Today, we looked at the top picks for the best binoculars for birding reviews in 2020 by price range based on:
- Image clarity
- Field of view
- Close focus
- Overall quality
- And overall feel
We have summarized the best binoculars for bird watching into price categories: Economy, Mid, Top-Affordable and Best of the Best. If you can afford a little extra, the mid-price range bird watching binoculars – the Nikon Monarch’s – are your best bet considering performance, quality and price.
Best Binoculars for Birding Reviews by Price Range
Best Economy Binoculars (under $200)
The 7×35 Nikon Action Extremes maintain #1 spot for the best quality budget friendly binoculars.
- Exceptional Wide Field of View (FOV)
- BAK-4 Multilayer Coated Prisms
- 100% Waterproof/Fogproof Nitrogen Filled, O-Ring Sealed
- Rubber Armoring/Non-Slip Grip and Shockproof for watchers who frequently bang or drop our bins when we get excited seeing a new bird!
- Low-priced – Less than $150!
“I got these binoculars because they were the top rated ones on the moderate priced list by a very influential ornithology organization.
You could spend more to get the same quality binoculars in a smaller size, but you probably wouldn’t get better quality binoculars.
I just returned from a trip to Africa where I used them frequently. I was impressed at how easy it was to see birds with these binoculars even in dark rain forest conditions..” -A. Jake, Britain
No other product in the same price range can beat its quality. It is well reviewed both online & offline and labeled a best seller at most binocular retail stores.
You can learn more about the various reviews and sizes here at this page.
The only con is that these are porro prism binoculars that do weigh more than roof prism binoculars and are a little bulkier.
Feel free to check out the Monarchs below in the mid-price range if you want a more stream-lined set of birding binoculars with less weight.
Best Mid-Price Birding Binoculars ($200-$500)
Labeled one of the best binoculars for bird watching, The 8×42 Nikon Monarchs came second place to the Katmai 6×32 in the mid-price class, but Cornell voted the Monarch’s as being better binoculars for bird watching, and the Katmai better for butterfly watching.
- New ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) High-Reflective Multilayer Prism Coating for Bright, Crisp Images
- Phase-Correction/Fully Multi-Coated Lenses
- 100% Fogproof/Waterproof
- Weighs only 20.8 ounces
- It boasts of features of other more costly brand binoculars (Steiner, Leupold, Bushnell, e.t.c.) sold for over $500 – The Monarchs are under $300, best binoculars to for price if you don’t want to spend over $1,000.
Excellent Value For The Money!
“Most popular binocs (Monarchs) under $1,000 in my birding groups. Now I see why.
Clear, light, bright, great close and far, waterproof.
Bugs and Birds clear with every marking visible. You can even see the veins on leaves.
Don’t need to look through my eyeglasses because the diopter is exceptional.” – Alvan, NYC
The Monarch’s are light in weight, very comfortable, and are waterproof. A lot of the reviewers thought they were just as good as binoculars 2-3x more in price.
READ MORE: How to Keep Ants Out of Hummingbird Feeder
More Nikon Monarch Binocular Reviews:
Comparison table and review of all Nikon Monarch Binoculars including Monarch 3, Monarch 5, Monarch 7 ATB models and the Nikon Monarch X.
There is also our Nikon Monarch 5 ATB 8×42 Binoculars Review.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars a Close Second for Mid-Price
As a close option as being #2 in the mid-price category to the Monarch’s, we believe the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars are one of the top performing in this category for birding binoculars, especially if you prefer the 10x magnification model.
We will be making a complete review of the Nikon Monarch’s in the future
Top Affordable Binoculars for Birding ($500-$1,000)
The best choice in this category of best affordable bird watching binoculars would be the Vortex Vipers.
- HD (High-Density), ED (Extra-Low) Dispersion Glass for bright, sharp images
- 100% multi-coated, phase correction lenses
- ArmorTek lens coating for scratch-resistance
- Excellent close-focus of 5 feet (8x42s)
- Fog and Waterproof
- Has a Durable, metal-reinforced twist-up eyecups
- Locking diopter adjustment
- Vortex VIP Warranty (Unlimited lifetime warranty – you don’t even have to fill out a warranty card or have a receipt!)
Better than others in this class and the next!
“For the price of this product, you are going to have a hard time doing better.
No they aren’t Swarovski’s, but they don’t cost $2,500 either….
The Vortex optics better than any other binocs I have tried in this price class and maybe better than those in the next grade up.” – Johnson
Ranging from 8×32 to 15×15, the Vortex HD Vipers come in several sizes. We believe the 8×42 or the 10×50 models would be a fine choice for bird watching.
If you need a lighter pair, get the 8x, if you want more magnification, get the 10x.
Best of the Best: Most Expensive Binoculars (over $1,000)
The Zeiss Victory 8×42 Binoculars is rated the highest in the “Top, “best of the best category. It got the highest for overall quality, giving out clear, crisp, bright, near perfect images.
If you’ve got the cash to spare, you won’t regret getting the Zeiss Victory HTs.
“I have used binoculars for outdoor pursuits for over 20 years now. I currently own both Swarovski and Leica binoculars in 7 power and they are optically superb products.
A lot of Cornell’s perennial binocular favorites all bagged “excellent” ratings, but the binocular that earned top rating, and was ostensibly considered the finest binocular they had ever tested. Was the Zeiss 8X42.
When I had the chance to look through them outside of a local sporting goods store in the rural community where I stay, I instantaneously had my heart won over by their incredible image quality and clarity.
Perhaps, what grew my love for them was the absolutely perfect eye relief distance. They simply got it right and I have never been able to say that about any other bino brand, no matter the prestige or price.
I got them on the spot and “have never regretted doing so!”
I boldly call them one of the finest investments I have ever made.” -Dr. Puth Hena
Other Top Expensive Bird Watching Binoculars
Aside the Zeiss Victory, other honourable mentions include the SLC models and Swarovski EL, Geovid HD, Nikon EDG binoculars, and Leica Trinovid.
Alternatively, you may also want to take a look at the Swarovski SLC HD Binoculars Review.
Bird Watching Binoculars FAQs
What is the best magnification for binoculars for bird watching?
That ultimately varies. You can pick either 7x, 8x or 10x magnification. Pick 10x if most of your bird watching is long range, such as viewing raptors or shorebirds in open areas, or an open-plain safari where there is more light.
Pick 8x if doing more shorter distance birding such as in forests, or you take binoculars on longer hikes – 8x will weigh less.
Personally, I prefer 8x binoculars for all around birding. The only 7x binocular I would advise you go for is the Nikon Action 7×35 Binoculars which have a porro prism design.
8x are simpler for beginner to use when trying to locate birds since they generally have a wider field of view than a 10x binocular.
Many a time, people ask if 10×42 binoculars are better than 8×42? No, not necessarily.
What does 8×42 mean in binoculars?
8 is the magnification strength. 42 is the objective lens diameter measured in millimeters. If the objective lens aperature is too small relative to the magnification, images will be less bright and more difficult to locate because of the narrow field of view.
What should I look for when buying binoculars?
Carefully pick your magnification, match it with a large enough objective lens size for brightness and field of view, get at least multi-coated or fully multi-coated lenses with BaK4 prisms or better, note the eye relief especially if you wear glasses, a wider field of view makes it easier to locate birds, decide if you need waterproofing, and if lightweight matters when carrying on longer walks.
What are the best cheap binoculars?
One of best cheap binoculars for bird watching are the 7×35 Nikon Action Binocular line which come in an ATB model that is waterproof and has rubber armoring.
Do not go for one that is “too cheap”. Why? Because chances are, you’d be better off without them.