Overall, I give the Nikon binocular performance an A-. I did notice in the optical performance that there was some chromatic aberration, or color fringing. It did very well in low light conditions, and offered bright images in return. I only found a few trees over 700 yards difficult to get complete ranges on, but distant animals were never an issue.
We review the best birding binoculars available on the market and offer you our selection below. Do you have questions on how to choose bird watching binoculars for your specific application? While the typical optics consumer often favors high powered binoculars (16x is quite popular these days!), the more discerning birdwatcher has traditionally preferred relatively low power binocular models (7x, 8x and some 10x). High power certainly has its place in Bird Watching Binoculars, if you need to view small details at a greater than average distance, but lower power optics in your birdwatching binoculars have many advantages. One of these is exit pupil, which translates to binocular brightness. For example, when comparing two similar birding binoculars with the same objective diameter, such as an 8x42 and a 10x42, the lower power unit will have a larger exit pupil (42/8=5.25 vs 42/10=4.2), and therefore deliver more light to your eye. This is an advantage when you are out at dawn or twilight, or looking through binoculars at markings on a bird that is in the shadows of a tree. Lower power birdwatching binoculars typically provide a wider field of view, handy for scanning a large area for subjects of interest or more easily following moving objects, such as a bird in flight. Finally, you may have noticed that an 8 power binocular seems easier to hold steady than a 12 power binocular (we do have spotting scopes and binocular tripods and binocular tripod adapters that will work great with these binoculars!). The higher power, along with the narrower field of vision, makes small movements of your hands and body more noticeable, but larger objective and top quality lens coatings help to keep the view bright enough to be quite usable. Take a look below at our nature/birdwatching binoculars on sale and see what better fits your birdwatching needs. We guarantee you will not be disappointed! Don't forget to read why you should start birdwatching today, 10 Reasons To Start Birdwatching Today.
Compact binoculars are essentially scaled-down versions of full-size binoculars, with similar rubberized construction to protect against impacts, waterproof seals, a central focusing knob, twisting eyecups, and foldable hinges—yet they are about half the size and weight (around 10 ounces vs. 25 ounces or more). Because the lenses are narrower, the field of view (how wide an area you see while looking through them) is reduced compared with that of any full-size model. But, particularly if you have neck/shoulder pain or don’t mind sacrificing a little optical performance for the ease of packing them in a pocket or tote bag, they’re a solid choice for “light” birding, butterfly-watching, or botanizing. They’re also ideal for mountain biking or backpacking, when you may want to look at a couple things on the trip, but they’re not constantly in use.
Eye relief on a set of binoculars is very important if you use glasses. Take a look at Eye Relief in my glossary for a detailed explanation, but basically it is the distance behind the ocular lenses where the image is in focus. So if you wear glasses, you can't get your eyes as close to the lenses, you need a longer eye relief that basically projects the image beyond the ocular lens on the binoculars. So if you wear glasses, you should be looking for an eye relief of around 15mm or more, to see the full image full image. The down side to long eye relief is that it usually reduces the field of view.
Pros: Without fail, all of our testers found the Vanguard Spirit XF produced the clearest images with edge-to-edge sharpness. Using BAK-4 prims directs more light toward your eyes for brighter and crisper images. It’s also one of the lightest pairs we reviewed at just under 23oz. Its rugged design is waterproof and fogproof to ensure no moisture sneaks in.

Recommendation: Always choose fully-multi-coated optics for wildlife observation and birding. If you’re buying roof prisms look for phase corrected prism coatings and silver mirror coatings if your budget will stretch to them. Dielectric prism coatings are better, and will deliver a brighter image, but tend to cost significantly more. If you’re shopping in the “premium” segment of the market, look for additional protective lens coatings that shield the external lens surfaces.
Birders tend to gravitate toward the 40mm range for their binoculars. Binoculars with 40mm, 42mm, or 44mm objectives serve as a good medium compromise between low-light capability and portability. Objectives smaller than 35mm will lead to a more portable package at the expense of light gathering, and a 50mm or larger objective will give you a very bright image along with, potentially, the aforementioned sore neck and shoulders.

We’re in the business of matching our customers with the perfect astronomy binocular, mount and accessories for their needs. Whether you already know what you’re looking for, or need some help to determine which of our products best fits your specific situation, we have the knowledge and experience to give you the advice you need. We’re amateur astronomers, with thorough knowledge of our products, as well as the night sky. Our approach is to teach and educate, without sales pressure, to help you make the best choice. If we think a competitor’s product might better suite your requirements, we’ll tell you so. So if you have questions, please feel free to contact us by phone or email- we’re here to help.

It is for this reason and a few others that many professional birdwatchers tend to choose binoculars with a lower magnification and a wider field of view, rather than the other way round. 8x magnification binoculars tend to be the most popular, although if you are often going to be looking at birds at far distances, water birds on a lake for example, you may also think of using 10x magnification, just keep in mind the field of view.

Some people report success holding the end of the left barrel with the right hand, and letting the right barrel rest on the wrist, and then pushing them gently against the head. This creates more rigid mechanics than holding the binoculars for astronomy closer to the eyepieces. I've had limited success with this, so try it yourself and see what you think.
Many people will tell you that $300 is the magic number when it comes to binoculars, and there is some truth to this. $300 is the price range where you first start seeing truly good lowlight performance. If you're willing to spend this much on a pair of bins, we highly recommend the Nikon Monarch 5 8x42. These bins offer the best clarity we've seen in this price range. They also offer a nice, smooth focus knob that lets even beginners lock in a clear image quickly and easily. The cherry on top is the brightness, which allows for a good image even in suboptimal lighting conditions. So if your birding hobby grows into an obsession that finds you setting the alarm for 3:30am just to catch a glance at a migrating Grosbeak, these binoculars will be able to keep up with you.

Another advantage of the larger objective diameter is a larger exit pupil at the rear element of the binoculars, where your eyes are focused. With two binoculars of the same magnification, the circle of light hitting your eye is larger, with a larger objective. Therefore, an 8x42 binocular will have a larger exit pupil than an 8x35 binocular. A larger exit pupil generally means a more comfortable viewing experience.
I’ll try to point the way, with a caveat that my methodology is appallingly unscientific; a field-based approach, you might charitably call it. I used each of these binoculars on assignment in Norway, North Dakota and Vermont, and on my sun-porch in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with an infant in my arms, glassing the horizon for any passerine that might happen to wing into view, as they so often do, seemingly from nowhere. Bearing in mind all of the above, here are five of the best birding binoculars you’ll find.
But even with all these improvements, binoculars will vary in important ways. A few models close focus down to 5 feet away or even a little closer, though at least one popular model reaches no closer than 16 feet away, making them a no-go for seeing butterflies and other up-close objects. The field of view (how large an area you see when you look out into the distance) is also variable and differed by more than 20 percent across models tested for this review.
Good quality binoculars will usually have a transmittance level above 90%, whilst lesser quality instruments that use lower quality glass and coatings will be far lower. With this factor taken into account, it's possible for a 10 X 40 binocular (exit pupil 4mm) with a high transmittance (90%) to actually deliver a brighter image than a 7 X 35 (exit pupil 5mm) with a lower transmittance (70%).

The first step to choosing the right pair of binoculars is understanding what all of the different specifications mean. The most prominent specification notated on binoculars, and one of the most important, is a figure that looks something like 10x70 or 25x100. These two numbers represent magnification and lens diameter. The first number is the amount of times a particular pair of binoculars can magnify an image. The second number is the size of the objective lens, which is measured in millimeters. The objective lens is the one at the end of the binoculars closest to the object you are viewing. So a pair of binoculars labeled as 25x100 would make an image look 25 times closer than it actually is and have an objective lens diameter of 100 millimeters. The objective lens is responsible for gathering light, and the larger it is, the more light it can gather and the brighter the image will appear. Since there is not a lot of light in space, it is important to choose a pair of astronomy binoculars with a large lens diameter.

Harnesses For most of us, the neck strap that comes with most binoculars is fine. For those who require more, there are numerous options for you. Some are designed to redistribute the weight of the binocular from the neck to the back and shoulders. Others provide a stabilizing function to allow you to hold the optic in your hand while virtually eliminating hand shake or other movements. For those who do activities and want to keep their optic at the ready, some harnesses hold the binocular close to the body and greatly reduce swinging or swaying while running, climbing, or skiing.
On the back of binoculars, you will see some numbers like 8×40 or 10×50. The first number is the magnification power of the lenses. The bigger the number, the larger objects will appear through them. Higher is not always best as the image you see may be blurry and dim. The lens quality and other factors should be considered, too. There is not a lot of difference between a 7x or a 10x except in the price.
As mentioned before, this is the second number when describing binoculars. Along with magnification, this is the most important feature for astronomical binoculars. The larger the lens is, the more light that gets in, the brighter your image will be. Binoculars for stargazing should be at least 50mm and preferably even 70mm and above. Larger lenses of 50mm to 100mm are very common in astronomy binoculars simply because they can gather more light.
When looking at spec sheets on binoculars, birders may notice that they have two standard types of prisms. Chris’s article gets deeper into this, but we will discuss it briefly here. The BAK4 prism provides a more circular field of view and is considered superior to the BK7 prism’s rectangular field of view, as the BK7 may cause vignetting of the image. There are wonderful binoculars with the BK7 prisms, so do not discount the variation; it is just something to be conscious of when comparing binoculars.

I would be lying if I didn't mention that when I was first offered to test one of these out, I rolled my eyes. I thought to myself, 'Those are just a gimmick.' I mean, let's face it, for me, I'm a middle-income bowhunter who travels and hunts for my part time work, but couldn't see myself spending over $1,000 on a pair of binoculars just because it had a laser rangefinder built in.
Over the years I’ve tested virtually every affordable image-stabilized binocular on the market for reviews appearing in Sky & Telescope magazine. Canon is the clear leader where astronomy is concerned. The company currently offers six models, each with something to interest the backyard stargazer. Some of these binoculars are among the very best available for astronomy, while some are more general purpose. (Fujinon also makes 14×40 image-stabilized binos. You can read my thoughts on this model here.)

I have had several brand of laser rangefinders and I have the original Burris laser rangefinder / binocular combo which I have used for years, but recently decided to upgrade. I checked many brands out at retail stored like Cabelas and other sporting good stores including some that retail $3K or more. However for the money I think the Nikon can't be beat. It has a crisp clarity that the very expensive models have as far as using for binoculars but where it really shines is the laser rangefinder functionality. Other brands including some very expensive models seem to take many seconds to return a range reading. I'm sure it is not long but when you are sitting there trying to hold steady on a target 1500 yards plus away it seems like an eternity. The Nikon however is instantaneous on returning readings on anything under 1000 yards and maybe 1 sec on anything up to 1700 yards plus. Very impressed!

It is for this reason and a few others that many professional birdwatchers tend to choose binoculars with a lower magnification and a wider field of view, rather than the other way round. 8x magnification binoculars tend to be the most popular, although if you are often going to be looking at birds at far distances, water birds on a lake for example, you may also think of using 10x magnification, just keep in mind the field of view.

In dark and poor light conditions, the maximum pupil size of a human eye is typically between 5mm to 9mm for people below 25 years of age (usually about 7mm) - this maximum size will also decrease slowly with age. So apart from the very small benefit of ease of use, there is not much point in an exit pupil larger than your pupil. But an exit pupil smaller than your pupil will mean that you will perceive the image as being dark.

Another consideration are fixed focus binoculars (sometimes mistakenly referred to as auto focus binoculars, or sometimes slightly more accurately described as focus free or always in focus binoculars) These have a very large depth of view and once you have adjusted them to your eyesight, which only needs to be done once, they will be permanently in focus from a given distance to infinity. The obvious advantage of this is that you never have to change focus, which in terms of speed can't be beaten. On the down side,depending on the distance of the bird from your position, you won't always get the sharpest of images. If you want to learn more read my article on self focusing binoculars.


Let’s talk about performance and features for a moment. In one sentence, performance is stellar, and the features are what you’d expect from a pair of binoculars at this price range and in this category. The binoculars have a 7 times magnification and a 50 mm lens. At 1000 meters, the field of view is 132 meters. This translates to 396 feet at 1000 yards. What this should tell you is that they’re great for any sports that require basic optics and magnification. The individual eyepiece focus system lets you focus when you’re viewing objects at both medium and long distances.

The “42” in our 10x42 binocular refers to the diameter of the objective (front) lens in millimeters. Since the objectives will often be the largest portion of the optic, it will affect the overall size and weight of the binocular, and how much light it can gather. In basic terms: larger objectives allow more light to pass through them than smaller lenses, which means images will appear brighter, sharper, and clearer. However, the larger objectives will also add bulk and weight, and that is where certain tradeoffs and compromises need to be considered when deciding if certain models will be convenient to carry, pack, hold, and use comfortably.
6. Use your binoculars to view beyond the Milky Way.  Let’s leap out of our galaxy for the final stop in our binocular tour. Throughout fall and winter, she reigns high in the sky during northern hemisphere autumns and winters: Andromeda the Maiden. Centered in the star pattern is an oval patch of light, readily visible to the unaided eye away from urban lights. Binoculars will show it even better.
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Rangefinder binoculars have an integrated infrared (IR) laser that is used to measure distance from the binocular to an object. They can be used at sea to measure the distance to another ship or possibly someone who needs rescuing, help hunters to measure the distance to their subject, or aid golfers to calculate their swing to the green. Rangefinder binoculars typically display the distance to the target in either feet or meters, with the readout visible in the eyepieces. Technological innovations have made the rangefinders more precise, and some can do a single spot measurement, or a constantly updated measurement so you can follow a moving subject and get virtually real-time distance.
The focus adjustment is pretty easy and accurate. You will also find there’s an on-board compass. If you calibrate it properly, it’s accurate as well, and during something like a sailboat trip, you’ll love the fact that it’s there. The distance measurement is another great addition, and even at this price point, it is fairly accurate. You will undoubtedly find it useful for things such as birdwatching or wildlife exploration and, both the rangefinder scale and compass have an illumination switch, which is useful in darker and overcast situations.
These binoculars are sealed with O-rings to prevent moisture from getting inside; but they can still fog up on you. Depending on the construction and the seals, some waterproof binoculars are also submersible for various amounts of time. Certain manufacturers rate their binoculars for limited depths for limited amounts of time; others will adhere to military standard specifications and rate them for much greater depths.
High-performance features include: fully multi-coated optics and BAK-4 prisms, and custom adjustment with center and right diopter focus knobs. They have an extra-large field of view with crystal clarity from edge to edge; Ultra-smooth center focus that's easy to operate, allowing you to pinpoint your subject, Right diopter adjustment so you can fine-tune your viewing.
A super-rugged set of binoculars, these 15x70s are optically outstanding. Looking through the Ultras' exquisitely multicoated glass, you may find yourself falling in love with the sky all over again. Oberwerk's method of suspending its BAK4 glass Porro prisms offers greater shock-resistance than most competitors' designs do. While costlier than some comparable binoculars, the Ultras deliver superior value. Our only complaint is their mass: At 5.5 lbs. (2.5 kg), these guys are heavy!  You can hand-hold them for a short while, if you're lying down. But it is best to place them on a tripod, or on a counterweighted arm, unless you like shaky squiggles where your point-source stars are supposed to be. Like with most truly big binoculars, the eyepieces focus independently; there's no center focus wheel. These "binos" are for true astronomers.
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