Published

The HG stands for “high grade,” and testers agreed it’s worthy of the acronym (and price). Not only are they the most comfortable binocs to hold; the HG consistently dished up brighter and crisper images than all the others. 8×33; minox.com…

These pocket-size compacts deliver impressive optical performance for such a small package. Serious birders might want more power and clarity, but amateurs won’t be disappointed—or burdened (they weigh just 11.8 ounces). 8×28; vortexoptics.com…

This updated classic has multi-position eyecups that fit well with glasses or without, ergonomic thumb grooves, and excellent clarity in all light. 10×42; bushnell.com…

The Pro’s aircraft-grade aluminum housing was unfazed by snow and a stream dunk. And the slick “fast, close” focusing system makes it easier to find—and follow—your subject. 8.5×26; steiner-binoculars.com…

If you’re more likely to be looking at distant couloirs than shorebirds, this featherweight (5.3-ounce) monocular does the trick. It comes with a tripod mount and, like its two-tubed cousins, has a twist-up, twist-down eyecup and an ergonomic grip. 8×25; minox.com…

All you need to know: Thanks to a proprietary lens coating, the XM-HD delivers images as sharp and crisp as binocs twice the price. 8×42; carson-optical.com…

The Best Gear, Tested

From Pablo Escobar's abandoned villa to the sun-bleached sands of the Riviera Maya, an assignment doesn't get much better than this.