Shopping for bird watching binoculars can be frustrating!

binoculars for watching birds

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

 

How much should I spend? Is this binocular appropriate for watching birds?  Which brand is the best?

 

But today I have good news.

 

After spending hours upon hours (seriously, way too much time!) digging into dozens of different optics…

 

I was able to create a list of the 9 BEST binoculars for birding.

 

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

 

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

 

To accommodate, the bird watching binoculars listed below are all organized by cost, From the best money can buy ($2,500+) to optics for those on a limited budget (under $125).

 


Quick Links: The Best Binoculars For Watching Birds


*If you are a binocular novice and need to learn about the different specifications and technical data that’s important when choosing birding binoculars, including the features that affect the price the most, then I recommend my following post: *

 

 Let’s get started!

 


The Platinum Class (Over $1,500)

 


1. Swarovski EL 42

binoculars for watching birds

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Why you should buy:

This binocular made by Swarovski has it all. If you can afford the high price, then you should just buy the EL 42 and enjoy the rest of your day. 🙂

 

First, the optical performance is second to none, thanks to the legendary Swarovski technologies and coatings. The fluoride glass produces clean and bright high-contrast and high-resolution images with virtually no distortion across the entire field of view.

 

The EL 42 is made for the harsh conditions that birders will surely put the binocular through. It includes a durable and light-weight magnesium-alloy chassis. The nitrogen-filled tubes are fog and waterproof, which prevents internal fogging. Lastly, the binoculars are wrapped in a green rubber that helps keep them secure in your hand while protecting the body from the occasional drop.

 

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

The only reason you shouldn’t buy the Swarovski EL 42 for your bird watching needs is that the price is too high.

 


2. Zeiss Victory SF (8×42)

 

Zeiss Victory - Best Binocular for Watching Birds

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Why you should buy:

 

Do you want one of the best binoculars for watching birds 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 better binoculars for birding.

 

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

The biggest drawback to the Victory is the price!  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!

 


3. Leica Noctivid (8×42)

Leica Noctivid 8x42 Review

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Why you should buy:

 

Simply put, it’s one of the best bird watching binoculars that money can buy. The Noctivid was even inspired by a bird; The Little Owl.

 

Leica incorporated its latest technologies and best materials to create the Noctivid. The image quality of the Noctivid is second to none. I am a huge fan!

 

There is a serious competition between the Noctivid, Zeiss Victory SF, and Swarovski for the title of best birding binoculars!

 

 

Why you shouldn’t buy:

 

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

 

If you are a beginner or 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:

 


The Gold Class ($501 – $1,499)

*Check out my birding binoculars comparison chart at the bottom!*

 


 4. Zeiss Conquest HD (8×42)

 

best birding binoculars - Zeiss Conquest

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Why you should buy:

 

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

 

The Zeiss Conquest is known to have a very sharp and clear image among many other features that are perfect for watching birds. It has a wide Field of View and is excellent in challenging light conditions. It includes 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. Also, as great as the Conquest is, by spending a bit more you can just get one of the best optics on the market today with the Zeiss Victory SF or Leica Noctivid.

 

Read my Complete Review For More Information:

 


5. Leica Trinovid HD (8×42)

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Why you should buy:

 

The Trinovid is an excellent binocular for watching birds. In many ways, it is very similar to its more expensive cousin, the Leica Noctivid, but for a fraction of the cost.

 

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:

 

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 provides a better image.

 

The Trinovid HD is also a great binocular for kids!

 

Read my Complete Review of the Trinovid For More Info:

 


The Silver Class (under $500)

 


6. Nikon Monarch 7 (8×42)

best binoculars for bird watching - Nikon

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Why you should buy:

 

I think the Nikon Monarch 7 one of the best combinations of price and performance you will find in bird watching binoculars.

 

And it’s very affordable at under $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 provides 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 more expensive optics. The most significant difference you will notice is the quality of the image, especially in low light situations such as a darker forest canopy, sunrise, or sunset. The Monarch 7 performs reasonably well in these situations, but it doesn’t come close to a binocular such as 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) birding binoculars above, $500 is still a nice chunk of money. If that amount scares you or your not sure if watching birds is for you, then keep reading for some less expensive options.

 

Read my complete review:

 


7. Vortex Viper HD (8 x42)

 

best bird watching binoculars - Vortex

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Why you should buy:

 

Normally you can find the Vortex Viper HD for under $500.

 

This is great news because it seems like the price range that people feel most comfortable. You are spending enough money to get an excellent optic that should satisfy your needs for years to come, but you are also not breaking the bank.

 

The Viper HD has images that are bright and clear thanks to its Extra-Low Dispersion glass. It also has fully multi-coated lenses and dielectric prism coatings to optimize and increase light transmission.

 

In my opinion, these birding binoculars provide excellent value and outperform many optics that are 2x the price.

 

 

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 money you spend, the better image quality can be expected, especially in challenging light situations.

 


8. 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 feature. ED glass has a great reputation for providing an outstanding image and view.

 

Normally priced under $300, 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:

 


9. Celestron Nature DX (8×42)

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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 class.

 

The Celestron Nature DX binoculars are very affordable, 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 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.

 

 

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 pay a bit more then you can bump up to the Nikon Monarch 5. Then you can have Extra-Low Dispersion glass, which will greatly increase the overall quality of your image!

 

The Nature DX is also a great binocular for kids!

 

Read my full review:

 


Bird Watching Binoculars Comparision Table:

Go Back to the Table of Contents

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
Swarovski EL 42$2,800399 feet4.9 feet / 1.5 m20 mm28 ounces
Leica Noctivid$2,600404 feet6 feet / 1.9 m19 mm30.3 ounces
Zeiss Victory SF$2,500444 feet5 feet / 1.5 m18 mm27.5 ounces
Zeiss Conquest HD$975384 feet6.5 feet / 2 m18 mm28 ounces
Leica Trinovid HD$950372 feet5.9 feet / 1.8 m17 mm25.8 ounces
Nikon Monarch 7$500420 feet8.2 feet / 2.5 m17.1 mm22.9 ounces
Vortex Viper HD$500409 feet6.5 feet / 1.5 m18 mm24.5 ounces
Nikon Monarch 5$300330 feet7.8 feet / 2.5 m19.5 mm20.8 ounces
Celestron Nature DX$125388 feet6.5 feet / 2 m17.5 mm22.2 ounces

 


Notes And Questions

 

There were a few things I wanted to share about my process at selecting the birding binoculars featured above.

 


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 watching birds?

 

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. I also spent 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.

 


4. I am human!

 

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

 


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What are your favorite binoculars for bird watching?

What is most important to you when choosing birding binoculars?

 

Please share your thoughts!

 

Lastly, some of the links to Amazon and Adorama 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 helps pay for the cost to run this site. Thank you in advance!

Disclaimer

2 responses to “The 9 Best Binoculars for Bird Watching (2020)”

  1. David Bent says:

    Why did you not include Swarovski 8 x 42?

  2. Dan Greaney says:

    Thank you!! I really appreciate the comparison table with specs – so hard to find anymore! One column I’d suggest you add: # of focus turns, close focus to infinity. It’s a feature important to my aging eyes.

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