Best Birding Binoculars (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
The best birding binoculars for every kind of birdwatching enthusiast.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON April 2, 2021
Binoculars are a must-have device if you’re a bird watcher. It’s nearly impossible to enjoy this outdoor hobby without a quality pair of binoculars — they’re the sole tool that can help you spot rare birds in their natural habitats. Your birding experience is only as good as your binoculars, so picking out the right equipment is important.
But there’s a catch: there are a ton of different binoculars to choose from in stores and online. Which are the best for amateur birders, and which do professionals prefer? With so many options, it’s important to know what makes some binoculars stand head and shoulders above the rest. You can discover the perfect pair for your next bird watching adventure by checking out our picks for the best birding binoculars right here.
Powerful binoculars with impressive magnification, large lenses, and overall light weight.
- Clear, crisp HD-quality images
- Lightweight and effortless to carry
- 12x magnification
- Not great for birds in flight
A compact, affordable pair of binoculars that offer excellent durability for unpredictable weather.
- Foldable and lightweight
- Exceptional value for the price
- Great for kids to try
- Not ideal for low-light conditions
- Adjusters aren’t uniform
Delivers sharper, clearer, and brighter vision with premium lenses and highly helpful features.
- Solidly built with quality materials
- Edge to edge clarity
- Sharp, close focus
- Can fog up from breath or humid conditions
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Birding Binoculars
- Larger field of view. With birding binoculars, you’ll be able to see more — both up close and far away. Binoculars give you a far-ranging field of view, allowing you to zoom in and see birds wherever they might be located. You can even spot birds while in flight with a quality pair of binoculars.
- Better, clearer vision. Birdwatching without a pair of binoculars is tough, as you’re limited by your eyes’ basic vision. With binoculars, however, you can see more clearly, more crisply, and even with better, brighter colors. Binoculars enhance your vision so you’re seeing better in every way.
- Versatility. Birding binoculars offer versatility that your very own eyes simply can’t. With a quality pair, you’ll be able to see birds even in dim morning light or low lighting at dusk. You can use them in any outdoor environment, and you can even use them for hobbies and activities beyond birding, like sporting events, hiking, and more.
- Convenience. Absolutely anyone can benefit from using birding binoculars — including those who wear glasses and young kids. You can get great convenience out of your binoculars, as you can continue to use them for multiple people, if your eyes and vision change over time, and in many different settings.
Types of Birding Binoculars
Porro Prism Binoculars
Porro prism binoculars were the very first kind of modern-day binoculars. First created in Italy in the 19th century, porro prism binoculars are still popular today. They feature porro prisms, which means these binoculars capture light with the objective lens and send it through a pair of prisms horizontally. While this kind of birding binocular is a classic, there are drawbacks — porro prism binoculars tend to be heavier and more awkward to hold. However, they’re an excellent choice if you want clearer 3D images and a very large field of vision.
Roof Prism Binoculars
Roof prism binoculars look simple and straightforward at first glance. You’ve probably seen plenty of roof prism binoculars; they look like two straight tubes with lenses. However, this style of binoculars is pretty complex inside. Roof prism binoculars feature complicated internal prisms and mechanisms, with intricate paths that reflect light in many different ways. These binoculars tend to be smaller and more streamlined, and they typically weigh less than porro prism binoculars. They're the preferred choice of many birders, and in recent years roof prism binoculars have become increasingly popular.
Founded in 1917 in Japan, Nikon is well-known around the world for its high-quality cameras for professionals and hobbyists. But Nikon also puts its impressive lenses to use in binoculars too — and the brand makes some seriously great premium birding binoculars like the Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 Binocular.
Since 1960, Celestron has been building products with high-powered lenses and giving people the ability to enhance their vision to great distances. Originally known as Valor Electronics, the brand has a long history of creating innovative telescopes, like the innovative C8 and the first mass-produced computerized observatory telescope. Celestron now puts its cool technologies in consumers’ hands, with products like the Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars.
Vortex Optics offers an array of extra-tough, extra impressive optical equipment that’s designed for military and tactical use. While Vortex Optics is best-known for its riflescopes and red dots, the company also produces some high-quality and highly durable binoculars that are perfect for birdwatching — like the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars.
Birding Binoculars Pricing
- Under $50: You can find compact, kid-friendly binoculars for less than $50. While these binoculars aren’t the best when it comes to lens quality and crisp images, they’re a great place to start, especially if you’re a beginner.
- $50 to $150: Most birding binoculars fall within the price range of $50 to $150. You’ll find everything from beginner-quality to professional-level options here, and there’s a huge array of choices.
- $150 to $300: The most premium and high-quality birding binoculars will cost you anywhere from $150 to $300. These products tend to offer better lenses, more complex mechanisms, and a wealth of features.
Magnification is a critically important feature when you’re choosing a pair of binoculars. It’s the magnification that allows you to zoom in to better see and observe birds. You want enough magnification to see with ease — but that magnification shouldn’t be overpowering, blurry, or shaky. Look for a magnification of 8x or 10x50; these are two great options for birdwatching. You can also look for larger magnification ranges for even more flexibility.
Wide Field of View
You might not realize how important a wide field of view is until you’re putting your birding binoculars to use. Field of view is often an overlooked feature, especially for beginners. However, it’s what controls how much of an image you can see at a given distance. The wider the field of view, the more easily you’ll be able to track and catch birds — even while they’re in motion. Field of view can either be a measurement, like 350 feet at 1,000 yards or an angle, like 7 degrees.
Birding is an activity that’s best done outdoors. But sometimes, the weather can complicate this hobby. When the weather isn’t sunny and warm, you can encounter everything from humidity and fog to rain and snow. To ensure you can always go birding in any season, make sure to choose a pair of binoculars with weatherproofing. They should be able to stand up to moisture, and it’s a good idea to look for fog-proof, dustproof, and shockproof construction.
- Close Focus is as Important as Magnification. While many birders think about magnification when choosing binoculars, just as many completely forget to consider close focus. This little feature is just as critically important — it allows you to see objects that are nearby with the same crispness and clarity as when you’re zoomed in. It’s particularly important when birds suddenly fly or appear closer than you expect.
- Lighter Weight is Best. While you might not think a small difference in weight matters much, it can become critically important when you’re out in the field. Lighter-weight binoculars are easier to hold and maneuver. When you’re birdwatching for hours at a time, even a few extra ounces of weight can bring on discomfort.
- Don’t Forget About the Lenses. Lens size is a small detail, but it can be quite important for experienced birders. The objective lens diameter is the metric that determines how much light the binoculars will capture, and it directly impacts how bright and vibrant the images you see are. Many birders prefer 42-millimeter lenses, but it can be a personal preference.
Best Birding Binoculars Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- If you’re a beginner birdwatcher, it’s a good idea to spend less on your first pair of binoculars. As you become more invested and experienced in the hobby, you can upgrade to a more professional, higher-quality pair.
- Planning to put your binoculars through the wringer? You’ll want to consider durability and longevity — and that can make a tactical pair of binoculars a good fit for your uses and needs.
- It’ll take some time to get used to the adjustments, features, and settings of each pair of binoculars. Take some time to play with the settings before you head out into the field for your first birding use.
Q: What is the best magnification for birdwatching binoculars?
Most experienced birders prefer 8x or 10x magnification in their binoculars. 10x is a pretty good standard to shoot for.
Q: Which is better: 8x42 or 10x42 binoculars?
This depends on your personal preference. While 10x42 binoculars are very popular, some birders do prefer to use 8x42 binoculars. The only difference between the two is the magnification — either 8x or 10x. The optical lens diameter is the same for each.
Q: Which binoculars are best for birding?
Our top choice for birders is a pair of Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars, which offer great magnification, solid durability, and excellent image results.
Q: Are 10x42 binoculars good for birdwatching?
10x42 binoculars are a fantastic choice for birdwatching, and it’s quite a popular magnification and optical lens size within the hobby.
If you’re searching for the best birding binoculars, you can’t go wrong with the Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars. However, beginners and those looking for a great deal will love the Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars, which offer an affordable price. If you have a go-to pair of binoculars that you love for birding, let us know what they are in the comments below.