Best binoculars 2023: Top picks for stargazing, wildlife, birding and more

Jason Parnell-Brookes using one of the best binoculars for stargazing and birding at the top of a green grassy hill
(Image credit: Rebecca Greenaway)

The best binoculars should provide observers with bright, sharp views, be appropriately priced for your budget and be reliable to use in all weathers and temperatures. No matter what they are used for — stargazing, tracking wildlife or even spotting planes and other vehicles during sporting events, the best binoculars should always deliver exceptional viewing quality in any situation.

When choosing the best binoculars for stargazing, there are some important features to consider. The best stargazing binoculars will have large objective lenses (the ones facing the stars) to let in as much faint starlight as possible. They will also provide strong magnification to make those tiny specks of light from deep space appear larger.

Some binoculars are so good for astronomy they can be a budget-friendly alternative to the best telescopes and still provide excellent night sky views. For this guide, we've searched through our extensive range of binocular reviews from our expert panel, where we've tested and rated models based on their performance and real-world use, not just ranked them based on the binoculars' numbers and specifications. 

But if you need something more specific check out the best compact binoculars guide for something smaller or our best binoculars for kids page. Alternatively, if you need something to photograph the night sky be sure to read our best cameras for photos and videos or best cameras for astrophotography pages.

Gemma Lavender Headshot
Dr Gemma Lavender

Gemma is a contributing writer to Space.com, Live Science, science and space magazines How It Works and All About Space, history magazines All About History and History of War as well as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) kids education brand Future Genius. She is the author of several books including 'Quantum Physics in Minutes', 'Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual to the Large Hadron Collider' and 'Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual to the Milky Way'. She holds a degree in physical sciences, a Master's in astrophysics and a PhD in computational astrophysics. She was elected as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2011. Previously, she worked for Nature's journal, Scientific Reports, and created scientific industry reports for the Institute of Physics and the British Antarctic Survey.

The quick list


Best binoculars we recommend in 2023

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Best overall

Best binoculars overall: The finest stargazing binoculars money can buy with in-built stabilization

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.5-degrees
Eye relief: 14.5mm (0.57-inch)
Weight: 39.2 oz / 1.1kg

Reasons to buy

+
Optical Image Stabilizer 
+
Rugged build quality 
+
Lots of eye relief 

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky size 
-
Lens caps are loose 
-
AAA batteries required 
Buy it if

✅ You want the best of the best: Other than price and size, we really couldn't find major fault with these binoculars — we gave them 5 stars in our review.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're a casual user: These are an expensive pair of powerful binos, so for anyone who only ever does casual stargazing or wildlife spotting, they'll be overkill.

❌ You want a lightweight binocular: These are undeniably heavy and bulky, so if weight is important to you, we'd suggest looking elsewhere.

The bottom line

🔎 Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars: They're not perfect, but they’re as close as you’ll get for hand-held astronomy. We think they're an outstanding choice for super-steady stargazing thanks to their fabulous image stabilization, waterproof design and large objective lenses. ★★★★★

These binoculars are simply the best choice for skywatching, but they come with a higher price to match. They have excellent optics and feature optical stabilization technology found in Canon's expensive camera lenses. This stabilization is really useful when using them without a tripod, especially with their powerful 10x magnification, as it removes all the shakiness and gives the feeling of being on an invisible tripod.

The glass is identical to those used in Canon camera lenses, and it has the 'L' designation that distinguishes some of the best and most expensive lenses ever to be used with a digital sensor. You can expect sharp, bright, and stable views through these excellent binos.

As good as they are, these binoculars do have a few minor drawbacks. Due to the stabilization mechanisms and battery, they are quite heavy (1.1kg / 39.2 oz). They also have a premium price tag so will outprice some observers. While we've picked out the 10x42 pair as ideal for astronomy, there are alternatives in the range, including Canon 18x50 IS AW and Canon 15x50 IS AW models that are not quite as painful on the wallet. 

In our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review, we thought that even though they are pricey, they are almost perfect for hand-held astronomy, so we believe the cost is justified if you can afford it.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignRugged build quality, but bulky
PerformanceProduce bright and colorful images
FunctionalityOptical image stabilization

Best optical performance

Best optical performance: Some of the best optics on the market in an easily transportable roof prism design

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.9-degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.67-inch)
Weight: 1.5 oz / 680g

Reasons to buy

+
Highly portable
+
Sharp views across the whole field of view

Reasons to avoid

-
No image stabilization
-
Negligible color fringing
Buy it if

✅ You want some of the best on the market: If you're prepared to pay for them, these binoculars will last you for years to come and provide stunning optical performance and a premium finish.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You don't have a big budget: These are not cheap whatsoever, so they're only really accessible to those with a big budget who want the best optical quality.

You specifically want image stabilization: This may be the only thing missing from this pair of binos, so if that's important to you, there are other options out there that do have it.

The bottom line

🔎 Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 This premium package comes at a premium price though and is not ideal for beginner binocular users unless you have deep pockets or a real passion for wildlife or a similar interest that you plan on pursuing for years to come. ★★★★½

In our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review, we loved these so much that we found them hard to fault. The optics are top-quality and we found almost zero chromatic aberration. This is thanks to Nikon's multilayer coatings on all glass elements and the included Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements. Because of their wide field of view and excellent inbuilt field-flattened technology, wildlife observers notably benefit from the image being sharp from edge to edge.

These binoculars have a slim design due to their roof prism design, making them easy to carry in an overcoat pocket or hang around the neck. Despite weighing 680g, we found them comfortable to use for extended periods, thanks to the plush and comfortable neck strap.

The secure sealing and nitrogen-purging in the binos make them completely waterproof and fog proof, so you won't have to worry when using them in bad weather. That means you can move freely inside and out without missing a beat (or an observation) — especially helpful for stargazing.

They aren't cheap due to their outstanding optics and quality finish, but if you can afford them, we believe they offer excellent value.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignPremium finish all over
PerformanceRazor sharp views from edge to edge
FunctionalityOnly way to improve would be inclusion of image stabilization

Best for affordable stargazing

Best for affordable stargazing: A wide aperture and 12x magnification make these excellent for observing the cosmos

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 5.5 degrees
Eye relief: 16mm (0.63-inch)
Weight: 36.2 oz / 1028g

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Close focusing

Reasons to avoid

-
A little heavy for prolonged use
-
Image could be a touch sharper
Buy it if

✅ You want to take them anywhere in any weather: They were created with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, and they're waterproof and fogproof so you can use them anywhere.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to use them for prolonged periods: They may become quite heavy if you plan on using them for long periods handheld, so we'd opt for a more lightweight pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Nature DX 12x56 They offer bright and clear views, with a wide aperture for gathering light and magnification that is excellent for stargazing and wildlife spotting. ★★★★½

The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 binoculars were created with the outdoor enthusiast in mind and are an excellent purchase if you enjoy observing wildlife, bird watching, and astronomy. You essentially get a mid-range pair of binoculars with a beginner price tag. The binoculars are highly affordable and adapt themselves nicely to stargazing thanks to their 12x magnification and wide 56mm objective lenses. Plus, those that wear eyeglasses can take advantage of the 16mm eye relief as well.

You can use these binoculars in any weather or location, thanks to their complete weather sealing. They are also fog-proof due to being nitrogen purged. With BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated lenses, you can expect good optics that are similar to more expensive models.

In our Celestron Nature DX 12x56 review, we especially liked the close (10 feet) focus on these binoculars, allowing for backyard bird spotting and up-close wildlife watching. Binoculars without close focus wouldn't allow for this type of use. We even liked them so much, we bought ourselves a pair.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignFogproof and waterproof
PerformanceBright images even when observing in low light
FunctionalityA little heavy for prolonged use

Best binoculars under $300

Best binoculars under $300: Fogproof and waterproof for use in all weathers

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 8.1 degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.7-inch)
Weight: 23.1 oz / 654g

Reasons to buy

+
No fogging 
+
Bright images 
+
Wide field of view

Reasons to avoid

-
Carry case can’t house harness strap
-
Lack magnification for serious astro
Buy it if

✅ You want to travel with them: We found they were lightweight enough to travel with them easily, although perhaps not the best for prolonged periods of handheld use.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're serious about astro: For dedicated astro use, particularly for deep sky objects, they lack the magnification needed.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binocular: Traveling stargazers will love them as they work well after dark and strike a balance between quality, affordability and portability. The TrailSeeker 8x42’s minimalist design makes them a hugely more attractive option than large and heavy deep-sky astronomy-centric binoculars ★★★★½

In our full Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars review, we thought the binoculars struck a great balance between quality, affordability and portability — especially for skywatchers.

The TrailSeeker 8x42 from Celestron offers a slightly different view from the norm because of the amount of light their 42mm apertures collect. Their marginally lower magnification also gives you a wider field of view. The Earth's moon will appear slightly smaller when compared with 10x50 binoculars. But compared to other binoculars we've tested, this one's optical system and lens multi-coatings offer a sharper, brighter view. 

These binoculars are great for moving between different temperatures, like going from a warm indoor environment to the cold outdoors on a frosty night. They won't fog up, thanks to their nitrogen purging and waterproof design. This means you can use them for a long time without any issues while observing.

When using the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars, you'll notice that there is very little false color. False color, also called chromatic aberration, appears as a purple or blue halo around bright objects. In our review, very little could be seen in the field of view, especially when observing the lunar limb.

Although the TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars only weigh 23.1 oz (655g), we found that during long periods of observation, our arms started to shake, making it difficult to maintain a steady hand-held view. If you're prone to trembling arms or will be using these for long sessions, we advise pairing them with one of the best tripods for astrophotography or the best travel tripod.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignFogproof and waterproof
PerformanceGood quality optics, slight color fringing
FunctionalityWide field of view

Best budget binoculars

Best budget binoculars: Space and weight saving binoculars to take on your travels

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 6.8 degrees
Eye relief: 12mm (0.47-inch)
Weight: 27 oz / 765g

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and lightweight
+
Waterproof and fog-resistant 
+
Shock resistant

Reasons to avoid

-
Lenses need collimating 
-
Greater magnification needed for astro
Buy it if

✅ You're a beginner: If you've used binoculars before, then these are unlikely to impress you, so they're best suited to beginners.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You specialize in astro: While they do give decent views of the night sky, anyone focusing solely on astronomy usage would likely want to go for a better pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Binocular: Best thought of as a great value pair of entry-level binoculars for all-round use and for occasional night sky views. They’re also really easy to set up, adjust and use. As such, there is a reasonably good choice for astronomy groups on a budget (though we do worry about their longevity). ★★★★½

These are affordable skywatching binoculars that would be ideal for anyone just starting out who wants to get the most for their money. While there are some true wins to this model, there are a few reasons why they're cheap, and we discussed them in our Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binocular review.

The view they offer is very reasonable, and we could just make out three stars in the Trapezium Cluster, which is located near the heart of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42). In order to tease out the fourth bright star in this star-forming region, you would need greater magnification.

The moon looks stunning, easily fitting in the field of view and with only a slight degree of false color. In July 2020, the UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars served as an excellent optical aid for studying the naked-eye comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). 

In our opinion, these binoculars are an excellent option for those on a budget and starting with stargazing or exploring. They are lightweight and ideal for trekking. However, we did notice a couple of downsides during our review. First, they require collimation, which means adjusting the alignment of the lenses. They are also prone to fogging in certain conditions.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignBasic build design and quality
PerformanceSurprisingly little chromatic aberration
FunctionalityNeeds greater magnification for astro

Best for moon views

Stock image on a white background of the Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 Binocular

The SkyMaster Pro 15x70 binoculars have a very specific purpose: To maximize the light of distant objects and magnify them into view. (Image credit: Celestron)
Best for moon views: These binoculars have superb magnification and detail, but they're heavy

Specifications

Magnification: 15x
Objective lens diameter: 70mm
Angular field of view: 4.4 degrees
Eye relief: 18mm (0.71-inch)
Weight: 3 lbs / 1.36kg

Reasons to buy

+
Great price for giant binoculars
+
Excellent eye relief
+
Optics offer good detail

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy, requires tripod
-
Some softness around edges
Buy it if

✅ You want good quality without breaking the bank: Given the high magnification, sturdy build and large objectives, we think they're great quality for the price.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want to view planets or small distant galaxies: They don't excel in this area, they're more suited to providing dramatic wide-field views or larger objects.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron SkyMaster Pro 15x70 Binocular These binoculars give a superb stargazing experience at a reasonable price. They won’t give you close-ups of planets or reveal the most distant galaxies, but they make up for it by providing dramatic wide-field views in a good, dark sky. ★★★★½

The Celestron SkyMaster line of binoculars offer superb views for a reasonable price from a trusted brand with a solid reputation. This is the case for the 15x70 'giant' binoculars. They are a sturdy pair of binoculars with a bit of bulk, and users will be pleased with the quality of views provided for the price range. 

At 11-inches (280 mm) in length and weighing 3 lbs. (1.36 kilograms), we found in our Celestron SkyMaster Pro 15x70 binocular review that they certainly have a lot of heft, but using them handheld isn't impossible. You'd be most comfortable if you mounted them to a tripod. However, because of their high magnification, the views of the moon are breathtaking. We were especially impressed by the stereoscopic viewing of the lunar surface.

Despite the larger 70 mm objective aperture, the higher magnification of 15x reduces the apparent field of view to 4.4 degrees, compared to typical 10x50s or 12x50s that provide a degree more. 

However, the SkyMaster 15x70 binoculars offer a significant advantage. They gather more light and provide higher magnification, making things that appear unclear on weaker binoculars stand out more. Although there is some softness and blurring at the edges of the field, this is common in affordable models. If you wear eyeglasses, you'll be pleased to know that the SkyMaster 15x70 has a comfortable 0.7 inches (18 mm) of eye relief.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignRobust construction
PerformanceOptics give good detail
FunctionalityExcellent for viewing larger deep-sky objects

Best lightweight binoculars

Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 Binocular product image on a white background

Large 50mm objective lenses maximize light through-put in this slim and attractive roof prism binocular design. (Image credit: Opticron)
Best lightweight binoculars: Slim and portable thanks to their roof prism design

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 5.5 degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.67-inch)
Weight: 1.7lbs / 771g

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight design
+
Long eye relief
+
Excellent optics for a low price

Reasons to avoid

-
Build feels slightly cheap
-
FOV could be wider
Buy it if

✅ You wear glasses: Their excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78mm) makes them stand out as a great choice for users who wear glasses.

✅ You want to do long nights of stargazing: Their lightweight design makes them perfect for holding for longer periods of time.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want a wide field of view: They have a fairly narrow field of view (5.5 degrees), so anyone wanting wider views should opt for an alternative pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 Binocular They are light and robust, waterproof, and produce great sights in the night sky. They are made with the best quality glass and have fully multi-coated optics, combined with the light-gathering power of 50mm objectives and powerful 10x magnification. ★★★★

The Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 binoculars stand out as a great choice for people who wear glasses, thanks to their excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78mm). One common issue for glasses wearers is the difficulty of getting close enough to the eyepieces for a clear view. They might have to remove their glasses, which obviously affects their vision. Fortunately, with these binoculars, you won't face that problem, as the eye relief ensures optimal comfort even while wearing glasses. Additionally, the twistable eyecups can be adjusted to provide even more comfort.

While testing these binoculars in our Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 review, we thought that although the binoculars lacked a premium feel to the touch, the optics are excellent and provide excellent contrast, showing all the usual celestial subjects well. 

Open star clusters like the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull) and the Beehive (Messier 44) in Cancer (the Crab) were picked out easily and could be seen with impressive clarity, while bright double stars — particularly Mizar and Alcor in the constellation of Ursa Major (the Great Bear) — resolve very well under the magnification. 

During our hands-on review, we found that these binoculars' light weight of just 1.7 lbs. (0.77 kg) makes them incredibly comfortable to hold for extended periods of time when observing.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignTough rubberised coating
PerformanceExcellent optics for a reasonable price
FunctionalityField of view could be wider

Best mid range model

Best mid-range model: The pair you need if a wide field of view and a good sturdy build quality top your brief

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Angular field of view: 8.1 degrees
Eye relief: 17mm (0.67-inch)
Weight: 1.89lbs / 861g

Reasons to buy

+
Sturdy, well-constructed build
+
Multipurpose optics
+
Manageable weight

Reasons to avoid

-
A little false color in views
-
Slight blurring at the edge of FOV
Buy it if

✅ You want to travel with them: The lightweight design of these binoculars makes them extremely manageable to travel with.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You're on a tight budget: While they're not the most expensive option on this list, anyone on a particularly tight budget could certainly find a more affordable pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD Binocular If you want to move up to the next level with your binocular stargazing, then the roof prisms on these binoculars bring super-sharp views and come with a useful harness and an excellent padded case. ★★★★

Thanks to the wide field of view, you'll be hard-pressed to find better than the reliable and robust Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD for wildlife watching and occasional stargazing.

The image is crisp and clear, with stars appearing as perfect pinpoints of light. It is possible that you might notice some slight color distortion while observing brighter objects, but that's not uncommon for this price range. That being said, the Vortex Crossfire HD 10x50 produces a great balance between brightness and sharpness across the field of view. In our review, we only noticed a tiny drop-off towards the very edges of the fields of view.

The standout feature of these binoculars is their exceptional build quality. They are expertly crafted with a sturdy focusing knob that can be easily adjusted, even when wearing thick gloves in cold weather. The eyecups are comfortable and twistable, allowing you to adjust the eye relief to 17mm for a personalized viewing experience. If you're an astronomy enthusiast who loves exploring nature and traveling, you'll appreciate the lightweight design of these binoculars, weighing only 1.89 lbs (0.86kg).

Although these binoculars come with a harness, we realized during our Vortex 10x50 Crossfire HD binocular review that the padded case forms part of the harness so you can't use one without the other which is a little frustrating.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignSturdy, well constructed build
PerformanceBright and sharp images
FunctionalityExcellent padded case and harness

Best family binoculars

Best family binoculars: Surprisingly good optics make these alluring to adults and kids alike

Specifications

Magnification: 7x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 6.8 degrees
Eye relief: 13mm (0.5-inch)
Weight: 1.68 lbs / 773g

Reasons to buy

+
Great value, low risk purchase
+
Wide exit pupil 
+
BK7 glass

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof 
-
Not drop-proof
Buy it if

✅ You're buying for your kids: These make a great inexpensive, 'don't care if they get trashed' pair of binoculars that are great for kids who aren't particularly careful.

Don't buy it if:

❌ You want good quality: They're decent for what they are, but if you want good quality optics we'd recommend spending a bit more on a better pair.

The bottom line

🔎 Celestron Cometron 7x50 Their small size and light weight (1 lb 11 oz) let you use them all day, yet you can still hand-hold them comfortably after sunset and long into your dark night of sky-watching. Considering what and who they're for, for the price, they're hard to beat. ★★★★

The 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses make the Celestron Cometron 7x50 perfect for kids (see them featured in our best binoculars for kids guide). It is a known fact that children have better night vision than adults, meaning they do not require high-end binoculars to see the same amount of light that an adult would with a more powerful pair.

When it comes to children using binoculars, it's important to remember their limited ability to hold them steady for long periods. That's why opting for a lightweight and comfortable option is best. This will make it easier for them to use and prevent them from getting tired quickly. Alternatively, consider mounting them on a tripod.

Having reviewed the specs on paper, we weren't too excited about reviewing this pair of binoculars, but to our pleasant surprise, we ended up loving them in our Celestron Cometron 7x50 review. They are an inexpensive way to enter the world of sky-watching, and if it doesn't work out, the risk you took cost $40.

These compact binoculars combine a 7x magnification with a large 50mm objective lens, allowing for a good balance of size and light-gathering capability. While they are strong, durable, lightweight and compact, they aren't waterproof, which is something we would typically expect at this affordable price point.

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Test results
AttributesNotes
DesignWater-resistant, not waterproof
PerformanceUseful for other subjects in the daytime
FunctionalityIdeal for use by adults and kids alike