Birding binoculars under $500?

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texasdiver
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Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by texasdiver » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:30 pm

I think there are some serious birders here. We recently moved into a house that backs up against a wooded greenbelt and are getting more into birding. The small pocket binoculars I own just aren't quite cutting it.

After reading a variety of online reviews I came up with the Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 and the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 models as top choices in my budget. My local sporting good store had both models in stock but only in the 10x42 size as they are more hunting oriented. So I tried those out. They felt and looked nearly identical and seemed equally bright, although I thought the Nikon felt slightly more comfortable in my hands and quicker to dial in. But the difference was so subtle to be negligible and maybe imaginary. They are both essentially the same price online.

Does anyone have any other models to look at and recommend before I pull the trigger on one of these? They seem to get pretty identical online reviews, although Vortex seems to have more fanboy enthusiasts.

McCharley
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by McCharley » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:38 pm

Hey, TD,

You seem to have done your homework! The only thing I might suggest is that a camera rig with a solid telephoto might be more fun for bagging your birds. :beer

The Wizard
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by The Wizard » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:41 pm

The better birding binoculars are electronically stabilized, right?
Attempted new signature...

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TxAg
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by TxAg » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:44 pm

Despite the fanboys, I hear a lot of bad reviews on Vortex from people that actually know glass.


You might also look at Minox. I’m very pleased with mine. They are the Minox BL 10x44 HD that I found for $280 (listed as displays at Camera Land NY). Normally they’re closer to $500.

texasdiver
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by texasdiver » Sun Feb 11, 2018 11:13 pm

McCharley wrote:
Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:38 pm
Hey, TD,

You seem to have done your homework! The only thing I might suggest is that a camera rig with a solid telephoto might be more fun for bagging your birds. :beer
I do have a Canon superzoom camera but honestly I really just want something to keep on the kitchen counter to use to look across our yard to the giant trees behind and then for occasional hikes and birding walks.

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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by Carter3 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:25 am

The only reason I clicked on this thread was to tell you to go with vortex... then I saw it was one of your options. In that price range you can't go wrong.

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pjshen
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by pjshen » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:43 am

I think you have identified the best candidate: Nikon Monarch. My backup binocular is the Monarch 5 which provides a good-quality image. Of course, my high-end Leica has a slightly better image though at more than three times the Monarch's cost. Unless you have shaky hands or expect to use the binoculars a lot at dawn/dusk, I'd recommend the 10x over the 8x. That said, the 8x may be easier to use for novices because the larger field of view can allow you to find the birds even if your targeting is a bit off. Also, I'd personally opt for the Monarch 5 and save the extra $200 or so (see https://procular.com.au/nikon-monarch-5 ... inoculars/). If you catch the birding bug, you could then allocate the saved funds towards a high-end ($2000) binocular someday. Good birding! :D

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just frank
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by just frank » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:04 am

The price per quality function on binos is super non-linear. I think 90% of people can't visually tell the difference between a $500 and a (good) $100 pair. The price on quality optics has fallen through the floor in the last 10 years, but a lot of folks have $1000 pairs from years ago, and they could go out and get something better today for $200 but they are in denial.

I have some bino nuts in my family, and frankly it just gets in the way....they spend a bundle, and then don't bring them on trips b/c they are afraid they will get lost. Their kids go on trips, and they won't lend them to them....to expensive you see.

The best pair of binos is one that you have on hand when you want them. And that you don't need to share because you bought two pairs.

If you DO want to spend money, get canon image stabilized with higher magnification, like the 15x45s are about $500 if you can find them. Go smaller/cheaper if the weight is an issue. They will show you more birds than any other handheld pair at the price.

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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by jebmke » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:22 am

I have used 10x and 8x for birdwatching. If you are going to look at small birds that flit around, 10x is not helpful. It is too difficult to find the target and stay on it. They are OK for shore birds and waders but frankly, for those, you really need a spotting scope.

We looked at several manufacturers in the same price range and settled on Leupold. Leupold had slightly better glass than the Monarch and the close focus was better. Leupold has very fast focusing which is important when tracking small birds. That said, the Monarch binos are very good. I was unable to use the Vortex due to blacking. You have to really try every pair under consideration as the fit can make a difference.
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by Chip » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:27 am

My wife has the Vanguard Endeavor ED 8x42 Binocular that I bought her five years ago. They've been used for birding in Guatemala and Panama, as well as somewhat less exotic locations, like our backyard. She's very happy with them. They're now about $230 on Amazon. You could buy two pairs and still hit your budget, or reserve the balance towards a scope & tripod.

We are semi-serious birders (the truly serious can be seen in the movie "The Big Year" -- highly recommended). We have had Pentax 8x42s and Swift 8x42s. The Pentax pair died an early death due to a drop on concrete. The Swifts are still excellent after 25 years of use, though I understand the quality of the current models isn't what it used to be. Or maybe it's the value equation...

A friend has a pair of Swarovski binoculars. The image quality is breathtaking. So is the price.

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camper
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by camper » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:47 am

Go Vortex.
I'm a hunter and have had my fair share of optics.
Good quality and can't beat the Vortex no questions asked warranty. I've utilized it and was amazed at the quick turnaround time.

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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by Sidney » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:52 am

Chip wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:27 am
A friend has a pair of Swarovski binoculars. The image quality is breathtaking. So is the price.
When you get a chance to look through the really high end glass it really is noticeable -- especially when doing side-by-side. A couple of years ago we went shopping for a spotting scope and managed to talk ourselves up to springing for a Leica scope. The light gathering and clarity of the high end are noticeable. Some day I may have to talk our way up to higher end binoculars inasmuch as we use them more than the scope.
I always wanted to be a procrastinator.

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praxis
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by praxis » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:12 am

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/six-steps ... 1518451249

Here's a link for Cornell's tips on buying birding binoculars. Their website is full of birding knowledge.

Cornell University's Ornithology Lab is known worldwide. They periodically publish a binocular rating chart for birding binoculars. I bought my Nikon Monarchs using their 2013 chart and am happy with them. If you are really into birding, someday you'll want a spotting scope. Binoculars with 8X magnification give you a smaller image but it's wider, brighter, and easier for finding and following birds with less hand shake.

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vitaflo
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by vitaflo » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:17 am

just frank wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:04 am
The best pair of binos is one that you have on hand when you want them. And that you don't need to share because you bought two pairs.
This. I got the Vortex Diamondback for this reason. Nice binoculars for only $200. I don't need to worry about them. I thought about the Viper HD which are very nice but realized that I would worry more about the $600 weight around my neck than I would using them. This is the same reason I don't buy expensive hiking gear. I always figure there's a sweet spot for outdoors stuff. Something nice enough to not be garbage but not too expensive where you're always thinking about what it cost you.

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Sandtrap
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by Sandtrap » Mon Feb 12, 2018 11:22 am

texasdiver wrote:
Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:30 pm
I think there are some serious birders here. We recently moved into a house that backs up against a wooded greenbelt and are getting more into birding. The small pocket binoculars I own just aren't quite cutting it.

After reading a variety of online reviews I came up with the Nikon Monarch 7 8x42 and the Vortex Viper HD 8x42 models as top choices in my budget. My local sporting good store had both models in stock but only in the 10x42 size as they are more hunting oriented. So I tried those out. They felt and looked nearly identical and seemed equally bright, although I thought the Nikon felt slightly more comfortable in my hands and quicker to dial in. But the difference was so subtle to be negligible and maybe imaginary. They are both essentially the same price online.

Does anyone have any other models to look at and recommend before I pull the trigger on one of these? They seem to get pretty identical online reviews, although Vortex seems to have more fanboy enthusiasts.
You're correct. Vortex is the high priced "flavor of the month.
Nikon, being a camera lens company, has exceptional glass. Whether scopes, binoculars, and so forth.
j :D

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Jimbo9911
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by Jimbo9911 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:10 pm

I have Nikon Monarch 3 for hunting and they should be just fine for birding. Very clear for the price.
The binocs are great but the end cap covers are quite poor and will not stay in place when covered.
Than may not cause you a problem as they do come with a case.

Jim

edited to correct the name of the binoculars
Last edited by Jimbo9911 on Tue Feb 13, 2018 3:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

bhsince87
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by bhsince87 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:19 pm

I am also a huge fan of image stabilized binoculars. They're a game changer for me. My everyday birders currently are Canon 10X30's.

That is a feature you really must try in person before you buy. I would never be without it anymore. But I have friends who can't even tell a difference when the stabilization is turned on or off.
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by carolc » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:35 pm

We bought the Nikon Monarch 8x42 last fall. Compared it to several others in the store but liked this one the best. Very happy with the decision.

carolc

mrgeeze
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by mrgeeze » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:41 pm

By far the most useful set of binoculars I have found recently are the Swarovski CL compact glasses.
I know they are twice your budget but they truly are phenomenal.
Of course the optics are first rate... they are Swaro's.

More important is the small size. It makes carrying them everywhere very easy.
We find our times on the trail much better with these and a small ultrazoom than lugging the big gear.
If you travel a lot they fit in a purse. certainly a backpack with no trouble.

FWIW
As a fisherman out on the ocean, I find stabilized binocs to be helpful.
I think its much less necessary... especially at your budget.

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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by GmanJeff » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:58 pm

I have a pair of Leica binos and my wife has Monarchs. The Monarchs are excellent binos at their price point and we have no regrets at having purchased them. Leica performs better, but were significantly more expensive and the Monarchs suffer only in direct comparison. They are still very good by any standard.

texasdiver
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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by texasdiver » Mon Feb 12, 2018 12:59 pm

Thanks for the Swarovski and Leica recommendations. But I've got a daughter in college and 2 more on the way so a $2 grand pair of binoculars is so not happening in our household!

If anything I'll choose to spend less and get a $275 pair of Monarch 5s.

My retired dad who is much more into birding is always lugging a spotting scope and tripod around on his hikes. I'm not there yet but it is impressive. And obviously the way to go for serious wildlife viewing.

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Re: Birding binoculars under $500?

Post by inbox788 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:23 pm

There's an app for that.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/merlin- ... 57673?mt=8
https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... .app&hl=en

I was never interested in birds, but I stumbled upon the app and now I'm starting to pay a little attention. Been using some general purpose binoculars, but I like the idea of telephoto lens on camera to capture images. It's a very hard to take pictures of small fast moving things far away and you'll need a lot of patience and serious equipment to get some of the great shots.

The amateur binoculars I have been using are either too small (7x25) or too heavy (10x). I thought the sweet spot for birding was 8x32, but that might be more for the portability on hikes and such.

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