11 Best Compact Binoculars

Plus 9 Technical Specs You HAVE to Know Before Buying

David McBryan, Paintballer-in-Chief

David McBryan
Paintballer-in-Chief
Updated: 10/03/20
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Tired of your enemies seeing you before you see them? Reclaim the upper hand with the best compact binoculars for your next outing.

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If you love woodsball or MilSim-style games on huge fields, adding binoculars to your arsenal can make a world of difference.

But the last thing you want to do is lug around more gear, so portability is a must.

That's where we come in.

This roundup of the best compact binoculars is the most accurate and complete guide you'll find.

(Without overwhelming you with tons of technical specs you just don't need.)

Instead, we'll hit on everything you need to know to choose the binoculars that are best for you:

You're a busy person, so let's kick things off with some quick picks.

What Does "Best" Really Mean?

There's no single "best" pair of compact binoculars because they can be used in a variety of situations.

Take these 5, for example:

  • Watching live sporting events
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • Astronomy
  • Paintball/airsoft (duh)

You'll need a different type of binoculars to watch a fast-paced sporting event from 100 yards away than to view stationary stars from 100 trillion miles away (at night).

What's Important For Paintball & Airsoft Players?

Consider these 5 aspects of a typical day on the field:

  1. Field Size: Outdoor playing areas can vary greatly in size from 15 acres to 150 acres. If those areas are square, that's about 800-2,500 feet long. You'll want solid magnification but usually, you'll only be looking a few hundred yards downfield at the most.
  2. Target Activity: Usually your targets are trying to move slowly and stealthily to avoid detection, but they're also capable of moving quickly. You don't want binoculars with a very narrow field of vision, making it hard to track moving objects.
  3. Your Activity: You'll definitely be running, so you'll want binoculars that are compact, lightweight, and durable. You're probably sweating a lot, too, so fog-resistance is a must.
  4. Lighting: Usually you're playing during the day, but this depends on how "woodsy" your field is and the types of games you play. If you like playing in dim or dark conditions, you'll want binoculars with wide objective lenses to capture as much of the limited light as possible for brighter images.
  5. Weather: You could be playing in any weather conditions, so this is personal. If you might encounter wet conditions, water-resistant or waterproof binoculars are a must.

Now we know the type of binoculars we're looking for.

But how do we evaluate the specific models that meet our needs?

We turn to the specs!

9 Technical Specs You Need To Know

There are dozens of technical specs that manufacturers list for each pair of binoculars, but these 9 are the most important for us:

  1. Magnification: Also known as Power, how many times closer the binoculars make an object appear
  2. Objective Lens Diameter: Width (in mm) of the lenses closer to the object you're viewing (not the eyepiece)
  3. Field of View @ 1,000 Yards (FoV @ 1,000): Actual width (in feet) of the field of view 1,000 yards downrange
  4. Apparent Angle of View (AAoV): Angle (in degrees) of the magnified field you can see when looking downrange
  5. Eye Relief (ER): Optimal distance (in mm) from the eyepiece to your eye
  6. Weight (Wgt): Self-explanatory, measured in ounces
  7. Dimensions: Self-explanatory, measured in inches
  8. Waterproof (WP): Yes or no, are they sealed with O-rings to prevent moisture from getting inside?
  9. Fog Resistance (FR): Yes or no, are they filled with an inert gas (like nitrogen) to prevent fogging?

Now let's take a look at our roundup of the 11 best compact binoculars in a side-by-side comparison table.

Note: To keep things simple, I've abbreviated column headings using the shorthand from each bullet point above. I've also combined Magnification and Objective Lens Diameter into the MxD column because this is the most common way you'll see binoculars described.

Rk Model MxD FoV @ 1,000 AAoV ER Wgt Dimensions WP FR
1 Carson 3D Series HD 8x32 392' 60° 19.5 mm 19 oz 2.1"H x 5.1"W x 5.1"L Yes Yes
2 Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30 351' 67° 15.5 mm 17 oz 2.7"H x 7.8"W x 6.8"L Yes Yes
3 Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 273' 52° 14.6 mm 9 oz 1.5"H x 4.4"W x 4.4"L Yes Yes
4 Celestron Nature DX 8x32 388' 59° 17.5 mm 18 oz 1.8"H x 4.9"W x 5.0"L Yes Yes
5 Zeiss Terra ED 8x25 357' 52° 16 mm 11 oz 2.6"H x 4.4"W x 4.5"L Yes Yes
6 Bushnell H2O 8x42 410' 62° 17 mm 27 oz 3.0"H x 7.9"W x 6.0"L Yes Yes
7 Steiner Safari 10x26 312' 59° 15 mm 10 oz 1.8"H x 4.0"W x 4.4"L Yes Yes
8 Kowa YF II 6x30 420' 48° 20 mm 17 oz 1.9"H x 6.3"W x 4.5"L Yes Yes
9 Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25 342' 59° 10 mm 10 oz 1.7"H x 4.1"W x 4.5"L Yes Yes
10 Nikon ProStaff 7S 8x30 341' 49° 15.4 mm 15 oz 1.9"H x 5.1"W x 5.1"L Yes Yes
11 Celestron Outland X 8x42 357' 54° 18 mm 22 oz 2.1"H x 5.0"W x 5.8"L Yes Yes

6 Quick Tips When Evaluating Binocular Specs

As you're evaluating these specs to find the best compact binoculars for you, keep 6 things in mind:

  1. Magnification: You can't zoom in and zoom out with any of these binoculars, so you want to find that Goldilocks pair that's juuust right. This means you can see far enough downfield without having so much zoom that your image is wobbly and it's hard to keep targets in your field of vision. Generally, 8x or 10x is where you want to be, though there may be situations where 6x is best.
  2. Objective Lens Diameter: Wider lenses let more light in, which means a brighter picture. Wider lenses also mean bigger binoculars and more weight. 30 mm lenses are a good midpoint. Go larger if you'll be playing in low-light conditions. You can go smaller if you mostly play during brighter daylight conditions without much tree cover or if you buy a premium pair with better internal components.
  3. Field of Vision: There's a trade-off between magnification (how much closer things look) and field of vision (how wide you can see). The more zoom you're getting, the narrower your field of vision. That isn't a hard-and-fast rule as some pairs of binoculars have specially-designed eyepieces that give you a wider field of vision for the same (or more) power compared to similar binoculars. For our purposes, I think your field of vision at 1,000 yards (FoV @ 1,000 Yards) and Apparent Angle of View (AAoV) are at least as important as magnification, and probable more so.
  4. Eye Relief: Larger Eye Relief measurements mean you don't need to press your eyeballs as closely to the eyepieces in order to see clearly.
  5. Dimensions: Do you have a specific pocket or pouch you plan to store these binoculars in? Make sure they fit.
  6. Fog-Resistance: My flat-out recommendation? Never get a pair that isn't fog-resistant. Thankfully, every pair on this list is!

Enough background. Let's dive deeper into each of those 11 models, starting with our pick for the best compact binoculars for paintball and airsoft.

Carson 3D Series HD 8x32
Carson 3D Series HD 8x32

1. Carson 3D Series HD 8x32

The Carson 3D Series HD 8x32 compact binoculars are great for just about any situation on the field. Their 8x power is ideal for almost all field sizes, their 32 mm objective lenses are larger than most others on this list, delivering bright images, and their 392-foot field of vision at 1,000 feet is only bested by two models in our rankings:

  • 6th-ranked Bushnell H20, which has massive 42 mm objective lenses
  • 8th-ranked Kowa II YP, which has just 6x power

Frankly, no other pair of compact binoculars has the combination of power, wide-angle vision, and clarity that these Carson 3D Series HD binoculars do.

Toss in their rubberized black armor coating for rugged durability, textured grips and thumb grooves for comfort, and low-dispersion glass that puts the "HD" in their name, and there's just no beating them.

Their price point is a little higher than others on this list without being crazy-high, making them an exceptional value in addition to being the best compact binoculars for our purposes.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 392 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 60°
  • Eye Relief: 19.5 mm
  • Weight: 19 oz
  • Dimensions: 2.1"H x 5.1"W x 5.1"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Phase-correction coatings for crisp, clear images
Proprietary anti-reflection technology
Come with "America's Best Binocular Warranty" with guaranteed replacement at no cost to you

Cons

More expensive than other models on our list
Exterior feels a little more plastic-y than others in this price point
Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30
Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30

2. Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30

The Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30 compact binoculars have the best Apparent Angle of View of any model on this list, meaning their combination of power and field of vision can't be beaten. That makes them ideal for long-distance scoping on large fields, giving you the ability to perceive objects 10x closer than they are with an impressive field of vision to keep moving targets in your sights.

They also come with a proprietary Twilight Management System that helps extend your viewing time in fading twilight conditions.

Unfortunately, these BX-1 Yosemites are just about the widest binoculars featured here, spanning 7.8", which makes them more challenging to store. But again, their best use is for distance scoping and surveillance, and they'd be a great tool in your arsenal if you enjoy sniping.

If that's the case, check out of rankings of the 11 Best Airsoft Sniper Rifles.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 30 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 351 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 67°
  • Eye Relief: 15.5 mm
  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Dimensions: 2.7"H x 7.8"W x 6.8"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Widest Apparent Angle of View on this list (67°)
Twilight Management Technology to help you take advantage of fading light.
Phase-corrected BAK4 prism lenses to limit refraction and improve clarity
Amazing value for their price

Cons

Limited ability to widen, ranging just from 50-70 mm (62 mm is the adult male average)
Case they come with is low-quality
Focus control can be stiff and hard to dial in
Leica Ultravid BR 10x25
Leica Ultravid BR 10x25

3. Leica Ultravid BR 10x25

Leica is an iconic brand name, and these Ultravid BR 10x25 binoculars live up to the hype.

Objectively, these are the best compact binoculars on this list, bar none.

I knocked them down to 3rd because we're talking about paintball/airsoft applications, and their 273-foot Field of Vision at 1,000 Yards is by far the worst on this list. That means moving objects will be harder to keep in your sights.

On the plus side, these binoculars are the definition of compact, weighing just 9 oz with a 1.5" vertical profile that blows everything else on this list out of the water. Component-wise, these Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 binoculars have the best internal components for the sharpest image, best durability, and even fingerprint-resistant lenses!

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 273 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 52°
  • Eye Relief: 14.6 mm
  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.5"H x 4.4"W x 4.4"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Best quality, highest durability, and sharpest image
Image pops in stunning 3D
Weigh just 9 oz and fit in any standard-sized pocket
Fingerprint-resistant lenses are a Godsend

Cons

Oh boy, their price tag
Worst Field of Vision at 1,000 Yards on this list (just 273 feet)
Celestron Nature DX 8x32
Celestron Nature DX 8x32

4. Celestron Nature DX 8x32

Our top pick for Best Compact Binoculars for the Money, the Celestron Nature DX 8x32s have an immersive 59° Apparent Angle of View and tiny profile that fits in almost any pocket. But despite their small size, they have a little heft at 18 oz. That weight comes from their heavy-duty, fully-weatherproof construction with the high-quality, phase-correcting, anti-distortion lenses you'd expect from a pair of binoculars in their price range.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 388 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 59°
  • Eye Relief: 17.5 mm
  • Weight: 18 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.8"H x 4.9"W x 5.0"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

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Pros

Heavy-duty, weather-proof polycarbonate exterior
Compact enough to fit in almost any cargo-sized pocket
17.5 mm Eye Relief helps you view images naturally and comfortably

Cons

Eye Relief dials turn too easily and constantly need to be reset
Eyepieces are lower quality than the body of these binoculars
Zeiss Terra ED 8x25
Zeiss Terra ED 8x25

5. Zeiss Terra ED 8x25

Zeiss is an industry leader in optics, and it shows with their Terra ED 8x25 compact binoculars. The 8x magnification is just about perfect for our uses, and you get a surprisingly bright, crisp image from their small 25 mm objective lenses.

The biggest downside I see with these binoculars is their dimensions. At 2.6" thick, they're the 3rd-thickest model on this list behind these two:

  • 2nd-ranked Leupold BX-1 Yosemite 10x30 (2.7" thick, 17 oz weight)
  • 6th-ranked Bushnell H2O 8x42 (3.0" thick, 27 oz weight)

Unsurprisingly, both of those binoculars have larger objective lenses, but what's stunning to me is these Zeiss binoculars are almost as thick as those two despite weighing just 11 oz!

Still, technical specs can't always indicate image quality, and that's one area where these Zeiss ED binoculars really shine.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 357 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 52°
  • Eye Relief: 16 mm
  • Weight: 11 oz
  • Dimensions: 3.6"H x 4.4"W x 4.5"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Quality glass corrects for chromatic aberrations to deliver true, rich color
Proprietary hydrophobic, anti-reflection lenses
Work well in lower light compared to other 25 mm lenses

Cons

Higher price point
Limited 52° Apparent Angle of View compared to other top picks
Lightweight at just 11 oz but a little thick at 2.6"H
Bushnell H2O 8x42
Bushnell H2O 8x42

6. Bushnell H2O 8x42

The Bushnell H2Os are one of just two binoculars on this list with wide, 42 mm objective lenses

Why choose something that big? Two reasons:

  1. Maybe that isn't too big for you!
  2. The 410-foot Field of Vision at 1,000 Yards and 62° Apparent Angle of View are the best combination of wide-angle specs on this list.

If you care most about surveying the entire field and keeping everything in your sights, these are the binoculars for you.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 410 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 62°
  • Eye Relief: 17 mm
  • Weight: 27 oz
  • Dimensions: 3.0"H x 7.9"W x 6.0"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Widest-angle binoculars on this list
Porro prism lenses, which have less light loss than roof lenses
You'll be shocked by their price tag

Cons

At 27 oz, they're the heaviest binoculars on this list
42 mm objective lenses are relatively massive
Focus adjustment dial can be stiff
Steiner Safari 10x26
Steiner Safari 10x26

7. Steiner Safari 10x26

The Steiner Safari 10x26 compact binoculars make the list because they have solid wide-angle stats, led by a 59° Apparent Angle of View, in what might be the smallest overall package of any pair.

(The 3rd-ranked Leica Ultravid BR 10x25 binoculars are a hair thinner, but these aren't quite as wide.)

Steiner is a well-known brand that manufactures their binoculars in Germany, so you can be confident you'll be getting quality optics. And when you see the price, they'll immediately make your shortlist.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 26 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 312 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 59°
  • Eye Relief: 15 mm
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.8"W x 4.0"W x 4.4"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Steiner is a trusted German brand
Ultra lightweight and compact at just 10 oz
Sharp image with comfortable Eye Relief for such a compact pair of binoculars

Cons

Can be challenging to dial in the best settings for inter-ocular spread and focus
Doesn't come with lens caps
Some ship with a thick oil on the lenses that can be hard to get off
Kowa YF II 6x30
Kowa YF II 6x30

8. Kowa YF II 6x30

The lowest-power binoculars on this list, these Kowa YF II offer just 6x magnification, but that gives them a big advantage: the best Field of Vision at 1,000 Yards of any pair of binoculars on this list.

They also have the most Eye Relief of any pair here (20 mm) with a thin 1.9"H profile measuring just 4.5"L.

I wouldn't recommend these binoculars for anyone prioritizing magnification, but if you want to blow up the widest area of the field, these will be great. And when you think about it, if enemy combatants are outside the range of these binoculars, you're outside their firing range!

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 6x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 30 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 420 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 48°
  • Eye Relief: 20 mm
  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.9"H x 6.3"W x 4.5"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Largest Field of Vision at 1,000 Yards (420 feet)
Largest Eye Relief (20 mm)
Porro prism lenses, which have less light loss than roof lenses

Cons

Weakest magnification here (6x)
Disappointing Apparent Angle of View (48°)
Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25
Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25

9. Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25

Lightweight and low-profile for 10x magnification, these Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25 binoculars rival the 3rd-ranked Leica Ultravid BRs in terms of ounce-for-ounce power.

Unfortunately, they find themselves 9th on our list of the best compact binoculars because of their worst-in-class 10 mm Eye Relief. If you're looking for a pair of binoculars that you really need to press your face into, these are for you. Me? I prefer 15 mm or more, which puts these behind the similarly-spec'd Safari Steiner 10x26 (15 mm Eye Relief) and obviously behind the Leicas.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 342 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 59°
  • Eye Relief: 10 mm
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.7"H x 4.1"W x 4.5"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Very similar to the Steiner Safari 10x26 and generally a touch less expensive
Nikon is a quality, trusted brand
Ultra-light and compact with easy fold-away design

Cons

Lowest Eye Relief on this list (10 mm)
Brightness is lower thanks to 25 mm objective lens
Eyepiece caps fit loosely
Nikon ProStaff 7S 8x30
Nikon ProStaff 7S 8x30

10. Nikon ProStaff 7S 8x30

Back-to-back Nikons as their ProStaff 7S 8x30 binoculars come in 10th on our list.

Compared to the 9th-ranked Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25, these binoculars have less power and larger objective lenses for brighter images, and both have similar Fields of Vision at 1,000 Yards (though these lose points for their lower Apparent Angle of View).

The ProStaff 7S binoculars are also a touch heavier and larger thanks to their wider objective lenses, though they're still relatively lightweight at just 15 oz and their 15.4 mm Eye Relief is much more comfortable.

Interestingly, these happen to be the only 8x30 binoculars on our list, which puts them in a league all their own and definitely makes them worth considering. Their price point is notably higher than the 10x25 Nikon Trailblazer ATBs above but less than the similar 8x25 Zeiss Terra EDs.

However, if I were looking for a pair of compact binoculars with similar specs, I'd go with the 4th-ranked Celestron Nature DX 8x32 with the same power, wider objective lenses for brighter images, more Eye Relief, much better wide-angle viewing, and smaller dimensions in what's usually a lower price range.

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 30 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 341 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 49°
  • Eye Relief: 15.4 mm
  • Weight: 15 oz
  • Dimensions: 1.9"H x 5.1"W x 5.1"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Only 8x30 binoculars on this list, so they have a niche
Nikon is a quality, trusted brand
Better Eye Relief and brightness than the Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25 above

Cons

Disappointing Apparent Field of Vision (49°)
Lose out almost across the board to the 4th-ranked Celestron Nature DX 8x30
Eyepiece caps fit loosely
Celestron Outland X 8x42
Celestron Outland X 8x42

11. Celestron Outland X 8x42

Speaking of Celestron, who I just recommended in the review above, our 11th and final pair of compact binoculars on this roundup are the Celestron Outland X 8x42.

Along with the 6th-ranked Bushnell H2O, these are our largest objective lens binoculars at 42 mm, giving you tons of brightness but more weight.

These Outland X binoculars do have a big advantage over those Bushnell H2Os, though: much smaller dimensions. They're just 2.1"H x 5.0"W x 5.8"L compared to Bushnell's 3.0"H x 7.9"W x 6.0"L while saving you 5 oz (nearly 20% lighter).

Inferior Field of Vision lands them at the bottom, though. Ultimately, I wouldn't necessarily call these binoculars compact (not when we have so many truly compact models above), so why go with anything other than the Bushnell H2Os if you want a 42 mm objective lens?

Technical Specs

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
  • Field of Vision @ 1,000 Yards: 357 feet
  • Apparent Angle of View: 54°
  • Eye Relief: 18 mm
  • Weight: 22 oz
  • Dimensions: 2.1"H x 5.0"W x 5.8"L
  • Waterproof: Yes
  • Fog-Resistant: Yes

Check Price on Amazon

Pros

Widest-angle binoculars on this list
Amazing price point
Large 18 mm Eye Relief

Cons

Not exactly compact for our purposes
If you're going with 42 mm binoculars, these lose out to the Bushnell H2O 8x42 in almost every way

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