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Best Binoculars for Bird Watching
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology does an extensive review of binoculars for bird watching. Below are the top picks of their most recent review.
Features that were rated include price, quality, weight, close focus, field of view, image quality, and overall feel. We have summarized their best birding
binoculars into price categories below. If you can afford a little extra, the mid-price range bird watching binoculars, the Nikon Monarch's, are your best bet considering performance, quality and price.
Rubber Armoring/Non-Slip Grip and Shockproof for those of us who
occasionally bang or drop our bins when we get excited seeing a new bird!
Low-priced - Now under $150!
"I bought these binoculars because they were the top rated ones on the
moderate priced list by a very influential ornithology organization. You could
spend a lot more to get the same quality binoculars in a smaller size, but you
probably wouldn't get better quality binoculars. I just returned from a trip to
Costa Rica where I used them constantly. I was amazed at how easy it was to see
birds with these binoculars even in dark rain forest conditions.." -A.
Claymaker, New England
Can't beat this one for the price and quality. Well reviewed and a best seller at
most binocular retail stores. You can read more about the different sizes and reviews here at our Nikon Action Binoculars page.
One downside is these are porro prism binoculars that do weigh more than roof
prism binoculars and are a little bulkier. Check out the Monarchs in the
mid-price range if you want a more stream-lined set with less weight.
New Dielectric High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coating for Bright, Crisp
Phase-Correction/Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
Weighs only 21.5 ounces
Has features of other more expensive brand binoculars (Leupold, Bushnell, Steiner,
etc.) priced over $500 - The Monarchs are under $275, best binoculars to
for price if you don't want to spend over $1,000.
Excellent Value For The Money!
"Most popular binocs (Monarchs) under $1,000 in my birding groups. Now I see
why. Clear, light, bright, great close and far, waterproof. Birds and bugs clear with every marking visible. You can even see the veins on leaves. Don't need to look through my eyeglasses because the diopter is exceptional." - Judy, NYC
The Monarch's are lightweight, waterproof, and very comfortable. Many of the reviewers thought they were just as good as binoculars 2-3x more in price.
Cornell was disappointed with what was out there in this category. They noted that the binoculars for bird watching tested in this group did not rate any higher than the top-ranked, less expensive models.
You're better off with
5 8x42 Binocularsthan the Nikon 8x32 HG DCF which was at the top
in this class. The HGs have a slightly wider field of view and closer focus, but image quality is not any better than the Monarch's.
Top Gun Most Expensive Binoculars (over $1,000)
The Zeiss Victory 8x42 FL scored the highest in the "Top Gun", best of the best category. It scored the
highest for overall quality, producing clear, bright, crisp, near perfect images.
"I have used binoculars for outdoor pursuits for over 50 years now. I currently own both Leica and Swarovski binoculars in 7 power and they are
optically superb products.
Long story short, several of (Cornell's) perennial binocular favorites all earned "excellent" ratings, but the binocular that earned top rating, and was ostensibly considered the finest binocular they had ever tested, was the Zeiss
8X42 T* FL.
When I had an opportunity to look through them outside of a local sporting goods store in the rural area where I live, I was immediately taken by their incredible clarity and image quality. But what really drew me to them was the
absolutely perfect eye relief distance. They simply got it right and I have never been able to say that about any other brand, regardless of price or prestige. I bought them on the spot and "have never looked back!" I consider them one of the finest investments I have ever made."
Other Top Expensive Bird Watching Binoculars
In addition to the Zeiss Victory, other honorable mentions include the Swarovski SLC and EL models, Leica HD and Nikon EDG binoculars. You may also want to take a look at the
Swarovski SLC HD Binoculars Review.