Best Binoculars 2021 - Award Winners

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11th Annual BBR Binocular Awards

Annual Binocular Awards LogosEver since I started them (way back in 2010), the BBR awards have been an ideal way for me to highlight all the very best binoculars (and other optics) that I have had the pleasure to test for you over the past 365 days and year on year they have continued to grow and get better and better.

However, as we all know, the last 12 months or so have been pretty weird/strange/bad/terrible (take your pick!) for the planet as a whole and speaking for myself, I would class them as probably the worst of my 40 plus years of being on it: At the start of last year, I had to rush home back to Africa as my mum suddenly became ill with cancer, and not long after, she passed away which was, and still is pretty devastating for me and my family. Then "the virus" arrived shortly after I got back to Europe, which as we know has completely changed just about everything.

In terms of binoculars, scopes, night vision devices, and sporting optics in general, the market as a whole has actually been very buoyant which I think is largely due to the fact that during these strange lock-down times, a lot of people have reconnected with nature and the outdoors and as such there has been a surge in all sorts of gear that is associated with outdoor pursuits and that most certainly includes optics.

So what does this all mean for the Best Binoculars 2021 Awards?
The caliber of instrument that I have tested this year has generally been very high, but unfortunately, due to the circumstances mentioned above, I have not tested quite as many binoculars and other related optics in as many niches as I would have liked. Therefore, more than ever, you have to look at the BBR awards and the best binoculars of 2021, as a sort of continuous, rolling award, where every year I build upon the previous year's winners by adding any new instruments that I have fully tested and reviewed and which I feel are fully deserving of an award as well as removing any that have become out-of-date or obsolete.

Beware of Fake Reviews & Awards!

A particular gripe of mine and one of the main reasons I started this site more than a decade ago now is that the internet is full of product reviews and awards conducted by people who have never seen, used, or tested the actual products in question!

These so-called 'reviews' and 'awards' are not only meaningless but worse still often completely misleading as they convince consumers into making a purchase that is often completely wrong for their actual needs and circumstances.

Annual Binocular Awards 2021100% Genuine Winners

So before we get onto the winners, I would just like to make it clear that every review I publish on BBR only happens after I have thoroughly used, tested, and researched the binocular, scope, monocular, or other devices in question.

What is more, all of the reviews on the BBR website are completely genuine and my honest, unbiased opinion and so as a result, so are these best binoculars 2021 awards. To be clear: I am not sponsored and do not take any sort of compensation to write about a binocular in a particular way. For more, take some time to go over the notes and rules at the foot of this page.

Best Binoculars 2021

The shortcut links below will take you to the top binoculars in 2021 in a range of popular categories. Note: As I have done in past years, I will be announcing each winner one-at-a-time over a period of about a week, so please do check back if you are reading this and there are still winners yet to be announced!

Contents / Binocular Categories

Best All-Round, General Use Binoculars 2021 by Price

Best Binoculars 2021 By Use/Niche:

Best Bino Accessories, Other Devices & Gear 2021

  • Best Spotting Scopes 2021 - To be Announced
  • Best Monoculars 2021 - Winners: Bushnell, Opticron & More
  • Best Night Vision Devices - To be Announced
  • Best Tripods 2021 - To be Announced
  • Best BinoHarness 2021 - To be Announced
  • Best Binocular Accessory 2021 - To be Announced

Best All-Rounder/General Use Binoculars

The binoculars in this main category all excel or at the very least perform well in a wide range of uses and conditions and thus make a great option if you have varied interests and just want a single instrument to cover all or many of them.

Best Binoculars 2021

Vortex Razor UHD 10x42 Binoculars

With a BBR score of 92%, the Vortex Razor UHD 10x42 sits very comfortably alongside the very best binoculars that I have ever used, tested, or reviewed, and thus I had no reservations in recognizing them as the binocular of the year in 2020. Since then I have tested a number of excellent instruments which you can see in these awards and other pages on the site, but even so, I have to say that as of yet, nothing better and thus once again, these Vortex Razor UHD 10x42 Binoculars win the overall award as Best Binocular 2021:

From the top-hinge designed magnesium frame to the incredible APO Lens System and Abbe-Koenig roof prisms, almost every single component used on the Razor UHD is the best that you can get.

This combined with excellent attention to detail and build quality that is second to none results in a binocular that comfortably compares and in some cases beats the top 'alpha' level instruments from the more established brands from Europe.

Body Quality: 9/10 92%
The VERY Best
Body Stats: 7/10
Optical Quality: 10/10
Optical Stats: 10/10
Image Quality 10/10
Extras & Details: 9/10

A Few Highlights:

  • Extremely high level of body components and build quality, which includes a magnesium alloy chassis, all-metal eye-piece housings, ultra-smooth focus wheel, and lockable diopter adjuster.
  • As with the body components and perhaps even more so, the level of optical components and coatings used is as good as it gets. This starts with the APO Lens System, goes through to the Abbe Koenig design of roof prisms, and finally ends with anti-reflection coatings on all optical surfaces and protective ArmorTek coatings on the exterior lens surfaces.
  • The combination of all these extremely high spec optical components results in what I thought was a truly exceptional view. Indeed I gave it a score of 10/10 and thus truly believe it is as good as it gets.
  • Another important highlight for me was the level of the included accessories. For starters, the carry case doubles as a fully enclosed bino harness and the package comes with all the necessary straps as well as an extra accessory pouch that can fit onto the front of the case or indeed anything that has the standard MOLLE webbing system.

Main Specs & Features:

  • Very High-End Binoculars, RRP Approx: $1500 / £1500 / €1600
  • XR Plus Fully Multi-Coated Optics with:
    • APO Lens System
    • ArmorTek Exterior Lens Coatings
  • Abbe-Koenig Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • Single "True Open Hinge" Body Design:
    • Magnesium Chassis
    • Water & Fogproof (Argon Filled)
    • Central Focus Wheel
    • Locking Diopter
    • Twist-up aluminum eyecups with 16.7mm of Eye Relief
    • Tripod Adaptable
  • FOV: 346ft @ 1000 yards
  • Close Focus Distance: 4.5ft
Buy & Compare Prices: Vortex Razor UHD Binoculars

Past Winners:

Best Binoculars Under $1000 / £1000 / €1000

GPO Passion HD 10x42 Binoculars

Scoring a massive 90% BBR score these Passion HD binoculars are already a winner as the best binocular I tested in 2019. Updated and still 100% relevant today, there is no doubt in my mind that this cracking instrument from German Precision Optics is not only one of the very best binoculars under $1000 in 2021, but ranks up there with the top high-end binoculars that I have ever used... at any price.

From the extremely comfortable and weight-saving top hinge designed magnesium alloy chassis to the fully multi-coated optical system that incorporates double ED glass lens elements with hydrophobic coatings on the exterior surfaces as well as the very best phase-corrected and dielectrically coated Schmidt Pechan roof prisms, these German designed binoculars brought a smile to my face at every turn.

Body Quality: 9/10 90%
The VERY Best
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 9/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 10/10
Extras & Details: 9/10

A Few Highlights:

  • The body components used by GPO and the overall build quality are out of the top drawer. This includes the use of a magnesium alloy chassis and aluminum eye-piece housings to the super-smooth focus wheel with its integrated diopter adjuster.
  • You could not wish for high-grade optical components and coatings which include two ED glass elements within each lens and hydrophobic coatings on the exterior surfaces that ensure a better view in all conditions, remain cleaner for longer, and are easier to clean when you eventually have to.
  • These very high specification optical components combine well to deliver what I thought was a truly exceptional view and which I believe is as good or better than any instrument at this or even the higher "alpha" price level.
  • For a 10x42, the image brightness is super impressive.
  • I really like the quality and semi-rigid construction of the carry case and the neck strap is one of the most comfortable that I have ever used.
  • For a binocular with a 10x magnification, these GPO Passion HD 10x42 binoculars have a very wide field of view. Indeed at 336ft@1000yds, it exactly matches that other very highly respected alpha level instruments like the Leica 10x42 Ultravid HD and the Swarovski 10x42 EL.

Main Specs & Features:

  • High End Binoculars, RRP Approx: $930 / £900 / €900
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics with:
    • 42mm Objective Lenses
    • Double ED Glass Elements
    • Hydrophobic Lens Coatings
  • Schmidt Pechan roof prisms:
    • Dielectric Coatings
    • Phase Correction Coatings
  • Magnesium Alloy Body:
    • Waterproof & Fog Protection
    • Central Focus Wheel with integrated locking Diopter
    • Twist-up aluminum eyecups with 17mm of Eye Relief
    • Tripod Adaptable
  • FOV: 336ft @ 1000 yards
  • Close Focus Distance: 2m (6.5ft)
Buy & Compare Prices: GPO Passion Binoculars

Best Mid-High End Binocular 2021 (Under $500 /£/€)

The mid-to-high level price threshold is very competitive and I would describe most of the instruments that I test positioned at or just under the $500 (£ / €) mark as being "very good" or "excellent" both in terms of the components used and the build quality. So picking a winner is often quite difficult, therefore what I am generally looking for is something that stands out from the crowd to make it either perform better than the rest or offer us better value for money.

Hawke Frontier 8x42 ED X Binoculars

Winner of the best birding binocular in 2019, I have decided to re-award the superb Hawke Frontier 8x42 ED X binoculars once again this year in this new price category as not only are they are still in production, but for my money are still every bit as good as when I first tested them and offer an excellent price to performance ratio that can't be ignored:

So whilst technically they slot into my Mid-High End (under 500) price category, you can often find these Hawk's listed at or even under the 400 ($/£/€ ) mark which when you consider what you get in return, is very impressive:

High-Quality Image
For almost all users, but especially for birders and wildlife observers, an excellent and true to life image is a critical feature as it ensures you are not only able to marvel at the beauty of nature in all her glory but also remember that tiny differences in things like plumage colorations can make the difference when trying to positively identify one sub-species from another.

The Hawke Frontier ED-X with it's ED (extra-low dispersion glass) lenses and phase-corrected, dielectrically coated roof prisms and many other highest level optical components ensured that they scored an outstanding 9/10 for both the optical components and final image quality sections when I tested them. In fact, with a total score of 87% on the BBR scale, these Hawke binoculars also match or beat many high-end binoculars that cost double the amount of these.

Wide Field of View
As most wildlife observers and especially birders will know that having a wide field of view is an extremely important feature as it enables you to more easily find and then follow your subjects, this is especially true of the small faster-moving ones at closer range. At 426ft wide at 1,000 yards, these have an extremely wide view that ranks up there with the very widest 8x42 binoculars currently on the market and which is why I would certainly describe them as being a wide-angle binocular.

As well as performing extremely well in these critical areas other reasons I opted for the 8x42 Hawke Frontier X over the other contenders is that they have a very high build quality level and a very good or excellent performance in every other area. Indeed they literally have no major weaknesses. This makes them a very versatile instrument that will not only stand out in most types of wildlife or birding situations but many other areas as well and certainly up there with the best binoculars I have ever used at this price level.

Main Highlights & Details:

  • RRP: $389.99, £389.99 retail price approx: $400 / £380
  • Single Hinge Body Design
    • Magnesium Chassis
    • Waterproof & Fogproof
    • Twist-up Eye-cups with click stops
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • ED Glass Lenses
  • BaK-4 Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Mirror Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • Very Wide Field of View: 426ft at 1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 6.6ft
  • Excellent 18mm of Eye Relief
  • IPD: 5.6-7.4cm / 2.2-2.9ins
  • Weight: 24.4oz / 692g
  • Dimensions 14cm (5.5ins) x 12.3cm (4.8ins)

Outstanding Quality at a Reasonable Price
Considering the level of optical and exterior components used and the high quality of their construction, the relatively low price point of around $400 / £380 is seriously impressive:

Buy & Compare Prices: Hawke Frontier ED X Binoculars

Best Binoculars Under $400 /£/€ in 2021

Initially, I had not planned to have an under 400 price category, but being somewhat in no-mans-land between the categories above and below, I felt that these Bresser's are just too good for me not to bring to your attention:

Bresser Pirsch ED 8x42 Binoculars

So far I have had the fortune of testing three models (8x56, 8x42, and the 8x32) within the superb line of Pirsch ED binoculars from the German brand Bresser. All of which are truly excellent, but of these, it is the 8x42 Bresser Pirsch ED that has scored slightly higher than the rest with an outstanding 83% on the BBR scale.

Exceptional Value for Money
In my review of them I remarked they, like the Hawks above, have an excellent performance to price ratio because even though they are technically in the Mid-High price category (under $/£/€500), they actually cost around £340, and so despite such a high level of components and performance, they almost make it into the Mid-Level category below!

Some of the standout highlights for me include:

Very good quality of the view with good color reproduction, contrast levels, very low levels of color fringing, hardly any image softening at the edges of the view, and no other visible distortions.

Bresser Pirsch ED 8x42 binoculars have a Metal and Polycarbonate chassis that is lightweight yet robust and come with an all-metal focus wheel with a smooth mechanism for fast accurate focal adjustments. Metal eye-piece housings and eyecups that are tough with an excellent twist up/down mechanism and more than 17mm of eye-relief.

The build quality and function of the neck strap and carry case are both excellent and I also liked that they come with a good cleaning kit that includes cloth and optical cleaning pen. This is something that almost every other manufacturer forgets.

Main Specs & Features:

  • Mid-High End Binoculars approx: $350 / £340 / €340
  • Open Bridge Body Design
    • Metal and Polycarbonate
    • Waterproof & Fogproof
    • Metal Focus Wheel & Eyepieces
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • ED Glass Lenses
  • BaK-4 Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Mirror Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • Wide Field of View: 375ft at 1,000 yards
  • Close Focus: 6.6ft
  • Excellent 17.1mm of Eye Relief

Outstanding Quality at a Reasonable Price
Considering the level of optical and exterior components used and the high quality of their construction, the relatively low price point is seriously impressive. Please note: Whilst I have found the Bresser Pirsch ED binoculars readily available both in the UK and the rest of Europe, they do seem to be hard to source in the US and Canada. Thus if you are having trouble finding them, or indeed if you are in Europe and want an alternative, I would highly recommend either the very evenly matched Hawke Frontier ED X above or the Celestron Trailseeker below.

Buy & Compare Prices: Bresser Pirsch ED 8x42 Binoculars

Best Binoculars Under $300 / £300

Celestron TrailSeeker ED 8x42 Binoculars

Best Mid-Level Binocular 2021, the Celestron TrailSeeker ED 8x42 BinocularsAt this price threshold, this Celestron binocular is just about as good as it gets and during testing, I found them to be an improvement on the older, non-ED version which I also rate as excellent at this mid-price tier.

Many binoculars at this price range look very generic... as if they were all made in the same factory ;-) But these Celestron TrailSeeker ED's are anything but that as they sport their own distinctive modern and classy design without being too futuristic.

For an 8x42 binocular these are small and lightweight, which certainly adds to their versatility and is especially impressive when you consider that they incorporate many metallic parts like the magnesium chassis, focus wheel, and eye-piece housings.

Viewable Image
During testing, I thought that the overall image quality and brightness was truly excellent for a binocular at this price level and matches that of many mid-to-high level instruments in my experience.

All the image specifications on this instrument are impressive, but it is the extremely wide field of view that really stands out and is certainly a particular strength of this instrument. This will most certainly be an advantage to wildlife and especially birders operating at short to mid distances where the wide view makes it easier to locate and then follow fast, sometimes erratic moving critters!

Main Features:

  • Current Price: Approx $290 / £285 / €300
  • Single Top-Hinge Body
    • Magnesium Chassis & Bridge
    • Water & Fogproof (Nitrogen Filled)
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
    • ED Glass Lens Elements
    • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • 17.2mm of Eye Relief
  • Very Wide FOV: 426ft @ 1000 yards (142 @ 1000m)
  • Close Focal Distance: 2m (6.5ft)
Buy & Compare Prices: Celestron TrailSeeker ED Binoculars

Best Binocular under $200 / £200

Bresser Condor 10x42 Binoculars

Best Binocular Under 200 in 2021, the Bresser Condor 10x42 BinocularsLast year I had these Bresser Condor binoculars as my pick for best value binocular and for very good reason as not only do they look far more expensive than they are, but they perform as well as many of the better mid-level instruments out there.

As you can see, this year I have changed the categories a little and rather than one best value winner, I have added a number of different price categories and thus this year, I still have no hesitation in saying that this is the best general use binocular that I have used under $200 / £200 (although please not it can be a little difficult to locate in the US).

Impressive features like an all-metal focus wheel, metal diopter adjuster, and aluminum eyepieces make them feel and look far more expensive than they actually are, but even more impressive than this is that the quality is more than skin deep and by achieving an excellent score of 78% on the BBR scale, they are, without doubt, one of the best I have ever used at this price range.

Main Features:

  • Current Price: Approx $200 / £150 / €160
  • Single Top-Hinge Body
    • Polycarbonate Chassis (PPS) with Metal Bridge
    • Aluminium Eyepieces
    • Water & Fogproof (Nitrogen Filled)
    • Aluminium Central Focus Wheel
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics with Silver "Ultimate Reflection Coatings"
    • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
    • BK-4 Glass
    • Eyepiece Lenses: 6 groups, 8 pieces
  • 15mm of Eye Relief
  • Wide FOV: 111@ 1000m (approx: 333ft @ 1000 yards)
Buy & Compare Prices: Bresser Condor Binoculars

Best Low-Cost Binocular 2021 (Under $130 / £130 / €130)

Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Best Low Cost Binocular 2021 - Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 BinocularsI have to say that these Savanna WP binoculars from Opticron and in particular the 6x30 configuration combined with using Porro prisms that give it their traditional-looking binocular body shape was a real revelation to me this year.

I actually chose them as one of the instruments to take along with me on a kayaking trip as their somewhat unique setup made them perfect for this. But it also makes them ideal for a whole host of other uses and I highly recommend them as a low-cost option for observing wildlife in places like forests or for backyard birding, taking to sporting events, or stashing in your bug-out bag. As well as this they are great for children or anyone with unsteady hands.

6x30 Configuration
Combining a very moderate 6x power with 30mm lenses makes for an interesting combination and I am somewhat surprised that it is not more commonly found: Firstly it produces 5mm exit pupils (30÷6) which is more than decent and for a mid-sized instrument is actually large, which along with quality optics and coatings play a big part in maintaining a bright image in low light conditions.

As well as helping produce a larger exit-pupil the lower power also makes it easier to maintain a more steady, shake-free view. Another huge advantage is that it helps produce a wider view. Measuring 420ft wide at a distance of 1000yds, the field of view on these is really impressive allowing you to quickly locate objects (especially smaller ones) and then follow them if they are fast and erratic moving (like birds for example). So as a close-range birding binocular (be that in forests or just backyard birding), or a binocular to take to an outdoor sporting event where you will see more of the action without having to pan the view about, these are certainly a good choice.

Porro Prisms
Whilst not as compact, at this lower price point Porro prism binoculars like these are often optically superior, delivering brighter, better quality views when compared to lo- cost roof prism binoculars. For the reasons why see Cheap Binoculars – Is a Roof or Porro Prism Best? and I found these Opticron Savanna WP binoculars to be an excellent case in point as they produce a remarkably bright image considering the small 30mm lenses and in my opinion, the quality is easily amongst the best in this class and matches that of far more expensive instruments.

Also important to mention is that the prisms are also made from BaK-4 glass, which is a good thing, especially at this price point where many instruments will use inferior glass (for binoculars) like BK-7 glass.

Eye-Cups & Eye-Relief
Not only does the Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 binocular have twist-up eyecups, but you also get a massive 21mm of eye-relief. Many budget binoculars will have simple folding cups with less than enough eye-relief required to accommodate eyeglass wearers.

  • Low Cost - approx $130 / £100
  • Comfortable Porro Prism Body Design
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filled)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Porro Prisms
  • 6x30 Configuration = Large 5mm Exit Pupil
  • Wide FOV: 420ft at 1,000 yards / 140m at 1,000 meters
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 9.8ft / 3 meters
  • Eye Relief: 21mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Past Winners & Still Very Highly Recommended

For a compact and especially one at this price range, the quality and brightness of the view was surprising and I can say without hesitation that they performed well beyond my expectations and are as good, if not better than many mid-range compacts costing more than double this amount.

The first thing I really like about this Carson RD Series binocular is that you would never guess by looking at them that they cost less than half than a good quality mid-range instrument. Better still is the quality is more than skin deep as under the hood, they continue to punch well above their price tag.

More Past Winners in this Low Cost Category Still Worth Considering:

 
 

Best Binoculars 2021: Notes, Rules & Regulations

Why the BBR Annual Binocular Awards are different:

In order for an instrument to be considered for a BBR Award and thus rank with the best binoculars for 2021, it must have first been tested and reviewed by me here on BBR.

Then I go over each review at the end of the year and see which if any deserve to be called the BEST in a particular category. If I cannot find any deserving winners, or if I have not reviewed a product in a certain category over the last 12 months, then I either forgo the award or if still relevant and available on the market, I will suggest the previous year's winner instead.

I would like to also like to reassure you that my choice for an award winner in every category is completely independent and unbiased.

As I can only review and test a limited amount of binoculars and other instruments every year, this does mean that the pool of potential winners is way smaller than every single pair of optics on the market. But I do hope that you will agree that this is a worthwhile trade-off and a better option than if I was to follow other people's leads and just offer awards to products that I have never used or tested.

Rules

  • To have had any chance of winning, I have had to reviewed the instrument on BBR. This obviously means that an award winner has NOT been compared to ALL the binoculars currently on the market, but only to those that I have fully tested. So whilst the pool of contenders is relatively small, you can be assured that the winners have been thoroughly tested and used and not just based on manufacturers specifications or a "thumb-suck" - they truly are in my opinion deserving of an award.
  • Award winners are chosen by myself. There is no panel of experts or users. Thus those that have won are in my opinion the best in that category for this year, not that of anyone else. I guess this is both good and bad, but for now it is just the way it is.
  • I also feel that it is very important to emphasise that I do not offer an award to any device purely because I have a specific category to fill. To win, I must feel that the binocular, scope or accessory really deserves to and in that particular category. So if there has been no standout for me in a particular category, there will be no winner for this year in that section and the award will go to the previous years winner if it is still in production and relevant. Note: This is the reason you will see that in some categories there are devices that have won the award for more than one year in a row.
  • I choose the winners by going back over all the reviews I wrote last year and then placed all the best ones into a pool. Then I organized each of them into the categories that they were most suited to and from there and after studying them again, made a choice of the best of the best.
  • As it is for most people, price is a factor, however what is more important to me is the value for money within a particular price bracket. So for example a high end binocular is almost always going to be a fairly expensive product, but within this high value price bracket, I look out for ones that offer more for your money than others with a similar price tag by their build quality, quality of their components and just how well they perform both optically and physically.
  • Once again remember these awards are the same as with all my reviews: They are in no way biased towards any product or manufacturer, I have given the award because I honestly feel that they deserve it.

Further Reading