Shopping for the best pair of binoculars for pilots is trickier than it sounds.
The vast majority of binoculars won’t cut it because pilots have very different needs to bird watchers, hunters, and even plane spotters from the ground.
A good pair of binoculars for use in the cockpit needs to produce a stable image and a wide field of view. If not, they won’t be of much use.
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5 of the Best Binoculars for Pilots
Canon 10×30 Image Stabilization II Binoculars
Image stabilization, a wide field of view, and glare prevention make these binoculars from Canon our top pick.New: $499.00
The Canon 10×30 IS II Binoculars are what I recommend to pilots.
I was more than satisfied with the 10x magnification and bright 300mm/1.18 in. objective lenses, especially as the binoculars were comfortable when used with glasses/sunglasses.
Vitally, the binoculars are also designed with a low reflective exterior coating that helped minimize glare from the sun, which is important in the cockpit.
Being lightweight and compact, and featuring a wide field of view without any fuzziness at the edges, are just a couple of other things that make these binoculars from Canon ideal for pilots.
Hooway 7×50 Waterproof Binoculars
A less expensive alternative to Canon image stabilization models but with less magnification.New: $109.99
Marine binoculars are often a good choice for pilots due to their better image stability compared to standard models. To achieve better image stabilization, though, the tradeoff is lower magnification.
If this isn’t an issue, the Hooway 7×50 Waterproof Binoculars are an excellent choice at a lower price point than Canon image stabilization models.
The field of view is 396 feet at 1000 yards / 132 meters at 1000 meters, and the built-in compass is something you’ll appreciate too.
Canon 12×36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars
Similar to the Canon 10x30 but with greater magnification.New: $634.00
If you want a similar pair of binoculars to the Canon 10×30 but with greater magnification, the Canon 12×36 is the right choice.
Image stabilization often suffers with greater magnification, but I found these binoculars to be the exception. They actually delivered a more stabilized image over Canon’s 10×30 model.
Besides better image stabilization and greater magnification, compared to the 10×30 these binoculars were slightly heavier, larger, and more expensive.
Steiner 7×50 Marine Binoculars
A great alterntive to the Hooway's if you want better build quality and a lifetime warranty.New: $281.40
Steiner is known for making some of the best and toughest binoculars in the world, and this 7×50 marine model from the company is no exception.
They are a great alternative to the Hooway binoculars if you’re looking for better build quality and a lifetime warranty.
A field of view at 356 ft. at 1000 yards should be good enough for most pilots
Not a pair of binoculars but excels at image stabilization at a low price.Check Amazon for Pricing
Binoculars with image stabilization features can be very expensive. But a monocular is a different proposition and might be a more viable option for some pilots.
Naturally, the Bushnell Monocular wasn’t able to offer the same field of view as a pair of binoculars, but it excelled at image stabilization at a low price.
For ease of use and those times when precision spotting is necessary, the Bushnell Monocular can be a great choice.
What to Consider When Buying Binoculars for Flying
- Image Stabilization
Image stabilization is the most important factor to consider.
Flying a plane and looking through your everyday pair of binoculars isn’t much use, not to mention nauseating, which is why a pair of binoculars that is able to produce a stable image is key.
Some Canon binoculars utilize electronic image stabilization to ensure the most stable image possible with little tradeoff besides a higher price.
Your only other option if you don’t want to pay a premium for this technology is to purchase a pair of binoculars with lower magnification, as they naturally lend themselves to better image stability.
Greater magnification comes at the cost of image stability. This is unless you buy any of the Canon models that include image stabilization technology.
Therefore, consider whether you’re willing to compromise on price or magnification. You will have to pick one or the other.
- Field of View
Being able to see as wide into the distance as possible is important when flying to make finding planes and other objects, especially moving ones, as easy as possible. Therefore, a pair of binoculars that deliver a wider field of view is preferable for pilots.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.