Birding, or birdwatching, is a great activity that people around the world enjoy. In this article, we look at the best binoculars for birding, from lightweight models that are great for beginners to more expensive models for the expert birdwatcher.
Our team has done the research, so you don’t have to, compiling the best birding binoculars reviews for you. There’s also the guide for choosing the best birdwatching binoculars for you.
Top 10 Best Birding Binoculars Reviews for 2020
Here are the best binoculars for birdwatching 2020:
- Zeiss Victory SF 10×42
- Swarovski Swarovision 10×42 EL
- Leica Noctivid 8×42
- Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32
- Meopta Meostar B1 10×42 HD
- Nikon Monarch 7 8×42
- Vortex Viper HD
- Opticron BGA VHD 8×42
- Celestron Nature DX 8×42
- Nikon Action Extreme 7×35 ATB
1. Zeiss Victory SF 10×42
The Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 is considered one of the best birding binoculars on the market, allowing you to experience everything from birdwatching to hunting in a whole new light.
Because this pair of binoculars is so comfortable, you can use them longer than you can use some other binoculars available on the market.
- Image quality with this pair of binoculars is second to none.
- Cutting edge optics.
- 65 degree wide-angle field of view to make your birding experience a great one.
- The expense for the Zeiss Victory SF is more than many people can afford, especially when just starting out with this hobby.
The Zeiss Victory SF 10×42 binoculars are great for people dedicated to birdwatching who can spare the extra expense or those with vision issues as the binoculars provide 10-fold magnification.
2. Swarovski Swarovision 10×42 EL
The Swarovski Swarovision 10×42 EL binoculars offer one of the best birdwatching binoculars options. A pair of these offers superior comfort and a long field of vision, but they are an expensive pair.
- Offer long eye relief with their design.
- Minimal color fringing with their HD lenses.
- Comfortable even for eyeglass wearers.
- The Swarovski Swarovision binoculars are actually more expensive than the Zeiss Victory HT 8×42, so many people may find it out of their budget.
- There are some reports of the Swarovision binoculars causing images to “fishbowl” with these binoculars, but that seems more common with the 8×32 than the 8×42.
There are some definite limitations to the Swarovski Swarovision binoculars, namely their expense. If money isn’t an option, they make a great pair of binoculars for birdwatching.
3. Leica Noctivid 8×42
If money isn’t an option, the Leica Noctivid is one of the best birdwatching binoculars you can purchase. They have a large field of view at 404 feet and provide a comfortable viewing experience.
- Long eye relief makes this pair of binoculars comfortable to use.
- The lenses are coated in HighLux and AquaDura coatings.
- Stray light suppression helps you view even minute details under unfavorable conditions.
- Waterproof to 16.5 feet.
- Like several models on this list, the expense of these binoculars is not for many people.
- Smaller field of view than some models like the Zeiss Victory SF.
The Leica Noctivid binoculars are a top-rated set of birding binoculars. They offer a supreme and comfortable viewing experience. The design helps minimize fatigue while offering richly detailed imagery.
4. Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32
The Zeiss Conquest HD 8×32 is a popular pair of highly rated mid-range binoculars. Made in Germany, these come at a range of prices, depending on the size that you order.
- More reasonably priced than some other Zeiss models, making them an easier investment for some birdwatchers.
- Rugged design including LotuTec protective layer over lenses.
- The short pupillary distance can make these hard for some users to utilize properly.
- Made need extended eyecups from the manufacturer to use comfortably.
- Some people have reported issues with lens covers falling off.
The Zeiss Conquest can be a great pair of binoculars for some people, but these birdwatching binoculars do have some limitations. Other than the eyecups, which seem to be people’s biggest complaint about the binoculars, they tend to have high-quality optics that can make for a pleasurable viewing experience.
5. Meopta Meostar B1 10×42 HD
The Meopta Meostar binoculars come in a range of optical sizes and provide a superior all-around performance. These binoculars are made with fluorite lens to deliver an impressive image quality. The price is also less than other binoculars, making them a great deal for the novice birdwatcher.
- Compact and ergonomic design means these are comfortable to use for hours.
- Lens coatings with MeoBright 5501 Ion Assisted coatings provides a clear experience even under poor lighting conditions.
- Lenses reduce color-fringing on the edges of birds (or other objects) being viewed.
- Some users feel that the lens covers are poorly made.
There are few complaints about the Meopta Meostar binoculars. These tend to be more budget-friendly than some other binoculars while still offering a superior performance, even under low light conditions.
6. Nikon Monarch 7 8×42
The Nikon Monarch 7 is a great pair of binoculars that has a highly reflective prism coating applied to the lenses to ensure that when you look at a bird or other object, you’re getting an accurate color reproduction. It also has a wide field of view which helps make birdwatching a breeze.
- The binoculars have a nitrogen-filled housing, so they are waterproof and fog-proof.
- The binoculars are made with glass that has extra-low dispersion to enhance the brightness of images.
- Its durable rubber coating makes the binoculars comfortable to hold and provides a rugged performance.
- There is some tendency for chromatic aberration around images in bright settings.
- Depending on who you purchase the binoculars from, they may have a limited warranty.
The Nikon Monarch 7 comes in several optical arrangements, but the 8×42 is a great deal and provides impeccable viewing in most circumstances. The binoculars are designed to provide a rugged and durable piece of equipment for use when out on the trails or in your backyard birdwatching.
7. Vortex Viper HD
The Vortex Viper HD binoculars are an advanced yet reasonably priced pair of binoculars. The optical system leads to impressive image quality with excellent light transmission.
- More reasonably priced than some other binoculars, so these are great for birdwatchers who want to up their game without spending several thousand dollars.
- The chassis is rubber-armored with armortek coating, and the binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof, providing a great experience when out birdwatching.
- You can customize your viewing with adjustable eyecups to increase your comfort.
- Although eyecups are adjustable, the long focal length means that some users who don’t have glasses may have a subpar performance.
The Vortex Viper HD binoculars tend to be a great overall deal. Most complaints in reviews deal with third-party resellers or binoculars that are not Vortex Vipers. These are durable for use on the trail and adjustable for a comfortable experience.
8. Opticron BGA VHD 8×42
The Opticron Verano is a standout pair of lightweight binoculars. They are more reasonably priced than some other pairs of binoculars making them a more affordable option, especially for novice birdwatchers.
- These binoculars are made of a lightweight magnesium alloy with a durable hinge, so they won’t add extra weight to your pack.
- These are nitrogen-filled, making them waterproof up to 3 meters.
- The Opticron Verano binoculars are more expensive than some comparable pairs of binoculars.
- The binoculars are not a great choice for a person with a narrow inter-pupillary distance.
The Opticron Verano binoculars tend to be a solid, well-built pair of binoculars, but they may be more expensive than some other comparable pairs. That said they are lightweight, helping to minimize the bulk that you’re packing for a birdwatching outing.
9. Celestron Nature DX 8×42
The Celestron Nature DX binoculars have been designed with budgets in mind. They are a great and versatile pair of binoculars within a price point for those on a budget or newbie birdwatchers in mind.
- These binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof.
- The binoculars have phase coated prisms, which allow for increased contrast as well as resolution.
- They have increased light transmission, which allows for brighter images.
- You can focus on objects as close as 6.5 feet away.
- Some reviewers have complaints about the poor quality construction.
- The adjustable eyecups are not of the highest quality and some reports have noted they have fallen off.
Overall, if you’re looking for a deal, these are it. You’re not going to get the best quality, but you’re not paying for that either. The binoculars tend to hold up well and most reviews note that they are a steal at their price point.
10. Nikon Action Extreme 7×35 ATB
The Nikon Action Extreme binoculars are a budget-friendly pair of binoculars made by a company that knows lenses. These are durable and waterproof, and they’re great for birdwatchers just getting into the hobby.
- These binoculars feature a long eye relief, making them comfortable for most eyeglass wearers.
- The optics are bright and help provide ideal light transmission even under less than ideal circumstances.
- These are more designed for people with larger faces, as they have a larger interpupillary distance.
- Some people reported issues with collimation and focus.
These binoculars are a handy pair for people just starting out with birdwatching. There are some complaints about the quality of the binoculars, which may relate to the size and field of focus.
A Guide to Picking Binoculars for Birding
There are a few features you must consider when picking out a pair of binoculars to use for birding, especially when you are just starting out in the hobby. If you can, it’s best to actually try out multiple pairs, so you can see which ones fit your face better, as well as rest comfortably in your hands and allow you to manipulate them better.
Some things to consider when picking out binoculars:
One of the biggest limiting factors when picking out a new pair of binoculars is going to be your budget. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have an unlimited source of funds with which to purchase items for our hobby, and birding is no exception. You can purchase a pair of binoculars for anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars.
The good news is, you can get a decent pair of binoculars for a reasonable price, which can help make the hobby more enjoyable for you.
Binoculars are described with two numbers, generally written as 8×42, 7×35, etc. The first number is the binocular magnification power. The magnification power indicates how much closer an object will appear as opposed to viewing it with your naked eye. For example, a magnification power of 8 indicates that the bird you are viewing will look 8 times closer than it would if you weren’t using the binoculars.
The other number refers to the diameter of the objective lens, provided in millimeters. This controls how much light the lens can gather, which is especially important under low light conditions. With the example of an 8×42 pair of binoculars, the objective lens would measure 42 millimeters in diameter.
Binoculars come in several sizes, from full-size to compact. Full-size binoculars, such as 8×42 pairs, are best for serious users, but they tend to be too heavy for backpacking, adding extra weight and taking up more space.
Compact binoculars, such as 8×25 pairs, are typically better used for people traveling or backpacking, due to their lighter weight and size. They tend to be less comfortable when being used for extended periods of time, however.
The eye relief is especially important if you wear glasses. It is the distance between each eyepiece and your eyes, where the entire field of view is visible when you’re using the binoculars. A long eye relief means you can hold the binoculars away from your face.
Some binoculars have adjustable eyecups, which can affect the eye relief and make the binoculars more comfortable for you to use. Keep in mind that some less expensive binoculars may have issues where the eyecups fall off, especially when they’re being adjusted, if they’ve been poorly made.
Especially if you’re going to be using them outside, you want to make sure your binoculars are waterproof and fog-proof. Weather-resistant binoculars have some protection against water, but they are not completely waterproof.
Waterproof binoculars, on the other hand, use O-rings to help form a seal that keeps moisture, dust, and other debris particles from entering the binoculars.
Binoculars can also have issues with fogging up, especially when you move them between different temperature gradients. If the moisture gets stuck inside the binoculars, it has the potential to damage them. Many manufacturers use an inert gas like nitrogen to replace the air inside of the optical barrels, so no condensation will occur on the internal lens surfaces.
Picking out a good pair of binoculars can be a challenge, especially for newcomers to the hobby of birdwatching. The type of binoculars you get will depend on many factors, from how much your budget will allow to if you wear glasses or not regularly.
This guide outlines some of the best binoculars available at different price points on the market. When you’re reviewing it, you also need to decide how portable your binoculars need to be, as some designs are more compact and easier to take with you on the trails. The binoculars you choose will help make this hobby more enlightening and enjoyable.