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Updated: August 9, 2020
The 5 Best Binoculars For Birding
- 1 The 5 Best Binoculars For Birding
- 1.1 The 5 Best Binoculars For Birding We Review
- 1.2 The Best Binoculars For Birding
- 1.2.1 1. Celestron Nature DX 8×42
- 1.2.2 2. Nikon MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular
- 1.2.3 3. Leica Camera Co. 8×42 Trinovid HD
- 1.2.4 4. Vortex Razor UHD 8×42
- 1.2.5 5. Swarovski EL 8.5×42
- 1.3 How We Broke Our Categories Down
- 1.4 What To Consider When Buying Binoculars
- 1.5 Understanding The Binoculars Magnification and Stability
- 1.6 Back to Bird Watching
Birding is a fascinating pastime enjoyed by many. It is a great outdoor adventure that anyone can take part in. One of the required pieces of equipment for birding is a good set of binoculars. Having them allows you to see the details of the birds from a greater distance. Every bird has specific characteristics and features, helping identify the specific species. Without binoculars, even trying to find birds, let alone identify them, is quite tricky. A good pair of binoculars while bird watching changes all of that. It closes the visual distance and makes it seem like you are just a few feet away. It is an awesome experience observing the birds in their natural habit undisturbed.
Not all bird watchers are the same, and we understand that. When purchasing a set of binoculars for birding, defining your budget is typically the starting point. The 5 binoculars we review are the best in class for their representative price category.
For those in a hurry the our choice for the best binoculars for birding is the Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 8×42
We evaluated and reviewed 25 different pairs of binoculars to determine the best binoculars for birding overall. We looked at everything from budget binoculars to get you started to the top of the line, rather pricey binoculars. When it was all said and done, we chose the Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 8×42 as the best overall pair of binos. Obviously, if you have the spare cash to spend thousands on the top of the line then, by all means, you should get them. The majority of people interested in birding do not fall into that category. So our goal was to pick the pair best overall that factors in quality and cost.
The Nikon Monarch 7 8×42 ATB is the most popular set of binoculars for good reason. The price point is excellent, and not that far from the most budget-friendly pair. We highly recommend the Nikon Monarch 7 for birdwatching. They are feature-rich, with excellent quality for the price.
Nikon has an excellent optical system for the ED glass to give you a clear and bright image. You experience a wide field of view that is just right for bird watching. Nikon uses a dielectric multilayer prism coating, which gives a nice, even light transmittance. The result is a bright clear high contrast image where the colors are a true match to the naked eye.
The body of the binoculars is a durable rubber-armored coating. It is just rough enough to prevent slipping, but still comfortable to the touch. The central focus knob is medium in size, so it fits well with the rest of the body, and the focusing wheel is smooth when you turn it.
One of the features we liked about the eyecups is the adjustable click-stop design. Something to note, the close focus capability is 8.2 feet, which is a bit further than some of the other models we compared the Nikon to. It is easy to see why these binoculars are so popular with bird watchers.
- The MONARCH 7 8x42 provides an exceptionally wide field of view that makes it easy to find your subject.
- Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings are applied to all lenses and prism coatings to provide high-contrast images and accurate color reproduction.
- Thanks to a durable rubber armored coating, the MONARCH 7 is comfortable to hold and rugged enough to stand up to any conditions.
- Extra-low dispersion glass enhances brightness and color fidelity
- Roof prisms with phase-correction preserve clarity and detail
- Highly reflective dielectric prism coating renders
- Anti-reflective multicoated lens system
- Nitrogen-filled housing for fog proof and waterproof performance
The 5 Best Binoculars For Birding We Review
- Best Binoculars For Birding Overall: Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 8×42
- Best Budget Binoculars For Birding: Celestron Nature DX 8×42
- Best Entry Level Binoculars For Birding: Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular
- Best Mid-Priced Binoculars For Birding: Leica Camera Co. 8×42 Trinovid HD
- Best High-End Binoculars For Birding: Vortex Razor UHD 8×42
- Best Top Of The Line Binoculars For Birding: Swarovski EL 8.5×42
We have summarized the details of the binoculars for each of the categories in this table.
The Best Binoculars For Birding
Best Budget Binoculars for Birding
The Celestron Nature DX 8×42 is our top pick for the best budget binoculars. They are mid-sized, making them comfortable in the field and genuinely are one of the favorites among bird watchers for this category.
You get the right combination of field of view, magnification, and up-close focus all for under $160. Even if your budget is slightly higher than this category, you may still want to consider choosing this model; you won’t be disappointed.
They have a stable 8x magnification, with a 7.4-degree field of view. They feature a Bak4 Prism Glass with Phase coating. Note that as you get close to your subject, the close focus distance is 6.5 feet, so it is best to utilize the magnification from a bit of a distance. Your field of view is 388 feet at 1000 yards.
In evaluating the Celestron, we feel this is your top choice for the budget category.
- Perfect binoculars for every adventure: A great match for everyone from beginners to mid-range outdoors and birding enthusiasts. The perfect combination of Premium build, portability, and price
- Top-rated glass optics with impressive specs: Fully multi-coated lenses for brighter images, more contrast and highest resolution with phase-coated BaK-4 prisms, 8x magnification power, and 6.5-foot close focus
- Robust, waterproof mid-sized body: Incredibly precise build and design that offers protection from outdoor elements. Features a waterproof/fogproof, rubber-armored, polycarbonate housing. Comfortable twist-up eyecups with multi-stop function ensure proper positioning of the eyes for eyeglass wearers and non-eyeglass wearers alike
- All you need is included: Take this Binocular with you anywhere. We’ve included a compact carrying case, objective lens caps, an eyepiece rainguard, a neck strap, a lens cloth, and an instruction manual for easy use on the go
Best Entry Level Binoculars for Birding
The Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 is our top pick for the entry-level category. As we reviewed these binoculars, it was challenging to come up with criticism. Birdwatchers rave about Monarch 5, and it is easy to understand why. Two of the most challenging times for birdwatching is dawn and dusk, due to the lower levels of light. Utilizing Nikon’s ED Extra-low Dispersion glass lenses, these binoculars handle chromatic aberrations well. Their ED glass lenses maintain superior contrasts and resolution. Grabbing your Nikon Monarch 5 and heading to the field for some birdwatching is a joy.
These binoculars are incredibly portable, and the newer model is even lighter than before. They have a sleek design that is comfortable in your hand and easy to grip. The high-eyepoint design leads to a clear field of view, so it doesn’t crowd the distance between the user’s eyebrows and eyecups of the binoculars.
It is essential to minimize the loss of light due to reflection. Using multilayer coatings provides higher light transmittance across the entire visible light spectrum. Nikon utilizes this process, resulting in a more natural and clearer view.
Other features we liked were the adjustable turn-and-slide rubber eyecups for comfort while viewing. A rubber-armored body helps make them non slip even in wet conditions. As you would expect, they are waterproof and fog proof. It is easy to see why the Monarch 5 8×42 is our top pick for this category.
- All Monarch 5 binoculars are now built with Nikon's premium ED (Extra low dispersion); Glass for a sharper, clearer and more brilliant field of view
- Almost an ounce lighter than its predecessor, the new Monarch 5 is even easier to bring along on your next adventure
- Fully multicoated eco glass lenses provide a high light transmittance across the entire visible light spectrum
- It is equipped with user friendly features such as turn and slide rubber eyecups, a smooth central focus knob and flip down lens caps
- Built for extreme use, the Monarch 5 is waterproof, fog proof and has a rubber armored body for strengthened durability
The Best Mid-Range Binoculars for Birding
The Leica 8X42 Trinovid HD is our top pick for the mid-range category. One thing to take into consideration is the price of the Trinovid when comparing to the others in the group. They are at the high-end of the price range and cost several hundred dollars more than the rest of the binoculars in this category. The quality of these binoculars certainly earns it the top pick, but at a price. The Nikons we selected as the best overall binoculars for birding are in this same category but cost hundreds of dollars less and better fit what we believe the average bird watcher would need.
The Leica brand has arguably been one of the finest for many years, and they do not disappoint with these binoculars. With the roof prism design, they are compact and light, fitting just right. When you hold the Tinovid HD, you feel the ruggedness and quality design, and yet they only weigh 26 oz. And when you raise them to your eyes and look through them, you understand the high regard with the compelling clarity and sharp views.
The Leica 8×42 Trinovid HD has a 372-foot field of view, falling right in line with this class. When it comes to eye relief, they sport a 15 mm design, making them comfortable for the bird watcher. The prisms are construction with phase-coated Bak4 glass, and the lenses are fully multicoated, reducing the glare and increasing the quality of the view. At this level, you expect a thoroughly waterproof and fog proof system, which is what the Leica delivers. You end up with a beautiful, detail-rich, and high-contrast image that is a joy to use in your outdoor adventures.
Some other things we observed were the adjustable eyecups that twist to extend or retract. They turn and sit into a stable position, which will hold, so you do not have to worry about them coming out of place. There is a diopter adjusting wheel that turns freely and efficiently as a simple ring on the right barrel to help adjust for any difference between your left and right eyes.
We think you will love the Trinovid HD 8×42. While the price seems high compared to the other binoculars in this mid-range category, you will enjoy a lifetime of birding with this high quality, and for much less than the top of the line binoculars that easily exceed $2000 per pair.
- Crafted from the highest quality material
- Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
- Made in Portugal
The Best High-End Binoculars for Birding
The Vortex Razor UDH 8×42 is the best in class, highest-end binoculars in the Vortex lineup. Their goal was to bring their optics to the next level for a superior product. We believe they achieved this goal and won our Top Pick award for the Mid-High Range binoculars category. From a price standpoint, you should be able to find a pair of the Vortex Razor UDH 8×42 for right around $1450.00.
The optics include an upgraded index-matched apochromatic objective lenses with phase-corrected Abbe-Koeing roof prisms. The end result provides extreme brightness and superb sharpness and contrast to the image. They have an impressive 3.3-foot close focus, with an eye relief of 16.7mm. The field of view is a remarkable 420 feet at 1,000 yards. Vortex uses an argon purge with O rings to make the product waterproof and fog-proof. They have a premium VIP lifetime, no-fault warranty that is fully transferable, meaning there will be no hassle at all if you have an issue with your Vortex Razor UDH 8X42. The barrels of the binoculars sport a slight curve that makes them very comfortable to hold and use. When you look through these binoculars, you will notice the finest details making everything seem so close. The ultra-high-definition optical quality cuts the chromatic aberration considerably, giving outstanding color fidelity, light transmission, and sharpness from one edge to the next. Vortex uses an ultra-hard, scratch-resistant coating to protect the exterior lenses from oil, dirt, and scratches. They also have a rubber armor non-slip grip, helping you feel safe when carrying outdoor. The price may be a put off to some, but if they fall in your price range, we believe when you balance all they have to offer they are a fantastic choice.
- 8x magnification and 42 mm objective lenses, the Razor UHD binoculars provide ultra high definition optical quality and prescription for unparalleled image resolution, providing exceptional color fidelity, edge-to-edge sharpness, and light transmission.
- Index-matched lenses correct color across the entire visual spectrum. Ultimate anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces provide maximum light transmission for peak clarity and the pinnacle of low-light performance.
- Magensim chasis brings increased strength and decreased weight.True open hinge design offers superior ergonomics while decreasing total weight and bulk. Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection.
- A right-eye diopter tailors each barrels' focus to your eyes. The smooth, center focus wheel provides fine focus control and quick sharp views. Twist-up eyecups rest comfortably against the face and provide customized eye relief.
- Argon purging and o-ring seals provide a lifetime of water and fogproof performance. Ultra-hard, scratch resistant armortek protects the lenses from scratches, oil, and dirt. Compatible with a tripod adapter, allowing use on a tripod or car window mount.
Best Top of the Line Binoculars For Birding
The Swarovski EL 8.5×42 is probably the most popular set of binoculars in our top of the line category. It is not surprising given how long the brand has been around. As you would expect from any superior product, over time, the features and quality have just gotten better. These are first-rate.
We appreciate the open hinge body design, which makes it easy to hold. The set feels secure in your hands when carrying them. The body of the binoculars is a high-quality Magnesium alloy. Magnesium alloy is considerably more expensive than the typical aluminum or plastic frames. They are incredibly durable and highly resistant to corrosion. This choice of metal keeps the weight a meager 29.5 ounces, which is impressive given that they are 6.3in x 5.2in and made from metal instead of plastic. You can feel the quality of the binocular frame with its textured grip.
The eyecups are twist up and smooth to set. The design and slight angle make them comfortable on your face. The quality material extends to the eyecups as well, being they are made from metal instead of plastic. There is a rubberized section for contact with your face, but other than that, high-quality metal. One of the benefits from a top of the line pair like this is they eyecups are replaceable in the event they are damaged or worn. They work exceptionally well and are outstanding compared to the lower-priced categories. Because of the 20mm eye relief, they fit nicely for people wearing glasses, giving the correct distance from the ocular lens.
The focus wheel sits prominently just below the eyecups, and between the cylinders. The action is smooth and precise. Unlike most binoculars, the diopter adjustment is built directly into the focus wheel. I like this design because you pull the focusing wheel back and turn it the proper number of clicks until adjusted for your eyes. When finished, push the focus-wheel back in place, and you are ready to go. Very simple.
The optics are where the Swarovski EL 8.5×42 shine by using some of the highest-rated optical components, superior technology, and coatings process. The ocular has an impressively wide 23mm diameter.
The field flattener lenses are another benefit you get with cream of the crop binoculars. Often, with lower quality lenses, you will have the proper focus in the center of your view. But as you move toward the edge, things become slightly out of focus. This lack of focus on the sides gives you an adverse feeling of distortion. Field flattening lenses alleviate this issue. Distributing the focal-point across the entire field of view leaves you with the sharpest image. Very few binoculars do this.
The objective lenses of the Swarovski EL 8.5×42 are high definition. The extra-low dispersion or ED glass in the lens contains fluoride that reduces light dispersion. Light dispersion causes chromatic aberrations or color fringing, where the colors do not combine as they should due to improper refraction. These elite lenses give clarity and sharpness worthy of the price. The binoculars are fully coated with their patented coatings. The coating is a multilayered mixture designed to reduce wide-band reflection significantly. They have an outstanding prism, coated with phase coating which is highly reflective. They are completely waterproof and fog proof as they should be. When using the binoculars, the wide field of view is 399 feet at 1,000 yards. This is a nice sweet spot, along with a 4.9 ft minimum focal distance for up-close viewing.
- This Item Includes: Swarovski Optik EL 8.5x42 Binocular - Field Bag - Eyepiece Cover - Objective Lens Cover - Lift Carrying Strap - Swarovski Optik Lifetime Limited Warranty for Optics - Swarovski Optik 10 Year Warranty for Other Parts
- Magnification: 8.5x
- Effective objective lens diameter: 42mm
- Exit pupil diameter: 4.9mm
- Exit pupil distance (eye relief): 20mm
How We Broke Our Categories Down
As we compared and considered the different binoculars there were two specific areas we used to categorize them. First, they needed to have an 8×32 or 8×42 magnification which is most appropriate for birding. Beyond the size, the price was the next appropriate way to categorize the 25 different pairs of binos. In total there were 5 categories broken down as follows:
- Budget category binoculars: Price range between $0 and $159
- Entry-level category binoculars: Price range between $160 and $299
- Mid-priced category binoculars: Price range between $300 and $999
- High-end category binoculars: Price range between $1000 and $1,999
- Top of the line binoculars: Price Range $2,000 and greater
Note: you can click on the category links above to view the full set of birding binoculars we considered for each of the categories.
What To Consider When Buying Binoculars
When looking for a pair of binoculars for birding, there are several things to consider.
The price will range from under $100 for a budget pair, to over $2,000 for the top of the line optics. You can get started birding with a less expensive pair, but eventually, you will probably end up with a pair the will cost several hundred dollars. For those who want the absolute best, they come with a fairly hefty price tag, but the quality is stunning.
8×42 and 8×32 binoculars are often considered the best magnifications for birding. This seems to be the sweet spot to give you the clarity needed, along with the proper field of vision for the typical distance when birding.
Ergonomic Design of the Body
Birding is done in the field, so you will obviously be carrying your binos along with spending a significant amount of time holding them up to your eyes. We looked for a balanced design that is comfortable to hold.
Binos Comfort If You Wear Glasses
Having adjustable eyecups is important when it comes to comfort as well as the ability to use them in the event you wear eyeglasses as well.
Clarity of Definition In Binocular Lens
The quality of the lenses and mirrors as well the technology used have a great impact on the clarity and definition when viewing the birds. High-quality, more expensive binoculars tend to better clarity and higher definition. This does not however mean that you have to buy the top of the line to get great quality.
Color of The Binoculars
Black and green are the typical colors for birding binoculars. This helps them to blend into the surroundings well.
Most of the 8×32 and 8×42 binoculars will be fairly light. This makes for comfortable use appropriate for bird watching.
It’s always a good idea to check on the warranty carried on the binoculars. There should be an expectation of the manufacturers to warranty their products.
Quality Vision in Low Light
Depending on your intended use, and the time of day you plan on being in the field, you should factor in how well the binoculars perform in low light. There are a few models that make this a priority.
Understanding The Binoculars Magnification and Stability
Here is a good video to give you a better understanding of how the magnification and stability of the binoculars work. These are two important factors and play a role in your bird watching adventures.
Back to Bird Watching
Thank you for checking out our review of the best binoculars for bird watching. We hope this has been helpful in guiding you to the perfect pair of binoculars to meet your personal needs.