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Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

There are many types of binoculars available to private investigators and one should always use a pair (or pairs) that are highly suited to the specific surveillance task at hand. It is not always best to buy the most powerful pair, nor the smallest that will fit nicely into your pocket.

Many people think that the smaller the binoculars are, the more covert they are, but at the end of the day, you still have to lift them to your eyes in order to use them, no matter what size. So, we are going to give you our insight into what we think are a few of the best binoculars for private investigators to buy and what you need to consider when buying a pair for your investigation business. Check out our reviews below.
Quick List: Our Top 3 Best Binoculars for Private Investigators
Field of view: 272 feet at 1000 yards. Size and weight: 7 x 7.8 inches, 2 pounds. Eye relief: 11.5mm. Multicoated lenses. Fog and waterproof. Durable rubber-armored coating.
Field of view: 320 feet at 1000 yards. Size and weight: length 4.1 inches, 10.7 oz. Eye relief: 12mm. Fully multicoated lenses. Fog and waterproof. Strong aluminum frame in a protective rubber shell.
Field of view: 317 feet at 1000 yards. Size and weight: 5x5.8x2.56, 25.4 oz. Eye relief: 16mm. Proprietary UV glass coating. Fog and waterproof. Long life rubber armoring.

Quick Guide: How To Choose The Best Binoculars for Surveillance

As a private investigator, when choosing a pair of binoculars for surveillance, you really want to know what basic features to look for and why. To help you choose, we have created this buying guide of the most important features needed in the best binoculars for surveillance. Here they are:

  • Magnification: how many times your target's size will be made larger in the lens
  • Objective Lens (front lens): the larger the lens the more light and the better for low light surveillance
  • Field of View: the extent of view left and right as you look through the binoculars
  • Size and Weight
  • Eye Relief: the distance to where your eye sits away from the rear lens
  • Lenses Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Fog and Waterproof
  • Robustness

We cover these features in detail further on in our article. If you want to jump ahead to see the complete buying guide features then click here.

Complete Review of The Best PI Binoculars We Like

by a former security specialist and private investigator

The following binocular reviews have been written by a former security specialist and private investigator, with years of experience in using various private investigation equipment, and who knows what is needed to meet the standard of a good pair of binoculars for surveillance. The following pairs of binos were chosen among many based on a number of features needed for binoculars to be used by private investigators. Our list of binoculars is not in an order of seniority but ones we recommend and would personally buy.

NIKON ACULON 12x50 Binoculars

NIKON ACULON Good Binoculars for Private Investigators

Why We Chose The Nikon Aculon

We picked the 12x50 NIKON ACULON binoculars because they are great for private investigators to use for general all-round surveillance. You have a powerful x12 magnification with a nice objective lens of x50mm that will suit low-light situations. A great feature we like is the smoothness of the central focus knob which makes these binoculars simple to operate and easy to focus - especially useful when needing to quickly focus in on your target or to catch a vehicle license plate. Plus, these binos have great reviews by other users.

Key Specifications

  • Magnification: x12.
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm.
  • Field of View: 272 feet at 1000 yards.
  • Size and Weight: 7 x 7.8 inches, 2 pounds.
  • Eye Relief: 11.5mm.
  • Anti-Reflective Coating: Yes. Multicoated lenses.
  • Fog and Waterproof: Yes.
  • Robustness: Yes. Durable rubber-armored coating.

Product Description

Aside from the powerful 12x50 magnification and objective lens size, the NIKON ACULON has been designed to be as light as possible for comfort and steady handling which helps with long periods of watching a target or their property during surveillance. If required they can be fitted on a tripod.

These binos have turn-and-slide rubber eyecups that help with easy positioning of the eyes at the correct eye-point and allows for comfortable viewing during extended periods of use, even for private investigators who use glasses.

The NIKON ACULON binoculars feature multilayer-coated optics that deliver a high-quality image under various lighting conditions, making them effective for surveillance during those low-light hours around dawn and dusk.

Made with a durable rubber-armored coating, the ACULON 12x50 binoculars are built to handle virtually any environment the private investigator will use them in. No matter what the weather conditions may be, the non-slip grip on these binoculars make them one piece of equipment a private investigator can always rely on to perform.

BUSHNELL H20 10x25 Binoculars

BUSHNELL H20 Best Private Investigator Binoculars

Why We Chose The Bushnell H20

We wanted a pair of binos private investigators can use that are compact in size but still effective - something a little less conspicuous for surveillance from inside a car or in urban areas. The BUSHNELL H20 10x25 binoculars suited our requirements perfectly. Although compact and lightweight, these binoculars are easy to adjust so that you can get them into focus quickly and the image is very clear and not dark, even when the light is quite low, despite the smaller objective lens.

Key Specifications

  • Magnification: x10.
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 25mm.
  • Field of View: 320 feet at 1000 yards.
  • Size and Weight: length 4.1 inches, 10.7 oz.
  • Eye Relief: 12mm.
  • Anti-Reflective Coating: Yes. Fully multicoated lenses.
  • Fog and Waterproof: Yes.
  • Robustness: Yes. Strong aluminum frame wrapped in a protective rubber shell.

Product Description

The BUSHNELL H20 10x25 binoculars are 100% waterproofed and tested by submergence in water up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. They have also been purged using nitrogen to remove any moisture that will cause fogging. So, even in the nastiest weather conditions they still produce clear views, regardless of how wet they get.

These compact binos are perfect for private investigators and easy to use, with a large center focus knob that lets you quickly sharpen image quality with a simple turn. The twist-up eyecups assist fast viewing and allow the binoculars to be adjusted for investigators wearing glasses.

Binoculars used by private investigators undoubtedly get knocked around in the field, which is why we chose the BUSHNELL H20. For drop-protection, the H20 binos have a lightweight aluminum chassis and a non-slip rubber housing that protects them from even the roughest of investigation conditions.

For ease and comfort of viewing during surveillance in the field, the BUSHNELL H20 has an all-glass, fully multi-coated optical system which is combined with BAK-4 prisms to maximize contrast, resolution, and light transmission; delivering clear, bright images.

STEINER SAFARI 10x42 Binoculars

STEINER SAFARI Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

Why We Chose The Steiner Safari

We wanted quality without the huge cost. Steiner binoculars are built with German precision manufacturing. They produce quality military and tactical binos that make excellent binoculars for private investigators. They can however be quite pricey. So, we found the STEINER SAFARI UltraSharp binoculars that have that Steiner quality but at a reasonable price. The SAFARI UltraSharp binos have a 10x magnification and a bright 42mm objective lens for maximum detail for both short and medium-range surveillance during day-time and low light.

Key Specifications

  • Magnification: x10.
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm.
  • Field of View: 317 feet at 1000 yards.
  • Size and Weight: (H)5x (W)5.8x (D)2.56 inches, 25.4 oz.
  • Eye Relief: 16mm.
  • Anti-Reflective Coating: Yes. Proprietary UV glass coating.
  • Fog and Waterproof: Yes.
  • Robustness: Yes. Long life rubber armoring.

Product Description

The STEINER SAFARI UltraSharp binocular are one of the best pairs of binos for all-round investigation work. Steiner optics are renown for image clarity, accurate color, low-light capability and are proven to be tough in the field. With its durable polycarbonate rubber protection, creating a lightweight rugged chassis that withstands high impact, the SAFARI UltraSharp binocular is ideal for tough working conditions. These are the best qualities a private investigator needs in a good pair of binoculars.

The 10x42 SAFARI lenses are multicoated with Steiner's proprietary UV coating on all air-to-glass surfaces. This will give you better brightness and clarity. The lenses provide complete image sharpness with just a minimal turn of the focusing wheel. This is ideal for fast focusing on a target or zeroing in on a moving vehicle. And yes, the lens eyecups fold down for private investigators who use eyeglasses. One last point to make is that these binoculars are waterproof and fog resistant.

Military and security forces worldwide have relied on Steiner optics for many years, so you can be assured the STEINER SAFARI UltraSharp binocular will surpass the standard needed by an investigator.

Buying Guide: How To Choose The Best Binoculars for Private Investigators

As a private investigator, if you want a pair of professional binoculars, you will want to follow our buying guide specifications. Binoculars have undergone a great deal of change over the years. Most modern pairs are fitted with very effective, easily operated zoom adjustment. Those offering night vision or operate well in low-light are best for surveillance. Our guide shows what specifications to look at when choosing a good pair of binos for a private investigator. Let's go over them in more detail:


Binoculars are commonly quoted with a magnification number such as 8x25. The number "8" refers to the power of a pair binoculars, which is the number of times the subject in view is magnified. Lenses with a power of “times 8” (8x) magnify the subject 8 times. This has the effect of making an object which is 400 feet/meters away to appear to be only 50 feet/meters away.

Objective Lens

The binoculars' objective lens refers to the front, or larger lens. As mentioned in our "8x25" example above, the "8x" refers to the lens magnification, the "25" refers to the diameter in millimeters of the objective lens (the larger lens at the front). The importance of this concerning investigation surveillance is that the larger the lens the more light will be pulled in; better for night or low light surveillance.

Field of View

The binoculars' field of view (FOV) is the extent of the view (expressed in degrees) from left to right as you look straight ahead through the binocular lenses. If a binocular says it has an FOV of 392 feet at 1000 yards, it means you can see 392 feet of a scene from left to right when looking at a distance of 1000 yards. Bear in mind, the field of view decreases with larger lens magnifications because you are zooming in much further to objects to bring them up close, thus it reduces the FOV.

Size and Weight

Binoculars range in size and weight and as a private investigator you will need to choose a pair that is appropriate for the assignment you're on. Usually, the larger in size of the objective lens (front lens) of the binoculars will make the size and weight of the binoculars larger and heavier. So, on an investigation assignment your binoculars should be light enough to manage by hand, otherwise you will need stabilization gear for your binos.

Eye Relief

The eye relief of binoculars refers to the vertical distance between the eyepiece lens and the pupil, where light from the binoculars' apertures converge to make a focused and complete image. Standard eye relief is between 10mm and 16mm. Short eye relief is 13mm or less and long eye relief is +20mm. If you're a private investigator who wear glasses it can make it difficult to view through the lense if you buy binoculars with a short eye relief, so you will want a pair with a long eye relief.

Anti-Reflective Coating

Binoculars that have fully multi-coated anti-reflective material on the air-to-glass lenses are the best to buy. The coating helps prevent light bouncing off the lenses (reflecting away) and losing some brightness and clarity. Binoculars that don't have any or little anti-reflective coating tend to have a dim view which is not good, particularly in low-level light. The standards of coating range from, "fully multi-coated", then "multi-coated", then "fully coated" (where the binoculars are coated maybe once), but "fully multi-coated" binoculars are the best.

Fog and Waterproof

Most binoculars can stand being out in light rain, but cannot stand a downpour or being submerged in liquid. If water gets inside, your lenses will start to fog up. If you anticipate doing investigative surveillance work in wet weather, use a waterproof set. The nature of investigation work all but guarantees your binoculars will get wet at some point, so it is best to purchase binos that are waterproof.


Investigation work, particularly on rural surveillance, can be a little rough and mucky. Therefore, binoculars used by private investigators need to withstand drops, knocks, water, and whatever else can be thrown at them. The glass lenses and working parts need to be tough and not flimsy. The outer covering needs to be strong and robust. Manufactures usually tell you what material is used to protect them.

Our Final Advice to Private Investigators Buying Binoculars

It is recommended that a private investigator possess at least two pairs of binoculars: one for urban surveillance work (short-middle distance) and one for rural surveillance (long distance).

Urban Surveillance: for standard urban-type surveillance, such as when sitting in a car, somewhat close to your target location but not close enough to observe with the naked eye, binoculars with a short to middle range magnification is needed, examples: 8x42, 10x42 or 12x50.

Rural Surveillance: if you plan on conducting rural surveillance at quite some distance from your target location, the binoculars you will need to buy will need be of a large magnification: 20x80 or 25x70. For these type of binoculars, you will certainly need a mono-pod or tri-pod for stabilization.

When choosing the best binoculars for surveillance and investigations, there are several key things to consider as detailed in our buying guide. These will help you in making the right choice. The NIKON ACULON, BUSHNELL H20, and STEINER SAFARI are three top models we highly recommend.
VIDEO: How to Choose a Binocular
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