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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!
QUICK LIST: Top 7 Best Compact Binoculars In 2020
- Best Pocket Binoculars: Swarovski CL Pocket 10X25
- Best Lightweight Binoculars: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X25
- Best 10×25 Binoculars: Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10X25
- Best Rated Compact Binoculars: Carson RD 8X26 Compact Binocular
- Best Compact Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Raptor 8.5X32
- Best Compact Waterproof Binoculars: Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6X30
- Best Cheap Compact Binoculars: Tasco Essentials 8X21 Small Binocular
The Best Compact & Lightweight Binoculars
These days, full-size binoculars are being marketed as compact binoculars, 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 the best binoculars 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 binoculars should generally weigh under 1 lb.
With a small 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 space-saving 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 petite size an ideal optic for instant and on-the-go use.
Price can vary between brands and this is nearly always an indicator of quality.
Most of the little binoculars 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?
|Swarovski CL Pocket 10X25||Check Price|
|Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X25||Check Price|
|Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10X25||Check Price|
|Carson RD 8X26||Check Price|
|Vortex Raptor 8.5X32||Check Price|
|Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6X30||Check Price|
|Tasco Essentials 8X21||Check Price|
The 7 Best Compact Binoculars
1. Best Pocket Binoculars: Swarovski CL Pocket 10×25
- 10x magnification binocular
- 25Mm objective lens diameter
- Roof prism design
- Swarobright - Fully multi-coated optics
- Wide, 294' at 1000 yards field of view - 5. 6&Deg; Angular view
Swaro introduces their binocular that comes in under $1000, and it’s no kids toy. The CL Pocket model 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 as the best compact binoculars because it does come in at an affordable price point (for a Swaro product) and is ideal for almost any application including, hiking, birding and even close-range hunting, with the outstanding image quality they provide.
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 miniature binocular worth saving for, it’s this Swaro!
2. Best Lightweight Binoculars: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10X25
- Lightweight rugged magnesium chassis
- Ergonomically designed double hinged closed bridge
- Close focus distance 6.0'
- 10x magnification, 25-millimeter objective compact folding roof prism binoculars with premium carry case, neckstrap, microfiber lens cloth, and deluxe binocular harness
- Exceptional optics with BaK-4 prisms, ED Prime Glass, Ultra Wide Band Coatings, and RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating
Surprised to see a Bushnell rated so high? You shouldn’t be. While not all Bushnell optics are as popular as other brands, this teeny bino is deserving of every praise and might be your best lightweight travel companion for your next hiking trip or island adventure!
We love it so much, because while it’s a small thing, it has so much going for it.
A little roof prism binocular 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 teeny 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 good binocular on your person!
3. Best 10×25 Binoculars: Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10X25
- Lead- and Arsenic-Free Eco-Glass
- High-Index BAK4 Roof Prisms for extra-high resolution images
- Fully multi-coated optics maximize light transmission for brighter views and improved color fidelity and contrast
- Nitrogen Filled, Water and Fogproof
- Rubber Armored Body
As is expected for a Nikon optic, the Trailblazer 10×25 binoculars makes it in within the Top 100 Bestseller List as not just a small binocular, but as an overall favorite.
It’s small, super lightweight, and the glass quality is all there so it fits the criteria on all counts.
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 for optimal transmission of light.
While many cheap binoculars 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 top compact binoculars.
Weighing in a just over half a pound and measuring 4.1 x 4.5 inches, this is truly your fold-able glassing King. Regardless of size, Nikon does it again!
4. Best Rated Compact Binoculars: Carson RD-826
- Lightweight and compact open-bridge binoculars | magnification: 8x power | objective Lens diameter: 26mm | color: green
- Nitrogen filled and O-ring sealed making them both waterproof and fog proof | great lightweight binoculars for bird watching, hiking, sight-seeing, travel, sporting...
- Bak-4 Prisms and multi-coated optics ensure bright, sharp and crystal clear images | feature Extra long twist down eyecups | Tripod mountable
- Field of view: 356 feet at 1, 000 yards | Eye Relief: 16mm | close Focus: 13. 1 feet | weight: 0. 6 lbs. | dimensions (LxWxH): 4. 5 inch x 4. 5 inch x 1. 5 inch
- Included accessories: hard case, lens covers, neck strap and lens cloth | Backed by Carson No fault, no hassle
The Carson Raven is a good compact binocular that 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 brand 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 mini binocular, the open bridge makes it even more comfortable for holding around the barrels.
Imagine hiking up rocky terrain with a swinging neck strap and seeing your binoculars smack into a rock or a tree – not good. Two thumbs up to the open bridge system.
Since it’s a roof prism binocular, 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 RD bino to do the same for you!
5. Best Compact Binoculars for Hunting: Vortex Raptor 8.5X32
- 8.5x magnification and 32mm objective lenses, this Raptor binocular has a wide-angle, porro prism design that flexs to promote comfortable viewing for a variety of facial...
- Fully multi-coated lenses transmit bright, crisp images with excellent color fidelity and clarity.
- Eyecups twist up for customizable eye relief while a right eye diopter accomodates for focal differences in your eyes.
- Rubber armor makes the Raptor durable while nitrogen purging gives you enhanced waterproof and fogproof performance in extreme weather conditions.
- The Raptor is a great fit for everyone in the family. Field of View: 390 feet/1000 yards|7.4 degrees
If you know anything about cheap binoculars, Porro prism binoculars do it best. Roof prism binoculars without additional prism-specific coatings are inferior to Porro ones. That’s why the Vortex 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 space-saving options. It’s also why roof prism binoculars are in such demand since they’re typically more compact and lightweight. 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 binocular.
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!
6. Best Compact Waterproof Binoculars: Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 6X30
- Leopold model #172703 Bx-1 Yosemite 6x30mm in shadow Gray
- 100% waterproof, Fog proof, & shockproof
- Fully multi-coated lens system ensures maximum brightness for clarity, contrast, and color fidelity
- Back 4 Prisms deliver a perfectly round exit pupil with virtually no edge distortion and a crisp, clear image
- Phase coated Roof Prisms significantly increase resolution for a sharp sight picture
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 mini 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 top compact binocular to be reckoned with.
Nowadays, it has a Shadow Gray finish since Leupold has pretty much done away with black on their binoculars. 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!
7. Best Cheap Compact Binoculars: Tasco Essentials 8×21
- 8 times magnification and a 21mm objective lens
- Multi-coated lenses
- 380' field of view and 10mm eye relief
- Weighs only 5.8 ounces
- Compact roof Prism design
While Tasco is a budget brand known for many who are cash-strapped or need an optic the same day, the Essentials 8X21 binocular is a credit to the brand. In fact, we think these are the best compact binoculars you will find for under $50.
As a foldable roof prism binocular, 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 miniature binoculars. 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 binocular 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!
Consider The Following Criteria When Buying a Quality Binocular
Lenses 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 binocular.
For the top compact binoculars available, look for double hinge designs for the fold-able feature. Sometimes compact just means small and lightweight and not necessarily pocket-size.
Typically, compact binoculars can be anything smaller than 5″ in length and width. Height will usually be around 1-2″. However, they can also be mid to full-size ones with slimmer dimensions and lighter weight.
Compact binoculars can weigh up to 1 lb and less.
Image Field of View (FOV):
For larger field of views, look for a lower powered binocular with a larger aperture.
Cheap Porro prism binoculars will not be waterproof where roof prisms are almost always weatherproof. For waterproofness on a Porro prism binocular, look for a more expensive optic or be brand-specific.
The more, the better. Additional prism-specific coatings should also be expected on roof prism binoculars.
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.
If you’re spending the best of what you can afford, ensure you have a warranty to match the quality of your investment.
Top Compact Binoculars For Everyday Use!
The way in which we’ve described the best 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 small binocular. A lot of the time, pocket binoculars generally come in cheaper than its larger counterparts.
Who needs the added costs, size, and weight when you can have a teeny binocular 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 best compact set of binoculars on the porch, in a gear kit, and in the car, even if it’s just for fun!