Best Binoculars for Birding in 2017 – Top Picks & Reviews

Birdwatching with a pair of binocularsAn increasingly popular hobby, bird watching (or birding) requires some equipment for best results. One of the most important things to consider when going birding is your binoculars. With this highly useful tool, you can better see birds at long distances such as across a lake as well as those that are harder to spot due to dense foliage such as in a forest. The ability to better identify different types of birds means that birding binoculars are highly recommended.

As we’ve just mentioned, the ability to better see and identify different types of birds is one clear advantage of having a good pair of binoculars. The best binoculars for birding offer optimal image clarity, field of view, close focus and are of solid build quality without being too heavy. Other advantages of using binoculars when birding include ease of use and their overall portability. With so many reasons to buy binoculars for birding, perhaps it’s now time to take a look at our top 5 picks!

Our Top 5 Picks

MODELPRODUCT DIMENSIONS
ITEM WEIGHT
USER RATINGPRICE
Carl Zeiss Optical 8×42 Victory HT
Carl Zeiss Optical 8×42 Victory HT
6.5 x 10.0 x 7.5 inches
3.7 pounds
4.7/5
$$$$$
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Wingspan Optics SkyView
Wingspan Optics SkyView
2.0 x 5.0 x 6.0 inches
1.6 pounds
4.4/5
$$$
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Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 Binoculars
Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 Binoculars
7.0 x 9.0 x 4.0 inches
1.5 pounds
4.4/5
$$$$
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Polaris Optics NaturePro HD 8×42
Polaris Optics NaturePro HD 8x42-small
3.3 x 6.5 x 7.5 inches1.5 pounds4.5/5$$
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SkyGenius 10×50 Binoculars
SkyGenius 10×50 Binoculars
7.7 x 2.4 x 6.7 inches
1.6 pounds
4.6/5
$
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Choosing a pair of binoculars for birding isn’t easy because there are so many different types available. For this reason, we’ve created a list of in-depth reviews of binoculars for birding, covering the very best on the market. Underneath each review, you’ll find a handy list of pros and cons. Be sure to read beyond the reviews where you’ll find our buying guide, complete with all of the tips that you need to know.

1. Carl Zeiss Optical 8×42 Victory HT – Our Top Pick

Carl Zeiss Optical 8x42 Victory HTWhile the price tag puts the Carl Zeiss Victory HT beyond the reach of anybody on a budget, those who are willing to pay more are going to be very happy customers indeed. German made, they have an excellent design with High-Transmission glass which provides nice, bright images. Enhanced T-coatings eliminate glare and offer superior resolution. Offering up to 95% light transmission, these birding binoculars provide a very high-quality image before your very eyes. The fluoride lenses help to correct colors and improve overall sharpness so you can be sure that what you’re seeing is as accurate as can be.

While image quality is of vital importance, so too can be the comfort a pair of birding binoculars provides. The Victory HT has a striking appearance thanks to its ergonomic design. The lens barrels offer excellent grip which makes them easier to use as does their rather short dimensions. A double-link bridge made of magnesium materials ensures that this product is not only durable but also lightweight. The fact that this product also comes with a 5-year no-fault policy and a lifetime limited warranty is yet another plus. The only real downside is the lofty price but you get what you pay for. If you can afford this product, we highly recommend it since they’re the best binoculars for birding on the market.

Pros

  • HT glass and enhanced T-coatings allow for optimal sharpness and brightness
  • Comfortable to hold thanks to ergonomic design and excellent grip
  • Strikes a nice balance between being lightweight and durable
  • Comes with a 5-year no-fault policy and lifetime limited warranty

Cons

  • The price tag puts this high-quality product beyond the reach of many consumers

2. Vortex Optics Viper HD 10×42 Binoculars – The Runner-up

Vortex Optics Viper HD 10x42 BinocularsIf the Victory HT is beyond what you want to spend for your birding binoculars then take a look at the Vortex Viper HD. Offering excellent overall quality, they’re available at just a sliver of the price. One of the most obvious features to mention is the HD glass which we find provides excellent resolution and color. As such, the images before you are truly HD which can certainly be useful when birding. These birding binoculars are designed for being out and about since they have an O-ring which effectively prevents moisture and general dust and debris from entering. This means that the Vortex Optics Viper HD should prove to be long-lasting. They can also be used in various weather conditions since they’re waterproof and fogproof!

Not only does this product come with a number of features, it also includes various accessories. A rain guard, lens covers, neck strap and padded carry case are all included so you’ll have everything you need to get started! The only thing we could wish for is for the carry case to be hard rather than soft. But one of the best things about the Vortex Optics Viper HD binoculars is the peace of mind provided by the unconditional lifetime warranty. We think that this, along with their customer service, is excellent and should erase any doubts you may have about this product.

Pros

  • HD glass provides excellent resolution
  • Both waterproof and fogproof for all weather conditions
  • Come with a range of accessories
  • Fantastic unconditional lifetime warranty and customer support

Cons

  • Included carry case isn’t hard so offers less protection

3. Wingspan Optics SkyView – Best for the Money

Wingspan Optics SkyViewYou don’t need to spend a fortune in order to find a good pair of birding binoculars. The Wingspan Optics SkyView is evidence of this and are the best binoculars for birding for the money. Despite the competitive price, this product offers a number of impressive features that make it a high quality product. First of all, the ED glass offers an incredible spectrum of color with total clarity. This will certainly come in handy when taking a close look at feathers and trying to identify certain bird species. We also like the durability that this product offers for the price since it’s waterproof and fogproof. As such, you’re not limited to what the weather is doing!

Advertised as being as light as a feather and durable as a tank, the Wingspan Optics SkyView aims to please all. With the product weighing in at 1.6lbs, it is certainly lightweight and easy to carry around when hiking. At such a competitive price, there must be a disadvantage or two to consider! In reality, this product comes with no major problems. One thing some consumers don’t like is that they’re quite bulky in size (6 x 5 x 2 inches). Also, some people might not like that these birding binoculars are manufactured in China. However, quality is not compromised, in our opinion. We think that this is a great value product and this is even more so when you consider the carrying case, lens covers and microfiber cleaning cloth that is included.

Pros

  • Vivid colors thanks to the ED glass
  • Durable since it’s waterproof and fogproof
  • At 1.6lbs, they’re fairly lightweight binoculars

Cons

  • Manufactured in China though quality is not compromised
  • Although lightweight, these binoculars are quite bulky

4. Polaris Optics NaturePro HD 8×42

Polaris Optics NaturePro HD 8x42The Polaris Optics NaturePro HD 8×42 aims to offer high quality viewing without the hefty price tag. One of the main selling points of these binoculars for birding is the color clarity offered. Thanks to them being fully multi-coated with phase correction, you can better distinguish specific colors on birds which leads to quicker and easier identification. They also offer impressive range of up to 1000 yards which should be more than enough for most bird spotters! Combine this with the 430-feet field of view and you’ve got an impressive product for the money.

One source of comfort when buying a pair of binoculars for birding is durability. Thankfully the Polaris Optics NaturePro HD is waterproof and fogproof which means that you can continue to use them even when the weather takes a turn. What’s more, the weight of 1.5 lbs means that they’re easily transportable when out on long hikes and the like. While a lifetime warranty is offered with this product, it’s worth checking that it covers more than just defects. If you’re looking for a respectable pair of binoculars without paying top dollar, this is the product for you. It’s worth noting that the optics are not as good as leading products on the market but if you’re just a casual bird watcher then this probably won’t matter.

Pros

  • For the price, they offer excellent color clarity
  • Impressive range and field of view
  • Durable since they’re waterproof and fogproof

Cons

  • The lifetime warranty is said to be fairly limited
  • Optics cannot be compared to more expensive, high-end products

5. SkyGenius 10×50 Binoculars

SkyGenius 10x50 BinocularsOne of the best budget options on the market, SkyGenius 10×50 Binoculars is a great all-around product for casual bird watching and the like. The full 10x magnification and 50mm lens provides clear viewing even in low light conditions. One of the best things about this particular pair of binoculars is that they’re easy to use with adjustable eyecups and a matte finish that helps to provide a good, comfortable grip. In fact, the rubber exterior provides some shock-resistance in the event of it being dropped.

Included accessories make this product even better value. With it, you can expect lens caps, a carry pouch, strap and cleaning cloth. The product is tripod compatible but does not come with this accessory.We like that the SkyGenius 10×50 binoculars are a simple option which can be easily used not only for birding but also for stargazing and for watching sports events. While fairly light at 1.55 lbs, they are on the bulky side with dimensions of 6.7 x 2.4 x 7.7 inches) so this may prove to be off-putting for those who are seeking more compact binoculars for hiking. Overall, we recommend the SkyGenius 10×50 for anybody who is seeking budget binoculars that offer respectable quality for a great low price.

Pros

  • Comes with various accessories including lens caps and strap
  • Fairly portable thanks to the light weight of 1.55 lbs
  • Very good build for the price with comfortable grip

Cons

  • No tripod included though this cannot be expected for the price
  • Quite a bulky product which may prove inhibitive for hikers

Buying the Best Birding Binoculars for Your Needs

While it’s very useful to know which are the best binoculars for birding, it’s just as helpful to find out about the various factors to consider. For example, the price range, magnification and eye relief are all things to think about when buying a pair of birding binoculars.

Price Range

We’ll start off with price range because this is one of the biggest factors. After all, your budget dictates the quality of binoculars you can buy. If your binocular budget has no limit then we recommend that you look at the high-end products. These can cost hundreds of dollars and some even reach four figures in price. Such birding binoculars last a long time and often come with excellent warranties, such is the confidence the manufacturer has in their product. On the other hand, don’t feel that you cannot get a good pair of binoculars just because you have a low budget. There are plenty of great value options out there. In fact, there are some very popular pairs of birding binoculars for less than $100!

Magnification

Choosing binoculars with sufficient magnification is very important when it comes to bird watching. After all, you want to be able to clearly see the small signs that help identify a particular bird. At a minimum, an 8x magnification is typically recommended. This means that objects you see through the binocular are 8 times larger than with the naked eye. However, an 8x magnification may not be enough, particularly if you’re trying to spot birds at great distances. If this is likely to be the case, opt for birding binoculars with a 10x magnification to be on the safe side. But keep in mind that the greater the magnification, the narrower the field of view and the greater the shakiness experienced.

Eye Relief

If you’re a wearer of prescription glasses or even sunglasses, eye relief can be particularly important when it comes to using binoculars. Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece of the binocular. Glasses can prohibit you from seeing the whole image (specifically the outer edge of the picture) if the distance is too great between your eye and the eyepiece. What you want are birding binoculars that offer long eye relief. In such cases, look for binoculars that have retractable/adjustable eyecups. By adjusting these to the minimum position, you’ll be able to use your glasses or sunglasses without compromising on the image. Thankfully most binoculars now try to accommodate glasses wearers but it’s worth checking to avoid disappointment!

Waterproof and Fogproof

When the weather takes a turn for the worse, it’s nice knowing that your birding binoculars can handle it. While even those that are not fully waterproof should be okay in light rain and humidity, it’s best to go for a pair of binocular that covers all possible eventualities! So what should you be looking for? Well, the best binoculars are typically O-ring sealed. This will prevent any moisture, dust or debris from getting inside them. This is great to have because it means that your view can stay clean and clear. Aside from being waterproof, it’s also useful for birding binoculars to be fogproof. In such cases, the binoculars will have been nitrogen or argon purged. This means that they contain gas rather than internal air which prevents fogging.

Size and Weight

Whether the size and weight of binoculars for birding are important really depends on the person. At the end of the day, it’s really down to when and where you do your bird watching. If you’re planning on a long hike and a full day of birding, maybe you’d prefer something a little more compact and lighter in weight. The biggest influence on the size and weight is the objective lens which could be around 42mm with full-size binoculars or 32mm with mid-sized binoculars, in comparison to anywhere between 25mm and 28mm with compact binoculars. Should you be likely to carry your birding binoculars around all day then we’d recommend compact binoculars. That way, you have the option of tucking them in a pocket or bag compartment rather than having them dangling around your neck. Feel free to check our top 5 compact binoculars right here for more inspiration.

Focus

The speed at which you can focus can prove to be vital in bird watching. After all, birds are often moving around so if you can’t focus your view quickly, you may miss it altogether! The focusing wheel on your binoculars should be intuitive and simple to use. It should be a single knob located between the two barrels that you can easily reach. Better still is if the focus knob has a non-slip surface (perhaps a rubberized texture, for example) and is perhaps lined with some sort of pattern or ridges. This makes it much easier to turn and therefore quicker. Another option to consider is fixed focus binoculars which stay in focus at a particular distance without the need for regular adjustments. In summary, quick and easy viewing can make all the difference when birding!

Anything else?

All of the above are the most important features to consider. But there are a couple of other things that can turn a good purchase into a great one!

Warranty

Generally speaking, the better a pair of binoculars, the better the warranty. We recommend that you pick up a pair of birding binoculars with at least 2-3 years warranty. This should provide enough peace of mind as you get used to your new binoculars. However, there are some products with unconditional lifetime warranties. If you’re able to get one of these then we say go for it! Be sure to check that the customer support is good and that the company in question holds up its end of the bargain when issues arise.

Accessories

When it comes to more budget binoculars for birding, accessories tend to be fairly cheap. But that doesn’t mean they can’t come in handy. Accessories often included with binoculars are straps, lens covers, carry cases and cleaning cloths. If you’re springing for a more high-end product, you can naturally expect the included accessories to be of a better standard. You always have the option of buying any necessary accessories separately, particularly if you’re planning on using your binoculars for a long time to come.


Conclusion

As you can see, there are several things to consider when buying a pair of binoculars for birding. We highly recommend that you keep these in mind and match them up with the products that we’ve reviewed. In our opinion, this will more likely result in the purchase of a great product that you can use for years to come.

Our reviews of binoculars for birding will hopefully make your decision that little bit easier. Be sure to check that the product you’re interested in has all of the relevant features. Remember not to feel constricted by budget. Thanks to advances in technology, there are now some great value birding binoculars on the market. Now it’s up to you to find which ones best fit your bird watching needs! Best of luck!

Note: we also have a binoculars buying guide specifically made for birding. Find it here.