Help With Buying Birding Binoculars from a 50+ Year Birder

What if it were possible for you to find the absolutely perfect pair of birding binoculars that would propel your enjoyment of birding to new heights? This article aims to empower you to do just that!

Good quality binoculars will enhance your birding! Here is an example of the delight someone had from upgrading their optics:

"This item so increased my enjoyment of my recent long-anticipated African safari that I can't recommend these [ Nikon] Monarch 5's highly enough.
Having always had poor vision, even in a corrected state, I've so often felt that I was missing out on the full visual experience in life. Even though I've tried other binoculars in the past I never felt that I saw clearly with them. These binoculars are like suddenly having good vision for the first time in my 63 years. After seeing the world so clearly after a few days I became the safari member who was spotting animals before everyone else! Super easy to focus, to steady and to hold. I also had a comfortable harness so I put them on after breakfast and rarely took them off until bedtime. On returning home I have now become a "birder" because of my wonderful new Super Eyes!

(1) Lightweight - I put this criteria at the top of the list because your new binoculars can have the best optics in the world, but if you find them too heavy to carry around in the field, what good are they? My current pair is extremely lightweight, weighing in at just over a pound, so I don't even notice that I am carrying them. Everyone can have their own definition of "lightweight", just so you don't mind one iota that you have them in your hand or around your neck! I don't ever think twice about leaving my binoculars behind because they are a hassle to carry and I recommend that to you as well.

(2) Good Light Gathering Capabilities - I learned about this one the hard way. My current binoculars are 10 x 25, which translates into light gathering factor of 2.5 (Lens length (25)/ Power of magnification (10)). Contrast that with a pair of 10 x 42 binoculars which gives a light gathering factor of 4.2. This difference is very noticeable and my next pair is going to have better light gathering abilities. I have found that this is incalculably valuable in the field, whether it be because of a cloudy day, or a bird in low light conditions in a leafy tree or perhaps at dusk. 

(3) Suitable Magnification - I was a childhood birder with 7 x 35 Bushnell's so I became used to 7x viewing of birds. Then I went to 10x and I am never going back! I recommend 10x binoculars because you can get good detail on a bird, and this is the highest magnification that you can hand-hold. Nowa days they have 12x binoculars that have a little chip in them so that compensates for your hand shake at that magnification. I have never looke dthrough a pair of these, but I have heard they look pretty good.

(4) Waterproof - I don't think I would ever buy a pair of birding binoculars that isn't suitable for all kinds of weather. You might not set out in adverse weather but if you go out often enough you will be in dicey weather from time to time.

(5) Suitable Field of View - If you have ever looked through a spotting scope and had trouble finding the bird, you get a glimpse into the field of view issue. With binoculars, you want a wide angle field of view so you can find birds easily. 

Other things to look at are lens glass quality and lens coatings to help in creating a bright, sharper image. Get the best of these that you can afford.

As far as my thoughts on brand, I prefer Nikon (for the more budget conscious) and Zeiss (higher end optics). These are two exceptional brands in my mind. As far as online sites to buy binoculars, eBay and Amazon have great selections and prices so you will be able to find what you want at the price you want.

After you buy and get your hands on this new and better pair of binoculars, you will be amazed by your increased enjoyment of birding!

Here is another testimonial to the enhanced enjoyment of great binoculars:

"I bought these after returning the ***pold 12 x50 roof prism binoculars which were horrible to use and made my eyes hurt. Amazon prime took care of that lickety split. Thanks amazon! Look folks, I am an avid 40 year old outdoorsman/birdwatcher. I started using binoculars 30 years ago and these Zeiss 10x42's are amazing. The clarity is absolutely phenomenal!!!! The low light visibility looks better than what you can see with your own eyes. The close focus distance is closer than what they state in the tech specs. They are powerful, light-weight, and compact. Everything I was looking for in a pair of binoculars. The price tag was hefty. But as with all quality, precision German manufactured products, you get what you pay for. Thank you Zeiss. This will probably be the last pair of binoculars I will ever buy!"


To further enhance your enjoyment of birding, here are a couple of books you may be interested in:

How to Be a Better Birder by Derek Lovitch

"This unique illustrated handbook provides all the essential tools you need to become a better birder. Here Derek Lovitch offers a more effective way to go about identification--he calls it the "Whole Bird and More" approach--that will enable you to identify more birds, more quickly, more of the time. He demonstrates how to use geography and an understanding of habitats, ecology, and even the weather to enrich your birding experience and help you find something out of the ordinary. Lovitch shows how to track nocturnal migrants using radar, collect data for bird conservation, discover exciting rarities, develop patch lists--and much more."

The Art of Bird Finding: Before You ID Them You Have See Them by Pete Dunne 

  • Filling a gap in the vast literature on birding, Pete Dunne explains in his distinctive style how to find birds--the often-ignored first step in identifying, observing, and listing bird species
  • The best strategies for locating birds in any season and in every kind of weather
  • Techniques and expert advice applicable to species in habitats and environments throughout North America
  • For beginning bird-watchers or experienced birders who want to improve their chances for success
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