The 8 Best High-Power Binoculars Reviewed in 2019

man using binocs

More power!

That’s how some people feel about binoculars. The more magnification you have, the closer the image seems to be.

This is a marked advantage for certain activities, such as stargazing and target shooting, where you need to make a far-off object seem as close as possible.

For hiking and hunting, however, overly-powerful binoculars have many disadvantages that can make them utterly unsuitable for the task.

One of those is cost. Though some long-range binoculars are very affordable, quality glass can require a high premium. I’ll cover the other pros and cons of the most powerful binoculars later.

First, let’s look at some of the highest-magnification binoculars you can buy, regardless of your budget.

 

The 8 Best High Power Binoculars of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Best affordable: Nikon Aculon A211 16×50
  2. Best affordable #2: Bushnell PowerView 20×50
  3. Best for the money: Nikon Monarch 5 20×56 ED
  4. Best for the money #2: Celestron Echelon 20×70
  5. Best overall: Swarovski Optik SLC 15×56
  6. Best overall #2: Vortex Optics Kaibab 18×56
  7. Most powerful: Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100
  8. Most powerful #2: Barska X-Trail 30×80

 

CategoryBest affordableBest for the moneyBest overall
ProductNikon Aculon A211
Nikon Aculon A211

Celestron Echelon
Celestron Echelon

Swarovski Optik SLC
Swarovski Optik SLC

Magnification16x20x15x
Objective Lens Diameter50 mm70 mm56 mm
Field of View at 1000 Yards220 ft157 ft234 ft
Close Focus Range30 ft328.1 ft12.8 ft
Eye Relief12.6 mm19.5 mm16 mm
Exit Pupil3.1 mm3.5 mm3.7 mm
Weight32.6 oz65 oz43.2 oz
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Affordable High-Power Binoculars #1- Nikon Aculon A211 16×50

Nikon Aculon A211 16×50

Specs

Magnification: 16x
Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
Prism: Porro BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 220 ft.
Angular Field of View: 4.2 degrees
Close Focus Range: 30 ft.
Eye Relief: 12.6 mm
Exit Pupil: 3.1 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 32.6 oz.
Misc: Aspherical Eco-Glass and non-slip rubber armor

Overview

High-power binoculars are not a cheap. However, there are some binoculars available that provide extreme levels of magnification without requiring you to empty your entire bank account.

The Nikon Aculon A211 16×50 is perhaps the best binocular you can buy before the price jumps astronomically.

A hair over 2 pounds, the Aculon A211 is still rather lightweight for this type of binocular. This is due to the aspherical lenses made from lightweight arsenic and lead-free Eco-Glass. The lenses are made to a thinner profile than others of the same size, cutting down on the weight.

The eyecups twist and slide so you can find the eye relief that best fits you. However, they are rather wide and can be uncomfortable for people with large noses.

The magnification is 16x, and the 50 mm objective lens provides a field of view of 220 feet at 1,000 yards.

The rubber armor protection is non-slip, but the included lens covers may not stay on.

Pros

  • Aspherical lenses cut down on weight and provide a flat field of view
  • Lightweight for the power

Cons

  • Eyepieces may be too large for some people
  • Terrible lens caps

Recommendation

The Nikon Aculon A211 16×50 is a great high-power binocular for people on a budget.

 

Nikon Aculon A211 16×50 is also available at:

Cabelas

Walmart

 

2. Best Affordable High-Power Binoculars #2 – Bushnell Powerview 20×50

Bushnell Powerview 20x50

Specs

Magnification: 20x
Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
Prism: Porro BK-7
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 170 ft.
Angular Field of View: 3.2 degrees
Close Focus Range: 45 ft.
Eye Relief: 9 mm
Exit Pupil: 2.5 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 30.4 oz.
Misc: Insta-Focus lever and rubber armor

Overview

The Bushnell PowerView 20×50 is Bushnell’s most affordable high-power binocular. However, getting this much magnification at such a cheap price point does come with some drawbacks.

The magnification is 20x, over twice as powerful as the average hunting binocular. However, the field of view is minimal at under 170 feet at 1,000 yards. You better have a good idea of where you’re looking before you raise the binoculars to your eye!

The close focus range and eye relief are poor as well. Anything within 45 feet will be too close to focus on, and the eye relief is 9 mm, much shorter than average. Therefore, these may not be suitable for people with glasses.

The Insta-Focus lever does help you get the image as clear as possible without having to fiddle with a knob.

The optics and Porro-style BK-7 prisms provide adequate clarity, but Bushnell saved money on the build quality. Some people report that the focusing lever is easily bumped out of alignment.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use Insta-Focus lever
  • Great magnification

Cons

  • Not the best build quality
  • Tiny field of view
  • Short eye relief for people with glasses

Recommendation

The Bushnell PowerView 20×50 is the best high-power binocular under $100. Any cheaper and you won’t get your money’s worth.

 

Bushnell Powerview 20×50 is also available at:

Walmart

 

3. Best High-Power Binoculars for the Money #1 – Nikon Monarch 5 20×56 ED

Nikon Monarch 5 20×56 ED

Specs

Magnification: 20x
Objective Lens Diameter: 56 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 173 ft.
Angular Field of View: 3.3 degrees
Close Focus Range: 16.4 ft.
Eye Relief: 16.4 mm
Exit Pupil: 2.8 mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated and phase coated Eco-Glass
Weight: 43.6 oz.
Misc: ED glass, waterproof, nitrogen-purged for fog-proofing, and accessories (58″ tripod, 67″ monopod, cleaning supplies, camera mount, and smartphone adapter)

Overview

The Nikon Monarch line is very well regarded. If you want as much value for your money as possible, trust the Monarch 5 20×56, especially its many, many accessories.

First, the binoculars themselves:

The lenses are made with extra-low dispersion Eco-Glass and are fully multi-coated for the best optical clarity possible without excessive weight. Roof prisms keep the binoculars compact. The objective lenses provide a field of view of 173 feet at 1,000 yards.

The Monarch’s magnification and light-gathering qualities are good enough to view craters on the moon at night.

Plus, the kit comes with all of the accessories you might need!

Pros

  • Comes with many quality accessories
  • Very impressive optical quality without chromatic aberrations

Cons

  • Loose-fitting eye covers that are also incompatible with the harness

Recommendation

If you want the best value for your money, the Nikon Monarch 5 20×56 ED binocular kit comes with excellent binoculars as well as many accessories that can be expensive to purchase separately.

 

Nikon Monarch 5 20×56 ED is also available at:

Euro Optic

Basspro

Walmart

 

4. Best High-Power Binoculars for the Money #2 – Celestron Echelon 20×70

Celestron Echelon 20×70

Specs

Magnification: 20x
Objective Lens Diameter: 70 mm
Prism: Porro BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 157 ft.
Angular Field of View: 3.0 degrees
Close Focus Range: 328.1 ft.
Eye Relief: 19.5 mm
Exit Pupil: 3.5 mm
Lens Coating: XLT multi-coated
Weight: 65 oz.
Misc: Hard case, adjustable eyepieces, waterproof and nitrogen-purged for fog-proofing

Overview

Make no doubt about it, the Celestron Echelon 20×70 binoculars are not versatile binoculars.

They are long-range binoculars through and through.

The close focus distance is an excessive 328.1 feet. That 0.1 foot makes all the difference! Also, the field of view is only 157 feet at 1,000 yards, despite the 70 mm objective lenses.

However, those large lenses do gather light—a lot of light. In fact, the multicoating is Celestron’s proprietary XLT coating, originally designed for telescopes. This makes the Echelon a superb choice for stargazing or target shooting well into dusk.

However, they are heavy. Therefore, while the binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof, they are not the best choice for taking on a trip into the mountains.

Pros

  • Extremely good light-gathering capabilities for long-distance viewing, even in the dark

Cons

  • A hilariously far-off close focus distance
  • Small field of view for the size of the objective lenses

Recommendation

The Celestron Echelon 20×70 is excellent for long range glassing, day or night, but cannot be used at short range.

 

Celestron Echelon 20×70 is also available at:

Walmart

 

5. Best Overall High-Power Binoculars #1- Swarovski Optik SLC 15×56 – Swarovski Optik SLC 15×56

Specs

Magnification: 15x
Objective Lens Diameter: 56 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 234 ft.
Angular Field of View: 4.5 degrees
Close Focus Range: 12.8 ft.
Eye Relief: 16 mm
Exit Pupil: 3.7 mm
Lens Coating: Swarovision
Weight: 43.2 oz.
Misc: HD glass with fluorite, submersible to 13 feet

Overview

The Swarovski Optik SLC 15×56 is the best high-power binocular you can buy, even though it “only” has 15x magnification.

As will be covered later, magnification isn’t everything; 15x is still more than sufficient for most applications, but it’s the other factors that make it so good.

Swarovision and HD fluorite-glass technology means you won’t find a flatter and clearer image anywhere. The body is durable, protected, and even waterproof enough to survive up to 13 feet underwater.

The 234-foot field of view at 1,000 yards is much wider than many binoculars with less magnification, so you’ll still be able to glass a landscape to find your animal with these binoculars.

The clarity and light-gathering potential of these optics let you use them at night without worry. Even the weight, at a heft-y 43.2 ounces, is comfortably balanced.

Pros

  • The best image clarity and accuracy available
  • Great field of view for high-power binoculars
  • Submersible

Cons

  • Expensive

Recommendation

If you want to buy the best high-power binoculars possible, the Swarovski Optik SLC 15×56 are it.

 

Swarovski Optik SLC is also available at:

Walmart

 

6. Best High-Power Binoculars #2 – Vortex Optics Kaibab 18×56

Vortex Optics Kaibab 18×56

Specs

Magnification: 18x
Objective Lens Diameter: 56 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 194 ft.
Close Focus Range: 10 ft.
Eye Relief: 16.4 mm
Exit Pupil: 3.1 mm
Lens Coating: XR Plus fully multi-coated plus ArmorTek, anti-reflection coating, phase correction, and dielectric prism coating
Weight: 43.5 oz.
Misc: Apochromatic optical system and HD glass, waterproof, fog-proof, and a locking diopter adjustment

Overview

Most people know Vortex Optics as a good source of budget optics. Well, they got that way by knowing how to make the best, and the Kaibab HD 18×56 is their best.

The field of view is just under 194 feet at 1,000 yards. That’s the only weakness of these binoculars.

Vortex loaded up the Optics with more coatings than any other binoculars. Not only is there a proprietary XR Plus coating for optimal light and image transmission, but the front lenses have an anti-reflection coating, and all of the external glass has scratch-proof ArmorTek.

So, you get impressive visual quality with protection for both the body and the lenses.

I chose the 18x over the 20x because it’s hard to tell the difference in magnification, yet the 20x version is $300 more expensive.

Pros

  • Great light transmission and visual quality
  • The utmost of protection for the lenses

Cons

  • Somewhat small field of view

Recommendation

For a pair of high-power binoculars that can survive getting beat up in the woods, the Vortex Optics Kaibab HD 18×56 is your best choice.

 

Vortex Optics Kaibab is also available at: 

Euro Optic

Cabelas

Walmart

 

7. Most Powerful Binoculars – Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100

Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100

Specs

Magnification: 25x
Objective Lens Diameter: 100 mm
Prism: Porro BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 156 ft.
Angular Field of View: 3 degrees
Close Focus Range: 80 ft.
Eye Relief: 15 mm
Exit Pupil: 4 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 140 oz.
Misc: Rain guard, individually adjustable eyepieces, built-in tripod adapter

Overview

The Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100 has slightly less magnification than the second most powerful binoculars on this list. However, I’d argue that they’re even more powerful.

Magnification isn’t everything, so the 100 mm wide objective lenses contribute a lot to the SkyMaster Astro. Specifically, they gather an extreme amount of light.

Light gathering is often poor amongst high-zoom binoculars; however, the SkyMaster Astro gathers enough light to be used for gazing at planets.

However, they are heavy enough that you are practically required to mount them to a bipod. Thankfully, they have a built-in rigid adapter.

Unfortunately, the massive magnification means any imperfections are devastating. A few users have had to send these binoculars back for producing double images.

Want to know just how powerful these are?

You can see Jupiter’s moons.

Pros

  • Extreme low-light performance
  • Extreme magnification
  • Powerful enough to see the moons of Jupiter

Cons

  • Occasional quality control issues
  • You need a tripod to use these because they are so powerful and heavy

Recommendation

Do you want as much power as possible? Enough to observe the moons of celestial objects? Then you need the Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100.

 

Celestron SkyMaster Astro 25×100 is also available at:

Walmart

 

8. Second-Most-Powerful Binoculars – Barska X-Trail 30×80

Barska X-Trail 30×80

Specs

Magnification: 30x
Objective Lens Diameter: 80 mm
Prism: Porro BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 111 ft.
Close Focus Range: 49 ft.
Eye Relief: 10 mm
Exit Pupil: 2.67 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 68.8 oz.
Misc: Built-in tripod adapter, rubber armor

Overview

The Barska X-Trail 30×80 binoculars are marketed as hunting binoculars. I do not feel these are the best for hiking through the woods in pursuit of deer, however.

The 30x magnification brings objects extremely close. That, mixed with the barely-there, 111-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, makes it hard to observe larger objects unless they are at extreme ranges. It also makes it hard to find animals.

So, in my opinion, these are good companion binoculars for hunting with a partner who has a smaller set of binoculars.

However, for tripod use, these are excellent. A 1,000-yard target will appear to be 30 yards away!

The optical quality is quite good, though the X-Trail 30×80’s light gathering capabilities aren’t the best.

Still, this is an extremely powerful binocular if you use it in daylight.

Pros

  • Good spotting scope replacement
  • The highest magnification on this list

Cons

  • A tripod is necessary
  • Very small field of view

Recommendation

Barska’s X-Trail 30×80 binoculars are a great choice for magnified viewing of objects at extremely far ranges but requires a tripod to use. So, bring it to the range instead of a spotting scope, or have a hunting partner with a smaller pair of binoculars.

 

Barska 30×80 X-Trail is also available at: 

Walmart

 

The Pros of Using High-Power Binoculars over a Spotting Scope

man holding binocs on tripod

Spotting scopes are often considered the king of long-range magnification.

With powers ranging from 30x to 60x and beyond, it can be hard to argue against their use.

However, spotting scopes have some disadvantages over binoculars. Here’s why you might want to use binoculars instead of a spotting scope:

  • Better field of view
  • Faster deployment
  • Less expense
  • Less weight
  • You can keep both eyes open

The biggest difference between binoculars and spotting scopes is that spotting scopes are essentially giant monoculars.

They have one tube and one objective lens collecting light. Therefore, they won’t have as bright an image as a similarly powerful binocular. The field of view is smaller, so it can be harder to find your target.

Some people prefer keeping both eyes open when looking through a scope. Binoculars allow for this, while spotting scopes do not.

spotting scope on tripod

Spotting scopes are often heavier than a similar set of binoculars. They are also slower to set up and use in the field. While you can use binoculars with a tripod or monopod, you are forced to use those with a spotting scope.

Finally, spotting scopes are often more expensive than long-range binoculars when comparing optical quality.

For more information check out our article on binoculars vs spotting scopes.

How to Choose?

It can be tempting to get as powerful a binocular as possible.

Bigger numbers are better, right?

Not always!

More magnification is harder to use, and, in fact, your binoculars can be too powerful!

 

Magnification is Not Everything

correlation between higher magnification and smaller FOV
Higher the magnification, the smaller the field of view is.

As I mentioned earlier, magnification isn’t everything.

A higher magnification makes objects appear closer, yes. However, this comes at several disadvantages:

For powerful binoculars, you need to balance these issues with raw magnification. Let’s look at them in more detail.

 

Field of View

man using binocs in open field

The higher your magnification, the smaller the section of the world you’ll see.

A wider objective lens can combat this, but you’ll add on a lot more weight. Smarter construction with a higher angular field of view can work too, but you’ll pay more.

So, what do you need to see? If you know where your target is and can find it easily, more magnification can’t hurt.

But if you need to find what you want to glass, more magnification will make it harder to find.

 

Light Gathering

Planning a star hopping session

Similar to the relationship between magnification and field of view, more magnification makes it harder for the binoculars to collect enough light to brighten the image enough.

A dark image makes it harder to see details. It can also make it impossible to use the binoculars in darker conditions, such as at dawn or dusk, or even under overcast skies.

If you want to use your binoculars for stargazing, then you’ll need as much light gathering as possible. So, with high-power binoculars, you’ll need huge and heavy objective lenses to gather enough light.

 

Image Steadiness

man using his elbow as tripod for binocs

The worst enemy of handheld optics is instability.

Some people have steadier hands than others. However, nobody’s hands are perfectly steady, so even a 1x optic’s view will bounce slightly.

That unsteadiness gets worse the more magnification you use.

If you plan on using a tripod, then you can basically ignore this issue. However, tripods are slow to use and may not be suitable for stalking deer.

So, hold your hands close to your eyes. Are they steady or unsteady? The more they waver, the less magnification you can comfortably use without an external means of stabilization.

 

The Exit Pupil

graphic explaining relationship between exit pupil and eye pupil

If you hold optics away from your face, then you’ll see a little white area inside the black.

That’s called the exit pupil. It’s several millimeters wide.

Often, the wider the exit pupil, the more light can come through the binoculars and reach your eye. Bigger is not always better, though, because your eye’s pupil dilates and contracts as well.

Generally, an exit pupil of 3 mm is recommended. Much more than that is wasted during daylight because your pupils will contract to about that wide. This especially applies if you are older and your eyes cannot dilate up to even 3 mm.

However, if you plan on using the binoculars in the dark, you’ll want a larger exit pupil to ensure as much light reaches your eyes as possible.

 

Using a Tripod

binocs on tripod

Because of the image steadiness problem mentioned before, you’ll want something to hold the binoculars steady.

Generally, that means a tripod.

Some of the binoculars above come with a tripod adapter. One, the Nikon Monarch 5, comes with a tripod already. Tripods hold the binoculars for you so no hand tremors or heartbeats can cause the image to jump.

First, you set up the tripod in position and at a height comfortable for you to use. Then, you attach the binoculars to the tripod. After that, you adjust the binoculars to point at your target and look through them without touching them.

You can attach the binoculars before setting up the tripod. However, I find it harder to travel with the binoculars this way, so I prefer to keep them separate until I need to use the binoculars.

In the field, you can also use a monopod for faster deployment, though you’ll lack the steadiness of a tripod.

 

Top High-Power Binocular Brands

Celestron

Celestron is a California-based company that’s focused on extreme magnification.

Most people will know them for either their telescopes, their microscopes, or their binoculars.

In fact, they are innovative in the telescope field. Everything from their vintage to modern astronomy telescopes are well-known and respected.

As for binoculars, they are not the top of the field, nor are they at the bottom. Mid-grade is perhaps not the best term either. They are specialists, without charging specialist prices.

The optics are made in Taiwan by Synta Technology Corporation of Taiwan. Though Taiwanese optics are not as well-regarded as Japanese glass, they are still very well made.

Still, Celestron binoculars are not known as the best hunting binoculars. For the most part, they seem to be made for “civilized” use, such as watching the night sky from your backyard.

So, if you want a pair of binoculars that will perform well at very long ranges, you want a Celestron. Just don’t expect them to be as durable as specialty hunting binoculars.

 

Nikon

Nikon is a Japanese corporation. They’ve specialized in optics for over a hundred years and still produce some of the best lenses in the world.

Nikon glass is used in everything from cameras to specialized medical instruments. You can thank Nikon for DSLR technology, which helped digital cameras overcome film cameras. They’ve also pioneered the use of environmentally-friendly glass made without arsenic or lead.

It just so happens that leaving out those materials saves weight as well, so not only are Nikon lenses good for the environment, but they are easier to carry as well.

Even today, Nikon encourages innovation by its employees.

Nikon produces binoculars and rifle scopes at a variety of price points. All of them, even the budget models, have high reviews.

For example, the Nikon ProStaff is one of the best budget riflescope lines. As for binoculars, the Monarch is one of the most consistently recommended binoculars ever produced.

Basically, if it’s made by Nikon, it’s worth the price.

However, they cannot seem to get their lens covers right!

 

Vortex Optics

Often known for their budget scopes, Vortex Optics makes excellent binoculars as well.

They may not be the oldest companies manufacturing optics, but Vortex has quickly accrued a large amount of goodwill from the hunting community by producing quality glass and backing it up with the best warranty in the business.

If your product is damaged for any reason, except if you purposefully damage it, they will repair or replace your binoculars.

So, don’t shoot the binoculars and you’ll be fine.

In order to know how to make good glass cheaply, you have to know how to make great glass well. While they are often recommended by people who value price over quality, you can spend a little bit more and get a lot of quality.

Vortex Optic’s products are not just used by hunters and target shooters. Law enforcement personnel use their scopes and red dot sights, too. Some of their products have even made it into military service.

So, you can depend on a Vortex Optics binocular to serve you well and handle the rigors of hunting in extreme conditions.

 

Conclusion

Bushnell Forge

This list has a wide variety of powerful binoculars and a huge variation in price.

If you want the best of the best, you can’t get better than Swarovski’s SLC binoculars.

If you want to save some money, Bushnell’s binoculars are powerful without being too expensive.

And finally, if want a pair of binoculars to gaze upon Jupiter’s moons, you’ll need Celestron’s SkyMaster Astro 25×100.

If you found that you really don’t need high power binoculars then you might want to check out our regular binocular reviews.

The 8 Best High-Power Binoculars Reviewed in 2019
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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