Features to Look for
by Michael and Diane Porter
Size and weight
Smaller is better as long as the binocular works ergonomically
for you. It should provide no excuse to ever leave it behind. And pocket binoculars are the ultimate in smallness and lightness! For example, the Alpen Wings ED, shown at right, weighs only 6 ounces.
Optical quality and build quality
You want binoculars that deliver
sharp, bright, color-true images. The brightness and image contrast depend largely on the quality of the coatings applied to the lenses in the manufacturing process. High-end binoculars such as the Leica Ultravid Compact, shown at right, provide superior views thanks to state-of-the art lens coatings.
will help keep the optics in alignment.
Anyone who has ever had a pair of treasured binoculars go for
a sudden, unexpected dip in a puddle or pond will tell you that
waterproofing can make the difference between binoculars that
survive and those that don't. Some binoculars are rated "water
resistant," which means that they can be sprinkled but not submerged.
It's always worth paying more waterproof and nitrogen-filled binoculars, such as the Swarovski CL Pocket, shown at right. Not only can they survive getting wet on the outside. They also resist fogging up inside, something that is a real issue in humid climates.
Many birders will carefully weigh a binocular's
ability to focus up close, especially if they also like to watch
Pocket binoculars vary greatly on this score. The
Pentax Papilio binoculars, for example, are remarkable for their ability to focus as close as 18 inches! Great for looking at butterflies. Although nothing else focuses quite as close as that, several will let you look at something only 5 feet away. That can be great for watching a hummingbird on the other side of the window.
Field of view
who like to seek warblers amongst dense foliage may find that
a wide field of view makes it easier to locate their prey. So look at that "field of view" number in a binocular's specs. The bigger the number, the more you will feel immersed in the scene, and the less you will feel as if you're looking through a pair of straws.
It makes sense to buy the best pocket binocular you can afford, and enjoy great optics, waterproofing, good build quality, and all the benefits of engineering and top manufacturing. But some very inexpensive pocket binoculars that will give you a lot of joy, such as the Eagle Optics Energy binocular, shown at right.
Pros and cons of pocket binoculars
If you're considering whether to invest in a pocket binocular, you might like to read Pros and Cons.
Reviews of popular pocket binoculars
Here are some hands-on reviews of pocket binoculars, evaluated by Michael and Diane Porter of Birdwatching Dot Com. SEE REVIEWS