Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

Despite advances in technology, some old-school tools are just as relevant as they ever were for private investigators. Binoculars are one tool that will probably never become obsolete. Here is a short list of best binoculars for private investigators and how to choose the right binoculars for your needs.

Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

Table of Contents

Why Use Binoculars?

Binoculars are particularly valuable while on fixed surveillance. Binoculars force an investigator to become more aware of the environment and allow a more detailed view of the subject. Surveillance can sometimes become tedious and mind numbing, especially on a long assignment. Frequently using binoculars forces you to stay alert and ready for activity from your subject.

It’s hard to use your camera as a scanning tool while also staying ready to take photos or video. Binoculars make it possible to keep your camera fixed and ready to capture photos and video while you use the binos to scan the entire area.

A small set of binoculars are also much less conspicuous than a DLSR camera or even a small video camera. Most digital cameras and phones light up your face in a dark environment, and a DLSR camera of any size is an attention getter. With binoculars, you can get a quick scan of your subject area and have the glasses down on your lap before anyone even notices.

Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

1. Bushnell Powerview 8×25 Porro Binoculars – Budget-Friendly and Compact


Bushnell Powerview 8×25 are perhaps the best binoculars for the budget conscious investigator. For the price, they still provide many of the features needed to aid in a successful surveillance.

They have great close focus at only 6 feet and a good 340 feet at 1,000 yard field of view.

Bushnell Powerviews also provide a clean image in ample light, but the image quality starts to fall off as the light fades later in the day.


  • Compact rugged design, which is great for quick scans and can be tossed around without worrying about damaging the internals
  • Good image quality during all times of the day. Very compact while also being wide angle, even at distance
  • Bushnell’s proprietary Insta Focus feature allows for great clarity even while keeping pace with moving objects, reducing the blur affect you would otherwise experience without this feature


  • The eye relief is relatively short, which may make it difficult for investigators who wear eye glasses
  • Not waterproof and do not have a built-in tripod mount port

Durability: Non-slip, shock absorbing rubber exterior.
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: (FC) Fully coated
Near Focus: 6 ft
Field of View: 340 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: BK-7 Porro prism system
Eye Relief: 12 mm
Weight: 9.1 ounces

2. Nikon 8252 Aculon A211 10-22×50 Zoom Binoculars

These are a step up from the Bushnell’s with a bit more zoom capability. Nikon is a trusted brand in the optics industry, and the Nikon 8252 ACULON A211 10-22×50 Zoom Binoculars are no exception.

The ergonomic design and durable rubber coating make these a great choice for any investigator. The image clarity at max zoom makes these nearly like a set of handheld telescopes.

They’re a little bulkier than the Bushnell’s, but you can easily attach a monopod for stability.


  • Excellent distant and close-up image quality
  • Solid construction with good grip coating


  • A bit bulky and can get heavy with continued use
  • The lens covers are bit too bulky and tend to easily fall off
  • Small viewing angle, which is very noticeable when viewing at a distance

Durability: Waterproof, Non-slip rubber armor coating
Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
Magnification: 10-22x
Lens Coating: (MC) Multi-coated
Near Focus: 49.2 ft @ 10x
Field of View: 199 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: Porro prism system
Eye Relief: 8.6 mm
Weight: 2.19 lbs

3. Pentax SP 10×50 WP Binoculars

Pentax has built perhaps the best sub-$200 binoculars for private investigators who regularly conduct surveillance.

Very durable and can stand up to the demands of the most active investigators. The body is made of rubber coated aluminum, meaning they’re sturdy and light in the hands relative to the size. They’re also nitrogen-sealed to protect against dust and moisture.


  • Tripod/monopod mountable with optional adapter
  • Tight, smooth adjustment knob, allowing for very precise adjustments


  • Image gets shaky past 10x zoom, requiring a monopod or a stationary surface
  • On the heavy side, which can cause fatigue

Durability: Fogproof, Submersible to 3.3 ft
Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Anti-reflection (MC) Multilayer Coating
Near Focus: 18.2 ft
Field of View: 263 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: BAK 4 Porro prism system
Eye Relief: 20 mm
Weight: 2.3 lbs

4. Vortex Optics Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars


For around an extra $100 dollars, Vortex Diamondback 10×42 Roof Prism Binoculars are one of the most popular among seasoned private investigators. And with a little patience you can often get them on sale for around the same price as the Pentax SP 10×50 binocs. The closest competitor is next on the list.

Diamondback 10x42s have a much wider field of view than other 10×42 binoculars. Vortex also uses high quality components and lens coatings to produce an exceptionally clear, bright image. They’re also very lightweight relative to their size and well balanced in the hands – contributing to low fatigue over extended use.

With all the features packed into these binoculars such as sharp, multi-coated optics and phase corrected prisms, Vortex Diamondback binoculars are one of the best on the market for under $300.


  • Excellent, bright image quality even in low light with a generous field of view
  • Superior combination of durability and ergonomics
  • Lifetime warranty that is transferable even if you sell your binoculars


  • Image edge gets a bit fuzzy at max zoom

Durability: Waterproof, Fogproof, Non-slip rubber armor coating
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: (FC) Fully coated
Near Focus: 5 ft
Field of View: 345 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: Roof Prism
Eye Relief: 16 mm
Weight: 1.52 lbs

5. VANGUARD Endeavor ED 10×42 Binoculars

The image quality and performance is nearly identical between the Vortex Diamondback’s and the Vanguard Endeavor ED 10×42 binoculars. Both have a wide field of view and excellent image clarity in any light. You can also get both for around the same price point.

Aesthetics is perhaps the biggest difference between the two sets of binoculars. VANGUARD Endeavor ED uses an open bridge design, which lends itself to a naturally slimmer profile and greater ease of use for some. The open bridge, two-hinge design forms a natural finger resting place on the focus knob, which can be helpful out on surveillance.

As with others on this list, for the price Vanguard has packed exceptional value in the Endeavor ED 10×42 binoculars.


  • Good close up focus
  • Relatively slender barrels for good balance in the hands
  • Wide field of view


  • Focus knob can gets sticky at some points
  • Green fringing when used in very bright lighting conditions

Durability: Waterproof, Fogproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: (MC) Multi-coated
Near Focus: 8.2 ft
Field of View: 340 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: BaK4 Roof Prism
Eye Relief: 16.5 mm
Weight: 1.48 lbs

6. Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather Binoculars

If you have the money to spend for ultra-premium binoculars, Canon 18×50 Image Stabilization All-Weather binoculars are an excellent investment. They do have a smaller field of view, but this is easily made up for by the powerful image stabilization feature.

The the image stabilization feature works by pressing a button on the top portion of the binoculars. Zoom in, press they image stabilization, and a shaky zoomed image suddenly becomes stable.

Experienced surveillance investigators will tell you that distance to your subject is significant when scouting for good locations to set up. Usually the further you are away from subject the better. With 18x zoom and image stabilization, you can observe from farther away than you otherwise would with lower powered binoculars.

If you have the money and you don’t mind the added weight compared to standard binoculars, these are more than worth adding to your gear collection.


  • Image Stabilization throughout the zoom distances
  • Good image quality


  • About twice as heavy as standard binoculars
  • Requires 2 AA batteries
  • Narrow field of view

Durability: Waterproof, Weatherproof Housing
Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm
Magnification: 18x
Lens Coating: Super Spectra (MC) Multi-coated
Near Focus: 19.7 ft
Field of View: 194.2 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: Poro II Prism
Eye Relief: 15 mm
Weight: 2.6 lbs (without 2 AA batteries)

Things to Keep in Mind When It’s Time to Buy

Although any size binocular can be useful, try to buy the one that is small/light enough to get the job done. The heavier your gear is, the quicker you will get fatigued with extended use. If you get quickly fatigued, you may not want to keep using your gear, which will more than likely translate into a less than ideal work product for your clients.

Regardless of the brand or model, you should look for minimum features of at least 10x zoom, greater than 200 ft field of view (the exception being the Canon Image Stabilization binoculars), and coated lenses.

Only purchase waterproof binoculars. Moisture inside your gear will fog up the lenses and will eventually cause damage to the internal components.

Last but certainly not least – buy a pair of binoculars! Your cell phone is not enough for capturing video and it’s also not enough to keep a close eye on your subjects. Binoculars help with scanning your environment so you can keep your camera equipment ready to capture photos and video.