Best Binoculars (2023): Nikon, Celestron, Swarovski, Zeiss

Binoculars mean the Difference between seeing a little gray bird and identifying a titmouse, cheering on a home run and seeing the epic catch, or realizing that the 10-point buck is actually a deer standing in front of dead branches.

Whether you’re exploring the grounds, birding in your backyard, or buying season tickets at Fenway, binoculars bring the world closer and make it sharp and clear, well beyond what your eye can see. In order to find the right binoculars, you must first consider what you intend to use them for. If you just want to watch a few birds at the feeding station in your backyard and perhaps overcome the limitations of cheap stadium seating, you don’t need to spend a fortune. However, if you’re planning on birding in different locations or planning a big hunt in unfamiliar territory, it’s often worth the extra money to buy something stronger.

Be sure to check out our other guides including The Best Gear to Make Your Garden Fun, The Best Hiking Gear and How a Bird Feeder Can Bring You Joy.

Updated February 2023: We took note of Nikon’s new Prostaff models, added links to Leica’s Noctivid binoculars, and continuously updated models, prices and availability.

Table of contents

  1. Overall best
  2. Best with high performance
  3. Best compact
  4. Best for kids
  5. Best for special use cases
  6. What do the model numbers mean?
  7. Why the high price tags?

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What do the model numbers mean?

Binoculars are usually listed with two numbers; For example, the Nikon Monarch M5 are 8×42.

The number 8 refers to the magnifying power. Objects seen through these binoculars are eight times larger than with the naked eye. Newcomers should stick to 6x or 8x. They have enough power to see things clearly, but they don’t magnify so much that you’ll have trouble finding what you want to see or have trouble following fast-moving objects (although all binoculars take practice require).

The 42 refers to the size of the front lens in millimeters. The larger the lens size, the more light reaches your eye. That means the picture gets bigger, brighter and clearer. 8×42 binoculars are often significantly brighter and offer a better viewing experience than 8×32 binoculars, although both offer the same magnification. But the bigger they get, the more glass they use – so they weigh more. The difference in weight between an 8×32 and a 10×42 pair of binoculars is significant when you carry them all day. We recommend staying in the 26-50 range. Our top pick is somewhere in the middle, at 8×42, which is widely considered to be the sweet spot for most people.

The Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars were my first “real” binoculars. Years later their updated M5 is my go-to choice for most people just starting out. These offer great value for money and the 8×42 magnification is the most versatile. It’s not just me either. These are some of the most common binoculars I see when I’m bird watching.

The Monarch M5 offer an excellent balance between optical performance, quality and price. The glass in these offers nice, bright views with very little chromatic aberration (the distortion or color fringing you sometimes see around objects in bright sunlight). Best Binoculars (2023): Nikon, Celestron, Swarovski, Zeiss

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