Best Binoculars for Whale Watching 14

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*** 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.

binoculars for whale watching

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 2021

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 **

Bushnell 7X50 H2O Binoculars

Current Price: $295

Bushnell 7X50 H2O Binoculars

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. Their downside is that they are full sized binoculars (50mm lenses) and weigh nearly 1 Kg. If you’re looking for marine binoculars to keep on your boat, and don’t mind the extra weight, then the Bushnell 7×50 H2O binoculars are excellent value.

Avalon 8X32 Mini HD Binoculars

Current Price: $299

Avalon 8x32 Mini HD Binoculars

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 $299 which, we believe, is a bargain for a product at this level.

Nikon Aculon 7X35 Binoculars

Current Price: $359

Nikon Aculon 7X35 Binoculars

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. At $359 the Nikon Aculon 7×35 are excellent binoculars for whale watching.

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  1. Hi Adam
    I have read your reply above and its very helpful, but to add to that with another question. Do you recommend a tripod with any of these as we would love to set them up as a feature in our living area that has a spectacular view

    1. A tripod is not a must but does make the viewing more stable and easier to share with other users. It is especially useful when using high powered binoculars or if as you mentioned the binoculars will always be used from the same location facing the nice views 🙂

      Adam Murray, Procular
  2. Hi Adam, we are in the midst of the whales watching season having moved to the south coast of NSW. We see them splashing from our house on a hill a couple of km away. I am short sighted with a bit of difference between eye strength. I find picture “shaking “ gets in the way.
    What would you suggest?

    1. Hi Geoff, excellent question. We are very passionate about reviewing and using binoculars and stock over 400 models of binoculars for any type of viewing. We use our binoculars for whale watching very often, especially during the whale season, July to November, when they swim up the east coast north and swim back south with the calves later in the season. The guide above explains how to choose binoculars for whale watching from onboard a boat or ship so the recommended models are specific for marine use. If you are spotting the whales from land then you should look at either standard power binoculars (10x) or otherwise high-powered ones (16x to 20x). As you mentioned image shakiness as a common issue in your case, we recommend getting a pair of standard power, 10×42 binoculars, to spot and see the whales splashing, from up to 1-2Km away. The 10x magnification is sufficient to see them in good detail but also not too powerful to create any shakiness. They are easy to hold still and also easy to point towards a popping whale quickly in order to view it while splashing or jumping. We personally use 10×42 binoculars for pretty much any type of viewing, including whale watching from shore. Specific models we can recommend in your case would be the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD Binoculars below:×42-pro-hd-binoculars-platinum/ — or if you can afford a high-end model then the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 Binoculars below are fantastic:×42-binoculars/ — both models produce a beautiful, sharp image and are also 100% waterproof and fog-proof. We hope this helps.

      Adam Murray, Procular
      1. I live 3 miles from the coast with a spectacular view of the ocean. Am I too far away to see them? If not, what optics would you suggest?

        1. We would recommend a spotting scope. details below:

          Adam Murray, Procular
  3. Iamm79:wear glasses and are cruising through the Drake passage and hopefully seeing wildlife and birds . The AvalOn8by32 seems to fit the bill . Would you agree? It seems to be what I am prepared to pay We leave from Perth on Jan21st? Hilary

    Hilary McWilliam
    1. Hi Hilary,

      To view wildlife and birds cruising through the Drake passage, or for any other cruise, the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD work perfectly. They are an excellent size to handle and can easily be used quickly when needed (even single handed while holding on to a rail on the vessel). Their 8x magnification is ideal for achieving a stable view while onboard as well as birding and nature watching on land. The Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars can be used either with or without glasses. We have plenty of personal experience with this model and our staff use them often, especially on travels. Details below:×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  4. Hi Im after a pair of binoculars for allrounder but we do watch whales from head land and they are from 100m to 500m out can you advise please which would be best . Thank you

    1. Hi Jodi,

      For all-around use as well as watching whales from 100m to 500m (relatively short distance) we recommend a pair of 10×42 binoculars. Here’s a list of some recommended models: – from this list, we like the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD, the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 binoculars.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  5. can you tell me if these Nikon 16 x50 are also water-proof/fog proof and can they be held in one hand. We are looking for binoculars for use in one hand to view whales from the shore as well as wildlife and sports in stadiums. I know its a tall order. Thank you

    1. Hi Sandy,

      The Nikon Aculon 16×50 are not waterproof. They are also relatively large and bulky so not suitable for use single handed. This is both because of the weight as well as their strong magnification (16x) which is impossible to hold still in one hand. As you will be looking at whales as well as wildlife and sports, you will benefit from a model such as the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. They are waterproof and fog-proof, have an excellent image quality, wide field of view and were designed to be used single handed. Using them will allow you to see a much more stable image when looking at moving subjects (whales, wildlife, sports etc.). Details of the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars below:×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. I wonder if you can give me some help please.

    My husband and I are nearly 60, we are going to Tonga to watch whale from the beach(not boat), we never own a binocular. we hope to own one and use it on other occations if need in future, a good asset to have, we do not watch birds. We don’t wear glasses, and it is during the day time mostly.

    We like:
    1/ WIDE Field of view
    2/. porro(we think)
    3/. we like a bit more magnified – eg 12 instead of 10(so we can get just a bit more)
    4/. no tripot, but can brase on a rail
    5/. WE don’t mind the weight – as we just sit on beach chair – so 12×50 – 50 lens diameter is good so we can see clearly

    other than that, we are not sure, can you tell us what can you recommend please? I think we like a full size binocular – the clear view is more important than weight of it. Thanks, Alice

    1. Hi Alice,

      Thank you for your message. We were delighted reading it as you provided us with excellent detail of what you like and want and how the binoculars will be used. This makes the decision a-lot easier!

      As you are not using glasses and will mainly be viewing from a fixed position you can surely opt for higher magnification binoculars. And full size, Porro 50mm binoculars although heavier will allow you to see a wider area.

      Since you are watching whales from shore (normally very distant) we would actually recommend 16×50 binoculars rather than 12×50.

      You will still be able to see whales with 10×50 or 12×50 but not in much detail like with 16×50. Sitting on a beach chair, or even standing up, you can stabilise 16×50 binoculars by leaning your elbows on the chair or even on the sides of your body. So a tripod will not be necessary.

      Regarding specific models, we can recommend the Nikon Aculon binoculars as they have an excellent image quality when viewing from such distances. They are also a good all-around choice and good value. Nikon Aculon 16×50 would be our best choice. Details below:×50-cf-binoculars/

      If you scroll down the page and click “Reviews” there is a very useful review on these binoculars written by one of our customers.

      Adam Murray, Procular

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