Best Binoculars For Wildlife Viewing: Buyer’s Guide And Reviews

Your complete guide to choosing the best binoculars for wildlife viewing. An updated list of recommended binoculars, plus information to help you understand binocular specifications and choose the best binoculars for you.

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Binoculars for Viewing Wildlife

hummingbird drinking nectar
A good pair of binoculars will bring you closer to wildlife!

Watching wildlife is a hugely enjoyable hobby; not only does it provide you with memories to treasure, but it is also something you can do immediately, without any fancy equipment.

All you need is your eyes, your ears, and a love of the great outdoors!

With that being said, a good pair of binoculars will take your wildlife viewing to another level, whether you intend to watch birds, zebras or whales!

If you choose the right pair of binoculars at the start of your wildlife watching career, the satisfaction they’ll provide over the years will pay back the initial cost many times over.

On this page you'll find a useful guide to choosing the best binoculars for wildlife viewing, together with suggested models that you may want to consider.

Note: if you decide to make a purchase after clicking on the links on this page, we may receive a small commission. This has in no way influenced our choice of featured binoculars.


Recommended Binoculars For Wildlife Viewing: Our Top Picks

On this page is a full binocular buying guide and a list of suggested binoculars to check out. If you haven't got time to read the whole article, here are three well-regarded binoculars suitable for wildlife viewing at beginner, mid, and high price points:

  • The Celestron Outland X's are well-regarded binoculars at a very reasonable price. You probably wouldn't want to spend any less than this on a pair of binoculars. Check price and reviews at Amazon
  • We have owned a pair of Frontier ED X 10x42 binoculars for several years and they accompany us on most of our birding expeditions. They offer excellent image and build quality for their mid-range price point; improvements beyond this price become increasingly small. Check price and reviews at Amazon
  • The Swarovski EL's are high-end binoculars from one of the world’s most respected optic brands. Superior image and build quality will have fellow nature lovers nodding in approval. They may cost more at the beginning, but over the years high-end binoculars such as these will pay you back many times over. Check price and reviews at Amazon

You can see more recommended binoculars further down the page.


Guide To Choosing The Best Binoculars For Wildlife Viewing

Binoculars Buyers Guide

There are two main factors you need to consider when selecting binoculars: magnification and objective lens diameter.

Luckily, there is a standard way of describing binoculars: the magnification is written first, followed by an ‘x’ multiplication symbol, followed the objective lens diameter.

For example, a pair of binoculars described as being 8 x 42 will have 8x magnification and 42mm objective lenses.

What Do These Figures Mean?

The magnification figure is easy to explain; it tells you how many times bigger the subject will appear through the binoculars.

The higher the number, the greater the magnification.

The objective lens diameter is the size of the rear lens (the lens furthest from the eyepiece) on each side of the binoculars.

The larger the objective lenses, the more light the binoculars can capture and the sharper the image will be.

Check out our list of recommended wildlife viewing binoculars


Best Binocular Specification For Wildlife Viewing

Binoculars on bird field guide
Going birding? A good pair of binoculars is essential!

After reading the above, you may be tempted to go out and buy binoculars with the highest magnification and biggest objective lenses you can find!

In most cases, that would be a mistake; you'd end up with binoculars that were far too heavy, and far too unstable, to be used in the field.

In general, the objective lens size determines how big (and heavy) your binoculars will be. This is something worth thinking about if your nature watching involves long hikes.

If space or weight is at a premium, then consider binoculars with an objective lens size of around 32mm, otherwise 40 or 42mm is (we feel) the ideal lens size for wildlife viewing.

Another thing to bear in mind is that inexpensive binoculars with a large objective lens size often produce a lower-quality image than more expensive binoculars with a smaller lens size.

The downside to having a large magnification is that the higher the magnification, the harder it is to keep the image steady.

You may get a larger image, but your own movements will also be magnified, making it harder to pick out detail in the image.

In general, binoculars with a magnification of over 12x are difficult to hold steady and are best used with a tripod.

Additionally, the higher the magnification, the smaller the area you'll be able to see through your binoculars.

This is fine if you’ve already found your subject and can keep it in view, but not so good if you’re trying to locate your subject while looking through your binoculars.

Imagine you're looking up into the branches of a tree in the hope of seeing a bird that is singing. Having a high magnification might mean that you get great, close-up images of the branches, but you might have difficulty actually locating the bird!

Check out our list of recommended wildlife viewing binoculars

Recommended Magnification and Lens Size For Wildlife Viewing

Binoculars

So, what are the best binoculars for wildlife viewing?

As with many things in life, the key is finding a happy medium, so aim to get binoculars that will suit the majority of your wildlife viewing.

Binoculars with a magnification of either 8 or 10, and a lens size of 40 or 42, are generally considered to be the most suitable for viewing wildlife.

With these magnifications and lens sizes, most binoculars are light enough to be used for long sessions, and will provide the best balance between viewing area and magnification.

8x or 10x Binocular Magnification?

Go for 8x magnification if you regularly look at subjects that are either relatively close, fast moving, or difficult to spot.

Go for 10x magnification if you want more close-up detail at the expense of a (slightly) smaller viewing area and (slightly) less image stability, or if you look at subjects that tend to be quite far away.

Don't lose too much sleep over the 8x / 10x decision! The difference between magnifications is small. We use 10x; many other birders / wildlife watchers use 8x!

Our recommended binoculars, below, are all within these recommended magnification and objective lens sizes. Most are available in both 8x and 10x versions.

Check out our list of recommended wildlife viewing binoculars


Other Binocular Specifications

There are a few other factors you may want to consider when choosing your new binoculars. Listed below are some of the other figures commonly provided by manufacturers.

Field of View (FOV)

The field of view (FOV) of a pair of binoculars is the area covered by the image you can see through the lenses.

The FOV is usually given as an angle (the greater the angle, the greater the field of view).

Some manufacturers provide this measurement in feet or meters at a certain range (e.g. 138m at 1,000m, which means the area you’ll see through the eyepieces will be 138m wide at a range of 1,000 meters).

In general, the larger the magnification, the smaller the FOV.

Cheap binoculars with a large field of view may suffer from distortion at the edges of the image.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the maximum distance your eye can be from the eyepiece and still see a fully-clear image. This is an important consideration for those who need to wear glasses while using their binoculars.

Those who wish to wear spectacles while using binoculars should aim for an eye relief measurement of at least 15 mm.

Many binoculars have adjustable eyepieces, which allow them to be used either with or without spectacles. Move them in if you don't wear glasses, and out if you do.

Wearing glasses is generally not necessary when using binoculars, unless you suffer from astigmatism.

Close Focus / Closest Focus

This is simply the shortest distance at which a subject can be observed while remaining in focus. This isn’t the most important figure to consider when choosing a pair of binoculars, but you may want to bear it in mind if you’ll be using your binoculars to look at subjects that are close to you, such as wild flowers or insects.

IPD / Interpupillary Distance

This is the space between the centers of your pupils. The average person’s IPD is 64mm. If your eyes are spaced either very close together or very far apart, then check to see if the binoculars you are considering will match your IPD.

Roof Vs Porro Prisms In Binoculars

The more common roof prisms, found in the majority of binoculars today, enable a narrower, more compact body design. Porro prisms are said to offer some advantages, such as better 3D imaging, but their bulkiness has seen their use dwindle.


Now you have all the information you need to be able to select a suitable pair of binoculars. Below is a list of binoculars that you may want to consider.

All of the binoculars in the list below are either 8x or 10x magnification. Most models are available in either magnification; the binoculars you choose should reflect the type of wildlife viewing you are most likely to use them for.

The specs we’ve provided are for the model featured (i.e. 8x or 10x). You can click on the links to find the specification and price of the model in which you’re interested.


Celestron Outland X 10x42 Binoculars

A useful pair of entry-level binoculars that are ideal for beginner wildlife-watchers. There are cheaper options available, but in our opinion, spending any less than this is a false economy.

Celestron – Outland X 8x42 Binoculars – Waterproof & Fogproof – Binoculars for Adults – Multi-Coated Optics and BaK-4 Prisms – Protective Rubber Armoring
  • MULTI-COATED OPTICS AND BaK-4 PRISMS: Multi-coated optics provide high resolution and high contrast views, while BaK-4 glass prisms provide enhanced color fidelity. You'll enjoy crisp, detailed views of distant subjects.
  • WATERPROOF AND FOGPROOF: Designed to withstand all weather conditions, Outland X compact binoculars are filled with dry nitrogen gas and then sealed for rigorous outdoor use without internal fogging of the lenses.
  • PROTECTIVE RUBBER ARMOR: A durable rubberized exterior protects from hard use and harsh outdoor conditions while providing a secure, anti-slip gripping surface. Its sturdy construction makes Outland X a great travel or birdwatching binocular.
  • TWIST-UP EYECUPS FOR QUICK ADJUSTMENT: Large focus knobs make for easy and precise focusing. Twist-up eyecups allow you to customize the binocular's eye relief to obtain a full field of view with or without eyeglasses.
  • UNBEATABLE WARRANTY & CUSTOMER SUPPORT: Buy with confidence from Celestron, a leading optics brand in California since 1960. Your purchase includes a Celestron Limited Lifetime US Warranty & US-based expert tech support.

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Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars

Good-looking mid-range binoculars with professional features.

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Nikon PROSTAFF P7 10x42 Binocular

Good-quality lower-mid-price binoculars from a trusted manufacturer of optical products.

Sale
Nikon PROSTAFF P7 10x42 Binocular | Waterproof, fogproof, Rubber-Armored Full-Size Binocular, Oil & Water Repellent Coating & Locking Diopter, Limited Official Nikon USA Model
  • Dielectric high-reflective multilayer prism coatings ensure superior light transmittance
  • Locking diopter control maintains your personal setting
  • Waterproof (up to 1m/3.3ft for 10 minutes) and nitrogen-purged for fog-free performance
  • Oil/water repellent coating - applied to both eyepiece and objective lens surfaces
  • Rubber armored exterior for shock resistance and a firm non-slip grip

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Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x42 Binoculars

Good quality binoculars for those wishing to spend a little more.

Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x42 Binoculars - HD Optical System, Non-slip Grip, Waterproof, Fogproof, Shockproof, Included GlassPak - Unlimited, Unconditional Warranty
  • 8x magnification & 42mm objective lenses, these Diamondback HD binos are optimized with select glass elements to deliver exceptional resolution, cut chromatic aberration and provide outstanding color fidelity, sharpness and light transmission.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission with anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. Dielectric coating provides bright, clear, color-accurate images. Armortek coating protects exterior lenses from scratches, oil and dirt.
  • Adjustable eyecups twist up and down for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. Center focus wheel adjusts the focus of both binocular barrels at the same time. Diopter (located on right eyepiece) adjusts for differences in a user's eyes.
  • Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection. Binoculars are tripod adaptable allowing use on a tripod or car window mount.
  • Argon purging and o-ring seals provide water and fogproof performance in all environments. Rugged construction withstands recoil and impact. Includes GlassPak harness.

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Hawke Frontier ED X Binoculars 10x42

We have owned a pair of these binoculars for several years, and they're our pick of the bunch at this price point.

Sale
Frontier ED X Binoculars 10x42 Grey
  • Nitrogen purged
  • Waterproof
  • Fog proof
  • 5m - Replaceable twist-up eye cups with position stops - Stay-on lens covers Nitrogen purged

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Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars

Ultra-high image quality and rugged construction. You'll probably never need another pair of binoculars...

Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 10x42
  • 10x magnification and 42mm objective lenses, the Viper HD binoculars have an advanced high density optical system with enhanced anti-reflective lens coating for stunning image quality and top tier light transmission.
  • Dielectric, multi-layer prism coatings provide bright, clear, color-accurate images. Coating on roof prism models enhances resolution and contrast.
  • A compact, rubber-armored chasis and armortek coating ensures the Viper HD is ready for any hunt.
  • Adjust the multi-position eyecups to maximize custom fit for comfortable viewing with or without glasses. A locking right eye diopter adjusts for focal differences between your eyes.
  • Argon purged and o-ring sealed, the Viper HD defies the elements ensuring waterproof and fogproof performance, no matter the conditions.

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Nikon Monarch HG 10X42 Binoculars

High-quality, professional-level binoculars from a world-respected brand.

Nikon Monarch HG 10X42 Binocular, Black (16028)
  • Nikon's field flattener lens system works in conjunctions with MONARCH HG's wide field of view to provide a sharp, clear view to the lens periphery
  • Nikon engineered the optical system of MONARCH HG around its ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass
  • Locking diopter control maintains your personal setting until you want to change it

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ZEISS Conquest HD 10x42 Binoculars

Together with Swarofski, Zeiss are perhaps the most well-respected manufacturers of binoculars today. The Conquest HD will provide a lifetime of wildlife viewing pleasure.

Zeiss 10x42 Conquest HD Binoculars with Cleaning Kit Bundle (2 Items)
  • 10x magnification in 42mm objective lens
  • 377-feet field of view at 1,000 meters
  • 18mm eye relief
  • Zeiss T* fully multicoated optics
  • Schmidt-Pechan roof prism design

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Swarovski EL 10x42 Binoculars

No list of the best binoculars for wildlife viewing would be complete without a pair of Swarovskis. The Austrian company's products are known throughout the world for their quality, but sadly do come at a price.

Swarovski EL 10x42 Binocular with FieldPro Package, Green
  • This purchase Includes: Swarovski Optik EL 10x42 Binocular, Field Bag, Eyepiece Cover, Objective Lens Cover, Lift Carrying Strap, Swarovski Optik Lifetime Limited Warranty
  • Magnification: 10x
  • Submersion tightness up to 13 ft(4m) deep
  • Lifetime warranty for optics and 10 years warranty for other parts
  • SWAROVISION, SWAROBRIGHT and SWAROCLEAN technologies

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Swarovski 10x42 NL Pure Binoculars

You may need a mortgage to purchase these high-end Swarovskis, but over the years they'll likely repay you many times over with the enhanced wildlife-viewing experience they offer.

Swarovski 10x42 NL Pure Binoculars
  • Portable Size: These Swarovski 10x42 NL Pure Binoculars thus provide unprecedented nature experiences. Keep the overview. See more in every situation. Thanks to its perfect handling and the seemingly endless field of vision, the NL Pure 10x42 becomes even more versatile
  • Large FOV: The large field of view (399 feet at 1000 yards) with almost indiscernible edges allows you to experience nature as never before – and immerse yourself in the moment. This large field of view combined with the compact design of the binoculars and superb ergonomics takes the viewing experience to the next level
  • Detailed Images: SWAROVISION technology with innovative lens coatings provides excellent color rendering with high light transmission guarantees stunning images with incredible color fidelity. Featuring pin-sharp contours, high-contrast and true-to-life images, you can make out every single detail for quick and easy identification. Field flattener lenses deliver an almost flat, completely distortion-free image – right up to the edges
  • Convenient Design: Keeping friction to a minimum was the key when working on the focusing mechanism. Precision threads and optimum surfaces all play their part in ensuring easy mobility. A new mechanical system has been designed to position the focusing mechanism in the binocular’s revolutionary ergonomic housing
  • Lightweight: The binoculars feature a lightweight and rugged magnesium housing

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Best Binoculars For Wildlife Viewing: Conclusion

We hope that this guide has been helpful for you if you are considering getting a new pair of binoculars. Although wildlife watching can be enjoyed with little or no equipment, it's made even better with a good pair of binoculars!

If you have any personal binocular recommendations, hints or tips, then please let us know in the comments section below!

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