procular, so this was a hard choice to make! We needed to find out which ones actually work best for whale watching. So we tested a few of our binoculars out on a Sydney whale watching tour (which is recommended by the way). Below is a list of our 3 handpicked binoculars for whale watching, within a reasonable price range:
** Note: All 3 binoculars recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **
Avalon 8X32 Mini HD Binoculars
Current Price: $195
The Avalon 8X32 Mini HD Binoculars are small in size yet big on performance. They are slightly larger than your average pocket size binoculars but much smaller than any standard marine binoculars. They are a perfect balance between small size (32mm lenses), lightweight (416 grams) and excellent quality optics. This model combines Avalon’s HD lenses, compact easy to use design and a wide field of view (6.9 degrees) to spot and follow the whales. Just to top things up, the Avalon 8X32 Mini HD Binoculars are also 100% waterproof and fog-proof.
We tested them on two separate whale watching trips. First trip when the water was relatively calm and again in pretty bumpy seas. These binoculars performed extremely well during both trips, provided excellent views of the whales from both near and far and were very easy to use single-handed. The Avalon 8X32 Mini HD Binoculars are also one of our favourite all-around binoculars. So if you need excellent quality binoculars to also use for travel, watching scenery, wildlife, bird watching or sports then we highly recommend them. They currently sell for only $195 which, we believe, is a bargain for a product at this level.
Bushnell 7X50 H2O Binoculars
Current Price: $249
The Bushnell 7×50 H2O are good quality marine binoculars, affordable and a good fit for whale watching. These showed a bright sharp view of the whales and were very easy to hold still, but needed two hands for viewing. With waterproofing, fog proofing and a wide field of view this model matches any other high quality marine binocular. Their only downside is that they are full sized binoculars (50mm lenses) and weigh nearly 1 Kg. If you’re looking for binoculars for both whale watching and marine use, and don’t mind the extra weight, then the Bushnell 7×50 H2O binoculars are excellent value.
Nikon Aculon 7X35 Binoculars
Current Price: $259
The Nikon Aculon 7×35 binoculars have an extremely wide view of 9.3° degrees which allows you to spot the whales easily and enjoy the full view wherever you point your binoculars to. They feature sharp Nikon optics and rubber armour which is water resistant and shock proofed. Like the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD they are also suitable for travel, general viewing or sports watching.
With this model Nikon has really pushed the limits of what they can deliver as low to mid-priced binoculars. Another important feature is their long eye relief. In plain English this means that the Nikon Aculon 7×35 binoculars work perfectly while used with or without eye glasses. They are also nice to grip, handle and focus. Surprisingly the Nikon’s image was nearly as bright as the full sized binoculars we tested, although being a much more compact pair. Currently discounted to $259 the Nikon Aculon 7×35 are excellent binoculars for whale watching.