The Best Safari Binoculars in 2023
If you’re going on safari, you’ll want to get as close as you can to the animals and the action – but, of course, that’s not the safest thing to do! With that in mind, binoculars are as essential as sunblock, and you won’t want to start your safari without them. There’s a wide range of binoculars to choose from, and it can be confusing to know how to make the right choice. So what should you look for when choosing your binoculars? And which are the best safari binoculars in 2023?
Table of contents
- Why Use Binoculars on Safari?
- How to Choose the Best Safari Binoculars
- Our Top 3 Best Safari Binoculars
- In Conclusion
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why Use Binoculars on Safari?
Not everything you see on safari will be up close and personal – fortunately. It might take your breath away to see an elephant and its calf, but the last thing you want is to disturb it by getting too close. An elephant, like any parent, will fight to protect its child, and it won’t think twice about threatening the life of anything (or anyone) it sees as being a danger.
This is why you need to keep your distance. Just as you don’t want to end up as a lion’s lunch, you won’t want to be stampeded by an elephant who thinks you mean it harm. Binoculars, therefore, provide you with the perfect opportunity to enjoy the wildlife from a safe distance.
More than that, there may be times when you’ll see something in the distance and you won’t be able to identify it, or get any closer to see what’s going on. Again, this is where binoculars come into play.
Lastly, besides the wildlife on the ground, there’s also the scenery and the spectacle of the landscape around you, not to mention the birds you’ll see in the skies above. All these sights – and more – can be better enjoyed with binoculars.
How to Choose the Best Safari Binoculars
When it comes to choosing the best safari binoculars, there are a number of factors you should keep in mind:
- Size & Weight
- The Environment
- Porro vs Roof Prism Binoculars
Whenever you shop around for binoculars, you’ll always see two numbers associated with them. For example, you might see binoculars listed as being 10×50. If you’ve bought or used binoculars before, you might already know that these indicate the magnification and aperture of the binoculars. In this case, the binoculars have a magnification of 10x and an aperture of 50mm.
But what is magnification and aperture? Magnification is pretty easy to understand; essentially, it’s how much closer, or larger, an object will appear through the eyepieces of your binoculars. A magnification of 10x will make your target appear ten times closer than it actually is.
You might think that a higher magnification is best, but a higher magnification will also magnify any shaking. More specifically, your hands and arms will naturally shake, and even if you don’t notice it with just your eyes, the binoculars will magnify that shaking when you look through the eyepieces.
Also, bear in mind that you’ll be spending some time in a vehicle and, of course, it won’t be a completely smooth ride!
With this in mind, it’s often best to go with a lower magnification of between 7x and 10x, with 8x considered to be optimum.
While magnification obviously helps in being able to see more detail, it’s really only half the story, and that’s where aperture comes in.
The aperture of the binoculars, measured in millimeters, is the diameter of the objective lenses, which are the lenses that are pointed toward your target. This is important to know, as the larger aperture, the more light your binoculars can gather.
This, in turn, is important because the more light your binoculars gather, the brighter the image and, in low-light conditions, the more you’ll see. If you only plan on using your binoculars during the day, this might not be a huge concern, but if you’ll be looking for wildlife at dawn or sunset (or even the night) then you’ll need a larger aperture.
There is, of course, a downside to larger apertures, as the larger the aperture, the heavier the binoculars, and that could be a problem.
Size & Weight
If you’re going to be on safari, you’ll want to have your binoculars with you all the time, and within easy reach. You can, of course, have your binoculars around your neck or over your shoulder, and this works well for most people as it allows you to quickly grab your binoculars when you see something of interest.
However, if you’re also using a camera or have a bag of equipment, then your binoculars could easily get in the way. That’s why some folk prefer small, compact binoculars that can be folded and either carried in your pocket or in a small belt pouch.
Weight is obviously important in this respect, but it’s also important for when you’re holding the binoculars up to your eyes. The heavier the binoculars, the more your hands and arms will shake. Likewise, the longer you hold your binoculars, the more your arms will suffer from fatigue, which can often result in aches and a temporary weakening of the arm muscles.
Porro vs. Roof Prism Binoculars
As you shop around, you’ll find that there are two types of binoculars: traditional porro prisms and the newer roof prisms. Porro prism binoculars have barrels that are slightly offset from the eyepieces, giving them a W shape. Roof prism binoculars have straight barrels giving them an H shape.
Both types have their pros and cons, but when it comes to safaris, roof prism binoculars are more than up to the task. Here’s why:
- Roof prism binoculars are designed to be more compact and more lightweight
- Porro prism binoculars tend to have larger apertures, but the smaller apertures of roof prism binoculars should be fine in most circumstances
- Some roof prism binoculars can be folded compactly, allowing them to be easily stored
Since a larger aperture typically means a greater weight, most people won’t go for an aperture larger than about 50mm, with 35mm or 40mm gathering enough light in the majority of cases.
Unless you specifically need larger aperture binoculars, for example porro prism 10x50s for low-light conditions, then smaller roof prism binoculars will work just fine.
As is often the case, you should always take the environment into consideration when choosing binoculars. For example, while waterproof and fogproof binoculars might be more of a “nice to have” rather than a “must have,” it’s a good idea to look for binoculars that have sufficient armoring to protect the optics against knocks and drops.
That’s not to say the environment will always be working against you. There are some stunning panoramas to be seen on safari, and you won’t want to miss out on those either. This is where a wide field of view comes into play, as this will allow you to see more of your surroundings. It’s also useful for when you see something that’s moving rapidly, as it makes your target easier to track.
Our Top 3 Best Safari Binoculars
Taking into account all the considerations mentioned above, here are our top 3 binoculars for safaris:
- Best Overall: Vortex Diamondback HD 8×32
- Best Budget Option: Celestron Outland X 8×25
- Best Lightweight Option: Steiner Safari UltraSharp 8×22
Each of these is the roof prism design and are therefore relatively lightweight and compact, with the Steiner Safari UltraSharp 8×22 binoculars being both the lightest and the smallest.
Best Overall: Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x32
Vortex is a US based company that primarily specializes in hunting equipment, such as riflescopes, rangefinders and, of course, binoculars. The Vortex range is a popular option for consumers across the world, and it’s not hard to see why. For starters, it’s very light, weighing in at just 451g (one pound) – that’s about 15% lighter than the average weight of similar binoculars.
More than that, the field of view is an impressive 142 meters at 1,000 meters (8.1 degrees), while the optics are fully multi-coated, waterproof, fogproof and protected by their solid ArmorTec exterior. Just in case, these binoculars are backed by a lifetime warranty from Vortex, who say “no matter the cause we promise to take care of you.”
Best Budget Option: Celestron Outland X 10x25
Safaris can be expensive enough on their own, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise when it comes to the accessories. Celestron, another US company, has been in business since 1964 and has established a reputation for producing affordable, quality optical products for a range of hobbies.
The Outland range is designed specifically for those who enjoy all facets of the outdoors – safaris included. Like the Diamondback HD’s, they’re waterproof and fogproof and have the same field of view. However, the objective lenses are a little smaller, but that also gives them the benefit of being more compact and lightweight – 326g, compared to the Diamondback’s 451g. Lastly, you’ll find the optics are multi-coated (rather than fully multi-coated), but while the image quality might not be quite as sharp as the Diamondback’s, it’s more than capable of providing outstanding views.
Best Lightweight Option: Steiner Safari UltraSharp 8x22
If you’re looking for binoculars you can carry with you anywhere, and use for long periods of time without worrying about arm fatigue, then Steiner’s Safari UltraSharp 8×22 binoculars are for you. Steiner, a German company, has been producing optical equipment since 1947, and like Vortex and Celestron, have a superb reputation with consumers worldwide.
Of our three picks, the Safari UltraSharp 8×22 has the smallest aperture, but that also makes it the most compact (14.8 x 12.9 x 8 centimeters) and the most lightweight (283g or 0.6 pounds.) Like the others, it’s waterproof and fogproof, and has a durable rubber armor that’s designed to withstand 11 G’s of impact. On the downside, it has the smallest field of view (125 meters at 1,000 meters, or 7.1 degrees), but its very lightweight design more than makes up for this.
If you’re going on safari, you’ll want to make the most of your time, and this means being able to see as much as you can. One way to do this is by using binoculars; not only can they show you all the animals on the land, but they can also allow you to enjoy the birds in the air and the scenery that surrounds you. Best of all, binoculars provide the perfect opportunity to get closer to all the sights of the safari – without risking your life!
Frequently Asked Questions
Generally speaking, you don’t want binoculars that are too low in magnification as they won’t give you the close-up views you want. However, larger magnifications will also magnify any shaking you may experience, making it harder to spot and then track your target. With this in mind, most people use a magnification between 7x and 10x, with 8x being preferred.
Binocular optics are almost always treated with anti-reflective coatings to improve image quality. However, the number of coatings applied will vary by manufacturer and model. At the very least, the optics should be coated, which means at least one of the optical elements has been treated on at least one side. Multi-coated means that at least one of the optical elements has had multiple coatings on at least one side and fully multi-coated means that all optical elements have had multiple coatings on all sides.
Image stabilized binoculars do exactly that – they typically use electronics to counter the shaking you might experience with regular binoculars and provide a more stable image. However, name brand models are expensive, and many consider them to be a “nice to have” rather than a “must have” item. That said, image stabilized binoculars could certainly prove useful if you’re experiencing a rough ride across the savanna!
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