How to Choose which Compact Binoculars to Buy?
Even if you own high-quality, high-magnification binoculars, it’s still a good idea to buy some compact binoculars.
They’re useful little things and more versatile than the larger models.
Larger glass feels heavier more quickly than expected, so small binoculars are an excellent way to save weight if you don’t need a large amount of magnification.
However, it can be difficult to choose which binoculars to buy. After all, the most expensive binoculars on this list are 22 times as expensive as the cheapest!
Can it be really worth that added expense?
To some people, yes.
If you’re not sure how or why, then continue reading.
You’ll learn what makes certain binoculars worth their price tag and how to decide what’s worthwhile for you.
Size and Weight
If you’re looking at compact binoculars, then chances are you want a small, lightweight binocular.
Sometimes they’re called pocket binoculars, though you’ll have a hard time fitting them in your average jean pocket.
Still, compactness makes this type of binoculars particularly easy to pack and carry. Most of them are about hand-sized and can fold down to an even smaller size.
As for weight, all of these binoculars weigh less than a pound.
When you’re out there in the woods, taking step after step, every ounce matters. Picking equipment that’s an ounce or two lighter ends up saving pounds, which saves your back and feet in the long run.
Field of View and Magnification
How much magnification and field of view do you need, anyway?
Often, we get trapped into thinking that more magnification and field of view is always better.
But when you need to travel a long distance on foot and have the choice to lose a little magnification to save a pound in weight, do you really need 12×50 binoculars?
Magnification is easy: 8x means that the object appears eight times larger than it really is, while 10x means ten times, and so on.
More magnification does not have that much effect on weight. Field of view, however, does.
That’s because you typically need a larger objective lens to have a wider field of view. As mentioned before, glass is heavy.
Field of view is often given in the angle which you can see through the binocular. More easily understood is the number of feet you can see, from one edge of the view to the other, at 1,000 yards.
A wider field of view is better for tracking objects in motion or for finding a potential target. But you’ll pay for it in ounces.
Magnification does have an effect on the field of view, however. The higher magnification you have with a certain objective lens width, the less field of view.
So, the question is, do you want to see things closer or see more things at once?
The term optics refers to the lenses and prisms in the binoculars, the parts through which light travels to reach your eye.
Every time light passes through a lens or prism, it gets distorted slightly. Brightness is lost, and colors separate, like a rainbow.
Coatings help to counteract this and make the optics transfer the image more accurately. Phase-correction coatings join light waves back together. Anti-reflection coatings help prevent the image from bouncing around inside the binocular, which results in a ghost of what you’re trying to see.
Fully-coated means that all of the optics have some sort of coating. Multi-coated means that multiple coatings have been used to improve image quality and light transmission.
Light can also disperse, or scatter, after it hits the glass. ED glass, or extra-low dispersion glass, is designed to reduce this scattering effect. ED glass means you don’t need phase correction later.
The prisms themselves are often made from BaK-4, a barium crown glass made by Schott AG in Germany. BaK-4 prisms are known to be highly reflective and produce a good image, though some companies, such as Zeiss and Swarovski, produce their own prisms.
Fog-proofing and Waterproofing
Binoculars are often used out of doors, away from AC and dehumidifiers and where the weather tests your equipment.
A temperature differential can cause fog to build up on glass. I’m sure you’ve experienced it with your car’s windshield. The same thing can easily happen with cheap binoculars, rendering them unusable.
Fog-proof binoculars are designed to not fog inside the optics. Often this is accomplished by removing all of the air inside and replacing it with nitrogen gas, which doesn’t produce fog.
Waterproofing via the use of O-rings can keep that nitrogen in and, well, keep water out.
Water doesn’t transmit light nearly as well as prisms or nitrogen, so you don’t want any to get inside your binoculars!
While large binoculars are good for seeing far-away objects up close, they are bulky and heavy. Compact binoculars weigh less than a pound and are small enough to go almost anywhere, sometimes even inside your pocket.
This makes small binoculars a good choice, either as a backup to larger binoculars or as your primary glass when traveling light.
The Steiner Safari UltraSharp 10×25 gets my overall top recommendation as a compact binocular. Wingspan Optics has several good choices if you need to save some money. However, if you can afford the best, then Swarovski’s CL Pocket 10×25 is the best compact binocular around.
Whether you need to save money or splurge, any of the binoculars on this list will do you well and save you weight!