A pair of the best compact binoculars can be carried in a pocket or small bag. While tripod-mounted telescopes and other larger binoculars may be better for astronomy, the best compact binoculars offer better portability and still offer great views of the night sky, even though small compromises may be made along the way. There is a guide to the top compact models here.

A pair of the best compact binoculars is a worthwhile tool for any astronomer because they are easy to carry and can be neatly packed away until needed. These low-powered instruments will give you better views than you can get with the naked eye, and they come in at relatively low prices too. Smaller binoculars have smaller objective lens, so their light-gathering power won't be as strong as a larger and inherently more expensive pair.

If you want to upgrade to something with a bit more viewing power, be sure to check out our best telescopes and binoculars guides. We offer an in-depth look at the best binoculars for kids so your budding astronomer can enjoy the night sky with binos that aren't going to be too hard to lift and hold still.

If you are looking for a pair of the best compact binoculars, then read on.

Best viewing experience

Olympus WP II 8 x 25_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Olympus)

Those who want to match their binoculars to their hat, but don't want to look bad, can choose between purple or green. When combined with a modest 8x magnification, their objective lens are large enough for compact binoculars, which will allow you to see more stars. The objects will appear brighter in these than in other binoculars. This is enhanced by full multi- coating on the lens, and BAK4 prisms with phase coating, they tick all the boxes for optical quality.

These binoculars are both waterproof and nitrogen-filled to eliminate internal fogging when you use them on a cold night. At 9.17 ounces, they are fairly light. True quality is never cheap, but all this comes at a higher price point.

Best for portability

Nikon Aculon T02 8x21_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Nikon)

The compact binoculars of the Nikon are only 3.4 x 4.1 in and 6.9 ounces, but their limited ability to fold at the single central hinge makes them less portable than other types of compact binoculars. The adjustment between the eyes from 56 to 72mm is possible with the single hinge. Adults and children should be able to use them comfortably.

The T02 is styled like a pair of twin engine Pods and is available in a variety of colors. White binoculars will make it easy to find them in the dark. They are priced at the lower end of the binocular range, which still makes them more expensive than other brands, but they are an appealing design and are worthy of consideration.

Best build quality

Minox X-Lite 8x26_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Minox)

Minox X-Lite 8x26

The Minox X-Lite binoculars are built to last.

Minox is a premium optical brand that was once a maker of miniature spy cameras. The X-Lite 8x26 pair is more affordable than the company's alternative X-Active range but still boast high performance. Minox products are not always cheap.

The build quality is reflected in the heavy build quality. They are small at 11 x 11 x 4 cm. The open bridge design is unusual in a compact pair, as is the inclusion of a tripod mount, as with all but the largest binoculars. They have a wide field of view for an 8x compact, at 6.8 degrees, and the K9 glass roof prisms are treated with a phase correction coating. The binoculars are waterproof to IPX7 standards and nitrogen-filled to eliminate any risk of fogging.

Best value overall

Celestron UpClose G2 10x25_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Celestron)

The brand name is known for its quality and range of telescopes and binoculars. The UpClose G2 binoculars are on the list of the best compact binoculars because they offer lots of features at a reasonable price.

The 10x25s have a better twilight factor than the similar 8x21s. The higher powered pair gives better low-light results.

They have rubber eyecups that can be folded up for spectacle wearers. They are pocketable at 11 cm. The UpClose G2 aren't the highest specification binoculars, but they are well priced and come with a limited lifetime guarantee.

Best handling

Opticron Aspheric 3 10x25_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Opticron)

The Aspheric 3 are not the lightest binoculars at just under 300gm and are not the most compact. Users with large hands will like the larger size and excellent ergonomics.

The aspheric lens in these binoculars provide sharper images and less distortion across the field of view, which is a bit below par for 10x magnification.

We think these binoculars are one of the best compact binoculars because of their eye relief of 16mm and the fact that they are comfortable for all users.

Best waterproof option

Bushnell H20 8x25

(Image credit: Bushnell)

The H2O binoculars have impressive specifications for a very affordable price, with multi- coating and BAK4 roof prisms. We like the large knob, which will allow you to make adjustments without gloves on cold nights. According to the company, the optics are waterproof and fog-proof. The field of view is 6.9 degrees.

The eye relief at 12mm is not ideal for glasses wearers. They are rugged and hardy with a rubber finish to protect them from knocks, and a solid design makes them easy to grip. They are not small enough to fit in a pocket, but they are large enough to fit in a backpack.

  • Read more: Bushnell binoculars deals

Best fashion choice

Pentax UD 9x21_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Pentax)

Pentax UD 9x21

These binoculars are light and stylish.

If you can't decide between the easier to hold 8x magnification or 10x magnification for closer views, then 9x magnification is a compromise that offers most of the benefits of both. These binoculars measure just 13 x 11.6 x 5.5 cm and are very light 194 grams.

The 10x21 version of the Pentax UD has less eye relief and is smaller than the 2.3mm version. The 9x21 is a better choice.

The lightest binoculars in the range are made of plastic and have a large focus wheel. The 6 degree field of view is not as good as some of the other competitors. There is a tripod mount, which requires an accessory, and it is available in a choice of five colors, including hot pink and lime green.

Best budget Porro prisms

Apexel PB 10x25_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Apexel)

The inexpensive reverse Porro compact binoculars are very lightweight at only 178 grams due to their plastic body. The objectives have a green hue which is typical of lower-quality coating. The eyepieces have a blue coating.

You get a lot of bang for your buck, as these are impressive specifications for bargain binoculars, especially when you add the fact that they are waterproof. These binoculars have a wide field of view and are great value for money because of their eye relief.

Best high power

Sunagor Mini Pocket 18x21_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Sunagor)

Sunagor is a manufacturer of high-power binoculars, and claims to have the lightest 18x magnification binos you can get. The binoculars are pocketable, although they don't fold up very small.

There is only partial multi- coating on the lens, and no claims for quality glass inside the barrels, but they redeem themselves through that ambitious 18x power.

It will be difficult to hold your binoculars steady without external support because of the high magnification, and there is no tripod provided. The binos are of limited use for astronomy duties, but we are including them here because they will deliver that old favorite of binocular astronomy, the moon.

Best for versatility

Pentax VD 4x20_Best compact binoculars

(Image credit: Pentax)

Pentax VD 4x20

Is it a pair of monoculars or a tiny telescope?

When is a pair of binoculars not a pair of binoculars? When it is a pair of monoculars. The binos can be disassembled to provide two 4x monoculars, and then screwed together to create a 16x telescope.

This makes for a versatile optical instrument, but it also brings a number of compromises. Each tube has to be focused on it's own. They only offer 4x magnification in binocular mode, but it comes with a very wide field of view.

You can quickly convert to telescope mode if the magnification makes you feel a little underwhelmed. The usefulness of this telescope will be limited because it results in a very narrow field of view. We would expect it to give a good view of the moon, but not much else.

With a pair of monoculars, two users will benefit from the additional light-gathering power over the human eye. This is an expensive option for low-power instruments. You might be better off buying a pair of binoculars that are compact or standard. We included these binoculars for their cleverness and novelty.

What to look out for when buying compact binoculars


The magnification and diameter of the objective lens are the main things to consider when shopping for binoculars. It's easier to hold compact binoculars still and higher magnification might be a good choice. Lower power binoculars will give a brighter image, making faint objects more visible.

  • Related: How to hold binoculars steady 

Lens diameter

The largest lens diameter you can get is the best. Bigger glasses give you better views and light-gathering power. There are objectives in the 20-25mm range of compact binoculars. It is worth noting that even the largest of these will only collect a quarter as much light as a pair of conventional 50mm binoculars. We don't recommend compact binoculars with a zoom feature, as this is simply asking too much of the smaller objective lens on this type of instrument.

Prism type

The arrangement of the binoculars provides straight tubes, which makes them foldability. The reverse-Porro arrangement is used by some to see compact binoculars. This results in the objective lens being closer together than the eyepieces. The best type of glass for binoculars is BAK4 and the budget binoculars are more or less equivalent.

Lens coating

What type of coating is used? A fully multi-coated lens is described as being coated, multi-coated or both. The best will be multi-coated with phase coating. It's always a good idea to buy compacts that are waterproof or at least water resistant. It's a good idea to take out a warm pocket on a cold night if you have a chance of internal fogging.

Trusted names

When shopping online, it is always a good idea to check out the brands you are considering buying. Products are not always advertised accurately, especially when being sold by traders on third-party websites, and we advise treating claims with a degree of suspicion. If you really believe that these cheap binoculars have all the features they claim, you should ask yourself whether or not some of the claims might be lost in translation. Sometimes the comfort of a trusted brand is worth paying a small premium for.