Most whale watching tours operate from a marine vessel which have been designed or modified for whale watching, giving you a variety of locations both inside, in case of bad weather, and outside to get the best possible view.
Typically, whales will keep their distance from ships. This is where a great pair of whale watching binoculars come in handy.
The distances involved in sighting whales will be medium to fairly large. There are many main requirements we need to think about when choosing whale watching binoculars.
Such as appropriate magnification for distance and stabilization, collection and transmission of as much light as possible, waterproofing, and a wide field of view to make quick target location as simple as possible.
We took at look at some of the industry’s top whale watching binoculars and here are our 5 Top Picks for best binoculars for whale watching.
Our 5 Best Binoculars For Whale Watching
|Bushnell H2O Porro|
1. Bushnell 7×50 H2O Porro Binoculars – Heavyduty
These Bushnell binoculars are specifically aimed towards those that spend time on the water. The waterproof, fogproof, and corrosion resistance provides a stable tool for marine situations, even when fully submerged.
The magnification and objective lens diameter meets Coast Guard recommendation, so it is undoubtedly perfect for large bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans.
Intended for all weather use in all types of locations, these binoculars have a waterproof O-ring seal, and they are filled with nitrogen to prevent fogging. The large objectives make the viewing field bright for use on cloudy days, at daybreak and at nightfall. It is perfect for a concert as well.
The eyecups make it possible for you to view with eyeglasses or sunglasses on, and there is a center focusing knob included in the design that is super easy-to-use, even when wet. It also is equipped with a right eye diopter to customize to personal preference. They have a generous eye relief of 20mm.
Further Reviewing the Bushnell 7×50 H2O Porro Binoculars
The BAK-4 Porro prisms deliver bright, clear, crisp viewing; and stabilization is quite easy. Multi-coated optics reduces light loss and glare due to reflection offering a brighter, higher-contrast image.
While roof prisms dominate the majority of the market, the porro design still has some advantages. They are substantially more cost effective than other options. Porro prisms also offer better contrast and light efficiency.
The 7x magnification allows for spotting the smallest of objects hundreds of feet away. This is the perfect amount for whale spotting at both medium and long distances. The close focus is just 25 feet, with a field of view of 380 ft.
They are heavily constructed, built from non-slip rubber material that resists saltwater corrosion and easily survives when dropped into water. Their only downside is that they are full sized binoculars and weigh nearly 35 oz.
2. Nikon Aculon 7×35 Binoculars – Best Value
Incredibly light in weight, these binoculars are perfect when you don’t want to carry the extra weight. The Aculon 7×35 include 7x power multi-coated lenses. Their 35mm objectives are constructed out of eco-glass, which is completely free of lead and arsenic.
Featuring a BAK-4 Porro prism system, the binoculars make it possible to see in optimally high resolutions in any type of lighting condition. This low light binocular is great for providing bright and crisp images in lower light situations.
They feature sharp Nikon optics and rubber armor which is water resistant and shock proofed. The Nikon Aculon 7×35 binoculars have an extremely wide field of view at 488 ft, which allows you to spot the whales easily and enjoy a full ocean view.
They are also equipped with long eye relief at 12mm and twist-up, rubber eyecups, so they are perfect with or without eye or sunglasses. The center focus wheel is also easy to use in dry or wet conditions. The Aculon 7×35 model is an affordably priced binocular, making them perfect for people looking for high quality gear on a budget.
3. Wingspan Optics Ultra HD 8×32 Binoculars – ED Glass and Close Focus
These binoculars are super compact and lightweight at just 19 ounces. The objective lenses are smaller, so there will be less brightness compared to bigger ones and they won’t be quite as good at dusk or in dim light conditions.
The lenses are multi-coated and include a phase correction coated prism that provides an ultra HD quality image.
The combination of extra-low dispersion (ED) glass and the close focus technology allows you to zoom up to 8x without experiencing chromatic aberration or color fringing that usually happens due to too much lighting and lens flare.
The Wingspan comes with a wide field of view which is great for viewing large areas of space and a magnification of 8x that provides a clear, yet stable image.
The lens aren’t scratch proof, so be careful when storing them that you have proper caps on for protection.The Wingspan is fog proof and waterproof; however, it still won’t last when submerged in water. It is designed to only be able to withstand rain, drizzle and the likes. The Wingspan also includes a lifetime warranty.
4. Athlon Optics Midas 8×42 – Magnesium Bodied and Expansion Resistant
The Athlon Midas is a great mid-range binocular with a single bridge, magnesium body. It includes a central focus wheel for ease of use, diopter adjustment for customization, and twist-up eyecups for eyewear.
The body is made of magnesium chassis which is less susceptible to temperature-related expansion and contraction which can cause minor optical misalignments. The outer surface is encased in a rubber armor which protects the unit and offers grip.
It is O-ring sealed and waterproof, as well as fog proof due to Argon gas. The interior is airtight and impervious to dust as well. These binoculars will definitely survive being accidentally dropped into a stream.
Features of the Athlon Optics Midas 8×42 Binoculars
The BAK-4 prisms includes phase correction and dielectric coatings for clear images. The lenses contain lens elements made from glass that has extra-low dispersion abilities that is able to better direct the individual wavelengths of light and thus deliver a sharper image with fewer anomalies.
In addition, the whole optical system has been treated with anti-reflection coatings as well as XPL coating to prevent lens scratching. These lenses also repel dirt and oil, therefore, they stay claner longer.
The Midas has a large field of view of 426 ft and 42mm objective lenses. The eye relief is set at 17mm. By opening and closing the central hinge, you can adjust the distance between the eye-pieces so that it matches that of the distance between your eyes.
5. Snypex Optics 8×32 Binoculars – Lightest Weight
The Snypex Optics are a great pair of binoculars that offers rich features for durability and clear imaging.
These binoculars are equipped with dielectric mirror coatings on the prism which aids in preventing light reflection. Therefore, you get a image with a more accurate color reproduction and improved image brightness as more light gets reflected through the prism and towards your eyes.
The Snypex utilizes BAK-4 roof prisms that are phase corrected. The glass elements are made of extra-low dispersion properties that enable improved control of individual light wavelengths and thus can make lead to a better quality image that shows less color fringing.
More on the Snypex Optics 8×32 Binoculars
The glass is also coated with anti-reflection material which further aids the brightness and quality of the image. The exterior lens surfaces are coated with water repellant material. These have twist up eye-cups with a single click stop at the mid point between fully retracted and fully extended. This makes them a great choice for users with eye glasses or sunglasses.
The mechanism is easy to adjust yet stable enough to maintaim the cups at any point. For eye-glass wearers, there is 17mm of eye-relief, which is on the lower side, but should still be enough to be compatible. You can calibrate the binoculars to your particular vision by use of the diopter adjuster located on the right eyepiece.
The Snypex comes with a large aluminum focus wheel that is smooth and easy to use and grip in the cold or with gloves on.
The chassis are made from fiberglass reinforced polycarbonate which makes it lighter weight than binoculars made of magnesium. However, the use of a polycarbonate chassis could be an issue if you absolutely must have a binocular that is super robust and resistant to expansion with large temperature variances.
The field of view is a bit smaller than the other options on this list, clocking in at 351 ft. However, it still provides a wide enough view to whale watch.
Choosing Binoculars For Whale Watching
There are two important numbers to pay attention to when choosing a pair of binoculars. The first number is their magnification (or power/zoom) and the second number is the size of their objective lenses. For example, 8×32 binoculars mean that they have 8x magnification and 32mm lenses.
As you will be viewing from onboard a moving marine platform, it is recommended not to use binoculars with any more than 8x magnification.
This is because every shake of the boat is also magnified resulting in an unstable image. A higher magnification will also decrease your field of view so you see less space in the lens.
If you intend to view whales from shore, then you can go with higher magnification binoculars. If you intend to use your whale watching binoculars from onboard a boat then 7x or 8x magnification binoculars are more than enough.
Objective Lens Diameter
A large lens gathers more light and provides clearer and brighter images than a small one due to a bigger exit pupil. Be sure to consider the fact that the bigger the lens, the larger and heavier the entire binocular set will be. This could get tiring when carrying around or holding in front of your eyes for a long period of time.
Field Of View
The higher the field of view, the wider the view you will have looking through the lens. This is great for scanning large areas and searching for moving targets such as playing whales. For whale watching you want to search for something with a field of view between 380-500 ft.
Quality and Configuration of the Optics
Here are some key lens features to be on the look out for when considering a pair of binoculars:
- Extra-low dispersion glass, this ensures that outline of objects will be sharp and you won’t experience chromatic aberration.
- Lens coating offers extra protection. Look for fully coated lenses for the most bright and vivid images.
- Roof prisms make for compact binoculars that are easy to carry and comfortable to hold, but may result in a somewhat higher price tag for the product.
- Porro prism binoculars are bulkier and heavier, however, they do have better depth of field and may cost less.
- Eye relief is the allowable distance between the eyepiece and your eyes. This is a key feature for eyeglass wearers.
The advantage of waterproofing in binoculars is that it usually comes with fog proofing. This means that your binoculars will not fog up in varying temperatures. Good waterproofing will also prevent moisture inside your binoculars and extend their lifespan. It is also a key feature to protect against rain or boat splashing.
Size and Weight
7×35 or 8×32 binoculars work best for whale watching. They have the ideal magnification but are also more compact and easy to handle. They aren’t quite as bulky as the more standard 7×50 marine binoculars.
Get Binoculars For Whale Watching That Work For You
As you can see, there are many varying factors included in a good pair of whale watching binoculars. The main thing to consider is finding a pair that offers the best image.
This means you want to search for highly coated lenses that include fog proofing and anti-reflection materials. Many factors can alter the image that you see through you lenses, so it is well worth the investment to ensure the clearest brightest image.
Start by considering your price range and then search for the highest quality features within your budget to gain the most out of you whale watching adventures.