Good binoculars

Hi there everyone. I have been thinking about getting a pair of binoculars for birdwatching and was wondering if any of you no of a good pair for around $100 nzd.


Not sure about NZ (I think prices for some goods are kinda high there due to import fees), but Nikon’s Monarch and Prostaff lines are generally some of the best quality for money.

I use them for our conservation work in SE Asia and I’ve found them to be equal to or better than Swarovski and Zeiss binoculars of the same spec, but massively higher cost.

Opticron has some good entry-level ones too.

Take a look on Kiwi Binoculars to see what they have. When you come across something that catches your attention go look up the reviews of it elsewhere to see what independent sources think of it.

Realistically, for a decent pair of entry-level binoculars (waterproof, fog-proof, nitrogen gas filling, etc) you’re looking at a minimum of US$250-350. They didn’t used be be so expensive, but it seems like prices have gone up across the board.

For birdwatching I recommend 10x. Anything up to 10x is pretty easy to hold steady by hand (I use these on boats often), but beyond that (eg. 12x or 15x) shaking becomes an issue and expensive stabilized binoculars enter the discussion. 8x is a popular magnification, but I am never satisfied with that for looking at anything other than landscapes.

It’s a decent amount to shell out at once, but it’s cheaper than buying lower cost items that break and need to be repeatedly replaced.

As Terry Pratchett said via Captain Samuel Vimes in the ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness:

The reason that the rich were so rich…was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.


I have no experience with different binoculars aside from the one pair I bought a couple years ago. I followed an advice of buying binoculars with a magnification between 8x-10x, and I chose 8x because I really wanted to avoid shaking.

I decided how much I wanted to spend, and went to a shop, tried a couple in that price range and concluded that I would probably be satisfied with the one I found. If you are on a budget, I would recommend you go out and try some within that budget and decide if it feels right for you or you’d rather wait until you can afford some more expensive one. I think any binoculars is always better than no binoculars at all.

The binoculars I bought was Focus Extreme 8 x 42 I don’t remember the price but it was between 270 - 360 nzd (1200-1600 DKK). I have been completely satisfied with those.

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I don’t have any thoughts on the right type of binocs or brands to buy new, but just a suggestion to consider used. I’ve found solid pairs of binocs at yard sales (that’s what we call them in my part of US, not sure about elsewhere) or you could also check online listings and such.

If they’ve been well cared for, binocs will keep working practically forever and the “tech” doesn’t really get outdated. You can also pretty easily assess what shape they’re in and how they work for you in a couple of min with them in your hands. So if you’re on a budget and not 100% sure what you want, a used starter pair may serve until you have a stronger preference and more money.


I’ve also been thinking about getting binoculars for the first time. I have small hands and a small face (eyes close together – when I use a microscope I just smush the eyepieces as close together as they’ll go). Are there any brands that make lightweight binoculars that are easy for smaller people to grip and look through?

I would look in person but, well, coronavirus.

I love Terry Prattchet!

I use the Vimes approach to binoculars most of my life, getting deals and spending lightly. Few of them lasted. The ones that lasted were too heavy to use and so stayed in a case in the closet or back of the car. Most of the rest never had a good picture or were too hard to use or lost the clear picture over time as the internals shifted.

For several years now, I have a nice little pair of glasses I bought with the help of a birder expert: Vortex 8.5x32 waterproof Spitfire. I’m not sure if they still make this model, but I imagine Vortex has a similar model.

They were a bit costly, but not hugely expensive at the time (well under $200, I think). They are small enough that I don’t mind carrying them, they work well with or without my glasses, and they have proved to be quite durable. I know people with bigger versions of the Vortex field glasses; and they are lovely if I do not try to hold them very long, but I am happy with my compact version.

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Hello, Indeed the standard for bird watching are 8x42 binoculars. You will need to invest at least $ 200 to $ 300 and nowadays, with new manufacturing techniques, all binoculars are good, even at this low price.


Hello, The “Konus” brand seems to offer very good prices. For my part, I trust “Vortex” for the warranty and after-sales service. You can visit this site to explore:

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See the “Get in the Game” category. If you have the money, get something in the “Good Value” category. I was currently looking at the Celestrons. But, I have a pair from Vortex and am VERY happy with them. You can’t go wrong with Nikon, either.

Check with local birding groups. See if you try a pair before you buy them. Go to a store that serves birders and not a general sports or hunting store. Take the binoculars to a window and look through them for distance. Take your time. Most people feel comfortable with 8x. But, some can hold 10x steady. It is personal preference.

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i have 2 sets of 10x50 binoculars that i bought for about $35 USD each. one is a Porro prism design, and the other is a roof prism design. for birding during the day, i’ll use the roof prism one because it’s lighter. the optics on the Porro prism one are superior, but they are heavy around my neck. i typically leave that pair at home, or i might use them at night to, say, look at the moon or look for owls.

barring the prism type, i don’t think you’ll really notice that much of difference between optics in binoculars under $150 USD. around $200 USD or so, you will notice a difference in the quality of the optics, but that’s beyond your stated budget. so i think just get the cheapest pair you can that has the other features you’re looking for. more than likely, it’ll be good enough. worst case, if you buy a really cheap pair and decide you need more, you can keep the cheap pair as a spare in your car or for friends.

it may be worth noting that i probably place less reliance on my binoculars than other birders that i know. a lot of times, i will use my camera anyway, since i might as well get a photo, and its range is longer than binoculars, more comparable to a scope, and it’s also easier to show the bird to others if the bird flies away. when doing bird surveys, i find that it’s good to have some folks looking through binoculars while i use my camera. the photos tend to help resolve some conflicting identifications and can get birds that don’t stick around for long. we tend to get better bird survey results that way.


Welcome to the forum @LNDR

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Thank you all very much for your comments and ideas.

I think I will try this one out-

Those look fine, but they don’t appear to be waterproof. That’s a bigger deal than you might imagine and it’s worth considering that issue.

Non-waterproof optics get moisture inside of them not just from rain, but from condensation when changing temperatures, and that moisture leads to internal fungus growth (this is a serious problem for photographers and their lenses when working in humid climates).

If you keep them in a dry place with decent airflow to completely dry them out after use they shouldn’t have much of an issue, but it is something to consider.

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If you can swing it, get Swarovski. They are the best optics, build and service that are currently available and are well worth the money. If you do get them, compare sometimes with someone else’s binocs and you’ll appreciate the differences in field of view focus, field of view size, light gathering, etc… or perhaps they’re best appreciated if you experience lesser quality binocs first and work your way up to them.

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I definitely don’t have the money.

The Swarovski quality really only comes into play for the higher end models. At work we have Swarovski, Zeiss, and Nikon Monarchs of the same specs (10x42) and the Nikons outperform both the Swarovski and the Zeiss by a lot, and they’re a fraction of the cost.

When you get to the high end models Swarovski makes some excellent gear, but having used them and other brands head-to-head I can’t ever justify anyone getting them for basic level binoculars.

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Hello, look around in other online stores you could find them for even less.

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I’m going to make a plug for Vortex here. I had their 8x32 Diamondbacks for about 8 years and thought they were a good enough bino for most of what I do. Well, the eyepiece lens fell out last month with a minor bump. Sent them to Vortex for repair under their unlimited warranty. Two weeks later, I had them back… well almost. They don’t make that model, they sent me a new set of their 8x32 HD binos. Yep, the optics are very good. Difficult to tell from my Leica 8x32 BA.

I would recommend saving until you can get something with similar warranty policy. And I’ve been happy with my Vortex.

edit: 8x32, oops


We find that even the low-end Swarovski CL 8x32’s are vastly superior to any binocs we’ve owned or used. We’d have saved a fair bit of money, gone through much less hassle, and enjoyed terrific optics for a much longer time had we bought those originally (if they’d been available back then), instead of going through the various pairs (one set for each of us) of Bushnells, Bausch & Lombs and Nikons, all of which were/are optically inferior, designed and built poorly by comparison, and with company service policies so poor as to make them irreparable when any problems occurred (e.g. broken seals; swivel screw to connect neck strap drilled directly into ocular barrel such that when it pulled out, foreign material could enter the chamber; being charged for repairs and receiving binocs back without having been repaired). We now find the EL 8x32’s, EL 8.5x42’s, EL 10x32’s and the spotting scope to be entirely worth the money, and have also had ample opportunity to compare to other brands. So, each to his own… If Swarovski is generally out of one’s price range, understood completely, though.

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That portion is fair. One of the things you’re paying for with higher end gear is the long-term service and repair policy. Often less expensive gear doesn’t have good policies on that end of things.

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