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Best High-Power Binoculars for Long Distance Viewing (2020)

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man using a pair of binoculars

A great pair of binoculars can help you stargaze, birdwatch, or even spot a cheetah on safari. If you’d like to magnify far away animals or objects, you’ll need a well-designed, high-power pair of binoculars. But not all binoculars are created equal, so how do you find a great pair without spending too much time?

We’re here to help you shop. We tested the top models and put together this list of 2020s five best high-power binoculars for long-distance viewing. For each model, we’ve written detailed reviews comparing price, magnification, lens design, zoom control, accessories, and warranty so you’ll get a great set of binoculars.

A Quick Glance at the Winners of 2020:

ModelPriceMagnificationOur Rating
Nikon Zoom
Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 Zoom Binocular
(Best Overall)

Check Price
10-22x504.8/5
Celestron Skymaster
Celestron 71018 SkyMaster Binocular
(Best Value)

Check Price
20x804.6/5
Vortex HD
Vortex KAI-5603 Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars
(Premium Choice)

Check Price
20x564.5/5
BetaOptics Military Zoom
BetaOptics KC247L Military Zoom Binoculars

Check Price
20-144x704.2/5
Celestron 71454
Celestron 71454 Echelon Binoculars

Check Price
20x704.1/5

The 5 Best High-Power Binoculars:

1. Nikon ACULON Zoom Binocular – Best Overall

Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 Zoom Binocular

Our top pick is the Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 Zoom Binocular, which is a well-designed model with simple controls, a durable coating, and a great warranty. There’s a reason Nikon is famous for its high-quality, powerful binoculars.

These light two-pound binoculars offer 10 to 22 times magnification, controlled by a simple fingertip zoom knob, and 50-millimeter lenses. The minimum focus distance is 49.2 feet, and the rubber eyecups are easy to adjust. There are multi-coated eco glass lenses, and the body has a durable, non-slip rubber coating. The package includes a case, lens covers, and convenient carrying straps.

When we tried these binoculars, we found some distortion at the highest zoom levels. They’re very fairly priced, though, and Nikon offers a great lifetime warranty for the optical system and a seven-year warranty for the other components.

Pros
  • Fairly priced and lightweight
  • 10 to 22 times magnification and 50-millimeter lenses
  • Simple fingertip zoom control
  • Adjustable rubber eyecups
  • Minimum focus distance of 49.2 feet
  • Multi-coated eco glass lenses
  • Durable rubber coating
  • Includes case, lens covers, and carrying straps
  • Great lifetime optical system warranty and seven-year non-optical warranty
Cons
  • Some distortion at the highest zoom levels

2. Celestron SkyMaster Binocular – Best Value

Celestron 71018 SkyMaster Binocular

Are you working with a tight budget? You may be interested in the Celestron 71018 SkyMaster Binocular, which we found to be the best high-power binoculars for long-distance viewing for the money.

These heavier 4.69-pound binoculars have multi-coated lenses and a protective, water-resistant rubber coating. They offer 20 times magnification through very wide 80-millimeter objective lenses and have soft, adjustable rubber eyecups. The minimum focus distance is a more distant 108 feet. The package includes an objective lens cap, rain guard, nylon carrying case, neck strap, and lens cloth.

We found these binoculars fairly heavy and bulky, though the magnification is impressive and the accessories are extensive. The eyecups aren’t as durable, and the binoculars as a whole feel less sturdy. Celestron offers a lifetime warranty, with decent customer service.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • 20 times magnification and 80-millimeter lenses
  • Adjustable rubber eyecups
  • Minimum focus distance of 108 feet
  • Water-resistant rubber coating
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Includes objective lens cap, rain guard, nylon carrying case, neck strap, and lens cloth
  • Lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Heavy and bulky
  • Less durable overall
  • Less sturdy eyecups

3. Vortex Optics HD Binoculars – Premium Choice

https://opticsmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Nikon-8252-ACULON-A211-Zoom-Binocular.jpg

Are you shopping for a premium pair of binoculars? You may want to look at the Vortex KAI-5603 Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars, which are heavy and quite pricey but also easy to adjust, fully fog-proof, and backed by a great warranty.

These 4.61-pound binoculars offer 20 times magnification through 56-millimeter objective lenses. The multi-coated lenses have a convenient anti-reflective coating and the right eye diopter locks for better focus. The eyecups are fully adjustable, and the focus wheel is simple to use. The water- and fog-proof interior has O-ring seals and argon purging, and the package includes a high-quality soft case, neck strap, and objective lens covers.

These binoculars are very pricey but offer effective magnification. They’re backed by a great lifetime warranty that’s also transferable.

Pros
  • 20 times magnification with 56-millimeter objective lenses
  • Multi-coated lenses, including AR coating
  • Adjustable eyecups and locking right diopter
  • Fully water- and fog-proof, with argon purging and O-ring seals
  • Includes soft case, neck strap, and lens covers
  • Simple focus wheel
  • Great, transferable lifetime warranty
Cons
  • More expensive
  • Fairly heavy

4. BetaOptics Military Zoom Binoculars

BetaOptics KC247L Military Zoom Binoculars

The BetaOptics KC247L Military Zoom Binoculars are a heavy, mid-range option with powerful magnification but more difficult controls.

These five-pound binoculars offer a wide zoom range, from 20 to 144 times magnification, through very wide 70-millimeter objective lenses. They have a classic Porro prism design and a smooth center focus wheel. The glass is lower quality BAK-7. The package includes a carrying case and a neck strap.

When we tested these binoculars, we found that the focus wheel was difficult to turn, and adjusting the zoom significantly reduced the field of vision. Though these binoculars have high magnification levels, they quickly become distorted and don’t work well at the highest levels. These binoculars have a cheaper, less durable feel overall, and don’t come with a warranty.

Pros
  • 20 to 144 times magnification through wide 70-millimeter lenses
  • Classic Porro prism system
  • Smooth center focus wheel
  • Includes carrying case and neck strap
Cons
  • No warranty
  • Heavy, with a cheaper, less durable feel
  • Focus wheel difficult to adjust
  • Distortion and limited field of vision at high magnification levels
  • Lower quality BAK-7 glass

5. Celestron 71454 Echelon Binoculars

Celestron 71454 Echelon Binoculars

Our least favorite model is Celestron’s 71454 Echelon Binoculars, which are expensive and bulky, with a very long focal distance.

These 4.12-pound binoculars, sold at a very high price, offer 20 times magnification through wide 70-millimeter objective lenses. They’re fully waterproof and fog-proof, with nitrogen purging, and have proprietary XLT glass coating and folding eyecups. You can individually adjust the focus on each eye, and the lenses are made of high-quality BAK-4 prism glass. The package includes a waterproof hard case, lens cap, strap, cleaning cloth, rain guard, instructions, and eyepiece cover.

These large binoculars have a bulky carrying case, and the close focus distance is a lengthy 328.1 feet. Though they have a nice feel, these binoculars are more expensive than they can justify. Celestron offers a limited lifetime warranty.

Pros
  • 20 times magnification and wide 70-millimeter lenses
  • Water- and fog-proof, with nitrogen purging
  • Proprietary glass coating
  • High-quality BAK-4 prism glass
  • Adjustable eyecups and individual eye focus
  • Includes waterproof hard case, lens and eyepiece caps, strap, cleaning cloth, and rain guard
  • Limited lifetime warranty
Cons
  • Somewhat heavy and very expensive
  • 1-foot close focus distance
  • Bulky carrying case

Buyer’s Guide

Now that you’ve read through our list of the best long-distance binoculars, it’s time to start shopping. But which features do you need, and which model should you choose? Keep reading for our detailed guide to your options.

Specifications

The most important specifications you’ll find on a pair of binoculars are the magnification and diameter. These numbers, which you’ll find written as 20×50, refer to the magnifying power and the diameter, in millimeters, of the objective lenses. The more magnifying power you have, the better you’ll be able to see things in the far distance. The lens diameter affects how much light your binoculars can gather. For low-light activities like stargazing, wider lenses are better, because they’ll allow in more light and let you see more stars.

Another important number is the close focus distance. This is the minimum distance that your binoculars will be able to focus on. If you’re only planning to use your binoculars for long-distance viewing, this number may be less important to you. If you’d like the flexibility of observing closer and farther objects, you may want to pay attention to this number, which can range from 50 feet up to hundreds of feet.

Glass

There are two major types of binocular lens glass: BAK-4 and BAK-7. BAK-4 prism glass is high-density and more expensive, while BAK-7 glass is often found in lower-end binoculars. You can tell which kind of glass you have by holding your binoculars up to the light, away from your eyes. If the eyepieces have circular exit pupils, your glass is BAK-4. If the exit pupils are square, you have BAK-7 glass.

The glass quality is especially important in low light, where you may encounter blurring and chromatic aberrations, particularly around the edges.

Coatings

Lens coatings affect how clear, crisp, and contrasted the image is. If your lenses haven’t been coated, you won’t be able to see through them as well. There are many types of coatings, but a particularly useful type is anti-reflective, which will help you see more clearly in bright daylight settings.

To protect the coating on your lenses, you’ll want to use only soft cleaning cloths. If the lens comes into contact with an abrasive surface, you may lose some of the coatings or even end up with a scratch in the glass. Many binoculars come with cleaning cloths that are safe for your lenses.

senior man holding a binocular

Image: RitaE from Pixabay

Eyecups

Most binoculars come with built-in rubber eyecups. The soft rubber makes even an extended viewing session comfortable. High-end binoculars often go a step further, allowing you to adjust the eyecups by twisting or pushing them. Adjusting the eyecups will allow you to wear prescription glasses while using your binoculars.

Durability

Think about how you use your binoculars. If you’re an adventurous stargazer or like to take your binoculars canoeing, you may be particularly interested in durable features like waterproof rubber coatings.

Another useful design feature is interior water- and fog-proofing. Many high-end binoculars have been specially treated to avoid fogging even in humid climates. Manufacturers do this through processes like argon or nitrogen purging. This involves filling the binoculars with clean, dust-free nitrogen or argon, which displaces air that may contain humidity or vision-impairing particles. The binoculars are then fully sealed, leaving very little air and keeping out dust and moisture.

Accessories

Are you interested in included accessories, or are you planning to purchase them separately? Many binoculars come in packages with useful items like carrying cases, neck-straps, cleaning cloths, rain guards, and lens covers. If you already own many of these items or would like to shop for particular accessories, you may want a pair of binoculars that come with fewer additional items.

Keep in mind that binoculars have two sets of lenses, objective and eyepiece. Some binoculars only come with objective lens covers, so you may want to purchase eyepiece covers for additional protection.

Included carrying cases can also be hard or soft, so you may want to think about which you’d prefer. Hard cases are durable and will better protect your binoculars from falls, but may also be bulky, heavy, and somewhat more difficult to carry. If portability is what you’re looking for, you may prefer a soft case, which may be lighter, smaller, and easier to carry.

Warranty

High-quality binoculars can be a large investment, so you may want the security of a great warranty. Many of the binoculars we reviewed here come with lifetime warranties, which will protect your investment for years to come. Some lifetime warranties are transferable, so if you purchase a used pair or sell yours, the warranty will continue.


Conclusion

Our top pick is the Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 Zoom Binocular, which is light, well-designed, and backed by a great warranty. Are you shopping for value? You may be interested in the Celestron 71018 SkyMaster Binocular, which offers great value with strong magnification and plenty of useful accessories. Are you looking for a high-end model? You may want to try the adjustable, fog-proof KAI-5603 Optics Kaibab HD Binoculars, which are pricey but offer great magnification and an impressive warranty.

If you’d like to see far away, you’ll need powerful, high-quality binoculars. With so many options, it can be hard to find the best model for your needs. We hope that our list of 2020s five best high-power binoculars for long-distance viewing, complete with in-depth reviews and a comprehensive buyer’s guide, helps you find a great pair that will last a lifetime. Great binoculars are a big investment, but shopping for them doesn’t have to be difficult.