There’s nothing better than a day of birding - It’s an easy way to feel close to nature and just get an opportunity to appreciate the world and creatures around you.
Sometimes it can be harder to see birds from far away with the naked eye. That's when using a good quality pair of birding binoculars will come into play.
There are a number of things to consider when you’re going bird watching. What kinds of birds are you looking for, how much you’ll need to walk and move around, and how powerful they are.
It can be daunting when you don’t know what you’re looking for in a pair of binoculars, but thankfully we’re here to help.
Read on to find out our picks of some of the top binoculars for birding and a buyer’s guide of the things you need to look out for.
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Top Reviews - Binoculars for Birding
If you want a versatile pair of binoculars that are powerful, the Nikon Prostaff 7S will not disappoint. Considering that Nikon also create fantastic cameras, this is a testament to their optical capabilities for binoculars too.
The Prostaff 7S is one of Nikon’s most successful lines of binoculars.
These binoculars are very compact, obviously depending on the size that you choose. If you wish to use them for birding, whether when you’re on the go or whether you’re just lounging in a deck chair in your backyard, they’ll do the trick.
They’re also useful for other activities such as sightseeing, or outdoor sports, or hiking. Furthermore they’re durable, so if you drop them they won't fall apart on impact with the floor. They’re made of a shock resistant rubber that can withstand most falls.
The binoculars provide a high quality visual prowess, with multi-layer Eco glass lens that provide a sharp and clear image with all the brightness of models that quadruple the price of the Nikon Prostaff 7S.
They work tremendously even in low light due to the reflective mirror coating the manufacturer has added to the glass.
The binoculars are easy to use, and are made of eco friendly materials. They’re effective in fog and warmer weather as the lenses are filled with fog resistant nitrogen.
The one pitfall of these binoculars is that they don’t work indoors, so they won’t work well for indoor stadiums.
Otherwise, they’re a decently priced pair of binoculars boasting a high quality optical design and are easy to carry for whatever use you choose.
Lightweight and durable, the Celestron 71400 binoculars are the ideal companion if you’re going for a walk to look for your favorite bird species.
The binoculars come with a carrying case, neck strap, harness strap, covers for the lenses, a rainguard, a lens cloth and an instruction manual in case you don’t know how to use them.
On the topic of harnesses and neck straps, even wearing the binoculars in this manner won’t put too much strain on your body to carry. The optics are also very impressive. With these binoculars, you get a good 8x magnification with a fantastic image resolution, providing a totally clear image that looks great and allows you to see quite some distance away.
The lenses are fully multi-coated so they transmit light well even for low light conditions. They come with an O-ring for waterproofing, and the chassis is filled with nitrogen making them completely fog proof.
If you’re from a rainy area or somewhere with a lot of heat, this is a good choice for you. If this isn’t enough, using the accompanying rain guard will benefit you.
The field of view is also good, allowing you to see 409 feet at 1,000 yards. If you wish to, you can even mount these binoculars onto a tripod as the binoculars come with a tripod mount. If you do struggle with keeping your hands steady this is especially useful.
These binoculars are also very durable so you don’t need to worry about them shattering if they hit the floor.
With a field of view of 409 feet at 1000 yards, the Vanguard Spirit XF provides an immersive experience to seek out the vibrant plumage of your favorite feathered friends. The binoculars have a great amount of focus too.
These binoculars do not have an overly bulky feel but they’re not the lightest of the bunch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re planning on remaining stationary for the majority of your time bird watching.
The outside is made of a textured rubber that resists shock upon impact with the floor, and it’s entirely waterproof and fogproof. If you wear glasses, these are also handy as you can adjust the focus ring and eye cups. They also have a 16mm eye relief.
The binoculars are also strong performers in twilight and the lower light conditions. The binoculars come with the ability to attach a tripod adapter to them too so you could mount them to a tripod in your yard if you like!
The image quality is admirable, with a lot of clarity in the view that doesn’t feel artificial.The image is bright and works well in the evening too.
The binoculars provide a high performance at a decent price, so they’re worth the expense for a pair of binoculars that will stand the test of time.
The Vortex Optics Viper HD Binoculars are a fabulous choice of mid-level binocular with a fantastic optical quality owing to the HD glass.
The binoculars come in a variety of different specifications, but for the sake of this review we’ll just focus on the 10x42.
The HD glass of the lenses provide the user with a sharp image, that has an increased light transmission for that much extra brightness. Their field of view is about average at about 347 feet at 1000 yards, and they have a good amount of focus.
They come with the ability to adjust the eyecups for performance and comfort purposes.
The binoculars come with a range of extra accessories such as a rain guard, a neck strap and a carrying case that’s padded for extra protection. It comes with a decent warranty too, giving you extra peace of mind.
Perhaps the cheapest pick on our list, the Sky Genius 10x50 Binoculars are definitely worth a try if you’re on a budget but don’t want to miss out on birdwatching. Despite this, they don’t feel cheap, and they even come with thumb indents to make them easier to hold.
The binoculars come with multi-coated optics, and they come in a good size that’s easy to handle despite the 10x magnification.
It even comes with some extra accessories like a handy carry case, strap, lens caps and a lens cleaning cloth, to name a few. It also comes with a warranty card.
It’s easy to use with a simple design aimed at those new to using binoculars. For this price point and if you’re still a beginner to bird watching or won’t be using them terribly often, these are worth a try.
Choose the Right Birding Binoculars
So what kind of binoculars are the best for bird watching? There’s a few things to consider.
Magnification and Lens
The purpose of a pair of binoculars is to be able to see things from far away, so of course you’ll need to get a pair with a good amount of magnification. Binoculars are measured on magnification and objective lens diameter, which is why you’ll see numbers such as 8x32 for example.
The first number shows the magnification capacity which is essentially how much you can see further than you would with the naked eye. In this instance, the number is 8x32, they magnify 8 times more than the naked eye.
The second number represents the lens diameter. A larger diameter means that more light is let in and so you’ll have a sharper image quality. So the 32 is the diameter of the lens.
A smaller lens will have a less clear image because they don’t let as much light in. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you should be avoiding binoculars with smaller lenses. Usually, binoculars with smaller lenses are smaller, so they’re more compact.
This is especially important for bird watching but also for other activities like hiking, hunting or spectator sports.
Field of View
The field of view influences how much you can see at once through your binoculars. Field of view usually goes up to a distance of 1000m, and the bigger the field of view the more you can see. Binoculars with a bigger field of view can be more expensive than those with a smaller field of view.
A wider field of view can be better for bird watching as it’s easier to watch fast moving birds, but it also allows you to see more birds from a distance.
Eye relief is how much distance there is between your eye and the eyepiece that you look into. It can be more difficult when you wear glasses as it can occasionally be harder to get a good focus when the glasses are in the way of you getting very close to the eyepiece.
This can be resolved by getting a pair of binoculars that come with adjustable eyecups.
If you’re playing good money for a pair of binoculars, you need something that will last. With that being said, it’s handy to check whether the product is durable and made of long lasting materials.
Products with an O-ring seal are the best for ensuring your binoculars are waterproof. O-ring seals help to keep beads of water from the lenses and stop the binoculars from flooding.
Certain models are even so strong that you can put them under a whole body of water and they’ll work without a hitch.
There’s no bigger hindrance than your binoculars getting all foggy when you’re going birding. It’s possible to get a pair of binoculars that are fog proof that will help you to see in foggier areas.
The way it works is the binoculars are filled with nitrogen in the chassis, and this prevents the binoculars from getting fogged up. The O Ring seal, as mentioned for waterproofing the binoculars, helps to tighten up the seal.
Bear in mind that not all binoculars are fog proof, and not all are waterproof. If waterproof and fog proof binoculars are important to you, look out for a pair of binoculars that hit both criteria.
When buying any product, it’s only natural that you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a pair of binoculars. The amount that you spend on your binoculars though very much depends on the things you’re buying.
Larger binoculars are often more expensive as they have a larger lens and so they usually have a bigger field of view. If this is important to you, then of course you’re likely to have to pay a little bit extra to get that feature.
The other thing you should consider is whether the product comes with a warranty. That extra level of protection gives you that piece of mind that you’re buying a good quality product and even if there are defaults the issue can be rectified.
Power and Portability
It’s easy with modern technology to find a good quality pair of binoculars that are both powerful and portable, but sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice one for the sake of the other. What you choose largely depends on the purpose of the binoculars. The most powerful binoculars tend to be much bigger because their lens and diameter is bigger.
For birding, more portable binoculars that you can move around a lot are quite beneficial. The other thing is location. You could go birding in so many places, from the coastline or a lake or even to a forest.
The binoculars you choose may not fit all types of location, so you’ll need to consider whether you want a good all around pair of binoculars or if you want a pair that fit a particular type of bird watching.
With that being said, what sizes do binoculars come in? Usually, you’ll get compact, full sized, monoculars and mid sized binoculars.
Here’s what you can expect from each of these options:
As the name suggests, these binoculars are usually smaller. This makes them a lot easier to carry around with you, and they usually have objective lenses of about 25mm to 28mm on average.
Compact binoculars are handy when you’re out and about - you can never predict when you’ll find a new bird when you’re out walking or hiking, so having binoculars with you can be super useful. Unlike larger binoculars, these don’t put a massive amount of strain on your neck if you carry them that way.
The only issue with compact lenses is that they don’t get as much light in as larger ones as the lenses are smaller. This can be a bit of an issue when you’re in darker light conditions.
If you want optimum power, more often than not you’ll find them in full sized binoculars. Usually full sized binoculars have objective lenses around 42mm. They’re harder to carry because they are bigger, but if the majority of your bird watching is done from somewhere that you’re idle like a back garden for example, you’re not going to notice as much.
For a lot of people having larger binoculars that have good power means more than having something easy to carry.
Often, full sized binoculars are brighter because they have wider columns and let more light into the eyes when the pupil dilates during the evening and night.
They tend to be a little easier for those with shakier hands to use as the exit pupil is bigger than your eye pupil, and so you can position the eyes directly into the light column.
You’ll tend to get more resolution with a bigger objective lens. Obviously how much you need will depend on you, but the more they magnify the more you’ll be able to see. A bigger objective lens will let more light in so if you’re into astronomy this would also benefit you.
Finally, bigger binoculars tend to be steadier to hold, especially if it’s winter and you’re wearing big gloves.
Mid sized binoculars are a middle ground between full size and compact binoculars. They tend to have an objective lens around 32mm.
Larger objective lenses in theory do give a brighter and higher resolution image, it’s getting more difficult as technology advances to tell the difference in this respect between full and mid sized binoculars.