Most binoculars are usable for a variety of different purposes. You can use your Nikon Monarch 3 binoculars for hunting, hiking, or bird watching. One of the best binoculars for kids might also be perfect to slip in your pocket and head to the golf course. There is, however, one area where most of these binoculars will not work well; on the water. If you need a set of naval binoculars to guide you on the waterways, look no further than a pair of Steiner Marine binoculars.
Viewing at a distance on the water brings unique challenges. Precision binoculars from Steiner Optics will cut through these obstacles with ease. Let’s dive in!
What are marine binoculars?
Marine binoculars, sometimes called naval binoculars, are optics that have been specially designed and manufactured to perform well while viewing long distances over large bodies of water. If you’ve spent much time on a boat, you know that being on the water is a very different world from land. Even just looking out from the shore onto the ocean or a large lake is a unique visual experience.
All of your senses become disoriented on the water. You’ll immediately lose your sense of balance as the boat rocks back and forth. Hearing can be overpowered by the sound of wind, waves, other boats, and marine wildlife. You won’t be able to smell much besides salt, fish, and seaweed! Most of all, your ability to see, especially long distances, will be greatly inhibited on the water.
Sunlight hitting the water creates glare. Mornings on the water can be extremely foggy. Warm afternoons can be hazy. After dark the water can look as black as the night sky. To overcome these visual challenges, you will need specially designed marine binoculars. This is especially true if you plan to use your marine binoculars to aide in navigation on the water!
Marine binoculars also need to be more resistant to the elements than regular sets. Saltwater is extremely corrosive. Anything less than complete waterproofing can lead to big problems down the line. Being on the water is an unstable experience. This is especially true if you are fishing or sailing. Marine binoculars need to be able to handle being knocked against metal railings, oars, and the mast just to name a few.
How are marine binoculars different?
The various factors discussed above are what make specially designed marine binoculars necessary for use on the water. As such, there are a number of key features that you need to look for when choosing the right optics for use on the water.
Marine binoculars have several design aspects that make them ideal for viewing on the water. One key feature is limited magnification. This might sound counter-intuitive since binoculars are meant to magnify objects that are at a distance. However, the constant motion of being on the water creates eye strain at high levels of magnification.
Ideally, a good set of marine binoculars will have less than or equal to 8x magnification. This allows the viewer to scan a large swath of the horizon without having to keep the binoculars steady in order to “chase” individual objects. At 8x magnification, an object 800 feet away will appear as though it’s 100 feet away. This is more than enough for most on-water viewing needs.
Field of View
The diameter of the objective lens on marine binoculars will actually be larger than typical binoculars. Common objective lens diameters range from 28-42mm. Marine binoculars typically measure 50mm or more. This creates a much wider field of view which helps reduce glare off the surface of the water. In foggy and low light conditions such as at dawn or dusk, the larger diameter allows much more light into the lens.
Fog and water proofing
Quality naval binoculars must be both waterproof and fogproof. This is not unique to marine binoculars. However, these features are probably even more crucial to have on the water than on land. Some binoculars are simply water-resistant or “splashproof”. A good set of marine binoculars should be waterproof to the level of being fully submerged. Don’t expect them to stay waterproof if dropped into the Mariana Trench, but make sure they’re rated to a meter or more of depth.
Marine binoculars are made fogproof by sealing all openings with rubber o-rings and then purging the air from inside the lens with nitrogen gas. This technique keeps the interior of the lens completely free from moisture so there will be no condensation formed during changes in temperature. Keeping the interior components dry is key to preventing corrosion. This is important on land and water, but saltwater can be especially problematic for metal.
Steiner Marine Binoculars
When we look at all the basic features that every good pair of naval binoculars should have, one standout brand that we’ve chosen to profile here is Steiner Optics. The company started in Germany in 1947. Karl Steiner’s dedication to producing the highest quality premium optics allowed his company to rise from the ashes of post-World War II Germany and become a worldwide leader in the industry.
Today, Steiner Optics produces a wide array of optics for both military and civilian use. Their products are literally battle-tested. The verdict from the field? Steiner Optics have passed every real world test thrown at them with flying colors. This article will focus on Steiner Marine Binoculars, but know that they also produce top of the line riflescopes and lasers.
Steiner Marine Binoculars are just about indestructible. The company developed their own lightweight polycarbonate rubber-armor exterior called Makrolon. This material houses and protects their precision optics. These products are designed for use during wartime. Steiner Marin Binoculars are rated for levels of impact up to 11 Gs or more. Nothing you throw at it in a civilian setting should come close to challenging this optics gear from a durability standpoint!
As far as waterproofing and fogproofing, Steiner Optics was the first company to develop a nitrogen-charging technique in the 1970s. The lens are charged with dry nitrogen at 14 psi. There is no chance of getting even one droplet of moisture into lens charged that tightly!
Their Nano-Protection lenses actually repel water so you won’t have to worry about rain, sea spray, or even a quick dunking. The NBR Long Life Makrolon exterior also aides greatly in preventing corrosion. These marine binoculars won’t wear out in your lifetime, even with constant use!
Another feature that sets apart Steiner Marine Binoculars is their integrated binocular compass. This is not a standard feature, but several of their Navigator and Commander models have this as an option. Nobody wants to have to switch between their naval binoculars and a compass in order to navigate. Having both pieces of information presented in the same viewfinder is ideal.
This feature of some Steiner Marine Binoculars won’t push them out of your price range. The Commander 7x30c with integrated compass costs just a couple hundred more dollars than the base model. Integrating both will likely cost less than buying a good set of marine binoculars alongside a good compass purchased separately.
Our favorite feature of Steiner Marine Binoculars is the floating prism system. Steiner designed their prism mounts with flexible silicone. When these naval binoculars are in motion, whether at full sail or even just bobbing at anchor, the silicone lens mounts provide enough slight movement to maintain a clear, precise image to the viewer at all times.
You won’t have to deal with the frustration of finding and refocusing on your target even under constant motion. This can literally be a lifesaver in any number of critical situations that can arise quickly out on the water.
This feature allows the user to individually focus each eyepiece one time. After you’ve set the focus to your specific visions needs, beyond 20 yards you’ll never have to refocus them again. One criticism is that their stated distance of 20 yards (60 feet) seems a little generous. We’ve found that it’s more like a 100-foot distance (33 yards) where the auto-focus feature will stay true. This is still plenty awesome, especially on the water where more target object are much farther away than 100 feet.
Steiner Optics stands by their products with the Steiner Heritage Warranty. This coverage is good for the life of the product and is fully transferable to future owners. The warranty does not cover loss, theft, or intentional damage. Beyond that, Steiner will repair or replace their product at zero cost to you in the event of defect or accidental damage. This worry-free policy provides peace of mind to you and anyone you might gift or hand down your product to. You won’t find a higher level of warranty coverage in the optics industry.
Steiner Marine Binoculars come in three models: Commander Global, Commander, Navigator Pro, and Marine. The Marine and Commander Global models come in one size at 7×50. Commander and Navigator Pro both feature 7×50 and 7×30 sizes. Commander Global has an integrated compass while Commander and Navigator Pro both have one model in each size, denoted with a ‘c’ after the objective lens diameter, that features an integrated compass.
Base Model: Marine 7×50 – no integrated compass
Next class up: Navigator Pro 7×30 and 7x30c
Larger size: Navigator Pro 7×50 and 7x50c
Next class up: Commander 7x30c
Larger size: Commander 7×50 and 7x50c
Top of the line: Commander Global 7×50 – integrated compass included
The Steiner Marine Binoculars listed here start with the lowest priced model and then increase in price as you go down the list. Commander Global 7×50 is the very top of the optics market with an MSRP over $3,000. Don’t let this scare you off though. The Steiner Binoculars 7×50 Marine Binoculars can be had for a cool $329.99 and often even less from on Amazon. The models at this end of the range are well within the price range of most buyers of Steiner Marine Binoculars.
The Last Word
Marine binoculars are a key piece of equipment for those wanting to stay safe while working or having fun out on the water. The risk of fast-moving weather events and collisions caused by poor visibility can be greatly reduced with a good pair of naval binoculars. When looking around what’s on offer in the optics industry, we gravitated toward the products at Steiner Optics.
Steiner Marine Binoculars are premium optics with top of the line features and durability. Steiner Optics has been an industry leader for 70 years at this point. Their products are used by military, police, and rescue professionals the world over. When your optics can survive heavy use on battlefields in every corner of the world, you know they’re top quality.
Outdoors Ahead is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for our site to earn income from advertising fees by linking directly to sellers. The site may earn a commission if you click through any external link on the site and make an eligible purchase from that seller. This commission is paid to the site by the seller at no additional cost to you!