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

The best binoculars should provide users with bright, sharp views, be comfortable to use and appropriately priced for your budget, and be reliable to use in all weather and temperatures. No matter what you use them 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 selecting binoculars for stargazing, there are key features to consider. They should have large objective lenses (the ones facing the stars) to capture enough faint starlight. Additionally, they need to have strong magnification to make those specks of light from deep space look much larger than they are.

Some binoculars are so good for astronomy that 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 thoroughly 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.

Celestron SkyMaster 25x100: was $499.95

Celestron SkyMaster 25x100: was $499.95 now $316 from Amazon

Save $184 on the Celestron SkyMaster 25x100 in this Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal. These binos are perfect for getting detailed views of the night sky, and they're our top pick for magnification. For dramatic, wide-field views of the night sky at an affordable price, you can't go wrong.

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

Why you can trust Space.com Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test and review products.

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 if you only ever do 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. They're an outstanding choice for super-steady stargazing thanks to their image stabilization, waterproof design and large objective lenses. ★★★★★

These binoculars are the top pick for stargazing, although they come with a higher cost. They feature exceptional optics and incorporate optical stabilization technology, similar to what you find in Canon's expensive camera lenses. The stabilization is particularly useful when using them handheld, especially with their potent 10x magnification. It effectively reduces shakiness, providing a stable viewing experience that feels like you're using 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.

Despite their impressive features, these binoculars have a couple of minor drawbacks. Firstly, due to the stabilization technology and the added weight of the battery, they are on the heavy side, weighing 39.2 oz (1.1kg). Secondly, their top-notch quality comes at a higher cost, which might be a concern for some stargazers. 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.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Canon 10x42L IS WP
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 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 A premium package that comes at a premium price — though 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.

Thanks to their slim roof prism design, these binoculars have a sleek profile, making them convenient to carry in an overcoat pocket or around the neck. Despite weighing 680g, they are comfortable for extended use, thanks to the plush and comfortable neck strap.

These binoculars are completely waterproof and fog-resistant due to their sealed design and nitrogen purging. You can use them with confidence in any weather conditions, whether indoors or outdoors, making them especially useful for stargazing.

While they do come with a higher price tag because of their exceptional optics and quality finish, we believe they provide excellent value for those who can afford them.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Nikon Monarch HG 10x42
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 are an excellent option for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy activities like wildlife observation, bird watching and astronomy. They provide mid-range optics performance at a budget-friendly price, making them affordable and suitable for stargazing with their 12x magnification and wide 56mm objective lenses. Plus, these binoculars offer 16mm of eye relief, making them comfortable for people who need to wear glasses.

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.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Celestron Nature DX 12x56
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 due to the amount of light their 42mm apertures collect. Their slightly 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 optical system and lens multi-coatings offer a sharper, brighter view. 

The Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars are perfect for moving between contrasting temperatures, like transitioning from a warm indoor environment to the cold outdoors on a chilly night. Thanks to their nitrogen purging and waterproof design, they won't fog up, allowing you to use them comfortably for extended periods during observations without any problems.

When using the Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 binoculars, you'll notice minimal false color. False color, which appears as a purple or blue halo around bright objects (also known as chromatic aberration), was hardly noticed in our review, especially when we were looking at 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 binos for long sessions, we advise pairing them with one of the best tripods for astrophotography or the best travel tripod.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42
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 on the cheap side, and we discussed them in our Celestron UpClose G2 10x50 binocular review.

These binoculars offer a good view, and we managed to spot three stars within the Trapezium Cluster near the center of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42). To see the fourth bright star in this star-forming area, a pair with higher magnification would be needed.

The moon looks absolutely stunning through these binoculars, fitting easily within the field of view with just a slight hint of false color. In July 2020, the UpClose G2 10x50 binoculars were excellent for observing 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.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Celestron UpClose G2 10x50
AttributesNotes
DesignBasic build design and quality.
PerformanceSurprisingly little chromatic aberration.
FunctionalityNeeds greater magnification for astro.

Best for moon views