Of course, every make and model out there is going to claim it alone has that distinction. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make it true.
There are some very specific requirements a pair of binoculars needs to meet in order to be good for birding. The fact is, what’s good for hunting may not be good for birding. It’s that simple.
So, let’s dive right into what sets apart the best birding binoculars from binoculars good for other uses.
Important Considerations Before Buying Birding Binoculars
In order to determine what the best binoculars are, we need to create a set of criteria. We've come up with the following criteria to rank by:
- Clear optics - We don't want the image colors changed or altered from colored multi-coatings
- The right magnification - we need to be close enough to see the birds but far enough away to see them moving and jumping from branch to branch. (higher zoom would be best done with tripods anyhow)
- Weatherproof - we don't want to have to cut our glassing short because of some rain.
We'll dive deeper into these toward the end of the article (or you can check out the ultimate binocular buyers guide). But First...
The Best Binoculars For Bird Watching
You can spend several thousand on top end binoculars, but the purpose of this article is to find the best binoculars for the regular person. So, we've decided to break it down into two categories. This first is the best birding binoculars under $1,000 or £1,000.
All of these binoculars are perfect for bird watching and all of them are amazing, so these 4 binoculars are in no specific order.
Steiner Wildlife XP 10x44 Binocular
First up on our list of birding binoculars is the Steiner Wildlife. This one is a 10x44 which features a distance-control-system for reaction times when viewing wildlife and birds.
The fluoride Glass gives it brilliant and lifelike color that stays true to reality. It has amazing edge-to-edge sharpness.
The N2 injection system seals pressurized dry nitrogen into the optic for total clarity, making it fog proof in any situation.
And, it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Overall Impression of the Steiner Wildlife XP for Birding
They have an amazing field of vision, are rugged, and have preset distance controls so you can quickly adjust the focus.
These binoculars are a definite 'buy' for anyone serious about bird watching.
Fujinon Techno Stabi TS 1440 14x40 Stabilized Binocular
Next on our list is a pretty awesome set of binoculars! Watch the video to see the stabilization in action.
They have phase coated optics and are multi-coated and give sharp, high contrast images.
The image stabilization allows you to magnify the object more and keep a steady view.
Yes, it has water and fog proof nitrogen purged seals.
Overall Impression of The Fujinon Techno Stabi TS For Bird Watching
Overall this is an excellent set of binoculars that comes either 12x28 or 14x40. While both have a bit higher magnification than normally recommended for handheld use, the stabilization allows you to use it on land, sea, or air.
Overall, we really like these binoculars for bird watching because of the advanced stabilization features, clear and sharp picture, and small but rugged design.
Zeiss Conquest HD Binoculars
We have the pleasure of reviewing these amazing binoculars that are absolutely perfect for birding.
That's asking if the sky is blue or if the grass is green. It's a question not even worth asking.
Their HD Lens system has completely neutral color reproduction and razor-sharp detail. This is in a class of its own.
Yes, it is water and fog proof. Also it's lenses are coated with LotuTec which ensure water simply rolls off the lens so you can see in any weather condition.
Overall Impression of The Zeiss Conquest HD Binoculars
It is really hard to find something wrong with these. They excel in ever feature and category. They come in 6 different configurations from 8x32 up to 15x56 to fit the requirements of a lot of different birders and different situations.
Overall, we love these!
Leica Ultravid BR Compact Binoculars
Another absolutely amazing set of bird watching binoculars. While these are last on our list, that by no means makes them a bad pair!
These compete very well against their larger competition. While being compact binoculars means they won't do as well in low-light condition, during normal daylight conditions they have detail and clarity matching against much large binoculars.
Yes, they are waterproof up to 16.5 ft / 5m deep.
Overall Impression of The Zeiss Conquest HD Binoculars
These are great birding binoculars and at a very reasonable price. At an 8x magnification with a 20mm objective lens, they are by no means perfect in all situations, but they definitely hold their own in any match up.
The Best Binoculars For Birding
Here we will be looking at solid pairs of binoculars in the < $500 or £500 range. We won't see the amazing features and quality as we do in the $1,000 range, but at this price point we can still find good, respectable binoculars for you.
Nikon 7548 Monarch 7
The Nikon Monarch line is a great lineup with a number of variations of the binoculars.
They have a 'Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coatings.' In layman terms it means they have high-contrast images and accurate colors.
Waterproof, fog proof, and they have a rubber armor to protect them.
Overall Impression of The Nikon Monarch 7 for Bird Watching
These are often in our "best of" lists because they are such great binoculars at a reasonable price. They are great to use in just about any situation, including birding because of their accurate color reproduction.
Eschenbach Trophy D Binoculars for Bird Watching
What an amazing pair of binoculars for birding! These are the embodiment of quality and precision in binoculars
The High Definition lens, ED Glass, and BaK-4 prism ensure completely true color image with crystal clarity and extreme depth.
Waterproof, fog proof, and very durable
Overall Impression of the Eschenbach Trophy D Bird Watching Binoculars
We love the German engineering which means quality and precision. It's hard to match their quality in this price range.
Vortex Viper HD
This is another one of those binoculars that makes it on a ton of our "best of" lists. It's a truly superb binocular with great quality and value.
They have an advanced, high density optical system which means you will have a top quality image. Also, these binoculars have enhanced, anti-reflective lens coating amazing light transmission.
Yes, waterproof and fog proof along with durable rubber armor.
Overall Impression of the Vortex Viper HD
Their ED Glass, clear image, amazing quality, armored chasis, and so much more. It's really hard to find something wrong. Their clarity for birding is particularly exceptional as well.
Canon Image Stabilization II Binoculars
What list is complete without at least one pair with image stabilization technology built in?
These compact binoculars have great clarity and doublet field-flattener which gives a sharp, virtually distortion-free image from edge-to-edge.
This model is not water proof. There are higher end models that offer this feature.
Overall Impression of the Canon Image Stabilization II Binoculars for Birding
Overall, these are good binoculars. The major drawback is the lack of waterproofing. But, it's really hard to find quality image stabilization binoculars below $500, so there is always a trade off.
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I've compiled an Excel spreadsheet with all the binoculars that Amazon stock. I'm happy to share it with you. As it’s Excel you can slice and dice the data however you choose.
Thanks for sharing! Click HERE to download the Excel file.
How to Choose the Best Binoculars for Birding
One of the most important things to remember is that the best birding binoculars will differ from person to person. That’s because everyone has different needs, a different style, and different preferences for birding.
The below instructions will certainly help you narrow the field and keep you from making some regrettable mistakes. But this process will also depend on your needs and wants. For example, something as simple as the location where you will go birding has a major impact on choice of binoculars.
A wide open ecosystem will require a different set of binoculars than when you are birding in the woods. So keep things like that in consideration as you continue reading about the best binoculars for birding.
When it comes to binoculars, magnification is the name of the game. After all, you buy binoculars so you can better see your target.
This is especially true with bird watching when you need to zoom in as close as possible in order to make out any telltale details so you can make a positive ID.
That being said, don’t get carried away. The best binoculars for birding aren’t necessarily the ones that can magnify the most.
With more magnification comes a diminished depth of focus, a smaller field of view and a duller overall image. It can also be tough to hold the binoculars steady when you’re confronted with greater magnification.
Generally speaking, a magnification of 8x is considered best for a wide range of birding needs.
Field of View
When it comes to binoculars, your field of view (FOV) is basically how wide the image is when you peer through the lens.
Often this will be absolutely essential to making a positive ID of the bird as well. This is especially true for those of you who favor small birds that are capable of extremely fast movements.
Without the wider field of view, you’ll easily lose them as they jump from limb to limb or tree to tree. So, be careful not to ruin your larger field of view by magnifying in on small birds too much.
If you do this, you’ll quickly lose out on pinpoint details or lose track of where you are should the bird fly away.
But, never let the field of view sacrifice magnification.
You want the best of both worlds when you’re looking for the best binoculars for birding.
Start by finding the magnification that best fits your birding needs and then look for a pair with a great field of view that fits comfortably inside of it.
So you’ll want binoculars that can quickly adjust focus as the animal moves.
So, you need to keep its ability to focus in mind just like you consider it’s field of view.
In order for the focusing capabilities to be optimal, the focusing wheel needs to be situated conveniently and move smoothly in both directions.
The focusing wheel should never be in a place that will force you to take your eyes off the bird nor should the wheel cause your binoculars to shake when you’re adjusting it.
To get the smooth transition you want when focusing, look for a wheel that has a non-slip surface. Usually, when you’re focusing in on a bird, you always focus too far out at first and then compensate by pulling back out. Without a non-slip surface, it becomes very difficult to do this correctly.
Size and Weight
These days, binoculars can have a wide range of sizes and weights to them. So, it goes without saying that the best binoculars for birding will be ones that are most comfortable for you to use.
So long as they’re comfortable, the size and weight of your binoculars may not seem particularly relevant.
Again, however, this will depend on the type of birding you do and where you do it. Compact binoculars are very popular these days as their smaller size no longer means they completely lack in the magnification department.
Even when they don’t have the same magnification and objective lens sizes, compact binoculars can often allow you to see better than larger binoculars because they are easier to use and hold to your face.
That being said, the compact varieties simply can’t pull in as much light as larger binoculars. This means, no matter what, they will never make as bright an image as a larger version.
The Best Binoculars for Birding
While there is no objective answer to this question, there are a lot of options. We have provided 4 excellent options in the $1,000 range and 4 more options around $500. You should be able to anyone on the list and be rather satisfied with the results.