Best Binoculars for Travel / Gift / Sports Viewing and General Use 23

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Choosing the right binoculars for the right price can be somewhat confusing. There are plenty of brands and models to choose from and many technical aspects to consider. This guide covers the basics of choosing a good pair of binoculars for traveling, general use, sports watching or a special gift to your loved one. We’ve also listed our Top 5 All-Around Binoculars for 2019. If you’re looking for birding, astronomy, hunting or marine binoculars, you might want to check out our more specific Buyer Guides.

Choosing travel and general use binoculars


What Do the Numbers Mean?

Binoculars are always represented by two numbers. The first number being the magnification, also referred to as the power or zoom, and the second number being the lens size. 10×42, for example, means 10x magnification and 42mm lenses.

What is the Ideal Magnification?

High magnification means you will be able to see further. For general use and travel binoculars 7x 8x or 10x will be plenty. The problem with any more than 10x magnification is that you will NOT be able to get a steady image while using your binoculars. Every little hand movement or shake will be magnified resulting in an unstable image. This can only be resolved by using a tripod. So for good, affordable and easy to use binoculars simply go for 8x or 10x magnification.

What is the Best Lens Size?

Bigger lenses mean more light coming in which means a brighter image. If you will be using your binoculars only at daytime or where there is plenty of light, then this is not an issue. You can choose any size lens (20mm to 42mm). Small lenses mean compact and lighter binoculars that are easy to carry around anywhere. If you intend to use your binoculars early mornings, twilight or even at night, you will want to choose 42mm or 50mm binoculars. You will then enjoy brighter images but also suffer from a heavier, bulkier pair of binoculars. That said, many people are more than happy to carry and hold large binoculars to get better, brighter images. Some actually find large binoculars easier to hold and stabilise. The most common choice for binoculars and a good balance between power and size is 8×42 or 10×42.

What Other Features Should I Consider?

Features like waterproof and fog-proof are not a must but are definitely favourable. Especially for frequent use in extreme weather conditions. Another feature to look for is long eye relief. In plain English, this means that you will be able to hold your binoculars further away from your eyes and still see a clear image. This is important if you’ll be wearing your glasses or sunglasses while using the binoculars. Most mid-priced binoculars have a long enough eye relief for all users. So you will be able to use them either with or without your eyeglasses.

Which Brand Should I Get?

When it comes to binoculars, European brands have the best optics. This is why they are also the most expensive ones. Carl Zeiss binoculars are perhaps the best around if you can afford them. Prices for this brand average between $1,000 to $3,500. Our more affordable brands include Nikon, Avalon, Olympus, Fujinon (FujiFilm), Bushnell, Vortex and others. These all offer excellent binoculars for every type of user. Prices range from $100 to $800 for a perfectly good pair, which can often last you a lifetime.

How Much Should I Spend on Binoculars?

You can buy very basic binoculars for as cheap as $50. Russian binoculars as well as lower range models of Simmons, Tasco, Vanguard and others. Unfortunately, these will often have a blurry image – especially when using the higher magnifications. Cheap binoculars will also provide a darker, fuzzier image in low light conditions and might be harder to focus. Here at Procular, we believe in providing the right binoculars to the right users and at the right price. We only stock quality brand name binoculars you will love to use! And you can purchase a solid quality pair of binoculars for as low as $100-$400. With optics, you really do get what you pay for but we do have a few outstanding choices for very affordable prices. Below is a list of our best-selling travel / general use binoculars that we believe are also the best bang for your buck:


Our Top 5 All-Around Binoculars for 2019

** Note: All 5 binoculars recommended below are suitable for eyeglasses users **

Discovery Pocket 8×21 – If you need a pair of compact binoculars these have a tiny folding design, lightweight (165g) and attractive price. Surprisingly they are actually very good quality binoculars! Image clarity is noticeably better than most compacts on the market. $79 + free delivery

Avalon 10×42 PRO HD Binoculars – World’s lightest professional level binoculars by Avalon Optics. Excellent power combined with a mid-sized, lightweight stylish design. Ideal for nature, bird watching, safari, sports watching or travel. Produce beautiful sharp images. Exceptional value and a perfect gift to any nature lover! $249 + free delivery and lifetime warranty

Avalon 20×50 Outpost – Ideal for seeing more detail from a longer distance (2-5 Km). An impressive 20x magnification, powerful yet still easy to handle. Large 50mm lenses allow for a brighter image. Can be used with or without a tripod. Discounted to $279 + free delivery

Nikon Prostaff 10×42 – Nikon’s best seller and our favourite model at this price range. Outstanding image quality, waterproof, fog proof, wide field of view, light and comfortable design. Great all-around binoculars with Nikon’s best quality optics. Also available in 8×42. $459 + free delivery

Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 – Professional level binoculars ideal for any use. Crystal clear images and flawless performance even at low light settings. Beautiful waterproof, fog proof and shockproof design. Recommended if you want to invest in extra optical quality. $869 (limited time offer)

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23 Comments

  1. Hi there what would be the best for spotting a kontiki from the beach
    Thanks Darryl

  2. An interesting one for you.
    I have had eye laser surgery and have mono vision (one eye for reading and one for distance).
    My husband has “regular” vision.
    We want something lightweight but relatively powerful.
    Price below $200 if possible.
    Would auto focus binoculas be something for us?

    1. Hi Jezz,

      We wouldn’t recommend auto focus binoculars for several reasons. Firstly, although they are designed to make focusing easier they often result in a focus that simply doesn’t work – and there is no way to fix this. This is often the case when you use them from under 30m but since your visions are different it can easily occur at any distance. We still stock some auto focus binocular models here on Procular but most manufacturers are already discontinuing them for these reasons. If you are after a lightweight option that would work for both you and your husband then we can suggest either the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars or a monocular. Both options are within your price range. A monocular is good as it only requires a single (good) eye to use while the compact 8×32 binoculars have a nicer, wider and overall better view. We hope this helps.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  3. Hi Peter
    I want a Binoculars for sporting events.I will be going to Africa and want a binoculars to watch wild life.
    Would the Zeiss Terra ED 10/42 be suitable for both ?
    Is there a better pair I should be looking at?
    Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Donald,

      Yes, the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 reviewed above would be a perfect choice for both sporting events as well as watching wildlife in Africa.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  4. Hi
    Can you give us your advice on a suitable pair of binoculars for my mother to use on a cruise that she is going on around the coast of NZ but would also be suitable for viewing at home
    To look at the yachts and windsurfers at the Bay below her home ?.( She is 85 and wears glasses)
    A neighbour lent her his telescope but she has trouble using it) I think binoculars would be easier for her to use . Thank you

    Chrissy McMurray
    1. Hi Chrissy,

      We have an excellent buyer guide on choosing binoculars for cruise holidays. The models recommended in the post also apply for home viewing and seeing the yachts, windsurfers and bay from her home. Please have a read below: https://procular.com.au/binoculars-cruise-holidays/ — From the 3 models recommended in the “binoculars for cruise holidays” review above, The Bushnell 7×50 might be too large for her to handle but the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD or otherwise Nikon 8×42 would work perfectly for her cruise as well as home viewing.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  5. Can a 7×50 Tento be used for general usages? Like birding, hiking and also astronomy? Or you would recommend other specifications for general usages?

    1. Hi Behzad,

      Overall yes, 7×50 binoculars can be used for all these applications but wouldn’t be the ideal choice. They are quite large, bulky and heavy for hiking and the magnification is also not too strong (only 7x). 7×50 binoculars are designed for marine use as the lower magnification reduces image shakiness when viewing onboard a moving boat or ship. As ideal all-around binoculars, we would normally favour a quality pair of 10×42’s like the models listed in the post above. These have better magnification for birding or star gazing (10x) while still featuring a comfortable, mid-sized design to carry around.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  6. Hi after binoculars for safari. Not too big or heavy thx

    1. Hi Terri,

      Thank you for your message. We have an excellent guide on choosing binoculars for safari, please have a look here: https://procular.com.au/best-safari-binoculars-the-complete-guide/ It also lists the best binocular models for safari at the end. If you need a more compact lightweight size, yet still maintain high performance and beautiful images for safari, we highly recommend the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. They come in black: https://procular.com.au/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/ and in the new platinum colour: https://procular.com.au/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars-platinum/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  7. ,we are traveling to Canada and Alaska in August including the inside passage and Rocky mountaineer what would you recommend for this and general use

    Warren Crawshaw
    1. Hi Warren,

      Overall a good pair of 10×42 binoculars which are also waterproofed and fog proofed to avoid fogging in cold or wet environments would be ideal. You can look at the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD binoculars recommended in the post above or otherwise the Zeiss Terra ED 10×42 if you want to invest more. Both models should work very well for both Canada/Alaska as well as general use.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  8. G’day,
    The prime use I’m looking for is watching surf races from the beach to approx 600m off shore. Water proof would be a bonus for those rainy days but not essential. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Peter,

      The distance you will be viewing from is relatively close (600m and let’s say up to 1 Km away). But the subjects are moving and you will want to capture a wider area i.e. a few of the racers rather than just one of them. So the best option would be using 8x or 10x magnification binoculars but have a wide enough field of view. Also light enough to hold and stabilise while following the race.

      The best ones we would recommend would be the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD binoculars. They have a nice wide view and an excellent image quality. They are medium sized and lightweight but not too small so the image is still bright and sharp in all weather conditions. They are 100% waterproof and fog-proof too. Details of this model below:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

      Otherwise if you want an ever more compact option then we would suggest the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. These feature the same optics and waterproofing as the 10×42’s but with slightly less magnification (8x) and smaller lenses. They are therefore smaller in design. Details below:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  9. Can you suggest a pair of binoculars – lightweight and compact around $200 to take tramping. Probably prefer them to be waterproof and to be used with glasses.

    Jeanette Hatten
    1. Hi Jeanette,

      We can recommend the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. These are compact lightweight binoculars and are 100% waterproof and fog-proof. They weigh only 416 grams and have a very nice image for their price range. If you twist their eye-cups to their downwards position you will be able to use them with glasses on. Details below:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  10. I will be on a cruise through the Red Sea early next year. Ship was originally due to stop at two ports on Egyptian side but due to unrest in Egypt those ports are now cancelled. My dearest wish was to do a tour to the pyramids – that’s now cancelled. As the Red sea is fairly narrow, and Suez Canal which we have to sail through even narrower, what sort or binoculars will I need to be able to spot the pyramids from the Red Sea? Travel through this area will be during daylight hours. Will the binoculars be suitable for general use later on?

    1. Hi Judy,

      As you will be viewing from onboard the boat you will be best to use low magnification binoculars. 7x or 8x magnification is the most recommended as with more than that you will not be able to see a stable image (because every shake of the boat is also magnified by the binoculars). Waterproofing is also an advantage. Most marine binoculars are 7×50 which means 7x magnification and 50mm lenses. These would work good but note that they are quite large and heavy. 8×32 Binoculars on the other hand are a-lot more compact and lightweight so probably better for other uses such as traveling.

      We can recommend the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars. These feature outstanding optics and image quality for their price range. They will be suitable for watching from the Canal as well as for general use later, due to their portability. They are waterproof binoculars. We have personal experience with this model both onboard boats and ships as well as traveling, bird watching, sports viewing, safari tripos and all-around use. They work very well for any of these applications really. You can read more about the Avalon 8×32 Mini HD binoculars here:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-8×32-mini-hd-binoculars/

      Adam Murray, Procular
  11. Hi. To look at boats/ships at sea? Which type of binoculars would I be looking at? Will I be able to use it for both that as well as bird watching? Thanks

    1. Hi Annemarie,

      Thank you for your message. You will probably be better off with a 10×42 pair of binoculars. You will be able to use them to watch boats/ships as well as take them birdwatching. We recommend the Avalon 10×42 PRO HD pair below:

      https://procular.com.au/avalon-10×42-pro-hd-binoculars-black/

      Otherwise you can purchase higher power binoculars. 16×50 to be exact. These are better for watching ships/boats simply because you can see the further away ships and in more detail. The downside though is that they are bulkier and heavier (around 900 grams) and are not great for birdwatching. You can still use them for birdwatching but only if the birds are not moving too fast (because of the strong 16x magnification it is difficult to follow moving birds). A good pair of 16×50 we can recommend are the Nikon 16×50. Details below:

      https://procular.com.au/nikon-aculon-16×50-cf-binoculars/

      You can also refer to our buyer guide on choosing high powered binoculars here:

      https://procular.com.au/choosing-high-powered-binoculars/

      Unfortunately these are two very different uses for binoculars. If watching very long distance is more important to you than bird watching then by all means go for high powered binoculars. But if you are OK with less magnification (for example if the boats are only 2-3 Km away) then go for the Avalon 10×42 – because they are lighter and perfect for birdwatching and general use. They also have a wide field of view meaning that you can see a wider area with them.

      Adam Murray, Procular
  12. I am looking for a good pair of marine binoculars that also can be used in darkness, if there is such a product

    1. Hi Peter,

      Basically marine binoculars are always 7×50. This means 7x magnification and 50mm lenses. The relatively lower magnification is essential in order to get a stable image when using them over the waters. Because the boat/ship is moving it is nearly impossible to use higher magnification. 7×50 binoculars have 50mm lenses which means they are full sized binoculars. The larger lenses allow more light to come in which results in a brighter image when used at twilight or even darkness. You can view our most recommended models of marine binoculars here:

      https://procular.com.au/choosing-marine-binoculars-the-complete-guide/#binoculars

      Now, note that these are all “normal” binoculars so although they have good low light performance they are not night vision binoculars. If you want to see in complete darkness then you will need a waterproof version of a night vision binocular. These are obviously more expensive as they incorporate night vision technology (achieved via a built-in IR illuminator). You can see all the available models of night vision binoculars here:

      https://procular.com.au/night-vision/night-vision-binoculars/

      Night vision binoculars are unfortunately limited in range. So you will only be able to see from a shorter distance. Unlike marine binoculars which are used for spotting ships and objects in the horizon. We hope this information helps. If you have any further questions regarding any of the products please feel free to contact us.

      Adam Murray, Procular

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