Consumers are always looking for help to find the best binoculars to purchase and this year the Celestron 71336 Nature DX 12*56 is our choice as the best binocular instrument for many reasons. An exhaustive analysis was conducted which we will cover in some detail later in this report. Not all binoculars are meant for every application. Some are light weight and sufficient magnification to meet your general needs while other consumers will want something with higher magnification, are waterproof and can be mounted on a tripod etc. We urge consumers to think about their application and intended use and then select the best binocular for their application.
What you should know before buying (and reading on)
The Celestron Nature DX 12*56, our top pick, has 12 times magnification and 56mm objective lens. It is easy to use, weighs 36.2 ounces and is Tripod adaptable.
Our second choice is the Vanguard Spirit XF 1042, which has a 10 times magnification 42 mm objective lens. It weighs 22.98 ounces and is also tripod adaptable.
The most economical binocular in our list of best binoculars to choose from is the Leupold BX-1 8*30. This device comes with 9 times magnification and a 30 mm objective lens. It weighs 17 ounces and does not come with an adapter for a tripod.
Table of Contents
- What you should know before buying (and reading on)
- What defines the Best Binoculars?
- What are average Binoculars?
- Who should buy them?
- How we picked
- How we tested
- Our pick
- Who else likes it?
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- The runner-up
- If our other picks are not available
- Budget Picks
- Specialized Picks
- How to choose a binocular?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping it up
Binoculars are actually complex optical instruments that can be manufactured with varying degrees of precision and quality. They also have numerous features that appeal to various consumers and users depending on their application. We found that it is important to really take the time to understand how and when you will use your binoculars before you make a decision regarding which one to purchase.
What defines the Best Binoculars
What are the factors and features that are considered in our analysis of what makes the best binoculars? Obviously price is one factor. If you only have so much money to spend this could be the determining factor, however there are other considerations to include in your decision.
Some specifications may have minor differences, however they could mean the difference between enjoying your new device and activities vs. being frustrated and not using the binoculars at all. Before you make any decisions about which is the best set of binoculars for you, take the time to understand what your favorite activities are and how your new binoculars will enhance these activities.
Hunters typically must deal with relatively low light conditions at dusk and dawn which are optimal times for hunting. Images should be bright and clear in lower light situations. Bird watchers are dealing with birds in flight and need a wider angle of view, hence smaller magnification. Hunters and travelers who are hiking through forest conditions and traveling on the road need binoculars that are more rugged and lightweight. If you are looking at long range landscape viewing, then a set of binoculars that have higher magnification and are suitable to be mounted on a tripod may be more attractive to this consumer.
As you can see one size does not fit all. Depending on your activities, some avid consumers may even have several sets of binoculars to maximize their enjoyment in a variety of conditions.
What are average Binoculars
An average set of binoculars will have quite good optical lenses with between 7 and 10 times magnification depending on the model chosen. The objective lens will be between 35 and 42 mm which will provide average brightness in low light conditions.
Most should have a tripod adapter mounting which allows for longer range viewing and supports longer viewing without your arms becoming overly tired. These binoculars will weigh between 20 and 28 ounces which are relatively light compared to heavier models that weigh as much as 36 ounces.
Most are water proof and fog proof making them ideal for conditions you may find while hunting and bird watching. All of the binoculars we reviewed including the average binoculars come with a lifetime warranty, email support and telephone support. Two did not a have a FAQ section in their supporting online websites, which many customers find helpful and time saving when learning how to use their new binoculars to the maximum advantage.
Who should buy them
Consumers who are purchasing binoculars for average viewing such as the occasional bird watching, hunting, landscape reviews or even star gazing will find that these binoculars will work just fine. However if you are serious about your hobby then paying attention to things like magnification, object lens specifications, weight and tripod support are important.
You may want to opt for other binoculars with better lens objectivity that provide better images in low light conditions if you are hunting at dusk or at dawn for example. Long range hunting could call for higher magnification, although most hunters will opt for lower magnification to gain a broader view of their surroundings.
Serious bird watching calls for lower magnification to provide a broader view unless you must watch from a distance to avoid disrupting the birds or animals you are observing.
Consumers at sporting events who want to enhance their experience can work with low objective lenses quite easily and relatively low magnification in most situations. The average set of binoculars can satisfy most consumers with these types of requirements.
How we picked
In addition to magnification, objective lens in mm, weight and whether you can use a tripod or not, there are many other factors that came into the assessment and final pick regarding the best binoculars.
In broad categories, these include optics and viewing, design and usability, and help & support from the manufacturer. These factors can all be critical for many people depending on their application.
Optics & Viewing
Most binoculars have two numbers listed after their names. The first is the magnification level and the second is the objective lens number. Magnification is the number of times an object is magnified, so if a 10 is listed as the first number it means that an object will appear to be 10 times closer to the observer. The second number is the objective lens number. This is the diameter of the lens that is furthest away from your eye. The larger the number is, the more light that will be allowed into the binocular and visible to your eyes. A large number means that images being viewed will appear to be brighter and crisper.
Other factors that consumers should consider are the type of reflexive lenses that are being used. Look for high end glass such as BAK-4, because it creates images that are crisp and bright. Multi-coated lenses also allow more light to pass through the lens and not reflect light from them. Again more light means clear, sharp images.
Design & Usability
Light weight binoculars often do not have the highest magnification or the widest objective lens measurements. They are great for viewing and holding in place for a long time however, because your arms simply do not get tired as quickly if you were holding heavier devices. High magnification lenses with wide objective lenses will provide closer images that are brighter. Many of these heavier models will support the use of a tripod which allows steadier and clearer images without the associated arm fatigue.
Eye relief is another factor to pay attention to. This measurement is all about how far away your eye needs to be to see images with a full viewing angle. A large eye relief number usually means that your eye is further away and your field of view is also lower. For example some customers would find this frustrating if they were looking for a wide field of view in a bird watching situation.
Roof prisms vs. Porro prisms are another factor to consider and your choice will also affect the overall weight of the binoculars. Porro prisms are the traditional approach where you have a zig zag shape to the device. Roof prisms are designed to allow inline light passage and produce a straight line binocular. With less parts, typically the weight is less with the benefits mentioned earlier. There is no evidence that we were able to uncover that suggested one approach or the other is better optically.
There are a number of practical specifications that consumers need to pay attention too, especially if the binoculars are being used outdoors in foggy conditions or even on the water while fishing or hunting. Many designs included waterproof capabilities and also fog proof capabilities. If you are fishing, a marine binocular might be in order. These units are water proof and some will also float if they are accidentally dumped in the water. A bit of water can damage an otherwise good pair of binoculars which will need replacing. One last point, always purchase binoculars that have rubber lens caps to protect the lenses when not in use. An accidental scratch can be very annoying when viewing targets with your binoculars.
Another feature that many people find interesting is twist up eye cups. Twist up eye cups allow the user with a simple twist to adjust the distance your eyes are from the lens. You can set the optimal distance for your eyes whether you are wearing glasses or not. This feature replaces the older method of fold down rubber eye cups which take a bit longer to adjust.
Help & Support
Many consumers are particularly frustrated if they cannot have their questions answered. Look for a FAQ page on the web site to address common questions that many people have. There should also be email support and / or phone support for those less common questions that have not been added to the FAQ page yet.
Many companies are also going to live chat support where you can often get help within a matter of minutes. This avoids the long wait for an email reply or being placed on hold for an extended period. Many customers actually prefer this type of support with fall backs to live support over the phone.
Support also includes the type of warranty that is included. Many are opting for a lifetime warranty subject to normal wear and tear conditions. If you have a defect that is manufacturing related it will likely be covered. If you have a problem that can be related to wear and tear, rough use etc, the warranty usually will not cover these types of issues.
How we tested
For the most part testing was based on subjective analysis using a number of test subjects to evaluate each of the binoculars that were looked at. They compared optical quality and usability. The features and the parameters we noted earlier in this report were assessed from best to worst and then assigned a letter based on their evaluation.
Earlier we noted that some binocular features were best used in specific conditions e.g. high level magnification for long distance viewing vs. hunting situations where a wider angle was beneficial. Those binoculars that scored well on two or more situations scored better than those that only scored well in one situation.
Additionally the weight of the device was taken into account and how long one could hold the binoculars comfortably was considered. If you had to struggle to adjust the eye diopter or the twist up eye adjuster on one device vs. another the devices were scored accordingly. Survey results like these are subjective and based on the users experience. Your own personal experience may or may not agree with our findings based on the personal nature of how these binoculars will be used.
Consumers intuitively know that they should be able to look through both sets of optics at the same time. Manufacturers are aware that if customers cannot look through both sets of optics at the same time, they will not sell many devices. This specification is known as the interpupillary distance or the distance between your eyes. Everyone has a different measurement since our faces are not built the same. Adjustments on most binoculars allow for most people to be accommodated, unless you have an unusually large interpupillary distance between your eyes. In our survey, no one had any difficulty with the distance between their eyes and using the binoculars.
The Celestron Nature DX 12*56 was the top pick among the binoculars that were evaluated by our team of experts. Images were bright and crisp and the excellent optics provided fully detailed images. It is a bit heavier than other binoculars that were examined which may cause arm fatigue unless a tripod is used.
The Celestron Nature DX 12*56 received the top rating due to it’s excellent optics, durable design and four layer support options. Images are sharp and clear, while the adjustments for focus are easily made with no wasted effort. Since it is waterproof and fog proof, the Celestron Nature DX can be used in almost any situation without worrying about damage from moisture penetration.
The binoculars also has the highest level of magnification available in the units that were reviewed. This device also has the largest diameter objective lens which increases level of light entering the lens.
Field of view is a little lower than our second or third pick. However this is to be expected based on the higher magnification level achieve with this set of binoculars. Field of view is measured at 1000 meters without moving the binoculars. The Celestron Nature DX has a field of view of 96 while our second choice and third choice binoculars have field of views of 111 and 106 respectively.
Who else likes it
Most of our readers were very satisfied with the device and the support they received. The few negative comments centered around weight issues with a number of people finding them heavier than they anticipated. One person found that his eyes were too far apart and the binoculars could not be adjusted to meet his needs. Both of these issues have been discussed earlier in this post.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
While there were no specific flaws with any of the top 3 picks, consumers should note that our top pick with the 12 times magnification makes it a bit difficult to capture fast action. If you are bird watching for example, you may find it difficult to keep track of birds that are moving around. Landscape viewing and tracking larger animals is easy to do with the Celestron Nature and will provide you with images like no other.
The Vanguard Spirit XF 1042 came in second in our review. It has a 10 times magnification lens and smaller objective lens rating, however according to our survey it has the clearest and brightest images of all of the binoculars that were reviewed. The manufacturer does not provide an FAQ page.
The Vanguard Spirit XF 1042 is a rugged device designed for outdoor activities. This device can be used for watching sporting events as well as bird watching, fishing and hunting activities. Since it comes with lower magnification than our first pick it is more suitable for bird watching and also observing sporting events.
Images are crisp and clear and many on our survey team felt that the Vanguard Spirit XF provided the clearest crisp images of all of the binoculars that were reviewed.
This is a 10 times magnification device where as our 1st pick provides 12 times magnification. The objective lens is 42 compared to our 1st pick with 56 mm. The Vanguard Spirit XF has the widest field of view compared to our 1st pick and our third pick at 111 at the 1000 meter mark.
This is an excellent set of binoculars at a budget price that will meet the requirements of most consumers.
If our other picks aren’t available
The Leupold BX-1 McKenzie was the next set of binoculars on our list and came in third. it is the lightest set of binoculars weighing in at 22.1 ounces making it much easier to hold for longer periods while bird watching or some other activity. While some people found they had difficulty focusing this set of binoculars due to the focusing knob not being as smooth as others, they felt it would b attractive to hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. Both a rugged design and great optical quality make it a well rounded optical device. It is also moderately priced and very affordable.
The magnification level is 8 times compared to the 1st and 2nd picks at 12 and 10 respectively. The objective lens level is 42 which is the same as our second pick and smaller than the 1st pick at 56 mm.
Consumers who are looking for an inexpensive set of binoculars that are rated well may want to consider the Leupold BX-1 rating #8, the Nikon Action rating #4 or our third choice mentioned previously, the Leupold BX-1 Mckenzie.
The Nikon Action is a 7 times magnification device with 35 mm objective lens measurement compared to the Leupold BX-1 Mckenzie with 8 times magnification and 42mm objective lens. The Leupold will provide better magnification and brighter crisp images than the Nikon Action. The Leupold BX-1 has 9 times magnification, but only 30mm objective lens measurement.
All devices are relatively light weight devices, however the Leupold BX-1 weighs only 17 ounces compared to the others in the 22 and 28 ounce range. All devices in this category are fog proof and water proof making them ideal for outdoor activities.
As previously mentioned, binoculars are not all the same. They vary a great deal in their specifications as well as price. Consumers can choose a set of binoculars that fit their specialized needs based on the specifications as well as the results of our survey.
Our first choice, the Celestron Nature DX 12*56 is best for viewing long distance landscapes and larger animals with the 12 times magnification and 56mm objective lens. They provide crisp clear bright images with the large objective lens. Using this set for bird watching would not deliver satisfactory results due the narrow view and the weight of the device unless you were using a tripod.
The Vanguard Spirit XF 1042 with a magnification of 10 times and a smaller objective lens at 42mm makes this device much better for bird watching with a wide field of view. They are also water proof and fog proof making them excellent for general use while hunting, camping or hiking.
The Leupold BX-1 McKenzie is designed for a wider field of view making it excellent for tracking game. It is also sturdy and well made for hunting and camping situations. It also comes with a 42mm objective lens which allows more light especially at dawn or dusk in low light situations.
How to choose a binocular?
Consumers can apply a step by step process to choosing a binocular. First decide what the primary and secondary applications will be. In other words what will you use your binoculars for, most of the time. For example if you are hunting and fishing, you may want to choose a set of binoculars with a lower magnification and a larger offset to increase your field of view. If you are primarily viewing long distance landscapes then a higher magnification is definitely in order.
Hunters and fishermen should purchase binoculars that are water and fog resistant. Fisherman should consider marine binoculars that are water proof and float if dropped in the water.
Budget is always a concern, however you should not skimp on features if there is a risk that you will be ultimately unsatisfied with your purchase.
There is lots of competition for your dollar with a variety of binoculars from several manufacturers. In addition to the binoculars we have already mentioned the following also made our top ten list: Bushnell Legend, Bushnell Excursion HD, Pentax, Vanguard Endeavor and the Nikon Aculon. All are excellent devices, however they all have their specific attributes which make them attractive for different situations.
Before you make a decision, spend some time thinking about how you want to actually use your binoculars and then examine this list along with their specifications to choose the best one for your situation and application.
Frequently Asked Questions
We listed some of the FAQ’s that customers of our top pick will typically have and provided the answers to these questions. For more details you may want to contact the manufacturer directly.
Does my Celestron Nature DX12*56 come with a warranty?
All products including the Celestron Nature DX are warranted to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for a limited lifetime warranty. This does not include normal wear and tear.
What kinds of Technical Support does Celestron provide?
There are 4 ways to obtain support for any questions you may have. They provide live chat support, there is email support where you can send in your detailed questions and there is direct telephone support to speak with an agent. They have also written a large database of support articles that cover almost every question that customers may have. You may be able to find the answer to your questions in the support knowledge base as well as learn more about your new binoculars.
Can I order a new product manual or obtain new versions of the software that came with the product?
All manuals and software can be downloaded from the companies website. Manuals and quick set up guides are in pdf format and can be displayed on your computer or tablet.
Wrapping it up
Not all binoculars are made the same or have the same specifications. Price is important, however if you chose the wrong set of binoculars for the wrong application consumers can be very dissatisfied with their purchase even though they have a high quality set of binoculars.
Our top pick, the Celestron Nature DX 12*56 has the best specifications and also the highest price. With 12 times magnification and a 56 mm objective lens it is rated as the best binocular in our list. It is ideal for landscape viewing and long distance viewing. Some consumers will find it heavy if held for a long time so a tripod should be considered particularly if you will be standing on once spot for some time. Your arms may become quite tired holding this set of binoculars.
Our runner up, the Vanguard Spirit XF 1042, has a 10 times magnification and 42mm objective lens making it more attractive for bird watching, and hunting situations etc.
The Leupold BX-1 McKenzie with 8 times magnification and 42 mm objective lens makes it one of our all round picks. It is priced lower than some of the other binoculars and fits well for those customers concerned about budget. It is suitable for most camping and hunting situations. It is light weight and easy to carry. It is also fog proof and water proof which many consumers will appreciate.
As mentioned earlier, consumers should consider their planned use for their binoculars and select the one that best binoculars meets their needs. A well chosen device will increase your satisfaction overall.