The Best Marine Binoculars in 2023
Binoculars have a wide range of uses, such as admiring wildlife on the land, spotting birds in the air or watching whales in the water. They can be used during the day for hunting and during the night for astronomy. Regardless of how you use them, binoculars can be an essential accessory for anyone who enjoys the outdoors – even if you’re on a boat. But what should you look for when choosing marine binoculars? And which are the best marine binoculars in 2023?
Table of contents
- Marine vs Regular Binoculars – What’s the Difference?
- How to Choose the Best Marine Binoculars
- Our Top 3 Best Marine Binoculars
- In Conclusion
- Frequently Asked Questions
Marine vs Regular Binoculars – What’s the Difference?
If you’re thinking about buying binoculars for your yacht or boat, you may be thinking that regular binoculars will be just fine – and while that’s not untrue, marine binoculars are designed to be used at sea and, consequently, they tend to have a few features that regular binoculars don’t.
These features make the binoculars a better choice for both navigation and general marine use.
- Individual focusing
With regular binoculars, you use the center focus ring to adjust the view for your left eye, and then use the diopter on the right eyepiece to make adjustments for your right eye. However, many marine binoculars will have individual focusing for each eyepiece.
This can be handy, as you won’t need to adjust the focus of the binoculars every time you use them. This, in turn, can save you a lot of time and bother if you’re using the binoculars for navigation.
Many marine binoculars will have a built-in compass that can help you get your bearings while at sea. Depending on the binoculars, your heading could be projected onto the view or it might be visible on a digital display.
Another useful feature that’s commonly found on marine binoculars is the rangefinder. This is often a reticle that can be used to calculate distances, but some binoculars will feature a laser that can calculate the distance automatically.
Unfortunately, whether you choose binoculars with a reticle or a laser rangefinder, you might find the result to be inaccurate.
More specifically, with a reticle rangefinder, you’ll need to know the height of your target and then make the necessary calculations to find the distance yourself. This, of course, can lead to errors.
Laser rangefinders might be more convenient, but can be inaccurate over water. They also tend to cost more and, of course, they require batteries.
While many binoculars – both regular and marine – feature armoring, it’s particularly important on marine binoculars. After all, you’re at sea and the conditions can be rough. The last thing you want is for your binoculars to be damaged because you dropped them onto the deck, or they were knocked against the structure of the boat.
With that in mind, many manufacturers will produce marine binoculars that are specifically designed to survive a higher than average number of knocks, drops and bumps.
How to Choose the Best Marine Binoculars
When it comes to choosing the best marine binoculars, there are a number of factors you should keep in mind:
- Magnification & Aperture
- Exit Pupil
- The Environment
Magnification & Aperture
As most people know, there are always two numbers associated with binoculars. The first indicates the magnification, while the second indicates the aperture of the objective lenses. The objective lenses are the large lenses you point toward your target, and the aperture is always measured in millimeters.
For example, 10×50 binoculars have a magnification of 10x and an aperture of 50mm. The magnification is fairly self-explanatory, as it indicates how much larger an object will appear through the binoculars.
While having a larger magnification might seem like a good idea, it’s worth remembering that your binoculars will also magnify any shaking that might occur, either from arm fatigue or the movement of the boat. The larger the magnification, the greater the shaking.
In terms of the aperture, the larger the aperture, the more light the binoculars can gather. This is important during the night, twilight or general low-light conditions, as it will allow you to see greater detail under those circumstances. However, there’s a tradeoff: the larger the aperture, the heavier the binoculars.
With this in mind, 7×50 binoculars can provide a good combination of magnification and aperture. Magnifications of 6x and 8x are also an option, but 10x could prove to be problematic as the movement of the boat could cause the view through the binoculars to shake too much. Similarly, a slightly lower aperture of 40mm could still be useful in low light conditions, but anything more than 50mm could be a little heavy and cause arm fatigue.
This is a term you might not be familiar with. The exit pupil is essentially the diameter of the image formed by the binoculars as it exits the eyepieces, and like the aperture, it’s measured in millimeters. The larger the exit pupil, the more of the image you’ll see and the brighter it will appear. Again, like aperture, this can be important under low light conditions.
The exit pupil is calculated by dividing the aperture of the binoculars (again, in millimeters) by the magnification. This is another reason why 7×50 binoculars are a good choice, as they have a large magnification to aperture ratio and, consequently, a large exit pupil.
7×50 Binoculars: 50mm (aperture) / 7 (magnification) = 7.1mm exit pupil
8×42 Binoculars: 42mm (aperture) / 8 (magnification) = 5.3mm exit pupil
10×50 Binoculars: 50mm (aperture) / 10 (magnification) = 5mm exit pupil
Incidentally, there are some 6×50 binoculars on the market, which would give you an exit pupil of 8.3mm, but they’re not very common and therefore not widely available.
When it comes to marine binoculars, having waterproof and fog-proof binoculars is a must. You could even argue that binoculars lacking these two features don’t belong on a boat! More than this, it’s often a good idea to also look for floating neckstraps, as this will make it easier to retrieve your binoculars if they should drop into the water.
As mentioned previously, be sure to also consider models that feature a compass and rangefinder, as this can make navigation easier, and shockproof armoring to protect your investment against knocks and drops.
Lastly, it goes without saying that a boat is rarely steady and stable and that your view through the binoculars can be shaky as a result. With that in mind, it can be worth also considering image stabilized binoculars. The downside, as you might expect, is that they cost more, and the name brands tend to be very expensive.
Our Top 3 Best Marine Binoculars
Taking into account all the considerations mentioned above, here are our top 3 binoculars for boating. Two of them are dedicated 7×50 marine binoculars, while the other is an image stabilized 10×30 for when the ocean is a little rough.
- Best Overall: Bresser Nautic 7×50
- Best Budget Option: Bresser Topas 7×50 WP
- Best Image Stabilized Binoculars: Canon 10×30 Image Stabilization II
Best Overall: Bresser Nautic 7x50
Founded in 1957, Bresser is a respected German manufacturer of optical equipment. Along with its two sister companies, Alpen and Vixen, it specializes in products such as binoculars, riflescopes and spotting scopes. Bresser produces several marine binoculars, and it’s little wonder that two of them have made our list.
The first of these, the Bresser Nautic 7×50, is impressive enough in its own right, and features everything you need in quality marine binoculars: it’s waterproof, it has individual focusing and a built-in rangefinder and compass. It’s also comparatively compact and lightweight – just 1025g (2.25 pounds). The price is also pretty competitive, making this a solid choice for marine use.
Best Budget Option: Jumelles avec boussole Bresser Topas 7x50 WP
The least expensive on our list, the Bresser Topas 7×50 WP is similar to the Nautic 7×50. It’s also waterproof, has individual focusing and a built-in rangefinder and compass. Both binoculars also feature the higher quality BaK-4 prisms – so what’s the difference?
The Topas 7×50 WP is larger than the Nautic 7×50, and as a result, it weighs more. In fact, at 1170g (2.6 pounds) it’s the heaviest of our three, but if size and weight aren’t a concern, then the Topas 7×50 WP could be the binoculars for you.
Best Image Stabilized Binoculars: Canon 10x30 Image Stabilization II
Canon, of course, needs no introduction, as their camera equipment is respected and renowned across the world. Their other optical equipment – such as binoculars – is also top quality, and their 10×30 Image Stabilization II binoculars are a great example of this.
These being image stabilized binoculars, rather than marine binoculars, you’ll find they’re not waterproof and they don’t have a rangefinder or compass. On the plus side, they’re very lightweight (just 600g, or 1.3 pounds) and if you’re looking for reliable, image stabilized binoculars that won’t cost the Earth, then they could be just what you need.
There are some outstanding choices if you’re looking for binoculars for your boat or yacht. Marine binoculars often have the added convenience of a rangefinder, compass and individual focusing, while image stabilized binoculars can help when the seas get rough. Regardless of your vessel, or your reason to be on the sea, there are binoculars to suit your every need.
Frequently Asked Questions
Regular binoculars really only have one function: to magnify the view. However, marine binoculars will often also have a built-in rangefinder and a compass. You’ll also find they have individual focusing for each eyepiece, are almost always waterproof, and tend to be more durable than regular binoculars. As a result, they can also tend to cost more and weigh more.
A boat will move around a lot on the water, so it’s best to go for a low magnification, as this will minimize how much the view appears to move. The greater the magnification, the greater the view will move. It’s also a good idea to buy binoculars with a larger aperture (usually around 50mm) as these will work better in low light conditions. The lowest magnification binoculars are usually around 6x, but since 6×50 binoculars can be hard to find, 7×50 is a good choice.
Whether you’re on a boat or on dry land, the normal (and minor) shaking of your arm will be amplified by your binoculars, causing the view to also shake. This is obviously much worse on a boat, as it will also be moving up and down on the water. Image stabilized binoculars attempt to compensate for this and provide a more stable image. This is achieved through the use of internal electronics, and as a result, image stabilized binoculars cost more than either regular or marine binoculars.
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