Best Compact Binoculars in 2020: Top Quality Brands, Pros & Cons Plus FAQ

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Last Updated on by Garrett Hayes

Tired of having to carry around huge and heavy binoculars to every single trip?

Or… 

Did you just find out that there are compact models that make things easier for you?

Whatever reason you have, you’re in the right place! Buying the best small versions of binoculars can be pretty tough. Things like magnification, the field of view, prisms, and what do those 8×25 numbers mean anyway? 

If you feel puzzled, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a complete compact binoculars review for you. 

1. Nikon Trailblazer 10×25 ATB – Best Overall

Nikon Trailblazer 10x25 ATB Waterproof Black BinocularsThe Nikon Trailblazer comes in a plastic material interior with a fully rubber armored exterior. It is unbelievably extremely compact and light with its ‎4.5 x 4.1 x 1.7 inches dimension and 2.4 ounces weight.

Because of its rubber-armored body and coating, they are easy to grip without any worry of it slipping, even when soaking wet. These binoculars are also nitrogen-filled and o-ring sealed. Which means you can freely immerse it in water or use it in extreme weather conditions. The product also claims to function well in temperatures ranging from 20-80 degrees without fogging at all and can still produce quality images no matter what light condition is present.

This features a 10x magnification for high-quality up-close viewing. Yet, even with a lens diameter that is only 25 millimeters, these surprisingly still have a field of view of 429 feet in 1000 yards. It also has a smooth center-focus knob for a quick fix of clear sight. 

Its Bak-4 glass lenses are multi-coated. They can maximize the light transmissions resulting in brighter and high-resolution images that are better in color. These use phase correcting roof prisms that are multi-coated too. All glasses used in their production are lead and arsenic-free making sure they’re eco friendly

Pros

  • Comes with a fine storage pouch and a functional belt loop.
  • Made from eco-friendly materials
  • Lenses and prisms are both multi-coated
  • Still provides a wide field of view even with high magnification
  • Fully rubber coated and armored for safety
  • Lightweight
  • O-ring sealed
  • Nitrogen Infused

Cons

  • Rubber eyecups are not attached to the binoculars themselves, which could cause misplacement
  • Only fits in the pouch when fully folded

Takeaway

If you use your binoculars to observe things up close while also needing to be aware of your surroundings, then these are perfect for you. This high-end model is fit for any outdoor and indoor activity, especially because they’re very versatile. 

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2. SGODDE  10×25 Binoculars – Low-Cost

SGODDE Compact Binoculars for Adult Kids 10x25 Waterproof Binocular Weak Light Night Vision Folding High Powered Clear Binoculars Lightweight Bird WatchingThe SGODDE  10×25 has a contemporary lightweight style, coming only in 12 ounces and with a dimension of 5.12 x 5.12 x 2.5 inches. 

Aside from its durable rubber body, it also has an anti-slip texture that assures a grip in times that they are very wet or covered in slippery liquids. They’re both water and dustproof with its o-ring seal, however, this product doesn’t seem to have any fog resistant feature. 

It has a center focus system knob and a 10x magnification. Its field of view remains to be of standard, 352 feet in 1000 yards, even with a small lens diameter of 25 millimeters.

They are made with BAK-4 Porro prisms and have a low light night vision. The lens of these binoculars makes them stand out. Not only are the lenses fully coated but they are also multi-coated with layers of broadband green films at the same time too. Because of that, the product has the capability of FULLY transmitting light to create high contrast and quality image. 

Pros

  • Comes with a pouch, lanyard, cleaning cloth and a manual
  • Has twist-up eyecups
  • Has 10x magnification power without completely affecting the field of view
  • Fully and multi-layer coating for its BAK-4 lenses
  • Anti-slip grip texture
  • O-ring sealed

Cons

  • Its glass is bulkier than necessary
  • Not fog proof

Takeaway

These are fit for both night and day activities. They can still produce a clear image even if there is too much or too little light available. And in underwater activities, these can be used easily without the worry of water getting inside. 

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3. Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 10×42 – Most Durable

Nikon PROSTAFF 3S 10x42This Nikon product is a bit heavier than the others with a weight of 20 ounces. It is made of plastic material and is 6 inches long and 5 inches wide. The product comes in a slim black exterior, while its interior is a polycarbonate resin chassis that is corrosion resistant. 

Compact binoculars having a lens diameter bigger than 30 millimeters is rare, however, this product turned that contrast into an advantage. With a lens diameter of 42 millimeters, you can find comfort without having to sacrifice its 15.7 eye relief. Knowing that they have 10x magnification power is already amazing, you can view objects too up close giving you the opportunity to appreciate the detail. But that’s not where things end. These binoculars also have a field view of 367 feet in 1000 yards. So basically, they’re very high end.

Through a black rubberized armor, easy grip, and textured palm pads, these won’t ever slip through your hands. It also becomes very durable because of the rubber armor making sure that no matter how many times it falls, the product will just bounce as it is shockproof

Their tubes are filled with nitrogen and sealed with o-rings. This means that they’re water, humid, and fog proof. You can submerge them in water and use them in extreme temperatures or rough environmental conditions.

These use roof prisms of BAK-4 glass, they are mirror-coated with silver alloy in order to produce sharp, distinct, and very bright images. It has multi-coated anti-reflection lenses that are eco friendly as they are lead and arsenic-free. You can expect high-contrast images and accurate color renditions from these lenses.

Pros

  • Eyecups have rain guards so that they don’t get filled with water when not in use. 
  • The eyecups can also be adjusted according to your prescription glasses 
  • Clear images
  • Good performance
  • Water and fog proof
  • Eco-friendly lenses
  • Has a full rubber body with grips and pods
  • A wide and promising field of view
  • Its chassis is made of polycarbonate resin

Cons

  • Quite big for a compact design

Takeaway

These are basically high-end binoculars that can assure you quality, comfort, and a heavy-duty design. Them having quite a big lens diameter for a compact model isn’t so much of a problem as they are still lighter and smaller than the standard sized ones. 

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4. Bushnell Powerview – Most Compact

Bushnell Powerview 16x 32mm Compact Folding Roof Prism Binocular A binocular’s weight matters a lot, especially if they’re compact. Just the fact that you’ll be using your hand to position them into your eyes all the time can sound tiring. What more if you’ll be using it to watch a stadium match or any other activity that requires you to use them for a long period of time? Even if you don’t use them for that purpose, your neck will eventually feel how heavy they are after a few minutes of slinging it onto them. 

With  Bushnell Powerview, you won’t be needing to think about those. This is probably the best mini binoculars as they are very and even too compact. Its dimensions are 8x6x5 inches and an unbelievable weight of only 7 ounces.

Overall, the product has a very solid construction. It has a black sleek body that is very lightweight and attractive in appearance. 

It has an instant center focus system allowing you to move your viewing direction without having to wait for the image to clarify. It also features an 8x magnification, a 378 feet field of view out of 1000 yards, and 21-millimeter lens diameter. Which is very small, even for compact ones. 

This is also covered in an anti-slip rubber armor that absorbs shock, prevents scratches, or any possible damage at all. It has a very firm grip and tight hinges. 

It is made of BK-7 roof prisms and lenses that are multi-coated with chemicals producing a clear, bright image and a solid resolution. 

However, the sad part is, these tiny binoculars aren’t water and fog proof, so they’ll be needing extra care or they may render useless. 

Pros

  • Comes with a canvas case with a velcro lock and a neck strap
  • Fold-down eyecups
  • Easy and sure grip
  • Very compact and travel-sized
  • Great sleek design
  • Shockproof
  • Has an instant focus system

Cons

  • There are chances that its eyecups won’t function well 
  • Not fog and waterproof

Takeaway

If you travel a lot and don’t usually bring luggage or bags with you, these are the best travel binoculars for you. They barely weigh anything and come in small dimensions. These are also heavy-duty as it can resist shock and damage, the only limit would be water and extreme weather conditions as they don’t have o-ring seals.

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5. Bushnell H2O – Worth The High Price

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 8 x 42-mm, BlackThese can easily fit into one hand with its 7x6x3 dimensions, however, when it comes to weight, these can be a little bit heavier than other compact models as they weigh 25 ounces.

The Bushnell H2O binoculars feature a knob to adjust the lens in terms of focus. It also provides a 12-millimeter eye relief. This product has an 8x magnification power and a 42-millimeter lens diameter, which makes it a bit bigger than other compact models. But the good thing about it is that it makes a field view of 341 feet in 1000 yards possible. 

It’s also nitrogen-infused and o-ring sealed which makes it water and fog proof. These are so versatile that you can immerse them in water for hours or use them in harsh weather conditions without damaging their insides. Its exterior is wrapped in a soft rubber armor that absorbs shock and promotes a good grip. 

It uses BaK-4 Roof prisms and multi-coated lens for exceptional light transmission and enough brightness. 

Pros

  • Comes with a storage case
  • Fully water and fog proof
  • sliding eyecups
  • Covered with high-quality rubber material for protection
  • Well constructed
  • Comes in a very compact size
  • Has a lens knob

Cons

  • Has a difficult diopter to adjust
  • Chromatic aberration can occur from time to time

Takeaway

Don’t mind breaking the budget? These are for you. These easy and travel-sized models with good magnification are ideal to just slide into your pocket anytime. And if you’re going for a swim, you don’t need to remove them from your pockets anymore, they are tightly o-ring sealed. 

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What Are Compact Binoculars

The name speaks for itself, if the normal sized ones are two telescopes that allow you to view a distant object or event closer, then these are mini binoculars that still do the job pretty well.

Why Compact Binoculars Are Necessary

It doesn’t matter whether you already own high-end binoculars, there’s no doubt that after this article, you’ll realize how compact ones are necessary too as they are not only small and practical but highly versatile too.

The most obvious advantage of having the best small binoculars is that they don’t take up too much space or weight. You can bring these instead of the normal-sized ones if you’re not carrying a bag with you or you need to lighten your baggage or save up space.

With the common pair, your hands will quickly tire of its large glass, so if you don’t really need a lot of magnification, these can surely come handy. 

They’re surely perfect for any outdoor activity. You can use them for hunting because of their wide-angle lens and great field of view. If you’re watching a stadium match, theater, or public concerts, you can bring these with you by easily sliding it into your pocket or slinging it around your neck. They’re also the best bird watching binoculars and for hiking as well, as it provides a longer eye relief compared to the usual while also giving a close focus for easy spotting. 

old woman birdwatching

Choosing The Best Compact Binoculars

Things can be quite tricky. Especially if you don’t even have an idea about what the numbers on them mean. And remember, a costly pair doesn’t not equal to a worthy one. 

Magnification

Basically, a higher magnification allows you to see farther and clearer. 8x magnification would mean that you’ll be seeing things 8x closer, that’s it, nothing less, nothing more. 

I bet you’re probably thinking right now that the higher the magnification the better. Well, not quite. In fact, the higher it is, the harder it would be to use. The image you’d be viewing from them will blur out from a slight shake. And even though these are compact, they would still have added weight depending on how high the magnification is, so the higher it is, the heavier it would be.

Also, the higher the magnification, the lesser your field of view is. Let’s say you’re bird watching, while you’re admiring a bird’s plumage up close, you won’t be aware of the other birds near you since you can’t see them. So would you want to see only one bird up close? Or all of them at the same time?

Field Of View

If your target is to view detail, then you need a narrow field of view. However, if you’re observing, tracking, or watching something, a wider field of view would be great as it will assure you that you’ll see everything that’s happening in 1,000 yards.

Now, if the level of magnification affects the item’s weight, then so does the field of view. This is because a wider field would obviously require larger lenses. So you can expect the best lightweight binoculars to have a narrow field of view.

Prisms

The prisms matter just as much as the lens does. Without it, you’ll be seeing things upside down and backward every time you peek through them. Which is not accurate at all. 

Porro Prism

This type of prism is common in old models. They have a girthy and broad appearance. Yet, even though they look out of style, they can still compete with roof prisms, especially with their low price.

Porro prisms make the image take two 90 degree turns before it goes through the ocular lens. 

Roof Prism 

Don’t take the name literally, these prisms aren’t attached to the roof of binoculars. They’re only called that way because they’re shaped like a house’s pitched roof. 

When it comes to compact-sized ones, these prisms are the most common as they are more complex in shape than Porro prisms. They have better optics and are more advanced. The best part is, they’re highly durable. So there’s no hassle in using them for hunting or hiking, they don’t break, fog, or get damaged easily. 

The downside is, they don’t gather much light and have a narrower field of view. Sadly, they also tend to be more expensive. 

Lenses

little girl birdwatching

Types

BK7 Glass

BK7 glass is the most low-end prism glass meaning you would only encounter these on cheap models. And because of its low price, it is also of low quality. You’ll experience having a hard time focusing these on a specific image and they often result to be mildly blurry. 

BAK-4 Glass

This is the most common prism material, which doesn’t make it the best, but close to that. 

BaK-4 prisms are known for their high damage resistance, meaning they’re durable enough to withstand even chemicals. With it being super reflective, a good high-quality image is produced, this prism also has a very low refractive index.

ED Glass

The best prism glass material? This would be it. 

Extra-low dispersion glass, or more commonly known as ED glass is popular in the optics industry, if you own any high-end versions, you’d see that they use ED glass. Aside from being the best, this is also the most expensive.

Nowadays it won’t be that easy to find models that use ED glass, high end or not. However, people still search and hunt for it, which means that this glass is better than any other, even with its costly price. 

Usual models require phase correction, but with these, the light won’t scatter at all. This is important because if scattered light is present, then you wouldn’t be able to view a clear and firm image. 

Designs with higher magnifications tend to focus on an image at a slower phase, or if ever they do quickly, it would be too sensitive that even the slightest movement could distort your view. Chromatic aberration or such distortions of colors is very common. This is because each color of light travels at its own speed. 

.You’d understand how important ED glass is to the optics industry, it can cancel out and reduce the chances of chromatic aberration. Imagine viewing through a 10x magnification and having the clearest most accurate view without it being contorted unless you move intentionally. 

The best ED glass is the Schott ED Glass. It basically has the lowest chromatic aberration so far, in the whole industry. 

Size

The lens’ diameter is directly equal to how much light would be transmitted to it. To make things simpler, the more light the lens gathers, the brighter, firmer, and clearer view you’ll get. Which is important, especially if you’ll be using them in the dark. 

And since these are COMPACT, the ideal lens diameter would range from 20 mm to 30 mm. This is because a larger diameter would mean heavier and (obviously) bigger lens. 

Coating

The coating of the lenses helps in avoiding the image from getting distorted, darkened, and glitched every time light passes through. 

Types
Phase Correction Coating

These focus on joining the light waves together. Which means the colors won’t separate at all. 

Anti-Reflection Coating

There are chances that the image will bounce around, meaning it’ll get distorted. So you would be seeing an accurate image of what you’re trying to view. This coating prevents that from happening, which is probably the most important coating of all. 

Full Coating

To make things simple, when the lenses are fully coated, every single optic would have its own coating. This helps a lot in avoiding every single error or difficulty there would be in viewing an image. 

Multi-Coating

If anti-reflection coating is the most important of all, then multi-coating is the best type of coating. It speaks for itself, the optics have been coated multiple times to assure that you only see an improved, high-quality image with a better light transmission.

Size And Weight

Compact binoculars are mainly sized 8×25, meaning an 8x magnification and a 25 mm lens diameter. They often weigh less than a pound since they were made to be slid onto one’s pocket. However, normal-sized ones usually range from 7×35-8×42 and weigh 35 ounces or more. 

Durability

An item’s durability isn’t just about how it doesn’t break easily, but also how it adapts to different environments and remains to function well in different circumstances.

Glass sealed binoculars are the ones where the air has been removed and replaced with an inert gas. Extreme weather, air conditions, and other equipment can surely cause fog to build up. But with these, things like fog and water vapor won’t destroy your clear view at all. 

There’s also a huge chance you’ll be using them in the rain, dropping them in a body of water, or even intentionally using them immersed in water. Whatever it is, there’s no way you can keep them dry forever. And water is not good in light transmission at all, so it wouldn’t be a good idea to have them inside your equipment.

On a wildlife trip, you’d probably be on a moving vehicle where you’ll need the best safari binoculars, other than it’s being compact, so it would really be a plus-factor to know the different types of binos that would be suitable for the purpose.

Outer coats such as rubber can help a lot in not only making them water-resistant but waterproof too. The rubber coating would also help you in terms of grip, let’s say they get wet, this will avoid them from being slippery at all.

group of people on a safari trip


Conclusion

Our best option that covers the overall qualifications remains to be the Nikon Trailblazer 10×25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars. While the best in budget is SGODDE’s Lightweight Waterproof 10×25 Clear Compact Binoculars.

Nikon’s Trailblazer is the literal compact model of binoculars weighing less than three ounces and having dimensions not exceeding 5 inches. Yet, even though they are tiny, it still has the capability of providing a field view of 400+ with a magnification power of 10. 

Its lens’ glass type, coating, durability, and overall image production surely pass the standards. Besides, all of this product’s bad sides are barely any hindrance.

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