Friday, October 25, 2019

Best bird watching binoculars: binocular buying guide [2019]

Which binoculars are best for bird watching? This question must be asked anew each year as more binoculars flood the market, each claiming to be the next best thing for birders. The purpose of this article is to organize and rank the best choices for you in birding binoculars according to function and price.

I feel your pain. It is hard to choose the correct birding binocular. Trying to start from scratch and reviewing every binocular is an impossible task. Birders are a diverse bunch. And their needs for binoculars are likewise not all the same. What I can do, though, is research the models recently recommended for bird watchers, then organize them for you. This post will be a compendium of birding binocular recommendations and reviews.

[87 birding binocular models compared below; updated 11/13/2019]

We can tell much about the suitability of binoculars for bird watching just looking at the specs. The specifications of magnification, light gathering ability, lens size, weight, eye relief, field of view, and price are easily quantified and measured. Different groups of birders may need slightly different sets of specs, but all within a restricted range. From there, more subjective attributes such as chromatic aberrations, sharpness, "feel," warranty, and quality can be gleaned from online reviews. This post will provide you with the basic knowledge so you can look at the specs of any binocular and quickly decide if it meets your needs or not.

Birding binoculars can broadly be divided up into the following types of binoculars:
  • Full sized binoculars
  • Mid-sized binoculars
  • Compact binoculars
  • Kids binoculars
There are higher-powered star-gazing binoculars that this article does not address directly. Then, too, there are specialty binoculars including zoom binoculars, night vision binoculars, image stabilized binoculars, range finding binoculars, camera binoculars, and probably others. I will not consider those here. Some birders might have such specialty binoculars in addition to their main birding pair, but most would not have any of these as their primary birding binoculars.

The price and quality of binoculars varies widely. And the budget of bird watchers varies too. The interest of each birder is not the same. Some will use their binoculars daily for decades in harsh conditions and will invest in a quality pair of binoculars at a premium price. Others may be unsure if they will continue watching birds beyond their initial interest, or only watch birds on special occasions or, perhaps, only out their window to view the feeder. Thus they may want a budget pair of binoculars. Some binoculars are offered for sale at less than $50. Premium binoculars can cost close to $3000. In general, you get what you pay for. But there is wide variation in that, too.
In this article I will research all the lists and recommendations and reviews of others and try to guide you to find the best birding binoculars for you in each of the different types listed above and ordered by approximate price. My goal is to do most of the work for you, separating fact from fluff, so that you can make an informed decision of what birding binocular is best for you--the best for your type of birding, your optics needs, and your budget. And I will provide the sources so you can check for yourself on anything you may have questions about.

Photo of binoculars resting on a bird book
Image by stevepb from Pixabay


What's in this article:

What to look for in birding binoculars
  • Birding style
  • Eyeglasses
  • Budget

Glossary of binocular terms
  • Magnification
  • Objective lens diameter
  • Exit pupil
  • Eye relief
  • Eyecups
  • Interpupillary distance
  • Field of View
  • Weight
  • Waterproofing
  • Poro prism
  • Roof prism
  • Close focus
  • Lens and prism coatings
  • Armored body
  • Warranty

8x vs 10x binoculars

Compact vs mid-sized vs full-sized binoculars

The best full-sized birding binoculars
  • What are full-sized binoculars?
  • Who uses full-sized birding binoculars?
  • Table of full-sized 8x binoculars
  • Table of full-sized 10x binoculars
  • Comments about the tables above

The best compact birding binoculars
  • What are compact binoculars?
  • Who uses compact birding binoculars?
  • Table of compact binoculars
  • Comments about the table above

The best mid-sized birding binoculars
  • What are mid-sized binoculars?
  • Who uses mid-sized birding binoculars?
  • Table of mid-sized binoculars
  • Comments about the table above

The best kids birding binoculars
  • What makes binoculars a kid's binocular?
  • Who uses kid's binoculars?
  • Table of kids binoculars
  • Comments about the table above

References



What should I look for in birding binoculars?


The most important questions you can ask concerning choosing bird watching binoculars are these three:
  1. What is my birding style?
  2. Do I wear eyeglasses?
  3. What is my budget?

What is your birding style? 


Where do you go birding? What kind of birds do you watch most often? How is the light? Is it often overcast to start the day? Are you in the woods? Do you start your birding at dawn or later in the day? Why do you want these binoculars? Are these for children or adults?

General purpose bird watching binoculars


For everyday use in a wide variety of outdoor conditions, you probably want full-sized birding binoculars that are 8x42. The common 7x35 binoculars are acceptable, too. 10x42 binoculars provide more magnification, but require more steady arms. All these have good magnification and light gathering ability. They are medium in weight. [See Glossary of terms below.]

If you want to use your binoculars outside in cold or damp conditions you'll want them to be waterproof and fog proof. Then you can use them in whatever weather conditions you find yourself in without worry.

You may wish to have rubberized armored body to handle bumps and scrapes. The rubber coats a sturdy metal or composite body. This material also gives a more firm grip. An added bonus is that in cold weather it is a tiny bit insulated compared to binoculars with bare metal body. This is not necessary, but kind of nice to have, in my opinion.

Are you going to be birding in the woods? Will you also use your binoculars for butterfly watching?Then close focus and wide field of view for watching nearer birds and animals are more important than higher magnification. And you want binoculars that give a brighter view.

Light-weight compact birding binoculars


There are times when you might want a smaller, lighter binocular. Perhaps hiking or backpacking is the primary purpose of your outing, not birding necessarily. Then you may want a light pair of binoculars you can pull out of a pocket, just in case you see some interesting birds.

You may want a second pair of binoculars that you leave in your car's glove compartment. These won't be your primary binoculars, but you'll always have them in your car, when needed.

And some people just prefer the compact form. They are light-weight and easy on your neck. They fit in a pocket or purse. They are ideal for smaller hands.

Compact binoculars come in several magnifications, including 8x21 or 8x25 or even 10x25. So the magnification is equal to the full-sized binoculars. To keep the size and weight down though, the objective lenses are small (20-25 mm), making them dimmer in low light.

Mid-sized binoculars are a compromise between the heavier full-sized binoculars and the light-weight compact binoculars. A mid-sized binocular has an objective lens size between the two: 8x32 or 10x32.

Kid's binoculars


The eyes of children are closer together than adults. Binoculars for children younger than about 10 years old need to adjust the interpupillary distance to be narrower than binoculars made for adults.

Kids also have smaller hands. Binoculars made for children may be smaller. Compact binoculars made for adults may suitable, if interpupillary distance is small enough.

Younger children may have trouble holding heavier binoculars steady. Thus, many kid's binoculars may have lower magnification. 5x or 6x may be ideal. Such lower power binoculars may have very wide field of view making it much easier to lift the binoculars to the eyes and find the bird you're aiming for.

Some "kid's binoculars" are mere toys, and not suitable for bird watching. And the optical quality may not be good for the eyes. Make sure to get "real" binoculars and not toys, if these young ones will be serious about their use.

Do you wear eyeglasses?


If you wear eyeglasses while looking through binoculars you need to pay special attention to the eye relief specification.

Because eyeglass wearers will have your pupils farther away from the binocular ocular lens, you need longer eye relief. A range of 16-19mm is suitable for most eyeglass wearers. Longer is better within this range.

Without longer eye relief your image will vignette--you won't be able to see the entire image all the way edge-to-edge. So you lose field of view. Longer eye relief will correct this. Eyecups will enable non-eyeglass wearers to also use the same pair of binoculars. [See Glossary]

What is your budget?


In general, you get what you pay for. The more expensive binoculars have better optical qualities. But magnification, eye relief, field of view, objective lens size, and weight are all considerations, in addition to the most perfect image rendition of color accuracy, brightness, sharpness and lack of edge-to-edge distortion in the high-end binoculars.

You can get acceptable binoculars near $100 with some compromises. You can get very good binoculars in the $350-1000 range. But even the premium binocular lines up to $3000 aren't all perfect for everyone. I would venture that unless you are trained in what to look for, many bird watchers would have trouble noticing the difference between some of the $500 and $2000 binocular models, in everyday use.

Nevertheless, because these are an investment, and will last many years, you should buy the best binocular you can afford.




Glossary of most important binocular specs and terms


Several specification terms are essential for understanding how your binoculars compare with one another. In order to determine the best bird watching binoculars you should familiarize yourself with these terms and look for them in the specs of any binocular you are considering buying.

The design and manufacture of binoculars is an exercise in compromise. You want more magnification? You lose brightness, lose field of view, and gain size and weight. You wear eyeglasses? Now you need to consider eye relief or lose field of view.

So, in general, yes, the more expensive the binoculars the higher quality view you get. But that can change if you want more field of view or wear eyeglasses. It may be that those $500 binoculars optimized for eyeglasses and wide field of view are best for you, rather than squeezing another 3% brightness out of the optics coatings, perfect color rendering, and having sharpness all the way to the edge of the view for $1500.

Magnification (enlarges your view of the bird)


Binoculars are labeled as 7x35 or 10x42. The magnification of the eyepieces is the 7x or 10x part of those labels. This makes the bird appear 7 or 10 times closer or 7 or 10 times larger, however you want to think about it. Magnifying an image equally magnifies your hand shakiness and vibrations. Also, magnifying reduces the amount of light gathered, so images are darker with more magnification if objective lens size is not increased. Most general-purpose birding binoculars are 7x and 8x. High-powered binoculars are 10x to 15x.



Objective lens diameter (for brightness)


Binoculars are labeled as 7x35 or 10x42, etc. the second part, the 35 or 42, etc. is the size of the objective lens (the big end) in millimeters (25.4 mm in 1 inch). 50 mm would be just over 2 inches in diameter. Larger objective lenses gather more light. Most full-sized 7x and 8x birding binoculars have objective lenses of 35 to 42 mm. Compact binoculars have smaller objective lenses making them lighter. High-powered binoculars often have larger objective lenses making them heavier.



Exit pupil (a measure of brightness)


The pupil of the human eye dilates or contracts depending upon how much light is present. In bright light the pupil of the eye may only be 2-3 millimeters across. In darkness, the pupil dilates to near 7mm. In average light the eye's pupil diameter may be about 5mm.

On binoculars, divide objective size in millimeters by magnification. So, 7x35 would be an exit pupil of 5.0mm, which is considered ideal in most light conditions. 10x42 is an exit pupil of 4.2mm. The dimmer the light conditions the more important it is to have a larger exit pupil.

In bright light a binocular with an exit pupil of 3.0mm will appear normally bright. But in shadows, dusk, or woods, such a binocular's image will appear darker than the naked-eye view. A binocular with an exit pupil of 7.0mm will allow you to have bright views of dim stars in a black sky. The smaller the objective lens diameter, the smaller the exit pupil, given the same magnification. The greater the magnification the smaller the exit pupil, given the same objective lens diameter.




Eye relief (for eyeglass wearers)


If you wear eyeglasses (and use them to look through binoculars) then you can't put your eyes close up to the binocular eyepiece. That's a problem if the binoculars have short eye relief. Binoculars with long eye relief put the focal plane farther back, allowing your eyeglasses to be between the binoculars and your eyes. Eyecups (see next entry) make up the difference. Eye relief of 16-20mm is good for most eyeglass wearers (longer is better). Eyeglass wearers should not purchase binoculars with less than 15 mm of eye relief.



Adjustable eyecups (for eyeglass wearers and non-eyeglass wearers)


Eyecups fold or (better) screw in and out. If you wear eyeglasses, then the eyecups are screwed in and you rest your eyeglasses on the eyecups. If you don't wear eyeglasses, the eyecups screw out to keep your eye farther from the binocular lens. You press the eyecups to your eye socket bones--brow ridge and cheek.

Interpupillary distance (for narrow or wide-set eyes)


This is the distance between eyes, specifically the center of the pupils. The average interpupillary distance (IPD) for adults is near 65mm. Almost all full-sized binoculars have the same specs: 56-72mm (normal deviation for adults can range from 48-73mm (source). Because of their larger objective lenses, many 10x50 binoculars have IPD range of 60-72mm, which might be too far apart for some close-set adult eyes.

Smaller binoculars for children or adults with very narrow-set eyes collapse down to 35mm (interpupillary distance for "children" 41-55mm, ibid.). Many binoculars pivot about a central hinge to move the barrels of the binoculars closer or farther apart. Most children's binoculars have minimum IPD of 50 or 52mm, suitable for "7 years or older."



Field of View (for locating birds easily)


Imagine looking through a toilet paper roll tube at a distant bird. The field of view is much restricted compared to your normal naked-eye view. Now imagine looking through the center tube of a roll of paper towels. The field of view is even further reduced. You have a wider field of view through the toilet paper tube, and the view is brighter, even though both tubes are the same diameter.

A wider field of view in binoculars likewise is brighter and allows you to see more of the surrounding area. The wider field of view allows you to more easily find a bird or notice another bird next to the first one that may not be visible with a narrower field of view.

Field of view is measured both as degrees and as a width at a certain distance. US binoculars are usually rated as a width in feet at 1000 yards. A field of view of 390 feet at 1000 yards is probably about average. 330 feet is a narrow field of view, 440 feet is a wide field of view.

Weight (for carrying around comfortably)


Binocular weight is usually measured in grams or ounces. 22 ounces is a lightweight full-sized 8x42 binocular. Some of the more rugged and expensive binoculars weigh up to 30 ounces, as would many 10x binoculars. Some compact binoculars only weigh 8 ounces. Having this weight hanging around your neck all day is a major consideration. [I know, I also have my DLSR and huge lens along with my binoculars around my neck when birding--up to 12 hours when at sea on pelagic birding trips! And then I wonder why I have a headache the next day (it could be the movement, sun, or dehydration, too)!]

Nitrogen purged (water proofing, fog proofing)


In cheaper binoculars the insides are filled with air. Of course, 78% of air is nitrogen already. And air contains about 20% oxygen, which may cause rust. Not often considered, air also contains water vapor (up to 2%). That water vapor can condense on the inside of the binocular lenses, fogging them up. For this reason, higher quality binoculars have O-ring seals and during manufacture pump nitrogen (or argon) gas inside the binoculars and purge out all the air and water vapor.

Waterproof binoculars can be submerged in water up to 3 feet (don't do it!). They can also be rinsed off (but NOT under strong running water which can force water inside!). Check you specs and warranty for details. And don't blame me if anything bad happens

But more importantly, waterproof and nitrogen purged binoculars, can be used in the pouring rain and they won't fog up going from cold air to warm car or home. They won't fog up in the humid jungles, either, if you are so fortunate as to be able to travel to such a place!

Porro prism (binocular design style)


Besides the lenses, binoculars have prisms. Without prisms the view through a binoculars lenses would be upside down and backwards! In Porro prism binoculars the internal prisms are offset giving them the familiar zigzag binocular shape. They are more easily (and inexpensively) manufactured compared to the roof prism binoculars, but harder to make waterproof. Because the objective lenses are farther apart some people feel that these types of binoculars render a more 3-dimensional view.

Roof prism (binocular design style)


Prisms form a roof mirror and the image crosses over itself, requiring phase correction coatings to restore the image quality. Roof prism binocular tubes are straight and the binoculars form an 'H' shape. They are more expensive to make than Porro prism binoculars. However, they are more rugged and easier to make waterproof (and most are made waterproof).

Close focus (for near birds or butterflies)


Close focus allows us to watch birds right outside the window, or in the brush alongside a trail in the woods. In summer many birders watch butterflies and dragonflies in addition to birds. Thus, close focus may be a feature you want to consider. Close focus is probably anything less than 10 feet, but 5 or 6 feet is better.

Fully multicoated optics (to eliminate reflections and chromatic aberrations)


Up to 35% of the light entering a binocular may be "lost" by reflections rather than going through the prisms and lenses. This is reduced to less than 5% in more expensive binoculars by applying all air-to-glass surfaces with several layers of anti-reflective coatings.

As colored light goes through lenses the different colors bend and disperses. As light through a prism, white light is composed of several wavelengths of color. Special coatings make sure that all the colors are recombined at the end so that there is no color fringing at the edges of dark and light objects. Is "fully multicoated" 2 layers or 7? Only the manufacturers know. And they are unlikely to say.

Besides these special coatings, higher-end binoculars also have ED glass, extra low-dispersion glass.

The best prisms now are BaK-4 (better than BK-7, if applied correctly, which shows some distortion of the roundness of the exit pupil).

Many binocular manufacturers now use the ED glass and BaK-4 prisms. But there is a variance in the quality of both, and in the applications of the coated optics. Excellent binoculars also require additional care of design and assembly of the internal structures of the binoculars. In many cases, this is the main difference in price between $500 binoculars and $2000 binoculars (source).

Armored body (protection and grip)


Some binoculars come with a soft rubber coating that protects them from bumps and scrapes. It is also easier to grip and non-slip in wet conditions.

Warranty


I'm including the warranty into the glossary. It is a very important consideration. Many manufacturers of higher-end binoculars have lifetime warranties to replace your binoculars free of charge unless stolen or purposely destroyed. Other budget binoculars may only have a 5 year "manufacturing defect" warranty or other restrictions.



8x vs 10x binoculars for birders


Should you purchase 8x or 10x binoculars? Well, it is a 25% increase in magnification going from 8 to 10 power. That is significant. But there are some drawbacks, as well. For one, any vibration or hand shakiness is magnified by 25%, too. And because they are often much heavier, the 10x is likely to cause arm fatigue and shakiness sooner!

What happens to the optical qualities of binoculars if you keep everything the same but change from 8x to 10x magnification?

Changing from 8x to 10x reduces exit pupil size, thus brightness in dim conditions. It also reduces the field of view. It adds a little more weight and shortens the eye relief somewhat. This may have more of an adverse effect on eyeglass wearers.

Here's a chart showing the differences between identical models of binoculars comparing an 8x42 with a 10x42.

Model Size Field of View Close focus Exit pupil Eye relief Weight
Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 420 ft 8.2 ft 5.3 mm 17.1 mm 22.9 oz
Nikon Monarch 7 10x42 351 ft 8.2 ft 4.2 mm 16.4 mm 23.6 oz

10x binoculars will be noticeably dimmer in low-light conditions than would the 8x binoculars. Thus they are more appropriate for mid-day open-country birding. At dawn, especially in the woods, the 8x binocular will give a superior bright colorful view.

Here's another chart where the exit pupil remains at 5 for both a 7x35 and 10x50 model.

Model Size Field of View Close focus Exit pupil Eye relief Weight
Nikon Aculon 211 7x35 488 ft 16.4 ft 5.0 mm 11.8 mm 24.2 oz
Nikon Aculon 211 10x50 341 ft 23 ft 5.0 mm 11.8 mm 31.7 oz

Notice that the field of view is much reduced by going from 7x to 10x. In this case, close focus is also extended (worse). [By the way, this is just an example for comparison. After seeing these specs, I would not recommend this model of binocular for bird watching. The close focus of this model is not acceptable for birding in woods or at close range for birds or butterflies. And the short eye relief is not acceptable for eyeglass wearers.]



Compact vs mid-sized vs full-sized binoculars


What happens to the optical qualities if you keep the magnification the same but change from full-sized to compact binoculars?

The chart below shows that the compact binocular is really a different binocular design from the other two. The only thing that is consistent is that compact binoculars have a smaller exit pupil (25/8=3.125) and weigh less. That's true no matter the manufacturer. The lenses and prism are so different that it is not just a smaller version of the same binocular; it is a different binocular altogether, no matter what its model name.

In this particular Zeiss model, though, the mid-sized and the full-sized binoculars seem very similar, so must share some of the same optics. Notice that the close focus is the same and the field of view is slightly less going from 32mm to 42mm.

Model Size Field of View Close focus Exit pupil Eye relief Weight
Zeiss Terra ED Compact 8x25 390 ft 6.2 ft 3.1 mm 16 mm 10.9 oz
Zeiss Terra ED Mid-size 8x32 443 ft 5.2 ft 4.0 mm 16.5 mm 18 oz
Zeiss Terra ED Full-size 8x42 410 ft 5.2 ft 5.3 mm 18 mm 25.6 oz

No matter the model, increasing the objective lens size from compact to mid-size to full-size, will increase the low-light brightness (exit pupil) and increase the weight and physical size.

To conclude: A mid-sized binocular is a physically smaller version of the full sized binocular. It will be slightly dimmer in low light, but have a wider field of view. A compact binocular is a totally different binocular from the full-sized binocular. Even if they share the same model name they will likely not share optical properties. This is probably true for most manufacturers.



The best full-sized birding binoculars


What are full-sized binoculars?


Full-sized binoculars are between 7x and 10x magnification with objective lenses of 35mm to 50mm. Examples include 7x35, 8x42, 10x42, 10x50. The objective lens (in millimeters) is 5x the magnification (except for the 10x42, which is 4.2mm and 8x42, which is 5.25mm). This number is the exit pupil. An exit pupil of 5.0mm allows you to have the equivalent of naked-eye brightness in a wide variety of light conditions.

Who uses full-sized birding binoculars?


Full-sized binoculars are the default binoculars for bird watchers. They are preferred for a wide range of conditions. They are especially good in low-light conditions, compared to mid-sized or compact binoculars.

The 8x42 format is considered ideal for general-purpose bird watching binoculars.

If your arms are strong and steady then you may consider 10x binoculars. 10x50 are equally good as 8x42 in low light, but are quite a bit heavier. 10x42 are nearly the same weight as 8x42 of the same model, but are a bit dimmer in low-light conditions. 10x binoculars have a smaller field of view compared to the 8x binoculars of the same model. They may also have reduced eye relief and not be as good for eyeglass wearers. Binoculars with 50mm objective lenses also may not fold together for adults with close-set eyes of less than 60mm interpupillary distance.

Table of full-sized 8x birding binoculars


How to use this table:
  1. Select your price range
  2. If you wear eyeglasses choose binoculars >15.5mm
  3. For butterflies or close birds, choose Close Focus <8 feet
  4. For viewing fast-moving birds chose Wide Field of View >395 feet @1000 yards
  5. For best brightness in dim light conditions choose Exit Pupil >/=5mm
  6. Weight: <25 ounces is good for full-sized binoculars; <14 ounces is light-weight
  7. Blue numbers: exceptionally good specs
  8. Red numbers: not ideal specs
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Swarovski EL 42
8.5x42
>$2000 399 ft 4.9 ft4.94 mm 20 mm 29.5 oz
Zeiss Victory SF
8x42
>$2000 444 ft 4.9 ft 5.25 mm 18 mm 27.5 oz
Leica Noctivid
8x42
>$2000 443 ft 6.2 ft 5.25 mm 19 mm 30.3 oz
Leica Ultravid
8x42
>$2000 389 ft 9.8 ft 5.25 mm 15.5 mm 27.9 oz
Swarovski SLC
8x42
$1000-2000 408 ft 10.5 ft 5.25 mm 18.5 mm 28 oz
Vortex Razor
8x42
$1000-2000 388 ft 6.0 ft 5.25 mm 17.5 mm 24.2 oz
Kowa Genesis
8.5x44
$1000-2000 366 ft 5.5 ft 5.18 mm 18.3 mm 33.2 oz
Zeiss Conquest HD
8x42
$1000-2000 384 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 18 mm 28 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Leica Trinovid HD
8x42
$500-1000 372 ft 5.9 ft 5.25 mm 17 mm 25.8 oz
Maven B1
8x42
$500-1000 388 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 18.6 mm 29.1 oz
Opticron Imagic BGA VHD
8x42 
$500-1000 378 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 22 mm 24.2 oz
Vortex Viper HD
8x42
$500-1000 409 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 18 mm 24.5 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Nikon Monarch 7
8x42
$250-500 420 ft 8.2 ft 5.25 mm 17.1 mm 22.9 oz
Zeiss Terra ED
8x42
$250-500 375 ft 5.25 ft 5.25 mm 18 mm 25.6 oz
Hawke Frontier ED X
8x42 
$250-500 426 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 18 mm 24.4 oz
Vanguard Endeavor ED II
8x42
$250-500 377 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 19.5 mm 27.2 oz
Barska WP Level ED
8x42
$250-500 425 ft 6.0 ft 5.25 mm 17.5 mm 24.8 oz
Nikon Monarch 5
8x42
$250-500 330 ft 7.8 ft 5.25 mm 19.5 mm 20.8 oz
Athlon Optics Midas ED
8x42
$250-500 426 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 17.2 mm 25 oz
Vortex Diamondback
8x42
$250-500 393 ft 5 ft 5.25 mm 17 mm 21.8 oz
Celestron Trailseeker ED
8x42
$250-500 426 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 17.2 mm 23.5 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Bushnell Legend L Ultra
8x42
$100-250 426 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 19 mm 23.5 oz
Celestron Nature DX ED
8x42
$100-250 393 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 17.8 mm 24.9 oz
Wingspan CrystalView
Ultra HD 8x42
$100-250 425 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 17.8 mm 27 oz
Vortex Optics Crossfire
8x42
$100-250 393 ft 6 ft 5.25 mm 17 mm 23.8 oz
Wingspan NaturePro HD
8x42
$100-250 430 ft 6.5 ft 5.25 mm 17.2 mm 22 oz
Carson VP
8x42
$100-250 393 ft 6.6 ft 5.25 mm 17 mm 24.6 oz
Nikon Action Extreme ATB
8x40 poro
$100-250 430 ft 16.4 ft 5.0 mm 17.2 mm 30.1 oz
Nikon Action Extreme ATB
7x35 poro
$100-250 487 ft 16.4 ft 5.0 mm 17.3 mm 28.2 oz
Nikon Prostaff 3S
8x42
$100-250 377 ft 9.8 ft 5.25 mm 20.2 mm 19.9 oz

Table of full-sized 10x birding binoculars


How to use this table:
  1. Select your price range
  2. If you wear eyeglasses choose Eye Relief >15.5mm
  3. For butterflies or close birds, choose Close Focus <8 feet
  4. For viewing fast-moving birds choose Field of View >395 feet @1000 yards
  5. For best brightness in dim light conditions choose Exit Pupil >/=5mm
  6. Weight: <25 ounces is good for full-sized binoculars; <14 ounces is light-weight
  7. Blue numbers: exceptionally good specs
  8. Red numbers: not ideal specs
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Leica Noctivid
10x42
>$2000 376 ft6.2 ft 4.2 mm19 mm 30.3 oz
Zeiss Victory
10x42
>$2000 360 ft4.9 ft4.2 mm18 mm 27.5 oz
Swarovski EL SwaroVision
10x42
>$2000 336 ft4.9 ft 4.2 mm20 mm 29.6 oz
Vanguard Endeavor ED IV
10x42
$250-500 340 ft5.9 ft 4.2 mm19 mm 27.7 oz
Vortex Viper
10x42
$250-500 341 ft6.5 ft 4.2 mm17 mm 24.9 oz
Nikon Monarch 7
10x42
$250-500 351 ft8.2 ft 4.2 mm16.4 mm 23.6 oz
Barska WP Level ED Open Bridge
10x42
$250-500 341 ft8.2 ft 4.2 mm15.2 mm 24.8 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Nikon Monarch 5
10x42
$100-250 288 ft7.8 ft 4.2 mm18.4 mm 21.6 oz
Nikon ProStaff 7S
10x42
$100-250 324 ft13 ft 4.2 mm15.5 mm 22.8 oz
Nikon ProStaff 3S
10x42
$100-250 367 ft9.8 ft 4.2 mm15.7 mm 20.3 oz
Nikon Action Extreme ATB
10x50 poro
$100-250 341 ft23 ft 5.0 mm17.2 mm 36 oz
Leupold BX-1 McKenzie
10x42
$100-250 305 ft10 ft 4.2 mm13.7 mm 22 oz
Vortex Optics Crossfire
10x42
$100-250 325 ft6 ft 4.2 mm15 mm 23 oz
Bushnell Trophy Xtreme
10x42
$100-250 330 ft??? ft 4.2 mm15.2 mm 25.3 oz
Bushnell Legend Ultra
10x42
$100-250 340 ft8 ft 4.2 mm18 mm 23.5 oz
Vanguard Spirit XF
10x42
$100-250 332 ft6.9 ft 4.2 mm16 mm 22.9 oz

Comments on full-sized 8x binoculars table


Best specs in the 8x  >$2000 range: the specs for the Swarovski EL, Zeiss Victory, and Leica Noctivid are all close and outstanding, though a bit on the heavy side.

Not-as-good in the 8x >$2000 range: The Leica Ultravid has a close focus of over 10 feet and the 15.5mm eye relief is barely adequate for eyeglass wearers.

The Audubon review (see References at end of article) chose the Swarovski EL as its top binocular in the over $2000 range. It had perfect scores for clarity and color rendition. Second was the Zeiss Victory. The reviewers felt it was comfortable and had an amazingly wide field of view.

Zeiss Victory is a favorite of Birdwatching.com.

Best specs in the 8x $1000-2000 range: The specs for the Vortex Razor and Zeiss Conquest are ideal.

Not-as-good in the 8x $1000-2000 range: The Swarovski SLC has close focus of 10.5 feet. The Kowa Genesis has a narrower field of view and is quite heavy.

The Audubon review chose the Vortex Razor as its second choice is the $1000-2000 range. Reviewers liked that it was well-balanced. First choice in this price range was actually a mid-sized binocular, the Leica Ultravid HD-Plus 8x32 (see mid-sized binocular table below).

The Zeiss Conquest is the binocular that eBird gives away to its Birder-of-the-month. Zeiss is a sponsor of eBird, but with many models available, it is interesting that this is the one awarded to birders.

The Zeiss Conquest is also a favorite of Birdwatching.com.

Best specs in the 8x $500-1000 range: The Vortex Viper has the widest field of view in this set of binoculars, barely edging out the others, which are all good, really.

Not-as-good in the 8x $500-1000 range: (None)

The Audubon review chose the Vortex Viper as its top binocular in this price range. It received a perfect score in the "weight" category, with superb handling. Reviewers also praised the eye relief. This is interesting, as this binocular isn't any different from other binoculars in this price range in these two specs. In second place was the Maven B1. Perhaps the reviewers were swayed by this binocular's unique appearance, as the field of view impression that reviewers mentioned as better aren't superior in specs to the other binoculars in this price range.

The Leica Trinovid is a Top 10 binocular for nature observation by Optics4Birding. They described the binoculars as having exceptionally bright and ultra-sharp image.

Best specs in the 8x $250-500 range: At the upper end of this price range the Hawke Frontier and Barska binoculars have the best specs. I have also included the Nikon Monarch 7, though the 8.2 feet close focus is a bit longer than the others. All three of these have excellently wide field of view of 420-426 feet. The Zeiss Terra and Vanguard Endeavor have slightly narrower field of view (375-377 feet)--both acceptable for birding, just not as wide as the models above.

At the lower end of this range ($250-300 msrp) the Athlon Midas, Vortex Diamondback, and Celestron Trailseeker all have excellent specs equal to the models nearer to $500.

Not-as-good in the 8x $250-500 range: Despite being a best seller with birdwatchers, the Nikon Monarch 5 ($250-300 msrp) has very narrow field of view (only 330 feet).

The Audubon review chose the Zeiss Terra as its top binocular in its $200-500 range. (Audubon's review did not include field of view as a determining factor.) It has high optical performance and clarity as well as great overall feel. In second place was the Nikon Monarch 7. It has razor-sharp optics that feel good in your hand. All the binoculars in this price range were very close in score and well-liked by the Audubon reviewers.

The Vanguard Endeavor and Zeiss Terra are favorites at Birdwatching.com.

The Nikon Monarch 7 is a Top 10 binocular for nature observation by Optics4Birding. They call it extremely affordable with impressive image quality.

Best Binoculars Review includes the Hawke Frontier in the Best Birding Binoculars.

Best specs in the 8x $100-250 range: The Bushnell Legend has the best specs in this price range. The Celestron Nature DX, Wingspan CrystalView, Wingspan NaturePro, Carson VP, and Vortex Crossfire have similar great specs, too.

See my article: 12 Best birding binoculars under $200. In that article I chose Bushnell Legend L Ultra 8x42 as the best birding binocular in the $150-200 range and the Wingspan CrystalView as the runner up. I chose the Wingspan NaturePro HD 8x42 as the best birding binocular in the $100-150 range and the Celestron Nature DX ED as the runner up.

Not-as-good in the 8x $100-250 range: The Nikon Action Extreme 7x35 has a poor close focus spec of 16.4 feet and is the heaviest of this price range, though the field of view is an amazing 487 feet at 1000 yards. The same can be said for the Nikon Action Extreme 8x40.

The Audubon review chose the Celestron Nature as its top binocular in its <$200 price range. It outscored all others in clarity, brightness, and color. In second place was the Nikon Prostaff 3S. Reviewers liked the overall feel and ease of focus on this binocular.

Best Binoculars Review includes the Athlon Midas in the Best Birding Binoculars and a "best value binocular."

Best Binoculars Review includes the Celestron Trailseeker in the Best Birding Binoculars.

Comments on full-sized 10x binoculars table


Best specs in the 10x  >$2000 range: All are great binoculars. The Leica Noctovid and Zeiss Victory have wider field of view than the Swarovski. Of the first two, the Zeiss Victory has slightly better close focus, and is almost 3 ounces lighter--that makes a difference, as all these top-of-the-line binoculars are already a bit on the heavy side.

Not-as-good in the10x  >$2000 range: Nothing wrong with the Swarovski EL SwaroVision, but the field of view is less than the other two.

The Zeiss Victory is a favorite of Birdwatching.com.

The Zeiss Victory is a Top 10 binocular for nature observation by Optics4Birding. They liked the binocular's light weight and ergonomic design.

Best specs in the 10x $250-500 range: The Vanguard Endeavor and Vortex Viper have nearly identical specs. The Vanguard has slightly better eye relief for eyeglass wearers. The Vortex is slightly lighter weight.

Not-as-good in the 10x $250-500 range: The Nikon Monarch 7 has close focus of 8.2 feet, which is almost 2 feet "worse" than the other two. It is lighter than the other two, slightly. The eye relief is a bit shorter than the other two, so perhaps not the best choice for eyeglass wearers. The Barska Level is similar, but perhaps not suitable for eyeglass wearers.

The Vanguard Endeavor is a favorite at Birdwatching.com.

The Vortex Viper is a Top 10 binocular for nature observation by Optics4Birding. They note that it was redesigned in 2018 with better optics and specs. They call it a "price/performance leader."

The Barska Level is a Top 10 binocular for nature observation by Optics4Birding. They call it a "best buy."

Best specs in the 10x $100-250 range: The Bushnell Legend Ultra has 340 wide field of view. The Vanguard Spirit is similar. The Nikon ProStaff has wider field of view and close focus under 10 feet for a msrp of <$130 is a great deal.

In my article: 12 Best birding binoculars under $200 I chose the Bushnell Legend Ultra 10x42 as the best 10x binocular under $200.

Not-as-good in the 10x $100-250 range: The Nikon Monarch 5 has a field of view only 288 feet wide at 1000 yards, way too narrow. The Nikon ProStaff 7S has narrow field of view and doesn't focus close. The eye relief is at the very minimum for eyeglass wearers, likely to add additional loss of field of view. Leupold McKenzie has narrow field of view, poor close focus, and short eye relief not suitable for eyeglass wearers. The Vortex Crossfire is a bit narrow on the field of view and is too short on eye relief for eyeglass wearers, but does have good close focus ability. The Nikon Action Extreme is a large, very heavy, poro prism binocular with very poor close focus at 23 feet. The Bushnell Trophy doesn't publish their close focus, which makes me nervous. The eye relief is a bit short for eyeglass wearers, too. There are better binoculars in this price range.



The best compact birding binoculars


What are compact binoculars?  


Compact binoculars, sometimes called Pocket binoculars, are physically small, with 20-25mm objective lenses. They typically come in sizes of 8x20 or 10x25. Thus they will have an exit pupil of around 2.5mm. They will match full-sized binoculars in bright light, but be dimmer than naked-eye brightness in low-light conditions.

Who uses compact birding binoculars?


Some birders like the small size format. But compact binoculars are often a "second pair." They fold up small enough to be put in a pocket. They are very light weight. They are perfect to take on a hike where bird watching might not be the primary focus. Backpacking, where weight is at a premium, would be the perfect use for these binoculars.

These small binoculars may be ones you keep in your car's glove compartment at all times. They will be available to view roadside birds on your way to work or the store, times when you likely wouldn't be taking your primary birding binoculars with you.

These binoculars are also perfect for smaller hands. In cold conditions they have less mass so might not make your hands as cold. Depending upon how close the eyepieces fold down together, they may be suitable for children. But not always so. [See Kids Binoculars for more details.]

One thing to watch, though, many compact binoculars have short eye relief (<15.5mm) and will not be suitable for users who wear eyeglasses.

Table of compact birding binoculars


How to use this table:
  1. Select your price range
  2. If you wear eyeglasses choose Eye Relief >15.5mm
  3. For butterflies or close birds, choose Close Focus <8 feet
  4. For viewing fast-moving birds choose Field of View >395 feet @1000 yards
  5. For best brightness in dim light conditions choose Exit Pupil >/=5mm
  6. Weight: <25 ounces is good for full-sized binoculars; <14 ounces is light-weight
  7. Blue numbers: exceptionally good specs
  8. Red numbers: not ideal specs
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Leica Compact Ultravid BR
8x20
$500-1000 341 ft6 ft 2.5 mm15 mm 8.5 oz
Swarovski CL Pocket
8x25
$500-1000 357 ft8.2 ft3.1 mm17 mm 12.2 oz
Opticron DBA Oasis
10x28
$250-500 258 ft12.8 ft 2.8 mm15 mm 9.2 oz
Zeiss Terra ED Pocket
8x25
$250-500357 ft6.2 ft3.1 mm16 mm10.9 oz
Vortex Diamondback
8x28
$100-250 332 ft6 ft 3.5 mm18 mm 14 oz
Vortex Diamondback
10x28
$100-250 237 ft6 ft 2.8 mm16 mm 15.9 oz
Opticron Explorer
8x21
$100-250324 ft6.6 ft 2.6 mm14 mm 6.9 oz
Pentax U Papilio II
8.5x21
$100-250 315 ft1.6 ft 2.5 mm15 mm 10.2 oz
Vanguard Orros
8x25
<$100 340 ft8.8 ft 3.1 mm12.5 mm 9.9 oz
Bushnell H2O
8x25
<$100 341 ft15 ft 3.1 mm13.5 mm 10.2 oz

Comments on compact binoculars table


Best specs in the compact $500-1000 range: The Swarovski CL Pocket has excellent specs, especially good field of view and eye relief.

Not-so-good in the compact $500-1000 range: The Leica Compact Ultravid has less exit pupil brightness and the 15mm eye relief is insufficient for some eyeglass wearers.

The Leica Ultravid is a favorite of Birdwatching.com.

The Swarovski CL is a Staff Pick of Optics4Birding. They say it sets the standard for compact binocular performance.

Best specs in the compact $250-500 range: The Zeiss Terra has good field of view and close focus.

Not-so-good in the compact $250-500 range: The Opticron Oasis has poor specs for birding all the way around: narrow field of view, poor close focus and limited eye relief.

Best specs in the compact $100-250 range: The Vortex Diamondback 8x28 has good close focus and eye relief. The field of view is a bit narrow, but better than its competitors.

In my article: 12 Best birding binoculars under $200 I chose the Vortex Diamondback 8x28 as the only compact binocular under $200 that I could recommend.

Not-so-good in the compact $100-250 range: Neither the Opticron Explorer nor the Pentax U Papilio is suitable for eyeglass wearers. Both are a bit dimmer (exit pupil) and have less field of view. Unlike its 8x twin, the Vortex Diamondback 10x28 has terrible field of view.

Best specs in the compact <$100 range: If you don't wear eyeglasses the Vanguard Orros have good specs in this price range. Their interpupilary distance is good for smaller children to adults.

Birdwatching.com has the Vanguard Orros as one of their favorites. In fact, they include it in their lowest priced beginning birdwatching kit.

Not-so-good in the compact <$100 range: The Bushnell H2O don't have good close focus ability. They don't have sufficient eye relief for eyeglass wearers.



The best mid-sized birding binoculars


What are mid-sized binoculars?


As the name suggests, mid-sized binoculars are half way between full-sized and compact binoculars. They are usually an 8x32 size and have the same optics and specs as the 8x42 binoculars. Except, of course, they have the smaller objective lens and corresponding exit pupil of 3.2mm rather then 5.25mm of the full-sized version.

Who uses mid-sized binoculars?


These binoculars are lighter-weight than full-sized binoculars. They are physically smaller. They would be easier to carry. They'd be great for smaller hands.

They have the same optical parameters as the full-sized binoculars, excepting the 3.2mm exit pupil. They often have better optical characteristics than a corresponding version of compact binocular.

You certainly could use and enjoy these as your primary birding binoculars. In low light levels--dusk or in the forest canopy--they wouldn't be quite as bright as most 8x full-sized binoculars. But most of the time you probably wouldn't notice.

These would also be great binoculars to leave on your windowsill to watch birds at your feeder.

Table of mid-sized birding binoculars


How to use this table:
  1. Select your price range
  2. If you wear eyeglasses choose Eye Relief >15.5mm
  3. For butterflies or close birds, choose Close Focus <8 feet
  4. For viewing fast-moving birds choose Field of View >395 feet @1000 yards
  5. For best brightness in dim light conditions choose Exit Pupil >/=5mm
  6. Weight: <25 ounces is good for full-sized binoculars; <14 ounces is light-weight
  7. Blue numbers: exceptionally good specs
  8. Red numbers: not ideal specs
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Swarovski EL SwaroVision
8x32
>$2000 423 ft6.2 ft 4.0 mm20 mm 21.0 oz
Leica Ultravid HD-Plus
8x32
$1000-2000 404 ft7.2 ft4.0 mm13.3 mm 18.9 oz
Kowa Genesis
8x33
$1000-2000 420 ft5.0 ft 4.1 mm15 mm 20.8 oz
Zeiss Conquest HD
8x32
$500-1000420 ft4.9 ft4.0 mm16 mm22.2 oz
Leica Trinivid $500-1000 372 ft3.3 ft 4.0 mm17 mm 22.2 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Kowa BD 32-8XD
8x32
$250-500 462 ft4.3 ft 4.0 mm16.5 mm 18.5 oz
Zeiss Terra ED
8x32
$250-500 405 ft5.2 ft 4.0 mm16.5 mm 18.0 oz
Opticron Traveler ED
8x32
$250-500 429 ft5.9 ft 4.0 mm19 mm 15.9 oz
Vanguard Endeavor ED II
8x32
$250-500 377 ft5.9 ft 4.0 mm17.5 mm 19.0 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Vortex Diamondback HD
8x32
$100-250 426 ft5.0 ft 4.0 mm16 mm 15.9 oz
Opticron Oregon
8x32
$100-250 423 ft5.9 ft 4.0 mm15 mm 17.5 oz
Celestron Trailseeker
8x32
$100-250 409 ft6.5 ft 4.0 mm15.6 mm 16.0 oz
Kenko UltraView EX OP
8x32
$100-250 393 ft8.2 ft 4.0 mm14.8 mm 16.0 oz
Opticron Savanna RPC
8x33
$100-250 366 ft11.5 ft 4.1 mm20 mm 15.1 oz
Opticron Discovery WP PC
8x32
$100-250 393 ft3.9 ft 4.0 mm17 mm 13.8 oz
Carson 3D
8x32
$100-250 392 ft6.6 ft 4.0 mm19.5 mm 19.2 oz
Wingspan Optics FieldView
8x32
<$100 362 ft9.8 ft 4.0 mm14.8 mm 15.2 oz

Comments on mid-sized binoculars table


Best specs in the mid-sized >$2000 range: The Swarovski EL SwaroVision 8x32 has excellent field of view, close focus and eye relief.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized >$2000 range: (None)

Best specs in the mid-sized $1000-2000 range: The Kowa Genesis has excellent field of view and close focus. The eye relief is a just a bit short for eyeglass wearers at 15mm, meaning some eyeglass wearers may lose that great field of view. Great choice if you don't wear eyeglasses.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized $1000-2000 range: If you don't wear eyeglasses the Leica Ultravid HD-Plus is a good binocular, but does not have quite as good of specs as the Kowa.

The Audubon review lists the Leica Ultravid as the top binocular in the $1000-2000 range. Reviewers liked the impressive clarity and brightness. The shorter eye relief was not mentioned.

The Kowa Genesis is a Staff Pick of Optics4Birding.

Best specs in the mid-sized $500-1000 range: Both the Zeiss Conquest and the Leica Trinivid are excellent binoculars in this category. The Zeiss has wider field of view. The Leica might be better for eyeglass wearers. Both have close focus less than 5 feet.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized $500-1000 range: (None)

Best specs in the mid-sized $250-500 range: There are great choices here! The Kowa BD has amazing field of view at 462 feet and close focus at 4.3 feet. Nearly as good, but perhaps better for eyeglass wearers is the Opticron Traveler. It is also the lightest in weight by a couple of ounces. The Zeiss Terra has specs near the Kowa, just slightly less amazing. The Vanguard Endeavor has less field of view (still good) and decent eye relief.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized $250-500 range: (None)

The Zeiss Terra ED is a favorite of Birdwatching.com.

The Opticron Traveler is a Staff Pick of Optics4Birding.

Best specs in the mid-sized $100-250 range: There are several good choices here. The best two are the Vortex Diamondback and Opticron Discovery with good specs for wide field of view, close focus and eye relief. The Celestron Trailseeker may not be best for eyeglass wearers--it's right at the short end of acceptable. The Carson is the heaviest of the group, but still less than full-size binoculars.

In my article: 12 Best birding binoculars under $200 I chose the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x32 as best 8x32 birding binocular if you DON'T wear eyeglasses.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized $100-250 range: The Opticron Oregon is not for eyeglass wearers, but otherwise has good specs. The same goes for the Kenko UltraView, but the Opticron Oregon has slightly better specs. The Opticron Savanna is great for eyeglass wearers, but it has poor close focus at 11.5 feet and the field of view is just average.

Birdwatching.com lists the Opticron Discovery as one of its favorite binoculars, extolling the close focus.

Birdwatching.com includes the Vortex Diamondback in its highest priced Starter Kit.

Best specs in the mid-sized <$100 range: The Wingspan FieldView has average field of view if it was a full-sized binocular, but is the narrowest of the mid-range binoculars. The close focus at just under 10 feet isn't all that good, but it is acceptable. The eye relief is too short for eyeglass wearers, making the narrow field of view even worse. In this price range, though, it is an accomplishment to get these specs.

Not-as-good in the mid-sized <$100 range: (None)



The best kids birding binoculars


What makes binoculars a kid's binocular?


Children's eyes are closer together than adult eyes. Thus kid's binoculars are those that fold down to have a smaller interpupillary distance (IPD). Children's binoculars may also have less magnification and larger field of view to make it easier for them to spot birds. The binoculars may weigh less so as to not fatigue the child's arms.

Interpupillary distances (IPD):
Most adult full-sized binoculars: 56-72mm
Vast majority of adults: 50-75mm (source)
Typical 5 year old: 40mm (ibid.)
Binoculars for typical 7+ year olds: 52mm (source)

Who uses kids birding binoculars?


Not just kids. As you can see from the above measurements, some adults have eyes closer together than full-sized binoculars can adjust. Worse, some adults have eyes wider apart than any binocular made. If either of these users (eyes too narrow or too wide) look through binoculars, they will only be able to see through one side.

You need to pay special attention to this category. Some Kids Binoculars are plastic toys, others are well-built optics suitable also for adults.

Table of kids birding binoculars


How to use this table:
  1. Check IP <52mm (minimum interpupilary distance) to see if really kids bins (age 7+) [Adult 56-72 mm]
  2. Select your price range
  3. If child wears eyeglasses choose Eye Relief >15.5mm
  4. For butterflies or close birds, choose Close Focus <8 feet
  5. For viewing fast-moving birds choose Field of View >395 feet @1000 yards
  6. For best brightness in dim light conditions choose Exit Pupil >/=5mm
  7. Weight: <25 ounces is good for full-sized binoculars; <14 ounces is light-weight
  8. Blue numbers: exceptionally good specs
  9. Red numbers: not ideal specs
Model
Size
Price
Range
IP FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Zeiss Terra ED Compact
8x25
$250-500 35-72 mm 372 ft 6.2 ft 3.1 mm 16 mm 10.9 oz
Kowa BD
8x25
$250-500 ? mm 331 ft 6.0 ft 3.1 mm 15.8 mm 11.3 oz
Opticron Discovery WP PC
8x32
$250-500 52-75 mm 393 ft 3.9 ft 4.0 mm 17 mm 13.8 oz
Opticron Savanna R PC
8x33
$100-250 52-76 mm 366 ft 11.5 ft 4.1 mm 20 mm 15.5 oz
Opticron Savanna WP
6x30
$100-250 50-70 mm 420 ft 9.8 ft 5.0 mm 21 mm 17.1 oz
Leupold BX-1 Yosemite
6x30
$100-250 50-70 mm 420 ft 9.8 ft 4.6 mm 18.5 mm 17 oz
Kowa YF
6x30
$100-250 50-70 mm 420 ft 16.4 ft 5.0 mm 20 mm 16.5 oz
Model
Size
Price
Range
IP FOV @
1000 yds
Close
Focus
Exit
Pupil
Eye
Relief
Weight
Vanguard Orros
8x25
<$100 40-75 mm 340 ft 8.8 ft 3.1 mm 12.5 mm 9.9 oz
Levenhuk Rainbow
8x25
<$100 40-76 mm 399 ft 16 ft 3.1 mm 10.1 mm 9.9 oz
National Geographic by Bresser
6x21
<$50 50-66 mm 360 ft 7.9 ft 3.5 mm ? mm 6.5 oz
Bresser ExploreOne Junior
6x21
<$50 50-66 mm 360 ft 7.9 ft 3.5 mm ? mm 6.4 oz
Carson Hawk Kids
5x30
<$50 ? mm 312 ft 8.0 ft 6.0 mm ? mm 4.9 oz
Bespin
8x21
<$50 50-65 mm 384 ft ? ft 2.6 mm 10 mm 6.7 oz
KidWinz
8x21
<$50 ? mm 366 ft ? ft 2.6 mm 10 mm 8.0 oz

Comments on the kids binoculars table


Many published reviews and lists of kids binoculars show binoculars that don't fold down narrow enough for 7-year-olds to see out both lenses simultaneously. Some manufactures of "kids binoculars" don't specify the interpupilary distance, close focus, or eye relief. In general, kids binoculars under $100 are not suitable for children who wear eyeglasses. Binoculars under $100 are also not likely to be waterproof.

Best specs in the kids binoculars $250-500 range: The Zeiss Terra ED Compact 8x25 has an interpupilary range that will accommodate small children to adults. The Opticron Discovery is suitable for 7-year-olds to adults. Both have good field of view, close focus and eye relief for eyeglass wearers.

In my article: 12 Best birding binoculars under $200 I chose the Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 as the best 8x32 birding binocular under $230 (check price).

Not-as-good in the kids binoculars $250-500 range: The Kowa BD 8x25 does not list interpupilary distance, so I can't tell whether these are really suitable for kids. The field of view is on the narrow side--especially for kids binoculars.

Best specs in the kids binoculars $100-250 range: The Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 is the choice here. Wide field of view, bright exit pupil, long eye relief for eyeglass wearers, close focus just under 10 feet. The Leupold BX-1 Yosemite is a close second, if just a bit dimmer.

Not-as-good in the kids binoculars $100-250 range: The Opticron Savanna R PC 8x33 is a larger mid-sized binocular, though still light weight. It has narrower field of view and a long close focus of nearly 12 feet. The Kowa YF would be excellent if it weren't for the terrible close focus of over 16 feet.

Best Binoculars Review likes the porro prism Kowa YF and the Opticron Savana as they are waterproof and have the better quality BAK-4 prisms.

Best specs in the kids binoculars <$100 range: The Vanguard Orros have a good interpupilary range from 40-75mm, making them good for small children or adults. The field of view is toward the narrow end. The eye relief is too short for eyeglass wearers.

Not-as good in the kids binoculars <$100 range: The Levenhuk Rainbow also has a full range of interpupilary distance allowing small children and adults to use them. They have a good field of view. The eye relief is very short, not usable for eyeglass wearers.

Birdwatching.com considers the Vanguard Orros one of their favorites.

Best specs in the kids binoculars <$50 range: I'm going with the Bressler ExplorerOne Junior 6x21. The interpupilary range is suitable for 7 year-olds and mid-teens, but don't expand far enough for all adults with more wide-set eyes (50-66mm). The eye relief is not listed by the manufacturer, but one can expect that at this price range children who wear glasses would have difficulty using any of these binoculars. The National Geographic by Bresser is evidently the same binocular in a different body for a higher price.

Not-as-good in the kids binoculars <$50 range: The manufacturers don't list all the specs for either interpupilary distance (though guessing 50-66mm for ages 7-13), close focus, or eye relief (can assume not suitable for children who wear glasses). This includes Carson Hawk Kids with unacceptably narrow field of view, Bespin with very short eye relief and unknown close focus distance but nice wide field of view, and KidWhiz with very short eye relief an unlisted inpterpupilary distance and close focus.

Best Binoculars Review includes the National Geographic 6x21 in the Best Birding Binoculars. They also recommend these binoculars for 4-10 year-olds.



References


Binocular reviews, lists and buying guides


Birdwatching Dot Com
Pocket Binoculars Reviews (source)
Mid-sized Binoculars Review (source)
Staff favorites (source)

Optics 4 Birding
Staff Picks (source)

Best Binoculars Review
Best birding binoculars 2019 (source)

New Yorker Magazine
What I tell my friends who ask me what binoculars to buy
Steven John May 17, 2018 (source)

National Audubon Society
Audubon Guide to buying binoculars (January 2017) (source)
[FOV not considered]

BirdWatchingBliss
Best compact and minibinoculars review (source)

Binocular manufacturers and specs


Athlon Optics (link)

Barska (link)

Bushnell (link)

Carson (link)

Celestron (link)

Hawke Optics (link)

Kenko Global (link)

Kowa Sporting Optics (link)

Leica (link)

Leupold (link)

Levenhuk (link)

Maven (link)

Nikon (link)

Opticron (link)

Pentax (link)

Swarovski (link)

Vanguard (link)

Vortex Optics (link)

Wingspan Optics (link)

Zeiss (link)



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