CAMPING & HIKING

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

Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Look at that Asian Crested Ibis! Oh, you can’t see it? Maybe it’s those old binoculars. You could be missing out on some rare birds when you have busted old binoculars or none at all. You might be considering upgrading to some of the best birding binoculars, but where do you start? We have you covered so that you don’t miss the next Ibis, or Scaly Sided Merganser or Kakapo.

When it comes to bird watching, finding the best model 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. We are here to help you make the right choice!

First, we are going to show you some of the most important features that you have to consider before you purchase your perfect binoculars. After that, we will show you some reviews of the best models later in this article. Let’s get to it!

Product Name Weight Dimensions WaterproofFog Proof Price
Bushnell Legend1.54 lb6.1 x 7.2 x 3.1 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Vortex Optics Viper HD 2.6 lb5.8 x 5.8 x 5.3 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Nikon Monarch 51.34 lb2.4 x 5.1 x 5.7 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Zeiss Conquest 2 lb4.7 x 4.7 x 6.5 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Leica UltraVid2 lb7 x 2.5 x 6 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Eagle Optics Ranger2 lb8 x 6.5 x 3 inYesNoCheck price on Amazon
Vortex Razor1.54 lb9.5 x 8 x 4.25 inYesYesCheck price on Amazon
Leupold Yosemite 1.1 lb7.3 x 6.8 x 2.9 inYesNoCheck price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Buying

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. 

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-round option for bird watching and sports, while Compact binoculars are best for daytime outdoor adventures and are the most comfortable for backpacking.

Magnification

Binoculars’ magnifying 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.

binocular magnification

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 35 mm.

Eye Relief

Binocular eye relief refers to the distance between the user’s 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 eyeglasses. Many binoculars feature retractable eye cups to accommodate people who wear eyeglasses.

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 the 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.

man with binoculars

With a high-quality pair of birding binoculars you should be able to see close details even in a back lit image, maintain visibility in low – light conditions, and also enjoy clarity and crisp perception 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.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Below are the reviews we spoke about earlier. Here, you will see various binoculars and their features, which should make your choice easier.

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars

Price: Approx. $145

Weight: 1.54 lb

Dimensions: 6.1 x 7.2 x 3.1 in

Specific features: ED prime glass, wide band coating, RainGuard HD water-repellent lens coating

Best use: Hunting, bird watching

Description: The Legend L Series sets the standard for high-performance binoculars. Focus on anything in the field and the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 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 the comfort, custom objective covers and a locking diopter.

Each L-Series binocular also includes increased eye cup resistance, thumb hole 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 10 x 42 mm 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.

PROS:

  • 340 ft field of view
  • High glass quality
  • Rainguard coating

CONS:

  • Eye piece can come off
  • Not as durable as others
  • Quality is lacking in some areas

Related: If you need a new lens cap, the Vortex 42mm Tethered Objective Lens Cap are great. They fit snug on the binoculars and have a tight fit for the O rings.

Check the price on Amazon

Vortex Optics Viper HD Binocular Vortex Optics Viper HD Binocular

Price: Approx. $490

Weight: 2.6 lb

Dimensions: 5.8 x 5.8 x 5.3 in

Specific features: Waterproof/fogproof, ArmorTek lens coating, roof prisms, rubber armoring

Best use: Bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing

Description: The Vortex Optics Viper HD 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 x 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 comfortable 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.

PROS:

  • Center focus wheel
  • High Definition (HD) extra-low dispersion glass
  • Dielectric prism coatings

CONS:

  • Eye cups fall off
  • Pretty expensive

Related: Having the Bino Bandit Eye Shields means that your eyes will not be strained and it will help to block any glare. Under $20, these are water resistant and easily affordable.

Check the price on Amazon

Nikon Monarch 5 Binocular Nikon Monarch 5 Binocular

Price: Approx. $280

Weight: 1.34 lb

Dimensions: 2.4 x 5.1 x 5.7 in

Specific features: Extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating, phase-correction-coated roof prisms

Best use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching

Description: Nikon MONARCH 5 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 than 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.

PROS:

  • Lightweight body uses fiberglass-reinforced polycarbonate resin
  • Lead-free eco-glass optics
  • Long eye relief design

CONS:

  • Bad lens caps
  • Not comfortable in the hand
  • Focusing is difficult

Related: The Op/Tech USA Utility Loop Connector will connect to your binoculars so you can keep them attached to your wrist or belt loop. Under $10, you get 2 pieces and it is made in the USA.

Check the price on Amazon

Zeiss Conquest HD Binocular Zeiss Conquest HD Binocular

Price: Approx. $1,000

Weight: 2 lb

Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.7 x 6.5 in

Specific features: ED glass (extra-low dispersion) lenses, dialect mirror coatings, advanced HD lenses

Best use: Shooting, camping, sightseeing, sky gazing, sporting events

Description: The Zeiss Conquest HD Binocular represents the highest standard in entry-level premium optics. Made with the most lightweight and compact design, the Zeiss 8 x 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 x 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 x 42 Conquest HD Binoculars are premium class. Made in Germany and manufactured with legendary German quality.

PROS:

  • Waterproof
  • Rotating eye cups that lock
  • Comes with neck strap

CONS:

  • Eye cups are uncomfortable
  • Very pricey

Related: The Swarovski Cleaning Kit comes with lens cleaner, a brush, cloth, and moist wipes all inside of a nice bag. It is a great cleaning kid that includes a warranty, for under $60.

Check the price on Amazon

Leica Ultravid HD-Plus Binocular Leica Ultravid HD-Plus Binocular

Price: Approx. $2,100

Weight: 2 lb

Dimensions: 7 x 2.5 x 6 in

Specific features: Ultravid HD plus binocular, phase corrected roof prisms, HDC and AquaDura lens coatings

Best use: Outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, sightseeing, sky gazing

Description: The Leica Ultravid HD-PLUS 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 eye cup.

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.

PROS:

  • Twist up, click stop eye cups
  • AquaDura lens coating
  • Waterproof, fog proof

CONS:

  • Highly expensive
  • Comes with no accessories

Related: The Bushnell Deluxe Binocular Harness is made of durable materials, and the elastic straps are comfortable. It is wide, and great for heavy binoculars.

Check the price on Amazon

Eagle Optics Ranger ED Binocular Eagle Optics Ranger ED Binocular

Price: Approx $230

Weight: 2 lb

Dimensions: 8 x 6.5 x 3 in

Specific features: Extra-Low (ED) dispersion glass, dielectric and phase-corrected prism coatings, multi-coated lenses

Best use: Camping, military, hunting, bird watching

Description: The Eagle Optics Ranger ED Binocular 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 its 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 user’s 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.

PROS:

  • Dielectric prism coatings
  • Phase correction
  • Anti-reflective coatings

CONS:

  • Not fog proof
  • Comes with no accessories

Related: The Alps Outdoorz Binocular Pocket is a nice camo colored bag that will fit your binoculars. It has quiet magnets for the top lid and it can clip to your belt or harness easily.

Check the price on Amazon

Vortex Razor HD Binocular Vortex Razor HD Binocular

Price: Approx. $1,000

Weight: 1.54 lb

Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 4.25 in

Specific features: High Definition (HD) extra-low dispersion glass, multi-coated lenses, phase correction

Best use: Outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, bird watching, camping

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

Designed a full 5 ounce lighter than the original Razor, the Vortex delivers the ultimate in the 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, enhances resolution and contrast through secured roof prisms, dielectically coated for optimal light transmission in any weather condition, or time of day.

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

PROS:

  • Adjustable eye cups
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Rubber armoring

CONS:

  • Very pricey

Related: The Pedco UltraClamp Assembly Mount is a great mount that is great for binoculars, cameras, scopes and more. It is 1.5 inches and adjustable.

Check the price on Amazon

Leupold BX-1 Yosemite Binoculars Leupold BX-1 Yosemite Binoculars

Price: Approx. $400

Weight: 1.1 lb

Dimensions: 7.3 x 6.8 x 2.9 in

Specific features: Smooth focusing, twist up eyecups, armor coated, rugged, and waterproof

Best use: Bird watching, outdoor enthusiasts, fishing, shooting, camping

Description: The Leupold BX-1 Yosemite Binoculars are a compact set of binoculars made for smaller hands. The fully-adjustable set is able to fit the smaller interpupillar 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 Yosemite able to deliver a fog proof experience while its rubber grip and textured ridges allow for a slip-resistant grip.

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

PROS:

  • Diopter focus
  • Close focus
  • Porro prism design

CONS:

  • Eye pieces come loose
  • Does not feel like high quality

Related: The Bog-Pod Binocular Rest is made of ABS plastic and heavy duty rubber. It fits any binocular up to 20x. It also works with tripods.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

As you can see, there is so much more to binoculars than what is on the surface. Each binocular comes with different features, so you want to make sure that you are getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to what the binocular has to offer.

Now that you are aware of the many features of binoculars, you can go shopping for your next pair. We hope you have found these reviews to be helpful and that one of the ones we featured will be your next great pair of birding binoculars!

girl with binoculars

With features like being fog proof and waterproof, and wide field of view, you should be able to find a pair that fits you well, without breaking the bank!

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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.

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