Best Binoculars For Bird Watching (Top 5 in 2020)

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In this article we’ve put together a list of 5 of the absolute best binoculars for bird watching. When we say best we mean high end and top of the line. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck and are on a budget, check out this article on the best value binoculars for bird watching

Without wasting any time, let’s get straight to why you came here. We’ll talk about some of the features to look for in birding binoculars below.

Enjoy!

Best binoculars for bird watching – Top 5

Top 3 picks

Premium Choice

Swarovski 10×50 EL

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Zeiss Carl Victory 8×32

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Value Choice

Maven B1 10X42mm ED

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1. ZEISS Carl Victory FL Binoculars (8×32)

*Best Binoculars For Bird WatchingZEISS Carl Victory FL Binoculars (8x32)

Features

  • All-purpose, waterproof binoculars
  • 32mm Lens for optimum light transmission
  • Lotutec lens Coating for use in inclement weather
  • Ergonomically designed for comfort during prolonged use
  • Limited Lifetime transferable warranty

Specs:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Diameter: 32 mm
  • Exit Pupil: 4 mm
  • Twilight Factor: 16
  • Field of View (ft/1000 yards): Ww 420
  • Close Focus: 6.56 feet
  • Diopter Range: +/- 4.0 dpt
  • Eye Relief: 15.5 mm
  • Interpupillary Distance: 52 to 74 mm
  • LotuTec: Yes
  • Nitrogen Filling: Yes
  • Waterproof: 400 mbar
  • Functional Temperature Range: -22/+145°F
  • Height: 4.61 in
  • Width: 4.57 in
  • Weight: 19.75 oz

Any serious birder knows that there are just a handful of brands of binoculars that are the cream of the crop, Zeiss is one of those. There’s no doubt that the Zeiss Carl Victory FL are some of the best binoculars for birdwatching on the market. 

They’re designed for maximum comfort and are about as close to compact as you’ll get in a pair of premium binoculars of this caliber. The average, casual bird watcher may have difficulty telling the difference when looking through these and a pair that are just a fraction of the price. For seasoned pros, or even those who want to start out with the best, look no further than Zeiss. 

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2. Swarovski SLC 8×42

Swarovski SLC 8x42 Waterproof Binoculars with FieldPro Package, Green

Features

  • Includes: Field Bag, Eyepiece Cover, Objective Lens Cover, Carrying Strap 
  • 8x magnification
  • 61-degree apparent field of view
  • HD Optical system
  • Fluorite-containing glass offers 91% light transmission
  • Enhanced color fidelity and brightness
  • Lifetime warranty for optics and 10-year for other parts
  • Features SWAROBRIGHT and SWAROCLEAN trademark technologies

Specs

  • Magnification – 8x
  • Effective objective lens diameter (mm)42
  • Exit pupil diameter (mm)5.3
  • Exit pupil distance (eye relief) (mm)18.5
  • Field of view (ft/1000 yds / m/1000 m)408/136
  • Field of view (degrees)7.8
  • Field of view for eyeglass wearers (degrees)7.8
  • Field of view, apparent (degrees)61
  • Shortest focusing distance (ft / m)10.5/3.2
  • Dioptric compensation (dpt)± 4
  • Diopter correction at ∞ (dpt)4
  • Light transmission (%)91
  • Pupil distance (in/mm)2.2-2.9/56-74
  • Twilight factor acc. to ISO 14132-118.3
  • Length approx. (in/mm)*5.9/149
  • Width approx. (in/mm)**4.7/120
  • Height approx. (in/mm)**2.5/63
  • Weight approx. (oz/g)28/795
  • Functional temperature-13 °F to +131 °F (-25 °C / +55 °C)
  • Storage temperature-22 °F to +158 °F (-30 °C / +70 °C)
  • Submersion tightness13 ft / 4 m water depth (inert gas filling)

Without question the second name that comes to mind, and first for many people, when it comes to the best binoculars for bird watching is Swarovski. If you decide to go with the Swarovski SLC 8×42 you are going to get some amazing glass that is top of the line hands down. The image quality is crisp and clear with high contrast and razor sharp outlines. These binoculars from Swarovski will almost certainly be a step up from your previous binoculars in every way. 

They’re super durable and the build quality is outstanding. The design is rugged yet sleek and they feel great in your hands. This makes them a perfect choice if you plan to be out in the field bird watching or if you want them for hunting purposes. The included objective lens and eyepiece covers provide max protection against drops and external impacts.

Go ahead and pull the trigger on the last pair of birding binoculars you’ll ever need. 

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3. Vortex Optics Razor UHD Binoculars 12×50

Vortex Optics Razor UHD Binoculars 10x42

Features

  • 12x magnification and 50 mm objective lenses (8×42, 10×42, and 18×56 also available)
  • Ultra high definition optical quality and prescription for unparalleled image resolution
  • Exceptional color fidelity, edge-to-edge sharpness, and light transmission
  • Index-matched lenses correct color across the entire visual spectrum.
  • Ultimate anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces
  • Maximum light transmission for peak clarity and the pinnacle of low-light performance
  • Superior ergonomics while decreasing total weight and bulk make it surprisingly lightweight
  • Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection
  • A right-eye diopter tailors each barrels’ focus to your eyes.
  • The smooth, center focus wheel provides fine focus control and quick sharp views.
  • Twist-up eyecups rest comfortably against the face and provide customized eye relief
  • Argon purging and o-ring seals provide a lifetime of water and fog-proof performance.
  • Ultra-hard, scratch resistant armortek protects the lenses from scratches, oil, and dirt.
  • Compatible with a tripod adapter, allowing use on a tripod or car window mount

Specs

  • Magnification 12x (8x, 10x, and 18x also available)
  • Objective Lens Diameter 50 mm
  • Eye Relief 17 mmExit Pupil 4.2 mm
  • Linear Field of View 288 feet/1000 yds
  • Angular Field of View 5.5 degrees
  • Close Focus 6.6 feet
  • Interpupillary Distance 56-76 mm
  • Height 7.6 inchesWidth 5.8 inches
  • Weight 36.1 oz
  • Product Manual (PDF) Download

Here at Bird Feeder Hub we are big fans of Vortex Spotting Scopes because of they make some of the absolute best spotting scopes on the market today. When it comes to birding binoculars, they don’t pull any punches on the quality there either. In addition to the 12×50 the Vortex Razor UHD Binoculars come in 8×42, 10×42, and 18×56 giving you some sizes that other manufacturers do not offer. If you’re in the market for some extreme magnification and an extra large objective lens then this model has you covered. 

Because of the large objective lens on these bad boys your field of view is cut down to 288 ft at 1000 yards. If you’re doing some long distance bird watching then this pair could hit the mark for you, and you can still size down to the standard 8×42 that most birders prefer if you choose. The pricing is in line with the Swarovski SLC and so is the quality, it really becomes a matter of preference. With a full 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, like not even one 4 star rating, you’ll see that purchasers of these birding binoculars are beyond happy. Check them out and you’ll see why. 

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4. Swarovski 10×50 EL Binocular SWA35210

Swarovski 10x50 EL Binocular SWA35210

Features

  • 50mm objective lens
  • 20mm eye relief
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Multi-coated lenses
  • Ergonomic design

Specs

  • Magnification – 10x
  • Effective objective lens diameter (mm)50
  • Exit pupil diameter (mm)5
  • Exit pupil distance (eye relief) (mm)20
  • Field of view (ft/1000 yds / m/1000 m)345 / 115
  • Field of view (degrees)6.6
  • Field of view for eyeglass wearers (degrees)6.6
  • Field of view, apparent (degrees)62
  • Shortest focusing distance (ft / m)9.2 / 2.8
  • Dioptric compensation (dpt)± 4
  • Diopter correction at ∞ (dpt)5
  • Light transmission (%)90
  • Pupil distance (in / mm)2.2-2.9 / 56-74
  • Twilight factor acc. to ISO 14132-122.4
  • Length approx. (in / mm)*6.8 / 174
  • Width approx. (in / mm)**5.2 / 131
  • Height approx. (in / mm)**2.6 / 67
  • Weight approx. (oz / g)35.0 / 999
  • Functional temperature-13 °F to +131 °F (-25 °C / +55 °C)
  • Storage temperature-22 °F to +158 °F (-30 °C / +70 °C)
  • Submersion tightness13 ft / 4 m water depth (inert gas filling)

The 10×50 EL Binoculars from Swarovski are another great option. This time you’ve got higher magnification and a larger objective lens giving you a bigger field of view. You’ll get everything you’d expect from a brand like Swarovski such as the sleek, ergonomic design, and lifetime warranty. 

The eye-relief may be slightly shorter than the specs list, making them not as ideal for someone who wears glasses. All the binoculars in this list are top of the line quality and so look for the little things like this that will be specific to you. Another great pair of birding binoculars from Swarovski. 

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5. Maven B1 10X42mm ED Binoculars

Maven B1 10X42mm ED Binoculars Gray/Orange

Features

  • Winner National Geographic Adventure Gear of the Year award 2014
  • Features 42mm objective lenses, the most popular hunting and birding size
  • Compatible with 49mm screw in filters, for protection or image adjustment ED Glass, for true color transmission and amazing brightness, and anodized aluminum adjustments for years of durability.
  • Unconditional life-time warranty. (not including deliberate or cosmetic damage that does not hinder product performance)

Specs

  • Magnification – 10x
  • Obj. lens diameter – 42mm
  • Exit pupil – 4.2mm
  • FOV – 6.5°
  • Apparent FOV (FOV x Power) – 65°
  • Field of view (ft/1000 yds) – 341
  • Brightness – 17.6
  • Light transmission (%) – 90.90%
  • Twilight factor – 20.5
  • Multi Position Eyecups Y/N – Yes
  • Eye relief – 16mm
  • Near focus (close focus) – 6.6ft
  • Eye width adjustment – 56~73mm
  • Dimension WxHxD – 5×6.2×2.1
  • Weight – 29.75oz
  • Lens constr. Obj. – 3 groups 4 elements (ED)
  • Lens constr. Ocular – 4 groups 6 elements
  • Prisms Type – Schmidt-Pechan
  • Prism reflective Coating type – Dielectric coating
  • ED Glass – Yes
  • Lens Coating – Scratch and Oil Resistant
  • Diopter correction (dpt) – ±3
  • Pressure tested to what pressure – 1m for 30 min. (IPX7)
  • Storage temperature – -40°F~158°F
  • Functional temperature – -13°F~140°F
  • Frame Material – Mg
  • Internal Gas Purged – Nitrogen
  • Tripod Adaptable Y/N – Yes

Maven is another outdoor optics company that produces some very nice binoculars. The price range for these is going to be on the lower end of this list of top-shelf binoculars, but they are still some of the best binoculars for bird watching out there. Many owners of brands like Zeiss and Swarovski swear by Maven when it comes to birding binoculars. They’re recommended by authorities like National Geographic and Audubon and come in at half the price of other high-end glass. If you want the best bang for your buck, but still want that next level of glass, then Maven is probably where you’ll land. 

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How to choose binoculars – things to consider

When shopping for binoculars for bird watching, or really any type of use, there are certain features and aspects that you need to look out for. In this section we’ll go over some of the main ones to help you get an idea of what to look out for so that you spend your money on binoculars that work best for you. 

Someone who plans on using them primarily from their deck or patio may have different requirements than someone who will be doing a lot of traveling and using them in different settings. 

Image: Pixabay.com

Magnification

When looking at a pair of binoculars you’ll see numbers with an x in between them. The first of these numbers (before the x) represents the magnification power of the binoculars. Probably the most common magnification for birding binoculars is 8 so you often see 8×42. However some are 10x or even 12x. 

This simply means that when you look through the lenses you are seeing things at a magnification of 8x what your eyes see. Most of the time 8x is going to be the best magnification for bird watching, but this does vary for different people. If you plan on doing some long-distance birding you may want the 10x or the 12x. But if you’re going to be watching your bird feeders from your porch then the 8x is what you need. 

Size and weight

High-end binoculars like the ones on this list aren’t also going to be compact, but the sizes and weights still vary. However, binoculars with a lower magnification and smaller objective lens (the number after the magnification) will almost always be lighter weight and smaller. 

On this list the Zeiss 8×42 are only 1.24 lbs but the more powerful Vortex 12×50 weigh in at 3 lbs, over twice the weight. If you think you might be doing a lot of walking around with them hanging around your neck then that could play into your final decision. Another reason the 8×42 size is perfect for birders. 

In the end, read comments from people who’ve purchased the model you’re looking at, and make the best decision for your specific use. Size and weight may not really matter to you. I personally like the size, weight, and feel of most 8×42 binoculars when it comes to birding. But I know my preference doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone else. 

Weatherproof

If you’ll be using your binoculars outside and in the field you’ll want to make sure that they’re waterproof and maybe fog-proof. Luckily, all of the options on this page are waterproof. So if you’re trying to narrow it down to the best binoculars for bird watching out of the 5 above then you’re set for all 5 when it comes to being weatherproof. 

Focus

When it comes to focusing a pair of bird watching binoculars, you typically have two options; a central focus wheel and a diopter. Then central focus wheel is located in-between the two lenses right where you can easily and quickly focus both lenses at the same time. 

The diopter is often located in the same location, but has a different function. The diopter allows you to focus the right lens separately from the left, since many times people have different vision in one eye than the other. All of the binoculars on this list have locking diopters and smooth focus wheels made for bird watching. 

Close focus

This one can be pretty important, but not as important as it is with a spotting scope. Close focus is the distance at which you can easily focus your lenses for a clear image. For instance, the Zeiss 8×42 on this list have a close focus of 6.56 feet. That means if you are trying to look at something that’s just 6 feet away, you’ll have trouble focusing them to get a clear image. Anything beyond 6.56 feet though you should be able to focus. 

6 feet is pretty close and probably a lot closer than most people would need to use binoculars for birding. If you are wanting to use yours for watching your bird feeders that are 20 feet away, this won’t even be much of a factor for you. 

Eye relief

Eye relief is the distance at which your eye is from the eyepiece and can still see the entire field of view, typically measured in millimeters. For most bird watching binoculars this in the 15mm to 20mm range. The Zeiss Carl Victory 8×42 have an eye relief of 15.5mm while the Swarovski 10×50 EL have an extra long 20mm eye relief for extra room to maneuver while using them. 

The Razor UHD by Vortex though have twist-up eyecups that rest comfortably against the face and provide customized eye relief. This feature is great if you’ll be sharing your binoculars with different people, especially if you wear glasses and they don’t or vice versa. 

Field of view

When it comes to field of view and pair of binoculars, it can be expressed in 2 ways; angular field of view and linear field of view. The linear field of view is the actual width of the area seen through the lens in feet, and is measured at 1000 feet. 

The angular field of view is the true angle seen through the lens and is measured in degrees. The angular FOV can be used to calculate the linear FOV by multiplying the degree by 52.5.  As an example, the Swarovski SLC 8×42 has an angular field of view of 7.8 degrees. If we multiply this by 52.5 it tells us that the linear FOV is 409.5 feet at 1000 feet. 

This is where 8×42 binoculars really shine for bird watching. The rule almost always is that the lower the magnification, the greater the linear field of view. This means that you can probably spot and focus in on a bird easier with an 8x magnification than a 12x because you can see more of the image. 

The brand

When you’re picking through the bargain bin for binoculars this is crucial. However this list only contains the best of the best and all of the brands on this list make top notch optics. 

All of the binoculars on this list offer fully transferable, no questions asked, lifetime warranties. Swarovski has a lifetime on the lenses and 10 years on all other parts. If you are paying for binoculars in this price range, the manufacturer wants you to feel safe and confident with your purchase for life. 

These warranties do not necessarily cover normal wear and tear or accidents. Although I would assume these companies would be happy to help in anyway they can should something happen uncovered by the warranty. That’s what great companies do, they go above and beyond for their customers. 

Accessory options

There are many types of accessories that go with binoculars. Some you may not think about until you’ve actually used your binoculars, but it’s best to know going in the main ones you’ll want.

Some examples of common binocular accessories are:

Just be sure to double check that your binoculars fit with the accessory, many times they don’t even though they may say “universal”. I find that digging through comments or even going to the manufacturers website and checking for recommended accessories is a good way to find out what fits what. 


Conclusion

Now that we’ve seen the best binoculars for bird watching and what to look for when shopping for them, you should have a better idea of which ones will work best for your use. Although you really can’t go wrong with any of the 5 on this list.

We hope this article has been helpful to you in your search for birding binoculars, there’s never a bad time to get into the hobby of bird watching!

 
About Jesse

Jesse enjoys bird watching and feeding birds in his backyard, learning about the different species, and sharing his knowledge and experiences.

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