What are good bird watching binoculars?
When you go out to look for birds you want to be able to properly follow them in the sky. For that reason these binoculars are often enhanced with a 8x to 10x magnification. Binoculars with a magnification smaller than 8 will, obviously, not bring the image close enough. Binoculars with a magnification of 8 will leave you with a calm image and a large field of view. As such you will be able to properly follow the birds. A magnification factor higher than 10 might give you more details but also leaves you with a less stable image. Are you planning to look for birds at twilight or perhaps even at night? If you are pay close attention to the twilight factor. The higher the number, the more details you will see with little light. Always aim for a twilight factor of at least 20 when you want to look for birds in the dark.
Best price-quality bird watching binoculars:
Eden binoculars XP 8x42
- Magnification: 8x
- Diameter front lens: 42 mm
- Weight: 660 grams
- Twilight factor: 18.3
Best high-end bird watching binoculars:
Swarovski EL 10X42 Swarovision binocular
- Magnification: 10x
- Diameter front lens: 42 mm
- Weight: 876 grams
- Twilight factor: 20.5
What do you need to pay attention to when purchasing binoculars for ornithology?
Magnification factor of the pair
To properly spot birds it is best if you choose binoculars with a 8 or 10 magnification. (Here we are not discussing scopes because that is different story altogether.) A magnification larger than 10 will leave you with a very narrow field of view and an image that is difficult to keep stable. As such it will be a lot more difficult to follow birds in the sky. Binoculars with a magnification smaller than 8 will, however, not bring the image close enough.
The diameter of the objective is important because on the one hand it determines the light output and the viewing experience of the binoculars (in this case larger is better) and on the other hand it determines the weight and size of the binoculars. As such it is a compromise between the quality of the image and the weight and size.
Binoculars with a 42 mm diameter are very popular in ornithology. This size is considered to be a great compromise between the quality of the image and the size/weight.
Width of the field of view
To observe a bird in the sky you need a wide field of view, otherwise you will quickly lose sight of it.
The field of view depends on the magnification, but also the construction of the binoculars. Pay close attention to this. For 8x42 binoculars a field of view of approximately 130 meters at 1000 meters is good and a field of view of approximately 140 meters is really good.
For 10x42 binoculars a field of view of 115 meters at a distance of 1000 meters is fine.
Colour fastness, sharpness and other optical qualities
If you want to enjoy nature a good image quality is, of course, important. Colour fastness and sharpness are important optical qualities for binoculars that are used for ornithology.
Edge sharpness is often referred to as the quality characteristic for a pair of binoculars. However, you need to be careful with this. Edge sharpness should always be determined in relation to the width of the field of view. For binoculars with a narrow field of view it isn't difficult to achieve high edge sharpness and there are even manufacturers who add an edge that simply cuts away a piece of the image to achieve edge sharpness. Producing binoculars with a wide field of view and a good edge sharpness is a real challenge.
For any bird watcher it is very important that binoculars focus quickly to keep a bird in flight sharp. With some binoculars you need to turn the focus knob a couple of times to focus from close by to far away, while with other binoculars, such as, for instance, with our Eden Quality ED and HD 8x42 binoculars one turn is enough.
It might take some getting used to but once you are used to this quick focus you don't want to go back.