how to buy binoculars for bird watching

What magnification should you choose?

Most birding binoculars come in 8x and 10x versions. Although everyone has different tastes, 8x binoculars are generally thought to be in the ideal range for both good magnification and a consistent, broad field of view (for locating and tracking birds).

Should you engage in long-range birdwatching, such as observing shorebirds, raptors, or seabirds, you might find that 10x Just keep in mind that a higher magnification also results in a smaller field of vision and will accentuate any tremor or jostling.

Every time you pick up your binoculars, you’ll be twirling the focus wheel, often in a race to get the bird in focus before it flies away. How does that feel? Does the wheel move easily, travel smoothly, and stop precisely? Does it feel good under your fingers?

Though it doesn’t receive as much attention as brightness or sharpness, having a large field of view will help you locate birds and stay on them as they move. In our opinion, it’s just as important as quality. Keep in mind that wearing spectacles or extending the eyecups will narrow your effective field of vision, which makes this statistic even more crucial in those situations.

Some binoculars give the impression that they light up your entire eyeball from edge to edge, while others give you the impression that you are looking through a tunnel (even though the end is bright and sharp). Do the binoculars help you fully immerse yourself in the scene? This results from the optics of the binoculars’ combination of field of view and edge-to-edge clarity.

What about weight and balance? The majority of contemporary 8×42 binoculars measure about 6 inches in length and weigh roughly 1.5 pounds (approximately). 14 cm and 700 g). On average, compact binoculars (8×32) measure approximately 3/4′′ shorter and weigh almost half as much. Over the course of a day of birding, the weight can still add up and cause soreness in your neck and shoulders. But keep in mind that heavier binoculars are frequently an indication of superior glass that offers sharper, brighter vision. Additionally, emphasizing light weight may lead to fragile bins. If your binoculars are heavy, replacing your neck strap with a binocular harness will help you better distribute their weight. Use our size-weight comparison to learn more about over 50 different pairs of binoculars.

Some less expensive binoculars have good quality in static views, but when you scan left or right, the distorted rolling effect at the edges can be disorienting. Do you get dizzy when you scan?

If you don’t wear glasses, you should probably extend your eyecups for more comfortable viewing. Are the eyecups the right size for you? If you wear spectacles, is there enough eye relief that you can see a full field of vision with the eyecups adjusted to the maximum degree? Do the eyecups click firmly into place and stay there?

Some less expensive binoculars achieve their price points by using inferior accessories, such as thin or untethered lens covers and unpadded, nylon webbing straps. Do you like the accessories? This is usually only a small concern, but it could mean that you lose or cease using the lens covers quickly, or that you upgrade to a better strap, somewhat compromising your cost savings.

Are the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty sufficient? Many high-end binoculars have lengthy or lifetime warranties. Manufacturers might not be able to provide the same safeguards at the cheaper end of the price spectrum. This may be the result of variations in the construction of the binoculars as well as the additional expense of maintaining a warranty replacement program at a low cost. Making sure your binoculars have a long warranty may be worthwhile, depending on how you intend to use them or how long you want to own them.

how to buy binoculars for bird watching

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A word about pricing: many of these models are available for less in stores and online, but the amount listed is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Although selecting binoculars is largely a matter of taste, our top choices in each price range all provide clear, vibrant images that let you concentrate on the birds.

On a scale of 1 to 10, our small army of volunteers rated the models for clarity, brightness, color rendition, and eye relief, among other things. (To learn more about our methodology, view the narrative on how we arrived at our rankings below.) To maintain uniformity, we examined 8×42 or comparable sized lenses. Because they are bright and have a wide field of view, most birders prefer 7- or 8-power binoculars, which make it easier to locate birds and follow them while they fly. Larger objective lenses—the glass at the thick end of the tube—in optics cost more money, and smaller objective lenses—less than 30 mm—are lightweight but insufficiently bright to display detail in low light.

For birdwatchers, binoculars are an indispensable tool, but choosing the right pair can be difficult due to the abundance of models available. Three years have passed since we released our first binoculars guide, so this summer we consulted seasoned birdwatchers and professional ornithologists once more to test a variety of optics. Dozens of attendees from the 2019 Audubon Convention flocked to a park in Milwaukee in July to examine almost fifty pairs of binoculars from sixteen different companies over the course of three days and under various conditions.


Which is better for birding 8×42 or 10×42?

If you have a steady hand, then you are unlikely to have any trouble holding a pair of 10x binoculars steady. If you don’t have a steady hand or are going to be birding in situations where holding binoculars steady will be a challenge, then you are probably better off using 8x magnification binoculars.

What strength of binoculars is best for bird watching?

Most birders prefer 7- or 8-power binoculars because they’re bright and have a wide field of view, making it easier to find birds and to follow them in flight.

What are the best binoculars for beginner bird watching?

Best for Beginners These Nikon Monarch M5 8×42 Binoculars are an ideal purchase for anyone just getting into birding. You’ll get the superior quality of the Nikon brand at a lower price point.

What does 10×50 mean on binoculars?

Binoculars are always marked with two numbers, for example 10×50. This means that the magnification is 10x and the aperture is 50mm. There is often additional information describing the field of view, for example 80m at 1,000m indicates you’ll be able to see an area 80m across 1,000m away.