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.
The accuracy is mostly due to the advanced ranging modes available on the Fusion 1 Mile. They allow the user to provide hints on how to interpret readings based on his or her surrounding circumstances. This decreases the chances of inaccurate readings based on tricky scenarios. The abilities of the Bushnell 1 Mile are impressive for any model, but they are even more exceptional considering the cost of these binoculars. This model can by purchased for less than $1,000.
Another recent innovation is image-stabilized binoculars. These employ the same ingenious mechanisms found inside the best video cameras. Push a button and the shaky magnified view suddenly calms down, almost freezing in place. The result is that you can use higher magnifications, get away with slightly less aperture, and yet still see more than with conventional binoculars.
Although perhaps not familiar with the Navy study behind it, many know about the 7X50 binocular configuration having been used by the military for low light conditions. What are the best astronomy binoculars? The best astronomy binoculars for beginners will doubtless be the general purpose 7X50 to 10X50 configurations. They're the most popular "small" astronomy binoculars and for a good reason! To start with, they're about the largest that can comfortably be held by hand for the extended periods often encountered by stargazers. They also provide an excellent field of view and will gather all the light you want for the size, since larger objective lenses make a binocular significantly heavier. If these are for a youthful face, you'll want to ensure that you choose an instrument that has an appropriate interpupillary distance. You'll also want to consider the binocular's weight and the strength of the person who will be using it. Star watchers usually hold binoculars up to their eyes for longer periods than bird watchers do!
When most people think of amateur astronomy, they picture a dad and son using a telescope perched out in the middle of a soccer field, but you can do it just as well from a fire escape when you look through these decidedly massive binoculars. They let me see details on the surface of the moon I thought were reserved for Apollo astronauts. Get them and you’ll see starlight brighter than ever before. You might even catch a distant meteor or comet streaking through the sky. Even in nearly pitch-black night, their massive 100mm diameter lenses gather an abundance of light. Do not bring them on distance hikes — they are nearly 10 pounds and far too heavy.
Decide on your price range. Top-of-the-line binoculars give you a pristine image in a comfortable, durable package. Lower price ranges also offer some great options, thanks to technological advances in the last decade. See our chart of Performance vs. Quality Index to look for your best value. Note that we provide MSRP (from October 2013), but many retailers sell binoculars at below this price.
Bucking the trend, Walker Golder, Deputy Director of Audubon North Carolina, is a shore-bird specialist who uses an old pair of Leica 8x32 binoculars. For closer views, he switches to a spotting scope, but the 8x32s are, according to him, “small enough for me to put around my neck and they don’t get in the way as I move and get in and out of boats.” He generally recommends 10x for shorebird viewing for others.
Pros: Testers noted that the Vanguard Endeavor ED were easy to operate and to focus. A wider objective lens of 42mm brings in a good amount light for better viewing in low-lit situations, and a close minimum distance of 2.5m allows you to see fine details in birds, plants and insects. A weight of nearly 24oz is average, and these binoculars are tripod compatible as well.
Very bright, clear display with 4-step intensity adjustment; easily readable under any lighting conditions and against various subjects, with single or continuous measurement up to 8 seconds. Displays in increments of 0.1m/yd, when shorter than 100m/yds and in 1m/yd at 100m/yds and over. Auto power shut-off function saves battery life by shutting down after 8 seconds of non-use. (*For reference. Under Nikon’s Measurement conditions. The specifications of the product may not be achieved depending on the target object's shape, surface texture and nature, and/or weather conditions.)
Originally, they were used by military organizations. They wanted their soldiers to have as much real-time mission data as possible, and this technology let them have just that in specific situations. That technology later on trickled down, and we now have it available in the hunting and commercial enterprise world. They’re so common, actually, that people who use a pair of binoculars on a daily basis won’t even take a look at anything else but binoculars with rangefinders for hunting, or for anything else for that matter.
Range finding binoculars have become all the rage in recent years, especially among hunters, hikers, and nature fans. Combining traditional binocular functions with a modern range finder that shows you the distance to a target, they are incredibly useful. We researched 30 models and selected the ten best range finding binoculars for you. Let’s take a closer look.
This is a supersized binocular suited to glassing distant targets for long periods of time. The double-hinge design creates a nice space for hands to hold it, but you will probably want to mount this 3-pound Leupold on a tripod. The mounting bracket is smartly located on the inside hinge of the Leupold (see Innovations, right). Hits: tight controls, the battleship-gray armor, the webby texture that wraps the aluminum-alloy chassis, and the first-rate carry case and neck strap. Misses: disappointing resolution and image quality.
Basically, a rangefinder binocular is a combined device of both a binocular and a rangefinder. The binocular will provide clear, distant vision while the rangefinder will calculate and show you the approximate distance of a targeted object from the point you are viewing. Due to the fact that both of these devices complement each other to provide a better hunting experience, rangefinder binoculars have been getting serious attention among the hunting tribes.
That’s not much to go on, and a lousy assessment of an optic’s best asset: the glass inside its tubes. That’s where Out- door Life’s annual Optics Test can help. We rst measure the optical clarity of a bin- ocular or riflescope on a resolution range. Then our test team (for personnel, see p. 54) measures how late into the darkness the submissions can see a black-and-white target (we do this on three separate eve- nings and average the results). We then peer into the guts of the optic with ash- lights, assessing internal lens coatings and quality of construction. We shoot with the riflescopes to assess their reticles and turrets. We glass with binoculars. We rate products on repeatable measurements of optical and mechanical capability and on subjective assessments of performance. We also assign a value score to each optic; the product with the best value score wins our Great Buy award. The top overall score in each category gets our Editor’s Choice award.
I compared these side by side to Vortex Fury and Swarovski EL and could see no difference in optical quality. I have ranged beyond 1K yds without trouble on a tripod. As others have stated range results are returned quickly. Angle compensation is a plus (returns horizontal distance) One down side is the mushy rubber coating. Sand and dust stick to these thing like glue.
On the packaging of any set of binoculars, there is one piece of information more prominent than anything else. It’s a set of two numbers with an “x” between them (8×32, for example). The first stands for the magnification level of the lenses. So, for instance, if you’re looking at a pair of binoculars with 10 as the first number, you know that their magnification is 10x larger than the normal eye. The second number is an indicator of the objective lenses’ (the lenses on the front of the binoculars) diameter.
Colour fidelity: its important that wildlife and birding binoculars reproduce colours and tones accurately. For birding in particular correct identification can depend on differentiating between subtle variations in hue. Many binoculars have a subtle colour cast. The view through them is either slightly cool (bluish) or slightly warm (yellowish) compared to the view through the naked eye. This isn’t necessarily a problem as long as it’s not pronounced — but look for a binocular that’s as close to neutral colour reproduction as you can get.
Recommendation: unless you’re looking to use your binoculars for a particular specialist task choose something in the 8x to 10x range for general bird watching and wildlife observation. Try out different magnifications to see which suits you better. Generally if you’re doing a lot of long distance observation (like scanning wading birds on estuaries or lagoons, for example) you may appreciate the higher magnification of a 10x. If you do a lot of wildlife watching at close quarters, or in enclosed places like woodlands trying to track small, fast-moving subjects, then the wider field of view of an 8x may suit you better.
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.
At its core, it’s superior to the roof prism design, and it does offer a deeper, richer field of view. Apart from its design platform, it also has the Sports-Auto Focus Technology with independent eyepieces. Its rangefinding ability may be lacking in that it doesn’t offer angle compensation or ballistic data, but it can range out to a full 1,860 yards! Not bad Steiner, not bad.
Meteor showers offer a practical example. You never know exactly where the next bright streak will appear. Yes, you're pretty sure it will come from the "radiant." That’s the name of a constellation (usually) whose location on the sky roughly corresponds to the cloud of cosmic crap into which Earth is plowing to create the shower. [Example: The Leonid meteor shower in November appears to come from the direction of Leo.]