Best binoculars for birding are lightweight, accurate and easy to handle
I like my 8×42 binoculars for bird watching and walking on nature trails because they give me a bright image with a wide field of view. That allows me to locate a bird and follow its path when it moves through a bush or tree. They couId be a bit lighter weight, but I like the way they fit in my hands and can tuck inside my sack when I’m not using them.
The Audubon Guide to Binoculars is for bird lovers. The guide helps you choose binoculars for birding rated by features, price, your budget and how you use them. In 2019 Audubon did a review of binoculars for birding where they used ornithologists and dedicated birders to test a variety of binocular optics from 16 companies during 3 days of different conditions. Their volunteers rated 8X42 or similarly sized binoculars on a scale of 1 to 10 for clarity, brightness, color rendition and eye relief.
Here is a link to their Audubon Guide to Binoculars so you can read the complete results of their extensive survey https://www.audubon.org/gear/binocular-guide. Audubon’s Guide to Binoculars is about choosing binoculars for birding. Below is a capsule of their review providing hands on use and their expert’s takeaways and costs. If you’re considering buying new binoculars for birding or planning an upgrade to the optics you have, there is no better resource than Audubon’s Guide to Binoculars.
The six categories of binoculars included:
TOP OF THE LINE ranging from $2,000 and more. They refer to the four optics as “drool-worthy” with exceptional performance in low light, with large fields of view and made of top-notch material.
The top winners are the Swarovski’s EL and the Vortex Razor UHD. The Zeiss Victory and Leica Noctivid were not far behind.
HIGH END from between from $1,000-$2,000. They conclude all four products were made of high-density glass and premium coats with clear images and in some instances weighed less than the pricier ones.
The top placed field glasses in this category are the Vortex Razor H D and Kowa Genesis XD followed by Leupold BX-5 Santiam HD and Zeiss Conquest HD.
UPPER MID-RANGE ranging from $500-$1,000. The reviewers noted these optics were all made of quality components and particularly noticed the weight of the contenders.
Topping the list in this category are Maven B1, Nikon Monarch HG followed by Vortex Viper HD, Opticron DBA VHD, and Vanguard Endeavor ED.
LOWER MID-RANGE pricing out between $300 -$500. The top placers of these contenders minimized color distortion and provided bright images and good resolution.
The top two winners in this group are Zeiss Terra ED and Nikon Monarch 7 ATB followed by Opticron Explorer WA ED Oasis-C+, Vanguard Endeavor ED, and Vanguard Endeavor ED.
GOOD VALUE ranging from $150-$300. The top five of the 13 binoculars in this group all featured bright images, accurate color and good resolution. The report explains that this group was the largest and highly competitive. Three products missed inclusion in the top five by less than one-tenth of a point.
The top two field glasses in this category are Celestron TrailSeeker ED and Nikon Monarch 5 followed by Vortex Diamondback HD, Nikon Prostaff 7S and Celestron Nature DX.
GET IN THE GAME less than $150. These low cost binoculars are a good choice for a first-time birder or nature observer who wants to begin by buying binoculars with a modest price tag.
The top winners in this category are Nikon Prostaff 3S and Bushnell Prime followed by Celestron Nature DX, Athlon Neos and Tasco Essentials.
Here again is the link to the complete survey https://www.audubon.org/gear/binocular-guide. Read the category that best fits your budget and interest.
TIP Our firsthand experience using binoculars for birding: When you’re birdwatching, use binoculars on a monopod to steady the view. With binoculars mounted on a monopod – a one legged support that screws into the bottom of binoculars – it’s easy to carry, set down, grab a view and then pick up and walk away to the next viewing opportunity.
Are you a Bird Lover? If you are looking for remarkable limited edition prints, original artwork and books about birds, take a look at the work of Julie Zickefoose at her website www.juliezickefoose.com. We recently had the good fortune to meet Julie and share our enthusiasm for her expertise and artwork. If you read BWD magazine, the new Bird Watcher’s Digest, you’ll see the lovely cover art on the July/August 2022 edition is by Julie.
Gene and Katie Hamilton are long-time writers about using binoculars for boating, bird watching, stargazing and traveling. They are members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America.