Birdwatching is a fun and thrilling hobby the whole family can enjoy. A quality pair of binoculars will improve the whole experience. The right binos will make colors pop and allow you to view the finest feather details.
There are a ton of binoculars on the market. Some are better suited to birding than others.
How do you know which options work best for watching your fine feathered friends? Don’t worry. We’re here to help with our guide to the best birding binoculars on the market today.
If you don’t have time for the details, check out the list below for the best rated birding binoculars:
- Swarovski 8.5x42mm EL Binocular
- Leica Noctivid 8x42mm Binocular
- Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 8x42mm Binocular
- Maven B1 8x42mm ED Binoculars
- Vortex Razor HD 8x42mm Binoculars
- Steiner Peregrine 10x42mm Binoculars
- ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42mm Binoculars
- Nikon Monarch 5 8x42mm Binoculars
- Bushnell Prime 8x42mm Binoculars
- Tasco Essentials 8x42mm Binoculars
Table of Contents
- Things to Consider Before Buying Birding Binoculars
- Best Birding Binoculars on the Market Review
- 1 Swarovski 8.5x42mm EL Binocular
- 2 Leica Noctivid 8x42mm Binocular
- 3 Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 8x42mm Binocular
- 4 Maven B1 8x42mm ED Binoculars
- 5 Vortex Razor HD 8x42mm Binoculars
- 6 Steiner Peregrine 10x42mm Binoculars
- 7 ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42mm Binoculars
- 8 Nikon Monarch 5 8x42mm Binoculars
- 9 Bushnell Prime 8x42mm Binoculars
- 10 Tasco Essentials 8x42mm Binoculars
- Final Thoughts
Things to Consider Before Buying Birding Binoculars
The right set of binoculars can last for years. With the proper care, you could actually pass them down to the next generation of birders. High-quality birding binos are typically a long-term investment, so you want to choose carefully.
Here are some key features to consider when looking for bird-worthy binos.
What the Numbers Mean?
When considering a set of binoculars, you will see two numbers separated by an x. The first number indicates magnification. Magnification is how many times larger an object will appear when viewed through the binoculars than when observed with the naked eye.
The second number is the diameter of the objective lenses. The objective lenses are the lenses located at the fatter end of the tubes. Their job is to let in light so you can see a bright, vivid image.
How Much Magnification for Birding?
It can be tempting to buy binoculars with the largest possible magnification. However, in the world of birdwatching, bigger doesn’t always mean better.
As binos magnify images, they also magnify your body movements. The slightest shift of your arms can create a huge wobble in the image. If you’re looking through binos with powerful magnification, it can be practically impossible for your brain to focus on the shaky image.
Higher magnification also increases “heat shimmer,” which can be particularly problematic in hot weather or when viewing birds across an open field.
However, you want enough magnification to pick up fine details in plumage on distant birds.
How much magnification do you need for birding? The sweet spot is somewhere in the 8x range. Some birders prefer a little less magnification (like 6x), while others like to go a little higher (like 10x). If you decide you want more magnification, you may want to use a tripod to eliminate “shaking.”
Objective lenses gather light and focus it to create the image you see when you look through your binos. Generally speaking, the larger the objective lenses, the brighter the image will appear. However, binos with extra-large objective lenses are generally too heavy and bulky for birding. For best results, choose binoculars with objective lenses that measure 40 and 45 millimeters.
Field of View (FOV)
In order to track fast-moving birds, you’ll need binoculars with a wide field of view (FOV). Optics manufacturers describe FOV as the diameter of the image you can see at 1000 yards. The most effective birding binoculars will have an FOV of at least 341 feet.
Best Birding Binoculars on the Market Review
Here is a list of our top binocular picks for watching our fine feathered friends.
1 Swarovski 8.5x42mm EL Binocular
Swarovski Optiks is famous for designing and manufacturing top-of-the-line binoculars. The EL series is the company’s flagship binocular, and these are perfect for serious bird watching.
Featuring Swarovkski’s patented HD SWAROVISION optical system, the EL binocular delivers pristine clarity and brightness. The system includes special “Field Flattener” lenses that reduce image distortions. EL SWAROVISION optics also feature extra-low dispersion glass that contains fluoride to reduce light dispersion and eliminate color fringing. Finally, EL binos are fully coated with multiple layers of their patented Swarotop & Swarodur anti-reflection coatings. All three of these elements work together to deliver razor-sharp images that are brighter and clearer than anything you’ll ever see with the naked eye.
Aside from their unbelievable image quality, Swarovski’s EL binoculars are well-balanced, easy to use, and feature a robust construction that makes them perfect for use in the field. The only complaint we have is they aren’t tripod adaptable. However, they feel so natural in the hand, we’re willing to let this one detail slide.
2 Leica Noctivid 8x42mm Binocular
The Noctivid binocular is the flagship model of optics industry leader, Leica. Founded in 1869, Leica has been designing cameras, lenses, binoculars, rifle scopes, and microscopes for more than 150 years. When a company with this much experience claims, “These are the best binoculars we’ve ever made,” it’s time to stand up and take notice.
With an extra wide FOV, ultra low close focus, and some of the best image clarity money can buy, it’s easy to believe Leica’s claim. The Leica Noctivid binos are definitely some of the most impressive birding binoculars we’ve ever laid hands on.
These high end binos feature Schott HT (high transmission) glass that delivers strikingly natural colors and mind-blowing light transmission. Leica has also re-engineered their optical system to increase image sharpness at the outermost edges of the FOV. This one new design feature delivers better edge-to-edge clarity than you’ll find in any other optic, regardless of the price point.
These lightweight binos are perfectly balanced, have a generous eye relief that glasses wearers will love, and look totally elegant. These are truly the Mercedes-Benz of the birding binoculars world.
3 Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD 8x42mm Binocular
These American-made binos from industry leader Leupold feature some incredible first-rate optics. They also have an extremely smooth focusing system for fine detail adjustments, and a built-in 1/4-20 tripod adapter port.
These lightweight binos are completely fogproof and waterproof. They also feature an ergonomic open-bridge, dual-hinge design that makes them extra easy to hold onto.
Where Leupold’s BX-5 Santiam binoculars really shine is their image quality. The premium HD glass provides remarkable resolution, depth, color fidelity, and clarity. But it is really Leupold’s Twilight Max HD Light Management System that takes the image quality to the next level. This system of advanced prisms and lens coatings enhances brightness even in low light, adding up to an extra half hour of glassing light at dawn and dusk.
4 Maven B1 8x42mm ED Binoculars
Maven is an American optics company based in Wyoming. While they may not have the same name recognition as some of the heavy hitters in the optics industry, Maven produces high end products that are more than capable of giving big European brands a run for the money. (In fact, we believe these are the best quality binoculars you’ll find for under $1000.)
The Maven B1 binos feature ED (extra-low dispersion) glass to reduce color fringing, and Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms with dielectric coatings that increase brightness and improve image clarity.
These birding binos are about as durable as they come. The chassis is constructed from a tough magnesium alloy, and they are o-ring sealed and nitrogen filled to prevent fogging. Maven B1 binoculars are also completely waterproof and pressure tested to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes (IPX7 standard).
Still not convinced? Don’t take our word for it. These binoculars won the National Geographic Adventure Gear of the Year award (2014), Outdoor Life’s “Best Buy” award (2016), and Gray’s Best award from Gray’s Journal (2017).
5 Vortex Razor HD 8x42mm Binoculars
The Vortex Razor combines hand-selected prisms and premium high-density glass to deliver stunningly crisp, clear, high-resolution images. The optics on these field glasses are made with cutting-edge anti-reflective coatings applied with innovative plasma technology. The coatings help maintain the highest possible brightness levels, even during critical low light periods.
These binos are o-ring sealed and argon purged for true fogproof performance. And with ultra-hard, scratch-resistant Armortek protection on all exterior lenses, you’re guaranteed to enjoy crystal clear viewing for the life of the optic.
Beyond the impressive image quality, birders will appreciate the strong, lightweight, well-balanced design. With strategically placed ergonomic indentations in the non-slip rubber armor, users can enjoy a comfortable grip, even in adverse weather conditions.
6 Steiner Peregrine 10x42mm Binoculars
With a name like Peregrine, you know these Steiner binoculars are perfect for birding. The wide FOV and high image stability make spotting and following fast-moving fowl easier than ever, even in low light viewing conditions.
With powerful 10x magnification, birders can enjoy longer distance viewing with greater detail than with any other binos on our list. This makes Steiner Peregrine binoculars ideal for viewing raptors and waterfowl over open terrain.
In addition to stunning image quality (thanks to phase coated high-contrast optics), the Peregrine offers a unique Distance Control System that allows you to pre-set focus at a known distance. This allows you to spot birds with a fast, clear view. Once spotted, you can fine-tune the focus with a quick and easy turn of the wheel.
Built with a durable Makrolon housing and a lightweight yet rugged polycarbonate chassis, these binos are virtually indestructible. They also offer waterproof, fog-resistant performance and a comfortable non-slip grip that makes them ready to take on whatever Mother Nature decides to throw your way.
7 ZEISS TERRA ED 8x42mm Binoculars
Zeiss optics, particularly their binoculars, are well-known for their high-quality lenses. Zeiss’s mid range Terra binos are made with ED (extra-low dispersion) glass from the famous Schott Glass Manufacturers. This is some of the highest-quality glass on the planet. Zeiss also utilizes a special hydrophobic multi coating to produce brilliant, highly-detailed images.
These rough and ready binos are waterproof and nitrogen-filled. They also have a sleek, compact design that makes them perfect for slipping in your pocket. With a large lens diameter and a large FOV, Zeiss Terra binoculars are great for birding and hunting.
Packed with plenty of features and delivering premium performance in a compact package, it’s hard for us to believe these binos are priced under $500.
8 Nikon Monarch 5 8x42mm Binoculars
Nikon is best known for its high-performance camera equipment. However, their outdoor optics are superb and definitely deserve some extra attention.
Some of the best mid range birding binoculars on the market, the Nikon Monarch 5 binos feature dielectric ED (extra-low dispersion) glass, mirror-coated and phase-corrected prisms, and fully multi-coated lenses. The result is sharp, clear images with superb brightness, contrast, and color fidelity.
Monarch 5 binos are 100 percent, fogproof, waterproof, and shockproof. They are also built with a rubber-armored, roof-prism design that is perfectly capable of standing up to rough outdoor use and abuse.
Surprisingly lightweight and portable, these birding binos have a sleek, easy-to-grip body design that is both visually appealing and comfortable to use. However, one of the most notable features is the simple, intuitive central focus knob that lets you bring distant birds easily into focus for the best observation of feather detail.
9 Bushnell Prime 8x42mm Binoculars
With a near perfect balance of glass quality, high-tech coatings, and durable construction, the Bushnell Prime binoculars are a great option for beginners. Plus, they have a very reasonable price tag that comes in well under $200.
Bushnell Prime binos feature 8x magnification and a wide FOV that makes spotting wary wildlife a walk in the park. With quality glass and fully multi-coated lenses, birders will appreciate the sharp contrast, rich detail, and vivid colors these binos provide. These lenses also feature a special EXO Barrier coating that repels water, so you can enjoy crystal clear viewing, even in the pouring rain.
10 Tasco Essentials 8x42mm Binoculars
If you’re looking for some entry level binos for basic backyard bird watching, these economy binos from Tasco Essentials are perfect for the job. Priced well under $100, these lightweight, mini binoculars are so slight, it’s easy to forget you’ve got them in your hands.
Tasco Essentials feature multi-coated glass, 8x magnification, and a rugged weather-resistant design. They also offer surprising brightness and color fidelity for an optic in this price range. The size, durability, and price tag make them fantastic first-time field glasses for young birders.
There is nothing more frustrating than missing subtle field marks or color differences due to subpar binoculars. When it comes to binos, you really do get what you pay for. Premium optics come with a premium price tag.
If you want the best birding binoculars, be prepared to make an investment. Most serious birders will advise you to get the best pair your budget will allow. It will save you a ton of disappointment in the field, and make your birding experiences much more enjoyable.