The 8 Best Bird Watching Binoculars of 2017

Can we agree that shopping for the BEST bird watching binoculars can be extremely frustrating?

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsThere are countless makes and models, all making some pretty big promises. After doing some research, it seemed that more questions arose than answers.

 

How much should I spend? Am I getting ripped off? Is this the best choice for bird watching? Which brand is the best?

 

It was time fix this problem. I wanted to help.

 

I spent hours upon hours (seriously, way too much time!) digging into dozens of optics trying to find the BEST bird watching binoculars.

 

Good news!

 

I was able to create a list of the 8 best bird watching binoculars.

 

Can you guess what birders think is the most important factor while deciding on new optics?

 

Price! Yes, it always seems to come down to price. 🙂

 

To accommodate, this list includes binoculars from ALL price levels. I tried to pick the best from every price point. From the best money can buy ($2,600) all the way down to the best binoculars for absolute beginners ($125) and everything in between.

 

***Make sure to check out the helpful binocular comparison chart at the bottom of the list!****

 

Let’s get started:

 

The Platinum Class (Over $1,500) :

 

1. Zeiss Victory SF 8×42:

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

Do you want one of the best bird watching binoculars that money can buy?

 

If so, then you want the Zeiss Victory SF. Outstanding image quality, huge Field of View, small Close Focus, sleek and comfortable design, and all backed by an amazing company and warranty. It’s hard to find a better binoculars.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

The biggest drawback to the Victory is the price (~$2,500) !  To many bird watchers, it is not affordable.

 

It’s also not a great choice for a beginner birder or the casual birder. I’d start with one of the less expensive options on this list.

 

Other Resources:

 

 

 

2. Leica Noctivid 8×42:

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

It’s one of the best bird watching binoculars that money can buy.

 

Leica incorporated their latest technologies and best materials to create the Noctivid. As Mr. Hammond would say Leica “spared no expense.”

 

Jurassic Park anyone???

Best Bird Watching Binoculars

 

Seriously, the image quality of the Noctivid is second to none. I am a huge fan. The Zeiss Victory SF has been my favorite binocular, but now there is serious competition!

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

At a cost of over $2,500, the Noctivid is probably out of the price range of many. As much as I want a Noctivid or Zeiss Victory, I can’t justify (yet!) spending more on a binocular than our mortgage payment!

 

If you are a beginner or just casual birder, a binocular farther down on this list may be a better option before making such a big investment.

 

Also, normally the biggest difference observed in a high priced binocular is the brightness and quality of an image in low light situations like sunrise, sunset or a dark forest. If you will be using your optics in bright and sunny conditions, spending this much probably isn’t worth it.

Other Resources:

 

 

 

The Gold Class ($750 – $1,499):

 

 3. Zeiss Conquest HD 8×42

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

For less than half the cost (~$1,000) , you get very similar features to the Zeiss Victory SF! To the untrained eye, your friends may never know the difference looking through your lens.

 

The Conquest is known to have a very sharp and clear image among many other features that are perfect to watch birds. It still sports a wide Field of View, it’s excellent in challenging light conditions and also has the same warranty and excellent design and engineering that we have come to expect from Zeiss.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

The Zeiss Conquest is slightly heavier than many of the other optics on this list and many people complain about the quality of the lens covers (these can easily be replaced with a better set).

 

To save a few bucks and get a similar binocular, you can look below at the Silver Class options below. Also, as great as the Conquest is, by spending a few bucks more you can just get one of the best bins on the market today with the Zeiss Victory SF or Leica Noctivid under the Platinum Class.

 

Other Resources:

 

 

 

4. Leica Trinovid HD 8×42

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

The Trinovid is an overall excellent choice for a bird watching binocular. In many ways, it is very similar to it’s more expensive cousin the Leica Noctivid but for a fraction of the cost (~$950).

 

Thanks to the excellent engineering that has come to be expected of Leica products, the image is outstanding. It is bright, sharp and displays rich colors.

 

I have always loved the ergonomic designs of Leica binoculars. They fit well in my hands and have a very compact design and the Trinovid is no exception.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

As mentioned, the Trinovid is very similar to the Leica Noctivid (Platinum Class above).

 

The Noctivid does outperform in a few ways. Which it should! It’s quite a bit more expensive.

 

If you are a fan of Leica and can afford it, why not just jump up and buy the Leica Noctivid?  It has slightly better materials, such as the quality of the Extra-Low dispersion glass,  which will give a better overall image.

Other Resources:

 

 

The Silver Class ($300 – $749)

 

5. Nikon Monarch 7 (8×42)

Best Bird Watching Binoculars

Why you should buy:

 

I think it’s one of the best combinations of price and performance.

 

First, it is very affordable at around $500.

 

Second, it’s a really great binocular! Backed by the trusted name of Nikon, it features Extra Low Dispersion glass, an extremely wide Field of View and is light and comfortable to carry around.

 

In my opinion, if you can’t afford (or don’t want to pay for!) one of the higher end binoculars, the Nikon Monarch 7 will provide many of the same features.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

To get the price down, the Monarch 7 does have to sacrifice in a few areas compared to the higher end and more expensive optics. The biggest difference you would notice is the quality of the image, especially in low light situations such as a darker forest canopy, sunrise or sunset. The Monarch 7 does fairly well, but it doesn’t come close to the overall image quality of a Zeiss Victory SF or Leica Noctivid.

 

On the other hand, even though it’s quite a bit cheaper than the higher end (Platinum or Gold Class above) binoculars, $500 is still a nice chunk of money. If that amount scares you or your not sure if bird watching is for you (yet!), then keep reading for some other great but less expensive options.

 

Other Resources:

 

 

6. Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8×42

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

For an extremely affordable price (~$330) , the Ranger ED has many features that are perfect for bird watchers.

 

First, the images are bright and clear. It features Extra-Low Dispersion glass to enhance color and and contrast. It also has fully multi-coated lenses and dielectric prism coatings to optimize and increase light transmission.

 

To be honest, while testing I found the quality Ranger ED image to outperform many binoculars that were 2x or 3x the price.

 

Eagle Optics also gives the best warranty available among binocular companies! Called the Platinum Protection Warranty, it cover’s all damage to your binocular for life! Incredible! It only excludes loss, theft and intentional damage.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

The only reason you shouldn’t buy this binocular is if you can afford to upgrade to one of the Gold or Platinum Class choices above. As with most binoculars, the more you pay, the better image quality can be expected, especially in challenging light situations.

 

Other Resources:

  • A full description of technical specifications and other features on the Eagle Optics site.

 

 

The Bronze Class (under $300):

 

7. Nikon Monarch 5 (8×42)

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass!! This is the least expensive binocular that you can purchase that includes this high quality and sought after glass. ED glass has a great reputation for giving an outstanding image.

 

Normally priced around $275, ED glass is not the only reason to consider the Monarch 5. Nikon is known for making high quality products and provides as many features as possible for this low price. Not only is the image quality great for this price range, but the binocular is extremely light and easy to hold, water proofed,  and has a dielectric high-reflective coating on the prisms which also helps let more light through to improve the image.

 

The Monarch 5 is an excellent choice for a limited budget or a beginning bird watcher. I don’t think you would be disappointed.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

One of my complaints is the Field of View, which is only 330 feet. For bird watching, one of my preferences in a binocular is a wide field of view. I don’t want to miss any action!

 

Other Resources:

 

8. Celestron Nature DX 8×42

 

Best Bird Watching BinocularsWhy you should buy:

 

These are perfect for someone on a low budget, absolute beginners or even teachers that need to provide binoculars to an entire group or class.

 

Very affordable at around $125, but still good enough to provide an excellent bird watching experience. If you try to get cheaper than this, you risk having a very frustrating day due to your cheap and ineffective binoculars.

 

Don’t have a bad day! Make the Celestron Nature DX the baseline of all other binoculars. Please don’t look at anything cheaper than this.

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

If your budget permits, I recommend buying the best pair of binoculars you can afford.

 

Especially if you can afford a little bit more then you can bump up to the Nikon Monarch 5 and get Extra-Low Dispersion glass which will really increase the overall quality of your image!

 

Other Resources:

 

Wait! Don’t leave yet!

 

Before you go, check out the awesome table below. It’s a comparison of all the binoculars found on this list. By clicking on the headers you can sort the information by the features that are most important to you.

 

Make and ModelApproximate Price
(Click link to
see current cost on Amazon)
Field of View
(feet per 1,000 yards)
Close Focusing DistanceEye ReliefWeight
Leica Noctivid 8x42$2,600404 feet6 feet / 1.9 m19 mm30.3 ounces
Zeiss Victory SF 8x42$2,500444 feet5 feet / 1.52 m18 mm27.5 ounces
Zeiss Conquest HD 8x42$975384 feet6.5 feet / 2 m18 mm28 ounces
Leica Trinovid HD 8x42$950372 feet5.9 feet / 1.8 m17 mm25.75 ounces
Nikon Monarch 7 (8x42)$500420 feet8.2 feet / 2.5 m17.1 mm22.9 ounces
Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8x42$330341 feet5.2 feet / 1.58 m19.5 mm23.6 ounces
Nikon Monarch 5 (8x42)$300330 feet8.2 feet / 2.5 m19.5 mm20.8 ounces
Celestron Nature DX 8x42$125338 feet6.5 feet / 2 m17.5 mm22.2 ounces

 

 

Important House Keeping Items:

 

There were a few things I wanted to share about my process at arriving at the 8 best bird watching binoculars.

 

1. I am not an expert!

 

With that being said, I think this can be a good thing. My reviews are written
from the perspective of a beginner and novice. I keep them simple and try to focus on the best
features of each binocular with the birder in mind.

 

2. Why is every binocular an 8×42? 

 

If you didn’t notice, every binocular that I recommended was an 8×42. This means it has has an 8x magnification and 42mm objective diameter.

 

This is the option I prefer for birding. For me, it’s the best combination of weight, size,
brightness, magnification and field of view. If that is not your preference, most models have
different sizes (10×42, 8×30) available.

 

To learn more about the recommended specifications for the best bird watching binoculars, check out The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Bird Watching Binoculars!

 

3. How did I narrow the list of binoculars down to 8?

 

My process for reviewing and selecting these binoculars included:

 

  • Visiting local dealers and testing each optic personally.
  • Talking to each manufacturer about important features such as lens quality, coatings,
    warranties, etc. Also spending countless hours on their website researching all of the
    technical information, reviewing brochures and guides and sending countless emails for the
    information I couldn’t locate.
  • Reading many other online reviews and expert opinions.
  • Binoculars come in price ranges from $20 to almost $3,000. I did my best to find the best binoculars across all different price ranges. I tried to keep in mind that everyone has a different budget and are at different levels of birding, but obviously by spending more money you expect a higher quality optic.

 

4. I am human!

 

Lastly, I am known to make a mistake from time to time (just ask my wife!). If you read anything
that doesn’t sound right or has changed, please let me know and I can get it fixed!

 

 

 

 

What do you think is the best bird watching binocular? What is your favorite? Do you prefer 8×42 or another size? Let me know!

 

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to my newsletter to be made aware when new content is available.

 

Scott

 

Lastly, some of the links to Amazon are affiliate links. That means if you decide to purchase then I receive a small percentage of the sale at no cost to you! This money would help pay for the cost to run this site. Thank you in advance!

 

 

 

 

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