The one piece of equipment that just about every birdwatcher owns is a pair of binoculars. These ingenious items of glass, sturdy outer armor, eye cups, and focusing knobs allow us to see birds in sharp focus, to study their behaviors, or simply to catch a glimpse when distance would otherwise make birds virtually invisible to our sense of sight.
Of course, most birders don’t jump into the hobby with high-quality binocs. We’ll either use a hand-me-down from a parent or grandparent, pick up a cheap pair, or use a pair that was made for hunting, viewing theater, or other non-birding purposes. So with that in mind, we compiled the following roundup of high-quality binoculars that are great for birders. We hope you find it useful. — Matt Mendenhall, Editor
And if you like this, check out our list of five spotting scopes that we like.
Kowa 8×33 Genesis 33 PROMINAR XD
Designed for extensive outdoor use, the Kowa 8×33 Genesis 33 PROMINAR XD provides a good balance between power and portability with a moderate magnification and objective lenses.
Leica 8×42 Noctivid
The Noctivid is able to produce bright and clear high-contrast images due to its use of SCHOTT High Transmission glass with a 12-element lens configuration and its HighLux-System of anti-reflection multi-coatings, and phase-corrected compact prisms. Made with a dual-hinge/open-bridge, the Noctivid has extra gripping surface area and reduced overall weight without sacrificing strength and stability.
Vortex 8×42 Viper HD (2018 Edition)
The Vortex 8X42 Viper HD produce bright, sharp, and clear high-contrast views with accurate color fidelity and crisp resolution. The binoculars are also waterproof and resistant to internal fogging, and each pair comes with a GlassPak harness case to keep it from swinging and swaying as you hike or climb.
Swarovski 8.5×42 EL42
The Swarovski 8.5×42 EL42 was developed to give birders a slightly higher magnification over standard 8x optics while preserving a wide-angle field of view. It also limits visible hand shake common in higher power glasses.
ZEISS 8×32 Conquest HD
The 8×32 Conquest HD’s performance starts with high-definition glass elements that transmit clear images with minimal distortion. It is built for the outdoors with a chassis made from lightweight and durable aluminum alloy with a protective slip-resistant rubber armor.