Best Compact Binoculars 2021

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Intro

In this section, I highlight the winners of the BBR awards for the Best Compact Binoculars of 2021 as well any winners from years gone past that are still available and which I feel are still relevant:

Annual Binocular Awards LogosBBR's Binocular Awards 2021

The BBR Bino Awards have been running since 2010 and since then they have grown to become what I believe are the most important binocular and related optics awards on the web. For me, they are also the main way in which I can bring the very best binoculars that I have fully tested and reviewed in the past 12 months to your attention. For more on the awards, the rules, and ethos as well as to view the winners in all the other categories, take a look at the main 2021 Best Binoculars BBR Awards Page.

Best Compact Binoculars

In previous years, I would simply include the best compact binocular category in with all the rest of the winners for that year, but on many occasions, I found that I wanted to highlight more than one compact binocular (in different price categories for example) and the fact that the overall number of categories and winners has grown meant that this important sub-niche was getting somewhat swamped by all the others and thus I have now decided to create its own page to give each of the winners a little more of the spotlight.

Best Compact Binoculars 2021

Steiner Wildlife 8x24 Binoculars

With a BBR score of 83% these Steiner 8x24 Wildlife binoculars is one of the best compact binoculars that I have ever used and reviewed. Indeed to-date there is only one compact that has ever scored higher and that is the ultra-high-end Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 binocular (see below). So when you keep in mind the relatively low price point of these Steiner binoculars you can appreciate the excellent performance to price ratio that they offer.

Double Hinge Design
The Steiner Wildlife 8x24 is what I describe as being a true pocket-sized binocular due to the double-hinge body design and the use of the more compact roof prisms.

Build Quality & Components Used
Not only do they look great, feel robust and work well, but in just about every area, I found the attention to detail, build quality, components, and materials used to be at least very good and often excellent which once again at this price range is rare in my experience.

Tough as well as Fully Water and Fogproof
Unlike their full-sized relatives, for whatever reason, many more compacts, even mid and high-level ones are not fully sealed, which for a "take-anywhere" type of instrument is obviously not ideal, so the fact that the Steiner Wildlife 8x24 binocular is not only fully sealed and thus water/dustproof, but pressure-filled with nitrogen to prevent fogging is most certainly an important feature in my opinion.

Body Quality: 8/10 83%
Outstanding
Body Stats: 9/10
Optical Quality: 8/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 8/10
Extras & Details: 8/10

Main Specs & Features:

  • Mid-High End Compact Binoculars: Approx: $190 / £180 / €180
  • Double Hinge Body Design with Metal Bridge
    • Polycarbonate Makrolon Housing
    • NBR Long Life Rubber Armouring
    • Fully Waterproof (2m)
    • Anti-Fogging Nitrogen-Pressure-System
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
    • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
  • Wide FOV: 114m @ 1000m / approx: 342ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 2m (6.5ft)
  • Eye Relief: 14mm
Buy & Compare Prices: Steiner Wildlife Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars Under $100 /£/€ 2021

As good value as the Steiner's above are, I also do appreciate that there are many reasons why you may need or want to choose a less expensive compact and thus if your budget is under $100, the Vortex below is my top recommendation:

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars under $100 2021 - Vortex Vanquish 10x26 BinocularsAlready a winner of the award for Best Low-Cost Binocular in 2020, I originally purchased these Vortex Vanquish 10x26 binoculars to take on a camping trip as I wanted a low-cost easy carry binocular and I have to say it has been one of the best low-cost binoculars (under $100 /£/€) in any size category that I have ever used. and have no hesitation in recommending it to you in 2021.

Image Quality
For a compact and especially a compact at this price point, the quality and brightness of the view was surprisingly good and certainly ranks them right at the top against their direct competitors in this size category and price point. I will also go as far as to say that it is as good as the better mid-range compacts that cost more than three times as much.

Build Quality & Components Used
At this price, it is not a given that your binoculars will be fully water and fogproof, and whilst you may not go out in the wet, it is still important and is for me a big indicator as to the overall quality of a binocular, so it was great to discover that the Vanquish is both.

There are also loads of other small indicators of quality, this includes the ratcheted diopter adjuster, metal eyepiece housings, and a bespoke focus wheel all of which contribute to placing this binocular well above what I would normally expect to find at this price point.

Eye-Cups & Eye-Relief
Not only does the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 binocular have twist-up eyecups, but you also get a full 16mm of eye-relief. Most budget binoculars will have simple folding cups and not enough eye-relief to accommodate eyeglass wearers, so this will certainly be a plus point to some.

  • Low Cost - approx $99 / £96
  • Compact Reverse Poor Prism Body Design
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filling)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Wide FOV: 294ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 2.3m (7.6ft)
  • Eye Relief: 16mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Vortex Vanquish Binoculars

Best High-End Compact Binoculars 2021

Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 Binoculars

Best High-End Compact Binoculars 2021 - Swarovski CL Pocket 8x25 BinocularsIf budget is not your primary concern and you are simply looking for the best-of-the-best pocket-sized compact binoculars then you need not look any further than the Swarovski CL 8x25 Pocket.

Winner of the award as best compact here on BBR, way back in 2013, the updated version of this real gem is still going strong and is still one of, if not the best pocket-sized compact on the planet.

Image Quality
In an ideal world, your compact would perform optically as well as your full-sized bins. This is of course physically impossible, but I have to say that these Swarovski CL Pocket binoculars come pretty close and I had no hesitation in scoring them a 9/10 for image quality when I reviewed them.

Optical Components
To achieve this level of performance, Swarovski incorporates many of the very high-end optical parts and coatings that they use in their larger models, including their fully multi-coated optical system with BaK-4, phase-corrected roof prisms, and the now famous Swarobright coatings.

Body Features
This incredible level of performance is enhanced by the use of high-end materials to make a very high-quality outer body and other parts like the full-metal twist-up eyecups. These along with an impressive 17mm of eye-relief, (which for a compact is excellent) make the CL Pocket an ideal choice should you wear glasses. Another major highlight is their field of view, which at 357ft @ 1000 yards is once again as good as it gets for an 8x compact binocular.

True Pocket Binoculars
As a roof prism compact, the CL Pocket is already smaller than most porro prism compacts like the Vortex above, but as with this year's winner, the Steiner Wildlife, these also use the double hinge design that ensures they can fold up into a very compact shape and thus easily be slipped into most shirt or trouser pockets and carried about wherever you go.

  • High-End Compacts - approx $850 / £600
  • Double Hinge Design - True Pocket Binoculars
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filling)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Wide FOV: 294ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 2.3m (7.6ft)
  • Eye Relief: 16mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Swarovski CL Pocket Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars in Low-Light 2021

Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32

Best Compact Binoculars in Low-Light 2021 - Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 BinocularsWith it's 32mm lenses, this Opticron Discovery WP PC is not in the strictest terms a true compact like those featured above, and would admittedly not win the award for the most compact binocular.

However, due to a good overall design, it is still a very small binocular and would be my pick as an excellent "compact" binocular to use in low light conditions.

By utilizing a really condensed optical design this incredible Opticron Discovery has the same outer dimensions as many of the larger true compacts yet is way smaller than most other mid-sized binoculars with similar-sized objectives.

Thus the real beauty of this is that the combination of the larger 32mm objectives and the really high-quality glass and coatings means that you still get the same higher performance of high-end, mid-sized optics (when compared to a true compact), but in a package that does not look out of place in a line-up of these true compacts! Unless the size is critical, it is a definite win-win situation but is especially important if you need or want to maintain a good low-light performance.

If you compare the Opticron Discovery's dimensions (LxHxW) of 4.3in (10.9cm) x 1.8in (4.6cm) x 4.6in (11.7cm) with that of a genuine pocket-sized compact like the Swarovski 8x25 CL Pocket binoculars above, with its dimensions opened out dimensions of 4.3in (10.9cm) x 1.8in (4.6cm) x 3.9in (9.9cm), they are very similar and it is only once you fold them, that the double hinge designs of the Swarovski and the Steiner above have the advantage.

Add to this 17mm of eye-relief, a very wide field of view (393ft @ 1000yds), and an extremely close minimum focusing distance of only 3.9ft then you have a go-anywhere, take anywhere binocular that excels in most situations, but is great for birding, wildlife, travel, outdoor sports and butterfly, flowers and other close-range observation! Superb.

  • Mid-Price Compacts - approx $230 / £150
  • Very Compact Shape for a 32mm Binocular
  • Lightweight ABS Plastic Chassis - Weight: 13.8oz (391g)
  • Fog & Waterproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated
  • Field of View: 393 @ 1000yds (131 @ 1000m)
  • Ultra Close Focus: 3.9ft
  • 17mm of Eye-relief
Current Price & Where to Buy: Opticron Discovery Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars In Bright Light

Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars

Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars - Best Compact Binocular 2019 BBR Award WinnerWinner of the award as Best Compact Binocular in 2020, the Steiner BluHorizons is able to automatically adjust the brightness of the view depending on the light conditions making them one of the most innovative instruments that I have used in a while and well worth considering if you live or often operate in very bright conditions:

Just like the photochromic lenses on a pair of adaptive sunglasses, the lenses transmit less light in very bright conditions resulting in less glare and a more vibrant, less washed out image.

As well as all this, these Steiner binoculars also have just about every feature that I look for in a good set of compacts, including the double hinge design which permits them to fold down into a true pocket binocular when not in use.

On top of simply testing them in the office, I also put the Steiner 10x26 BluHorizons through its paces whilst I was on safari in Southern Africa and found that they performed extremely well in the real world: This is reflected in the excellent BBR score of 78% that they achieved, which included a 9/10 for their body stats and 8/10's for their build quality, optical components, and optical stats. Now if you also consider their low price point, this score is impressive and thus fully deserving of the award.

Highlights & Features:

  • Mid Level Optics - approx $190 / £170
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Steiner AutoBright™ Optics
  • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
  • Double Hinge Body Design with Metal Bridge
  • NBR Long Life Rubber Armouring
  • Rainproof IPX4 rating
  • Central Focus Wheel
  • Fold-Down Rubber Eyecups with Side Shields
  • Wide FOV: 322ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 3m (9.8ft)

At their current retail price, I do believe that they offer great value for money and are well worth considering if you are after a compact for uses like travel, safaris, hiking, camping and even skiing:

Buy & Compare Prices: Steiner BluHorizons Binoculars