Searching for Good Binoculars

I’ve recently been in the market for a pair of good binoculars. I have a fairly good pair at work that was passed down to me from former Birds & Blooms editors. They work great for checking out the birds in the small woods outside my window. But the ones I have at home are horrible. I think I can see better on my own without my glasses or contacts instead of trying to get them to work for me.

My bird friend, Ken, tells me you’re not likely to get a good pair of binocs for less than $150. And I know there are ones out there that are several hundred dollars (some are even several thousand)! So what do you think? Do you have any tips for me? I’m currently considering the She line by Nikon (pictured here) because I figure Nikon is a reputable brand, and they are darn cute, too! How many of you have binoculars? Perhaps this would make a good “editors’ picks” product feature in the magazine. If I need help, surely others do, too.

Thanks for your tips and advice!

  1. Richard Hamlin says

    Steiner Military Marine 8×30. About $225.00 at Amazon. Adjust them for yourself once and you never have to touch a dial again. Not real pretty, but super functional and armored in case you drop them. I have had mine for about 20 years and still work great!

  2. Cheryl K says

    I love my Nikon pair. I bought them second hand from Ebay so I was able to get a little better quality than I would have otherwise been able to afford

  3. Susan says

    How much are you willing to spend? There is a range of possibilities, but I’d say for a good, life-time pair, plan on starting at around $200 new. You should also decide what your priorities are: cost, weight, light transmission (important for identification of the more subtle species), field of view, whether you wear glasses (including sunglasses), interpupillary distance (for those of us who are beady-eyed ;-)). Power is actually the last thing most people need to worry about, but it is often where most people start.

    There is no one “perfect” pair, but if you can narrow down what it is that is important to you, you can find a pair that suits your needs.

    And this is not a plug for my book, but I have a section in there that goes into some detail about what to look for in binoculars: How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook

    Good luck!

  4. says

    Stacy, I would strongly recommend that you go someplace that has a wide variety of options and try them all out. Near me, the New Jersey Audubon centers all have a great selection, and it was great to find the perfect pair for me by trying out every pair they had on hand. I discovered that I have very close inter-pupilary distance, and most manufacturers binoculars did not push close enough together so that I only saw one image instead of two. I would have continued to be completely frustrated without the ability to try out many different kinds.

    There’s also the way they feel in your hand, the weight, how close they focus (invaluable for butterfly watching), the coatings on the lenses, and in the case of the better brands, a lifetime warranty.

    I wouldn’t recommend buying based on an inexpensive price, but on having tried out as many pairs as possible until you find the perfect pair for you.

  5. Stacy says

    Thank you for all the advice! There’s a bit of danger in trying before buying because I tend to have expensive taste! But it’s great advice. I’ll let you know what I end up with.

  6. Doris R. McGee says

    I was so happy to see some suggestions for a good pair of Binocs. I really don’t know what to buy. I have many birds visiting my bird feeders in my back yard, but, would also like to identify some birds from the wooded area on my morning walks with my dog. Would welcome any suggestions. The suggestion of going to an audubon society was a good one, also look on Ebay too. I will look into it. Thanks Doris


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