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  • Ray Campbell

The Best Binoculars For Bird Watching Are Actually Cheap On Amazon

I've tested and ranked the most popular binoculars for birding based on quality and performance. So whether you're a novice looking for your first pair or an experienced birder seeking an upgrade, here's my ultimate ranking.

FYI, Prices and ratings are accurate as of time of writing.


1. Occer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision

Top-rated: 23,573 ratings | 202 answered questions


Cccer 12x25 Compact Binoculars with Clear Low Light Vision

Highlight: Provides comfortable viewing even when wearing sunglasses or eyeglasses.

Helpful review: "I saw a previous review that described this pair of binoculars as having the 'look and feel of a children's toy.' -with 'subpar performance.' Well, I can't speak to the experiences of another owner, but I can say without hesitation that these binoculars have a substantial weight and feel, and perform every bit as well as my Nikon Aculon 10x25s, which are of similar size and configuration, and cost five times as much. Additionally, I am well-experienced with optics, having owned dozens of binos and telescopes in different price ranges over 4 decades. The color acuity and image sharpness of these binos is well within what I would expect given the design and build limitations (most significant of which is the small aperture that is inherent in all compact binos). I was unable to discern any chromatic aberration in comparison to the aforementioned Nikons, which were of a much higher price class.
Simply put, these are an exceptional bargain in my view. I will add though that they claims on the box that these are 'night vision' binos, yet the aperture is too small and the build and optical qualities do not lend credit to being able to use in hours of darkness with any significant observable vision enhancement. However, for the price you are paying, I believe these are an excellent pair of binoculars, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them." — Todd

Get it from Amazon now: $65.99 & FREE Returns

 

2. Adorrgon 12x42 HD Binoculars with Upgraded Phone Adapter, Tripod and Tripod Adapter

Top-rated: 19,558 ratings | 247 answered questions


Adorrgon 12x42 HD Binoculars with Upgraded Phone Adapter, Tripod and Tripod Adapter

Highlight: 2.25 times the image size of 14mm eyepiece (10x21); 1.28 times of 16mm eyepiece (12x25 binoculars).

Helpful review: "I don't know a great deal about binoculars, but decided to buy my mother a “good” set since she moved to Florida and started to casually take up bird watching. Wanting to go with a reputable brand and after a few hours of research and reading, I went with Vortex Diamondbacks and had them delivered to her home. Since I was taking a trip to visit, I found these for $25 and figured I’d buy them just to see what the extra money actually got her since the style, size, and descriptions are almost identical. There is a clear difference when you compare the imagines switching back and forth. THAT SAID - the difference the extra $225 made is not nearly as large as you’d expect. It's the Ultra fine details, the edges, and sharpness/clarity of the objects at distance that are noticeable. I honestly expected to be blown away how much better the Vortex was - but I wasn't. You’d really have to be an optics guy to appreciate the small difference in image quality. I mean the difference is there, but it's a very small difference.
I’m CERTAIN the Vortex is a “better” binocular, not to mention the support you get from a good brand that will stand behind a product they warranty without question. They simply feel better too as soon as you pick them up - but these two brands are extremely similar in feel, style and features. Meaning, for 90% - 95% of people these would be just as good as the Vortex unless you’re REALLY willing to spend a lot more money for not much difference. So if you are an average person that's looking to buy a set “just to have them”, to bring to a football game, to enjoy yourself outdoors, try your hand at birdwatching, etc… I wouldn’t hesitate buying these. If there is any chance of them getting lost, stolen, broken, or generally beat up - dont spend the extra money. If you decide later that you wanna buy something better, then consider these as your insurance in a backup pair, or a second set to lend to a friend. You really, really can't complain about what you get for the money.
The case is garbage compared to a vortex, it's just a basic pouch - but it serves its purpose. These even come with lens covers - just like the Vortex - (they don't fit as well) but buying those alone separately would probably cost $10. As far as bang for your buck - from an average guy's opinion, I can't see a better option than this. If I were to try to set a scale comparing them against the Vortex Diamondbacks, if the Diamondbacks were a 10 - these would be a 8.5 in an overall comparison (not just clarity). I can only imagine the difference between these and say the Vortex Crossfire’s (one step below the Diamondbacks) would be even smaller. When it comes to things like this, just like rifle scopes, small differences come at a big expense, and I imagine a large chuck of the cost for a pair of binoculars from a place like Vortex is to cover the costs of a large company and their marketing - which these don't have to pay for. At the price, you have absolutely nothing to lose. If you already have a good set, and just want a second pair - buy these. You’ll be amazed at how good these are for the money.
Lastly - for those who don't know what the number mean - (10x40) (12x50) - the first number is the power of the magnification (10 times closer, 12 times closer) and the second is the size larger lens (how big of an area it will allow you to see when you look through).
For bird watching, experts claim the ideal sizes are either 10x42 or 12x42.. you don't want something extremely powerful, but you want something with a larger lens so it's easier to find what you're looking for, and keep looking at it while it’s moving (like a bird, obviously, or even a football game, anything that can be moving at speed). A size 50 lens is physically bigger (and would give you a larger picture). But it’s a larger heavier set of binoculars - so the 42 lens is a great compromise!
For a easy way to think of it - to give people a rough idea, say a 12x20 you would be able to see a large bird at distance, but he may take up the entire “screen” (for lack of a better word) as you looked through those binoculars - where with a 12x45 set you would see the same bird just as large - but you’d also be able to see a large area around him. So it's easier to find him, and if he moves you can easily follow him and also see what's around him. There is not a huge difference between a 10x or 12x set of binoculars, so don't go crazy like I did. (I ordered and canceled 3 times before I finally picked what size on the Vortex). But if you were on the fence trying to decide if these were worth your money - Yes, they are. You’ll be surprised and impressed what the money got you." — Kevin

Get it from Amazon now: $99.89 & FREE Returns

 

3. Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars

Top-rated: 17,728 ratings | 78 answered questions


Hontry 10x25 Compact Binoculars

Highlight: Foldable, lightweight, compact!

Helpful review: "This is so amazing for the price. I enjoy hummingbird watching and until purchasing this I had no idea the beautiful colors these creatures embodied. Product is very easy to adjust, skim through the instruction to set my initial view and viola, I’m in for such a treat. Yesterday I was able to follow a squirrel to see how far it lives running across the wires. I was able to follow it 5 poles down before it went out of view even though I can still see it clearly through the binocular. Very happy with this purchase." — Kassy
"These Hontry binoculars are light weight and compact, but seem very solid and well made. They adjust to match the width of your face, and provide a crisp, clear view even in fairly dim light (but not in darkness). These binoculars should work great for concerts, sporting events, and bird watching, and they should easily fit in your car's glove box. They come with a strap, cleaning cloth, and easy to understand instructions in English. They also come with a case that resembles thin neoprene and seems well-sewn and in somewhat sturdier than the cases that came with some other binoculars I've ordered online. The case has a large front flap that's secured by a velcro strip. The best thing, in my opinion, is that a loop on the back of the case lets you carry these binoculars on your belt. That makes them great to take along when hiking, backpacking, or just walking your dog around the neighborhood. I live in an area renowned for its bird life, and these binoculars seem like the perfect size and weight for keeping handy on my belt any time I'm outdoors, in case I happen to spot a bird, animal, or anything else that deserves a closer look." — Shark Chaser

Get it from Amazon now: $43.99 & FREE Returns

 

4. Adasion 12x42 HD Binoculars

Top-rated: 14,857 ratings | 277 answered questions


Adasion 12x42 HD Binoculars

Highlight: Specifically designed for birdwatching.

Helpful review: "The birds, fish, frogs, and turtles in my neighborhood have become my new friends since social distancing began, and these binoculars have been spectacl-ar in helping me identify them. I’d never used binoculars before this new hobby, so here are some things I’ve learned that might be helpful to first-time users:
Binoculars always have two numbers in the spec, AxB. A represents the magnification – the bigger the number, the more zoomed-in the image looks. B represents the size of the objective lens, which is the piece of glass at the far end of the binoculars. The bigger the number, the brighter and clearer the image looks.
They also have a focus wheel that sits between the two halves, which you’ll have to rotate depending on whether you want to focus on something close or super far away. There’s also usually an additional fine tuner on the right eyepiece that will allow you to adjust for differences between your two eyes. So when using a pair of binoculars for the first time, you should close your right eye and use the focus wheel for just your left eye, and then close your left eye and use the fine tuner for your right eye. After that you can just directly use the focus wheel.
I had an old pair of Bushnell 12x25 binoculars at home before I got this Adasion 12x42 set. Here’s a comparison, with things I learned from experience:
1/ Size: The Adasion is bigger because of the larger objective lens. You can see the size difference in my first picture.
2/ Eyepiece: The Adasion has eye cups that rotate in and out, which give your eyes some breathing distance from the eyepiece lenses. You can see in the second picture the right eye cup has been extended while the left one has not. The Bushnell didn’t have this feature, so my eyelashes were always brushing against the glass, and the glass itself would frequently fog up.
3/ Straps: This seems like a trivial one, but it bothered me more than I expected. Bushnell’s straps attach at the center, while Adasion’s straps attach on each side. This results in the Bushnell hanging somewhat perpendicular to my torso, which makes it really annoying as it bounces along while I walk. The Adasion just lies comfortably flush against my torso.
4/ Protective covers: You can see these in the first picture. Each objective lens has an individual rubber cover that hangs off the end. If you don’t like them, you can remove them – they’re attached by a rubber ring that slides off easily. But I think they’re great and protect the glass from smudges. The eyepiece lenses have a joint cover that you take off completely; I only put it back on when I’m done for the day.
5/ Picture quality: The most important difference. You can see four pictures I took through both binoculars. Interestingly, I found that the Bushnell binoculars were very slightly more magnified than the Adasion. I actually prefer the wider field of view of the Adasion, which is more forgiving of unsteady hands. The Bushnell also starts to get blurry on the edges (see the fence and bench or the floating grass in the fish photo), while the Adasion is much clearer throughout. In addition, colors are a lot brighter through the Adasion, while the Bushnell is a bit faded.
This brings me to my last piece of advice: the smartphone adapter is pretty cool. I had no idea what a phone adapter was in the beginning – I assumed it was some kind of USB cable that digitally connected the binoculars to your phone, and you’d have to download an app or something to take pictures. Nope. So apparently, you can just hold up your phone camera to the eyepiece of any binoculars, have your phone “look” through the binoculars (monocular?), and you simply use the camera app to snap whatever your phone sees. It works surprisingly well as an amateur telephoto lens. That’s all I did to take the pictures from the Bushnell.
Turns out though, it’s kind of hard to hold the binoculars in one hand, your phone in the other, and both steady enough while maneuvering your thumb to snap the photo. It’s flat out impossible to take video. So the purpose of this phone adapter is to make it easier by holding your phone in place. It’s a very simple piece of hardware with a spring-loaded clamp around your phone, and a round cap that attaches to either of the binoculars’ eye cups. For best results, attach your phone without the eye cups extended. Righty tighty all the way. I find that provides the optimal phone-to-eyepiece distance for the best view from the camera.
I also did some extra research on phone adapters and tried to buy one for my Bushnell. The universal circular ones have a screw cap where the attachment can be expanded or contracted in order to fit any eye cup. But I actually found that the screw mechanism made the attachment so thick that my phone camera was too far away from the eyepiece to see much through it – all I got was a small hole. In contrast, the adapter that comes with the Adasion was built to fit the Adasion eye cups perfectly. It’s a nice snug fit so your phone (even a heavy iPhone 11) will stay in place at just the right distance from the lens and without needing any hand support.
Okay that’s as much as I’ve learned so far through my amateur explorations, hope you’ve found it helpful." — Leo H.

Get it from Amazon now: $149.00 & FREE Returns

 

5. SkyGenius 10x50 Birding Binoculars with Low Light Night Vision

Top-rated: 13,015 ratings | 164 answered questions


SkyGenius 10x50 Birding Binoculars with Low Light Night Vision

Highlight: Can be used at night (but not in complete darkness).

Helpful review: "My wife and I do a lot of camping, and over the years we've had to share my Bushnell 10 x 50 binoculars. I've wanted a second pair for a long time, but the sporting goods catalogs I get always want more than $100 for this size and quality. We were very pleased with the battery-operated fans we got from Sky Genius so decided to try their binoculars too.
The binoculars came well-packaged, the first place I check if a company is trying to go cheap. Boxed and secured in an air-filled outer wrapping, they were undamaged in transit. Amazon delivered them at night, so I quickly took a look around my neighborhood and was surprised I could clearly see a small porch light burning two blocks away and see what it illuminated. In the daylight, I did a side-by-side comparison with my older Bushnells. Both binoculars weighted about 1.1 pounds, and each came with a case, strap and cleaning cloth. However, it has always annoyed me that the lens covers of my Bushnells fall off inside the case (and sometimes on the floor of my truck) requiring me to hunt them down. The Sky Genius large lens caps are attached! The eyepiece covers are joined together making them easier to keep track of. The Bushnell strap seemed a bit wider, and the instructions for attaching the Sky Genius strap are printed with poor definition. It took a strong lamp for me to make out the black-on-black murky photos. Okay, a very minor quibble.
I've read the other Amazon reviews so I won't repeat the points they make. Using both sets of binoculars in the rain, I thought the Sky Genius ones produced a clear, sharper image. The image amplification was about the same. Their stated statistics are similar in the accompanying photo.
I always take off my eyeglasses to use binoculars because I get a wider field of view. This time, I turned down the eye cups and compared the two sets. That's were Sky Genius blew me away. The image using my eyeglasses was every bit as wide and clear as when I took my eyeglasses off and pressed the eyes to the cups. By contrast, my old Bushnells presented two small circles with a gap between them. I tried several adjustments but could not get the Bushnell binoculars to equal the Sky Genius image. Now I can enjoy and option about how to look through binoculars. I waited a long time to find reasonably-priced 10x50 binoculars that could match my Bushnells, and I got something better." — Amazon Customer

Get it from Amazon now: $39.99 & FREE Returns

 

6. Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

Top-rated: 6,356 ratings | 135 answered questions


Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

Highlight: Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection.

Helpful review: "Purchased the Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars, 10x42 version. I bought these binoculars for bird watching, which has specific requirements as opposed to sports events and nature hikes. I wanted a large enough magnification that I could easily see the birds, but also with a wide enough field of view so that when a bird hops from one branch to another – something they are prone to do – that they wouldn’t be lost out of frame. I also wanted a fairly light weight and sturdy construction, all of which I found in my choice. These binoculars provide a crisp, c