Reviews

Best Birding Binoculars (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

The best birding binoculars for every kind of birdwatching enthusiast.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

The Drive on YouTube The Drive on Facebook The Drive on Instagram

The Drive and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Read more.

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.

Best Overall
Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Powerful binoculars with impressive magnification, large lenses, and overall light weight.

Pros
Pros
  • Clear, crisp HD-quality images
  • Lightweight and effortless to carry
  • 12x magnification
Cons
Cons
  • Not great for birds in flight
Best Overall
Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars
Best Value
Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

A compact, affordable pair of binoculars that offer excellent durability for unpredictable weather.

Pros
Pros
  • Foldable and lightweight
  • Exceptional value for the price
  • Great for kids to try
Cons
Cons
  • Not ideal for low-light conditions
  • Adjusters aren’t uniform
Best Value
Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars
Honorable Mention
Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 Binocular
LEARN MORE
Summary
Summary

Delivers sharper, clearer, and brighter vision with premium lenses and highly helpful features.

Pros
Pros
  • Solidly built with quality materials
  • Edge to edge clarity
  • Sharp, close focus
Cons
Cons
  • Can fog up from breath or humid conditions
Honorable Mention
Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 Binocular
Woman With Birding Binoculars
Amazon

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.

Learn more

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. 

Top Brands

Nikon

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

Celestron

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

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.

Key Features

Flexible Magnification

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. 

Weatherproofing

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.

Other Considerations

  • 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

Best Overall
Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars

A pair of Adorrgon 12x42 Binoculars offers all of the most critical features for birding and even more. These binoculars go above and beyond the basics, with an impressively light weight, powerful magnification, and a large field of view. They offer 12x magnification and a 42-millimeter objective lens, with a 367 feet/1,000 yard field of view. You’ll be able to see birds clearly from more than 650 feet away — and the 1.1-pound total weight is just right. You’ll love the HD vision and high-quality optics offered by these birding binoculars. They work with a large 16.5-millimeter BAK4 prism and fully multi-coated lenses, giving you bright and crisp images. And to round out their excellent perks, these binoculars are also waterproof and highly durable. They even feature an anti-slip grip and rubber armor so they can survive (or avoid) drops and shocks.

Best Value
Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars

If you’re hoping to get quality binoculars at a price you can afford, the Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars are the perfect product for you. These budget-friendly binoculars are a fantastic choice for kids or first-time birders, and they offer a host of handy features that even experienced birders will find helpful. They offer 10x magnification and a small 25-millimeter objective lens diameter, delivering HD images without blurring or shaking. You’ll enjoy a viewing field of 362 feet at 1,000 yards (or 6.5 degrees), letting you see quite a lot without moving. Built with fully multi-coated lenses, you’ll get bright, sharp images and great contrast. These birding binoculars are also very lightweight and compact — they fold down for portability and weigh just 0.6 pounds. Despite their size, these binoculars are very durable, featuring a rubber armor design and grip plus shock-resistance.

Premium Pick
Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 Binocular

The Nikon 7576 Monarch 5 Binocular is one well-constructed pair of binoculars, and its premium design and materials offer truly impressive results. These binoculars aren’t cheap — in fact, they’re very expensive — but their quality is hard to top. The Monarch 5 is built with Nikon’s premium extra-low dispersion glass for sharper, clearer, and more brilliant images. Lighter and featuring fully multi-coated eco glass lenses, you’ll get high light transmittance so you can see clearly in any lighting conditions. User-friendly features, like turn and slide rubber eyecups and flip-down lens caps, make the binoculars easy to use. You can choose your magnification too, with 8x42, 10x42, and 12x42 options available. Every pair of these Nikon binoculars is waterproof and fogproof, and the entire body is rubber armored for added strength and durability no matter what happens. They’re an investment, but these birding binoculars deliver.

Best Adjustable
Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars

Being able to customize and adjust your binoculars makes for a better birding experience — and that’s why we like the Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars. These small binoculars offer a wealth of different adjustment options, and they’re high-powered and high-performance when it comes to images too. With 12x magnification, a 25-millimeter objective lens, and a 273 feet/1,000 yard field of view, you’ll be able to see clearly along farther and wider distances. Equipped with multilayer lens coating and premium BAK4 prisms, the binoculars offer great images for beginners and pros. The adjustable eyecups allow you to perfect the fit, and they even work comfortably with glasses and sunglasses. Made with durable ABS plastic and non-slip rubber armor for increased grip, these birding binoculars are shockproof and water-resistant in lightly wet or damp conditions so you can take them anywhere in any season.

Most Versatile
SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars

The SkyGenius 10x50 Binoculars are a fantastic choice if you want to be able to catch birds in flight or any kind of lighting. These binoculars offer special features and design cues that allow you to easily see clearly when your subject is on the move or in weak lighting. With 10x magnification and a large 50-millimeter objective lens, you’ll have a field of view that reaches 367 feet/1,000 yards. Made for use in hunting, sporting events, or birding, these binoculars are durable enough to handle all kinds of outdoor elements, with rubber armor for shock-resistance and an anti-slip grip. They’re even moisture- and water-resistant. A corrective optical coating on the lenses enhances colors and minimizes any distortion, and the diopter system makes it easy to focus. When you’re in weak or dim lighting, the lenses and their multilayered coating will offer bright colors and contrast.

Honorable Mention
Adasion 12x42 Binoculars

A pair of Adasion 12x42 Binoculars will give you even more magnification than most basic birding binoculars. And when you experience the lens performance of this product, you’ll see why it’s a great choice for both first-time birders and experienced pros. Featuring large 18-millimeter eyepieces, these binoculars offer 12x magnification that delivers larger, clearer, and more detailed images through 42-millimeter optical lenses. The 16.5-millimeter big BAK4 prism lens offers superior brightness and crisp clarity, collecting 32 percent more light than a 12.5-millimeter prism. It collects more light too, giving you versatility in different lighting levels.


With a 367 foot/1,000 yard field of view, you’ll be able to see birds from many angles and locations without moving. There’s also a cool phone adapter included with these binoculars, which allows you to align your binoculars with your smartphone.

Honorable Mention
Gosky 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars

Roof prism binoculars are more complex than other alternatives, but that can result in even better images and performance. As a pair of roof prism binoculars, the Gosky 10x42 Roof Prism Binoculars offer just the right inner workings to deliver powerful magnification, excellent clarity, and superior optics. With 10x magnification and a 42-millimeter objective lens diameter, you’ll enjoy fully multilayer coatings over the lenses with green and blue film. A large BAK4 prism delivers clear, crisp, and brightly colored images. The advanced coatings are also anti-reflective to ensure optimized light transmission in an array of lighting conditions. Built for use outdoors, these binoculars are also highly durable. They’re rainproof and fogproof thanks to an O-ring that completely seals the body against moisture, dust, and other debris. Backed by a lifetime warranty and lifetime technical support, these binoculars will perform perfectly over and over.

Honorable Mention
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars

There’s a lot to love about the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars. These binoculars feature advanced design details, and they’re built for heavy-duty use in unpredictable environments. They’re tough enough to handle tactical situations, and they make for excellent birding binoculars. With 8x magnification and 42-millimeter objective lenses, these binoculars are optimized with special glass elements that provide exceptional resolution, reduce chromatic aberration, and deliver outstanding color brilliance. You’ll get sharpness and increased light transmission thanks to the full multi-coating, which includes anti-reflective coating, on the lenses. An extra dielectric coating enhances coloring. The eyecups are adjustable, able to twist up or down for increased comfort whether you’re wearing glasses or not. And special argon purging plus O-ring seals make these binoculars waterproof and fog-proof, with exterior rubber armor providing a non-slip grip plus extra durability. They can even withstand potential dangers like recoil and impacts.

Honorable Mention
Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars

The Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars offer the best of both worlds in a single pair of binoculars. Designed to be a fit for beginner to moderately experienced birders and outdoors enthusiasts, these binoculars are easy to carry, simple to use, and excellent when it comes to performance. They might seem like any other binoculars, but they combine top-tier optics with a great exterior. Featuring fully multi-coated lenses that produce brighter images and well-managed light transmission, the phase-coated BAK4 prisms offer the highest resolution. 8x magnification and a 6.5-foot close focus feature help you spot birds perfectly both near and far from you. The binoculars are housed in a waterproof body made from polycarbonate material. They’re also fog-proof and rubber-armored for added protection and durability. They also come with handy accessories you’ll need, like a carrying case, lens caps, a rain guard, a neck strap, and more.

Honorable Mention
Gskyer Binoculars

If portability is the most important feature for you, then the Gskyer Binoculars could be just the right choice. These compact and lightweight binoculars are small enough to be used with just one hand, but they also fold. That means you can make them even smaller to carry right in your pocket. They’re a great pick for kids or those who simply always want to be prepared to catch birds wherever they go. Though they are compact, these binoculars offer impressive 12x magnification and 25-millimeter objective lenses. You’ll enjoy a wide 367 feet/1,000 yard field of view. The all-glass optical eyepiece sharpens your images, and you can even hold the binoculars away from your face and get great results. To adjust and focus, a smooth central focusing wheel and diopter adjustment ring give you total control over what you’re seeing.

Tips

  • 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. 

FAQs

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.

Final Thoughts

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.