The 8 Best Binoculars for Bird Watching (2018)

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


Best Bird Watching BinocularsThere are countless makes and models, all making some pretty big promises. After doing some research, more questions usually arise.


How much should I spend? Am I getting ripped off?  Which brand is the best?



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


Good news!


I was able to create a list of the 8 best binoculars for birding.


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


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


To accommodate, the first half of this post is a list of the best birding binoculars across ALL price levels. From the best money can buy ($2,600) all the way down to the best bird watching binoculars for those on a budget ($125) and everything in between.


The second half of this post will teach you about bird watching binoculars and HOW to choose them. From the most important birding specifications to the features that affect price, I will give you all the important things to consider.

Quick Links:

The Best Bird Watching Binoculars (2018)

How to Choose Birding Binoculars

Related Reading: The 7 Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography (2018)

Related Reading: The 11 Best Spotting Scopes for Bird Watching (2018)

 Let’s get started!


The Platinum Class (Over $1,500) :


1. Zeiss Victory SF (8×42)


Best Bird Watching Binoculars

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Why 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, wide Field of View, small Close Focus, sleek and comfortable design, and backed by a fantastic company and warranty. It’s hard to find a better binoculars for birding.


Why you shouldn’t buy:


The biggest drawback to the Victory is the price (~$2,800)!  For most birders, 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 birding binoculars on this list.


Read my Complete Review For More Information: 

9 Reasons to Buy The Zeiss Victory Today! (And One Reason You Shouldn’t)


2. Leica Noctivid (8×42)


Best Bird Watching Binoculars

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Why 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 from Jurassic Park would say, Leica “spared no expense.”

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 birding binoculars, but now there is serious competition!


Why you shouldn’t buy:


At the cost of over $2,500, the Noctivid is too expensive for many birders. It’s hard to justify spending more money on bird watching binoculars than my mortgage payment!


If you are a beginner or just casual birder, a less expensive birding binocular may be a better option before making such a significant investment.


Normally the most prominent difference observed in high priced birding binoculars is the brightness and quality of an image in low light situations like sunrise, sunset or a dark forest. If you typically use your optics in bright and sunny conditions, then spending this much money is probably not worth it.

Read my Complete Review For More Information: 

Leica Noctivid: The 7 BEST Reasons To Purchase Today!


The Gold Class ($750 – $1,499):


***Check out the best binoculars for birding comparison chart at the bottom of the list!****


 3. Zeiss Conquest HD (8×42)


Best Bird Watching Binoculars

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Why you should buy:


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


The Conquest is known to have a very sharp and clear image among many other features that are perfect for watching birds. It still sports a wide Field of View and is excellent in challenging light conditions. It 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.


Read my Complete Review For More Information: 

The 8 Reasons to Purchase the Zeiss Conquest Today! (And the 2 Reasons You Shouldn’t)


4. Leica Trinovid HD (8×42)


binoculars for bird watching

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Why 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 is 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).


But the Noctivid does outperform in a few ways. And it should since it’s significantly 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.


Read my Complete Review For More Information: 

Leica Trinovid HD Review: A Premium Binocular at Half the Cost!

The Silver Class ($300 – $749)

**View the helpful bird watching binocular comparison chart at the bottom of the list!**

5. Nikon Monarch 7 (8×42)

best binoculars for bird watching

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Why you should buy:


I think it’s one of the best combinations of price and performance you will find in bird watching binoculars.


It is very affordable at around $500.


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 most significant 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 reasonably 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) birding 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.


Read my complete review ->  7 Reasons to Buy the Nikon Monarch 7!

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.

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First, the images are bright and clear. It features Extra-Low Dispersion glass to enhance color 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.

The Bronze Class (under $300):

***View my bird watching binoculars comparison chart at the bottom of the list!****

7. Nikon Monarch 5 (8×42)


birding binoculars

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Why you should buy:


Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass!! The Monarch 5 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 excellent for this price range, but the binocular is exceptionally light and comfortable to hold, waterproofed, 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 will be disappointed.


Why you shouldn’t buy:


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


 Read my full review of the Nikon Monarch 5

8. Celestron Nature DX (8×42)


Best Bird Watching Binoculars

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Why 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 for all other birding 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 bird watching 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 increase the overall quality of your image!

Read my full review of the Celestron Nature DX: The Best Budget Birding Binoculars on Planet Earth!

Bird Watching Binoculars Comparision Table:

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The table below is a comparison of all the best birding 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 mm26.5 ounces
Nikon Monarch 7 (8x42)$500420 feet8.2 feet / 2.5 m17.1 mm22.9 ounces
Eagle Optics Ranger ED$330341 feet5.2 feet / 1.58 m19.5 mm22.4 ounces
Nikon Monarch 5 (8x42)$300330 feet7.8 feet / 2.5 m19.5 mm20.8 ounces
Celestron Nature DX$125388 feet6.5 feet / 2 m17.5 mm22.2 ounces

Other Articles You May Enjoy:

45+ Unique Bird Watching Gifts for Bird Lovers

My Recommended Bird Watching Equipment, Gear, and Resources

The 11 Best Spotting Scopes for Bird Watching


How to Choose Bird Watching Binoculars


The rest of this article is dedicated to understanding the features, specifications and technical data that you will encounter while shopping for birding binoculars.


There are a lot of things to consider! Binoculars are made for all sorts of reasons other than watching birds; hunting, astronomy, sporting events, etc.


For the record: All of the BEST bird watching binoculars that made this list meet almost all of the below requirements. 


The 6 Things That Bird Watching Binoculars MUST Have!

1. Magnification: The First Number

magnification - binoculars for bird watching

2. Objective Lens Diameter: The Second Number

objective lens

3. Field of View (FOV): The visible area seen through your binoculars.

field of view

  • Angle of View: Some manufacturers will give the Angle of View instead of the Field of View. They represent the same thing, but you will need to convert the Angle of View to Field of View.
  • To do this, just multiply the angle by 52.5. For example, if the Angle of View is 8 degrees, the FOV would be 420 feet. (8 x 52.5 = 420)

4. Close Focus:

close focus - birding binoculars

5. Roof vs. Porro Prisms:

The prisms in your binocular come in two different styles. The difference is how light enters and travels through the binocular and prisms.

porro binocular - birding binoculars Porro Prism: Light zigzags through the binocular.

Porro Prisms: When light enters the lens, it does a zig-zag through the binocular to get to your eye. These prisms were standard until companies like Zeiss introduced Roof prism binoculars.

  • The biggest advantage of a Porro prism is that they are cheaper to manufacture. This means you can get a higher quality binocular for the same price range of a Roof prism.
  • The disadvantage is that Porro style binoculars are much more cumbersome, clunky and awkward to carry around!!



roof binocular - Best Binoculars for BirdingRoof Prism: Light travels straight through the binocular.


Roof Prisms: Though they are smaller, compact and more streamlined, these prisms are more complicated internally. Light goes straight through the barrel to your eye.

  • Highly Recommended: Most bird watching binoculars will be a roof prism design. They are so much easier to carry around and use. They fit in your hand much better and weigh less.
  • The main disadvantage is that for the same quality binocular, they will cost a bit more than a Porro prism. This difference is very worth it!! To be honest, the prices are not much different anymore. Most companies have focused on designing roof prism designs because they are so much easier to carry and preferred by customers.

6. Waterproof and Fog proof:

I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a binocular that can withstand the elements. Unfortunately, the weather rarely cooperates when I go birding!
There are many times I have battled snow, sleet, and rain. I have fallen face first into mud and slipped into creeks. It happens 🙂 Luckily, I don’t have to worry about my binocular and I highly recommend that you purchase an optic with the following features:
  • Waterproof: Most companies use this term to mean that water can not enter. Usually, they will indicate how far underwater or how long underwater they can go before there could be a problem. Make sure it’s Waterproof and not just weatherproof.
  • Fog proof: To prevent your lenses from fogging up in moist or humid conditions, your binocular will need to be filled with dry nitrogen (or argon) gas instead of oxygen. Many times the description will say “nitrogen purged” or “nitrogen filled.”
The good news is that almost all binoculars that cost over $100 come with these two features standard, including any of the binoculars recommended on this site.

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Features of Birding Binoculars That Affect Price:

I am going to give a quick quiz!

Looking at the binocular models below, try and guess the approximate cost, or at least try and guess which one is most expensive.

I am only listing the specifications discussed in the above section “The Most Important Specifications and Features for Bird Watching.”


Best Binoculars for Birding


So what do you think?


Looking at just this above table, you might believe that the Nikon Monarch would be more expensive than the Leica Ultravid HD-Plus. They have very similar specifications, with the Monarch having a better Field of View and Close Focus.


Surprisingly, the Nikon Monarch 7 costs around $500 while the Leica Ultravid HD-Plus is a very high end binocular, coming in at over $2,000. What is going on here?


The six specifications and features that are wanted for bird watching don’t necessarily affect the price of the binocular.


So, what does affect the price?

It’s all about the image quality! With few exceptions, the image quality is correlated to the price of the binocular.


My recommendation is to spend as much as you can responsibly afford! Trust me; it’s worth it.


The binocular industry is very competitive, and there are many great companies and models on the market. Birding optics can cost anywhere from $100 to upwards of $3,000. Because the industry is so competitive, you are going to get what you pay for.


More $ = Better Image and Picture.


As we have discussed, binocular manufacturers are on a never-ending quest to provide us with a perfect image. Some of the common issue’s consumers experience is loss of brightness and color, depth of field issues, chromatic aberration, fringing, and crispness. Many of these problems are compounded in challenging light environments such as in shady woods or sunrise/sunset.

I have found there are 3 things a company can do to help offset the above challenges.

Again, usually the more expensive the binocular, the better image that should be expected.


***Important Note: Most companies don’t reveal much detail when it comes to the below information. These are kept a secret so as not to lose a competitive advantage. For example, Zeiss has been in business a LONG time. They have perfected their engineering and coatings over many years and are not very willing to share their best practices with other companies!***

1. Type and Quality of Glass and Prism:

The importance of the glass and prism can’t be understated! Think about it; light travels through the lens and prisms to reach your eye.

A whole post could be dedicated to the science that happens inside a binocular and how the glass can affect the image. Until that happens, here is a summary:

BK-7 Prisms vs. BaK-4 Prisms: 

  • BK-7 Prisms are found in very low priced binoculars.
  • BaK-4 Prisms are in most birding binoculars over $100. They have a higher refractive index.
    • There is a vast difference in quality among optics that have BaK-4 Prisms. For example, some are manufactured in China, which supposedly has a lower refractive index than true BaK-4 Prisms. The quality and performance vary among different companies and how they engineer their prisms.

Types of Glass in the Lens:

  • Standard Glass.
  • Extra Low Dispersion (ED) Glass: This is a high-quality glass that used to be only found in the top binoculars, but now is much more common across all price ranges. One of it’s best benefits is it helps reduce chromatic aberration – which is the inability of the lens to focus all the colors to a single point. It causes color fringing around the edges of the image.
  • High Definition (HD) Glass: This is a marketing term used interchangeably with ED Glass.

  • Flouride (FL) Glass: It is also a type of ED glass, but the lens also contains fluoride. So all FL glass is ED glass, but not all ED glass contains fluoride.

2. Coatings:

As light moves through your binocular, it enters and leaves different glass surfaces and lenses. Each time this happens, about 5% of the light is reflected back. This creates a problem when that light is relied upon to make the image bright and clear but only half of it reaches our eye!!


To fix this problem, companies have developed complex coatings as thin as a few millionths of an inch that is applied to the glass. Every company has their different coatings, and there is no industry standard, but here are a few terms to keep in mind.

  • Coated: At least one coating on the lens surface. Frequently magnesium fluorite is used. Cheap binoculars!
  • Fully Coated: At least one coating on all air-to-glass surfaces.
  • Multi-Coated: Have multiple coatings on at least one of the lens surfaces.
  • Fully Multi-Coated: All lenses and internal air-to-glass surfaces are multi-coated. This costs the most to manufacture but will let the most amount of light through to your eye.

Dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating: I thought it was important to mention this type of coating precisely because it’s found on Roof style binoculars on the prism and is a great coating to have. It can achieve light reflectance that exceeds 99%, which means better and brighter images! Normally this coating is found on higher end binoculars.

Phase Correction Coating: This coating is also found on better birding binoculars and is only needed for roof style optics. A roof surface can cause a phase shift of light, which affects the image. The phase correction coatings help to minimize this occurrence and keep the image clear.

3. Engineering:

The way a binocular is engineered and designed is going to trump many of the other features mentioned in this section.

For example, a binocular can have the best ED glass available, be fully multi-coated on all lenses and have a dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coating and still have an awful image when it reaches your eye!! These features are important, but useless if the company that made the binocular did a poor job of putting everything together.

Before making a purchase, I recommend doing some research on the manufacturer and learning their reputation.

How long have they been in business? Are they a leader in the optics industry? Where are the binoculars manufactured (e.g., Germany or China)?

Other Important Things to Consider:


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While shopping for birding binoculars, consider the following!

So far we have covered two things. First, the most important binocular specifications needed for birding. Second, some of the technology that affects the vast price differences you see among binoculars.

In this section is a list of other questions to ask yourself and to consider. Buying birding binoculars is a highly personal choice, and there is no “one size fits all” model.

Ease of Focus:

  • There is nothing more frustrating when a bird lands a few feet in front of me, and I can’t focus my binoculars fast enough before it flies away!! Every optic focuses a bit different, so it’s important to consider.
  • Make sure the birding binoculars you choose has one central focusing knob, and it should be positioned comfortably under your index finger.

  • Is it easy and smooth to focus or difficult and stiff? Can you get a fine focus quickly? Remember, you don’t want to miss any action while messing with the focus.

Eye Relief:

  • It is the distance that a binocular eyepiece can be held away from your eye and still see the whole Field of View.

  • Very important to consider if you wear eyeglasses since you already start a little farther back from the eyepiece.

***Recommended: At least 15mm of eye relief is recommended, especially for those who wear glasses!


  • In my opinion, a warranty is a reflection of how confident the manufacturer is of their product. Do they have faith in their engineering? Will it hold up to the rigors and stresses of birding?

  • Every company has a different warranty, so it’s vital to consider. Also, some warranties are voided if the product isn’t registered or if proof of purchase can’t be provided.


  • Lifetime Warranty for manufacturer defects. Many companies offer this outstanding benefit. (e.g., Zeiss, Leica, Nikon)


  • Many also provide a warranty for a limited time for accidental damage that is your fault. For example, Zeiss includes a 5 Year No Fault Policy. This covers any damage caused by normal and intended use!

Weight and Feel:

Before making a final decision on bird watching binoculars, it is beneficial to hold it in your hand and be able to test it in the field.

  • How much does it weigh? Is this too heavy to carry around all day?
  • Does it fit well in my hands? Can my fingers access the focus easily?

***Recommended: Under 30 ounces (about 1.9 lbs).

    • Remember from above, as the Objective Lens Diameter increases, so does the size and weight of the binocular. This is one reason that 42mm is recommended for the diameter size. It’s my preference for the best combination of image quality and brightness, and the weight is still comfortable.
    • If weight is a concern, my recommendation is to buy a more “mid-sized” binocular. Look for an Objective Lens Diameter between 30-35mm.

Perfect Birding Binoculars Have…


Here is a summary of what I look for when shopping for bird watching binoculars.


  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Close Focus: under 6.5 feet or 2 meters.
  • Field of View: Above 380 feet.
  • Roof style.
  • Waterproof and Fog proof.
  • Easy to focus.
  • Great warranty.
  • Light enough to carry in the field all day and feels comfortable in your hands.

Notes And Questions

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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!


I think this is 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 birding binocular an 8×42? 


If you didn’t notice, every binocular that I recommended was an 8×42. This means it 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.


3. How did I select this list of binoculars for bird watching?


My process for reviewing and selecting these birding 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 numerous emails for the
    information I couldn’t locate.
  • Reading many other online reviews and expert opinions.

  • Bird watching binoculars come in price ranges from $20 to almost $3,000. I did my best to find the best binoculars across all price ranges. I tried to keep in mind that everyone has a different budget and are at varying levels of birding, but by spending more money, you can 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!


And there you have it!

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So what are your favorite binoculars for bird watching?


What is most important to you when choosing birding binoculars?


Do you prefer 8×42 or another size?


Please share your thoughts!


Thanks for reading. Please subscribe to my newsletter at the top to be made aware when new content is available.




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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