10 Best Binoculars For Birding: In-depth Buyers Guide

best binoculars for birding review

If there is one essential item for the birdwatcher, it’s a good pair of bird-watching binoculars. Whether for making difficult identifications or just enjoying bird behavior, the ability to get a good look at birds at distance is everything in this game. 

With so many shapes and sizes of birding binoculars available on the market, choosing a pair can be pretty bewildering, so I’ll make your life a little easier by narrowing it down a bit in this buyer’s guide. 

I’ll try to keep it as simple as possible for you, but there are a few technical things we have to go over real quick. If you’ve ever looked for binoculars before, your first question is probably: What do those numbers on the box mean?  

Take for example 8×42 binoculars. Here, the 8 is the magnification level. That is to say, the image is magnified 8x. 

42 is the diameter of the objective lens, measured in mm. The larger this lens, the more light is let into the binoculars and the brighter the image.

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6 Best Binoculars For Birding Comparison:

Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x32 Binoculars
Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8x42 Binocular (Black)
TASCO ES8X42 Essentials Binocular
Celestron – Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars – Outdoor and Birding Binocular – Fully Multi-coated...
Nikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S 8x42 Inches All-Terrain Binocular (Black)
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x32 Binoculars
Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8x42 Binocular (Black)
TASCO ES8X42 Essentials Binocular
Celestron – Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars – Outdoor and Birding Binocular – Fully Multi-coated...
Nikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S 8x42 Inches All-Terrain Binocular (Black)
Material
Plastic
Aluminum
Glass
Rubber
Synthetic
Rubber
Water Resistance
Waterproof
Waterproof
Not Water Resistant
Waterproof
Waterproof
Waterproof
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Waterproof Black Binoculars
Material
Plastic
Water Resistance
Waterproof
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x32 Binoculars
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x32 Binoculars
Material
Aluminum
Water Resistance
Waterproof
Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8x42 Binocular (Black)
Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8x42 Binocular (Black)
Material
Glass
Water Resistance
Not Water Resistant
TASCO ES8X42 Essentials Binocular
TASCO ES8X42 Essentials Binocular
Material
Rubber
Water Resistance
Waterproof
Celestron – Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars – Outdoor and Birding Binocular – Fully Multi-coated...
Celestron – Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars – Outdoor and Birding Binocular – Fully Multi-coated...
Material
Synthetic
Water Resistance
Waterproof
Nikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S 8x42 Inches All-Terrain Binocular (Black)
Nikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S 8x42 Inches All-Terrain Binocular (Black)
Material
Rubber
Water Resistance
Waterproof

The Best Binoculars for Bird-watching

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The best binoculars for birdwatching tend to be 8x42s. This size is right in the sweet spot, offering good magnification and a large field of view, all in a user-friendly package.

This bird-watching binocular review would not be complete without explaining a few of the most important birding binocular specifications.  For each birding binocular listed below, I’ve listed a few specs to help you make a good decision. These are:

  • Magnification: This one is pretty straightforward, each listed binocular has 8x magnification strength. This means that the image seen through the binoculars is 8 times larger than that seen with the naked eye from the same distance.
  • Weight: Weight of the binocular, measured in ounces. 
  • Water resistance: This is important for outdoor equipment.
  • FOV at 1000yds: Field of view (FOV) is the width of the image you are able to see at a distance of 1000 yards away. This is especially important for scanning large areas at distance, like a mudflat full of waders, or to assist in finding your bird with the binoculars at a closer distance.
  • Angle of view: This is another way of expressing the width of the image. This figure in degrees corresponds with the FOV described above. That is to say, the greater the angle of view, the greater the FOV.
  • Close Focus: This is the minimum distance at which the binoculars can focus to provide a sharp image. While you will mostly be using your binoculars for viewing birds at distance, close-focusing binoculars will come in handy sometimes, for example in observing close details of a bird’s nest, without physically touching or disturbing what’s inside it!
  • Eye relief: This is the distance your eyes need to be from the lens in order to see the full image. If you wear spectacles, you’ll need at least 16mm of eye relief, but more is even better. 

 

What Size Birding Binoculars Should You Look For?

I keep 2 pairs of binoculars, a small, compact set of 8x 25s that are always in the car and taken on spur-of-the-moment strolls. They fit easily into my pocket and they take up next-to-no space in the car and are mostly used for roadside sightings. And then there is my go-to pair of 8x42s that are used for general birding. 

The small pair is no substitute for the user-friendliness of the larger pair but their small size is great, and they are definitely better than nothing when you see something interesting on your way to work in the morning. 

In this article, we focus mostly on the 8×42 binoculars for birding because they are relatively small and easy to use while having a good field of view and magnification. 

Think twice before going for 10x magnification binoculars or higher because the more powerful the binoculars are, the more difficult it is to hold them steady. Try using a telescope without its stand!

It can also be quite difficult to find birds with powerful binoculars with small fields of view, even when you can see them clearly with the naked eye, save yourself the frustration of seeing them fly off before you get a good look.

Now that we’ve gone over the binocular basics, let’s move on to my top 10 picks for birdwatching binoculars.  

 

10 Best Binoculars For Birding: Review

 

1. Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 Waterproof Black BinocularsNikon Trailblazer 8x25 Waterproof Black Binoculars

Now I know I told you we’d be looking at 8×42 binoculars in this guide, and they are the gold

standard in birding optics, but before we move on to those, I thought I’d introduce the idea of a 2nd pair.

But how can you buy a second pair when you don’t even have the first one yet? Well, there’s something very handy about a compact pair of travel binoculars for birding. 

The Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 Waterproof Binoculars are a great lightweight pair of compact binoculars for keeping in the car. These binoculars are budget-friendly and will come in handy sooner or later!

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 9.9oz
  • Water resistance: Fully waterproof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 429ft
  • Angle of view: 8.2°
  • Close focus: 8.2ft
  • Eye relief: 10mm

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • compact

Cons:

  • Poorer low light performance
  • Low eye relief

 

2. Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars 8×32

Voretx birdbatching binoculars

This next pair of binoculars sits right in between the 8x25s and 8×42 categories. These are good for those who find the 8x42s too heavy or bulky. These are a great size for hiking. For this smaller, lighter product you will, however, sacrifice some brightness.

The Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism 8×32 binoculars are shockproof, waterproof, and fog proof. They are lightweight and come with adjustable eyecups, making these birding binoculars comfortable for use out in the field.

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 15.9oz
  • Water resistance: Waterproof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 426ft
  • Angle of view: 8.1°
  • Close focus: 5ft
  • Eye relief: 16mm

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Poorer low light performance than 8×42 binoculars

 

3. Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8×42 Binoculars

Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8x42 Binoculars review

Now that we’ve looked at a couple of compact travel options, we move on to the conventional bird watchers work-horse, the 8x42s. These binoculars will sit comfortably around your neck while hiking, driving, boating, or sitting patiently in a hide or near a feeder. 

The Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8×42 binoculars use Porro prisms unlike the rest of the binoculars in this list. These are less popular than the more modern roof prism design but offer a great field of view.

These binoculars for birding feature multi-layer coated lenses for sharp and bright imaging and adjustable eyecups for a custom fit. While they are rubber coated, unfortunately, these binoculars are not waterproof, and at 26oz in weight, they are also on the heavy side. 

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 26oz
  • Water resistance: No
  • FOV at 1000yds: 420ft
  • Angle of view: 8°
  • Close focus: 16.4ft
  • Eye relief: 12mm

Pros:

  • Budget-friendly price
  • Wide field of view
  • Good brightness

Cons:

  • Not water resistant
  • Heavy
  • Poor close focus distance

 

 4. Tasco ES 8×42 Essentials BinocularsTasco ES 8x42 Essentials Binoculars

The Tasco ES8x42 Essentials Binoculars are entry-level roof prism bird-watching binoculars. While they don’t have the refinement of more expensive pairs, they are definitely useable.

These would be a good pair of binoculars to start out with if you’re new to the hobby and unsure about spending a lot. When the time comes to upgrade, they could then be kept as spare, or to lend to friends or family.

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 24.3oz
  • Water resistance: Weather resistant
  • FOV at 1000yds: 369ft
  • Angle of view: 7.1°
  • Close focus: 30ft

Pros:

  • Great price point

Cons:

  • Poor close focus
  • Not waterproof

 

5. Celestron Nature DX 8×42 BinocularsCelestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars

The Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars offer fully coated optics, adjustable twisting eyecups, with good eye relief and a short close-up focus range. This is a good budget-friendly pair of roof prism binoculars.  

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 24.9oz
  • Water resistance: Waterproof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 388ft
  • Angle of view: 7.5°
  • Close focus: 6.5ft
  • Eye relief: 18mm

Pros:

  • Attractive price point
  • Good close focus distance

Cons:

  • Some users report waterproofing and durability issues
  • Fairly heavy

 

6. Nikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S All-Terrain BinocularsNikon 16002 PROSTAFF 7S All-Terrain Binoculars

At just 22.9oz, the Nikon Prostaff 7S is a light pair of binoculars for birding. With multi-coated lens and prism surfaces, these binoculars deliver excellent optics with minimal light lost to reflection. 

This is a tough product, built for outdoor use and exposure to the elements. They won’t fog up due to their nitrogen-filled body and are waterproof with sealed o-rings. Adjustable eyecups ensure a custom fit to your face. 

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 22.9oz
  • Water resistance: waterproof and fog proof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 357ft
  • Angle of view: 6.8°
  • Close focus: 13.1ft
  • Eye relief: 19.5mm

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Great brightness

Cons:

  • Poor lens covers
  • Limited warranty

 

7. Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8×42 BinocularsVortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x42 Binoculars

The vortex optics diamondback HD 8x42s are built tough, being waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof. At just 21.8oz, these are the lightest binoculars on our best binoculars for bird-watching review. 

These are great mid-range bird-watching binoculars that come with a harness for secure and comfortable carrying out in the field. 

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 21.8oz
  • Water resistance: Waterproof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 393ft
  • Angle of view: 7.5°
  • Close focus: 5ft
  • Eye relief:  17mm

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Decent field of view

Cons:

  • Limited eye relief
  • Some chromatic aberration

 

8. Bushnell Engage 8×42 BinocularsBushnell Engage Binoculars, Matte Black

These are hard-wearing binoculars with a magnesium build and fully coated optics for sharp imaging, and maximum brightness. These binoculars feature a dielectric prism coating which delivers an outstanding 92% light transmission, all in a relatively lightweight package.

The 6ft close focus is also a very handy feature. Being fully waterproof and with a lens coating that repels oil and water, you don’t have to treat these with birding binoculars with kid gloves.  

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 23.5oz
  • Water resistance: Fully waterproof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 426ft 
  • Angle of view: 8.2°
  • Close focus: 6ft
  • Eye relief: 19mm

Pros:

  • Sharp images
  • Great close focus

Cons:

  • Loose lens caps 
  • Some chromatic aberrations 

 

9.  Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 8×42 BinocularsLeupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD 8x42mm Binocular

With aluminum construction, these binoculars for birding are built to be tough and light. They have a built-in tripod adapter, which is great for setting up permanently near the bird feeder in your backyard or on your deck.

This bird-watching binocular has especially good low-light performance, which makes them great birding binoculars for late afternoon and evening birding-watching. 

This model has good eye relief for users with spectacles, and replaceable eyecups are available.

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 23.4oz
  • Water resistance: Waterproof and fog proof
  • FOV at 1000yds: 368ft
  • Angle of view: 7°
  • Close focus: 8ft
  • Eye relief: 19mm

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Rugged design
  • Good eye relief

Cons:

  • Some color sacrificed for sharpness
  • Cost

 

10. Leica Trinovid HD 8×42 Binocularsleica binaculars for birding

Leica is one of the most trusted brands when it comes to optics, and this reputation does come with a hefty price tag. That being said, if you can afford them, you most certainly will not be disappointed, as the clarity, color, and sharpness these binoculars deliver are almost better than the real thing.

At 26oz, these are heavier than other options but they have a  robust and beautifully crafted feel of quality. These binoculars come with an adventure strap for added comfort and stability.  

 

Features:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Weight: 26oz
  • Water resistance: Waterproof
  • Light transmission: 90%
  • FOV at 1000yds: 372ft
  • Angle of view: 7°
  • Close focus: 6ft

Pros:

  • Excellent light transmission
  • Superb color definition

Cons:

  • Hefty price tag
  • Heavy weight

Last update on 2021-04-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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