Looking through binoculars in low-light conditions can be tough. Binoculars rely on ample amounts of light flowing into them. Little light? Your images will lack clarity. In fact, you may see nothing when the conditions are incredibly dark. This is why, if you want to use your binoculars in low-light conditions, you should keep an eye out for actual low-light binoculars.
When you buy binoculars designed for low light, you will find it considerably easier to see things once the sun has set. This can be perfect for looking at the stars, hunting, birdwatching, or having a bit of fun when camping. Sure, you can see something with non-low light binoculars, but nowhere near as much.
On this page, we are going to give you a list of the six best low-light binoculars. We will also give you some advice on some of the things to keep an eye out for when making your purchase.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Binoculars for Low Light
Low-light binoculars are a bit different from your standard binoculars. In order for them to work in low light, they need to allow a lot more light to flow into them. Think of it as being very similar to your pupils. If you look in the mirror and turn the lights off, you will notice that your pupils get ‘bigger’. This improves your eyesight in the dark. Binoculars are exactly the same. The larger the lens, the easier it is to see in the dark. Although, you will be making a few trade-offs there, more on that shortly.
Let’s go through what you need to consider when searching for a set of low-light binoculars.
Objective Lens Size
The objective lens is the lens at the front of the binoculars. The size of the lens is incredibly important for low-light binoculars. The larger it is, the more light flows through. You already know by now that this will lead to improved night vision.
In an ideal world, you want the objective lens to be a minimum of 40-50mm in size. This does pose a couple of issues, though.
Firstly, you aren’t going to get a decent set of budget low-light binoculars with a lens that size. Even the ones that we include on this list of the best binoculars for low light aren’t going to have objective lenses that size. So, budget binoculars are not really going to be great when it is incredibly dark. At the most, they can deal with low-light conditions with a bit of moonlight.
Secondly, when you have larger lenses on your low-light binoculars, their weight will go up. This means that they can be tough to lug around, and not really ideal for low-light viewing on camping, hunting, and lengthy outdoor trips.
So, opt for 40-50mm if you want binoculars with decent light-gathering capability. If you want something that isn’t going to perform well but comes in at a budget price, then 20-30mm will be fine, just nowhere near as good.
Read Also: How do binoculars work?
Lens Coatings and Light Transmission
Where possible, you should always opt for binoculars with quality lens coatings. If a set of binoculars says it has an anti-reflection coating, then they are great. Anti-reflection coatings ‘absorb’ light a little bit better, allowing more light to flow through the binoculars. Obviously, the more you spend on your binoculars, the better the anti-reflection coating will be.
Exit Pupil and Eye Relief
If you look through the eye lens, you will spot a small circle. This is the exit pupil. The larger the exit pupil size, the more light will reach your eye. Low light binoculars should have a minimum of a 5mm exit pupil. You don’t really need anything much larger than that for enhanced visibility in low light. The problem is that it is often difficult to find information on exit pupil size, particularly on the lower-end binoculars. Most manufacturers don’t share that information, instead opting to share the eyepiece size. This is still handy because the larger eyepieces often mean larger exit pupils.
The eye relief shouldn’t be too short, especially if you have glasses. If the eye relief is too short (i.e. your eye is too close to the exit pupil lens), shadows will appear in the image. If it is too long, you won’t be able to see the whole image. There may even be a hint of blurriness. When you buy a set of binoculars, try to find some with adjustable eye relief. It will make for much more comfortable use.
Read Also: What is Eye relief?
Top Binoculars for Low Light Conditions
We have been doing our research, and we have identified the six best low-light binoculars. We have something for every budget here. Do bear in mind that if you want the best low-light binoculars, opt for something from mid-range up. We’ll explain why shortly.
Budget-friendly binoculars are not going to be great for low-light viewing. As we said before, the optimal objective lens size is between 40mm and 50mm, which you are never going to be available on bargain-basement binoculars. Budget-friendly low-light binoculars are more for a bit of fun outdoors. Perhaps when the street lights are on, or you are dealing with a full moon. They may make a good starter set of binoculars. However, you’ll want to upgrade them eventually.
Still, we have found a couple of amazing budget-friendly binoculars that you might want to check out. They are perfect for kids.
Rodcirant 20×25 Compact Binoculars With Low-Light Vision
- Binoculars 20×25 ,this binoculars has 20x magnification, 25mm objective lens and wide field of view, 383t/1000yds and provides high definition without a color-changed or blurred image.so you’ll be able to observe a great deal without actually adjusting their position.
- Binoculars for adults and kids,fully multi-coated optics provide for a brighter view and sharp images.Based on this these binoculars also provide low light night vision.
Objective Lens Size: 25mm
Lens Coatings: FMC-AR Coating
Exit Pupil: N/A but the eye lens is 16mm
Considering the cheap price of these binoculars from Rodcirant, they perform surprisingly well in low-light conditions. This is thanks to the inclusion of the 16mm eye lens. It lets a stunning amount of light flow through, brightening up images in the dark. While the objective lens size isn’t ideal, it does perform well in the moonlight.
Offering 20x magnification, you can really get up close and personal with whatever you are watching, which makes them great for birdwatching at night, or even watching floodlit sports. In fact, a lot of people use these for sports. They are very lightweight, and you can just slide them into your pocket when you aren’t using them. The small size means that even children can hold these with ease.
We particularly enjoy the FMC-AR coating. While it isn’t the best anti-reflective coating in the world, it does help to keep images clear at night. There is absolutely no distortion, which does seem to be a problem with other cheap binoculars on the market. While they are never going to perform anywhere near as great as binoculars 10-20x the place, they aren’t supposed to. They are supposed to be cheap binoculars that you pick up and use for a bit of fun every now and then.
Even user reviews agree with us. Amazon reviews give this a solid 4.6/5 rating. Most of the complaints are from people that are looking for features that you would normally get from more expensive binoculars. If you can pick this up for around the $40 mark, then you have found a bargain.
Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars
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Objective Lens Size: 25mm
Lens Coatings: FMC-AR
Exit Pupil: N/A but the eye lens is 15mm
Honestly, there isn’t a huge number of differences between the Occer and the Rodcirant budget low-light binoculars. They both have the same type of lens, with the same coating. They both perform reasonably well in low-light conditions, but they aren’t going to blow your mind if it is pitch black outside.
The main difference is the magnification. The Occer has just 12mm v the 20mm on the Rodcirant. So, the Occer isn’t as brilliant at looking at very far-off objects, as the Rodcirant is. If you are up close and personal with something e.g. watching sports, birdwatching, or hunting, then you should be fine with the Occer.
This is the most popular set of budget low-light binoculars on Amazon, with user reviews hovering around the 4.4/5 mark. Not as high as the Rodirant, but pretty close. Lots of people report that they are great for children that want to look at night, and they work well for stargazing, and bird watching. The negative marks come from the size of them. There isn’t as much adjustment in the binoculars, which can make them tough to wear if you have a ‘larger’ head or wear glasses.
Still, if you can pick these up for around the $30 mark then you have done well.
There is a lot of debate about what constitutes a mid-range set of binoculars. Ask binocular collectors and most of them will tell you that something around the $350 mark is mid-range. We aren’t going that high. Our mid-range options are around $100. For most newbie binocular owners, this is a good price point. Plus, honestly, once you start getting to the several hundred dollar mark, you are looking at amazing binoculars. We’ll come to those.
Celestron Outland X 10×50
- MULTI-COATED OPTICS AND BaK-4 PRISMS: Multi-coated optics help obtain high resolution and high contrast views, while the prisms made of BaK-4 glass will give you enhanced color fidelity. Enjoy crisp, detailed views and dependable performance with our Outland X all-around binocular
- WATERPROOF AND FOGPROOF: Designed to withstand all weather conditions, our Outland X compact binoculars have been filled and sealed with dry nitrogen gas for rigorous outdoor use without internal fogging of the lenses
Objective Lens Size: 50mm
Lens Coatings: Multi-coated AR
Exit Pupil: 4.8mm
Remember what we said at the start? The objective lens size should be around 50mm. Well, the Celestron Outland X offers just that. While the exit pupil is a little bit below the ‘ideal’ number of 5mm, it isn’t too bad. It is a fraction of a mm off, and you wouldn’t really notice in practice.
This is a cracking set of binoculars. It offers a magnification of up to 10x. The real highlight, however, is the BAK-4 prisms. The BAK-4 prisms offer excellent color and light transmission. This means that not only is this set of binoculars going to be great for low-light viewing, but you can see the ‘correct’ colors of the object that you’re looking at. Even when light is low, you will get some real image clarity with the Celestron Outland X, and they are a true joy to use.
In fact, everything about the Celestron Outland X has been designed with the user in mind. They are rubber-coated, which makes them easy to grip. It also protects them from bumps and scapes. In fact, these binoculars can be used in all conditions. Rain, sleet, or snow. These binoculars will perform.
Got glasses? Twist-up eyecups make it easier to get the perfect eye relief, meaning that these are always going to be comfortable to use.
The user reviews for them agree with our assessment too, with over 4,000 reviewers giving an average rating of 4.4/5. There is a ton of praise for how lightweight they are, while also offering great views. The only real issue seems to be the lack of an anti-fog coating but, for most people, this probably won’t be an issue. Pick these up for $100ish and you will have a tremendous pair of binoculars.
Read Also: Celestron Ultima Spotting Scope
APEXEL 12×50 Professional Binoculars
- 【12X50 Premium Binoculars】 APEXEL binoculars featuring BAK4 prism and FMC multi-layer coating, deliver clear, and vivid images and accurately reflect the natural colors of your surroundings. With a powerful 12X high-definition anti-distortion lenses, you can experience the beauty of the great outdoors like never before.
- 【Wide Field View & Low-Light Vision】This binoculars for adults featuring a 21mm objective lens and 5.2° field of view, you’ll enjoy an immersive and expansive viewing. The 50mm objective lens ensures maximum light transmission, even in low-light conditions, and you’ll be amazed at the level of detail you can observe at night.
Objective Lens Size: 50mm
Lens Coatings: Multi-Coated AR
Exit Pupil: N/A but 21mm eye lens
The APEXEL 12×50 is double the price of the Celestron Outland X, coming in at around the $200 mark. So, if you are looking for a step up from those, while not going into the high-end options, then they may be worth checking out.
Like the Celestron Outland X, this uses BAK-4 prisms and a multi-coated AR lens. This ensures the clarity of images, even in low-light conditions. The 50mm lens is going to let in a huge amount of light too, and you should have no issues using these on a moonless light. They make ideal camping binoculars, although stargazing, hunting, and birdwatching can also be an option.
Part of the reason why these binoculars are a little bit more expensive is because they come with a phone clip. Which, when we first saw it, felt it a little bit odd. It allows you to clip your smartphone to the front of the binoculars. When clipped into place, your phone camera can pick up whatever is coming through the binoculars. While it isn’t going to be useful for a lot of people, we enjoy it. We love recording nature, and the clip made it so much easier.
As this is a new entry on the market, there aren’t that many user reviews on them. Although, it has still managed to get a 4.6/5 rating, with a ton of praise for its durability (it can handle seriously heavy downpours).
We are moving into the most-expensive low-light binoculars here. These are the binoculars designed for those that are doing a lot of night viewing. We are talking about serious hunters and birdwatchers. These are for people that want a pair of binoculars that will last them the rest of their life. These binoculars are several hundred dollars, one over a thousand dollars. Both are highly recommended and offer excellent value for money.
Tract TORIC 12.5x50mm Long Range Binoculars
Objective Lens Size: 50mm (12.5x magnification)
Lens Coatings: Flat multi-coating
Exit Pupil: 4mm
- TRACT’s UHD Technology Features premium SCHOTT HT Glass, an ED lens, Flat Multi-Coating, Dielectric Prism Coating and Phase correction coating for incredible resolution and low light performance.
- The Enhanced Ocular (eyepiece) lens of the TORIC provides for a wider field of view and longer eye relief while minimizing the blackout that occurs with improper eye position…An excellent solution for people who wear glasses
If you are a hunter, you may have heard of Tract before. This is a company that specializes in optics for hunters, although there is no reason why their gear can’t be used in other situations too. In fact, this is perhaps one of the best pairs of binoculars on the market for low-light viewing.
At the heart of these binoculars is Tract’s UHD technology. They use SCHOTT HT Glass in the TORIC, and SCHOTT glass is not only durable but transmits a ton of light. The flat multi-coating on the lens increases light transmission over a wide spectrum. So, not only will the images be visible in low light, but they look a whole lot better too.
Despite the 50mm lens, these binoculars are designed to be small. They weigh just 32oz, which makes sense considering they have been designed for hunters in mind. This means that the owner of this fine set of binoculars is not only going to have something great, but a set that is easy to carry around.
We especially love the eyecups on these binoculars. They offer great eye relief. They also shape to your eye, which makes these comfortable to look through for hours and hours on end. Again, something that comes in incredibly useful for hunters.
These binoculars aren’t cheap, coming in at around $750. However, the praise for these binoculars is universal. We don’t think we have ever encountered somebody that had something negative to say about them.
Steiner Optics HX Series 15×56
- HD OPTICS – Incorporate the finest index-matched glass and advanced lens coatings for best-in-glass image clarity.
- FAST CLOSE FOCUS – Central focusing wheel requires minimal rotation for quick, absolute sharpness from close up to infinity.
Objective Lens Size: 56mm
Lens Coatings: Nano-Protective Hydrophobic Molecular Coating
Exit Pupil: 5.6mm
You aren’t going to find better than the Steiner Optics HX series for low-light viewing. In fact, it meets pretty much every specification we have. In fact, scratch that. It exceeds them. It has a whopping 56mm objective lens and a 5.6mm exit pupil. The lens coating not only provides superb protection for the lenses but also has some of the best anti-reflective properties on the market. This set of binoculars is going to cost a little over $1,000, but they are worth every cent.
These are binoculars designed to be used for hours and hours on end. The German engineers behind these binoculars have designed something that is easy to grip in the hands (even when wet), easy to adjust, and easy to hold up to your eyes, even when you are wearing glasses. If you are heading out into the field for long periods of time, then these are perfect.
The image quality on these is sublime. You can see in even the darkest of woods. It is tremendous, and we don’t think we have ever encountered a set of binoculars that comes even close to the clarity that these offer during nighttime hours.
Everybody seems to agree with us too. User ratings are 4.5/5, which is a stunningly high number when you consider the fact that when people buy binoculars for $1,000, they will always be trying to look for something ‘wrong’ with them. In fact, the only real complaints seem to be about the price of them. Odd, since you expect to pay this sort of price when you buy Steiner optics. They are the best of the best, after all.
Read Also: Most Expensive Rifle Scopes on the market
When you buy a pair of low-light binoculars, make sure that the binoculars explicitly state they are for low-light. If they don’t, give them a skip. Ideally, you are looking for something with a minimum 50mm objective lens, 4-5mm exit pupil, and AR coating on the lenses. If you find that, then you are well on your way toward something that works great. Remember, don’t just stump up the cash for the first pair of binoculars that you see. Think about your needs (where you will be using them), features (particularly magnification), and your budget. It is all well and good us telling you that the best pair of low-light binoculars is over $1,000, but if you don’t have over $1,000 to spend, that isn’t helpful.
If you are on a strict budget, we recommend the Rodcirant 20×25 Compact Binoculars With Low-Light Vision binoculars. Mid-range buyers should look into the APEXEL 12×50 Professional Binoculars, while those who want the best of the best should go for the Steiner Optics HX Series.
An optics enthusiast – I love bird watching as well as wildlife. Originally from South Africa, I moved to the UK at a young age. I love reviewing the latest binoculars as well as traveling. I work as a comms consultant during the day. My plan is to travel across the world so building up to that goal.
Last update on 2024-02-08 at 05:30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API