The naked eye can only see so far, and radar can’t tell you what species of birds are diving on the horizon. The key is choosing the right binoculars for your needs, balancing magnification, lens diameter, weight, features and price.
West Marine Coastal 200 7x50
Key Feature: Waterproof The Coastal 200 series from West Marine is an excellent value, with a lightweight polycarbonate housing filled with dry nitrogen to prevent fogging; light transmission efficiency is 85 percent. MSRP: $199.
Fraser Optics S250
Key Feature: Full gyro-stabilization
An excellent choice for serious offshore work, these binoculars have magnesium fluoride-coated optics and up to 98 percent image motion reduction. Another plus: They are submersible, waterproof and buoyant. The S250 is made in the U.S. with a limited lifetime warranty. MSRP: $3,995.
Fujinon Techno-Stabiscope TS1440 14x40
Key Feature: High magnification power The TS1440 combines high power with the ability to lock onto an object in order to create a stabilized field of vision, even at 14x magnification. A military-spec hard case is included. MSRP: $1,299.
Key Feature: Lightweight
Thanks to a die-cast magnesium frame, the Ultravid HD-Plus binoculars from Leica weigh just 27.2 ounces. And because the magnification is 7x, the image remains steady even with the added motion of rolling swells at sea; the field of view at 1,000 yards is 420 feet. MSRP: $2,199.
Nikon 7x50 OceanPro CF WP Global Compass
Key Feature: Illuminated internal compass
Many captains prefer using binoculars with an internal compass to immediately see bearings to rapidly moving targets such as diving birds or porpoises over tuna. The OceanPro is fogproof and waterproof and includes a marine-specific floating strap. MSRP: $299.99.
Nikon Monarch HG 8x42
Key Feature: Extremely durable magnesium-alloy body
Best described as the all-terrain vehicle of binoculars, the Monarch HG's optical system is designed around Nikon's extra-low dispersion glass and multi-layer lens and prism coatings for brighter, higher-resolution viewing in a strong, durable package. They have a locking diopter control, so your personal settings don't change unless you want them to. MSRP: $979.95.
Key Feature: Ultra-durable Makrolon housing
While not quite constructed to military specifications, the Navigator Pro 7x50c is built to take plenty of abuse—up to 11G's of impact, to be specific. The long-life rubber armor protects the floating prism system and 14-psi sealed nitrogen optics, which provide fog-free clarity in any weather conditions.With 7x magnification, the field of view is wide and stable. MSRP: $689.99.
Steiner Predator AF 8x30
Key Feature: Auto focus for instant viewing Steiner's proprietary Color-Adjusted Transmission lens coating makes objects stand out in sharper contrast to their backgrounds, perfect for offshore work where targets are silhouetted against sea or sky. The auto focus feature eliminates the need for a focus wheel—simply set each lens to your vision and it remains sharp from 20 yards out to infinity. MSRP: $349.99.