Everything you need to know about buying binoculars for birdwatching

Binoculars, often referred to simply as binox/bins/noc, are the best allies in the field helping them to spot, identify and fully appreciate the beauty of birds. Just as a better tool enhances an artisan’s craft, a good pair of binoc enhances the bird’s ability and overall feel.

Binoculars come in all shapes, sizes and more importantly prices, which can be shockingly high. That’s why the ability to choose the right pair for yourself is very important. While the more expensive Binox tends to have higher image quality and durability, we can’t use that as the sole criterion because cheaper models with decent quality tend to be durable.

Considering the amount of technical specifications wrapped in jargon when one has to read the marketing field of manufacturers, it is surprising what one would consider simpler devices. So a little education will go a long way in helping you make an informed decision to choose a piece that best suits you.

Before you start looking for your ideal compartment, you need to decide on your budget. While you shouldn’t be tempted to overspend, set aside as much as you can. Trust me, you will thank yourself countless times in the field for this. Next, you need to figure out how much weight you can comfortably carry, especially if you are bidding in the field for long periods of time.

Remember, if the weight crosses your threshold or gets worse, you leave it behind; You literally end up with a pain in the neck. These two steps should have now given you a manageable set of viable options. Now to separate the husk from the grain.

Photo credit: The Nikon Monarch M5 comes in 8×42, 10×42 and 12×42 models
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Let’s dive into the specifications. You will notice that all the boxes come with numbers like 8×32 or 10×42. The first number denotes magnification, obviously the higher the magnification, the better, but it comes at a cost. The higher the magnification, the heavier the cans and the more difficult it is to remain stationary for a reasonable amount of time.

Also, higher magnification will make the shaking more pronounced. The second number is the size of the objective lens (the farther away from you) it is the more light it collects and the brighter your scene is.

Then, the larger the number, the heavier the bins. Generally 8×42 or 10×42 is considered a sweet spot for birding cans with good magnification, brightness and field of view. While both these models from the same manufacturer will look very close to each other, weigh and even be very close in price, there are fine differences between the two.

The 8×32 will generally feel brighter than its 10×42 stablemate in low light conditions and offer a wider field of view at the obvious cost of magnification. So if you’re looking for a bird in the woods late in the evening, where you can’t see very far anyway, an 8×42 may feel advantageous, while in situations with a distant bird you may crave a magnification of 10×42. can.

The glass used in construction is a major factor in visual quality. Bk7, bak4, hd and ed will be the types you will read, with each successive cipher denoting higher quality. Coatings used on glass have another set. ‘C’ – denotes a single coating on some glass, ‘FC’ – all lens surfaces coated, ‘MC’ – some lens surfaces have a multilayer coating, ‘FMC’ – all lenses have multiple layers of coatings. As you’d expect, as you move up the scale of coatings, you also move up the price ladder.

Then there’s the form factor to consider, with traditional bulkier Porro prisms where the objective lens is offset from the eyepiece, while in newer roof prisms the barrel of the binoculars is straight up making them more compact. Poro Prism bins are cheaper these days, but are also clustered at the lower end of the scale.

Nikon Prism Nikon

How are the different types of prisms arranged in a telescope?
Photo credit: Nikon.com/ joint screenshot

Another feature that you need to pay attention to is the relief of the eyes. For proper viewing, the eyepiece of the compartment should be at a comfortable distance from your eyes. So always look for compartments with eyecups that sit comfortably over your eyes, and if you use glasses, you can retract the eyecups so that they rest on your glasses while maintaining eye relief.

Then there are the boxes that you should make sure of if you want your investment to serve you for a long time. They should be rugged and durable. Many come with a rubberized coating to protect them from bumps and also provide good grip. They should be waterproof so that even the slightest inclement weather doesn’t put a spoke in your plans and lastly they should be fog proof so as not to obstruct your view.

Now that you have reached your final list of candidates, the final step is beyond the specifications. Go to a store and pick up a pair of cans and ask yourself; How do they feel in your hand, how well do they sit on your eyes, creating the image that you find most pleasing?

All these will be answered only when you try them. If you don’t have a store near you, you can find your bird friend’s bins on a birdwatching trip. Birders are eager to show off their optics. It will give you real world answers to choose the winner.

Buying guide for ‘value for money’ binoculars listed by value. We have handpicked these from the easily available models in India. 8×42 and 10×42 are listed alternately and usually we can find related models for the same brand.

Olympus 8 x 40 dps I

Entry level birding compartment. Most birders would have started with this.

  • Pros – Price (cheapest, most economical usable bins), field of view (by virtue of being 8x)
  • Cons – size, weight, lack of waterproofing, oldest model on the list

Nikon Aqulon A211 8×42 Binocular

Nikon’s entry level model is very popular for birding.

  • Pros – Price, Brand
  • Cons – size, weight (heaviest), lack of waterproofing

Celestron 10×42 Outland X

good performer without major flaws

  • Pros – Weight (Lightest), Waterproof
  • cons – field of view

Vanguard VO ED 1042

Its specifications match or exceed all on this list while not being expensive. buy the most value proposition

  • Pros – weight, size, waterproof, eye relief (best), min. focus distance
  • Cons – None at this price point

Nikon Prostaff 5 8×42

Balanced Performer, Value for Money Model if you consider the brand

  • Pros – weight, waterproof, eye relief, brand
  • cons – field of view

Carl Zeiss 10×42 Terra ED

This is the entry level model for Carl Zeiss. It has very good FoV and very short min. Focusing distance that makes it great to see butterflies and insects.

  • Pros – brands, minimal. focus distance, waterproof, field of view
  • cons – weight, price

Rajneesh Suvarna has been a compulsive bird since his younger days, more likely to forget to pack this toothbrush than his pair of binoculars for travel. Among other things, he currently runs a birding tour company, Wayfarer, which runs birding trips around the world. A well-lit photographer you can find some of his work at NatureChronicles.com. You can follow him on insta, facebook twitter


The series is an initiative by the Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF) under their program ‘Nature Communications’ to promote nature content in all Indian languages. To learn more about birds and nature, join the flock.


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