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Selecting a Pair of Birding Binoculars

When it comes down to making that final decision, try to visit a store where you can try out several models. The final decision often boils down to personal preference.

When making a selection, consider the following features.

  • Cost - Purchase the best quality you can afford. No need to go above $300 - $400 unless you are purchasing for an expert birder or just want the prestige of owning the very best.
  • Seize and weight - Binoculars with a higher magnification are generally heavier and larger. Pick a pair you can manage over several hours of birding.
  • Balance - the binoculars should be balanced and feel comfortable in your hand.
  • Magnification - we suggest 7x35, 7x42, 8x40 or 8x42, (10x 40 is OK for the more experienced birder).
  • Field of View - Minimum 6 degrees or 300 feet at 1000 yards.
  • Close Focal Distance - 20 feet or less (10 feet or shorter preferred).
  • Eyeglass compatibility - Rubber or roll-up eyecups, with 15 mm minimum eye relief. If you wear glasses, this can be one of the most important considerations. Make sure the pair you select easily accommodate the glasses you are wearing. This is one area in which more expensive binoculars excel.

Clay Taylor, with Swarovski Optics, was kind enough to share some additional thoughts on the selection of bird watching binoculars.