If you’ve found your way to this article, you’re clearly in the market for a new set of binoculars under £100.
Firstly, let me welcome you to BarfPetFoods – we’re glad you’re here – and, once you’ve finished reading this exceptionally instructive article, we’re sure you’ll be glad you found your way here too!
To ensure today’s post is as informative and helpful as possible, we’ve pooled all of our bird watching binoculars knowledge and expertise to construct an article that tells you everything you need to know. We’ll detail all of the factors you must take into consideration prior to buying a new pair of binoculars, then furnish you with what we feel are the best bird watching binoculars under £100.
In short, once you’ve read the entirety of this article, you’ll be more than equipped to head off and make a purchase straight away. No fluff, no filler; just pure, unadulterated, valuable advice that’s here for the sole purpose of making your life that little bit easier.
So, without further ado, let’s delve into the world of bird watching binoculars.
(If you’re clued up about magnification, lens size, field of view, and the like, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this article, where we list our top picks for bird watching binoculars under 100).
The Ultimate Guide To Buying Bird Watching Binoculars: Things To Know
If you were to ask the average person looking to purchase a new pair of binoculars what’s most important to them, it’s highly likely that the first word to come out of their mouth will be ‘Magnification’.
Now, this isn’t a slight on those people at all, as, after all, we all want binoculars that will allow us to see as far as we can. However, when buying a new pair of bird watching binoculars, it’s crucial to look beyond merely magnification. Sure, magnification is essential, but there are numerous other factors that must be thought about before committing to a purchase; otherwise, you may end up with a pair of bird watching binoculars that can see really far but aren’t very well suited to you.
At this point, you’re probably thinking one of two things:
- ‘Yes, I’m fully aware that there are other factors that must be taken into consideration before buying binoculars. Can you please just tell me which are the best models under 100 now, please?!’
- ‘What other factors? Tell me more, please!’.
If thought No.1 is going through your head and you’re already aware of everything that needs to be mulled over prior to buying binoculars, feel free to skip this section and move along to our list of the best bird watching binoculars under 100 further down the page.
However, if number two is the predominant thought in your head, we’ll now discuss everything you need to know before buying a new pair of binoculars. While some of the factors might not be relevant to you, it’s essential to think about all of these pre-purchase considerations as it can only have a positive impact on your binocular choices both now and in the future.
So, without further delay, let’s have a look at the 12 most important factors you must think about before buying any pair of binoculars.
#1 – Magnification
There are no two ways about it; magnification is exceptionally important. After all, it tells you how far you’ll be able to see into the distance and how close up you’ll be able to view things. When looking at binoculars, you’ll no doubt see two numbers with an ‘x’ in between them, for example, 12×40. The first number represents the magnification power, with the second number telling you the diameter of the objective lens (which is just the lens size).
It’s important not to be drawn in by higher magnifications simply because they’re higher. This is because many binoculars that offer 10+ magnification won’t produce a crystal-clear image, which is the last thing you want when you’re bird watching (no one wants to see a blurry bird!). Most binoculars will have a magnification of between 8 and 10, as this is typically the best balance between a decent amount of magnification and maintaining a clear image.
# 2 – The Diameter of the Objective Lens
If you’ve ever walked into a shop that sells binoculars, you’ll be aware of the range of size binoculars come in due to the variety of lens sizes available.
Why is lens size critical?
Well, the size of lens will determine precisely how much light can enter your binoculars, which, in turn, affects image quality in low-light conditions. A bigger lens will also affect the size and weight of the binoculars, which is also something to consider.
Lens size and magnification both contribute to the amount of light a pair of binoculars are able to collect and, therefore, the brightness of the image that can be produced. Let’s take a look at some examples to explain how this works.
If two pairs of binoculars have exactly the same magnification but a different lens diameter, the pair with the larger lens will allow more light in and, therefore, produce a brighter image. However, if two pairs of binoculars have a completely different magnification but have the same lens size, the pair with the lesser magnification will show a clearer image.
If your preference is for birding at dawn or in the evening, opting for a larger lens size would allow more light in, therefore improving the clarity of the image.
#3 – The Field of View
Magnification tells you how far you’ll have the ability to see (close up), whereas the field of view tells you how large your field of view will be, i.e. how large the area you’ll be able to see when looking through your binoculars.
When looking at binoculars, the field of view is typically represented by a number in feet, which is the width of the area you’ll be able to see from a distance of 1000 yards away. We typically recommend opting for a pair of bird watching binoculars with a field of view of between 300 and 375 feet, as binoculars in this range are generally made especially for bird watching. Anything less than 300 feet may make it hard to keep an eye on a bird flying through the air with accuracy and speed.
#4 – Size & Weight
Back in the day, some binoculars were hefty enough to do a full bicep workout with; however, as technology has advanced, the weight of binoculars has decreased, and the vast majority of binoculars on the marketing now weigh between 400g – 900g.
Although size and weight is ultimately down to personal preference, it’s crucial to consider how, when, and where you’ll be using your binoculars; if you don’t, you may find your bird watching isn’t a fruitful or enjoyable as it should be. Some birdwatchers actually prefer weighty binoculars as they feel sturdy and durable. However, on the other hand, others have a preference for lighter binoculars that they can easily store and carry around in their rucksacks all day. If you’re unsure, we’d recommend gravitating towards the latter category as in 2021, even light pairs of binoculars are becoming increasingly durable.
#5 – Type of Glass
Glass type is another critical element when buying binoculars. Cheap binoculars will often use plastic instead of glass, which will fog up very easily and will wear down quickly too; for this reason, always avoid cheap binoculars.
However, it isn’t just a case of discarding the cheap binoculars, and that’s it; you must also examine what the glass contains. For example, some manufacturers still use arsenic or lead in their manufacturing processes. While these are two substances you really want to avoid at all costs for health reasons, they will also have a profound impact on brightness and clarity.
On the flip side, low-dispersion glass or crown glass (BK-7) are two things you should look out for.
#6 – The Prism System
No, not the prison system, the prism system. In the world of binocular manufacturing, there are two primary types of prism system that are used: the Porro prism system, which involves an offset path from eye to lens, and the Roof prism system, which is a straight path from eye to lens. Although the former is generally accepted as being the superior option, both prism systems have their own pros and cons. The reason the Porro prism system is touted as being better is due to the fact it costs less to produce
Binoculars that contain the Porro prism system are commonly heavier but produce an image with a wider field of view. Binoculars that use the Roof prism system are often easier to hold and typically lighter. Therefore, if the vast majority of your birdwatching takes place from a stationary position, we would recommend the former, whereas if you’re always on the move, we recommend the latter.
#7 – Eye Relief
‘Eye relief’ refers to the distance between the eyepiece of the binoculars and your eye, which typically has an impact of the field of vision. For example, a pair of binoculars that have long eye relief with, in most instances, have a wide field of vision. In fact, some binoculars may even have adjustable eye relief, so you can ‘tune in’ to your surroundings and expand or shorten your field of vision as you see fit.
If you wear glasses, it’s likely you’ll require binoculars that come with proper eye relief to ensure that the focus and image quality aren’t distorted.
#8 – Exit Pupil
How bright the image in your binoculars appears is dependent on four primary factors: prism system, lens size, magnification, and exit pupil size. Like lens size, exit pupil size will impact the brightness of the image you see, i.e. the larger the exit pupil size, the brighter the image will be.
#9 – Digital Features & Technology
In 2021, there are a wide array of digital features and technologies available in binoculars. Of course, for binoculars that cost under 100, the features won’t be particularly significant in number, but that doesn’t mean that shouldn’t make yourself aware of what features available.
One of the newest features is ‘ID technology’. Sadly, this doesn’t ID birds (I’m sure that will exist one day!), but it does tell you the distance between you and the bird you’re watching. This feature is probably more useful for hunters but is an interesting feature for birders nonetheless.
One of the most useful bits of technology for birders who like to bird watch at dusk or during the night is infra-red technology. If you’re a fan of owls and will spend the vast majority of your time bird watching at night, infra-red night vision is an absolute must! No one wants to have one hand on a torch and the other on your binoculars! Once, because it’s much more difficult to hold two things than one, and secondly (and probably most importantly) because torch light will likely scare the owl away!
If you like to photograph birds as well as watch them, having a pair of binoculars that comes complete with a camera is the way forward. It will allow you to kill two birds with one stone (not literally, of course!), which, let’s face it, is always the best way to proceed if you want to make things easier for yourself– no pun intended! Most regular cameras don’t come with sufficient enough zoom to allow you to get a really good photo of a bird flying high in the sky, so if you’re a fan of photographing birds, it’s certainly worth considering a binocular/camera combination. Plus, having photos of birds makes identifying and logging far easier!
#10 – Durability & Weather Resistance
Unless you only go out bird watching in good weather, it’s always wise to look at how durable and weather-resistant potential binoculars are. At the end of the day, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and prepared for all eventualities – particularly here in the UK with our predictably unpredictable weather!
Having everything waterproofed, i.e. your clothes, bag, camera, binoculars, etc., will make your life much easier if you get caught out in the middle of a downpour. Furthermore, having a pair of binoculars that are fog-resistant is also a wise move here in the UK. Why? Because birding in the fog is both fun and very rewarding, many bird species will flock together in foggy conditions.
#11 – Guarantee & Warranty
We used the phrase ‘it’s better to be safe than sorry’ above, and this is something that we echo where guaranties and warranties are concerned. Guarantees and/or warranties are essential for all products – but they’re especially important for binoculars, given that so many different things can potentially go wrong. For example, the lenses may fog up rapidly, the materials crack or break, the zoom doesn’t work correctly, there are imperfections in the lenses…the list could go on and on. Or, you may just not like how they feel in your hand or simply not get on with them. Either way, a guarantee or warranty is vital as it protects you against defaults and allows you to give new binoculars a try for a few days without having to worry.
#12 – Cost
Last, but certainly not least, we’re going to discuss price. Now, if you’ve made your way to this article, you’re probably looking to spend under 100 on a new set of bird watching binoculars; however, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get clued up on how price differs between brand, models, manufacturers, features. The more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make.
Where price is concerned, the first question to ask is ‘What is my primary reason/goal for using this product?’.
Are you a professional bird watcher? Are you someone who enjoys the odd stint of bird watching when out and about in the countryside? Or perhaps you’re somewhere in between. Regardless of where you sit on this scale, it’s important to get perspective on price and what is available to you within a certain price range.
The price of binoculars widely varies and can range from £50 all the way up to £1,000+. However, just because a good proportion of binoculars will cost more than 100 doesn’t mean that there aren’t high-quality options available for under 100 quid. In fact, unless you’re a professional, there’s no point in spending more than a few hundred pounds unless you have cash to burn and really want to spend the money on new technology. At the end of the day, a more expensive pair of binoculars won’t make you a better birder. Granted, more expensive binoculars may very well provide brighter images with greater clarity and a wider field of vision, but there are plenty of binoculars under £100 that will do the job handsomely also.
Bird Watching Binoculars: What Magnification is Best?
Ok, so now we’ve discussed all the various factors that should be taken into consideration before purchasing a new pair of bird watching binoculars, it’s time to get to the question that I’m sure most of you are champing at the bit to know the answer to.
We are, of course, talking about the question: ‘What magnification is best for bird watching binoculars?’.
If there’s one question we hear more than others where binoculars are concerned, it’s ‘What magnification should I get?’ or ‘What magnification is best for bird watching?’. After all, there’s so much (often contradictory) information out there; it’s challenging to know what the right answer is and which magnification you should opt for.
Well, in this section, we’re going to answer this question once and for all and explain which are the best magnifications for bird watching. Although there’s certainly a degree of ‘how long is a piece of string?’ about this question, it’s definitely possible to give a concrete answer, so a concrete answer we shall give!
Rather than going through all the options and then coming to a conclusion, we’re going to turn things around and start with our recommended magnification and then discuss why we’ve chosen said magnification. After this, we’ll discuss other potential options and throw in a few other golden nuggets of advice to give you even more of a helping hand.
Ok, so here’s our opening gambit:
8x power is the best magnification for bird watching binoculars.
Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s go into why we think this and everything else magnification related that you must know before purchasing a new pair of binoculars.
Choosing The ‘Right’ Magnification
Another one-line statement for you: The vast majority of bird watchers will use binoculars with a magnification somewhere between 7x and 10x.
However, even though this section is dedicated to magnification, it’s important to acknowledge another highly important variable that will impact what you can see and how clear your image is, namely, the objective lens’s size. At the end of the day, it’s pointless discussing magnification without mentioning objective lens size (and vice versa).
Magnification and objective lens size will determine such things as the weight and size of the binoculars, how much light they’re able to gather, how wide the field of view is, your ability to hold the binoculars (steadily!), and, of course, the price.
Objective lens size will determine how much light your binoculars are able to gather and, therefore, will directly affect how bright the images in your binoculars appear. The larger the objective lens, the better you’ll be able to see birds in low-light conditions.
The question is, how do you know what is the right combination (of magnification and objective lens size)?
Well, a good rule of thumb to follow is using the ratio of 5:1 ratio of objective lens size to magnification. For example, 10×50, 8×40, 7×35 etc. (which is why all of these are very common binocular sizes). This ratio is called the ‘exit pupil’, which is often listed in a product’s specifications, so always keep an eye out for it when browsing for binoculars.
At this point, I know some of you are thinking something along the lines of: ‘Wait a second, in the section above, you said 8x magnification was best, yet now you’re saying a 5:1 ratio is best. Which is it?”.
Well, the 5:1 ratio is just a general guide that will help give you the best balance between objective lens size and magnification, i.e. if you want to opt for a magnification that isn’t 8x, choose binoculars that have a 5:1 ratio.
Using the above logic and combining the 5:1 ratio rule with the 8x magnification is the ‘best’ for bird watching rule; it would appear that the answer is to always choose 8×40 binoculars…right?
Not quite (!).
In fact, 8×42 is my preferred option.
Let me explain.
8×42 binoculars offer a touch more brightness than binoculars that conform precisely to the 5:1 ratio. In fact, many other popular bird watching binocular sizes, such as 8×32 and 10×42, are much dimmer than both 8×42 and binoculars that conform to the 5:1 ratio, meaning in low light conditions, our visibility will be compromised.
It’s natural to think that opting for a larger objective lens and magnification, such as 10×50 (which conforms to the 5:1 ratio), would be an even better option; however, once you start going beyond 42mm objective lens, weight and size may start to become an issue. Sure, you’ll have more magnification and a wide field of view, but it’ll take a lot more strength and stamina to keep the binoculars as still as possible. In fact, it’s been shown that binoculars with 10x magnification will have around 30% more image shake than binoculars with 7x magnification.
What About Compact Binoculars?
Of course, 8×42 binoculars aren’t going to be for everyone. Those who are happy (and have the strength) to hold heavier binoculars will no doubt want a bigger pair, whereas those who are constantly on the go and want lightweight, compact binoculars may prefer something a little smaller. If you’re in the latter category, there are several options that will suit you well and give you decent enough image brightness and clarity.
Compact bird watching binoculars have regular magnification, i.e. between 7x and 10x, yet come with a smaller objective lens, typically less than 30mm. As you would expect, they are lighter, smaller, and more easily squeezed into a pocket, rucksack, or bag.
Of course, given the smaller objective lens size and resultant lower ‘exit pupil’, they won’t perform particularly well in low-light conditions and aren’t a good choice for everyday binoculars. Still, they do make a great pair of ‘back up’ bird watching binoculars, that’s for sure. I always keep a pair of 8×25 in my car just in case I see something of interest. They fit snugly into the glove compartment, so they’re perfect for impromptu (and typically brief) bird watching sessions.
What About Other Sizes?
Here are some other common sizes and our thoughts on them for bird watching:
8×32: A great compromise between full-size 8×42 binoculars and 8x25mm binoculars. Won’t perform as well in low-light compared to 8×42 but will certainly perform better than compact models. A good option for those who want a lightweight pair of binoculars but don’t want to sacrifice too much optical quality.
10×42: A good option for those with stronger arms or who are interested in open country birding. However, the higher magnification means a narrower field of view and sub-optimal performance in low-light conditions.
10×50: Another option for those with very strong arms. 10×50 binoculars have exceptional brightness in low light conditions; however, they’re not typically recommended for bird watching due to the weight and potential image shake.
The Best Bird Watching Binoculars Under £100: Our Top Five Pairs
Now it’s time to check out the best bird watching binoculars for under £100.
Given that we recommend 8×42 for general bird watching; 8×25 for compact binoculars, and 8×32 as the best’ middle ground’ option, here are our top picks in each of these categories:
EyesKey HD 8X42 Binoculars
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Field of View at 1000 yards: 356ft
Exit pupil diameter: 5.25mm
Relative brightness: 27.04
Eye relief: 17.8mm
Prism glass: BAK-4 (roof prism)
Dimensions: 5.7” (length) x 5” (width) x 2.1” (height)
Given how much we’ve waxed lyrical about the magic of 8×42 binoculars for bird watching, it should come as no surprise to see a pair of 8x42s sitting atop our list.
But what makes this pair of binoculars from EyesKey such a good choice?
- This particular model comes with Coated BAK-4 roof prisms. This means that multi-layer coatings are applied to every single mm of the lens and prism surfaces that transmit light, meaning that light transmittance across the entire visible light spectrum is vastly increased. In turn, this reduces the potential loss of light caused by reflection, which ensures much greater clarity.
- They’re user friendly. It’s very easy to overly focus on the specs of a pair of binoculars, but we think user-friendliness is of equal importance; after all, if a set of binoculars isn’t user friendly, you’re less like to use them. This pair from EyesKey has an ergonomic rubber casing, which not only makes them comfortable in hand but also makes them lightweight. The bane of any bird watchers life is a pair of binoculars that are too heavy and/or uncomfortable to hold, so we’ll happily champion binoculars that focus on user-friendliness in equal measure to performance.
- They’re durable and weatherproof. EyesKey’s HD 8×42 are both O-ring sealed and nitrogen-purged, meaning they’re good to go in pretty much all conditions. Who wants to be in the field with a pair of binoculars that are susceptible to changes in weather, humidity and the like? Not us, that’s for sure!
- They come with added extras. Let’s be honest, we all love added accessories – especially when they’re completely free! EyesSky’s HD 8×42 binoculars come complete with a carry case, cleaning cloth, lens covers, and neck strap.
- They come with a lifetime warranty. If you’ve read the article all the way through, you’ll know just how important guarantees and warranties are, so it’s great to see a brand including a lifetime warranty.
- The price. As of April 2021, these binoculars are under £64. Yes, you get all of the above for well under £100. Sure, they’re not the best binoculars in the world, but for the price, they are an absolute steal.
Our verdict: For the price, you’re not going to find a better pair of 8×42 bird watching binoculars. Period.
Nikon BAA710AA Sportstar EX 8×25
Objective lens diameter: 25mm
Field of View at 1000m: 143m
Exit pupil diameter: 3.125mm
Relative brightness: 9.6
Eye relief: 10.0mm
Prism glass: Roof Prism (DCF) Central Focusing
Dimensions: 5.7” (length) x 5” (width) x 2.1” (height)
If you’re looking for a pair of compact bird watching binoculars under 100, this pair from Nikon should definitely be on your list. Here’s why:
- Nikon is a reputable brand renowned for making first-class optics, and this pair is definitely ‘first class’ when it comes to quality (don’t worry, we’ve thoroughly tested this pair, not just assumed they’re great because of the brand!).
- The BAA710AA model uses high-quality roof prisms and multilayer-coated lenses to ensure superior light transmission, which result in exceptionally bright and clear images even in low light conditions. Of the 8×25 binoculars we’ve tested, this model has the brightest image in poor light.
- They’re durable and weatherproof. Given the lightweight nature of compact binoculars, it’s easy to worry that smaller models will not stand up to the rigours of being out in the field, but once you’ve used this pair of binoculars, you’ll realise just how resilient they are. Not only are they fog-proof, they’re waterproof up to two metres for five minutes! Plus, they incorporate O-ring and nitrogen gas technology to ensure sudden changes in weather won’t adversely impact your view.
- They’re compact. Now, this may seem like a strange thing to say given that their size, i.e. 8×25, they should be ‘compact’ by their very nature; however, some 8×25 binoculars on the market aren’t as compact as you’d think or like them to be! This model, however, is super-compact and easily fits into a pocket or small bag without you even knowing they’re in there. Perfect.
Our verdict: In our opinion, Nikon’s BAA710AA Sportstar EX 8×25 binoculars are the best compact binoculars under 100 quid on the market today. Performance, durability, and a lot of ‘bang for your buck – a wonderful triumvirate.
Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8×32 (BAK-4)
Objective lens diameter: 25mm
Field of View at 1000 yards 388ft
Relative brightness: 9.6
Eye relief: 17.5mm
Prism glass: BAK-4
Celestron’s 713300 Nature DX 8×32 are our number pick for 8×32 bird watching binoculars under £100. As we stated above, 8×32 is the perfect compromise between the power of an 8×42 pair and the compact, lightweight nature of an 8×25 pair – and this set from Celestron ticks all the boxes handsomely.
Let’s take a look at why we (and many others) rate these binoculars so highly:
- The combination of fully multi-coated objective lenses and phase-coated BAK-4 prisms means you get a lot of light transmission, resulting in clearer, brighter images – even when used in low-light conditions. Of course, it won’t match an 8×42 pair, but the 71330 Nature DX will eclipse most other 8×32 models on the market (under 100) where light transmission is concerned.
- They’re incredibly tough. Durable rubber armour plus a sturdy polycarbonate housing means you’ve got a really solid pair of binoculars in your hands – without feeling over weighty or too cumbersome. Plus, they’re also waterproof and fog-proof.
- They’re tripod adaptable. If you’re the owner of a monopod or tripod, this pair can be mounted with ease using the Celestron tripod adapter (sold separately). Although most bird watchers won’t mount 8×32 binoculars due to their lightweight and easy-to-hold-steady nature, it’s a nice option to have should need to mount them.
- Extra accessories. As you can probably tell, we love added accessories, and this set comes with quite a few, including a case, lens caps, eyepiece rain guard, neck strap, and lens cloth.
Our verdict: What more is there to say? In our expert opinion, this is the best pair of 8×32 bird watching binoculars currently available on the market. Period. You will not be disappointed.
While the above three binoculars sit firmly atop our pile of bird watching binoculars under £100, that doesn’t mean to say there aren’t other decent options out there.
We’ve scoured to far reaches of Amazon’s vast online marketplace, and these are our ‘best of the rest’ bird watching binoculars.
Amazon Eono HD Professional Binoculars for Bird Watching (8×42)
Our verdict: With clear and bright images, lightweight construction, and a 25-year warranty, you can’t go wrong with these binoculars from Amazon.
Celestron 71340 Outland Binoculars (8×25)
Our verdict: These came a very, very close second to Nikon BAA710AA Sportstar EX 8×25 as there’s really not very much between these two high-quality sets of 8×25 compact binoculars. Whichever you choose, you’re getting an exceptional pair of compact bird watching binoculars.
EyesKey Wayfarer 8×32 Binoculars
Our verdict: As we’ve already learnt, EyesKey make really rather good binoculars, and this set of 8x32s is no different. If your budget is 50 quid and under and you’ve got your heart set on 8×32, this pair is you should opt for.