Compact Binoculars - Reviews & Guides

Binocular Reviews Home > Compact Binoculars

This section of the site contains reviews, articles and documents in two main sections, but all related to some of the best small binoculars:

  1. Guides: Take a look at this section for links to a whole range of documents and advice on choosing and using the best compact binoculars for a wide range of needs and uses.
  2. Reviews: Read my full in-depth and obviously completely independent compact binocular reviews in this section.

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Choosing the Best Compact Binoculars for your Budget & Preferences

Choosing the Best Compact Binoculars based on your budget & Prefferences
Swarovski Compact Binoculars

Be it hiking, backpacking, canoeing, or taking to an outdoor sporting event, the are many uses and occasions where a large instrument is either not practical or desirable and thus even though there is no question that a larger set of binoculars will optically outperform a compact, it is these and other situations like them where a compact binocular makes complete sense.

However, with so many options of compacts out there, it can be confusing as to which pair you should choose.

So in this article and the included video, I take you through the three main designs of compact binoculars and discuss their relative merits as well as shortcomings which will help you decide which compact binocular is best for your specific needs and at your available budget.

Buyer & User Guides

Winner Best Compact Binoculars 2022 - Pentax Papilio II 8.5x21 BinocularsBest Compact Binoculars 2022 Award Winners

The Annual BBR Binocular Awards are an ideal way for me to highlight and bring to your attention the very best instruments that I have tested and reviewed in a variety of different categories and configurations.

Now into it's 12th year and bigger than ever, like last year, I have once again decided to have a separate section devoted to compact binoculars and a number of sub-categories.

This includes the best overall compact, best high-end compact, best compact under $100 (£/€) and the best "compact" to use in low light conditions.

Winner Best Compact Binoculars 2021 - Steiner Wildlife 8x24 BinocularsBest Compact Binoculars 2021 Award Winners

As well as the most current award winners (see above), I feel it is always well worth looking at some of the best compacts from years gone by.

This is because not only are you sometimes able to grab yourself a great deal as in general the prices of an instrument drops as time goes by from their initial release date, but unlike electronics for example, the technology for optics progresses at a much, much slower rate and thus as long as you invest in a quality set, the instrument will almost certainly still be every bit as good and as relevant today as it was back when it was released.

Compact Binoculars - What Configuration is Best?

Compact Steiner Wildlife Binoculars

6x21, 8x22, 8x24, 10x25, 12x25, 10x26, 9x28…

With so many different configurations available, it can be confusing to know which one best suits your particular preferences and needs.

In this complete guide to compact configurations, I go through step-by-step how the different sizes of objective lenses and the different magnifications affect a compact binocular and its performance so that you can make an informed choice when choosing which combination to get.

Pocket Compacts: Leica 10x25 Trinovid BinocularsBest Design for Compact Pocket Binoculars

In a category where size really matters, not all compacts are created equal and this is especially true when you take into account their body and chassis design.

In this article I take you through the different designs and then look at the ones that fold up into as small a package as possible to easily fit into your pocket:

Choosing binoculars for Backpacking, Bikepacking and Camping adventures

Choosing Very Small Binoculars & Spotting Scopes for Hiking, Camping, Backpacking & Bike packing

An in-depth article on the thought process that I went through and the main features and specifications that I kept in mind when choosing my particular Compact Binocular & Spotting Scope combination for a couple of Backpacking, Bikepacking and Camping adventures that I was busy planning for.

Also includes alternative options as well as other advice on compact scopes and binoculars.

Best Compact Steiner Binoculars

Steiner Wildlife XP 10x26 Binoculars

Due to their build and optical quality as well as their excellent duel hinge design and relatively low cost, Steiner compacts are some of the most popular around.

Below are some related articles:
>> Best Compact Stainer's for Walking Safaris

Opera & Theatre Glasses

Eschenbach Opera Glasse
Binoculars are specifically designed for taking out to the theatre or opera.

Features like being small enough to easily tuck away into your bag or coat is important as is a wide field of view and so they usually have a fairly low magnification of around 3x:
>> Guide to Opera Binoculars & Theatre Glasses

Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars - winner Best Compact Binoculars 2019 Award Winners - Travel Binoculars

For some of the very best compact and mid-sized binoculars that are ideal for travel adventures like safaris take a look at the ones that have won awards over the past few years.

Remember optical devices develop at a far slower rate than electronics, so many of the better quality instruments that were released over ten years ago are every bit as goods those you get today and are well worth considering if you are shopping for a bargain:

Mid-Level, Compacts for Canoeing or Rafting

Wide Angle Minox Binoculars
Even if you are not actually going canoeing or rafting, this article will still be of interest to those looking for some advice when choosing some small, easy to use, mid-level waterproof compacts:

>> Mid-Level, Compact White water Rafting Binoculars

Swarovski CL Companion 8x30 Binoculars

Swarovski CL Companion 8x30 Binoculars
Whilst the 30mm CL Companion is a little larger than most true compacts, they are also quite a bit smaller than most 32mm mid-sized bins. They also produce as image as good or better than many full sized binos, more::
>> Swarovski 8x30 CL Companion Review

Best Budget Compact Binoculars

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 BinocularsWhen it comes to bang for your buck, value for money or the performance to price ratio, then there are not many compact instruments that can match the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 binoculars currently on the market.

I purchased the 10x26 Vortex Vanquish as a test to see just how well a small 26mm binocular costing under $100 / £ / € could perform and I have to say that these reverse porro prism compacts were a real revelation to me.

Not quite as small as the double hinge roof prism design, but the build quality is great and optically they compare to most many mid-level compacts that cost more than three times as much as these which is seriously impressive.

So if you don't mid a slightly larger shape and if you are on a tight budget and are looking for a sub $100 compact then I highly suggest taking a close look at the Vortex Vanquish.

Survival & Prepping Binoculars

In this first article in my mini survival guide I take a close look at Get Home Bag Binoculars and what you should get, why they are different from Bug Out Bag Binoculars & Which Binoculars are Best for the Survivalist or Prepper:

Pentax 9x28 DCF LV BinocularsCheap Compact Binoculars for Travel

In these articles, I answer a range of similar questions from people looking for some inexpensive, yet tough and compact binoculars that are ideal to go travelling with:

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 BinocularsBest Hiking Binoculars under 100? Why I bought the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars.

Whilst planning for a forthcoming camping and hiking break with my family I decided to set myself a challenge and buy myself the best compact hiking binoculars for less than $100 (£)

This is the story of how and why I bought the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars:

Pentax VD 4x20 WP Binocular / MonocularMy Choices: Compact Binoculars & Spotting Scopes for Hiking, Backpacking & Bikepacking

Why I chose this particular Compact Binocular & Spotting Scope combination for Backpacking & Bikepacking trips. The article also includes a number of alternatives in a range of price points as well as other advice:

Maven C.2 Compact Binoculars

Maven C.2 BinocularsNew to the market and one of the highest specification compacts out there are the incredible series of Maven C.2 Compact binoculars.

Maven Optics supply the C.2 in two configurations, the 7x28 with it's super wide field of view and large exit pupil for great low light performance and the 10x28 for those who's main requirement is to get closer to the action.

Highlights include ED glass lenses, fully multi-coated optics, phase corrected prisms with the very best dielectric coatings on them for maximum reflectivity and thus improved performance.

As well as this, the Maven C.2 Compacts also have protective coatings added to the exterior lenses.

Great Value High End Compacts:
Considering their very high quality components and features, their relatively low RRP of only $200 looks to make these excellent value for money ED glass compact binoculars.

Steiner Safari UltraSharp 8x22 BinocularsBest Compact Binoculars for Sports & Concerts

This article is actually in response to a question I received from a reader here on BBR and in it I take a look at a selection of compact binoculars in a range of prices and discuss the main features and components to look for when choosing an ideal binocular for using at outdoor sporting events and concerts.

10x25 Vanguard Orros BinocularsCompact Vanguard Orros Binoculars

Vanguard are well known for producing very good value for money binoculars and so with this in mind I took a look at the main features and specifications of the two compact models that they currently offer:

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x25 Compact BinocularsBest ED Glass Compact Binoculars

Ever wondered why there aren't many compact binoculars that use ED Glass elements in their lenses? In this article I discuss what is the main reason for this, as well as highlight some of the best ones that do:

Retro Corner:'s Best Compact Binoculars 2013's Best Compact Binocular 2013 - Steiner Safari 8x22 BinocularsSteiner Safari 8x22 Ultrasharp Binoculars

What say: "This year's best compact binocular, the Steiner Safari Ultrasharp 8x22, is crazy small, but don't you dare call it cute. The Safaris fold up and fit easily into a jacket or cargo pocket, but offer super-crisp 8X magnification in action. They're waterproof and fogproof, and offer super-fast focus and comfortable eyecups, making them great for watching sports, spotting birds, or scanning the coastline. All of this is housed in the super-rugged, extra-grippy famous Safari body style."

Price Range
The Steiner Safari Ultrasharp Binos cost around $170 in the US and £100 in the UK:


Reviews: Compact Binoculars

Below are a selection of my most recent reviews that I have written on compact and small binoculars, you can view all compact bins that I have reviewed on BBR.


Pentax Papilio II 8.5x21 Binoculars Review

Updated with a fully multi-coated optical system the Pentax Papilio II is now better & more versatile than ever.

With their incredibly close minimum focusing distance these are ideal for the close observation of things like butterflies or flowers when out in the field or for use in a gallery or museum.

Other optical highlights include quality BaK4 reverse Porro prisms and aspherical lens elements for a quality and brightness of view that is impressive for a compact binocular at this price level.

Price: (2/6) Low Cost Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 7/10 75%
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 7/10


Discovery Gator 8-20x25 Binoculars Review

Produced by Levenhuk, but endorsed by Discovery, these low-cost, compact binoculars feature a zoom function that enables you to easily adjust the magnification from 8x, right up to a powerful 20x power.

The instrument is water-resistant, has a fully multi-coated optical system that includes reverse Porro prisms made from BK-7 glass.

Price: (2/6) Low Cost Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 6/10 63%
Very Good
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 6/10
Optical Stats: 6/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 5/10


Pentax VM 6x21 WP Monocular & Microscope Kit Review

Small, lightweight, and versatile monocular when combined with the complete kit easily converts into an 18x microscope.

Highlights include an extremely wide field of view, very close minimum focus distance, plenty of eye relief, and a unique shape and rocker focus mechanism making it both comfortable and very easy to use in just one hand.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Monocular
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 83%
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 10/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10


Pentax VD 4x20 WP Binocular & Monoculars Review

A compact binocular that the Transformers would be proud of!

The Pentax VD 4x20 can be split in half and thus converted into two 4x monoculars, which in turn can be placed end-on-end, transforming it once again into a mini-sized, but powerful 16x Spotting Scope!

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 82%
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 10/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 6/10


AGM Asp-Micro TM160 Thermal Imaging Monocular Review

Small, lightweight, easy to use, low-cost thermal imaging monocular that punches well above its price tag.

For me, the AGM Asp-Micro TM160 is a game-changer and has now been added to my must-have pieces of gear for use around the home as well as being one of the first instruments I put into my bag on any outdoor/nature/wildlife adventure where I will be spending the night.

Price: (4/6) Mid-High Value Thermal Imaging Monoculars

Steiner Wildlife 8x24 Binoculars Review

The double-hinge, roof prism design, combined with a tough exterior and fully water and fog proof chassis makes these a true pocket sized binocular that just ask to be taken anywhere and everywhere you go.

Other highlights include a fully multi-coated optical system, wide field of view, excellent close focus distance and with it's Click-Lock attachments system probably the best neck-strap I have ever seen on a compact.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 83%
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10


Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars Review

These reverse Porro prism compact Vortex binoculars perform at a level that way exceeds their budget level price tag.

Highlights include an image quality and brightness that really surprised me and a build quality with a level of components that matches and even surpasses many mid level instruments.

Price: (2/6) Low Cost Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 7/10 70%
Body Stats: 6/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 7/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 7/10


Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars Review

Compact Steiner roof prism binoculars with the double hinge design makes them a true pocket binocular ideal for lightweight travel and uses like skiing and hiking.

The sunlight adaptive optical system reduces glare and makes for a less washed out and more vibrant image in very bright light conditions.

Price: (3/6) Mid Priced Binoculars
BBR Ratings:
Body Quality: 8/10 78%
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 8/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 7/10


View >> All compact binoculars that I have reviewed