Best Birding Binoculars: Getting the Best View of Your Feathered Friends

Best Birding Binoculars
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

When it comes to bird watching, finding the best birding binoculars to look through can make a BIG difference. Experienced watchers know that it can take years to get a favorite bird in sight much less lock them into the binocular field.

As a birder, if you can actually get the watching-worthy creature in sight, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to take a closer look, but most watchers are still observing through inferior binocular lenses. Binoculars have come a long way in the past ten years, and today there are so many types of binoculars to choose from!

Birding binoculars

Many of today’s binoculars have superior performance, greater ergonomic features and magnification far better than what Grandpa’s binoculars had to offer.

Top Products for 2017

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD L-Series 10x 42mm Binoculars

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD L-Series 10x 42mm Binoculars

Specific Features:

  • ED prime glass
  • Ultra wide band coating
  • RainGuard® HD water-repellent lens coating
  • Lead-free glass
  • Ultra wide field-of-view
  • Long eye relief
  • Lightweight, magnesium chassis
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Improved eyecup resistance

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Legend L Series sets the standard for high-performance binoculars. Focus on anything in the field and the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD L-Series 10x 42mm Binoculars will deliver maximum brightness, definition and clarity making them the best binoculars for birding.

Based on the Award-winning Legend Ultra HD series, the L Series delivers an improved user experience. Each Legend Ultra HD L-Series Binocular features ultra-soft rubber housing for comfort, custom objective covers and a locking diopter.

Each L-Series binocular also includes increased eyecup resistance, thumbhole cutouts and unique extra-low dispersion glass so that watchers are able to achieve focus using all the visible colors of the spectrum in HD (High Density).

This exceptional feature allows waters to enjoy better color resolution while virtually eliminating chromatic aberration. This improved contrast and visibility brings out the detail of whatever you’re watching even in low-light conditions.

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD L-Series 10x 42mm Binoculars also include RainGuard® HD coating for ease of use in inclement, (and unexpected) weather conditions.

This high-performance L Series is paving the way for wet weather optics. Available in 8x and 10x black as well as 10x Realtree Xtra® versions, the new Legend L series leads the way in binocular performance.

Related: Bushnell offers a variety of Binoculars including the Legend E, L & M Series, the Elite Series, the Trophy Series, as well as a line of Accessories.

Vortex Optics Viper HD 8×42 Roof Prism Binocular

Vortex Optics Viper HD 8x42 Roof Prism Binocular

Specific Features: 

  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • ArmorTek lens coating
  • Roof prisms
  • Rubber armoring
  • Multi-position eyecups
  • Center focus wheel
  • Locking right eye diopter
  • Tripod adaptable
  • High Definition (HD) extra-low dispersion glass
  • XR Fully multi-coated Lenses
  • Phase correction
  • Dielectric prism coatings

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Vortex Optics Viper HD 8×42 Roof Prism Binocular is a new design inspired by the classic Viper model original.

Made with a high-density extra-low dispersion glass, the Vortex Optics Viper HD 8×42 Roof Prism Binocular is one of the best affordable binoculars you can find!

The new high-performance addition to the original Viper design includes a streamlined shape, non-slip grip, twist-up and down eyecups for comfortable viewing, adjustable binocular barrels, and O-ring sealed optics.

This rugged and ultra-lightweight binocular is a HUGE win for bird watchers as it allows excellent visibility in either the field or forest. Vortex engineers also included anchors for the internal prisms to keep them in place and further improve on the Viper’s ability to withstand years of use.

This premium binocular also includes a comfort neck strap and a deluxe padded carrying case. The Viper HD gives you everything you need and nothing you don’t. It’s easy to see why the Viper HD is an award-winning name that changed the game.

Related: Vortex Optics makes many different types of binoculars including the Diamondback, the Razor HD, and the Vanquish.

Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular

Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binocular

Specific Features:

  • Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass
  • Dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating
  • Phase-correction-coated roof prisms
  • Long eye relief design
  • Close focusing distance: 2.5m
  • Lead-free eco-glass optics
  • Waterproof/fog free
  • Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups
  • Rubber armouring
  • Lightweight body uses fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin
  • Ultra-soft neck strap
  • Flip-down objective lens cap

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8×42 Binocular is built with Nikon’s premium ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass to deliver the sharpest view and most brilliant colors. Made almost a full ounce lighter then the original Monarch, the MONARCH 5 is ultra-light and easier to take along into the wilderness!

Featuring unique multicoated Eco-glass lenses, the MONARCH 5 is able to deliver high light transmittance across the full light spectrum. Made with user-friendly-turn-and-slide rubber eyecups these binoculars were designed for extreme use.

Nikon delivers the benchmark for extraordinary value with the MONARCH 5. Where other binoculars fall short, the MONARCH 5 delivers some of the most finely tuned ergonomic engineering and the most rugged construction.

Waterproof and fog proof, the MONARCH 5 also includes Nikon’s high-eye point design for the clearest field-of-view and long eye relief. Backed with a rubber armored body for lasting durability.

Related: The Nikon MONARCH 5 Binocular is available in the following specifications, 8×42, 10×42, 12×42.

Zeiss 8×42 Conquest HD Binocular

Zeiss 8x42 Conquest HD Binocular

Specific Features:

  • ED glass (extra-low dispersion) lenses
  • Dialect mirror coatings
  • Advanced HD lenses
  • Compact lightweight ergonomic design
  • LotuTec® water shedding outer coatings for all weather use
  • Fully armored and waterproof
  • Rotating and lockable eyecups
  • Lightweight, compact and rugged
  • Lens covers, neck strap and case
  • Made in Germany

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Zeiss 8×42 Conquest HD Binocular represents the highest standard in entry-level premium optics. Made with the most lightweight and compact design, the Zeiss 8×42 Conquest features advanced HD lenses.

This exclusive design also includes neutral colors with extra-low chromatic dispersion for ultra-clear vision. The Zeiss T multi-coating, dielectric mirror coating and LotuTec® protective coating deliver the most vivid images – even in low-light and wet weather conditions.

Dialect mirror coatings deliver the brightest possible view at night.

Engineered with waterproof and fog proof aluminum body, the Zeiss 8×42 Conquest HD Binocular was designed for years of durable use. This revolutionary design combines the ZEISS’ state-of-the-art-technology and outstanding value – as all Zeiss 8×42 Conquest HD Binocular are premium class.

Made in Germany and manufactured with legendary German quality.

Related: Zeiss Conquest comes in many models including the Conquest HD 8×32, 10×32, 8×42, 10×42, 8×56.

Leica Ultravid HD-PLUS 7×42 Binocular

Leica Ultravid HD-PLUS 7x42 Binocular

Specific Features:

  • Ultravid HD plus binocular
  • Phase corrected roof prisms
  • SCHOTT HT glass
  • HDC and AquaDura lens coatings
  • Nitrogen-filled, water/fogproof
  • Closed bridge configuration
  • Magnesium alloy cassis
  • Protective rubber armor
  • Center focusing
  • Twist-up click-stop eyecups
  • AquaDura® lens coating

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Leica Ultravid HD-PLUS 7×42 Binocular is a leader in innovation and quality. Producing the finest binoculars that money can buy, Leica delivers genuine German manufactured binoculars that are truly an optical marvel.

Own the Leica Ultravid HD Plus and own a piece of over 100 years of trusted craftsmanship. The state-of-the-art design of the Ultravid HD Plus is the ultimate in optical performance.

You’ll know a Leica Ultravid by the engraved red HD letters on the strap lug beneath the eyecup.

Additional features of the Leica Ultravid HD Plus include high definition (HD) glass for enhanced resolution, color and contrast and fully multi-coated lenses for the ultimate in light transmission.

Anti-reflective coatings on all of the air-to-glass surfaces deliver some of the best in optics you can find on the market today. Dielectric prism coatings work to optimize light transmission and feature exclusive Highlux-System HLS coatings.

Engineered with sealed O-rings that prevent moisture, dust and flying debris from entering the optical area of the binoculars, the Leica Ultravid HD Plus are designed to deliver high performance even in the wettest of weather conditions.

Related: The Leica Ultravid comes in many different models including the Leica Ultravid HD Compacts, the Ultravid Leather Edition, and the Leica Geovid HD Binocular Rangefinder.

Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8×42 Binocular

Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8x42 Binocular

Specific Features:

  • Extra-low (ED) dispersion glass
  • Dielectric and phase-corrected prism coatings
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • 8x magnification
  • 42mm objective lens
  • Multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces
  • Phase correction
  • Polycarbonate body
  • Dielectric prism coatings
  • BaK-4 prisms to optimize light transmission

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Eagle Optics Ranger ED is the next-generation of a tradition of optical excellence. For those looking for an ultra-bright and amazingly sharp image, the Ranger incorporates the highest-quality extra-low (ED) dispersion glass that is unparalleled in the industry.

Exceeding today’s expectations in its price range, the Ranger ED delivers exceptional focus and a wide field of view so you can observe nature in all it’s splendor!

Reach new heights as a bird watcher with this lightweight binocular. Made with a streamlined shape, the Eagle Optics Ranger ED also includes a non-slip grip making it ideal for outdoorsmen on the go.

The proprietary locking right eye diopter adjusts for each users different visual needs. Eagle Optics also offers an adaptable tripod that can be mounted with a standard ¼ inch threading – sold separately. The Eagle Ranger delivers optical excellence at a price you can afford.

Related: The Eagle Optics Ranger ED is available in the following models in 8×32, 8×42, 10×42, and 10×50.

Vortex Razor HD 8×42 Binocular

Vortex Razor HD 8x42 Binocular

Specific Features:

  • High Definition (HD) extra-low dispersion glass
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Phase correction
  • Dielectric prism coatings
  • Roof prisms
  • Magnesium body
  • Rubber armoring
  • Adjustable eyecups
  • Locking right eye diopter
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • ArmorTek® lens coating

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: Vortex Razor HD binoculars are a third-generation model. Made with same high quality of the original, the Vortex Razor HD takes amazing optics to the next level.

Designed a full 5 ounces lighter than the original Razor, the Vortex delivers the ultimate in field of view to a whopping 388 feet/1000 yards! Increase your close focus from 8 feet to a more useful 6 feet with the Vortex Razor HD.

This top-performing binocular is engineered with High Definition (HD) extra-low dispersion glass and APO optical system for enhanced resolution, color and contrast.

The phase correction of the Vortex Razor HD binoculars enhance resolution and contract through secured roof prisms dielectrically coated for optimal light transmission in any weather condition, or time of day.

Twist up and down adjustable eyecups make it easy to meet different user needs. Includes exclusive ArmorTek® repels oil on outer glass surfaces.

Related: The Vortex Razor HD is available in the following models 12×50, 10×42, and 8×42.

Leupold 8×30 BX-1 Yosemite

Leupold 8x30 BX-1 Yosemite

Specific Features:

  • Smooth focusing
  • Twist up eyecups
  • Armor coated, rugged, and waterproof
  • L-Coat™ BAK4 prisms
  • Close focus distance of 10 feet
  • Ergonomic design
  • Diopter focus
  • Narrow interpupillary distance
  • Porro prism design
  • Fully multi-coated lens system

Best Use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping, sight seeing, sky gazing, sporting events, concerts.

Description: The Leupold 8×30 BX-1 Yosemite is a compact set of binoculars made for smaller hands. The fully-adjustable set is able to fit the smaller interpupillary distance (between the eyes) of smaller users – something most optics simply can’t do.

Ideal for everyone in the family from experienced adult watchers to younger enthusiasts.

The generous eye relief of the Leupold Yosemite makes it ultra-comfortable for all users while to enjoy comfortable extended viewing.

The Leupold Yosemite is a full-sized binocular made to deliver a multi-coated optical path for all users. Nitrogen filled housing makes the Yosimite able to deliver a fogproof experience while its rubber grip and textured ridges allow for a slip-resistant grip.

The Yosemite 8×30 also includes a carrying case with neck strap and lens cloth. This ultra-lightweight model is only 7 ounces!

Related: The Leupold 8×30 BX-1 Yosemite is available in 6x, 8x, and 10x magnification.

How to Choose The Best Birding Binoculars

When you are shopping for the best birding binoculars there are many things to consider. To make the most informed choice follow these five tips: 

  • Choose the Right Size. Binoculars are made in many different sizes, all of which are defined by the objective lens. For outdoor activities compare Full-Size (8 x 42, 10 x 50), Mid-Size (7 x 35, 10 x 32), and Compact (8 x 25, 10 x 25).
    Ideally, Full-Size binoculars work best for wildlife viewing and usually perform better in low-light situations, Mid-Size binoculars are a good all-around option for bird watching and sports, Compact binoculars are best for daytime outdoor adventures and are the most comfortable for backpacking.
  • Know the Magnification Power. Binoculars’ magnification power is identified by 2 numbers that indicate the magnification power and lens diameter.
    For example: a binocular that has 7 x 35 would have a magnification of 7, meaning that any object viewed in the lens would be 7 times larger than it would be to an unassisted eye.
    The second number in binocular identification is the diameter (in millimeters) of the objective lens. So if the second number on the binoculars is 35, the objective lenses measure 35mm.
  • Understand Eye Relief. Binocular eye relief refers to the distance between the users eyes while the entire field of view is visible. Long eye relief is made to improve viewing comfort while allowing the user to hold the binoculars further away from their face.
    This is most useful when sharing your binoculars with other people, especially if they wear eye glasses. Many binoculars feature retractable eyecups to accommodate people who wear eyeglasses.
  • Don’t Settle for Poor Image Quality. When it comes to bird watching, you want to be able to really see all of the fine details, the colors and even shadows that fall on your feathered friends.
    Before you purchase any type of binocular, make sure you take the time to look through the lenses and fix your sights on something colorful so that you can tell if the image quality you want is what you will get.
    With a high-quality pair of birding binoculars you should be able to see close details even in a backlit image, maintain visibility in low–light conditions, and also enjoy clarity and crisp perceptibility of details. For the best true image quality, it is recommended to choose binoculars with objective lenses not smaller than 30 mm.
  • Shop Around. It may seem like the first or second pair binoculars you pick up are THE ONES, but before you make a final decision and purchase a pair try out a few different birder binoculars. No two pair will be exactly the same and some subtle changes in size, shape and focus can make all the difference.

As a final note, when you set out to shop for a new pair of birding binoculars, keep in mind that models range from affordable to extravagant. But no matter the cost of your new pair, always review any warranties or additional features or accessories that are included in the purchase.

Choose your birding binoculars

This can help you compare how each pair stacks up over long haul.  And as always, feel free to leave any comments below about any experiences you’ve had with these binoculars or other similar products you’d like to see us include in a future article.

Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Kendra Larson

    Nikon Monarch has an xcellent optics. Very good low light performance, and comfortable to hold and adjust. Questionable eye cup covers, but they work. Im my case, 10X42 appears to be the max for me to hand hold and see clearly. Nice case included, too. Very nice!

  • Daniel Carraway

    Hi and thanks for this valuable experience that you’ve shared with the Nikon Monarch. Sky gazing, bird watching, etc are fun when you have this competent tool. Nikon has always been a great brand when it comes to lenses and cameras. So this binocular is no different. The clear and crisp colors you see is a result of Nikon’s premium ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass. Cool, right?

  • Abbie Knight

    Bought a pair for my Dad for his birthday and they’ve quickly became an everyday staple for him. I can’t profess to being completely clued up about binoculars and their capabilities but from your article, the Viper HD’s seemed to be the way to go. According to my Dad, at least, I made a very good decision, so thank-you! He uses them not only for birdwatching but also for viewing things in macro, so butterflies, insects and the like whilst also architectural details when out and about in the city. Safe to say, he is very happy with his present!

  • Daniel Carraway

    I bet your Dad love that gift! Those binoculars are ultra-lightweight so he won’t feel the pinch when he stays outside for hours just bird watching. I remembered the binoculars of my youth, boy, they weigh a ton! Pa and I sit for hours and he let me use his own gear which was quite heavy – nope, not quite, they were really HEAVY!