The 8 Best High-Power Binoculars Reviewed in 2019

Barska 30×80 X-Trail is also available at: 

Walmart

 

The Pros of Using High-Power Binoculars over a Spotting Scope

man holding binocs on tripod

Spotting scopes are often considered the king of long-range magnification.

With powers ranging from 30x to 60x and beyond, it can be hard to argue against their use.

However, spotting scopes have some disadvantages over binoculars. Here’s why you might want to use binoculars instead of a spotting scope:

  • Better field of view
  • Faster deployment
  • Less expense
  • Less weight
  • You can keep both eyes open

The biggest difference between binoculars and spotting scopes is that spotting scopes are essentially giant monoculars.

They have one tube and one objective lens collecting light. Therefore, they won’t have as bright an image as a similarly powerful binocular. The field of view is smaller, so it can be harder to find your target.

Some people prefer keeping both eyes open when looking through a scope. Binoculars allow for this, while spotting scopes do not.

spotting scope on tripod

Spotting scopes are often heavier than a similar set of binoculars. They are also slower to set up and use in the field. While you can use binoculars with a tripod or monopod, you are forced to use those with a spotting scope.

Finally, spotting scopes are often more expensive than long-range binoculars when comparing optical quality.

For more information check out our article on binoculars vs spotting scopes.

How to Choose?

It can be tempting to get as powerful a binocular as possible.

Bigger numbers are better, right?

Not always!

More magnification is harder to use, and, in fact, your binoculars can be too powerful!

 

Magnification is Not Everything

correlation between higher magnification and smaller FOV
Higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view is.

As I mentioned earlier, magnification isn’t everything.

A higher magnification makes objects appear closer, yes. However, this comes at several disadvantages:

For powerful binoculars, you need to balance these issues with raw magnification. Let’s look at them in more detail.

 

Field of View

man using binocs in open field

The higher your magnification, the smaller the section of the world you’ll see.

A wider objective lens can combat this, but you’ll add on a lot more weight. Smarter construction with a higher angular field of view can work too, but you’ll pay more.

So, what do you need to see? If you know where your target is and can find it easily, more magnification can’t hurt.

But if you need to find what you want to glass, more magnification will make it harder to find.

 

Light Gathering

Planning a star hopping session

Similar to the relationship between magnification and field of view, more magnification makes it harder for the binoculars to collect enough light to brighten the image enough.

A dark image makes it harder to see details. It can also make it impossible to use the binoculars in darker conditions, such as at dawn or dusk, or even under overcast skies.

If you want to use your binoculars for stargazing, then you’ll need as much light gathering as possible. So, with high-power binoculars, you’ll need huge and heavy objective lenses to gather enough light.

 

Image Steadiness

man using his elbow as tripod for binocs

The worst enemy of handheld optics is instability.

Some people have steadier hands than others. However, nobody’s hands are perfectly steady, so even a 1x optic’s view will bounce slightly.

That unsteadiness gets worse the more magnification you use.

If you plan on using a tripod, then you can basically ignore this issue. However, tripods are slow to use and may not be suitable for stalking deer.

So, hold your hands close to your eyes. Are they steady or unsteady? The more they waver, the less magnification you can comfortably use without an external means of stabilization.

 

The Exit Pupil

graphic explaining relationship between exit pupil and eye pupil

If you hold optics away from your face, then you’ll see a little white area inside the black.

That’s called the exit pupil. It’s several millimeters wide.

Often, the wider the exit pupil, the more light can come through the binoculars and reach your eye. Bigger is not always better, though, because your eye’s pupil dilates and contracts as well.

Generally, an exit pupil of 3 mm is recommended. Much more than that is wasted during daylight because your pupils will contract to about that wide. This especially applies if you are older and your eyes cannot dilate up to even 3 mm.

However, if you plan on using the binoculars in the dark, you’ll want a larger exit pupil to ensure as much light reaches your eyes as possible.

 

Using a Tripod

binocs on tripod

Because of the image steadiness problem mentioned before, you’ll want something to hold the binoculars steady.

Generally, that means a tripod.

Some of the binoculars above come with a tripod adapter. One, the Nikon Monarch 5, comes with a tripod already. Tripods hold the binoculars for you so no hand tremors or heartbeats can cause the image to jump.

First, you set up the tripod in position and at a height comfortable for you to use. Then, you attach the binoculars to the tripod. After that, you adjust the binoculars to point at your target and look through them without touching them.

You can attach the binoculars before setting up the tripod. However, I find it harder to travel with the binoculars this way, so I prefer to keep them separate until I need to use the binoculars.

In the field, you can also use a monopod for faster deployment, though you’ll lack the steadiness of a tripod.

 

Top High-Power Binocular Brands

Celestron

Celestron is a California-based company that’s focused on extreme magnification.

Most people will know them for either their telescopes, their microscopes, or their binoculars.

In fact, they are innovative in the telescope field. Everything from their vintage to modern astronomy telescopes are well-known and respected.

As for binoculars, they are not the top of the field, nor are they at the bottom. Mid-grade is perhaps not the best term either. They are specialists, without charging specialist prices.

The optics are made in Taiwan by Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan. Though Taiwanese optics are not as well-regarded as Japanese glass, they are still very well made.

Still, Celestron binoculars are not known as the best hunting binoculars. For the most part, they seem to be made for “civilized” use, such as watching the night sky from your backyard.

So, if you want a pair of binoculars that will perform well at very long ranges, you want a Celestron. Just don’t expect them to be as durable as specialty hunting binoculars.

 

Nikon

Nikon is a Japanese corporation. They’ve specialized in optics for over a hundred years and still produce some of the best lenses in the world.

Nikon glass is used in everything from cameras to specialized medical instruments. You can thank Nikon for DSLR technology, which helped digital cameras overcome film cameras. They’ve also pioneered the use of environmentally-friendly glass made without arsenic or lead.

It just so happens that leaving out those materials saves weight as well, so not only are Nikon lenses good for the environment, but they are easier to carry as well.

Even today, Nikon encourages innovation by its employees.

Nikon produces binoculars and rifle scopes at a variety of price points. All of them, even the budget models, have high reviews.

For example, the Nikon ProStaff is one of the best budget riflescope lines. As for binoculars, the Monarch is one of the most consistently recommended binoculars ever produced.

Basically, if it’s made by Nikon, it’s worth the price.

However, they cannot seem to get their lens covers right!

 

Vortex Optics

Often known for their budget scopes, Vortex Optics makes excellent binoculars as well.

They may not be the oldest companies manufacturing optics, but Vortex has quickly accrued a large amount of goodwill from the hunting community by producing quality glass and backing it up with the best warranty in the business.

If your product is damaged for any reason, except if you purposefully damage it, they will repair or replace your binoculars.

So, don’t shoot the binoculars and you’ll be fine.

In order to know how to make good glass cheaply, you have to know how to make great glass well. While they are often recommended by people who value price over quality, you can spend a little bit more and get a lot of quality.

Vortex Optic’s products are not just used by hunters and target shooters. Law enforcement personnel use their scopes and red dot sights, too. Some of their products have even made it into military service.

So, you can depend on a Vortex Optics binocular to serve you well and handle the rigors of hunting in extreme conditions.

 

Conclusion

Bushnell Forge

This list has a wide variety of powerful binoculars and a huge variation in price.

If you want the best of the best, you can’t get better than Swarovski’s SLC binoculars.

If you want to save some money, Bushnell’s binoculars are powerful without being too expensive.

And finally, if want a pair of binoculars to gaze upon Jupiter’s moons, you’ll need Celestron’s SkyMaster Astro 25×100.

If you found that you really don’t need high power binoculars then you might want to check out our regular binocular reviews.

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