Which birdwatching binoculars should I buy?

What are the best binoculars for birdwatching? There's no right answer that fits everyone. The right answer for you depends on several factors, including time of day you'll be using your binoculars, whether or not you will be hiking, how close you will be to the birds you are watching, whether or not you will be in damp conditions, and several other factors.

Binoculars have numbers. that you'll want to understand before you purchase. The numbers may look like 8x42 or 10x50. These numbers tell you the magnification and size of the objective lens.

See our Guide to Understanding the Numbers on Binoculars.

Binoculars come in different shapes. Basically there are 2 different shapes: Porro Prism and Roof Prism. In the photo below, porro prism binoculars are on the left, roof prism binoculars are on the right.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Please see: What's the difference between porro and roof prism binoculars?

Binoculars have a range of other features. There's a reason some binoculars cost $15.00 and some cost over $2000.00. The glass used in the prisms differ in quality. The optics can have various coatings that improve image quality. Some binoculars are filled with nitrogen. Others have image stability.

See our Guide to understanding features on binoculars

A few Tips on purchasing

You have two choices, buying from a store, or buying online. Buying from a store is nice, because you can handle the binoculars before you purchase.

If you buy online, I recommend amazon.com. There are a few reasons I prefer amazon:

  1. Binoculars on amazon.com tend to have lots and lots of reviews. Read what other birders are saying about the binoculars before you buy.
  2. Amazon sometimes has some pretty good deals. Not every pair of binoculars has a big discount, but some do, so I'd recommend checking them out.

When you are looking at binoculars at Amazon (or another site) click on ctrl+f on your keyboard and type in the word "bird". Scroll through the instances of the word bird, and make sure that word shows up in the user reviews. Why, becuase not all binoculars work well for birdwatching. If you the word bird doesn't show up in the reviews, that means other birdwatchers aren't using those binoculars for birdwatching. There may be a reason why.

I picked 16 different sets of binoculars for my comparision chart. All these have high rankings from user reviews on amazon (4.4 out of 5 stars is the lowest) and have actual reviews from actual birders. Some are cheap (the cheapest on the list was less than 30 dollars) and some are in the several hundred dollar range.