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An absolutely essential tool for any bird watcher, binoculars give you a window into the natural world beyond what you can see with your naked eye. Which pair you choose will depend on what type of birds you plan to seek out. Those looking to discern greater feather detail or search for birds at long distances will most likely need a pair with higher magnification. While those looking for brighter images and wider field of view to follow birds in flight may go for a more moderate magnification and larger objective lens diameter.
Do you still need a few pointers when it comes to picking out a pair to spot your favorite birds in flight? Here are our favorite bird watching binoculars, from top-of-the-line models down to more affordable pairs. All offer great optical performance, so you'll never miss that eagle catch its prey or a hummingbird draw in nectar.
Best Overall: Zeiss Victory SF 8x42
With a field of view of 444 feet, the Victory SF binoculars enable you to follow birds in flight better than ever before. The moderate 8x magnification lets you see plenty of detail while a transmission rate of 92 percent and large exit pupil measuring over 5 mm creates a bright image that reveals the details in dark shadows or the dim light of dusk. The seven-lens eyepiece with field flattener delivers extremely sharp focus all the way to the edges. A close focus range of less than five feet allows you to watch the warblers and butterflies even in thick vegetation. Weighing just 780 grams, the binoculars take the weight off your neck and shoulders, so you can birdwatch for hours on end. Both waterproof and fogproof, the binoculars remain useful in even the harshest of outdoor conditions, so feel free to bring them to the rainforest in search of toucans and parrots.
Best Budget: Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8x42
With HD quality optics the with birdwatchers in mind, it’s hard to beat the affordable NaturePro HD from Wingspan Optics. The binoculars offer both an impressive 6.5-foot close focus and wide 430-foot field of view to add variety to your bird watching ability, from hummingbird flutter to catching the flight of a condor. Fully multi-coated lenses and a 42 mm objective lens diameter work together to deliver bright and true color images, while the 8x magnification is ideal for capturing clear, bright, and steady bird images.
A center focus wheel lets you quickly dial in both barrels while a right-side diopter lets you further customize for your individual eyes. The binoculars are both waterproof and fogproof, with an anti-slip grip for added protection. Weighing one pound, six ounces, the binoculars won’t weigh you down during a full day in the outdoors.
Best Value: Nikon Monarch 7 8x42
,The key to the Monarch 7’s greatness is its optical system. The binoculars use Nikon’s ED (extra-low dispersion) glass and multilayer coatings on the lenses to deliver bright images with high resolution. The 8x magnification and 42 mm objective lens diameter serve up bright images even on overcast days. The comfortable 17.1 mm eye relief delivers a full field of view and can be customized via the click-stop eyecups. Easily bring objects into focus with the center focus wheel and further customize each barrel using the right-side locking diopter. Get a sharp view of a bird just 8.2 feet away, or quickly scan a wide open area for water fowl with the 351-foot field of view. Waterproof, fogproof and rubber-armored coated, these binoculars will stand up to any environment.
Best for Backpacking: Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8x25
If you search for birds while hiking or backpacking long distances, then the rugged Terra ED Pocket binoculars are for you. With a compact foldable design and weighing just 10.9 ounces, the binoculars stow away easily in your pack while not skimping on optical performance. With 8x magnification, you’ll be able to see detail on birds at a distance, but can also observe nature as close as 6.23 feet away. With a generous 357-foot field of view, thanks to the 25 mm objective lens diameter, you’ll be able to quickly scan the horizon and watch falcons or raptors in flight.
Best Compact: Leica Ultravid HD-Plus 8x32
The Leica Ultravid HD-Plus 8x32 delivers bright and clear high-contrast images similar to the full-size models. The smaller 32 mm objective lens diameters, however, reduces the overall size and weight of the binoculars for better portability and less muscle strain during long-duration viewing sessions. Even with the smaller objective, these compact binoculars still perform well in low light conditions. The 8x magnification and wide 407-foot field of view immerse you in the image. Waterproof and fogproof, the binoculars will continue to perform in extreme conditions. The long 13.3 mm eye relief can be adjusted via twist-out, four-stage, click-stop eyecups, while the center focus wheel and right-side diopter let you quickly dial in and customize your focus.
Best for Photos: BNISE 10X42 HD
The 10x magnification and 303-foot field of view of these BNISE binoculars are perfect for birdwatching in wide open spaces or searching for birds at long distances. The 42 mm objective lens diameter and full multilayer-coated lenses deliver bright and sharp images. A rubbered armor housing adds durability to these water- and fog-resistant binoculars. The best part? These binoculars come with a smartphone adapter that lets you take bird photos straight through the eyecup lens. Compact and lightweight and just under 1.5 pounds, these binoculars are easy to handle and cut down on the handshake that can accompany higher magnifications.
Best for Distance: Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x42 Binoculars
With its 10x magnification and large 42 mm objective lens diameter, the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD not only deliver bright images of birds but enable you to better pick out detailed field marks in brilliant colors at longer distances. Multiple layers of anti-reflective coating on all lens surfaces deliver bright, high-contrast images. Waterproof and fogproof, the binocular lenses are further treated with a water-repellent coating that causes water to bead up and scatter less light, so you get a clear, bright view even when it’s raining or snowing. The binoculars offer a close focus of eight feet and a wide, 340-foot field of view. The comfortable 17.2 mm eye relief can be adjusted for those that wear glasses with twist-up eyecups. The binoculars come with a soft carrying case, microfiber carry bag, and neck strap.
Best for Woods or Owls: Nikon Aculon 7x50
If you often use binoculars for viewing owls and other birds in low light conditions (thick dense, dark woods or at dusk and dawn), then consider the Nikon Aculon 7x50 with their big 50 mm objective lens diameter that lets in tons of light. The binoculars deliver mid-range 7x magnification, which provides a steady image without the need for a tripod. With a 335-foot field of view, you can scan the woods for warblers or focus in on a woodpecker just 26.2 feet away. At just under two pounds, these aren’t the lightest binoculars but a small tradeoff to be able to see detailed, bright images in low light conditions. The binoculars come with a case, strap, and lens covers.