Binoculars for birding. Recommendations?

Binoculars are like any other optics. You get what you pay for, but you'll pay a lot more to get a little bit more.

The Nikon Monarch range are good values. Vortex offers good value as well, with several price points.

I have a pair of Zeiss Victory SF in 8x42. More than you want to spend, but I'm a birder with a camera, so observation is important to me. And I use them almost every day, even it's just walking the dog around the neighborhood. I preferred the feel and handling of them over comparable Swaros and Leicas. Their SFL line is a bit less, but still probably too high. But if weight is a big consideration they are a top choice. The 40mm models weigh about the same as other 32s. I got a pair for my wife (10x40) and she loves them.

8 vs 10 is a very subjective choice. I can often make out a distant bird easier with my 8 than my wife's 10, just because of the steadier image. And it's easier to find and follow birds in foliage at closer distances with 8x. But if you're mainly interested in getting a quick id at longer distance you'll probably prefer a 10x.

Choosing a 32 vs 40/42 objective comes down to weight vs brightness. At dawn or dusk the difference in brightness will be noticeable, but during the day not so much. If they're going to be in bag most of the time you might prefer the lower weight. Also note that brightness is affected by lens material and coatings, and 32s will cost a bit less than42s in any give model.

Finally, if budget is a top consideration do not look at anything more expensive while you're in the shop ;).
 
This is what I have:


Of course, if you can get a Svarovski, got for it! 😀
The Vortex lifetime warranty is a very real thing. I had a pair of Diamondbacks (inexpensive but great for the money) that had an issue where I couldn't get a solid image when focusing (de-centered element?) They were 10yrs old, so I sent them in for warranty work, and got them back in 9 days, working perfectly. Six years later the same issue occurred, I sent them in again and a week later I received a brand new pair of Viper HD's, definitely a class above my (very decent) Diamondbacks. If I ever need another pair, guess what brand I will buy?
 
For around $200 you can get a Nikon Prostaff or a Vortex Diamondback in an 8x42 configuration.
After reading Kurt’s post I decided to definitely go for a Vortex. Thanks, Ken!

I can often make out a distant bird easier with my 8 than my wife's 10, just because of the steadier image. And it's easier to find and follow birds in foliage at closer distances with 8x.
This is good info, Ken. Of course Sam is right, that binocs are like lenses, and yes, the longer the lens, the smaller the field of view. And the harder to keep something in the frame! Makes total sense.

Will 8x42 be okay for dawn, say 10 minutes before sunrise though? Doesn’t have to be perfect, just useable.
 
The Vortex lifetime warranty is a very real thing. I had a pair of Diamondbacks (inexpensive but great for the money) that had an issue where I couldn't get a solid image when focusing (de-centered element?) They were 10yrs old, so I sent them in for warranty work, and got them back in 9 days, working perfectly. Six years later the same issue occurred, I sent them in again and a week later I received a brand new pair of Viper HD's, definitely a class above my (very decent) Diamondbacks. If I ever need another pair, guess what brand I will buy?
That is impressive! And great info. Thanks very much, Kurt. I’m definitely going with Vortex. And most likely with the Diamondback 4.0 8x42.
 
After reading Kurt’s post I decided to definitely go for a Vortex. Thanks, Ken!


This is good info, Ken. Of course Sam is right, that binocs are like lenses, and yes, the longer the lens, the smaller the field of view. And the harder to keep something in the frame! Makes total sense.

Will 8x42 be okay for dawn, say 10 minutes before sunrise though? Doesn’t have to be perfect, just useable.
8x42 would be better in low light than 10x42. Objective diameter divided by magnification give the exit pupil size. So 7x35, 8x40 and 10x50 will all gather about the same amount of light, assuming the same lens material and coatings. The average human iris opens to about 5mm, so a ratio of 5 is generally considered optimal.

Another spec you should pay attention to is field of view. Some models are wider than others at the same magnification, although I've never quite understood how that works. Wider can be nicer for scanning flocks of waterfowl, or larger wildlife.

And minimum focus distance also varies. Binos can be handy for skittish small animals or even for a wildflower on the other side of a fence. Not a critical factor, but might be a tie-breaker.
 
8x42 would be better in low light than 10x42. Objective diameter divided by magnification give the exit pupil size. So 7x35, 8x40 and 10x50 will all gather about the same amount of light, assuming the same lens material and coatings. The average human iris opens to about 5mm, so a ratio of 5 is generally considered optimal.
I see. Then 8x42 is definitely the better choice.

Another spec you should pay attention to is field of view. Some models are wider than others at the same magnification, although I've never quite understood how that works. Wider can be nicer for scanning flocks of waterfowl, or larger wildlife.
I guess diameter can vary between binoculars?

And minimum focus distance also varies. Binos can be handy for skittish small animals or even for a wildflower on the other side of a fence. Not a critical factor, but might be a tie-breaker.
I use binoculars to scan the fields, so MFD is not a concern. For me it’s always “what’s that in the distance?” :D
 
Little update: I have just ordered the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42! I was going to the shop but we’re back to rain and more rain and temps are 14°C, so it’s wet and cold, and so I just decided to purchase it online.

Thank you all very much for your help.
 
Little update: I have just ordered the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42! I was going to the shop but we’re back to rain and more rain and temps are 14°C, so it’s wet and cold, and so I just decided to purchase it online.

Thank you all very much for your help.
Great! I think you'll be very happy with that choice. But your weather sounds delightful. Forecast here for the weekend is 39-40C with unrelenting sunshine.
 
Great! I think you'll be very happy with that choice. But your weather sounds delightful. Forecast here for the weekend is 39-40C with unrelenting sunshine.
Thanks, Ken. Not sure when it gets here though. Just received an email that it may be a few days. And on the shop's site it now says Out of Stock. Fingers crossed.

As to the weather, yeah, yours is on the other end of the scale. Phew, that's hot!
 
Thanks, Ken. Not sure when it gets here though. Just received an email that it may be a few days. And on the shop's site it now says Out of Stock. Fingers crossed.

As to the weather, yeah, yours is on the other end of the scale. Phew, that's hot!
I hope the delay isn't long. I'll take a long time to make a purchase decision, but once I do I want my stuff right now :).
 
I hope the delay isn't long. I'll take a long time to make a purchase decision, but once I do I want my stuff right now :).
That's me too, Ken. In fact, I can't believe how quickly I decided on the binos! Thanks to all of you, of course.

I looked on Amazon.nl and they can deliver the Vortex between 5 and 6 months from now! :yikes:
I do hope my shop (which is my regular photo shop) will do better!!
 
That's me too, Ken. In fact, I can't believe how quickly I decided on the binos! Thanks to all of you, of course.

I looked on Amazon.nl and they can deliver the Vortex between 5 and 6 months from now! :yikes:
I do hope my shop (which is my regular photo shop) will do better!!
They seem to be readily available at retailers in the US, so your shop should be able to do better unless there is some issue with European distribution. But I was also looking at sporting goods (hunting and fishing) retailers. I think binos would be a low volume item at camera stores, so I'm not sure how quickly distributors respond. Good luck!
 
Funny you should mention Steiner, Dale. I was just looking at the Steiner SkyHawk 4.0.
Is 10x magnification that much harder to keep stable than 8x?

Thanks for explaining a roof prism vs a porro prism.
Depends on how steady you are, and at my age, that is getting to be more of an issue.

A 10X binoc is like a 500 mm full frame lens. The big difference is that usually you are only hand holding the lens for short periods. While searching an observing with binoculars, you tend to be using them for a much longer time, and they can get a bit wobbly. And the higher the magnification, the less light coming in. You need a bigger front lens the higher you go.
 
I had to order a pair of Swarovskies, 10 x 52! The Breitler binoculars is not good enough! My eyesight is not what it used to be, so obviously I need more light to see now, hence the 52 mm diameter on the glasses! Alas, it’s a hell to grow old!
 
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It came!

It´s half as heavy and big as my old army surplus binoculars and has 10 times better optics. Very happy with it.
The case is very cute, small. But not much room for the neck strap.
There's also a harness. Not going to use that. I think I will use the neckstrep for the bag and then use something else that I have lying around for the binos.

A few crappy iPhone pics:
IMG_3744.JPG

IMG_3747.JPG
 
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