Best Binoculars for Boating in 2018 – Reviews and Buying Guide

Binoculars are often used to view things from a distance, making it one of the most useful devices when you’re out boating. Binoculars do come in different shapes, sizes and types as they also come with many useful features to further make your viewing experience a very enjoyable one. But since the optics market today is so saturated, a lot of binocular producers overlap when creating and developing new models – so you’re left with choosing between a bunch of very similar products.

As there are so many binoculars available in stores today, you may easily find yourself a bit confused as to what you should be purchasing. This review will serve as your guide to choosing what binocular you should purchase when you are going out to the sea or lake, to sail a yacht or a boat.


 

As mentioned above, there is a wide selection of marine binoculars available on the market today. And just like you, we also had a hard time choosing the best one. But looking at the Steiner Marine 7×50, it seems like one of the best available combinations of stunning features and affordable price.

The Steiners boast a 100% waterproof and shockproof design, with a magnification of 7x compared to original size and have 50mm objective lenses to complement the magnification without losing brightness. Once set up, using them is very easy thanks to the “sports autofocus” system. You set them up once for your eyes and everything from 20 yards and further will immediately be in focus.

The optics are top-notch: it makes use of a BAK-4 prism and has fully multicoated optical surfaces. The 20mm eye relief makes it easy to use for people who wear prescription glasses or even just sunglasses. Aside from the wide objective lenses, it has 90% light transmission peaks, making it very usable even in low light conditions.

With its high quality and high-end features, the Steiner 7×50 Marine is a perfect pair of quality, marine use binoculars that recreational boaters, sailors and anglers will surely enjoy and be thankful when using them. Plus, it the Steiner world-renowned design has a reputation for ferocious toughness – they can survive all sorts of conditions you may face on a boat. Certainly some of the most versatile and best binoculars for boating.

Pros:

  • Waterproof and shockproof build
  • Recommended magnification power of 7x for marine use
  • Wide objective lens diameter
  • Fully multicoated lenses

Cons:

  • Lens protectors have been reported to be defective in some cases

 

So we’ve had a look at the Steiner Marine. Let’s now cover some aspects of choosing boat binoculars, so that you can make a more informed choice when looking at the models currently available for sale.

Why you need to have a binocular when boating

Binoculars are really a great help while you’re on the water, and even a necessity in many cases. Some may neglect the importance of having a pair of marine binoculars on board a boat, but, aside from recreation, it’s really a crucial item to have in terms of safety and survival.

For starters, binoculars can let you see spot and observe very distant objects. With these, you can see buoys, day markers, and lighthouses more clearly, as well as the direction and speed of other vessels, making them indispensable when navigating near the coastline or high traffic areas. That way they give you ample time to make a turn or avoid other boats and ships that might be coming your way to avoid collision. They also enable you to see any changes in weather, such as clouds or strong winds ahead of you, so you prepare or adjust course early on. Lastly, their recreational value is enormous: you can watch sea wildlife, observe the coast and even help you with locating fish if you’re out fishing, by spotting disturbances on the surface of the water, or birds flocking above.

How to choose the perfect marine binoculars

Choosing a pair of binoculars is not an easy task, but using them for boating, sailing and yachting puts even more constraints on the things you have to consider. For professionals and enthusiasts alike, these are the things you really need to look out for to make the best decision.

Specifications

A binocular specification consists of two numbers. The first number represents the magnification power and the second number represents the diameter of its objective lenses measured in millimeters.

Let’s say we have a pair of marine binoculars sporting the common specification which is 7×50. As described in the previous paragraph, the first number represents the magnification power. In this case, the bino will magnify images 7 times compared to their original size. The second number describes the diameter of the objective lens. In this case, our hypothetical marine binoculars have a pair of objective lens with a diameter of 50 millimeters.

Keep in mind that the more you magnify an image, the less the brightness of the image will be. However, the wider your objective lenses are, the more light will enter your binoculars, thus making the image brighter.

That is why getting something 12×25 is a bad idea: the images will be dull. Plus, magnification above 8x is not recommended for use on the water, because it’s so difficult to keep them steady enough for a stable image.

Body and structural design

When choosing your optics, make sure that their body is sturdy, durable and can withstand any kinds of extreme conditions. As much as possible, choose a pair of binoculars that are waterproof, dustproof, shockproof and freezeproof.

If not, the moist air and unstable temperatures can cause your lens to fog up. There will also be instances where you will bump or drop your binoculars on hard surfaces. This is why you will need a product that is waterproof as well as shockproof.

Binoculars with waterproof design typically have an o-ring sealed interior and are filled with dry nitrogen or argon gas – this is to stop the moist and salty sea air corroding the seals. To complement the waterproof design, you may also want to purchase a flotation device (such as a strap) should your precious optics go overboard.

Image stabilizing feature

You will surely experience some rocking, bouncing and rolling movement while on the water, which makes for a shaky and blurred image. To give you steady and detailed images while in a shaky and unstable environment, you may consider getting a bino with a built-in image stabilizing feature.

Navigational Features

Navigational features like compasses and rangefinder reticles can help you locate yourself and navigate in the middle of the sea. Usually an embedded feature, built-in compasses can help you obtain a bearing from an object that you can’t see while using a non-magnified handheld compass. Range finding reticles on the other hand helps you measure your distance from a certain object given that you know or you can estimate its height.

Focus Types

Modern binoculars typically have two possible focusing systems, namely center focus and individual focus. Center focus is the most commonly used among the three. Center focus is an arrangement that needs a rotation of a central focusing wheel for you to adjust both tubes simultaneously. Individual focus is an arrangement wherein the two binocular tubes are focused individually by adjusting each eyepiece.

Size and Weight

The size and weight don’t matter all that much when out on the sea. You will typically have your binos set on some surface and pick them up only occasionally. Commonly, marine binos are big to provide as much brightness and clarity as possible. However, if you use them frequently and hang it them on your neck, then you may want to get a pair of binos that are lighter so they won’t strain your neck in the long run.

The Best Boating Binoculars on the Market

Aside from the product mention earlier, here are some of the best options you can buy today.

With the Fujinon 7×50, you get a high quality pair of binoculars for cruising on your boat without spending too much. The optics are good, they make your viewing experience a whole lot better with its multi-coated lenses. You can be sure that your bino is well protected with its ultra strong polycarbonate housing and a waterproof and fog proof design. The neck strap included in the package makes the binoculars float if they’re accidentally dropped in the water.

A great feature of this quality bino is the built-in digital compass for easier navigation on the water.

Have a look at the user reviews at Amazon for this model, it’s a really good bargain given all the positive feedback.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Ultra strong housing
  • Waterproof and fog proof design
  • Includes a floating neck strap
  • Built in digital compass

Cons:

  • Compass has been reported to be inaccurate sometimes

 


Definitely not your classical marine binocular, but a great option to consider if you’re a casual boater or need a light easy-to-use backup to a bigger product. Roof prism binoculars are also easier to pass around due to simpler focusing, so may be a good choice for recreational use.

Viewing with the TrailSeeker 8×42 is going to be a great experience for everyone with its dielectric and phase coated BAK4 prisms, combined with fully multi-coated lenses and a huge field of view of 426 feet at 1,000 yards. It’s also nicely sealed and waterproof and filled with nitrogen.

This Celestron also has metal twist up eyecups which can be used comfortably with or without eyeglasses, excellent close focus distance of 6.5 feet and can be mounted on a tripod, should you use them on land. Durability is also assured with its magnesium alloy chassis that is surprisingly light weight (only weighs around 23 ounces).

Read the reviews for this product, because they’re absolutely fantastic – possibly one of the best choices for general purpose binoculars out there.

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Tripod mountable
  • Excellent quality lens coatings
  • Fully weatherproof
  • Large field of view

Cons:

  • Not many, perhaps only that it’s not a “classical” marine binocular, if that matters

 

The Navigator Pro are another great product by Steiner, specially designed and engineered to work even while being used in quite extreme conditions you may experience while on the water. It produces bright and clear images and reduces blurriness with its amazing optics.

It also has a number of navigational tools to be used as your guide while navigating. Its integrated compass has bearing marks that do not interfere with the field of view. The built in compass also has a backlight for you to easily see it even in low light. It’s also stabilized.

Just like with the Marine 7×50, the large objective lenses of the Navigator Pro enable it to transmit more light making it good to use in low light environments. For better images, the porro prism optical design plus the fully multicoated optics can provide high contrast images and has a true color representation and a very high depth of field.

This is pretty much a mid-range option from Steiner for use while boating.

Pros:

  • Built in backlit compass
  • Can work under tough conditions
  • Good usability even in low light conditions
  • Fully multicoated lenses
  • Porro prism optical design

 

The Steiner Military/Marine 8×30 is designed after the binoculars Steiner makes for the military. Steiner’s 70 years of unprecedented optical excellence has truly been put to test with this pair of binoculars and they did not fail at all. It is made to be used in any kinds of environment and use, with its very durable design and amazing features.

The Steiner Military/Marine 8×30 Binocular sports a very nice field of view. Like other binos of the type, one of it main features is the Steiner’s patented auto focus system, which gives you instant focus after each eyepiece has been adjusted to the eyes of the viewer. For an even better viewing experience, the multi-coated lenses provide very impressive and constant brightness and clarity levels, decrease glares and won’t fog.

Pros:

  • 20mm eye relief
  • Waterproof and fog resistant body
  • Steiner’s patented auto focus system
  • Rubber armored body

Cons:

  • Not recommended for low light or night use due to smaller exit pupil.

 

The Nikon Oceanpro has a small body and a less obtrusive design making it easy to grip and hold. It has a center focus with a single diopter adjustment located on the right eyepiece. However, the center focusing mechanism can be sometimes difficult to operate and stiff to touch especially when operated with just a single finger.

Its optics and prism systems are deemed to provide a very sharp and detailed image in both daylight and nighttime conditions. It’s easy to use with or without eyeglasses. It also comes with a neck strap that can make it float if it ever falls into the water. The neck strap is also comfortable around your neck.

Pros:

  • Has built in compass
  • Provides sharp images regardless of the weather and environmental conditions
  • Includes a floating neck strap which is comfortable to wear

Cons:

  • Center focus adjustment can be a hassle and difficult to operate

 

This here is a special item to consider. You wouldn’t usually consider 12x magnification for marine use, but you definitely should in this case.

The best feature of this binocular, which makes it usable even out on the sea, is its image stabilization (IS) capability. The IS feature works by automatically correcting for any vibrations and motion in real time, and is powered by two lithium batteries that can last for up to 4 hours. To use the image stabilization, you only need to press a button.

These binos from Canon also offer a great viewing experience due to high resolution with low distortion. Each lens is covered with super spectra coating, getting rid of unwanted internal reflections, giving a vibrant, vivid and high resolution images with excellent color spectra.

Pros:

  • Excellent images
  • Image stabilization feature
  • Excellent ergonomics

Cons:

  • The rubber coating may turn to a sticky goo after a prolonged use
  • May be quite heavy

 

A pair of binoculars can be your buddy while you are in the sea. Or they can be a huge source of frustration if you go for a cheap product or one that’s not designed for marine use. So you can’t just pick out the first pair you see at the department store. I hope this buyer’s guide has helped you decide on what features and parameters you need and has provided some nice options to look at. Read the reviews above and also over at Amazon and get yourself a bino that will enhance and not diminish your boating experience. Good luck with your shopping!

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