Breaking Down The Best Binoculars For Birdwatching

Published 6th May 2021
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The perfect piece of viewing equipment for anyone that loves to record sightings of our feathered friends, a pair of binoculars can be found in the possession of any avid bird-watcher. Often worn around the neck using a comfortable neck strap or set up on a tripod in a camouflage den, this must-have item of bird spotting gear is essential for allowing twitchers and ornithophiles alike to view all kinds of rare and beautiful birds from afar.

If you’re ready to upgrade your current binoculars to a pair with improved magnification, or you’ve recently stumbled upon the joys of birdwatching and require a little guidance when it comes to picking a suitable pair of birdwatching binoculars, then you’re in the right place. We pull apart all of the confusing technical jargon and explore some of the most unmissable birdwatching binoculars for sale to make finding the best binoculars for your recreational pastime wonderfully simple.

Just ignore the jargon

binoculars jargon

Confusing jargon is rife in the world of binoculars, which often leaves amatuer bird-watchers having to overwhelm their search engine with terms like ‘magnification factor’ and ‘field of view’ to make sense of the many binocular descriptions available on the internet. When searching for the best birdwatching binoculars, you’ll notice that all of the titles tend to feature two numbers separated by an ‘x’. These numbers highlight the magnification factor (the first number) and the lens diameter in millimeters (the second number), leading to an appearance such as 10x42 or 15x30.

The magnification factor refers to how many times the binoculars can magnify an object. This is particularly important when it comes to helping you identify certain species of birds that you’d otherwise overlook due to their small differences in appearance to other species. For example, a pair of binoculars that are described as being 10x42 will magnify a bird 10 times, whereas 15x30 binoculars will magnify it 15 times, giving you a closer and more detailed view of the bird.

While a high magnification factor is ideal for categorising and identifying any birds you spot, they tend to come with a smaller field of vision which limits the area you can see. As a result, binoculars with a particularly high magnification factor will restrict your field of view, so you may miss out on seeing a rare bird that’s just a glimpse away. If you desire a wider field of view to scour a large area without having to move your binoculars, it’s best to opt for a model with a low magnification number. Despite not being able to zoom in as far as high magnification binoculars, you’ll be able to see much more.

Plus, a lower magnification generally allows for a brighter image, greater depth of field, and they tend to be far easier to hold, too! Birdwatching binoculars with a higher magnification, on the other hand, typically produce a duller image, are heavier, and are therefore often harder to hold. As a result, binoculars with lower magnifications like 7x or 8x are widely considered to be the best type of binoculars for birdwatching.

There are so many more binocular terms that you’ll see and hear when shopping around for the perfect birdwatching pair, so we’ve whipped up a little glossary below which includes a few keywords to keep you in the loop!

  • Eye relief - this refers to the distance between the outer surface of the binocular lens to where the exit pupil is formed. Generally, the longer the eye relief, the better - especially for those who wear glasses!
  • Field of view - Measured in feet, the field of view is the width of the visible area that can be seen without moving your binoculars. Typically, binoculars with a higher magnification and smaller objective have a narrower field of view than other models. A good field of view for binoculars is often considered to be between 300-375 feet at 1000 yards.
  • Lens coating - Most binoculars will come with some kind of lens coating to enhance their optical performance. These thin chemical coatings can be added to reduce reflective loss or even improve light transmission, so these coatings are often just as important as the lenses and are worth considering when it comes to bagging your own binoculars!
  • Nitrogen-filled - While this isn’t exactly a term, it’s a feature that some binoculars come with and it may sound confusing to birdwatching novices. If your binoculars are nitrogen-filled, this basically means that they are fog-proof, as the nitrogen prevents humid environments from making your view fog up!

How to pick the best birdwatching binoculars

best birdwatching binoculars

Once you’ve got your head around the technical words and numbers, it’s time to consider the aesthetic appearance and the practicality of your chosen pair of binoculars. With regards to the overall shape, there are generally just two choices, either porro-prisms (that feature a 'traditional', stepped shape alongside an angled body) or roof-prisms that have straighter bodies. Roof-prisms are often more compact when compared to porro-prism binoculars and are therefore popular additions to hiking and camping trips where any extra equipment must be as small and lightweight as possible.

Folding or miniature binoculars are also useful for this same reason, as well as being effortless to hold, but they tend to suffer from a reduced light-gathering power and limited field of view. Plus, some bulkier handheld binoculars are preferred by avid bird-watchers, as they help to keep their view steady as they attempt to locate rare feathered friends in the skies or spy them sitting atop a bustling bird feeder.

For disabled birdwatchers, the best pair of birdwatching binoculars will depend on the user's type of disability and, of course, their personal preference. Instead of shopping online, we suggest visiting a physical store to test out different models. While low magnification binoculars require less refocusing, stabilising binoculars are fantastic for providing a steady view. However, they tend to be on the heavier side and are normally more expensive which can complicate matters, so it’s well worth exploring all of your options to find the perfect pair.

Is birdwatching for older generations only?

old generation birdwatching

Certainly not! While the stereotypical bird-watcher is often described as being slightly older, birdwatching is an activity that every member of the family can get involved in, regardless of their age! Not only is birdwatching a brilliant excuse for taking a break from your smartphone, tablet or games console, but it also helps you to reconnect with nature, enjoy a spot of peace and tranquility, and even reduce your level of stress.

Looking to tempt your children to a spot of blissful birdwatching? Depending on their age, you’ll need to take into account the size, weight and durability of your binoculars. Many binoculars are heavy and bulky, so you’ll need to opt for a pair that’s up to 8x21 or lower to make sure they can be easily worn and used by younger kids like toddlers. For the more heavy-handed or accident-prone tots, opt for a lightweight, compact pair with a robust construction. You can even find binoculars that weigh as little as 150g, perfect for tiny tots and travellers alike.

You should also keep your eyes peeled for any models that are ultra-durable to ensure they can withstand those inevitable drops and bumps along the road. The toughest binoculars tend to be encased in rubber and are advertised as being ‘shockproof’ and/or ‘waterproof’ to boot. A rubber coating also helps to prevent the binoculars from slipping from your hands, so if you’re prone to accidentally dropping important items, a pair of tough rubber binoculars is often best and much easier to hold.

OnBuy’s top five best binoculars for birdwatching

top 5 binoculars

Ready for an up close and personal experience like never before? Below, we explore our top five birdwatching binoculars, giving you plenty of inspiration, guidance and info to help you discover the right kind of binoculars to suit your personal preferences. From compact and foldable birdwatching binoculars that are perfect for taking on your travels, to more expensive models that boast fog-proof and waterproof advantages fit for any environment, you’re sure to find the perfect pair of binoculars for your birdwatching requirements right here. With premium-quality binoculars for sale from the likes of Nikon and Barska, there’s a huge range waiting to be explored at prices to suit every birder's budget.

The adventure-ready but pricey pair | Nikon Monarch 7 10x42 Binoculars

nikon monarch binoculars

Pros: Designed for comfortable all-day usage, durable rubber coating, waterproof and fog-proof

Cons: Larger and heavier, expensive price tag

Created by the credible optics expert, Nikon, this pair of durable binoculars couldn’t be better suited to accompanying you on all of your outdoor adventures. Featuring a tough rubber-coated exterior, nitrogen-purging for fog-proof lenses, and a scratch-resistant coating on the lens outer surfaces, these sleek black binoculars can survive all kinds of outdoor activities. Boasting a 10x magnification factor, they can help you to easily view a variety of birds from a viewing point, allowing you to safely tick rare birds off your list without scaring them. Designed around providing all-day comfort, you can rely on these fog-proof and waterproof binoculars to keep your eyes feeling fresh, even after you’ve spent hours using them.

Naturally, this makes them a popular choice for anyone that adores longer walks, spending the entire day surrounded by nature, or often enjoys long weekends away trying to spot those ultra-rare species. These binoculars come with extra low dispersion glass - a highly reflective prism coating for a more natural colour and brighter image. They also have a phase-correction coating to reduce the loss of resolution and ensure clear, high-contrast images. Combined, these ensure premium optical performance with each and every use. The only slight downside is the more expensive price tag. While they may not be suitable for those looking for a pocket-friendly pair, these Nikon binoculars are ideal for bird-watchers who have a slightly larger budget to play with!

Premium experience without the premium price tag | Dellonda 10x50 Porro Prism BK7 Multi-Coated Birdwatching Binoculars

dellonda binoculars

Pros: Magnifies your eyesight up to 10 times, comes with a case and lens cap, pocket-friendly price tag

Cons: Slightly more cumbersome than other models, they weigh a substantial 745g

Ideal for birdwatching, sports events, astronomy and more, these binoculars from Dellonda may be small in price, but they’re certainly high in performance! Boasting a robust build quality, sleek design and generous 315ft/1000yds field of view, they’re the perfect companion for all budding birdwatchers, ensuring you never fail to spot a speedy flying friend. With 10x magnification, you can enjoy a truly up close and personal experience with some of nature’s most spellbinding sights, whether you’re stargazing, stalking on a safari, or enjoying a spot of birdwatching at the local nature reserve. Waterproof and fog-proof, these binoculars will never let you down - whatever the weather!

While they may not possess some of the more high-tech features of a premium pair of binoculars, for the price, you really can’t go wrong. Regardless of whether you’re an avid twitcher or you’re just getting started, these porro-prism binoculars get the job done - and get it done well, at that! With a generous eye relief of 17mm, you have plenty of room to maneuver, keeping you comfortable no matter how long you use them. Even better, they come with a handy lens cap and storage case as standard, ensuring they’re kept safe and free from damage as you explore the great outdoors. 

Weighing a considerable 745g, they’re one of the heaviest models in our top five hand-picked selection of the best binoculars for birdwatching. However, thanks to the handy travel case and ergonomic grip on the barrel, they can be carried without the need for a tripod, giving you extra freedom to explore nature without the restrictions of additional viewing equipment. Best of all, these binoculars are wonderfully straightforward to use thanks to the large, centre-focus wheel that allows for effortless focusing. If you’re on the hunt for a pocket-friendly pair of binoculars but don’t want to sacrifice performance, this is the perfect choice for you.

Ideal for intermediate and long-range birdwatching | Barska Optics CO11338 10-30x60 Reverse Porro Zoom Binoculars

barska binoculars

Pros: 10-30x magnification, relatively affordable, ideal for intermediate to long-range birdwatching

Cons: Bulky design, just 12mm of eye relief when using 10x magnification

Looking for incredible clarity even in low light conditions (all without the expensive price tag)? With these Barska binoculars, you can pick up a real bargain, as this purse-friendly pick comes with all the bells and whistles you could want from a pair of professional-standard birdwatching binoculars without breaking the budget! The only slight downside is the bulky reverse porro design and large 60mm objective lens diameter that makes this model stick out when compared to slimmer creations. However, if you can see past this minor disadvantage, you’ll be able to benefit from a variable 10-30x magnification that’s perfect for both intermediate and long-range birdwatching, as well as fully coated optics that deliver detail-rich resolution and impressive clarity - no matter what time of the day it is!

In terms of practicality, these adventure-ready binoculars are covered in a layer of durable rubber armour to help them survive any accidental drops, knocks or bumps during your travels. This tough housing also helps to keep your optics free from damaging moisture and light shock to maintain the prime working condition for as long as possible. So, if you’re searching for a pair of brilliant birdwatching binoculars but you also have to stick to a strict budget, these Barska binoculars can guarantee a comfortable user-experience and high-quality images of any feathered friends.

Our protection-packed pick for outdoor pursuits | Celestron 71333 10x42 DX Nature Binoculars

celestron 71332 binoculars

Pros: Generous 17.5mm eye relief, 10x magnification, multi-coated optics, waterproof, rubber armour

Cons: On the more expensive side, black may be preferable to the dark green exterior

No pair of binoculars are more ready to face the elements than these Celestron 71333 10x42 DX Nature Binoculars! Boasting complete rubber armour, a nitrogen-filled design to prevent fogging, and a completely waterproof exterior, these robust dark green binoculars are a nature enthusiast’s best friend. Plus, thanks to the phase-coated prisms and fully multi-coated lenses, you’ll benefit from brighter images, even in low light conditions, as light transmission is maximised throughout the entire optical path. As a result, these brilliant Celestron binoculars can help you to see all kinds of wildlife at any time of the day, regardless of whether it’s dusk or dawn - instantly upping your chances of spotting a particularly rare species!

It even comes complete with a rain guard, neck strap, and a carrying case made from padded nylon canvas, as well as lens cloth and an instruction manual, making it ideal for any starters who are new to birdwatching. The perfect pair of entry-level binoculars, this compact model (only slightly larger than your average smartphone) provides an impressive 10x magnification, allows you to view nearby objects thanks to a close focus of 6.5 feet, and has 17.5mm eye relief, rendering them ideal for anyone who wears glasses and has a passion for birds. To find out more about Celestron’s Nature DX collection of binoculars, check out the informative video below from the manufacturer themselves.

How to take care of your birdwatching binoculars

binocular maintenance

Before you jump straight in and start using your brand new binoculars, it’s worth doing a little research and making sure you’re looking after them correctly - particularly if you pick up a more expensive pair! First off, always use the strap! Most quality binoculars will come with one, but if not, you should definitely invest in one, as they’ll help to keep them secure around your neck if you accidentally drop or fumble them. Once you’ve got your strap, always check the strength before using it. Grip it securely and give it a good tug to ensure the fabric isn’t fraying or weak.

Whenever they’re not in use, it’s a good idea to get into a routine. Start by putting them away in their carry case, carefully and routinely cleaning the lenses, and rinsing away any salt water that could have accumulated during your birdwatching bonanza. You should also try to avoid leaving them in direct sunlight, but this can be easily avoided by simply placing them inside the carry case whenever they’re not in use. Just like a neck strap, any high-quality pair of binoculars should come with a carry case alongside a range of useful accessories, but if they don’t, you should really snap one up to ensure your birdwatching binoculars remain in prime condition!

We hope our line up has ‘pecked’ your interest, but if you’re keen to see an even greater selection of birdwatching binoculars, check out our entire range here. From professional, military-style models to first-time-friendly picks, our online shelves are bursting with binoculars to suit every need, taste, ability and budget. So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the perfect pair today and discover Mother Nature like you’ve never seen her before!

The information in this buyer’s guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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