Binoculars aren’t just for people out searching for birds in the wild, they’re a great accessory for enjoying birds in your own backyard. But how do you find the best value binoculars for bird watching?
One of the greatest joys of feeding birds and attracting them to your yard is being able to observe them up close. Enjoying their colors, plumage patterns and behaviors can be greatly enhanced with a pair of binoculars.
Growing up, my parents always kept a small pair by our kitchen window so we could easily grab them when we wanted a closer look at a bird at our feeder. Or when someone would spot something in the yard and yell “what’s that?!” I have kept that tradition at my own house and know many bird lovers who do the same. You never know what you might find!
Whether for yourself or a gift, you may not want to spend a lot of money on binoculars that are mainly just for looking out your window. In this article I will talk a little bit about what to look for in binoculars for bird watching. I will also list 5 of the best value binoculars for bird watching.
Top 5 Best Value Binoculars for Bird Watching
I think these binoculars are all good choices for enjoying backyard birding without breaking the bank. For the purposes of this article I am considering “budget” to be under about the $150 range, however prices are always subject to change and this is just an estimate. I took into consideration the specifications I discuss below, as well as high customer satisfaction reviews.
Nikon Action Extreme All-Terrain 7 x 35 Binoculars
*Our top pick for value birding binoculars. Just read the reviews on Amazon to find out why.
When you go with Nikon, you know the optics will be great quality. These Nikon ATBs score top marks with birders in the economy category for its wide field of view, eye comfort and performance in low light. These are also made to be a little more rugged for outdoor use with shock absorption and waterproof, fog proof construction. Close focus of 16 ft., Eye relief 17 mm. For the quality of binoculars you are getting and still within what we consider the budget range, these are phenomenal.
Aurosports Folding 10 x 25 High Powered Binoculars
These Aurosports binoculars are my recommendation for most budget friendly, coming in at the lower end price-wise. They are compact but easy to grip, and lightweight at less than a pound. They have a close focus of 10 ft. which should cover all backyard birding scenarios. Magnification is 10 x 25 and reviewers were impressed with the clarity even in low light settings.
However if you’re looking in this price range, I would spend just a little bit more and get the Celestron Outland 8 x 42 below. They’re really nice and we love ours.
Celestron 8 x 42 Outland X (71346) Binoculars
*Our budget pick – excellent combo of price and quality with these
A great 8 x 42 beginner binocular from a quality brand. I own a pair of these currently for my backyard bird watching activities and enjoy them very much. They are hard to beat for the budget savvy birder. Waterproof and fog proof. Rubber coating for grip and protection. Close focus of 13 ft., Eye relief 18 mm.
Bushnell H2O 8 x 42 Roof Prism Binoculars
A quality pair of 8 x 42 binoculars from Bushnell that should fit nicely in the hand. Large focus knob for easy adjusting. Waterproof and fog proof with extra rubberized grip. 12 ft. close focus, 17 mm eye relief. A truly solid option for any backyard birding enthusiast.
Celestron 8 x 42 Nature DX (71332) Binoculars
These Celestron 8 x 42 binoculars consistently score high with birders in the low-price category for brightness, clarity and color rendition. I have owned a pair of these myself and was impressed with the crispness and brightness for this price point. Waterproof, rubberized coating. Close focus of 6.5 feet, eye relief 18 mm, you won’t be disappointed with these.
Important binocular specs for backyard bird watching
Magnification and Lens diameter
The first thing you may notice when looking up binoculars are the two numbers separated with an “x”. For example 8 x 42 or 10 x 32. The first number is the magnification power. So for 8 x 42 binoculars, the 8 means the object you are looking at will appear 8 times closer than you can see it with your unaided eye. The higher up in magnification you go, the “shakier” the image will be when holding the binoculars in your hand. So if you are not using a tripod and are just holding the binoculars, I would recommend not going over a 10 times magnification or you risk a very shaky image.
The second number is the diameter of the front lens. In 8 x 42 binoculars, the diameter of the lens at the front of the binoculars is 42 mm. The size of the front of the lens is important because it determines how much light is let into the the lens, resulting in how bright the image you are viewing will be. The larger the number / size of the lens, the more light it will let in. This maybe important if you want to view birds at low-light times of the day such as dawn or dusk. Also if you have poorer eyesight and need the extra light to see objects clearly.
Eye relief is the distance you can hold the binoculars away from your eyes while still being able to see the full field of view through the eyepiece. This may be important if you will be looking through your binoculars for long periods of time, or if you wear glasses that will be between your eye and the eyepiece. If you wear glasses, look for a minimum eye relief of 16mm.
Binocular specs may also list a value for “minimum focus” or “close focus”. This is the minimum distance an object has to be from the binoculars for proper focus. For example if the close focus of your binoculars is 20 feet, and the bird you want to view is only 12 feet away, the binoculars will not be able to focus on it clearly. This is an important consideration for backyard bird watchers. If you will be viewing birds at a spot close to your window such as a bird feeder, you will want to know approximately how far away from your viewing point the feeder is and make sure the close focus of the binoculars can accommodate that.
Those are just some basic things you should consider when deciding which binoculars to purchase. For backyard use, you may not have to worry about too much more than that. However there are so many different specifications to consider with binoculars in general. If you want to learn a little more about binocular specs this page at Optics Planet has great information.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the options on this list, they’re among the best binoculars for backyard bird watching.
Melanie is an environmental scientist, birdwatcher, and amateur photographer. She’s been a birding hobbyist for years and loves feeding and learning about birds of all types. Over the years, Melanie has identified more than 250 bird species, with sightings of the Atlantic Puffin, Hawaiian Goose, and Arctic Tern among her most cherished.