Best binoculars 2022: Top picks for stargazing, wildlife and more

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

A pair of the best binoculars for stargazing will open up a whole new world to skywatchers and with holiday sales around the corner this is a good time to bag a deal. While telescopes are often considered the astronomer's best friend, for many, a binocular is a cost-effective alternative and because they're usually much smaller than telescopes are a viable option for those who like to travel. You'll be able to scope out the best astronomy binoculars available for stargazing in this handy guide.

With the holiday season upon us and retailers offering discounts, now is the best time to be looking at grabbing one of the best binoculars out there.

The benefit of buying a pair of binoculars is that they're multipurpose. Use your binoculars for bird watching, spotting wildlife in nature, or any outdoor pursuit where you'd like a better view of something in the distance. They're ideal for ornithologists and hikers enthusiastic about seeing wildlife, but many double up as suitable instruments to view the stars. But if you've ever wondered, 'Which binocular should I buy for stargazing?' we've scoured the stores to find what's on offer and rounded up the best binoculars in 2022 so you can be sure of an enjoyable stargazing experience. 

We've put them in this detailed guide to help you choose what's right for you. You'll also find links to purchasing the listed models at the best prices, updated as the market changes.

Buying binoculars is not just a case of buying the biggest, highest magnification pair, especially if you're looking for something easy to pack up for traveling or to suit a younger stargazer with small hands. You should check out our best compact binoculars and best binoculars for kids guides for those requirements. If you've got your heart set on a specific brand, we also have helpful guides for brands, including Vortex deals, Bushnell deals and Leica deals to help you out. With Black Friday quickly approaching (25th November) we should see some good deals cropping up.

There's something for every level of sky watcher, and to suit every budget in this guide, so, without further ado, here are what we think are the best binoculars for stargazing, wildlife spotting and bird watching right now.

Best binoculars deal this holiday season 2022

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Nikon Prostaff 3S 10x42 (opens in new tab)

Nikon ProStaff 3S 10x42 binoculars: was $129.95, now $98.75 at Amazon (opens in new tab).
A decent saving of 25% makes this binocular deal a good investment if you're in the market for an entry-level binocular that's both waterproof and fog-proof. Adjustable eyecups even make it suitable for spectacles-wearers without removing eyeglasses.


The best binoculars in 2022

Image shows Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
The finest stargazing binoculars money can buy

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.5 degrees
Eye relief: 14.5mm
Weight: 1.1KG (39.2 oz)

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 

These are simply the finest binoculars for skywatching, however, they have a price tag to suit. Not only are they optically excellent, but the gyro-stabilization Canon has installed, taken from its most expensive camera lenses, means all the wobble introduced by being handheld and larger magnification goes away. It feels like they are being held on an invisible tripod.

The glass is the same as in Canon's camera lenses, taking the 'L' designation that marks out some of the best and most expensive lenses ever to sit in front of a digital sensor. You can expect sharp, bright, and stable views through these excellent binos.

As always, we can expect some downsides. These are a heavy pair of binoculars, and you'd struggle to hold them steady for long periods were it not for the electronic stabilization. They're also eye-wateringly expensive. While we've picked out the 10x42 pair as ideal for astronomy, there are alternatives in the range, including Canon 18x50 IS AW (opens in new tab) and Canon 15x50 IS AW (opens in new tab) models that are not quite as painful on the wallet. 

In our Canon 10x42L IS WP binoculars review, we thought that, while they are expensive, they are almost perfect for hand-held astronomy so we think the price is worth it if you can stretch to it.


Nikon Monarch Binoculars sitting on a stone wall in the countryside

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
Some of the best optics on the market, and easily transportable

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 6.9°
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 680g

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
No image stabilization
-
Negligible color fringing

Here we have a beautiful pair of binoculars, no expense has been spared and every part of the build is finished to outstanding quality. In our Nikon Monarch HG 10x42 review, we loved them so much that we found them hard to fault.

The optics are excellent, and there is almost zero chromatic aberration. This is thanks to Nikon's Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass elements. The image is sharp from edge to edge thanks to the clever inbuilt field-flattened system, this is especially useful for wildlife watchers, as is their wide field of view.

Weighing just 680g and with a slim body, the Nikon Monarch HG are highly transportable. It's even possible to fit them into a big pocket and the low weight means they are comfortable when holding for long skywatching periods.

You won't have to worry about using them in inclement weather, as they are entirely waterproof. No need for rain to stop play. They are also nitrogen purged so they won't fog up when moving from one temperature to another (e.g., indoors to outdoors).

For the outstanding optics and premium finish, they aren't cheap, but we think they are excellent value for money if you can afford them.


Nature DX 12x56 eyecaps removed and in hand

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)
A wide aperture and good level of magnification, these are excellent for stargazing and wildlife spotting

Specifications

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

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent build quality
+
Close focusing

Reasons to avoid

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

The Celestron Nature DX 12x56 binoculars, are a perfect buy if you're into wildlife spotting, bird watching and stargazing and were designed with the outdoor enthusiast in mind. You essentially get a mid-range pair of binoculars with a beginner price tag.

They have outstanding build quality and full-weather sealing. They are also nitrogen purged so you can use them in various climes.

You get good optics that rival those in more expensive models including BaK-4 prisms with multi-coated optics. The wide aperture and 12x magnification are perfect for sky-watching and the 16mm eye-relief makes them comfortable for spectacle wearers.

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!


Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binocular review: image shows Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
For under $300 these are the best binoculars you can buy today

Specifications

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

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

In our conclusion of our Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars review, we thought they 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. Nevertheless, the optical system mixed with the lens multi-coatings offers a sharper, brighter view compared to other binoculars we've tested. 

These are great binoculars if you'll move between temperatures (e.g., from inside with the central heating on to the great outdoors on a frosty night) thanks to the nitrogen purging and a waterproof design which means they won't fog up, giving you more observing time.

There is also a notable lack of false color when using the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42. This false color is also known as chromatic aberration and it forms a purple or blue hue around brighter targets. Very little could be seen in the field of view, particularly along the lunar limb during our review.

The TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars weigh a modest 2 lbs. (1KG) but over long periods of observing time, we discovered that our arms began to shake, making it difficult to get 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.


Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 Binocular - a great value pair of binoculars

(Image credit: Opticron)
Our best budget binocular pick for 2022

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 5.5 degrees
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 771g (1 lb 11.2 oz)

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

If you wear glasses the Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 are some of the best binoculars for providing maximum comfort, thanks to the excellent eye relief of 0.7 inches (17.78mm). Issues faced by the people wearing glasses typically include not being able to move the eye as close to the eyepieces as desired. In turn, this means they may have to remove their spectacles to get a better view (which of course causes problems with actual vision). That's not the case with these; the eye relief mentioned above should negate this problem. The Opticron Adventurer II WP 10x50 also features twistable eyecups that can retract or extend 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 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 well under the magnification. 

Weighing in at just 1.7 lbs. (0.77 kg), these binoculars can be handheld comfortably for long periods of observing time, we confirmed this during our hands-on review.


Vortex 10 x 50 Crossfire HD showing the lens caps

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
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
Weight: 861g (30.4 oz)

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

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. You may find you can detect a small degree of false color when observing brighter objects, although this optical defect isn't unusual for this price point. 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.

It's the build quality that makes these binoculars stand out. They are well-constructed with a solid, heavy-duty focusing knob that's a breeze to adjust even when wearing thick gloves to fend off chilly winter temperatures. Their eye relief is adjustable thanks to comfortable twistable eyecups. At just 1.89 lbs. (0.86KG), astronomers who like to dabble in nature-watching and globetrotting will be grateful for their light weight.  

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


Celestron cometron 7x50 binoculars in the hand

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips & Dave Brody)
An inexpensive option ideal for kids with surprising results

Specifications

Magnification: 7x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 6.8 degrees
Eye relief: 13mm
Weight: 773g (27.3 oz)

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof 
-
Not drop-proof

The 7x magnification and 50mm objective lenses make the Celestron Cometron 7x50 (opens in new tab) perfect for kids (see them featured in our best binoculars for kids guide). Kids can see better in the dark than adults, meaning they don't need a top-of-the-range pair to see a similar amount of light as an adult would with a stronger pair.

Children need something lightweight and comfortable to hold as they may not be as good at holding binoculars steady and may tire faster. Alternatively, consider mounting them on a tripod.

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

These compact binoculars partner a 7x magnification with a large 50mm objective lens, they don't need much bulk but still allow a lot of light in. Although these are strong, durable, compact and lightweight, they aren't waterproof, which we would expect at this low price. 


Celestron Skymaster 25x100 binoculars in use with author looking through them at the moon

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips & Dave Brody)
See the Universe close up and in stereo, but don’t plan to take them anywhere

Specifications

Magnification: 25x
Objective lens diameter: 100mm
Field of view: 3 degrees
Eye relief: 15mm
Weight: 3.97 KG (8.75 lb)

Reasons to buy

+
High magnification 
+
Tripod adapter included
+
Great clarity and contrast

Reasons to avoid

-
Very heavy, tripod needed
-
Quite expensive

As if a mad scientist had blended a pair of telescopes using an experimental teleporter, touring the heavens with these is like viewing the night sky using two four-inch (100 mm) refractors, with added 25x magnification. 

The Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 binoculars are a worthy investment. Their tough, rugged, reliable build means you'll enjoy many years of stargazing as you can read in our full Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 review.

They're not for everyone and will definitely need support. At 15.3 inches (388.62 mm) in length and weighing in at a hefty 8.75 lbs (almost 4 kilograms), you will need a heavy-duty tripod such as the Manfrotto 190 Go! tripod. The eye relief is decent at 0.6 inches (15.24 mm), but this may be a little close for glasses wearers.

Under a dark, clear night sky, you can just make out Jupiter's atmospheric belts using this pair. Sweeping through the Milky Way, particularly the dense star fields of Sagittarius, is a sight that you have to see to believe, the Sagittarius Star Cloud (Messier 24) is especially impressive. The multi-coated optics are exquisite, with bright images and stunning contrast. Back in 2015, we chose them as our Editor's Choice for large astronomy binoculars.


Nikon aculon 10x50 a211 binoculars front three-quarter view

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
A sleek and well made binocular model

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 6.5 degrees
Eye Relief: 11.8mm
Weight: 899g (31.7 oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Great optics 
+
Wide field of view
+
Sleek design

Reasons to avoid

-
Eye relief isn't brilliant
-
Not water resistant

The aspherical eyepiece lens built into the Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars works like a charm and eliminates any kind of image distortion. All the usual nighttime binocular subjects can be picked out easily, from Jupiter's disk to the crescent moon, with the optical system revealing crisp shadows at our natural satellite's terminator. Meanwhile, the rubber armor on the exterior allows for a firm, shock-resistant grip that makes the binoculars pleasing to hold.

With a relatively sizeable 6.5-degree field of view, these binoculars are perfect for those occasions when the moon passes through or close to a large star cluster, such as the Pleiades (Messier 45) in Taurus (the Bull). Pinpoint stars dot the backdrop of a night sky right to the edge of the frame, with excellent contrast.

The Aculon A211s slightly let themselves down with the rather close eye relief of just 0.5 inches (16.51mm), which might be problematic (but not impossible) for spectacle wearers. 

In our hands-on Nikon 10x50 Aculon A211 binoculars review, our verdict is that while we think they are on the bulky side if you plan on taking them traveling or backpacking, they are bright and sharp enough to use for entry-level astronomy. They are great value for money with good optical quality.


Product photo of the Nikon Prostaff P3 8x42

(Image credit: Amazon)

10. Nikon PROSTAFF P3 8x42

These lightweight binoculars are easy to hold for long periods, best for terrestrial viewing

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 7.2 degrees
Eye relief: 5.3mm
Weight: 572g (20.2 oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight for longer use
+
Adjustable eyecups
+
Nitrogen filled for anti-fog

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't have a tripod adapter
-
Not the best choice for skywatchers. 

These are fantastic entry-level binoculars that punch well above their modest price tag. They are new to the market and hold their own against more expensive binos. The eye relief is very long at 20.2mm and the eyecups are adjustable — this is excellent news and makes for a comfortable viewing experience for all, including spectacle wearers.

They are a lightweight design, made from strong fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin, and are comfortable to hold thanks to the non-slip rubber coating. They have a shockproof outer layer and shouldn't break if you accidentally drop or knock them. They are also waterproof down to 3.3 ft and Nitrogen filled, so fog-proof, which is impressive for their price tag.

The focus wheel is easily rotatable, with just the right amount of resistance, even when wearing thick gloves. 

The downside to this pair of binoculars is that there is no tripod adaptor but with the 8x magnification and lightweight body (572g) you shouldn't need one. They are a great choice for handheld nature spotting or taking on your travels without tipping your luggage allowance over the limit. Still, we wouldn't necessarily recommend them for hours of exploring the night sky.


Celestron's SkyMaster 8x56 binoculars have won Space.com's Editors' Choice award for Best Medium Binoculars for Astronomy. <a href=http://store.themayfliesusa.com/index.php/skywatching/binoculars/celestron-skymaster-8x56-binoculars.html?&ICID=SPACE-best-binoculars-image-2014-10-23 target=_blank rel=nofollow>BUY the Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 binoculars >>></a>

(Image credit: Space.com/Jeremy Lips)

11. Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 binoculars

Large aperture handheld binoculars perfect for the deep sky

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 56mm
Field of view: 5.8 degrees
Eye relief: 18mm
Weight: 1.07 KG (38 oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Waterproof and fog-proof design 
+
Large objective lenses 
+
Generous eye relief

Reasons to avoid

-
Reasonably heavy 
-
Tripod adaptor not included 
-
Suited to experienced users

The Celestron Skymaster 8x56 binoculars won Space.com's Editor's Choice award for Best Medium Binoculars for Astronomyway back in 2014 thanks to their affordability and versatility, but we still think they are worth the cash today. You can get yourself a pair for around $250. They weigh just over 1 KG so aren't the lightest, but they certainly aren't the heaviest and it isn't impossible to hold them for long stints at a time. If you want to mount them on a tripod, you will need a tripod adaptor.

They are nitrogen-filled and sealed so you can be confident they can perform in all weathers without condensation, giving you more viewing time. The eye relief is a generous 18mm, comfortable for glasses wearers. The field of view of 5.8 degrees is satisfactory, although not outstanding. See what we thought of the binoculars in our hands-on Celestron SkyMaster 8x56 review.


Image shows Vixen SG 2.1x42 wide-field binoculars on a stone slab

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
Very low magnification sci-fi-esque binoculars for sussing out constellations

Specifications

Magnification: 2.1x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of view: 25 degrees
Eye relief: 8.4mm
Weight: 411g (14.5 oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Very easy to keep steady 
+
Widefield 3D stargazing 
+
Small, light and easy to carry 

Reasons to avoid

-
Very low magnification 
-
Blurry at edges 
-
Lens caps are easy to lose 

If you're ready for a completely different kind of binocular experience, put a pair of the Vixen SG 2.1x42 to your eyes. You'll see the same night sky as the naked eye, only zoomed in 2x. 

Why would anyone buy a pair of binoculars with such a low magnification? If your goal is to glimpse deep-sky sights such as galaxies or even get a close-up of Jupiter's largest moons, then the Vixen SG 2.1x42 are not for you. However, if sussing-out constellations and generally getting a super steady, wide-eyed view of the cosmos is what you're after, then you'll adore the Vixen SG 2.1x42.

Using lenses composed of five multi-coated elements and with stunning build quality, they offer eye-opening stereoscopic depth. The drawbacks include blur around the edges of the field of view – a hangover of their simple Galilean design – and some pop-off lens caps that are pretty easy to misplace.

In our Vixen SG 2.1x42 review, we concluded that they are a niche choice for stargazers who are looking for something a little different, they let a lot of light in and have an immersive 3D depth. 

We wouldn't recommend them for spectacle wearers due to the lack of eye relief and rubber eyecups, but for a pair of highly portable, easy-to-adjust, low-power binoculars, these might be your new best friend.


Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 Porro Binoculars review

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
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
Weight: 765g (27 oz)

Reasons to buy

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

Reasons to avoid

-
Lenses need collimating 
-
Greater magnification needed for astro

These are entry-level skywatching binoculars that would suit anyone with a tight budget or who is a beginner wanting to get the most value 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 present is very reasonable, the fuzzy glow of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42) is pleasing, and we could just make out three stars in the Trapezium Cluster at the nebula's heart. You would need greater magnification to tease out the fourth bright star in this star-forming region. 

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). 

What lets down the view is the collimation of the lenses being off, you can adjust this via small screws, but it's a bit frustrating having to do this with an out-of-the-box pair. The lenses are also prone to fogging, which can be irritating, but not a dealbreaker. We'd still recommend the Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars because of their lightweight design and low cost. Pop them in your backpack and go exploring.


Image shows everything that is included with the Nikon Action EX 12x 50 binoculars

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
A reliable pair that let in a lot of light, but we advise mounting them to a tripod

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 5.5 degrees
Eye relief: 16.1mm
Weight: 1 KG (36.8oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Wide field of view
+
Clear, crisp observations

Reasons to avoid

-
Heavy, tripod required
-
Slight field curvature

The Nikon Action EX 12x50 binoculars make a good comparison with regular 10x50 binoculars in that you get the same aperture at 50 mm but a greater magnification of 12x. The construction is excellent, with comfy rubber grips and a big focus knob. Eye relief is 0.51-in (13 mm).

Since you're magnifying the same amount of light collected by 10x50s, a higher magnification usually means images are less bright. However, this loss of brightness is not noticeable due to the multi-coated lenses and high-refractive-index prisms of the Action EX 12x50. What we found in our Nikon Action EX 12x50 binoculars review is that you get great, high-contrast images. Saturn offered a test of this binocular: its rings were not resolvable on their own, but the skywatcher will notice definite ansae — the extension of the rings at either side of the planet, giving Saturn an oblate shape.

When viewing stars, the images are sharp and pinpointed at the center of the field. Around the edge of the 5.5-degree field of view, there is some curvature. This makes it slightly distracting when spanning across the Milky Way or wanting to observe larger star clusters. But this doesn't take away from the fantastic package the skywatcher gets in the Action EX 12x50.

The Nikon Action EX 12x50, weighing in at 2.3 lbs. (1.04KG) is too heavy for long bouts of stargazing. The higher magnification will enhance any image wobble, so we advise using a tripod.


Image shows Celestron Nature DX ED 12x50 binoculars laying on a table with the lens caps removed

(Image credit: Jamie Carter)
Guaranteed bright and sharp images through the day and into the night for less than $300

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Field of view: 4.8 degrees
Eye relief: 14.3mm
Weight: 806g (28.4 oz)

Reasons to buy

+
Sharp, bright images
+
Compact and portable
+
Waterproof, fog-proof and durable

Reasons to avoid

-
They are expensive
-
Supplied with average eyecups
-
Not ideal for spectacle wearers

These are some of the finest handheld binoculars you'll find for stargazing and wildlife observation. The Extra-low dispersion (ED) objective lenses produce aberration-free sharp images.

For our Celestron Nature DX ED 12x50 review binoculars, we took them to several events, partly because they are lightweight and compact so can be carried easily in their padded case. We tested them at a motor race and were delighted with the bright and sharp views, even at dusk.

We were especially impressed when using these binoculars at night time, where there was no evidence of color fringing, and the stars within the Pleiades star cluster were sharp across the field of view, only dropping off ever so slightly at the edges.

The only aspect we didn't really rate was the eyecups which are pretty average quality and don't offer much eye relief, especially for spectacle wearers. Eyecups aside, the Nature DX ED 12x50 has excellent build quality and is protected from water and knocks with tough rubber armor.

They sit just below the $300 mark, which is reasonable and will keep stargazers and nature spotters entertained for years to come.


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

(Image credit: Celestron)
These binoculars have superb magnification and detail, but they're a heavy unit

Specifications

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

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

Celestron didn't produce the SkyMaster line of binoculars as top-of-the-range products, but they still provide excellent views for an affordable price from a trusted brand. 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.

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. 

That said, the more light gathered and higher magnification make details that might be vague or fuzzy on less powerful pairs pop out. There is some softness and blurring towards the edge of the field, which is a little distracting, but not unexpected considering the low cost. If you're a spectacle-wearer, you'll be delighted to read that the SkyMaster 15x70 has a respectable 0.7 inches (18 mm) of eye relief.


Choosing the best binoculars: What to look for

The more popular models of binoculars for stargazing offer 8x, 10x and 12x magnifications, but larger astronomy binoculars can go as high as 20x and 25x. It's important to remember that higher magnifications don't always mean better views. As brightness drops off with higher magnification, you should consider the size of the objective lenses (the ones you point at the sky).  Larger objective lenses allow the binoculars to collect more photons than the naked eye can, delivering the bright, sharp views you want from your nights standing out under the stars.

For the best optical quality on a pair of the best binoculars for astronomy, we recommend multi-coated optics and BaK-4 prisms. Size and weight can increase quickly as magnification and objective lens size change. These features mean quality optics combined with a good-sized objective lens. You'll get the clearest vision of whatever you're looking for, environmental and atmospheric conditions permitting.

How we test the best binoculars

To guarantee you're getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best binoculars to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every binocular through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each telescope is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each pair of binoculars is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each binocular and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a pair of 25x100 mammoth binoculars to a compact pair of 8x25s wouldn’t be appropriate though each binocular might be the best pick in their own class.

We look at how easy they are to operate, whether eye relief can be adjusted for spectacles wearers, if a binocular comes with appropriate accessories or carry bags and suggest if a particular set of binos would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.

With complete editorial independence Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on binoculars, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

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Gemma Lavender
Content Director, Space.com

Gemma is content director of 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. She has covered stories and features for publications such as Physics World, Astronomy Now and Astrobiology Magazine.

With contributions from