There are many different groups of people who use binoculars, hence the wide range of available makes and models. Optical instruments are used by the military, of course, and by hobbyists who like to watch birds and other wildlife. Plane-spotting is a popular hobby in the UK, and any plane spotter worth his salt will carry a pair of binoculars! We could go one and list a whole range of people who might want to carry binoculars, but suffice to say they are popular, and especially so when it comes to the portable, compact sort that we are talking about today.
The history of binoculars – if you are interested – ties in neatly with the development of the telescope, an optical instrument that has been around for many hundreds of years. It is said that the very binocular telescope – that is what they are, two telescopes linked together – was invented in the 1820’s, with what we know as the binocular today coming to light in Italy in the 1850’s.
It’s interesting that, apart from advances in optics – better lenses and glass, for example – and the introduction of the compact models we re going to look at, the basic concept of binoculars remains the same as it did all those years ago. So, you want to see our choice of the best compact binoculars UK consumers can buy right now? We looked at 10 examples, and we hope we’ve made your choice easier!
The Top 10
Qunse 10x 25 Mini Pocket Binoculars
We begin our list with this example, from a brand named Qunse, and they are very compact indeed. This gives us a chance to explain some jargon: 10×25 means these binoculars have a magnification power of 10x – that is they will make things 10 times larger – and a 25mm lens size. This is not particularly powerful, but for a budget model – these are not more than £20 to buy – it’s not a bad starting point.
Moe for hobby use than serious, these are made with decent coated optics, have a nice comfortable case making them easy to hold, and are waterproof – but not if immersed in water! They fold into a very compact unit that will sit in your pocket, no problem at all. They come with a carry case, strap and cleaning cloth, and many satisfied customers rate them as good budget binoculars. However, we also found some rather disgruntled buyers who say they don’t focus properly and the quality is poor.
SGODDE High-Powered 10×25
This pair of very compact, 10×25 binoculars follows a different design theme to the foldable model above. They are a touch bulkier than that model as a result. Nevertheless, while only 10×25, these are decent hobby binoculars at a sensible price – under £20 we found them at – and they are neatly designed to be easy to grip and focus. The eye-pieces can be moved closer and apart as is required for different users, and it’s all easy to handle.
These ones promise decent usage in low light – we’re not sure how as they use the same lenses as the above – and come complete with a case, carry strap and cleaning cloth, and while suitable for use in light rain, the makers are honest enough to state they are not for use in very wet conditions. We found a great number of users who gave this item very good ratings – uses included birdwatching, concerts and more – and the only complaints say they’re not very good when ‘compared with good ones’.
DflamePower Mini 30×60
A very neat and extremely compact pair of folding binoculars, this set is confusing in its name. 30×60 should indicate it’s more powerful than those above, but in fact it offers only 8x magnification – so we have no idea what that’s all about. Nevertheless, this is a very clever set that will fit in the palm of a hand – they really are very small – and that are easy to focus, with quality optics and a tough rubber outer, and they come with a carry bag and a strap.
They are also very light so will hardly be noticed when you are carrying them, and they are quite rugged and durable. The maker claims they are waterproof, but we wouldn’t immerse them in water or use them for too long in heavy rain. On the whole, customer comments about these binoculars are very good, but there are a few problems mentioned including poor focusing, steaming inside – which indicates a quality issue – and low power.
UPSKR 12×25 Compact Binoculars
These binoculars are certified waterproof by the makers – there’s even a picture of them in what appears to be a stream – but then they tell you not to immerse them in water or use them in heavy rain, so they’re not waterproof! This is a clever design that folds into a compact package for carrying around, and offers 12x magnification – that’s more than others so far – and 25mm lenses, which are pretty much standard. The lenses are coated as per the other models on our list, and they come with variable eye-widths and adjustable rubber hoods on the eyepieces.
With low-level night vision – that’s being able to use them in poor light rather than complete darkness – and easy focusing, this is a standard design in many ways, but a more innovative one in others. Supplied with a carry bag, strap and cleaning cloth, these are not the cheapest on this list – although still less than £20 – but come very highly recommended by users, with few notable complaints.
Apeman 12x25mm Compact
Often, when searching for items such as these, we come across one or two that are clearly the same item but with a different brand attached. We might be wrong, but this set of 12x25mm compact binoculars look so similar, and are described in similar words, to that above that they may well be identical. We’ve included this one for a good reason however: the price. It’s not a lot more expensive than the above example, but it is more expensive a little over £20, for what is the same item, with the same specification.
This model comes with the usual carry bag and strap, and also has lens covers, plus it is fully foldable, light and easy to use. They are marketed as waterproof, but we seriously doubt that means they’ll be safe in anything other than a standard rain shower. Customer comments are almost entirely very favourable for this set, with the usual complaints being poor quality focusing, and some being damaged when they arrived.
Kylietech High Power 12x42mm
We are moving up a notch in terms of quality for this pair of binoculars. For starters, they offer 12x magnification, but with greater scope thanks to 42mm lenses. Lenses are green coated for performance, and the design is an altogether more substantial one than all of those above. Does that mean they are better? We would expect so, especially as they cost around the £30 mark. These also come with a smartphone adapter – great for taking pictures of distant objects close up – as well as a nice carry bag and strap.
This model claims to be waterproof and also fog proof, and they can be fitted on a standard tripod (not supplied) for, for example, stargazing, for which purpose a number of users appear to put them to. They meet with very good customer reports in general, with value for money being a strong point, although some people complain that to get one image you have to get the two lenses too close together for comfort. So far, we think these are the best compact binoculars under £100.
Sunagor 18x21mm Compact
This example comes from Sunagor, a company that has extensive experience in manufacturing quality optical devices going back 70 years. These compact binoculars offer 18x magnification – indeed the maker claims they are the smallest binoculars in the world offering such power – with 21mm lenses. So far, we are potentially looking at the best small compact binoculars UK consumers can buy, but we’re saying that for final yet!
These binoculars really are very small indeed – and very light, too – and will easily slip into a pocket. They come with a neat carry bag and strap, and have fully adjustable eye-pieces for all ages. They are designed for very fine tuning in focus with quality optics, but – like most of these – are not fully waterproof. They’ll be ok in light rain. This pair has many great customer reviews – as we would expect – with ‘bargain’ and ‘great quality’ being popular praise, but also some complaints about being difficult to focus and, in fact, too small. They’re not cheap either.
Andston 10×21 Small Binoculars
This very small and very cheap – under £10 – pair of compact binoculars would be great for simply carrying with you ‘just in case’. They don’t offer great magnification – 10x and 12mm lenses – but they are perfectly decent for getting a better look at a bird or animal, or checking on your horse at the other end of the racetrack! They are pretty standard in terms of quality – which is not bad but not among the best compact zoom binoculars UK consumers can choose from – and are certainly worth it at the price.
They fold to a very compact size, they have a central focus button, and they come with a carry bag and strap, and make no claims to be waterproof at all. When it comes to customer satisfaction, these score OK, with some customers saying they are fine for the money, but not praising them in any extreme manner. There are quite a few complaints that they are poor quality, don’t focus, and break quite easily, so perhaps look at spending a little more for something better.
Binrrio Compact Binoculars 10x 25mm
This pair of binoculars seemed very familiar to us, and in fact we believe it’s the same as a couple of others on the list, with a different brand name attached. They are compact and offer 10x magnification with 25mm lenses, and are ruggedly made with a central focusing wheel. The lenses are coated as per the other models on our list, and they come with variable eye-widths and adjustable rubber hoods on the eyepieces.
With low-level night vision – that’s being able to use them in poor light rather than complete darkness – and easy focusing, this is a standard design in many ways, and one that is replicated at a similar price elsewhere. Supplied with a carry bag, strap and cleaning cloth, these are not the cheapest on this list and they do have some very good user ratings. Beware difficulty focusing, however, and don’t put them in water.
Brigenius 8x21mm Pocket Binoculars
Our final choice is a pretty standard budget pair of binoculars, that are not going to rank as the best lightweight compact binoculars UK consumers can hope for. They are, however, very cheap and perfectly decent for occasional use, even though they offer only 8x magnification. The fold into a very compact size, they have adjustable eye widths and a central focusing wheel, and they are very light with a bag and strap supplied, but for hobby use only.
As with most – if not all of these – we would take claims of being waterproof with a pinch of salt, but when we investigated them for customer satisfaction, we found they rate pretty well, if a low-powered, very cheap pair of small binoculars is what you are looking for. The complaints are mainly about them being too small for an adult to focus properly, cheaply made, and easy to break.
So, there we have our top 10 compact binoculars, and we will say that if you are looking for the best waterproof and fog proof binoculars in the UK, we’re not sure you’ll find them in this selection, or at even close to this price! Before we go on to give you a verdict, let’s have a quick look at why that might be, and what else you need to look for when considering a pair of these.
Important Features to Consider
To start with, we should say that the above 10 examples of compact binoculars are all what we would call ‘cheap’. Yes, some are more expensive than others – the range between the cheapest and most expensive is in the £20 area – but not considerably so. Each is designed to be affordable, and to be used for hobby purposes rather than as professional binoculars. For top-quality optics, you need to pay a great deal more than the £30 top price on our list.
However, that’s not to say these are not decent; some of them are very nice binoculars at the price, and two, in particular, we like very much. Notably, they are the two most expensive on the list. If you want cheap binoculars for having in your backpack and occasional use, then there are a few around £10 on our list that will fit the bill. Bear in mind you won’t get great quality but they will bring objects closer to you.
Also, where a claim of waterproof is made, be wary. We’re not sure that any pf the above will be truly waterproof in anything worse than a moderate rain shower, and the cheaper ones we would keep in the case even in that. So, what’s left? Well, if you’re looking for a decent pair of compact binoculars at an affordable price, there are a few on the list, and one that we would choose over all the rest – so let’s get this wrapped up!
Looking through our list, we decided that anything with 10x magnification or under would not cut it with us, so we eliminated quite a few models in one stroke. That left us with a choice of four examples, each with 12x magnification or greater. One, in fact, offers 18x magnification and claims to be the smallest in the world to do so; however, we discovered that many buyers – while impressed with the small size and specifications – found that this model is actually too small to focus properly, which is not great.
We found that we were continually drawn to one pair of compact binoculars, admittedly the least compact of the lot. Well-made and with impressive credentials, the Kylietech High Power 12x42mm may not be the smallest binoculars on this list, and nor are they the most powerful, but the combination of quality optics, 12x magnification and large, 42mm lenses gives them far more scope and ability than any of the others, and they come with a quality bag and strap, plus an adaptor that allows you to shoot photos through them with your smartphone.
At around £30 they are not the cheapest, but we strongly recommend you check them out if you want a great pair of binoculars that are small enough to slip in a backpack, yet capable enough to use for any purpose, including looking at the stars.
That’s our verdict, and we hope we have helped you find a pair of compact binoculars that suits your needs, so whatever you need them for, have fun and get some great views while you’re out and about!