Binoculars of the 8×42 size could arguably be considered the standard size for this optical instrument. The best 8×42 binoculars, therefore, are also arguably the most sought-after binos of all.
Yes, you could just as easily argue for 10×42 binoculars or any of a few other sizes, and I wouldn’t have much, if anything, to say against it. But since The Audubon Guide to Binoculars LINK concentrates solely on the best 8×42 binoculars, I think it’s safe for me to do the same here without fearing that I’m unfairly ignoring other sizes.
I’ve searched “high and low” – well, at least as far as price is concerned – for all the best 8×42 binoculars you might want to consider so I could compare them to each other while having some sort of baseline (the size) to start from.
I didn’t end up including every single pair of 8x42s that exist. I dropped those that are too hard to find (especially at Amazon) and those that aren’t made by what most would consider reputable manufacturers. I also chose not to include any rangefinders because it would make comparisons too difficult.
So, if you look around, you’re sure to find something that could have made this best 8×42 binoculars list but didn’t. At least the information I provide here should help you decide whether or not those other binoculars are worth your time and money.
Much like Audubon did in their Guide, I’m splitting what would otherwise be quite the unwieldy list of about 60 pairs of binoculars into more manageable chunks by grouping them by price. The price ranges are based on actual prices that I’ve seen (at Amazon). I’m not using MSRP. Actual prices are normally, but not always, lower.
Obviously these amounts are likely to change. Such changes could theoretically bump a certain pair into a neighboring price range. I think the related data will still help you make your decision well enough.
I’ll also be picking my favorite in each price range. This will usually be based on the amount of features and quality of specifications one set has compared to the others in the same range. Unfortunately some manufacturers are less forthcoming with data than others. It could be that my “pick” doesn’t really have more features or better specs than another pair of binos. Instead, it’s just that the other manufacturer didn’t let us know how good their 8x42s are.
Too bad for them.
But enough of this too-long introduction. You want to know what the best 8×42 binoculars in every price range are. Here are the ranges I’ll use.
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $150
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $200 (that is, between $150 and $200)
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $300 (or right at $300)
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $500 (or right at $500)
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $1000 (or right at $1000)
I could have analyzed a group of those over $1000, but I decided not to. I’m guessing that, if you have that much to spend on an awesome pair of binoculars, you’re probably not reading a review like this in the first place. Also, at that price point, they’re all really, really good – at least, they better be, right?
- 1 Best 8×42 Binoculars under $150
- 2 Best 8×42 Binoculars under $200
- 3 Best 8×42 Binoculars under $300
- 4 Best 8×42 Binoculars under $500
- 5 Best 8×42 Binoculars under $1000
- 6 The Final 5 Best 8×42 Binoculars
Best 8×42 Binoculars under $150
In every price range, I’ll first show you the entire field of competition – just the brand and model names without any comment other than to say that the list goes from least to most expensive. So these are the 15 models I found that you can buy for less than $150.
- Bushnell Powerview 2
- Bushnell H2O
- Bushnell H2O Waterproof
- Celestron Outland X
- Nikon Aculon A211
- Athlon Neos HD
- Celestron Ultima
- Opticron Adventurer T WP
- Opticron Adventurer II WP
- Athlon Talos HD
- Bushnell Legend
- Nikon Prostaff P3
- Bushnell Prime
- Vortex Crossfire HD
- Vanguard VESTA
The first 6 of those you can get for $100 or less. If you’re at all serious about your binoculars, you probably don’t want those, except maybe as a present for your grandchildren.
Of all the binoculars in all the groups in this review, only 3 are Porro style. The rest are roof style. The Porros are these.
- Nikon Aculon A211
- Celestron Ultima
- Opticron Adventurer T WP
The vast majority of binoculars in all groups have BaK4 prisms or better. The one exception is the Bushnell Powerview 2 (BaK7), which likely contributes to their being first in the list; that is, the cheapest.
Many models have fully multi-coated lenses. I’d avoid those that don’t. Quite a few also have additional proprietary coatings that tend to do the same things, like make the lenses scratch-proof and resistant to oil and dirt.
Most are waterproof and many specify that the tubes are nitrogen (or argon) purged. Some, like most of the Bushnell products, only give an IP rating (IPX7) which implies nitrogen purging, but I can’t say for sure whether their tubes have been so treated.
I really hope they have been nitrogen purged because in this group (and some of those to come) I’m picking the Bushnell Legend as the best 8×42 binoculars under $150. The Bushnell Prime costs just a little more but apparently has fewer features.
At just 17.2 or 20 ounces (the two conflicting figures I found), the Bushnell Legend is the lightest of any pair in this group. Bushnell says the Legends have a tripod adapter, a locking diopter, and have dielectric coating. These are features normally found only on larger and more expensive models.
One downside to the Legends is that the close focus is 15 feet. So if you need binoculars for butterflies and bugs, you might want to look at the Vortex Crossfire HD where the close focus is 6 feet. To be fair to the Bushnells, all the models in this group, except the Crossfire and the VESTA (which are hard to find) have a close focus of about 10 feet or more. I’m not sure how Vortex manages to bring the Crossfire number down to 6 feet at this price point.
Field of view (FOV) isn’t the greatest either at just 315 feet at 1000 yards. If you’re a bird watcher who needs something wider, I would again look at the Vortex Crossfire which has an FOV of 393 feet.
Sadly, the Legends have recently become difficult to find at Amazon. This may be yet another reason to pick the Crossfire model.
Best 8×42 Binoculars under $200
Here are the 9 models that you can get between $150 and $200 each.
- Nikon Prostaff 3S
- Celestron Nature DX
- Vanguard VEO XF
- Vanguard Spirit XF
- Vanguard VEO ED
- Celestron Nature DX ED
- Athlon Argos HD
- Opticron Oregon 4 PC
- Nikon Prostaff P7
Extra Low Dispersion (ED) glass somehow does something very special to binoculars, giving them a much clearer picture of your target than those lenses that don’t have it. I won’t go into the technical details here, but if you can get ED glass, take it.
You can see that the Vanguard VEO ED and the Celestron Nature DX ED are the two sets in this group that have ED glass. I recommend the Celestron Nature over the Vanguard VEO.
The Nature’s FOV of 393 feet is better than the VEO’s by 63 feet. (The VEO XF is the best in this group at 418 feet.) The Nature’s close focus of 6.5 feet is better by 1.7 feet. The Nature DX ED also has a tripod adapter.
Best 8×42 Binoculars under $300
There are 10 models ranging from just over $200 up to $300 even. Only three of them have ED glass. One of those three tops them all. But first, here’s the list.
- Pentax SD WP
- Athlon Argos UHD
- Nikon Prostaff 7S
- Vortex Diamondback HD
- Opticron Discovery WP PC
- Nikon Monarch M5
- Bushnell Engage EDX
- Celestron Trailseeker
- Vanguard VEO HD
- Athlon Midas UHD
The three with ED glass are these.
- Nikon Monarch M5
- Bushnell Engage EDX
- Vanguard VEO HD
Along with the Celestron Trailseeker, the Bushnell Engage EDX (my pick) has the best FOV in the group – 426 feet. The Engage isn’t the lightest (25.6 ounces), but they do have a good close focus of just 6 feet.
In addition to the ED glass, the Bushnell Engage has a tripod adapter, locking diopter, and dielectric coating. Plus they have “EXO Barrier” which is Bushnell’s version of a protective coating that repels water, oil, and dust.
You might hear a lot about the benefits of the Vortex Diamondbacks that fall into this group, but the Bushnell Engage EDX beats it on all counts, except the price. For a few dollars more, you get a lot more in the Engage.
Best 8×42 Binoculars under $500
There are probably 13 models in the $300+ to $500 group. I say “probably” because there are two models with an MSRP of around $360 – the Opticron Explorer WA ED-R and the Minox X-lite – that I couldn’t find at Amazon. Their actual cost could be under $300.
In any case, here’s the next list.
- Opticron Explorer WA ED-R
- Minox X-lite
- Vanguard VEO HD2
- Celestron Trailseeker ED
- Celestron Regal ED
- Vanguard Endeavor ED II
- Bushnell Forge
- Vanguard Endeavor ED IV
- Nikon Monarch M7
- Steiner Predator
- Vortex Viper HD
- Zeiss Terra ED
- Vanguard VEO HD IV
The competition gets a bit stiffer in this group because all but one or two of the models have ED glass. The Minox X-lite doesn’t, and the Steiner Predator might not…Steiner doesn’t say.
I’m going to have to pick the Bushnell model again – the Bushnell Forge this time. While they’re the heaviest of the bunch (almost 31 ounces) and have the worst close focus (10 feet), they’re the only ones to have phase coated prisms, dielectric coating, a tripod adapter, a locking diopter, and ED glass. Plus they have the EXO Barrier protective coating mentioned above.
For FOV, the Forge is second only to the Celestron Trailseeker ED (426 feet) at a very respectable 420 feet.
If you want something a little lighter and with a great close focus distance, I’d suggest the Celestron Regal ED. It weighs about 27 ounces and has a close focus of a mere 4.9 feet, putting it in the top 10 of all of these binoculars for this specification. The Regal also has phase and dielectric coatings, ED glass, and a tripod adapter.
Best 8×42 Binoculars under $1000
The last group I’ll look at in detail for you has 7 models, but three of them – the Opticrons – aren’t currently available at Amazon (US).
- Opticron Natura BGA ED
- Opticron Verano BGA VHD
- Vortex Razor HD
- Leica Trinovid
- Opticron DBA VHD+
- Nikon Monarch HG
- Zeiss Conquest HD
If we drop the Opticrons from the discussion, we’re left with several popular names – Vortex, Leica, Nikon, and Zeiss. Leica and Zeiss are in the group I call the “Big 3”, along with Swarovski. However, neither of them gets my top pick designation.
That goes to the Vortex Razor HD.
The Leica gets knocked out because of an awful FOV (124 feet) and because the manufacturer is so stingy with giving out details about the Trinovid. I’m not even sure if it has ED glass. (It should.)
The Zeiss Conquest has almost as good of an FOV but weighs more and doesn’t (apparently) have the extra bells and whistles.
The Vortex Razor does have all those bells and whistles except the tripod adapter. It also has an apochromatic lens system and Vortex’s ArmorTec which protect the entire chassis.
And the Razor is currently the most highly-discounted model comparing MSRP to actual purchase price – a discount of 37%. Even at this high overall price point, that should be a significant selling point for you.
I almost picked the Nikon Monarch HG because of its great FOV – 435 feet. (The Razor’s is 388 feet.) If you don’t care about the phase and dielectric coatings, which the Monarch doesn’t seem to have, then this is still a great option. The Monarch does have some type of scratch-proof coating.
A final note for this group: The Opticron Aurora BGA VHD may also fit in here, if it were available at Amazon US. Its MSRP is $1150.
The Final 5 Best 8×42 Binoculars
There are 5 more models that I’ll just mention for completeness. These are out of the price range of all but the wealthiest and most dedicated users. All cost between $1600 and $3300.
- Vortex Razor UHD
- Leica Ultravid HD-Plus
- Leica Noctivid
- Zeiss Victory SF
- Swarovski NL Pure
It’s not surprising that all of the Big 3 take four of these five spots. It’s also not too surprising that the Razor UHD is the only one under $2100.
In summary then, these are my top picks for the best 8×42 binoculars in each price range.
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $150: Bushnell Legend
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $200: Celestron Nature DX ED
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $300: Bushnell Engage EDX
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $500: Bushnell Forge
- Best 8×42 binoculars under $1000: Vortex Razor HD
Honorable mention went to these models.
Personally, I don’t often use binoculars because my eyes don’t work in tandem as they should. (I use a monocular instead.) But if I had to pick just one of these, I’d choose the relatively new Bushnell Engage EDX for its top-notch specs and multitude of features at a good price point.
Perhaps you’ll do the same…?