Compact vs Full Size Binoculars: Definitive Guide

July 23, 2020 2 Comments




There are basically 3 types of binoculars available on the market and before making your purchase it would be a good thing to know the difference so you can choose an optical instrument according to your needs.

First of all you need to define the purpose of your buy. Depending on the purpose you can choose the right binocular.


As I said, there are 3 types of binoculars:


– Compact binoculars – objective lens diameter 20mm-30mm
– Full-size binoculars – objective lens diameter 35mm-50mm
– Astronomical binoculars – objective lens diameter 60mm-100mm


Compact binocular is the best fit for travelers, stadiums, sporting events. You can’t take full size binocular to stadium. It won’t be comfortable to look through such an optical instrument. It will be too bulky for that purpose. Compact binoculars are good for short viewing sessions.


Full-size binocular is the best fit for hunting, bird watching, nature observations, general use. Such binoculars are not bulky and not too lightweight. They are the most popular and the most comfortable to use optical instruments.


Astronomical binoculars is the best fit for astronomical observations, for observing distant land objects. They are bulky and must be used with a tripod avoid unnecessary hand movements when looking through such an optical instrument. Only thanks to using tripod you can get stable image.





Which Binocular to Choose?

As you can see, there are basically 3 types of binoculars as described above. It’s hard to say which one will serve you better.

For this you need to define the purpose of use.

If you plan to use binoculars when traveling or at stadiums and sporting events then you definitely need to choose compact binoculars.

Compact binoculars with the following specifications:



If you plan to use binoculars for hinting, bird watching, nature observations, animal observations, general use, you need full-size binoculars with the following specifications:



If you plan to use binoculars for astronomical purposes or for observing distant objects then you need astronomical binoculars with the following specifications:




What is the main difference between compact binoculars and full-size binoculars?

The main difference is in the size of exit pupil. Normally, the size of exit pupil depends on the size of binocular’s objective lens.

The less the size of the objective lens the less is the size of exit pupil.

Compact binoculars with objective lens 25 or 30mm have small size exit pupil which may not fit well your eye. It may fit well children’s eye but not the eye of an adult human.

On the image you can see the difference in size of compact and full-size binocular’s exit pupil.


exit pupil size


When it comes to a practical use, with full size binocular you can look through it for 5, 10 or even 15 minutes.

When it comes to compact binoculars, viewing experience may not be so positive for most users.

Looking through compact binoculars for 2,3 minutes is ok, but not longer than that.

That’s why when you plan to choose a binocular, keep this in your mind and you will make the right choice.


Pros of Compact Binoculars

  • Super lightweight
  • Stable image
  • Suitable for both, adult and children
  • Pocket size


Cons of Compact Binoculars

  • Image a little darker than in full-size binoculars
  • Viewing sessions up to 3 minutes



Pros of Full Size Binoculars

  • Bright image
  • Suitable for all kinds of activities
  • Viewing sessions up to 10-15 minutes



Cons of Full Size Binoculars

  • Image less stable than in compact binoculars
  • May not be suitable for children






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We review and recommend quality binoculars so you don't waste your money on useless ones.

Comments (2)

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  1. Selim says:

    Planning to purchase the Levenhuk Karma Pro 10X50 binoculars for wildlife and bird observations. Please provide recommendations, pros and cons on this product. Thanks.

    • Adam says:

      I think you made a good choice. Thanks to lens size being 50mm image will be very bright and in true colors. But I would recommend Levenhuk Karma Pro 10×42 because it will be 770g vs 1260g in case with 10×50. Weight impacts image stability. If weight is not so important then go with 10×50. There are no any serious cons of Levenhuk Karma Pro series. Let me know if you have any other questions.

      P.S. For bird watching I always recommend Levenhuk Vegas with ED glass for the best experience. This is only if you can afford it because of the price.

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