Chances are you are into bird watching. In fact, the American US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 47 million American consider themselves birders. Bird watching has been ranked in the top 15 of most popular outdoor activities in the US.
If you are into bird watching, then you will have quickly realized that binoculars are essential equipment for spotting and enjoying birds close up, which is why we have created this unique birding binoculars review.
Most bird watching experts, like Bill Stewart, Director of the Conservation and Community at the American Birding Association, agree that an 8x42-magnification binocular is best suited for bird watching. We will get into the why of this later on.
Keeping that in mind, we are focusing our review on binoculars with an 8x42 magnification on helping you choose the best binoculars for birding.
Best Birding Binoculars
Best Birding Binoculars Winner: Wingspan Optics SkyView
What makes the Wingspan especially amazing is the fact that they are dedicated to making binoculars with bird watching in mind. They pay extra attention to those aspects of a binocular that is important or helpful for bird watching helping them create some of the best birdwatching binoculars.
Large Field Of View
It should come as no surprise then that the Wingspan Optics SkyView has the largest field of view of any other binocular on our list. This is especially important in bird watching as a wide field of view allows you to better spot birds.
The smaller the field of view the more it will feel like you are looking through a tube, which is not ideal for birdwatching.
The multi-coated lenses and the phase correcting coating on the prism ensure that there is little to no loss of clarity or brightness to the colors, allowing you to see better, identify and appreciate wildlife. All these coatings are intended to make the images bright. Without them, your bird watching will bland.
The Wingspan Optics SkyView also has ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) Glass. That means that the glass contains extra-low dispersion elements, which help decrease chromatic aberrations.
In other words, this glass causes less color fringing and thus better, clearer and brighter the images throughout the field of view.
Another great aspect of this binocular is the close focus range of 6.6 ft. The close-range focus describes how close the object or bird can be, where you can still use the binoculars to focus and magnify.
In other words, with this binocular, you can zoom in on birds that are even just 6.6 feet away in your backyard. Seeing very familiar birds that close up, literally opens up an entirely new world.
The Wingspan Optics SkyView also has adjustable eyecups so you can have a comfortable viewing experience and can adjust the eye-relief distance so you can have the right focal point.
This binocular is also water and fog proof, having been filled with nitrogen gas. Meaning that all the air inside the binocular has been purged and replaced with nitrogen.
Nitrogen reacts differently to temperature changes thus keeping the lenses from fogging up. Add to that the fact that this is quite a lightweight but durable binocular and you have a piece of equipment that you will have no trouble taking with you into the field.
The wingspan Optics SkyView is an excellent piece of bird watching equipment at a very affordable price. Additionally, it comes with Premium Lifetime Warranty. That says a lot about the quality of the product and the confidence of the manufacturer that their product will hold up in the field.
Best Birding Binocular Runner-Up Leupold: Leupold Mojave Pro
The Leupold Mojave binoculars certainly deserve the runner-up space. This lightweight binocular comes with all the features you want and need in a bird watching binocular.
The Leupold Mojave binoculars also have Extra-low Dispersion lenses, though they choose not to advertise is in the name, probably because it is a quite technical. Either way, the image is clear, and the colors are bright.
These binoculars also have phase-coated prisms and multi-coated lenses. You can be assured that the image will be clear and bright, with a high resolution, even towards the edges of the field of view.
The Leupold Mojave Pro also comes with their proprietary Xtended Twilight Lens System, an ingenious piece of optics engineering that allows you to see bright images when there is less light.
This technology keeps glare at bay while simultaneously enhancing an optimal balance of contrast and resolution.
Central Focus Dial
The large, tactile central focus dial allows for smooth focusing and the ability to change the focus to your précising standards. The central wheel is large enough that it is easy to find and manipulate, even with gloves on.
The height variable eyecups allow for a multi-stage adjusting thanks to the twist-up design. It is easy to adjust the height and the eye-relief so that the binoculars “fit” you comfortable, but are also easy to adjust for someone else
The durable aluminum housing is covered with a strong rubber layer, which not only protects the housing but also allows for a firm grasp. These binoculars are also completely water- and fog-proof thanks to Leupold’s proprietary nitrogen sealing process, which has apparently become an industry standard.
Thanks to the built-in tripod adapter port (1/4-20), you will have no trouble mounting in on a tripod when you want to.
Best Birding Binoculars Alternatives: Celestron 71332 Nature DX
These Celestron binoculars also come with phase-coated prisms and fully, multi-coated lenses. As you may have noted, all the top binoculars on our list have these features.
They are essential for birdwatching, or any outdoor use, because they allow for brighter, clearer images, without distorting light or colors.
The close-range focus is small, coming in at 6.5 feet. The Celestron binoculars allow you to magnify and enjoy objects at close range. This makes them ideal for use both in the great outdoors and in your backyard. Feathers, insects, plants, see it all at an impressive close range.
The field of view is impressive at 388 feet at 1000 yards, which is excellent for birdwatching. It allows you to scan vast areas even when magnified, making it easier to spot birds, even at a distance.
The Celestron 71332 also comes with a built-in tripod adapter that makes it easy to mount on monopods or tripods so you can enjoy long periods of steady viewing.
The twist-up eyecups on the Celestron binoculars are easy to adjust and position for use with or without eyeglasses. Take these binoculars with you on family outings in nature; the eyecups can easily be adapted to accommodate different people.
Also, as you would expect from the binoculars on our list, the Celestron 71332 Nature Binoculars are fully water-and fog-proof, having been filled with dry nitrogen gas. You can take these binoculars with you out into the wild without having to worry about damaging them or having the image impaired by fogginess.
Even though the Celestron Nature binoculars are incredibly durable, sporting a polycarbonate housing that is thoroughly coated in rubber, the Celestron Nature Binoculars is also one of the most lightweight binoculars on our list, which makes them one of the best compact binoculars for birding in our opinion.
Best Birding Binoculars Alternative: Hawke Endurance
As the name suggests, the Hawke Endurance ED binoculars also come with Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass. Therefore, you can be assured that there will be little to no color fringing in the image; the image will be clearer, brighter and more colorful all throughout.
Just as you have come to see from us, the binoculars also come with the all-important phase correcting coating of the prism and multi-coated lenses.
This combination decreases color fringing, allowing better light management and thus produces clearer and brighter images so you can enjoy all the colors and details better.
Field Of View
With a 388 feet field of view at 1000 yards and a close-range focus of 6.6 feet, this binocular has all the specs you need for spotting birds in the field or magnifying objects at a closer range to their full magnified glory.
Thanks to the low gearing focus wheel, it is easy to make fine-tuned adjustments to the focus. It might take a little longer to make big adjustments, but the ability to make small incremental adjustments makes it easier to focus on smaller details.
The Hawke Endurance Binoculars have a thinner bridge that, additionally, is placed closer to the eyepieces, than most other binoculars on our list. You will have more space on the lower, “barrel” part of the binoculars, making it easier to hold and carry securely in one hand.
As you would come to expect from a quality binocular, the air inside the Hawke Endurance 8x42 has been replaced with nitrogen gas during manufacturing, which means that these binoculars are also water- and fog proof.
These binoculars also come with twist-up eyecups for easy adjustment and comfort. Additionally, under the front dust cap, you will find a threaded tripod port that will accept most standard tripods.
With the low weight and durable housing, you will have no trouble taking this binocular out with you into the field and not having to worry about them getting water damaged or you being weighed down.
Best Beginner Birding Binoculars: Gosky Birding Binoculars
We have been focusing on 8x42 magnification binoculars because we believe they are especially good for birdwatching. However, that does not mean that higher magnifications cannot be used for the same purpose. In fact, 10x magnification is probably better for bird watching at large fields of view.
Eric Lind, Center Director of the Audubon Constitution Marsh Center & Sanctuary, prefers a 10x magnification for shorebird viewing at the beach, for example.
We have included the Gosky 10x42 Binoculars for that reason. Additionally, these binoculars are probably more multi-purpose so you can use them, not only for bird watching but also for taking with you to concerts or football games for example.
Field Of View
As you would expect from binoculars with a higher magnification, the field of view on this binocular is smaller, at 330 feet at 1000 yards. However, that does not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of users.
This binocular has a 5-star rating on Amazon and is highly appreciated by the people who have bought them and use them for a variety of outdoor activities: hunting, camping, target spotting and even for watching deer in the yard.
As an entry-level binocular in the lower price range, it does not come with ED-Glass or phase correcting coatings. It does, however, still have a very nice clear image. The lenses are multi-layer coated with a green film, and the eyepieces are tinged slightly blue, to make up for the lack of phase correcting. The images are crisp, and the colors are bright.
The most noteworthy feature on these binoculars is the special Gosky 2017 “quick alignment” smartphone adapter.
This separate but attachable device fits over one of the eyepieces and allows your smartphone to “look” through the binoculars. In other words, you can make clear magnified pictures and videos with your smartphone.
How To Choose Binoculars?
Any avid birdwatcher will tell you that the binoculars are one of the most, if not the most, indispensable equipment to their bird watching activities. The right pair of binoculars can enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of all aspects of wildlife exponentially.
A good quality pair of binoculars will allow you to show you fine detail and spectacular colors, improving your chances of identifying what you are looking at. Not to mention, allows you to enjoy birds as you would not be able to do without them.
If you have spent any time reading binocular reviews then you have already come across the most common tip: spend as much as you can to buy the best you can, or along those lines.
Bill Steward, Director at the American Birding Association and a 40-year birder himself, has seen many beginners making the mistake of buying a cheap first binocular, only finding that they need or want to upgrade relatively soon and end up spending more on their second pair.
Though you have seen us recommend 8x42 binocular, the best birding binoculars are ones that make you excited about birding and enjoying nature in general.
So make sure you buy the best ones for you regardless of what any third party binoculars rating or binoculars reviews might tell you. Just keep the following aspects in mind and chose the binoculars that feel best to you and offer the best quality you can afford.
What To Look For In Birding Binoculars?
Let’s talk about the effects of resolution first. The resolution of a binocular refers to its ability to show fine detail (like individual feathers). Several factors contribute to this, but one of the main ones is the size of the objective lens, the quality of the optical components and the coatings that are applied to the lenses and prism.
That is why our recommended binoculars list includes 8x42 magnification binoculars. The eight refers to the magnification power and the 42 to the size of the lens. Additionally, you will find that most of the binoculars on our recommend list include either ED-Glass and phase and multi-layered lens coatings.
Short or Close Range Focus. – We have explained this a little in our reviews, but the close-range focus distance gives you a reference as to the proximity of objects that the binocular can magnify. Good quality binoculars will have a Close Focus Range of around 2 meters or 6.5 feet. Decent quality binoculars will have a Close Focus range of 3 to 4 meters or 10-13 feet.
Most people will assume that a higher magnification of 10x or 12 is better than a lower magnification of 7x or 8x. That is not necessarily true.
While a higher magnification will naturally allow you to zoom in more, the downside is that a higher magnification will also come with a few shortcomings that can impede birdwatching, like:
Considering this, it is clear why an 8x magnification is recommended for bird watching. It offers a versatile combination of reach (field of view), detail enhancement and stability that is ideal for handheld birdwatching in the field.
Field Of View
You have read a lot about Field of View and the importance of it for birding. The Field of View is usually measured in feet at 1000 yards (or meter at 1000 meters) and indicates the amplitude or extent of the scenery that you can observe through the binoculars.
The easiest way to think about Field of View is to imagine looking through a tube, like a paper roll tube for example. That ‘tunnel vision’ is a very low field of view. The larger the field of view the less tunnel-like the image or scene will be.
Most experienced bird watchers agree that a good field of view is relevant because birds tend to move fast, a large field of view allows you to track them or spot them much easier.
Size And Weight
Obviously, the binoculars need to be easily portable. The lighter and smaller the binoculars are the easier it will be to carry them on the neck strap for longer periods.
However, keep in mind that quality optics just weigh more than less. Quality components tend to be larger or made with more solid materials and therefore tend to weigh more. Remember, for example, that lens size is essential for resolution.
It is essential you find a balance between a comfortable carrying around weight and the best quality components you can afford. In fact, the extra weight can help to hold the binoculars steady, so it is not all bad.
While binoculars can come with a lot of extra features, we believe that having a water-and fog-proof binocular is one of the most important features you can have.
Not only will a water- and fog-proof binocular be safe to use in inclement weather, but also help keep dust and fine particles of debris from getting inside and messing up the lenses.
Most water- and fog-proof binoculars are either Nitrogen or Argon gas purged. Meaning that the air inside has been replaced with one of these gasses, which prevent the binoculars from fogging up.
Birding is a wonderful outdoor hobby enjoyed by millions of Americans. Other than fair weather, a good pair of binoculars is probably one of the most critical aspects of bird watching.
Choosing the right binocular for you is not easy; there are many features and brands to consider.
We have narrowed our recommendation list down to the binoculars best suited for entry to mid-level birdwatchers, so you can be a step closer to watching and enjoying birds and wildlife in general.
We especially like the Wingspan Optics Skyview, as it comes with high-quality optics and all the features you could look for in a quality binocular in a competitive price range.
The Leupold Mojave Pro comes in at a very close second. Other good alternatives include the Celestron Nature DX and the Hawke Endurance ED.
We highly recommend these binocular because we are impressed with their abilities and quality, which we consider especially suited for bird watching.