12 Best Binoculars for Birding (2020)

It’s an amazing experience to enjoy birds through a good pair of binoculars. Details are clear, colors are more vibrant, and image sharp.

But picking the the best binoculars for birding can be difficult. How do you choose from hundreds of different options and price ranges? 

Just pick the wrong one and you will end up with blurry glass, shaky optics, and negative birding experience. This guide will teach you everything you need for a great viewing experience!

We Recommend

Best value/price ratio

Nikon Monarch 7
Binocular

Best budget option

Vortex Optics
Diamondback HD

Best for the money

Swarovski
EL 42

What Magnification Do You Need for Birding?

The best magnification for birding is between 7x-10x. A binocular’s magnification is indicated as the first number detailed on a pair of binoculars such as 8×42. The first number indicates the magnification, or how much larger an object will appear in the lens. The second number refers to objective lens diameter, which helps collect light to project vibrant images.

The most popular binocular specs for birding are 8×42. However, birdwatchers who want a bit more magnification tend to prefer 10×42. The reason these specifications are so popular is because both 8x and 10x binoculars provide the perfect balance of magnification, clarity, and field of view. These specifications combined help birdwatchers locate and identify birds more quickly and accurately.

If you are new to birding or perhaps just looking for a pair of binoculars to view birds at your feeder, quality 8×42 binoculars are a great option. If you are a more experienced bird watcher, maybe someone interested in identifying small warblers, then a 10×42 binocular will enhance the projected image more, making identification a bit easier.

Related: 5 Best Birding Scopes 2020 (+Beginners Guide)

Binoculars Price Timeline

Binoculars are highly specialized pieces of optics equipment. The differences between each model may seem minimal to most, but to optics aficionados, a great pair of binoculars can be worth the money.

Under $100 – It is possible to find a serviceable pair of binoculars under $100, but there are a lot of cheap models out there that aren’t worth your time or money. If you do land a decent binocular under $100, be very careful not to drop it. The build quality at this price point is low and any shock can easily cause a misalignment rendering the binoculars useless.

$100-300 – This price range is an excellent budget for beginner birdwatchers to get started in the world of birding. Binoculars in this range will be weatherproof and images will be clear enough to identify birds easily. Binoculars in this price range though may underperform in low light. Build quality may also suffer. You may find that the included strap is cheap and eye-cups may be quick to fall off after a period of use.

$300-500 – The next step-up will include binoculars that are waterproof and fog proof. Warranties will be better in this price range. Image quality will also improve. Images will be brighter and sharper due to better glass. This price range is great for birders looking for mid-range optics.

$500-1,000 – Binoculars over $500 will perform very well. Images will be incredibly sharp, colors vibrant, even the focus knob will roll smoothly. The binoculars in this range will also be waterproof, fog proof, and sometimes dust- and shockproof. Overall build quality will be excellent, but the image quality is the true defining characteristic here.

Do You Have Glasses?

If you are a glasses wearer, don’t worry. Binoculars are made to accommodate all kinds of people, even those who wear glasses.

Adjusting the diopter

The first thing everyone should do when trying out a new pair of binoculars is to adjust the diopter accurately. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Set the diopter adjustment to zero.
  2. Cover the lens that has the diopter adjustment and use the central focus knob to focus the binoculars on a distant object. (You’ll only be using one lens and one eye during this step.)
  3. Uncover the lens that has the diopter adjustment and use the binoculars using both eyes.
  4. Adjust the diopter until the object comes into focus.

These steps help customize a binocular’s focus to fit an individual’s eyesight. Sometimes people may not even need their glasses if they can see clearly through binoculars after adjusting the diopter.

If you feel that you still need to use your glasses to enjoy your new binoculars, go ahead and use your binoculars while wearing your glasses. Be sure to adjust the diopter as needed. 

Eye relief

One thing to be aware of is eye relief. Eye relief refers to the distance between the ocular lens and your eye that allows you to see the full field of view.

For people who wear glasses, it’s important to find a binocular that has an eye relief of at least 16 mm. This will give you enough room to comfortably look through your binoculars while also maintaining the optimal field of view.

How to Choose Birding Binoculars?

When it comes to buying a pair of binoculars, there are a few features that are a must-have for birding. If you’re looking for binoculars specific to birdwatching, here’s what to look for:

  • Magnification – For birdwatching, the best binocular magnification is 8x or 10×50. This will provide all the magnification you need to observe birds without zooming in too much or causing the image to be shaky.
  • Objective Lens Diameter – The best size for an objective lens is 42 mm. This size allows for ample light to filter into your optics to create great images. It’s certainly possible to use binoculars with an objective lens that is either smaller or larger, but smaller lenses will not perform as well in low light and larger lenses will be too bulky.
  • Field of View – This is a very important spec that is often overlooked. The field of view refers to how much of an image comes into frame at a given distance. The field of view is often indicated as either a measurement (350 ft @ 1,000yds) or an angle (7.0°). A wide field of view is great because it allows for easy tracking when observing birds in motion.
  • Weatherproofing – Birding is a year-round activity. So no matter what season it is, you want to know that your binoculars can withstand the elements. Look for binoculars that are waterproof. Moisture inside the lens will ruin a pair of binoculars. Higher-end models may also feature fog proof, dustproof, and shockproof designs.
  • Close Focus – Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a bird will appear much closer than you anticipated. A binocular with a good close focus will allow you to view objects that are nearby. Look for a binocular that can focus on objects within 5-8 ft.

Best Binoculars for Birding

1. Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binocular (Best for Beginners)

For beginner bird watchers, the Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binocular is the perfect blend of value, quality, and image capabilities. 

With the 8×42 optics, this binocular is capable of magnifying images to the desired size and the field of view rivals higher-end models with the same magnification.

The Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binocular is fairly durable and can withstand quite a bit a ware and weather. 

However, the build quality could be improved in small ways such as more secure eye cups or a more fluid focus knob. 

Overall though, new birders and even experienced birders will be impressed with the images they see through these binoculars.

Check the price of Celestron Nature DX Binocular here

What we liked

  • Projects amazing images at this price point
  • Great and affordable option for beginners
  • Waterproofing allows you to use these binoculars in all weather conditions
  • Great field of view that rivals mid-range and high-end 8x binoculars

What we didn’t like

  • Strap could be improved
  • Eye cups seem to be a bit flimsy

Durability: Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Fully Multi-Coated
Near Focus: 6.5 ft
Field of View: 388 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: Roof Prism Phase Coated Bak4
Eye Relief: 18 mm
Weight: 1.8 lbs

2. Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 Binocular (Best Price/Quality Ratio)

The Nikon Monarch 7 8×42 is an excellent step-up for anyone looking to upgrade their binoculars. 

The first thing birders will notice is the image quality. These binoculars use extra-low dispersion glass, which project crystal clear images and vivid colors. 

The most impressive thing about these binoculars is how they perform in low light situations. Monarch maintains bright images despite less than ideal light conditions.  

Birders will also be happy with the small details Nikon incorporated into this binocular. The grip feels great and even the included strap stands out as being very comfortable. The Nikon Monarch 7 is built for durability, being both fog proof and waterproof. 

On top of its build quality, Nikon offers a limited lifetime warranty. Overall the Nikon Monarch 7 performs exceptionally well at its price point, especially when it comes to image quality.

Check the price of Nikon Monarch 7 Binocular here

What we liked

  • Bright images even in low-light
  • Comfortable strap
  • Limited Lifetime Warranty
  • Waterproof & fog proof
  • Good eye relief at 17.1mm
  • Lightweight for a 42mm objective lens binocular

What we didn’t like

  • Sometimes Lens caps don’t stay on properly

Durability: Waterproof, Fogproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Coatings
Near Focus: 8.2 ft
Field of View: 351 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism Type: Phase-Correction-Coated Roof Prism
Eye Relief: 17.1 mm
Weight: 1.4 lbs

3. Leica Trinovid 10X42 HD Binocular (Best for the Serious Birder)

For those unfamiliar with the world of sports optics, many may think a pair of binoculars of upwards of $1,000 is not worth it. 

But when you actually use high-end binoculars and see the image clarity, it’s easy to see why people would spend that much money on a pair of binoculars.

The Leica Trinovid 10×42 HD Binocular offers a solid 10x magnification alongside an excellent field of view–355ft @ 1,000 yds. 

That FOV rivals binoculars with an 8x magnification, so you’re getting the same FOV but at a higher magnification

Leica uses HD glass that creates superior images. Users of the Leica Trinovid 10×42 will find that the objects they view are incredibly sharp and the colors are brilliant.

Leica binoculars come with a unique Adventure-Strap carrying system, which holds the binoculars securely to your body while hiking or hunting. Leica also includes a 10-year warranty on their binoculars.

Check the price of Leica Trinovid HD Binocular here

What we liked

  • Sharp & vibrant images
  • Waterproof & fogproof
  • Great field of view at 10x
  • 10-year warranty
  • Includes Leica Adventure-Strap

What we didn’t like

  • The Adventure-Strap takes some getting used to

Durability: Waterproof, Fogproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Fully Multi-Coated
Near focus: 5.3 ft
Field of view: 355ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism type: Compact Bak4 Roof Prism
Eye Relief: 15.5 mm
Weight: 1.6 lbs

4. Zeiss 8x25 Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular (Best Lightweight Binocular)

If you’re looking for a lightweight binocular, the Zeiss Compact Binocular is one of the best options on the market right now.

These binoculars only weigh .68lbs and have an extremely compact folding design

With the 8x magnification, you will still get close to the action and the field of view on these tiny optics is impressive, to say the least. 

These binoculars are great for travelers looking to minimize storage space without reducing quality.

The Zeiss 8×25 Terra ED Compact Pocket Binocular, though small, feels great in the hands and the focus knob turns effortlessly. 

Anyone interested in these binoculars will also be happy to know that the lenses are coated in Zeiss’ trademark Hydrophobic Zeiss MC to optimize image clarity and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.

Check the price of Zeiss Terra ED Compact Binocular here

What we liked

  • Only weighs .68 lbs
  • Impressive field of view considering its size
  • Waterproof
  • Hydrophopic Zeiss MC lens coating
  • Great field of view
  • Smooth focus knob

What we didn’t like

  • Low-light performance

Durability: Weatherproof, Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Hydrophobic ZEISS MC
Near focus: 6.2 ft
Field of view: 357 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism type: Schmidt-Penchan Prism System
Eye Relief: 16mm
Weight: .68 lbs

5. Vortex Optics 10x42 Viper HD Binocular

If you’re looking for a binocular that will last you a lifetime, then the Vortex Optics HD would be a great choice. 

One of their top sellers is the Vortex Optics 10×42 Viper HD Binocular. 

These optics are an excellent mid-range binocular that features HD glass and an Unlimited Lifetime Warranty

These binoculars are quite compact considering their magnification and also feature an impressive close focus range. 

Vortex Optics has been a trusted brand for hunters and birdwatchers for decades. 

The 10×42 Viper HD’s durable design–waterproof and fog proof–paired with the incredible warranty make these a great option for adventurers who enjoy the outdoors in the most extreme conditions.

Check the price of Vortex Optics Viper HD Binocular here

What we liked

  • Excellent Unlimited Lifetime Warranty
  • Only weighs 1.5 lbs
  • HD glass for optimized image clarity
  • Waterproof & fogproof
  • Great close focus

What we didn’t like

  • Limited field of view

Durability: Waterproof, Fogproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: Anti-Reflective Coating
Near focus: 5.1 ft
Field of view: 319 ft @ 1,000 yds
Prism type: Roof Prism with Dielectric, Multi-Layer Coating
Eye Relief: 16.5 mm
Weight: 1.5 lbs

6. Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars

The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars offer a rugged and rubber armored construction. 

This makes it a superior option when looking at durable binoculars for outdoor use. 

This is the best binoculars for birding if you wear eyeglasses too. The eyecups can be easily adjusted to provide an appropriate fit for eyeglasses. 

The right eye diopter can be adjusted. This helps to provide better alignment for your own eyes. The rubber design provides a shockproof element to the binoculars. 

The device is also waterproof and shockproof. There is also an o-ring seal for better waterproof functionality. These birdwatching binoculars have multi-coated lenses. 

The lenses help to provide a reduction in flaring. The binoculars offer a 393 feet field of view with a close focus distance of five feet. This is also a good binoculars for birding if you do not want to carry a heavy device with you. 

Check the price of Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Adjustable eyecups
  • Can be used with eyeglasses
  • Diopter adjustment
  • Rubber armor
  • O-ring seal
  • Fogproof construction
  • Multi-coated lenses

What we didn’t like

  • Limited magnification
  • Diopter only adjust the right lens

Durability: Waterproof, fog proof, rubber armor
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Multi-coating
Near Focus: 5.0’
Field of View: 393’ / 7.5 degrees
Prism Type: n/a
Eye Relief: 17
Weight: 21.8 oz

7. Athlon Optics Midas Proof Prism UHD Binoculars

The Athlon Optics Midas Proof Prism UHD Binoculars come in two models. The default model features an 8×42 system. 

It provides a maximum magnification of 8x. It has a lens diameter of 42mm. This is appropriate when looking to buy the best binoculars for bird watching. 

The binoculars offer an ESP Dielectric coating on its lenses. This protects against up to 99% of reflections in the binoculars. 

In turn, you get a brighter and clearer view of your subjects. The binoculars also offer accurate color reproduction for an HD viewing experience. 

This is a good binoculars for bird watching in environments with rivers and where rain is present, due to the waterproofing of the device. The waterproofing is provided by the Argon Purged construction. 

The binoculars also offer long eye relief. ED glass elements are used for superior performance. 

Check the price of Athlon Optics Midas Proof Prism UHD Binoculars here

What we liked

  • UHD glass elements
  • 42mm lens diameter
  • Uses a roof prism
  • Anti-reflective lens coating
  • Accurate color reproduction
  • 8.1-degree angle of view
  • Long eye relief system

What we didn’t like

  • Low max magnification
  • Needs separate adapter to use a tripod

Durability: Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Anti-reflective
Near Focus: 6.5 ft
Field of View: 8.1 degree 
Prism Type: n/a
Eye Relief: 17.2
Weight: 1.56 lbs

8. Celestron Trailseeker ED 10x42 Binoculars

The Celestron Trailseeker ED 10×42 Binoculars come with a high magnification level that provides up to 10x zoom function. 

It comes with 42mm lenses for superior performance. The lens elements use an objective lens extra-lo dispersion glass. 

These elements provide improved light exposure for better quality and clarity of your view. 

This is also the best value binoculars for professionals due to the armored body and industrial-grade design, combined with a competitive price tag. A BaK-4 prism system is used, which further helps to enhance light and color transmission. 

This feature provides true-to-life colors. The chassis is fully waterproof. This means you can use the binoculars in the rain and there is no need to worry when dropped in water. 

The eyecups can be adjusted and feature built-in padding. The padding provides extra eye relief. A carrying case is included with the purchase of these bird binoculars.

Check the price of Celestron Trailseeker ED 10×42 Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Industrial design
  • Armored body
  • Waterproof chassis
  • Adjustable eyecups
  • BaK-4 prism system
  • True-to-life colors
  • ED lens elements

What we didn’t like

  • High price tag
  • Tripod adapter costs extra

Durability: Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 10x
Lens Coating: ED
Near Focus: n/a
Field of View: n/a
Prism Type: BaK-4
Eye Relief: n/a
Weight: 1.47 lbs

9. Vanguard Endeavor ED II Binocular

When looking for maximum binocular power without heavyweight, the Vanguard Endeavor ED II Binocular is the one you want – featuring a low weight of only 27.16 ounces. 

The binoculars use a Premium HOYA ED glass element. This helps to eliminate any chromatic aberration in your view. 

It also helps to provide better color transmission. These binoculars offer an open-bridge design. 

The design helps to reduce the weight of the binoculars. It also contributes to a more comfortable grip while holding on to the binoculars. 

The low weight makes it lighter to carry around your neck. The binocular combines great optics for birding with sturdy construction. The casing offers adequate protection against water, as well as fog. 

This particular option is often also seen in birding binocular reviews related to professional use. They offer magnification up to 8x and a 377 feet field of view. 

Check the price of Vanguard Endeavor ED II Binocular here

What we liked

  • Lightweight design
  • 42mm objective lens diameter
  • Built-in eye relief
  • Open-bridge design
  • Comfortable grip
  • Enhanced light transmission
  • Premium ED glass

What we didn’t like

  • High price tag
  • Open bridge design means a wider construction

Durability: Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Premium HOYA ED 
Near Focus: 6.6 feet
Field of View: 7.2 degrees
Prism Type: Bak-4
Eye Relief: 19.5mm
Weight: 27.16 ounces

10. Vortex Optics Razor HD Roof Prism Binoculars

The best bird watching binoculars for professionals who have more money to spend is the Vortex Optics Razor HD Roof Prism Binoculars. 

These binoculars for birding offer an 8x maximum magnification. The lenses feature a 42mm objective diameter. 

The Razor HD system also offers superior quality and clarity when viewing a subject with the binoculars. 

The binoculars offer an anti-reflective coating. This minimizes glare while viewing a subject. A magnesium chassis is used in the construction of the binoculars. This provides a much sturdier and durable cover. 

In addition to the magnesium chassis, the cover is also rugged with a rubber coating. The o-ring system used in the binoculars provides exceptional waterproofing. The device is also fog proof. 

The ultra-hard cover protects against scratches, dirt, and even oils. This is a lightweight set of binoculars that is also easier to carry around with you. 

Check the price of Vortex Optics Razor HD Roof Prism Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Rugged design
  • Resistant to dirt, oil, and scratches
  • Waterproof construction
  • Multi-position eyecups
  • HD viewing
  • 8x magnification
  • 42mm lenses

What we didn’t like

  • The price tag is high
  • No protective case

Durability: Waterproof
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm 
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Razor HD coating
Near Focus: 6.0’
Field of View: 362’
Prism Type: n/a
Eye Relief: 16.5mm
Weight: 24.8 oz

11. ZEISS Conquest HD Binoculars

Another option when looking at binoculars for bird watching is the ZEISS Conquest HD Binoculars. 

These binoculars featured premium construction and were developed with professionals in mind. 

These are also some of the more expensive options that are out there at the moment, but it does offer superior performance compared to the alternatives on the market. 

The binoculars come in a variety of models. This means you can choose one that fits your needs – with a minimum lens diameter of 32mm and a minimum magnification level of 8x. These binoculars do not offer the same low weight as some of the other options. 

The binoculars come with a five-year no-fault policy. If any issues arise with the binoculars during this time, the policy can be used for a replacement. The binoculars also come with a limited lifetime warranty.

Check the price of ZEISS Conquest HD Binoculars here

What we liked

  • Professional use
  • HD viewing
  • Color rendition
  • T premium lens coating
  • 5-year no-fault policy
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Moisture protects coating

What we didn’t like

  • Warranty has several limitations
  • Very high price tag

Durability: Moisture resistant
Objective Lens Diameter: 32mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: T Premium
Near Focus: n/a
Field of View: n/a
Prism Type: n/a
Eye Relief: n/a
Weight: 1.39 lbs

12. Swarovski 8.5x42 EL Binocular

Another option when you ant the best birding binoculars is the Swarovski 8.5×42 EL Binoculars. 

This pair provides an appropriate option for professionals. The binoculars feature a maximum zoom of 8.5x. It also has a 42mm lens diameter. 

There are alternative models available. A smaller 8×32 model is good for those who do not need to focus in on subjects too far away. 

The biggest model features 12x magnification and a 50mm lens diameter. The binoculars offer 20mm eye relief to help improve eye comfort. This is important during long viewing sessions. 

There is a limited lifetime warranty that comes with the purchase of this particular binoculars. It comes with an objective lens cover. There is an eyepiece cover to help protect the lenses when the binoculars are not in use. 

Check the price of Swarovski 8.5×42 EL Binocular here

What we liked

  • Preferred by pros
  • 42mm diameter
  • 9mm exit pupil diameter
  • 20mm exit pupil eye relief
  • Comes with lift carrying strap
  • Lifetime warranty 
  • 10-year warranty on body

What we didn’t like

  • Lifetime warranty does not cover all parts
  • Protective cover not included

Durability: Basic rugged design
Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
Magnification: 8x
Lens Coating: Multi-coating
Near Focus: n/a
Field of View 61 degrees 
Prism Type: n/a 
Eye Relief: 20mm
Weight: 4.24 lbs

Frequently asked questions

What is the best magnification for binoculars for bird watching?

The best magnification for bird watching is either 10x or 12x.

What are the best binoculars for birding?

The best binoculars for birding are Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars, because they provide crystal clear viewing with true colors, all while balancing its price tag. 

Are 10x42 binoculars good for bird watching?

A 10x maximum magnification combined with a 42mm set of lenses can provide excellent performance when viewing birds, and can usually be customized to a magnification that fits your location. 

Which is better 8x42 or 10x42 binoculars?

Most will find that 8×42 is good enough, especially when looking at the best compact binoculars for birding. A 10×42 is better for viewing at a further distance. 

Are 10x50 binoculars good for birding?

A 10×50 set of binoculars will allow you to get a better view of birds, even at a further distance, but does add to the overall price of the device. 

What are the best lightweight binoculars for bird watching?

The best lightweight binoculars for bird watching are Vanguard Endeavor ED II Binocular. It weighs 27.16 ounces and still offers quality lens elements for HD viewing. 

How much does a good pair of binoculars cost?

Pricing differs a lot between binoculars. A decent pair is likely to cost over $200. There are some that can cost more than $1,000 – these are generally made for professional use. 

What are the best Swarovski binoculars for birding?

The Swarovski 10×42 EL Binocular offers great eye relief, an extra durable construction, and high-quality HD viewing lens elements. 

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