When it comes to choosing a pair of binoculars for use on a boat, certain options are better than others—but knowing what to search for might be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Having the right binoculars for your boat will make your life much easier when you are out on the open water and you’ll be much safer being able to spot objects further away. This way you can make the necessary maneuvers on time to avoid collision with another boat, a rock or something else.

What Are Marine Binoculars?

Traditional boating binoculars have 7×50 specs and are one of the main tools used by a captain, skipper, or a navigator. The 7×50 specs refer to lenses with a diameter of 50 mm that permit enough light in while being enlarged by a factor of seven to provide the optimal magnification without causing too much motion on the water. Pontoon boats are more stable and often cruise calm seas so greater magnification specifications can be used without the view becoming too shaky.

What To Look For In Boat Binoculars?

Power

The optimal magnification for boats is 7x, or seven times magnification. It’s more difficult to focus on a moving subject from a moving platform using more powerful binoculars.

Objective Lens

The objective lens is the front part of the binoculars or the larger one of the two lenses. If it is a 50mm objective lens it will let in a lot of light which is great at dusk and dawn when there is less light. The quality doesn’t change too much in other parts of the day when there is plenty of light.

Field of View

When seeing moving targets from moving platforms, a broad field of view is preferred.

Exit Pupil

The brighter the picture in theory, the bigger the exit pupil. However, poor optics may reduce the impression of a big exit pupil.

Focus

The focus is usually set up manually. It’s used to get the image as clear as possible by turning the knobs. Internally focused binoculars are easier to use since the central knob adjusts the left eye, then the focus ring on the right ocular, while refocusing is done only with the knob.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is a metric of how far the ocular may be held from the eye while still providing a full view through the binoculars, which is particularly significant for users who use corrective glasses.

Coating

Anti-reflective coatings are available in a variety of chemical formulations and only the outer surfaces of the outer lenses are coated in certain binoculars. All lenses and prisms of fully multi coated binoculars are coated for maximum light transmission and low reflection loss.

Prisms

Prisms are used to flip the picture upright for the eye, while binocular lenses invert the image. To flip the picture 180 degrees, Porro prisms need two prisms. These bigger prisms are optically excellent, but they require a binocular frame with a wide shoulder to accommodate them. Roof prisms flip the picture with more and smaller prisms, and these prisms are more compact, giving the binocular barrels a smaller, linear appearance.

Waterproof Construction

Non–waterproof binoculars’ internal lenses fog due to the moist sea environment mixed with temperature variations. Your binoculars are protected if they fall overboard thanks to the waterproof design, which includes an inside o-ring sealed and filled or “charged” with dry nitrogen, as well as flotation in the strap.

Here are the top 5 binoculars for boating on the market right now.

The 5 Best Binoculars for Boating

Bushnell Marine Binoculars Model 137500

Binocular w/Compass, 7x50

The clarity that this model provides is surprising considering it is one of the cheaper binoculars you can get. In the left barrel, the compass is lighted by natural and electric light and it is simple to read. At 25 yards it’s easy to read half of the letters on the bottom line of the eye chart in strong light, and half of the letters in weak light. The Bushnells were able to resolve line 6 at 100 yards, but it is a bit harder to read lines 7, 8, or 9. The distinct ocular focusing is slower, but once adjusted for each eye’s strength, objects over 100 yards are all in focus.

Pentax Z-Series 8×43 Model ZD

Pentax ZD 8x43 WP Binoculars

The 8-power optics’ increased magnification is nonetheless easy to use owing to their small design. Glass optics transmitted light almost as well as, if not better than, certain 50mm objective binoculars. The bottom line of the charts is simple to read for the most part, but not all of it. Line 7 on the chart is clearly visible via the ZD binoculars at 8 power. Adjustments are simple thanks to the internal focus and right-eye ocular focus ring. Instead of rubber eyecups that slide down, these eyecups can be cranked up or down for optimal eye relief when wearing glasses.

Cabela’s Fathom 7×50 Model IK-714722

Cabela's 7x50 Fathom Marine Binoculars

These binoculars give a clean vision and are simple to focus in bright sunshine. The depth of focus was rather liberal once focused, however refocusing from 100 yards to 20 yards had to be done one eye at a time. In both bright and poor light, the whole bottom line of a Snellen eye chart can be seen from a distance of 25 yards. You could read the third line from the smallest at 100 yards easily and the weight of these binoculars gives initial stability, but tiredness sets in quickly, which may destabilize the vision.

Steiner Navigator Pro 7x50C

Steiner Navigator Pro 7x50 Binoculars with Compass, Black (7155)

The tiniest characters on the bottom of the eye chart at 25 yards may be clearly seen after the distinct oculars are focused. The optics are clear in strong light, and the image is sharp at 100 yards as well. The 7-power Steiners can resolve line 7 of the Snellen chart, which may be because of the bigger exit pupil and objective lens. The compass is lighted both naturally and electrically, and it is both stable and simple to read. Even at their current price, these are a steal given the optical quality they provide, and they have the highest waterproof rating of all of the models on our list.

West Marine Coastal 400 Model

West Marine Coastal 400 Model

In both poor and moderate light, you can read the chart at line 8, which is second from the bottom, using these. They performed well in direct sunlight but were not as bright as some of the more expensive types. They can reliably read line 6, which is fourth from the bottom, in the 100-yard test. When compared to individually focused oculars, their internal focus is substantially superior since it transitions from one range to the next much faster.

Getting the right pair of binoculars for maximum safety and carefree experience on the water is crucial. You will have a much easier time navigating and seeing incoming boaters from a distance so you can adequately adjust your course. Getting durable, high-quality binoculars for a great ocean experience will make your life much easier.