If you are a wildlife photographer a high quality pair of binoculars is a must have for taking your images to the next level. And the best part is it is one of the best bang for your buck investments you can make in wildlife or bird photography.
[The Main Museum is supported by readers like you. Some links are affiliate links and if you make a purchase we earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, all recommendations are based on performance and value to you]
What to Look for When Buying Binoculars
When you’re a photographer specializing in taking pictures of wildlife and birds, you already know that you need a good, high-quality set of binoculars and not just any set will do. Many people assume that as long as you have binoculars that magnify your views, that’s all that counts; however, that is far from the truth. In fact, you have to consider many different aspects of the binoculars before you decide on the ones that will best suit your needs.
Although the price range is what some people look at first, the truth is that you can get a good pair of binoculars regardless of how much you can afford, although the more expensive sets usually do offer more vivid colors and more magnification. When you look through your binoculars, you want to see details of the object you’re looking at, not just a blur of color that may or may not be a bird or other animal.
Magnification Is Important
Naturally, you’ll want to know what the magnification number is when you’re researching binoculars so that you can decide if it’s right for your needs. Binoculars generally have a magnification level of 8x and 10x; naturally, the latter is going to provide you with a more up-close view than the former. Nevertheless, there are a few things that you need to consider when researching the magnification level of a certain set of binoculars; namely:
- The 10x magnification is great for far-away distances but usually gives you a narrower field of view and a slightly darker image in low-light conditions.
- The 8x magnification gives you a smaller image but the image is brighter, wider, and a little easier to find and follow birds and wildlife with.
Naturally, image quality is going to vary from one set of binoculars to the next so make sure that you test out the binoculars and look for bright, true colors when you’re looking through the lens. Try to take the binoculars somewhere to test them out in a dark area since the store will be brightly lit and will show great colors when you’re using them. Also, if you stick with lenses that are a minimum of 30mm in size, you’re more likely to get the best results.
Some binoculars list their magnification numbers a different way; for instance, they may use 7x35s, 8x42s, etc. In these instances, the first number will tell you all you need to know. If they list the equation at 7x35s, it simply means that your images will appear seven times closer than they really are. The second number refers to the size of the lens so 7x35s means that the binoculars have a lens size of 35mm. Most binoculars magnify objects so they appear seven, eight, or ten times closer.
Another aspect you may want to look at before making a final decision is the eyecups on the binoculars. You’ll want adjustable eyecups that can retract to accommodate people who wear glasses and extend to provide shading for people who do not wear them. While you’re adjusting the eyecups, make sure that you don’t see any black rings around the object you’re viewing as it usually means that there isn’t enough eye relief for you.
Some Binoculars Have Additional Features
Different sets of binoculars offer different features so you may want to look at features such as:
- Field of view
- Close focus
- Waterproof design
- Long, strong warranties
As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a great pair of binoculars for bird or wildlife photography and the most important tip is to try the binoculars out in person. This is not an item that you’ll want to buy sight unseen. Not only do you want to make sure that it has all of the features you consider important but you’ll also want to find binoculars that are comfortable to use and simply feel right in your hands.
Below are some of the best binoculars on the market that have gotten excellent reviews from real-life customers.
Top Binoculars for Wildlife and Bird Photography
Maven B3 8x30mm Compact Binoculars
With a manual focus and a price of $525, these gray and orange binoculars have won numerous awards in the past and have specialized ED glass so you always get true color transmission and extraordinary brightness. The anodized aluminum adjustments help them last for a very long time and you get edge-to-edge sharpness and clarity even when there is low lighting. You also get a very generous depth of field that helps make the most out of the experience.
The Maven B3 even comes with an unconditional lifetime guarantee that provides you with the peace of mind you deserve for many years to come.
- Manual focus for more control over the process
- Excellent results even in low-light situations
- A lot of value for the price
- Complaints about the item feeling and looking “cheap”
- Complaints that they weren’t worth the price
Carl Zeiss Conquest HD 10×42 Binoculars
If you want a super-professional set of binoculars that gives you a magnification rate of 10, the Zeiss Conquest HD binoculars are the ones you want. They are priced at roughly $1000 but provide high-tech features that are often found only in binoculars that cost thousands of dollars. At just under two pounds, they won’t get too heavy even if used for long periods of time. Their ergonomic design means that they’ll be comfortable the entire time you’re using them.
The Zeiss Conquest binoculars also come with a special coating on the lens to help keep them around much longer and give you a very precise view of the object you’re pointing at.
- High-tech binoculars built for exceptional quality
- Ergonomically design for extra comfort
- Durability as they are specially made to last for many years
- No major cons
Swarovski EL 8×32 Binoculars
With a military green color and the ability to make objects look eight times closer than they really are, the Swarovski EL binoculars are great for all types of close-up photography work. They offer two other models as well — 8.5×42 and 10×42 — so you can get exactly what you need regardless of the reason why you’re buying them in the first place. Although priced at around $1980, they provide numerous benefits that other binoculars simply do not offer.
If you’re looking for binoculars that consistently get high ratings from both critics and real-life customers, these are the perfect binoculars to search for.
- Choice of three different models
- Excellent clarity and color
- Super-advanced comfort and attention to detail
- Complaints about the eyepiece falling off
- Complaints about the straps continually becoming loose
Leica Ultravid BR 8×20 Compact Binoculars
Priced at around $750, the Leica Ultravid BR binoculars weigh in at around five ounces and are therefore very lightweight and easy to maneuver. They even have a very sophisticated, professional look that shows people that you know what you’re doing when it comes to choosing the right binoculars. These binoculars are superior to others when it comes to optical and mechanical performance. Their contrast and clarity are second to none.
You’ll get a lot more than you bargained for, thanks to the high quality and attention to detail used when making these binoculars.
- Extremely durable and high-tech
- Reasonably priced and affordable
- Very high quality with attention to detail
- Complaints about the overall quality of the product
- Complaints about them not working well in low-light situations
Nikon 7549 Monarch 7 10×42 Binoculars
Made by a name that you can trust when it comes to electronic products, the Nikon Monarch 7 binoculars cost roughly $500, which puts them in a very reasonable price range indeed. But even with the low price, these binoculars provide excellent quality and a surprisingly wide field of view considering their magnification level. The rubber coating also means a rugged, durable design and a product that is comfortable enough to handle for many hours at a time.
Finally, these binoculars have anti-reflective lenses that allow you to enjoy crisp, clear vision regardless of what you’re looking at.
- Waterproof and very durable design
- Very reasonable price
- Lots of high-tech features you’ll appreciate
- Complaints about them having a bad odor
- Complaints about the eyepiece falling off
Although all of these binoculars are high-quality devices, the one that got our attention most is the set made by Zeiss. It isn’t just that you’ll be hard-pressed to find any negative customer comments about the Conquest binoculars; it’s also the sturdiness and the excellent detail that you’ll notice every single time you take them out and use them. With their excellent color and clarity, you’ll enjoy your next outing much more with such a great set of binoculars. They are also ergonomically designed for great comfort and are very lightweight so they are easy to maneuver whether you use them for an hour or you’re out with them for hours at a time. Considering that you can spend $1000 or even more on a set of binoculars that don’t offer nearly what the Zeiss Conquest binoculars do, it is easy to understand why these binoculars consistently get five-star ratings from their many users.