A pair of binoculars resting on a table outside.

A Binoculars Buying Guide for Bird Watching (Sept. 2022)

Looking for a binoculars buying guide for bird watching? Look no further! This guide will teach you everything you need to know about selecting the best binoculars for your needs and budget.

From magnification power to lens quality specs, we’ll help you find the perfect pair of binoculars for your bird watching adventures!

Binoculars Buying Guide for Birders

Magnification and Aperture

In order to find the right binocular, birders first need to understand magnification and aperture. Magnification is the number that comes first in a binocular’s description and is usually between 7 and 12.

For example, 7×42 binoculars magnify objects seven times and have an aperture of 42 millimeters, and 8×42 magnify objects eight times and have an aperture of 42 millimeters and so on.

Aperture, which is measured in millimeters, refers to the width of the front lens. The bigger the aperture, the more light that enters the binoculars, which is important for low-light conditions such as dawn and dusk.

Both magnification and aperture affect how much you can see and how clear your image will be. A higher magnification does not always mean a better view.

If the magnification is too high, your image will be shaky because it’s difficult to hold binoculars steady at high magnifications. In general, birders should choose binoculars with a lower magnification (between 7 and 8) for a steadier image.

The amount of light that your binoculars let in also affects how clear your image will be. A higher aperture does not always mean a better view because it can cause objects to appear dimmer than they actually are.

In general, birders should choose binoculars with a lower aperture (between 40 and 50 millimeters) for a clearer image.

So, when you’re looking for binoculars, remember that you don’t need the highest magnification or biggest aperture — what you really need is a balance between the two.

Image Clarity

One of the main reasons to buy a pair of binoculars is for the image clarity. You want to be able to see your bird clearly, in as much detail as possible. To do this, you need to know what to look for when you’re buying binoculars. The first thing you need to do is decide what magnification you need.

The higher the magnification, the closer the bird will appear, but also the more difficult it will be to keep the bird in focus. A general rule of thumb is that 7x or 8x binoculars are good for most birding purposes.

The next thing to look at is the size of the objectives, or lenses. The larger the objectives, the more light will be gathered and the brighter the image will be.

However, large objectives also make binoculars heavier and more difficult to hold steady. For most birding purposes, 30mm or 42mm objectives should be sufficient.

Finally, you need to consider the type of prism used in the binoculars. There are two basic kinds of prisms, porro and roof. Porro prisms produce a three-dimensional image and are generally cheaper than roof prisms.

Roof prisms produce a flatter image but are more expensive and require more precise alignment during manufacture. For most birders, porro prisms will be perfectly adequate.

When you’re looking at binoculars in a store, it’s important to test them out before you buy them. Look at distant objects as well as close ones, and make sure that you can focus clearly on both.

Also, try different levels of magnification to see what works best for you. With a little bit of research and careful testing, you should be able to find a pair of binoculars that’s just right for your needs.

Weight

It’s vital to consider the weight of your binoculars before making a purchase. You don’t want to end up with anything that is too heavy or too light. The weight of the binoculars will affect how easy it is to hold them steady.

If they are too heavy, you may get tired quickly and not be able to hold them steadily for long periods of time. If they are too light, they may be more difficult to control.

Another point to bear in mind is the size of the lenses. The larger the lenses, the more light they will let in. This is important for birding because you often need to be able to see in low light conditions.

However, larger lenses also mean that the binoculars will be heavier. You’ll need to decide what is more important to you: being able to see in low light or having a lighter pair of binoculars.

Finally, think about how easy it is to use the focus knob. You’ll want something that is easy to adjust so that you can quickly focus on a moving bird. If the focus knob is difficult to use, you may miss out on seeing some amazing birds!

Field of view

Field of view (also called FOV) is the width of the area you can see through your binoculars. It’s measured in degrees, and the wider the field of view, the more area you can see.

The formula for computing degrees of field of view is: FOV = 38.6/objective lens size in mm

For example, if you have 7×50 binoculars, the formula would be: 38.6/50 = .77 or 77°

Here are some general guidelines:

-42° and below is considered a narrow field of view. These are not good for birding because you will have to scan back and forth a lot to find birds, and by the time you spot one, it may have flown away.

-42°-60° is considered a average or moderate field of view. These are good all-purpose binoculars that can be used for birding or other activities.

-60° and above is considered a wide field of view. These are excellent for birding because you can scan a large area quickly and easily find birds.

Close Focus

Close focus is the minimum distance at which an image can be brought into focus. This is important for birders because we often want to look at birds that are close to us, such as when we are trying to get a good look at a small bird or when we are trying to identify a bird by its plumage.

There are two types of close focus binoculars: those with a close focus of less than 10 feet (3 meters) and those with a close focus of 10-20 feet (3-6 meters). The ones with a close focus of less than 10 feet are good for looking at birds that are very close to you, such as when you are trying to identify a small bird by its plumage.

The ones with a close focus of 10-20 feet are good for looking at birds that are farther away, such as when you are trying to get a good look at a bird in flight.

Which type of close focus binoculars you need depends on what you want to use them for. If you want to use them for looking at birds that are very close to you, then you should get the ones with a close focus of less than 10 feet.

If you want to use them for looking at birds that are farther away, then you should get the ones with a close focus of 10-20 feet.

A man focusing on a bird with his binoculars.
Photo by Brad Weaver on Unsplash

Overall Feel

When you are relaxing in your backyard and enjoying the birds at your feeders, you may want to grab a pair of binoculars to get a closer look. But, with all of the different types and styles of binoculars on the market, it can be hard to know which pair is right for you.

Do you need compact or full-size binoculars? What about image stabilization? And what is the best power for birding? Use this binoculars buying guide to help you choose the right pair of binoculars for your needs.

Size: Compact or Full-Size?

The first step in making a decision on the type of binoculars is what size you’ll need. There are two different types of binoculars: compact and full-size.

As their names imply, compact binoculars are smaller than full-size models and are easier to carry around with you. However, they often have less power than full-size models, which means that they may not be as good for birding.

Full-size binoculars are larger and heavier than compacts, but they offer more power and a better image. If you plan on doing a lot of birding, full-size binoculars may be a better option for you.

Power: What is the Best Magnification for Birding?

The next thing you need to consider when choosing binoculars is how much magnification (or power) you need. Most birders prefer binoculars with 8x magnification or less.

This allows you to see birds clearly without making them appear too small or distant. If you plan on birding in low light conditions, such as early morning or evening hours, you may want to opt for 10x or 12x magnification.

Just keep in mind that binoculars with higher power levels can be more difficult to hold steady, so image stabilization may be a good option if you choose a high-power model.

Image Stabilization: Do You Need It?

Image stabilization is a feature that reduces or eliminates the effects of handshake when looking through the lenses of your binoculars. This can be especially helpful if you have shaky hands or if you plan on using high-power binoculars.

Some models even have Bluetooth technology that allows you to connect your binoculars to your smartphone so that images can be taken or recorded while using image stabilization mode.

Other Features: What Else Do You Need?

There are several other features that you may want to look for when choosing binoculars to help make your birding experience more enjoyable. For example, waterproof and fogproof models are ideal if you plan on doing any birding in inclement weather conditions.

And if you’re planning on doing any night birding, UV protection can help reduce glare from artificial lights so that you can see birds more clearly in low light situations

Price

You can get a good pair of binoculars without worrying about breaking the bank. In fact, there are many binoculars on the market that are quite affordable. While it is important to consider price, it is also important to remember that you get what you pay for.

If you are only going to use your binoculars occasionally, then it is probably not worth spending a lot of money on a high-end pair. On the other hand, if you are an avid birder or plan on using your binoculars frequently, then it is worth investing in a good pair.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a pair of binoculars, but one of the most important is price. You should set a budget before you start shopping and stick to it. It’s easy to get swept up in the moment and spend more than expected.

Although a lot of excellent bargains can be found, some products can be expensive. Be sure you review a lot of different products and make certain to read customer reviews to make your final purchasing decision.

A pair of binoculars resting on a deck railing.
Photo by Elijah Mears on Unsplash

Overall Quality

There are a few things you’ll want to consider when selecting binoculars for birding. The overall quality of the product is important, but so is the zoom power, field of view, and weight. You’ll also want to decide if you want binoculars with or without ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass. Here’s a closer look at each of these factors:

1. Quality: The overall quality of the binoculars is determined by the lenses and the prism. The lenses are made from different types of glass, including standard crown glass, BAK-4 glass, and ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass. ED glass is the best type of lens available and produces the clearest images, but it also comes at a higher price point.

The prism is responsible for reversing the image that comes through the lens so that it appears right-side up. Porro prisms are typically found in higher-quality binoculars, while roof prisms are often used in lower-priced models.

2. Zoom power: Binoculars are available in a wide range of magnifications, from 6x to 10x (or even higher). The zoom power you need will depend on how far away your subject is likely to be.

If you’ll be birding in open areas where birds tend to be far away, you’ll need binoculars with a higher magnification. But if you’ll be birding in forested areas where birds are more likely to be close by, you can get away with less zoom power.

3. Field of view: The field of view is determined by the width of the lens and the magnification power. A wider field of view is better for birding because it allows you to see more of your surroundings and spot birds more easily.

If you wear glasses, you’ll also want to make sure that the binoculars have a wide enough field of view to accommodate your glasses without cutting off your peripheral vision.

4. Weight: Binoculars can range in weight from just over 1 pound to almost 3 pounds. Heavier binoculars tend to have better optics, but they can be more difficult to hold steady when you’re birding for long periods of time.

If you have shaky hands or arm fatigue is a concern, look for lighter models or consider using a tripod or monopod to help support your binoculars

Choosing a Brand Name

There is no shortage of binoculars on the market these days, and it can be tough to decide which ones are right for you. If you’re an avid birder, you’ll want to make sure you choose a pair that will allow you to see your feathered friends up close and personal.

In this guide, we’ll help you sort through the many different options to choose the best brand name binoculars for your needs. There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing binoculars.

First, consider the size and weight of the binoculars. If you plan on hiking long distances with your binoculars, you’ll want something that is lightweight and easy to carry.

Second, think about the level of magnification you need. If you want to be able to see small birds at a distance, you’ll need a higher magnification than if you’re just looking for general views of your surroundings.

Finally, take into account the field of view. The larger the field of view, the more area you’ll be able to see at one time. Now that you know what to look for, let’s take a closer look at some of the best brand name binoculars on the market:

1) Bushnell H2O Porro Prism Binocular: These binoculars offer a wide field of view, making them ideal for bird watching. They also have a large 42 mm objective lens, which allows for plenty of light gathering power. The 10x magnification is perfect for seeing small birds at a distance.


2) Nikon Monarch 5 8x42mm Binoculars: These binoculars offer an impressive 8x magnification and 42 mm objective lenses, making them perfect for long-distance viewing. They also have a wide field of view, making them great for tracking moving birds.


3) Celestron SkyMaster 15x70mm Binoculars: These binoculars are perfect for stargazing and bird watching alike. They offer a whopping 15x magnification, making them great for long-distance viewing. Additionally, their 70 mm objective lenses allow them to gather plenty of light, making them ideal for use in low-light conditions such as dawn or dusk.


4) Vortex Optics Diamondback Roof Prism Binoculars 10×42: These binoculars are perfect for those who want high-quality optics in a compact package. They offer 10x magnification and 42 mm objective lenses, making them great for long-distance viewing while still being small enough to easily carry with you on hikes or other outdoor activities.

Final Thoughts

We hope you’ve enjoyed our binoculars buying guide and that it’s helped you understand the different types of binoculars available and what might be the best ones for you to buy. Birding is a wonderful hobby that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and we hope that this guide has inspired you to get started.

There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing binoculars, such as your budget, the type of birding you plan on doing (such as long-distance or close-up viewing), and whether or not you need special features like image stabilization or night vision. Weighing all of these factors will help you choose the right pair of binoculars for your needs.

Happy birding