Last Updated on August 17, 2020
Bird watching (or birding) requires top-notch binoculars for best results. There’s no other way to see birds at long distances or spot them in dense forest foliage. Given these disparate conditions, you need binoculars designed for the task. The ability to better identify different types of birds means that birding binoculars are highly recommended.
The best binoculars for birding offer optimal image clarity, field of view, close focus, and 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!
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.
|Best Overall||Carl Zeiss Victory||
|Vortex Viper HD||
|Best Value||Wingspan SkyView||
While the price tag may put the Carl Zeiss Victory HT beyond the reach of cost-conscious birders, those who are willing to pay more will be rewarded. Produced by one of the leading names in optic design, these binoculars feature high-transmission lenses that provide nice, bright images. Enhanced T-coatings eliminate glare and offer superior resolution. Offering up to 95% light transmission, these 8×42 birding binoculars provide a high-quality image. The fluoride lenses help to correct colors and improve overall sharpness so you can be sure that what you’re seeing is accurate.
The Victory HT has a striking appearance thanks to its compact, ergonomic design. The lens barrels offer excellent grip, which makes them easier to use. A double-link magnesium bridge ensures that this product is durable but also lightweight. Yet another plus is the 5-year no-fault policy and a lifetime limited warranty. The only real downside is the lofty price, but it’s Zeiss—you get what you pay for. If you can afford this product, they’re the best binoculars for birding on the market.
If you’ve been priced out of the Victory HT market, take a look at the Vortex Viper HD. Offering excellent overall quality, they’re available at a fraction of the price. The HD glass provides excellent resolution and color, and the body was designed to take a beating. Waterproof and fog proof, the O-ring effectively prevents moisture and general dust and debris from breaching the seal.
The Viper’s 10×42 field of view is ideal for birdwatching, and the purchase includes various accessories: rain guard, lens covers, neck strap, and padded carry case. The softshell case was a bit of a concern, but turned out to be a blessing while walking about in the field. Plus, you get peace of mind from the unconditional lifetime warranty. We think that this, along with their customer service, should erase any doubts you may have about this product.
The Wingspan Optics SkyView binoculars are proof that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a pair of birding binoculars. Despite the competitive price, this pair offers several high-quality features that make it the best binoculars for birding for the money. First of all, the ED glass offers an incredible spectrum of color with total clarity. We also like the durability of its waterproof and fog proof construction.
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 1.6 pounds, it is certainly lightweight and easy to carry around when hiking. At this price, there must be a disadvantage or two to consider, right?
Some consumers don’t like the bulky size (6″ x 5″ x 2″), while others would prefer not to buy a pair of birding binoculars that were manufactured in China. However, quality is not compromised, in our opinion. We think that this is a great value product when you consider the 8×42 magnification, plus the carrying case, lens covers, and microfiber cleaning cloth that are included.
The 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 color clarity. Thanks to multi-coated lenses with phase correction, you can better distinguish specific colors on birds, which leads to quicker and easier identification. They also offer an impressive range of up to 1,000 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 fog proof. What’s more, the weight of 1.5 pounds means that they’re easily transportable. While a lifetime warranty is offered with this product, it’s worth noting it only covers defects. But, if you’re looking for a respectable pair of binoculars without paying top dollar, this is the product for you.
On the downside, the optics are not as good as leading products on the market. However, this won’t matter much to casual bird watchers on a budget.
One 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. This particular pair of binoculars is 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. You’ll get a lens caps, carry pouch, strap, and cleaning cloth. The product is tripod-compatible (not included). We like that the SkyGenius 10×50 binoculars are a versatile option that can also be used for stargazing and sporting events. While fairly light at 1.55 pounds, they are on the bulky side with dimensions of 6.7″ x 2.4″ x 7.7″, so this may 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.
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.
We’ll start with the 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!
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 the 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.
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!
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 fog proof. 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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
Other types of binoculars we’ve reviewed:
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.
The Carl Zeiss Victory Bird-Watching Binoculars stand head and shoulders above the pack for premium quality, which is why they’re unquestionably worthy of our top overall pick. You’ll pay for the Zeiss name, but you’ll be rewarded with incredible views. The Vortex Viper HD Binoculars are exceptionally strong for the price. If we can’t afford the Zeiss, we’d choose the Viper HD, all day, everyday. Our top pick for the money, the Wingspan SkyView Binoculars have a few drawbacks, but excellent image resolution. And they’re cheap, too!
Hopefully, our reviews will 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 the best binoculars for your bird watching needs! Best of luck!
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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