5 Best Binoculars for Birding (2020)

It’s an amazing thing to look at the world through a good pair of binoculars. Details are clear, colors are more vibrant, and the things that we take for granted–such as birds–are now within plain sight. 

But to those who have ever peered through low-quality binoculars, you may have been left with a negative experience: blurry glass, shaky optics, and perhaps an inability to find what you were looking for. 

If this is the case, odds are you were just using a cheap pair of binoculars. To truly enjoy a hobby such as birdwatching, it is essential to use quality optics.

Finding quality binoculars isn’t that hard if you know what you are looking for. Below is a binocular buying guide. This guide includes some binocular basics as well as a list of the 5 best binoculars for birding.

We Recommend

Best value/price ratio

Nikon Monarch 7
Binocular

Best lightweight option

Zeiss Terra ED
Binocular

Best for the money

Leica Trinovid HD
Binocular

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

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