How close is close? I think under 5′ (1.5m), though the best are under 3.3′ (1m). Here is a list! It is not yet complete, and I have not translated all the distances and weights to metric. The table will eventually be sorted by close focus distance then price.
There is a difference between how close you can get versus how large something appears to your eyes. The close focus distance determines the former and a calculation is needed for the latter. I will add a column later on the apparent size later (e.g. how big does an ant on a flower look when viewed at the closest possible distance). Close focus is very useful when in a building or tour group or you just stumble upon something and cannot easily backup.
It might not seem like it, but there is a huge difference in practice between a close focus like 3.3′ (1m) versus 5′ (1.5m). With the shortest distance, essentially you can use the binoculars as long as you cannot quite touch it. You can stand by a table and focus on almost anything there. You can walk through your garden and stand right next to a tree and focus on the top (if you have short fruit trees like I keep). You can easily look at a flower come up right by your feet. 5′ (1.5m) is not bad, but once you try a 3.3′ (1m) close focus it is amazing how you ever survived with something longer!
Here is the short answer, if you do not want to go through the table. The best value is the Meopta Meopro HD 8×32, which is 3.3′ at $399! The best optics at that distance are the Leica Trinovid HD 8×32 or 10×32, both at 3.3′ and $949. After those, you get up to about 5′ in many different models.
The Pentax U-Series Pampillo II 8.5×21 is sometimes called a “field microscope” because you can get as close as 1.6′ (0.5m) at 8.5x. If you look at things that close, get these. They are practically in a class by themselves. A friend of mine really loves them for the close focus. As a general use binocular, they have a rather narrow field of view (6 degrees) and lack brightness in mixed or low lighting due to the small objective size. The Meopro or Trinovid HD are better choices, though much more expensive.
|binocular||Size||Close Focus (ft/m)||Weight (oz/g)||Price (USD)|
|Leica Ultravid BCR||8×20||5.9/…||8.5/…||$749|
|Leica Trinovid HD||8×32||3.3/1.0||22.9/…||$949|
|Leica Trinovid HD||10×32||3.3/…||22.6/…||$949|
|Leica Trinovid HD||10×42||5.2/…||25.8/…||$999|
|Zeiss Victory SF T*||10×42||4.9/…||27.5/…||$2699|
|Zeiss Victory SF T*||8×42||4.9/…||27.5/…||$2650|
|Vortex Viper HD||8×42||5.0/..||24.5/…||$489|
|Vortex Razer HD||8×42||6.0/…||24.2/…||$950|
|Meopta Meopro HD||8×32||3.3/…||21.1/…||$399|
|Meopta Meopro HD||10×32||4.9/…||21.1/…||$450|
|Pentax U-Series Papilio II||8.5×21||1.6′ / 0.5 m||10.2 / 289||$146|