7 of the Best Binoculars for Birdwatching in the UK in 2021
There are few better ways to spend an afternoon than with a pair of binoculars and a sky full of birds. Having the right pair of binoculars can be the difference between a successful day birdwatching and going home disappointed. We've compiled a guide to the best binoculars currently on the market for birdwatching, and what to look out for when choosing a new pair.
If you're new to birdwatching, our guide on identifying common British garden birds can help you spot which feathered friends are visiting your garden. Why not take your binoculars on your next camping trip? Make sure you read our guide to birdwatching near our UK Club Sites.
5 things to consider when buying new binoculars
There are various types of binoculars, coming in a wide array of sizes, with different magnifications and features. To simplify things, we've listed five things you need to consider when choosing the right binoculars for you:
The main thing you need to consider when buying a new pair of binoculars is: What will I be using them for? If you're thinking of buying a new pair for stargazing, you're going to need a different pair than if you want to try birdwatching. If you're leaning towards the latter, you'll need a different pair for spotting a sparrow at the end of your garden, then if you're spotting birds of prey in the Highlands. Take a look at the specification and find the ones that match your purpose.
Price is a huge factor when it comes to purchasing a new pair of binoculars. Depending on where you look, binoculars can range anywhere from £10 to £2,000 and beyond. Before deciding on a budget, you may want to decide on a few factors like what kind of birdwatching you're going to be doing, how often you're going and where you're going to be doing it. If you're going to be birdwatching for extensive periods in adverse weather, you may want to invest in a more expensive, albeit more reliable pair.
3. Size & weight
Generally, experts categorise binoculars into three size groups – compact, midsize and full-size. If you're planning on backpacking or hiking, then compact is the size for you as the binoculars will be easy to carry in your pack. Midsize models are bigger, but still comfortable to hold for long periods. They can also give you brighter images. If you want to maximise magnification, you may want to try a full-size model for something like stargazing. However, bear in mind that you may find these too heavy to hold for an extended period.
There are two main body-types to choose from when choosing new binoculars. Today, roof-prism models tend to dominate the market and have objective lenses straight in line with the eyepieces. Alternatively, Porro-prism models were standard until the 1960s, and feature the more traditional zigzag offset shape. Experts in sports optics disagree on which is better, or if there's much difference at all – it all comes down to personal opinion.
When choosing binoculars, you'll notice that each model's name will end in a specification, for example, 8x30. In this instance, 8 is the magnification figure and tells us how much larger objects will appear when looking through the lenses. For birdwatching, you'd want to see small figures located far away. Therefore you'd need a greater magnification. For reference, the second figure is the size of the lenses. In the previous example (8x30), 30 indicates that the lenses measure 30mm across. The bigger the lenses, the more light the binoculars will gather.
Our 7 favourite binoculars for birdwatching
1. Celestron Nature DX 8x42
The perfect companion for birdwatching in the Great British countryside, the Celestron Nature DX binoculars are an award-winning model. If you're thinking about taking the first step into birdwatching, this is the ideal entry-level pair to try, with a reasonable price and excellent quality of views. The Nature DX boasts phase-coated, high-quality BaK-4 prisms to increase contrast and resolution. This means they are ideal for birdwatching, due to the bright, sharp views of distinguishable markings and features.
View this model, prices from £99.99
2. Kowa SV II 8x32
The Kowa SV II are a compact, lightweight and waterproof pair of binoculars. The lenses and prisms are fully multi-coated, and the body is filled with nitrogen, protecting it against the elements. The stylish ergonomic design makes these binoculars ideal for birdwatching, due to their comfortability and simplicity of use. Tailor the binoculars to your requirements with the dioptre adjustment and twist-up eyecups.
View this model, prices from £229.99
3. Leica Trinovid 8x20 BCA
Holding their own against many larger models, the Leica Trinovid BCA are a high-quality, compact pair of binoculars. If equipment volume and weight are a concern, these handy pocket-sized companions are the ideal choice. The Trinovid BCA boasts many impressive features, such as reliable functionality, sturdy construction, high-class optics, weatherproof, compact dimensions and low weight.
View this model, prices from £450.00
4. Nikon PROSTAFF 7S 8x30
Having recently received a full redesign to enhance functionality and style, the Nikon PROSTAFF 7S binoculars are made for birdwatching and wildlife observation. This model is waterproof, fog-free and features an improved grip for handling during adverse weather conditions. The PROSTAFF binoculars not only deliver sharp images of exceptional quality, but they're also comfortable to hold for extended periods, at times like birdwatching. Also, the knurling on the focusing ring makes it easy and natural to adjust the binoculars.
View this model, prices from £169.00
5. Olympus Standard 8x40 S
With a large objective lens, the Olympus Standard binoculars are the perfect birdwatching model due to their wide field of view, making it quicker and easier to locate a subject. Even in low light, these binoculars offer high-resolution images due to the size of the lenses. When designing this model, Olympus wanted to maximise comfort, functionality and portability. They've certainly succeeded on all three counts, as the slim design and ergonomic controls make the Olympus a fantastic companion for birdwatching.
View this model, prices from £99.99
6. Opticron Savanna PC 8x33
Sharing many features with its Porro-prism sister, the Opticron Savanna PC has a single-axis roof-prism body and boasts clear bright images. This slimline, compact design has a dual-hinge assembly, providing plenty of room for fingers of all sizes. The Savanna's optical system delivers an impressive 7.0° field of view, making it easier to locate and track moving objects, like birds.
View this model, prices from £119.00
7. RSPB Puffin binoculars
Where better to find your new birdwatching binoculars than the RSPB? The RSPB is the UK's most prominent bird protection promotor and the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe. The Puffins are excellent, entry-level binoculars. Perfect for adults or older children, this model's lightweight design is ideal for long periods of birdwatching in the Great British countryside. Also, when you purchase a pair, you'll get a case, strap, pin badge and an informative birdy identification guide.
View this model, prices from £60.00
Try out your new binoculars by looking for wildlife at one of the UK's nature reserves. If you're looking for more advice on gear, take a look at our guide to the best backpacks for travelling.