Choosing Marine Binoculars: A Buying Guide

Water You Looking At?

Ahoy! Before taking your maiden voyage with a pair of marine binoculars, it's important to be sure you're getting the right pair. Combining optics and the open water creates a unique set of challenges - namely, the movement of the water makes a steady image difficult to maintain, and potential water damage is a major concern. And since distance is much more difficult to gauge on water, you'll want to check out the unique range-finding features often found in marine binoculars.

As always, it's important to give well-known binocular brands top-tier consideration. Marine binoculars from Bushnell, Steiner, and Celestron are always a safe bet, though any listed on our marine binoculars page are well-suited for the water. Read on for details about what makes them special.

The Marine Scene

If your main, or only, pair of binoculars is going to be used on water, we suggest getting specially designed marine binoculars. This is especially true if your chosen body of water is large or has the potential for big waves. For example, many standard land binoculars advertise water resistance, but quality marine binoculars are nitrogen-purged and o-ring sealed, making them totally waterproof to prevent fogging and any water infiltration.

Marine binoculars are predominantly in the 7x50 range to allow an ample amount of light transmission through the exit pupil, a good field of view, and adequate magnification. Since the function is less geared toward sightseeing and more toward finding landmarks on the shore and horizon, a wider field of view is essential. Some choose binoculars with smaller objective lenses, but these will be much less useful if you find yourself on the water on a cloudy day when you need them the most. Many of our highest-rated marine binoculars fit all of these characteristics, and are right at home on your boat or dock.

Image-Stabilized Binoculars, Reticles, and More

Image-stabilized binoculars are indispensible on the water. As the rolling tide moves you up and down, the mechanics of these marine binoculars keep your image steady and your head from getting seasick. Of course, standard binoculars can still be suitable for marine use, but after choosing magnification and objective lens size, image stabilization is what will really make the difference. Note - a set of marine binoculars with an extra-wide enough field of view won't necessarily need image stabilization.

Some marine binoculars go the extra nautical mile and provide a built-in rangefinder, compass, and/or reticle. These features can help you find magnetic north, and properly judge object size and distance when the open sea creates a relativity disconnect. Using these features properly may take a bit of practice, but once you do, you can decrease the number of gadgets packed before each marine journey. Check out our wide selection of rangefinder marine binoculars and judge your distance to optical perfection.