Below are the top picks for the best binoculars for bird watching in 2021 by price range based on:
We have summarized the best birding binoculars into price categories: Economy, Mid, Top-Affordable and Best of the Best. 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.
Jump to Best Binoculars in Each Category:
Economy (Under $200)
Best of the Best Over $1000
For a low-priced or "cheap" pair of binoculars without compromising too much quality, you must go with the Nikon Action Extreme 7x35 ATB Binoculars
The 7x35 Nikon Action Extremes were the best quality binoculars in the economy group.
So why are these cheaper than the Nikon Monarch's below in the mid-priced range? These are porro prism binoculars whereas the Monarchs are roof prism which makes them a little more expensive (Porro vs Roof Prism Binocular Design). The porro prism makes these binoculars a little more heavy, weighing 30.1 oz versus the Monarch's weight at 21.3 oz. You can see the shape difference by comparing the photos of each above.
So if you don't mind a little more weight and a slightly more bulky design, these are a great pair of cheap binoculars for bird watching.
"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 Reviews page.
Again, 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 below in the mid-price range if you want a more stream-lined set of birding binoculars with less weight.
For a mid-range priced of birding binoculars, you really cannot beat the Nikon Monarch 5 ATB 8x42 Binoculars
The 8x42 Nikon Monarchs actually came in second place to the Katmai 6x32 in the mid-price class, but Cornell advised that the Monarch's are actually better binoculars for bird watching, the Katmai better for butterfly watching.
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.
For all the above features which are usually found in more expensive binoculars, the Nikon Monarchs are one of the best birding binoculars around.
More Nikon Monarch Binocular Reviews:
Comparison table and review of all Nikon Monarch Binoculars including Monarch 3, Monarch 5, Monarch 7 ATB models and the Nikon Monarch X.
Here's our personal Nikon Monarch 5 ATB Review. I've tried lots of binoculars in all price ranges, but really do love the Nikon Monarchs for my field work on bird counts as well as for any leisure birding outing.
As a close second choice in the mid-price category to the Monarch's, we think the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars are one of the best in this category for birding binoculars, especially if you prefer the 10x magnification model.
Here is our Bushnell Binoculars Review that includes a comparison table with the Nikon Monarch's.
By far the best choice in this category would be the Vortex Vipers.
Better than others in this class and the next!
"For the money, you are going to have a tough time doing better.
No they aren't Swarovski's, but they don't cost $2,500 either....
The Vortex optics are far better than any other binocs I have tried in this price class and maybe better than those in the next grade up." - Lihla
The Vortex HD Vipers come in several sizes, from 8x32 to 15x50. We think either the 8x42 or the 10x50 models would be a great choice for bird watching. If you want a lighter pair, get the 8x, if you want more magnification, get the 10x.
The Zeiss Victory 8x42 Binoculars 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.
If you can afford it, you can't go wrong with the Zeiss Victory HTs.
"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.
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." -Dr. Keith Hunziker
For top of the line, spare-no-expense, the Swarovski 10x42 EL SwaroVision Binoculars are a birder's dream come true. If you want to splurge on high quality binoculars, you won't be disappointed with these Swarovskis.
User Review of Swarovski EL 10x42 SwaroVision Binoculars:
"This is simply the best optics that money can buy for a pair of binoculars.
Image is bright and color is vivid. I cannot find any aberration.
I can see the brillant yellow spots on a pair of butterflies flying in twenty to thirty feet away from me.
The color just jumps out, it was amazing!" - Dan Ng Khan
In addition to the Zeiss Victory, other honorable mentions include the Swarovski EL (reviewed above) and SLC models, Leica Trinovid and Geovid HD, and Nikon EDG binoculars. You may also want to take a look at our more detailed Swarovski SLC HD Binoculars Review.
Watching Binoculars 101
Learn how to choose the best binoculars for bird watching. Learn more about binoculars and their features before making a purchase.
Learn about the different features of spotting scopes and which are best for birding.
For additional information about the ratings, go to Cornell's picks of the best binoculars for bird watching.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10x42 Binoculars - Another good choice in the mid-price range, especially if you want the 10x magnification.
Nikon Monarch Binoculars - Comparison of All Monarch Models
Budget Nikon Action Binoculars - Comparison of Models
Best Birding Binoculars - Our picks in 3 price ranges.
That depends. You can choose either 7x, 8x or 10x magnification. Choose 10x if most of your bird watching is long distance, such as viewing shorebirds or raptors in open areas, or on an open-plain safari where there is more light. Choose 8x if doing more shorter distance birding such as in forests, or you will be taking binoculars on longer hikes - 8x will weigh less. For all around birding, I prefer 8x binoculars. The only 7x binocular I would recommend is the Nikon Action 7x35 Binoculars which have a porro prism design. 8x are easier for beginners to use when trying to locate birds since they typically have a wider field of view than a 10x binocular. Often people ask, are 10x42 binoculars better than 8x42? No, not necessarily.
8 is the magnification strength. 42 is the objective lens diameter (link) measured in millimeters. If the objective lens aperature is too small relative to the magnification, images will be less bright and more difficult to locate because of the narrow field of view.
Choose your magnification, match it with a large enough objective lens size for brightness and field of view, get at least multi-coated or fully multi-coated lenses with BaK4 prisms or better, note the eye relief especially if you wear glasses, a wider field of view makes it easier to locate birds, decide if you need waterproofing, and if weight matters when carrying on longer walks.
You never want get too cheap binoculars or else you'd be better off without them. One of the best lower priced binoculars are the 7x35 Nikon Action Binocular line which come in an ATB model that is waterproof and has rubber armoring.
Also take a look at our Best Cheap Binoculars Reviews page
Bird Watching Binoculars, Squirrel-Proof Feeder & Hummingbird Feeder
Read Our Reviews:
Nikon Monarch 5
Best mid-priced bird watching binoculars. Waterproof, shockproof, multi-coated ED-Glass.
No batteries, adjustable, easy to clean...and no squirrels!
"Best New Product" Award.
Bird Bath Heater
Keeps your bird baths ice-free down to -20 F. Low-operating costs ~$1/mo
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