The best marine binoculars whether for boating, sailing, birdwatching, etc., should at minimum include the below features:
You can go higher in magnification (12x or 15x) if you are using image stabilization binoculars.
If it's smaller, less light reaches you eye and makes objects more difficult to view. Exit pupil of a binocular can be calculated by dividing the objective lens size by the magnification. This is why 7x50 is ideal - 50/7 = 7.1 mm exit pupil.
Higher quality and more coatings translates to brighter, sharper, higher contrast images. Fully multi-coated means that all glass surfaces have multiple coatings resulting in 90-95% light transmission, and this is what you want for marine binoculars vs coated, fully-coated or multi-coated.
Nice to have optional features, but will cost more:
We have reviewed the best marine binoculars by price into the below categories. You will find binocular reviews and recommendations in each according to your budget.
We think the Steiner Commander Marine Binoculars are the best marine binoculars you can get for your money as far as quality, performance, and durability.
And the Steiner Heritage Warranty is for the life of the product no warranty card or receipt required.
The Steiner Commander Series has 3 models: Global, 7x50c, and 7x50.
Steiner Commander Global 7x50 Binocular Features:
"Sent in my 18 year old Commander Digital Compass binoculars to see if they could be salvaged - unfortunately no (sad).
Steiner offered to replace or credit via the Heritage Warranty to upgrade - so I upgraded. Commander Global is AWESOME !" -The Navigator
In addition to the Global version, the Commander series include two other lower-cost models: Commander 7x50c (with zone compass and reticle) and Commander 7x50 (without compass and reticle)
Steiner Commander 7x50c (with reticle and zone compass)
"Had for a year now, worth every cent. Clarity = amazing, low light conditions amazing, compass smooth fluid motion and accurate." -Markan
"Owned a pair of Commanders with electronic compass for the last 20 years which have been outstanding binoculars; bright crisp clear optics in a durable package.
After 20 year of use, had an issue with the compass for which they replaced with a brand new pair of Commander 7x50c! The new pair is even better. Purchase with confidence. Highly recommended" -Chris
Steiner Commander 7x50 (without compass and reticle)
"These are wonderful binoculars, and there are multiple reasons that these are my go to binoculars when size and weight constraints allow.
#1 these provide a wonderful, clear, and very pronounced 3 dimensional field of view, with very accurate color rendition.
#2 the lens are coated with Steiner Nano protection coatings, the rain beads up and seems to roll right off the lens.
#3 Ergonomic comfortable rubber armor, The armor provides good purchase for my hands even if i am sweating, or standing in the rain, and keeps the binoculars from being too hot to handle when using them in the sun.
#4 A no sniveling Heritage Warranty that covers the full life of the product." -Steiner Commander customer
We still believe Steiner offers the best in this range due to their world-class lens and prism coatings, the proprietary silicon floating prism system for increased shock absorption, and the durable armoring, especially the polycarbonate housing in the Navigation Pro model.
Features on both Navigator models (with and without compass):
The Navigator Pro 7x50c model comes with an illuminated analog compass. It is actually over the $500 price range, closer to $600+, but we listed it here in case you had the extra $100 in your budget for the compass/reticle Navigator Pro model.
"I've given up on lower priced, mass market glasses and I'm glad I finally purchased these.
The magnification and clarity for use on the water is superb. Having had other brands with compass and built in light, I chose these for their ruggedness, clarity and basic function and I am not disappointed. " -Gailforce
If you do not need a compass or reticle, the Steiner Marine 7x50 Binoculars are an excellent choice in this price range and are worth the extra cost from getting a cheaper model under $200.
"Once focused properly, everything just pops with awesome depth of field. As I move from target to target at different distances, it's very easy to see details while it is centered in the view.
It's kind of hard for me to describe the view through these, but "3D" definitely comes to mind.
The view is bright, sharp and colorful, and the field of view seems very wide once the inter-pupil distance is set correctly.
It's really easy to track a moving object, like a bird or boat, with these binoculars.
One other thing to note, is that both the oculars and the inter-pupil distance have clear markings that make it simple to return to your individual settings after someone else uses them." -PhotoG
"I was introduced to this product thru my brother-in-law. He has had his binoculars for a couple years. He does a lot of boating and sailing and loves his pair.
When I first looked thru them I could not believe the clarity and steadiness of the Marine 7x50 Steiner product! I had to get a pair just like this, which I did. I love the field of view when looking thru them." -Marine
The Fujinon Mariner 7x50 Binoculars are an excellent choice as well if you don't want to pay ~$300 for the above Steiner Marine Binocular. The Mariner Series comes in two models: with compass (model WPC) and without compass (model WP).
Because of the polycarbonate housing, the Fujinon's are lighter than most marine binoculars that use metal alloys for housing and usually weigh 32 ounces (2 lbs) or more. These weigh 28.78 oz (without compass) 30.41 oz (with compass).
Another good feature, especially for eyeglass wearers, is the long eye relief at 18 mm.
"These binoculars are the best value for the regular mariner on the AICW who is underway a lot.
My last pair crashed to the deck after 20 plus years of rough service, and I decided to replace them with....THE EXACT SAME PAIR OF BINOCULARS!!
We love all the Fujinon features like the built in lamp and compass.
Ultra-clear vision from as far as you can see, to the horizon... with automatic focus!" -Andy
If you are looking for an entry-level pair of binoculars, then the Bushnell 7x50 Marine Binoculars are a great option. They have all the basic features you need such as:
For about $30 more, Bushnell has the same model with an analog compass & illuminated reticle. calibrated for the northern hemisphere. Not for use in the southern hemisphere.
"Great binocs for the price. Used them on a recent fishing trip and was able to scan the shoreline on a 1000 acre lake and clearly see cabins, docks etc.. Also clearly saw loons and other water birds on the lake." -David
7x50 is the best size for marine binoculars, unless you want to get a pair with image stabilization. You can read more about our reviews, recommendations, and how they work on our image stabilized binoculars (2021) reviews page.
Below are some recommendations that have higher magnification with a large objective lens size and are waterproof or water resistant. Obviously, if you are regularly out in rough conditions and/or in inclement weather, then a waterproof pair would be more important.
The Canon 10x42 L IS WP is Canon's waterproof model as opposed to the All Weather model's above that are water-resistant.
The Fujinon Techno-Stabi 14x40 Image Stabilization Binoculars are their better waterproof model.
Best marine binoculars without a compass: - Steiner Commander 7x50
Best marine binoculars under $500: Steiner Navigator Pro
Best marine binoculars under $200: Bushnell Marine Binoculars
Best marine binoculars with image stabilization: Fujinon Techno-Stabi 14x40
Just so you know and won't be surprised - but 7x50 binoculars are large in size and heavy. These are not binoculars you want to go on long hikes with or carry around your neck for hours (although a binocular harness would help with that vs a neck strap).
I've read reviews where people say the 7x50s are too big and they want something smaller. But, they're big and heavy for a reason - the larger size objective lens is what allows you to have a greater field of view, hold it steadier on objects, and allows for more light transmission through the lens for brighter images.
Again, 7 is the magnification, 50 is the objective lens size in millimeters and summed up, it's the best combination for allowing you to locate and see what you want to see on a moving boat - wide field of view and a bright, stable image. If you go up in magnification to a 10x50, you're going to have a narrower field of view, less light transmission, and more difficulty holding the binoculars steady with more visible shake of images.
If you go higher in magnification or get a smaller objective lens size, objects will be more difficult to locate, they will be less bright, especially in low light conditions, and it will be more difficult to hold the binoculars steady enough so whatever you're viewing isn't blurry from the magnified shaking of your hands, especially in rough water.
You can go higher in magnification if you consider getting image stabilized binoculars.
I used to work on a boat and at first was using 8x42 binoculars. It wasn't like they were completely useless, but when I switched to 7x50s, it made spotting and focusing and following objects so much easier.
I wouldn't go back to using 8x42s or any higher magnification beyond 7 or a smaller objective lens unless I wanted to use image stabilization binoculars.
In conclusion, the best size for marine binoculars are 7x50s since they will provide you with a wide, stable, bright image for locating and tracking boats, markers, buoys, bridge numbers, birds, and/or aquatic wildlife, even in rough seas and in low light conditions.
Sometimes, not much. Designated marine binoculars may include a built-in compass and/or lighted reticle. Some also have specific lens coatings to repel water better and may have better waterproofing so that they are submersible.
If you don't need all the extras, there are good 7x50s that aren't specifically for marine or boating use, but can be just as good to use on a boat as well as on land. I would still make sure to get a pair that are at least waterproof and fogprooff.
Also, most marine binoculars have individual eyepiece focusing instead of a center focusing knob which is good for most mid to long range viewing, but if you want to use your binoculars on land, i.e. for birdwatching, and want a shorter close focus, then you may want to consider a "regular" pair of 7x50s instead of one for specific marine use.
The Nikon Action Extreme 7x50 Binoculars would be a good alternative choice to our budget-priced marine binoculars (under $200) that are waterproof and fogproof, have multi-coated optics, long eye-relief, and a close focus of 23 feet.
Best Birding Binoculars - Our picks in 3 price ranges.
Nikon Monarch Binoculars - Comparison of All Monarch Models
Budget Nikon Action Binoculars - Comparison of all Action Models
There are lots of uses for marine binoculars. Obviously, you can use them for locating landmarks, channel markers, buoys, bridge numbers, tracking other boats, whether as a amateur boater, sailor, yacht owner or in a professional capacity such as marine patrol, ship captains, fishing guides, tug boat operators, Coast Guard, etc.. Or for you birders and whale watchers as well. And some enjoy using these for star gazing, especially with the great light-gathering capacity that they have. I read a review where they were using their marine binoculars as an aid to their GPS when jetskiing.
Steiner's Best Marine Binoculars - Admiral, Commander, Navigator Pro, and Marine
Waterproof Binocular Ratings - IPX0-IPX9K
Bird Watching Binoculars, Squirrel-Proof Feeder & Hummingbird Feeder
Read Our Reviews:
Nikon Monarch 5
Best mid-priced bird watching binoculars. Waterproof, shockproof, multi-coated ED-Glass.
No batteries, adjustable, easy to clean...and no squirrels!
"Best New Product" Award.
Bird Bath Heater
Keeps your bird baths ice-free down to -20 F. Low-operating costs ~$1/mo
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