I have recently been looking into getting a pair of binoculars specifically for bird watching. Just wondering if any of you fine folks do any bird watching or at least can recommend a good pair of binoculars or have any experience with binoculars. I have been looking at Nikon and Leupold binoculars.
We have a pair that we got for bird watching. Nothing fancy, nor expensive and certainly not for birds at a great distance. That being said, we like them for our purposes and are happy with them. On occasion, I’ll bring them with me when I go fishing. I really want to like bird watching, but it’s just not my thing. Fishing is what I do.
We’ve got these Nikon’s. I want to say that we got them on sale for about $85 USD.
Thanks Peder, I am by no means a die hard bird watcher, but I do enjoy it when out hiking with the family, my boys seem to real enjoy it so I thought it was time to get a decent pair.
I’m not a bird watcher and cannot recommend any specific model for that use.
But I have purchased several different designs of magnifying optics over the years and from my experience I would recommend these general guide lines for making your choice.
a. 10x or higher has a narrow field of view, making it difficult to hold them steady, and keep your target object in view. I would look for a pair that is 6x to 8x.
b. exit pupil of the optics is the next most important thing to look at. In dim light the pupil of the eye can open 5 - 7mm. Toward the lower end as you get older. The larger the exit pupil of the optics the easier it will be to see targets in dark areas. The quick way to check the exit pupil of the optics is to look through the binoculars while holding them at arms’ length aimed at a bright area. You will see a bright circle of light in the middle of the lens. If it is small, say 2mm, they wont work very well in dim light. If the circle is very large, say 8mm, they will work very well in dim light, but the binoculars will be emitting more light than the eye can use. If the circle is about the same size as your eyes’ pupil (or the eyes’ aperture) then your eyes will be able to take full advantage of the light the binoculars can deliver to the eye.
The exit pupil of the optics can be calculated by dividing the size of the objective lens by the magnification power. For example binocular with 40mm objective lens is a nice size. 8x40 would have an exit pupil of 5mm. The larger the objective size the more light the optics can gather. A 50mm objective would collect even more light. About 1.56x more than the 40mm lens. (by pi x r^2). But binoculars with 50mm lens will he heavier than a pair with 40mm lens. Going the other way, comparing 40mm lens to 25mm lens. The 25mm lens binoculars would be lighter but only gather about 30% as much light as the 40mm lens binoculars.
In summary for the basics: pick binoculars with as large objective lens as you would want to carry, and hold to look through for extended periods. 6x ~ 8x. With an exit pupil size that will provide sufficient light output to view objects in the light levels you will be observing. Around 6mm for viewing low light areas. Or maybe 3 ~4mm would be ok if viewing brighter areas. 8x25=3.12, 6x25=4.16. Actually I a prefer monocular of 6x30 which provide a 5mm exit pupil. That’s about as much light as my eye can use, and the 30mm size of the objective lens is not to heavy, yet gathers more light than a smaller size. Oh, and my personal preference is for water proof optics. A good choice if you expect to use them around water, kayaking or fishing. Maybe not so important if you can just tuck them away in a dry place if it rains.
Once you’ve decided on the best magnification and objective lens size to meet your needs the next choice comes down to selecting a pair of binoculars with good quality glass, and coatings. Comparing two different models of the same specifications, say 6x30, the pair with higher quality glass will provide a brighter more pleasing image. And you will want to check for chromatic aberration, the ability of the lens system to focus all colors of light to the same point. If they have poor chromatic aberration you will see little rainbows of light around the edges of observed objects.
The Nikon or Leupold you mentioned should be good. Ziess is also good. But don’t buy by brand name alone. Take them outside on a bright day and look at distant objects. A mountain ridge line, a distant radio tower, something with sharp contrast lines between different colors, etc. Look for little bands of rainbow colors. Or colors that look not quite right. None are perfect. Just pick a pair that has minimal chromatic aberration.
This short video nicely explains the first points.
This video nicely explains chromatic aberration, and other things about glass quality, that will be a major difference between binoculars that otherwise appear to have the same specifications.
Is there anything that you don’t know about David? Again, another amazing post regardless of how related to tenkara that it is! I’m glad that you’re here.
I have some low end Nikons that are 10x50 I think. They were like $75.
The image looks great but they are a little heavy.
I am going to get a monocular soon for hiking and backpacking… Vortex 8x35 is only like $48 through Amazon.
I have 7x35’s that work great, and aren’t too bad to carry. I think they are Jason brand. I like that they are focus free, so whatever you look at is in focus. I also have some compact Nikon 8x25’s that are nice, but not as great for birding; however, they are small and package. The 7x glasses have a wider view that is easier to spot birds with. The Nikons are ok in bright light, but not so great in the shade (like walking in the woods).
Wow thanks dwalker, so much valuable info, you answered more then the 2 sales men I talked could answer. Also thanks everyone else for the feedback greatly appreciate it.
You’re welcome. After I posted my reply I realized that I had had written that Exit Pupil was “next” in importance. When actually that is the first thing I check. The first thing I do is hold the binoculars or monocular at arms’ length and look at the size of the bright disk of light. If it is very small, the size of the eye’s iris in bright sunlight, I put it back. But if mail ordering them knowing Exit pupil size = diameter of objective lens ÷ mag X power, you can at least know if it will be 2mm or closer to 6mm. Getting a pair with good optical specs cost a lot of money, you have to find the balance that matches your budget. The last pair I purchased were Celestron Skymaster dx 8 x 56 from a vendor at Starquest last summer. The 7mm exit pupil is probably more than my 64 y.o. eyes can use.
I chose them over binoculars with the same 8x56 specs, made by a different manufacturer, Swarovski I think, that cost a lot more. Maybe they had slightly better optical quality, and slight improvements cost more to make, but not enough for me to spend the extra money. From the visitor center I could compare them side by side looking at distant mountain ridges, at details on radio telescopes near and far, aim at deer roaming the grounds and I was pleased with the images. I’m not recommending them for birding. At 2.2# there may be better choices for birding. However, Watching this video review of them might highlight other things you might want to consider in making your choice.
In my car and in my grab and go bag I mostly carry a Brunton Eterna 6x30 monocular. I got the first one for kayaking. One hand for the glass, one hand for the paddle. Liked it and got another. Good luck with your search, binoculars of the same size can range in price from $100 ~ $2500.
Whenever you are ready to buy check out B&H in NYC for prices. I got a pair of nikons there many yeas ago. Small, good value/performance specs. I take them everywhere I travel they’ve lasted forever.
Another place to checkout is STP, sometimes they have good deals on German made Steiner which are I think some of the best.
So I did some shopping over the weekend, and did some comparisons ( also found a lack of variety for binoculars in my area ). I ended up buying Celestron TrailSeeker 8x42 the felt the best in my hands, where comfortable and to me had the best features for the price. The have a really large field of view 425 feet at 1000yrds which I really liked.
thank you dwalker for all your help and information, I really appreciated it.
Cool. Looks like a good choice, mag body too, at that price. I purchased to many poor choices over the years, seemed good in the store, only disappoint with use, till I learned what to look for. D
Thanks again for all your help and feedback, I am in Canada so they cost me $274.00 + taxes, but still a good deal compared to other binoculars I looked at.
An updated version of the Trail Seaker 8x42 ED
Other informative binocular links:
No el-cheapo low quality binoculars here. Mostly $200 ~ $500 range. And some that approach $3,000.
No they (the $3,000 bino models) won’t be 6x better than $500 ones. Maybe ~ 25% better. It is probably similar to what I learned in school about the design of electronic equipment and MTBF (mean time between failure).
Every increase of MTBF by 10% - Doubled the price of the equipment. [that’s one reason why the space program in the 1960s/ 70s was so expensive. When failure isn’t an option. MTBF has to be very high].
However, it appears the 8x42, 10x42 bins market if very competitive. With 8x32, or other close to the same size bins a close second challenger.
In come cases it looks like today you can buy some of the models in the $400 ~ $500 price class – that now have optics technology that five years ago was only to be found in binoculars costing in $900 ~ $1500 class or 2x ~ 3x as much…
Some real surprises here. Some very expensive Leica binos were not water proof at all. And some lower priced binos only rated as being splash proof were water proof.
BBR: Best Binocular Reviews, well, in the opinion of Jason
Field Testing Binoculars - What I look for in Binoculars & the Equipment I Use
•Oct 30, 2019
What does that term mean?
Often one reads that BaK 4 [ Baritleich kron which is a Barium Crown glass, Schott BaK-4 ] prisms are superior to BaK 7. But only recently did I become aware there is a BAK4, which is something different. And considered not as good as Schott BaK-4.
The Chinese BAK4 is not Barium Crown, but rather a phosphate crown and has a refractive index of 1.5525 and a dispersion of -0.0452 (Schott: -0.0523) and also has a higher permitted bubble count than Schott BaK-4 glass.
Not necessarily a deal breaker or bad thing . Just less good thing. But one ought to be aware of the difference. And read webpage bino descriptions carefully. Who ever writes the webpage may not do careful editing, and write BaK4, when what they are actually using is BAK4 glass.
"… b. Bak-4 Prism Vs BK-7 Prism
Bak4 aka barium crown glass prisms are usually used in high quaity binoculars because of their higher refractive index than BK7 prisms. Higher refractive index helps collect more light from the periphery of the field of view (FoV) to the eyepiece lens. This produces an image with brighter edge that the BK7 prisms can’t produce very well. The difference is more noticeable in low magnification binoculars that have wide field of view. However, BK7 prisms can be better choice in some models especially those used in binoviewers.
You can easily determine if your binoculars are made from Bak4 or BK7 prisms without reading the model number. Point your binoculars towards the open sky or any light source (but not the sun). If you see a bright and perfectly circular light in the eyepiece end, then the binoculars are made from BaK4 prisms. BK7 prisms will give a diamond shape light source with gray segments around it.
Note : The “ BAK4 ” prisms used in lower quality binoculars are not the same as premium Schott BaK4 prisms. Cheap binoculars ususally, but not always, lebel the prism type as BAK4 (notice the upper case letter ‘A’) while the premium binoculars label as BaK4 with lower case letter ‘a’. Cheap BAK4 prisms are made from phosphate crown glass rather than barium crown glass. These lower quality BAK4 prisms has a lower refractive index than Schott BaK4 and produces an image this is not as sharp as found with Schott BaK4 prisms…"
Anyway, if ya happen to get seized by an urge to buy binoculars, or other related product. Maybe some of the above links will be helpful in making a better choice.
I’m looking for casual use binoculars for looking at the stars!
Based on what I’ve read so far you’ve forgotten more than I’ll ever know. When I used to hunt I was a huge Swarovski fan, so I know what great optics look like to my eye. But I’d like to not go to that financial extreme.
What do you think of the Celestron 15x70 Skymaster Pro?
Fujinon really worth that much more money? Or is this a 5x more money for 20% better optics situation?
Your thoughts and advice?
In advance, thanks!
I am far from someone that can offer an opinion of any value from experience. Tom Davis, I believe has been a pretty serious amateur astronomer. Maybe he might chime in with better advice.
That being said. Recently my wife went deer hunting out of season with her minivan. She managed to kill both the deer and her minivan. Two days later, just as we arrived at Topsail Beach, the stress seems to have triggered her to come down with a case of shingles.
Not wanting her to feel alone, [after visiting West Marine store looking through a couple of pairs of very nice Steiner binoculars, being wowed by them, but rejecting the price & the fact they were speced for use on a boat. I purchased a WM brand of 8x42 roof prism binoculars. They are nothing special, but having never owned similar size and type binoculars, and realizing how handy they could be.] In sympathy with her I decided I ought to get sick with something too. And ontracted a case of Binocular Fever, and started researching binocular of that type. [It’s a bit like what we called in the Navy a sympathetic-puker. A guy who is fine until he goes to check on a sea sick shipmate and ends up joining the up-chuck fest]
So I have jumped in with both feet to ease the fever and ordered three pairs of binoculars of mid-high price to see which brand’s ideas of what makes a good image matches with mine own opinion. They are scheduled to deliver tomorrow.
Anyway, the two binoculars I have for stargazing were spur of the moment purchases. Not the highest quality choices. Celestron Skymaster 20x80 and Skymaster DX 8x56.
But good enough to suit my only now and again stargazing. Purchases made a few years ago, during different years, from vendors at Starquest. Which has sadly, unnecessarily imo, been canceled this year. I never pay to attend their lectures. Just visit the vendors, and come out at night to view the sky through the optical telescopes the attendees setup at their campsites. Easy to do as our vacation house is 10 minutes from the radio astronomy observatory.
The Celestron Sky Master 20x80 binoculars. Which came with a heavy duty tripod, Manfrotto I think, with a rotating / tilting Gitzo head. I think if you get the Celestron Skymaster Pro 15x70 you will also need a sturdy tripod. Just to heavy and to much magnification to be hand held. Though the model appears to get decent reviews.
It is interesting that on two of the above websites, and on another website I will post below. It gets mentioned that the Celestron Echelon 20x70. Would be better, but it is ~ 4x the price.
But to me, both seem to have smaller exit pupil size, 4.6mm & 3.5mm, than would be ideal for dark viewing. Maybe they consider that the higher light transmission through the Echelon more than makes up for the 3.5mm exit pupil. The Skymaster Pro 20x80 is about the same price as the 15x70, but exit pupil would be 4.0mm vs 4.6mm. Giving, I think, an advantage to the 15x70. However, the 80mm objective lens is about 31% larger than the 70mm objective lens, and should in theory collect that much more light.
Celestron Skymaster manual:
One thing highly recommended for use with binoculars on a tripod for stargazing is a binocular parallelogram mount, [still on my - some day list]
I had a nice chat with the owner of Company 7, in Maryland, about them a couple of years ago. Interesting guy. He told me he had stopped updating his website because he had grown tired of people (competitors) stealing his work and putting it on their website.
If you want something, don’t email him, come to his shop or call him. Is his advice. Here is his story about them. However, he told me he has kept that webpage only for the information, though that product is no longer available.
Do an internet search for [ binocular parallelogram mount ] to see what is available. Ready made or homemade.
Company 7 - has some useful Rigel Skylite II and Skylite Mini, LED lights - that are quite handy for preserving night vision while consulting star charts. I ordered both of them. Not sure if I would prefer one model over the other. Don’t recall what I paid for them, as I ordered them over the phone.
For truly casual stargazing you might want to go with smaller lighter weight, and lower mag power binoculars that could be hand held. 8x56 seems to be a popular recommendation.
Indeed, I have a book, Backyard Astronomy or some such title. In which the author makes the claim that he was the dude that first approached binocular manufacturers with a request they make 8x56 binoculars specifically for astronomy.
I have the Celestron Skymaster DX 8x56. They are nothing special. Low cost, decent specs. Made in China. They work fine for my casual only now and again stargazing or just general use. With an exit pupil of 7mm, they will emit a lot of light, which a young person could probably fully use. But larger than an old guy’s eyes will dilate.
However. One can get low cost, 8x56 binoculars, or much better quality 8x56 binoculars. I think the Celestron SM DX 8x56 are about $225. Or get something like the Zeiss Conquest 8x56 for about $1600. Probably more than my eyes could appreciate.
But, if I were to buy an 8x56 binocular today. I might be tempted to buy the German made Bresser Pirsch ED 8x56. At about 2.7x higher price.But has life time warranty. A bit difficult to find in the USA at the moment. But, hey, you can pretty much get anything you want from Europe now days if you have too.
I would probably want to verify this is an authorized dealer, and the Besser warranty applies if purchased from them
$200 less on ebay, Hmm, is Pirsch a German word for deerstalker?
While the 8x56 binoculars are small, and light enough to be hand held. A tripod could also be useful. But it could be a lighter, less sturdy, lower cost one. Than needed for larger, heavier binoculars.
Anyway, the Celestron DX 8x56 are ok. And there are other 8x56 brands other than Bresser, that maybe higher quality than the Celestron, and perhaps as good or better choice than Bresser, at about the same price class.
You might want to look around the binocular section on Cloudy Nights forum for opinions from Stargazers. Or even join the forum and ask your questions there.
And ponder some of the information on the following websites, even though some of the advice is dated, to about 6 years ago, and something better may be available now: But the late link was posted 6 months ago.
2¢ advice, may be worth half as much.
Good luck with your choice.
Awesome! Thank you!!
I will spend some time “pulling at the threads” you’ve given me to reach a conclusion.
I’ve learned not to jump into any purchase lured by price, only to have to buy again later for the quality I should have paid for in the first place.
Again, THANK YOU!
I had not yet downloaded the June star map from Skymaps. Where I noticed there is a link (on the right side of the webpage) offering a 10% - 20% discount on Amazon for a Celestron Giant 15x70 binocular. I didn’t click on the options to determine what controls the amount of the discount. Probably has to do with selecting the smart phone adapter, or one of the two alternate binoculars.
COOL SPACE PICS WITH A PHONE AND BINOCULARS
•Apr 12, 2018
Good information about binoculars: the hierarchy of features to consider when choosing the best model for your needs, how they work, some considerations why your choice ought to change based on your age because the pupil of your eyes change, and why sometimes a smaller model might be a better choice than you think it would be.
Nikon’s pdf format twenty page 2019 binocular handbook.
Mostly just good information, no sales pitch for any of their binoculars. Only some models used to explain principles of binocular design. Easy to save for later reference.
Allbino’s (Polish website) - 2010 article :
All you want to know about binoculars but you are ashamed of asking
1. Why binoculars? 2. Basic parameters 3. How do binoculars work? 4. Important front lens 5. Age and binoculars... 6. Daylight binoculars 7. Low light conditions binoculars 8. All-purpose binoculars 9. Quality beyond all
Allbino’s 2017 article :
Nikon Monarch binoculars – practical applications
[Worth reading, not to be convenienced to purchase a Monarch model binocular, but rather to gain insight into practical uses for binoculars in 3 different size classes. Other brands could of course be chosen]
I found chapter 2 the most surprising, followed by chapter 3.
2. Small pairs of binoculars: 30 and 36 mm objective lenses
3. Mid range binoculars: 42 mm objective lenses
4. Large binoculars: 56 mm objective lens
Allbinos Mid-range binoculars practical applications
As an aside. Of three brands of binoculars I’ve been testing to determine which one(s) I will keep or return. I have been most impressed by the image in the Kowa BDII42-10XD Binocular. A new model Kowa Optics introduced 3d quarter 2019.
Viewing objects afar off are seen like standing close to a high resolution video monitor looking at a forest scene that has applied just a pinch of edge enhancement. Simply an amazing image. First first hand evidence I’ve seen proving to me that paying more for a higher quality binocular can be worth the extra price. However, looking at distant power lines under bright sun, at about 6 p.m., despite their claim of controlling CA, there is a lot of it under that one condition. Distant power lines look like lines of blue-green-red. But earlier in the day the power line CA, color fringing, was not seen. Maybe it had something to do with the sun’s angle. Otherwise very vivid images. Brighter than what I am seeing from the other two binoculars. It is also smaller, and 2 oz. lighter weigh than the other two. This one may be a keeper.
For your entertainment - Kowa’s BD II XD sales pitch video: