The demand for a more compact binocular is an increasingly popular trend. We will admit that we like ’em too. What’s not to like? They’re lightweight, unobtrusive for packing and stowing away, and you can even squirrel them into a sporting event or a concert without much concern.
But, do you have to compromise on quality and field of view to dump the excess bulk?
Are compact binoculars equivalent to children’s binoculars?
Let’s jump right into comparing the best compact binoculars, and how it will affect your glassing in real world applications!
The Best Compact & Lightweight Binoculars
These days, full-size binoculars are being marketed as compact ones, but it’s not quite the same as what we’re discussing here today. While full-size ones are slimming down and getting into the weight-loss trend as well, we’ll be covering binos with specs similar to 6×30, 8×26, 10×25, and the all the like. Size should be under 5 inches round about, and the bino should generally weigh under 1 lb.
With a compact binocular, you’ve got to be really activity-specific about what magnification and aperture fits your needs. Generally, the aperture is going to be on the smaller end around 30mm and less. With such a small aperture, you’re going to have a narrower field of view the higher your fixed power range. If you go with a larger aperture and lower-powered magnification like a 6×30, you could have one of the largest field of views available on a compact binocular.
While these optical specs might not necessarily fit the needs of most hunters, many bird watchers, hikers, outdoorsmen, and event participants will find the compact size an ideal optic for instant and on-the-go use.
Prices can vary between brands and this is nearly always an indicator of quality. Most of the compact binos in our lineup are far from kids toys. You don’t want to go too cheap and miss the point of having a binocular, but if you’re really serious about glassing, you might be able to justify the costs that could run you into the hundreds of dollars. Shall we begin?
|Product||Prism Type||Glass||Price Range|
|Swarovski CL Pocket 10X25||Schmidt-Pechan||Swarovski Glass||Under $900||View on Amazon|
|Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X25||Roof Prism||BaK-4||Under $200||View on Amazon|
|Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10X25||Roof Prism||BaK-4||Under $100||View on Amazon|
|Carson RD 8X26||Roof Prism||BaK-4||Under $100||View on Amazon|
|Vortex Raptor 8.5X32||Porro Prism||BaK-4||Under $100||View on Amazon|
|Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6X30||Porro Prism||BaK-4||Under $100||View on Amazon|
|Simmons ProSport Compact 8-17X25||Porro Prism||BK-7||Under $100||View on Amazon|
|Celestron Granite ED 9X33||Roof Prism||BaK-4||Under $300||View on Amazon|
|Tasco Essentials 8X21||Roof Prism||BaK-4||Under $50||View on Amazon|
Our 7 Top Compact Binoculars (+ 2 Honorable Mentions!)
Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25
Swaro introduces their binocular that comes in under $1000, and it’s no kids toy. The CL Pocket bino may be small, but it’s every much capable of keeping up with its full-size competitors. We know this is true because it’s a Swarovski. The glass and overall quality is right in line with Swaro’s strict quality control manufacturing policies and is upheld with the same standards as their bigger siblings regardless of its small size.
Swaro takes the number one spot in this lineup because it does come in at an affordable price point (for a Swaro product). You also have their SwaroBright coatings, the Schmidt-Pechan prism assembly, and of course, its extremely durable and weatherproof housing that can survive submersion up to 13 feet.
While all its high-quality features invoke images of a larger than life optic, the Pocket bino comes in under a pound with it’s cute dimensions around 4 inches. If there’s a compact bino worth saving for, it’s this Swaro!
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X25
Surprised to see a Bushnell rated so high? You shouldn’t be. While not all Bushnell optics are as popular as other brands, this compact bino is deserving of every praise. We love it so much, because while it’s a small thing, it has so much going for it.
A little roof prism bino needs some additional TLC on the glass to bring it up to par with its Porro cousins. Bushnell knows this and that’s why the Legend Ultra has ED glass, PC-3 phase coated prisms, and RainGuard HD. Optical quality has just been served on a silver platter.
This bino is also the epitome of a compact binocular with its double hinge design that allows it to fold into an even smaller size. When this baby only weighs half a pound, there’s no excuse to never have a bino on your person!
Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10X25
As is expected for a Nikon optic, the Trailblazer 10×25 binos makes it in within the Top 100 Best Seller’s List as not just a compact binocular, but as an overall favorite. It’s small, super lightweight, and the glass quality is all there.
The little, nifty thing costs less than $100, and for the price, you’re getting excellent value with Nikon’s Eco-Glass and multiple layers of anti-reflective coatings. While many cheap binos opt for BK7 glass to help bring down the price, Nikon retains excellent high-resolution image quality with its BaK-4 glass in every one of their compact binos.
Weighing in a just over half a pound and measuring 4.1 x 4.5 inches, this is truly your foldable glassing King. Regardless of size, Nikon does it again!
The Carson Raven Compact binocular was originally our choice for this review, but since it’s seen its exit off stage, we decided to spotlight the new to 2017 RD 8×26 binocular.
As with all Carson optics, they’re high-end quality for as little cost as possible. The RD-826 is no exception, and it sports the series’ iconic open bridge design. For a compact binocular, the open bridge makes it even more comfortable for holding around the barrels. Imagine climbing up rocky terrain with a swinging neck strap and seeing your binos smack into a rock or a tree – not good. Two thumbs up to the open bridge system.
Since it’s a roof prism bino, we especially look out for optical quality. You have fully multi-coated anti-reflective coatings and silver mirror prism reflection coatings. While it’s not dielectric prism coatings, the silver is better than what you can expect for this price range of under $100. Carson has managed to wow us with the overall quality of their binoculars, and we expect the compact RD bino to do the same for you!
Vortex Raptor 8.5X32
If you know anything about cheap binoculars, Porro prism binos do it best. Roof prism binos without additional prism-specific coatings are inferior to Porro ones. That’s why the Raptor has the Porro design and is able to be offered at such a low price.
With this design, it comes in a little bigger and heavier than our other compact options. It’s also why roof prism binos are in such demand since they’re typically more compact and lighterweight. But, if you’re going to spend as minimally as you can, Porro is the way to go.
Vortex has always known the needs of optics users, and while there mightn’t be anything obviously fancy about it, the quality is where it’s supposed to be – in the functionality and optics of the bino. This is why the Raptor is simple, easy to use, and fully weatherproof – something that isn’t always seen in a budget and Porro prism binocular. But, the best part about it is the impressive wide field of view. Check it out to see for yourself!
Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6X30
The Porro prism binocular might not be the most aesthetically-pleasing optic to look at, but the prism assembly most definitely has its place and function. The Yosemite has done extremely well for its price range and its fan base. On that note, it’s why it earned a spot in our compact lineup.
Despite its smallish size, it sure has a big price tag. Don’t worry, it’s all justified since it’s a Leupold. With full weatherproofness, BAK4 prisms, lead/arsenic-free glass, and fully multi-coated optics, it’s a bino to be reckoned with.
Nowadays, it has a Shadow Gray finish since Leupold has pretty much done away with black on their binos. For a Porro, it’s not too much of an eyesore, but it has some sexy optical specs on the inside. See, it pays not to be shallow and to pay attention to what really matters!
Simmons ProSport Compact 8-17X25
Now, how’s this for variety? For such a cheap binocular, it has done well for itself in the rankings. The reverse Porro prism design is definitely not an aesthetic feature to brag about in most people’s opinions, but the key feature is the variable zoom in the binocular.
It’s obviously not your average fixed power optic, and it’s actually really difficult to master the zoom technology in a bino, but Simmons seems to have done it well. The ratings don’t lie.
Apart from its exterior appearance and zoom feature, you’d think this bino is a heifer. On the contrary, it only weighs 10 oz. To have a bino with the capabilities it has for the small dimensions, weight, and price it sports, we can see why it’s a keeper for many. However, you should check out the full review to see where the compromises lie.
Okay, maybe the Celestron Granite 9X33 binocular is a little more on the smaller end of a mid-size binocular, but that’s why it’s our honorable mention. The Granite bino is not your mediocre optic. It has an open bridge design, ED glass, and fully broadband multi-coated BAK4 prisms, not to mention it also has a very nice wide field of view. With specs like these, it might be worth increasing your budget!
While Tasco is a budget brand known for many who are cash-strapped or need an optic the same day, the Essentials 8X21 compact binocular is a credit to the brand. As a foldable roof prism bino, it lacks the expensive coatings to really make it an exceptional optic, but it gets the job done for many recreational glassers. With several hundred pleased buyers, you can’t go wrong for spending less then $50 for camping, checking out critters, and everyday use.
What to Look For in a Compact Binocular
It’s all about small size and lower power when it comes to compact binos. But, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on field of view, quality, and weatherproofness. Be brand-specific if you want the best value for your money. You can even spend up in the thousands if you wanted to invest in such an optic. But, most importantly, know what you want in a bino design and what power and aperture platform will suit you best. The size is something you can live with if it has everything else you need!
- Prism design: If your budget is limited, a Porro prism is always the best option. If you opt for roof prism, ensure it has quality coatings to bring it up to par with a Porro prism bino.
- Bino design: For the most compact binos available, look for double hinge designs for the foldable feature. Sometimes compact just means small and lightweight and not necessarily pocket-size.
- Size: Typically, compact binos can be anything smaller than 5″ in length and width. Height will usually be around 1-2″. However, compact binos can also be mid to full-size ones with slimmer dimensions and lighter weight.
- Weight: Compact binos can weigh up to 1 lb and less.
- Field of view: For larger field of views, look for a lower powered bino with a larger aperture.
- Durability: Cheap Porro prism binos will not be waterproof where roof prisms are almost always weatherproof. For waterproofness on a Porro prism bino, look for a more expensive optic or be brand-specific.
- Coatings: The more, the better. Additional prism-specific coatings should also be expected on roof prism binos.
- Eye relief 13-18mm: Ensure your investment is comfortable to glass with.
- Exit pupil 3-5mm: Smaller than 3mm? Expect to lose out on a lot of light-gathering potential.
- Quality Warranty: If you’re spending the best of what you can afford, ensure you have a warranty to match the quality of your investment.
Compact Binos For Everyday Use!
The way in which we’ve described compact binoculars in this article is in terms of size and optical specs. Everyday birders, campers, event goers, and hikers will enjoy the features of a compact bino. A lot of the time, compact binos generally come in cheaper than its larger counterparts.
Who needs the added costs, size, and weight when you can have a compact bino in the palm of your hand getting you up close and intimate with distances that are out of reach? Everyone. Even the most skilled hunter and pro spotter should have a compact set on the porch, in a gear kit, and in the car, even if it’s just for fun!