Best Birding Binoculars

Birding Binoculars Reviews

The equipment needed for bird watching is very simple: a notebook for writing down sightings and locations, a book of bird species, and a good pair of binoculars. This last piece of bird watching equipment is what this guide is dedicated to.

Below are ten excellent, top-rated birding binoculars that are popular for their different strengths such as compact size, budget, and even which ones are best suited for kids. The reviews and buying guide will help you choose the best birding binoculars for your needs.

Best Overall Binoculars for Birding

Nikon

5/5 Product Rating
Nikon is an iconic name in the photography world and they have made a name for themselves in the binocular industry as well.
The Monarch 5 10×42 binoculars are considered the best of the best and win out in the best overall category. On top of being an ounce lighter than the previous model, there are many great features that these binoculars have that put it above the rest. Some of these great features include fully multicoated eco glass lenses that provide plenty of high light transmission, turn and slide eyecups made of rubber, flip down lens cap, sharper, more brilliant field of view, and much more.

The premium Nikon ED glass is high quality and gives you the best view you can have. The compact design makes it easy to take these binoculars with you wherever you go so you don’t miss anything even when you are away from home. The central focus know is smooth and easy to find and use, making this a great pair of binoculars for those just getting started with bird watching. The reflective prism coatings are multilayered, allowing the binoculars to display a very natural, clear image with accurate colors for true to life viewing that will make bird watching even more enjoyable.

Best Compact Binoculars for Birding

Hawke

4.8/5 Product Rating
If you are just getting started with bird watching or you have been doing it for a while, you will enjoy the Hawke Endurance compact binoculars. Features of these 10×42 binoculars include fully multi-coated optics that provide crystal clear, natural images from long distances as well as being fog and water resistant. The 10x magnification allows you to see images from far away that will look 10x closer than they actually are. No more trying to sneak up on your subjects due to low magnification.

The 42mm aperture allows a lot of light into the inner workings of the binoculars so you have great visibility and field of view. One of the things people love about Hawke Endurance binoculars is the great eye relief it offers which make them great for eyeglass wearers as well. These endurance binoculars come with a hard case and neck strap for easy carrying.

Best Budget Compact Binoculars for Birding

SGODDE

4.6/5 Product Rating
These high-powered binoculars have a powerful 10x magnification that provides excellent viewing from as far as 1000 yards away. The 25mm aperture allows light in making them useful in low light conditions but they will not be good for night viewing. All of the lenses in these binoculars are BAK-4 prisms that have multilayer green film. These fully coated optics increase the light transmission by as much as 99% so your images are brighter and the contrast greater. This means excellent, crystal clear images you will truly enjoy.

One of the best features of the SGODDE waterproof binoculars is the adjustable eye widths so they can be used easily by kids and adults. The anti-slip, rubber is textured so you reduce the chances of the binoculars slipping out of your hands while you are out in the field. The lightweight design of the SGODDE binoculars makes it easy to take with you on outdoor excursions and hiking trips. They are great for backyard bird watching as well and can be folded up and put in your pocket.

Best Wide View Bird Watching Binoculars

Wingspan

4.7/5 Product Rating
Wingspan binoculars are the perfect pair of binoculars for bird watching because they have been specifically designed for this activity. The High definition instrument offers an extra wide field of view, phase coated optics, and close focus so you can catch all the exciting bird species you want. Detail is exceptional with these binoculars that have a wide enough field of view to catch a flock of birds and still allow you to zero in on one specific bird from as far as 1000 yards away.

The high-quality optics includes phase correction prisms that are coated and will provide clear, sharp images. The 42mm multi-coated lenses bring in tons of light that will help you see your subjects even more clearly. You can use these binoculars by Wingspan in all kinds of weather thanks to the fog proof and waterproof capabilities. The body is nitrogen filled and securely sealed so water does not get inside and fog your lenses. Consumers that purchase Wingspan Optics 8×42 professional binoculars can be assured they have a great product with the 30-day money back guarantee and lifetime warranty.

Best 10×50 Bird Watching Binoculars

Nikon

4.7/5 Product Rating
Nikon does it again with the 10×50 Extreme Binoculars that are perfect for all kinds of bird watching on a variety of situations. These rugged binoculars are waterproof, fog proof and are made with high quality, bright, multi-coated optics that provide you with crystal clear, bright images from as far away as 1000 yards. The long eye relief makes these binoculars comfortable and enjoyable for eyeglass wearers. The 5mm exit pupil mimics the natural widening of the human eye’s pupil to allow in plenty of light for lower lit situations.

The central focus knob and fast range of focus allow for quick viewing so you don’t miss anything. You won’t have to worry about these binoculars being flimsy; the rubber-armored coating gives users a sturdy, anti-slip grip to hold onto no matter what the weather conditions are. This durable coating will protect your binoculars as well. These All-Terrain binoculars from Nikon come with their limited lifetime warranty that protects against any defects

Best Budget Bird Watching Binoculars

Wingspan

4.6/5 Product Rating
Enjoy HD color fidelity and sharpness with the NaturePro Professional bird watching binoculars from Wingspan Optics. Your images with be bright, ultra sharp and true to color whether you are far away or close up. The ergonomic design and easy-to-turn focus wheel allow users to enjoy their bird watching activities for hours. The extra wide field of view and close focus features allow you to get up close and personal to capture all the detail and color of a small hummingbird or capture a bird in flight in seconds. You won’t have to worry about your binoculars in extreme weather; they are drop proof, fog proof and waterproof and have a secure, anti-slip grip for even more protection. The exit pupil is 5 ¼ mm that mimics the natural opening of the human pupil so you can see clearly even in low light conditions.

The NaturePro Professional binoculars come with a carrying case made from nylon mesh to keep your binoculars safe and handy wherever you go, a neck strap that allows users easy and fast access when on the go, protective covers for the lenses and eyepieces and a non-abrasive lens cleaning cloth made of microfiber to keep your lenses clean and clear without worry of scratching. These high-quality binoculars come with a 30-day money back guarantee and lifetime limited warranty.

Best Birdwatching Binoculars for Kids

Bespin

4/5 Product Rating
Bird watching is an excellent activity for kids of all ages and a great way to teach them about nature and birds in general. These BESPIN binoculars for kids are the perfect choice for a kid that wants to learn about this fascinating hobby. One of the most popular features of these hearty binoculars is that they are designed to handle being dropped without getting damaged due to the shockproof armor made of rubber that they are encased with. The eyepieces have rubber as well so there is no injury to their eyes or area around the eyes. The ergonomic design was created with kids in mind and fit their smaller hands perfectly. The body of the binoculars is made from durable aluminum, giving it a sleek look that kids love.

The black and sky blue are kid friendly and work equally well for boys and girls. Your images will be clear and crisp thanks to the BAK-4 prism with fully-coated optics that provide the best images you can get. The 7.2” viewing angle allows kids to see the whole visual field so they can easily capture the objects they want to look at. Kids will love the bird map they receive with their purchase that features 583 different kinds of North American birds. The map is colorful and two-sided and makes the bird watching experience even more fun for them.

Best Budget Bird Watching Binoculars with ED Glass

Wingspan

4.7/5 Product Rating
If you love bird watching or want to start this amazing, fun hobby you want to find a great pair of binoculars that won’t break the bank. That’s where these Wingspan Optics SkyView Ultra binoculars can be a great find. These have been designed with bird watching enthusiasts in mind and include features like a super wide field of view, ED glass, Phase correction coated prism and close focus. The ED glass used in the creation of these binoculars help you see images in a sharper and clearer way that takes bird watching to a whole new level. This special glass reduces chromatic aberration that can cause color fringing. The stronger the control is over any aberrations the brighter the images will appear.

These lightweight binoculars are durable and long lasting and also resist the elements by being fog proof and waterproof. This means you can use them in rugged environments and tough weather without worry that they will become damaged. The compact size of these binoculars makes them easy to take with you wherever you go so you don’t miss any opportunities to see birds in places other than your backyard. Skyview Ultra binoculars come with a lifetime warranty that ensures your binoculars will be repaired for the life of the product.

Best Compact Birding Binoculars under $100

Wingspan

4.5/5 Product Rating
Looking for a great pair of binoculars that cost under $100? Check out this Spectator 8×32 compact binoculars from Wingspan Optics. These are the perfect size for on the go bird watching no matter where you are. You’ll be able to see the entire field of action with the wide field of view these binoculars offer as well as zero in on your chosen subject to see all their details even from as far as 1000 yards away.
These are reported to be the best high powered, small and compact binoculars you can get on the market currently.

The 8×32 magnification allows you to see your subjects in clear and bright images that make you feel like you’re right next to them. Don’t worry about dropping your binoculars with the handy, anti-slip grip and enjoy trying them out with no risk thanks to the 30-day money back guarantee and lifetime warranty. People who buy these binoculars say these are the last pair they have had to buy. Try them out and see why they are so popular and take your bird watching to new levels.

Best Bird Watching Binoculars under $50

BFull

4.4/5 Product Rating
If you want to enjoy bird watching on a great level but you’re limited on funds, take a look at these great binoculars from BFull that are less than $50! Not only can you use these great, compact 12×50 binoculars for bird watching you can use them for watching concerts, sporting events, or just having a great time checking out nature from a distance. The wide field of view and easy to use focus knob makes BFull binoculars a great gift for adults and children alike.

They are waterproof and user-friendly so focusing in on your target is easy no matter where you are. The grip area makes them easy to hold so you don’t drop them while you are viewing. The detailed images you will see with these 12×50 binoculars will make images look like they are 12 times closer and the 50mm object lens allows in plenty of clarity even in low light conditions. The multilayer coated lenses allow brighter, clearer images with the right amount of contrast. The rugged exterior will keep it from getting damaged outdoors. All this for under $50!

Birding Binoculars Buying Guide

 

Bird watching is a very popular hobby in North America. In fact, it is frequently listed as being the fastest growing hobby. The statistics vary but it is estimated that 50 to 75 million people in the US alone enjoy bird watching!
With all of this interest in this amazing hobby, it is important to get the right equipment. The most important piece of equipment you will purchase is a pair of binoculars that are designed for bird watching.
Not all binoculars are created equal, so it is important to understand the features that make a pair better for birding than another pair might be. Below we have gone over many of the specs that you need to look for when you are researching different binoculars and deciding which ones are the best for your needs.

If you want to take a trip through space without ever having to leave Earth, you can view the night sky with a pair of binoculars right from your deck on a dark, clear night. While other binoculars may be able to do the job, you will get the most out of this experience by using astronomy binoculars that are specially designed for this purpose.

Magnification

Magnification is a very important feature for bird watching. You want to get the birds you are looking at as close as possible without having to physically move toward them which could scare them away. The zoom or magnification is the first place to look when choosing a pair of binoculars for birding.

Even though the objective is to get as much detail on your subjects as possible, bigger is not always better when it comes to magnification.  There are some drawbacks to choosing high powered binoculars.

These can include having a narrower FOV, or field of view, images that are not as bright, and less depth of focus.  It can also be hard to get a shake free image without using a tripod because in high powered binoculars even the slightest movement can be magnified.

The most popular magnification for bird watching will be the 8x magnification. There are several reasons for this:

  • Better stability for images – Because of the increased sensitivity that higher powered binoculars can have, people find that they see more detail holding an 8x rather than a 10x.

 

  • Wide FOV (field of view) – If you see a bird up in the sky or in a tree and you raise your binoculars quickly to catch it, having a wide field of view increases your likelihood of catching it right away rather than having to search around for it. Small birds tend to be fast movers and they don’t like to stay put so a wider field of view will help you catch these sometimes elusive little flyers.

 

  • More Eyeglasses friendly – If you wear glasses and try to look through binoculars, you will find that your eyes are set farther away from the eyepieces which can negatively affect your image quality. The distance that your eyes can be back from the eyepiece and still see the entire image is called eye relief. You will find a large selection of binoculars at the 8x magnification that are very eyeglass friendly.

Field of View

The FOV or field of view is the width of the image that is viewable when you are looking through your binoculars.  Choosing binoculars with a wide field of view is important for bird watching and a feature that experienced bird watchers will search for when choosing binoculars.  The reason for this is because it makes finding fast moving, small birds much quicker and easier and also makes it easier to follow them while they are moving or as they are hopping around above you. In addition, you get a “bigger, immersive experience which is very enjoyable when it comes to bird watching.

Sometimes, binoculars that have a wide field of view can have less pinpoint detail that is found with the higher magnifications.  A field of view that is too wide will cause distortion at the edge of your images.  The better quality your binoculars are the less likely this is to happen.

Speed/Ease of Focus

Whenever you are viewing subjects that move around quickly you want to find a pair of binoculars that will focus quickly and easily.  This feature is just as important as the field of view. A good field of view does no good if the focus is slow and you miss everything.

The focus wheel needs to be located in an easy to reach spot and be intuitive and simple to turn as possible. This is especially true when kids are the bird watchers.  The focus knob should turn smoothly throughout the whole range of motion.

It should also have a non-slip surface of some kind such as patterned rubber or ridges that work well for preventing your fingers from slipping or from you pressing down too hard to get traction and overcorrecting. The focus wheel should be large as well which makes it easier to maneuver.

These features are especially important when using gloves during viewing or during cold weather when your hands may not have much feeling in the cold. Look for a pair of binoculars that have a medium gear ratio which takes about 1 ½-2 turns of the focus wheel to go from one level of focus all the way to the opposite end of the spectrum.

You can also consider fixed focus binoculars which are not the same thing as autofocus binoculars. These have a large depth of view and once they have been adjusted to your specific eyesight preference will permanently be in from a specific distance on.  Some people like this because they don’t have to worry about focus ever again after the initial setting. The downside of this feature is that images may not always be as sharp as they would be if you were manually adjusting the focus.

Weight and Size

How much your binoculars weigh and their size are two features that are important depending on how, where, and when you will be bird watching.  It is the objective lens size that determines the size of your binoculars and how much they weigh.  There are three basic sizes of binoculars on the market:

  • Compact – The majority of compact binoculars have from 25mm to 28mm objective lenses. They are very easy to carry around when you are on the go all day. People that carry compact binoculars around get to do more viewing because they are so easy to carry which means you could be doing some bird identification anywhere you go!
    They are a great choice if you plan on traveling since you can tuck them into your pocket or bag and have them ready whenever you want to grab them. You never know when you will happen upon an opportunity. The drawback to compacts is that they are not as good in low light conditions due to the smaller objective lenses which let in less light.
  • Full Size – The objective lenses in a full sized pair of binoculars will usually be around 42mm. If you bird watch from the same location all the time the size and weight of full-sized binoculars will not typically be a problem. There are many benefits to choosing a pair of full sized binoculars.
1. Brighter – Binoculars that are 8×42 have an exit pupil of 5 ¼ mm. the exit pupil is the diameter of the light that comes out of the eyepieces. Larger objective lenses provide larger columns of light and allow more light to enter the pupil of your eye when they dilate in low light conditions.
2. Ease of Use – If you have shaky hands or you are doing your viewing from a boat, a bigger exit pupil than what the human pupil normally is will make it much easier to position your own pupil properly within the column that the binoculars have.
3. Better resolution – A larger objective lens that is typical in full-sized binoculars will provide better resolution in your images. The amount of resolution you need will depend on how much magnification you have. Many times, people choose larger objective lenses because they allow more brightness in low light or poor light conditions or if they want to do night viewing.
4. More stable – A well-balanced pair of full-size binoculars will be much steadier which could be an important consideration if your binoculars are high powered. In general, they are easier to hold and use than most compacts especially if you are viewing in winter and using thick gloves.
  • Mid-Size – A good compromise between a small compact pair and a heavy, bulky full-sized pair is mid-sized. Mid-sized models typically have objective lenses around 32mm in size and are becoming much more popular. If you have a pair of binoculars that are 8x it is very difficult to detect noticeable differences between 42mm and 32mm.

Eye Relief

If you wear glasses, eye relief will be a very important feature for you to consider especially if you want to keep them on while you are bird watching.  Eye relief is the distance from the eyepieces that will still allow you to see the whole picture.

One of the best ways to accommodate eyeglass wearers is binoculars that have eyecups.  These eyecups provide comfort and will ensure that your eyes are at the best and proper distance by adjusting them to allow for your glasses.  For the most comfortable fit and best results look for binoculars with an eye relief of 15mm or better so you can see the whole image you are trying to view.

Keep in mind that long eye relief will reduce your field of view somewhat.  Some eyecups are made of rubber and can be adjusted by moving them out of the way to accommodate for wearing or not wearing glasses. The problem with this feature is that the eyecups can break if they are folded up and down too frequently.

The best style of eye cups to look for is those that twist in and out of position.  Twist eyecups typically can be left at any position you desire and have click stops at different intervals. The eye relief distance at each interval will be marked on the cup so you know the perfect eye relief for your specific vision.

Waterproof and Fog Proof

The majority of quality binoculars are going to be just fine to use in light rain and humid conditions even if they are not considered waterproof.  With that being said, if you are a serious bird watcher and plan on viewing in all kinds of weather you will want to get a pair of binoculars that are both fog and waterproof.

Binoculars that are waterproof have been sealed, in many cases with O-rings, prevent moisture from getting inside and will also stop debris and dust from getting into the mechanisms and messing things up.  Something else to look for will be binoculars that have been argon or nitrogen purged.  This means that the internal air inside the binoculars have been replaced with dry gas to protect them from internal fogging that can ruin a pair of binoculars.

Fogging can easily occur when there are rapid changes of weather or the humidity levels are high. This dry gas protects your binoculars internals from corrosion and problems since the moisture has been prevented.

Anti-reflective lens coating

To assist with light transmission, most binoculars come with some kind of anti-reflective coating on the lenses.  The coatings make a noticeable difference on the quality and brightness of the images that are produced.

These coatings are so important that a smaller pair of binoculars with anti-reflective coatings typically outperform those with larger objective lenses that have few or no coatings.

There are four different stages of coatings that you will encounter when searching for your perfect pair of binoculars:

  • Coated – Coated means there is one layer of anti-reflective coating on a few of the lenses, usually the first and last lenses, the ones you see.

 

  • Fully-Coated – All the surfaces that are air-to-glass of the binoculars are coated providing a good image but not exceptional.

 

  • Multi-Coated – Usually the first and last surfaces, the ones you see, are coated with many layers anti-reflective coatings. This will reduce the reflected light that isn’t eliminated with single layer coatings and provides more light transmission.

 

  • Fully Multi-coated – The most preferable of all the coatings, the fully multi-coated binoculars have all surfaces air-to-glass coated with several layers of anti-reflective coatings. This provides the best results and the brightest and sharpest images without glare and reflected light.

Conclusion

All of the information above is provided to help you sort through the different types of binoculars that are available.  Bird watching requires a certain kind of binoculars to truly be able to get the best out of this hobby as possible.

There are several different factors to consider before choosing the right binoculars. These factors include your location, bird watching goals, budget, and others that will determine the best pair of binoculars for your needs.

Make sure that you think about these things and have the answers BEFORE you purchase a pair. Once you have determined your specific needs it will be easy to go through and research the different binoculars to see which ones fit your needs and preferences.

The 10 binoculars we have listed above and reviewed are all designed for bird watching and have the necessary specifications that can enhance the birding experience.

We have covered many different popular categories including birding binoculars that are great for kids all the way to budget binoculars that are less than $50. (And don’t perform like inexpensive binoculars at all!)  All of this knowledge and information will help ensure that you purchase binoculars that you will enjoy using and that will provide the best bird watching experience you could have.

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