Best Binoculars for Wildlife Viewing

The 4 Best Binoculars for Wildlife Viewing (2020 Review)

When looking at wildlife, it is very common to be too far away from an animal to get a good look at it.

That is why binoculars are a great investment if you are planning on looking at wildlife.

When my long-time friend went on a safari earlier this year, he bought a pair of low quality binoculars behind my back. They had a high price tag, but their quality was horrid! When I asked him how his safari went, he said “It was great! But my expensive binoculars broke!”

That moment made me realize that there are many people out there that need help choosing a good pair of binoculars for viewing wildlife. Finding binoculars that provide you amazing bang for your buck is not easy work.

I wrote this article to help people out if they were in the same situation my buddy was in. 

I looked at quality, price, and value for the dollar when choosing the binoculars for this list. Since not everyone has the same budget, I went ahead and found the best value pair of binoculars in multiple price ranges.

Let’s begin.

1. Bushnell H2O Roof Prism, 8x42mm

Best budget binoculars for wildlife viewing.

Pros:

  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Textured rubber for non-slip grip
  • Twist-up eye-cups
  • Right eye diopter
  • Slim & compact
  • Large center-focus knob for easy focusing
  • Multi-coated optics for superior light transmission
  • Tripod Mount optional

Overview:

    • Magnification: 8x
    • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
    • Manufacturer Stated Field of View: 410 (ft@1000yds)
    • User Reported Field of View: 325
    • Eye Relief: 17mm
    • Roof Prism
    • Angle of View: 7.8°
    • Close focus: 12ft
    • Exit Pupil: 5.3mm
    • Weight: 25 oz
    • Dimensions: 5.91 in x 7.76 in (max unfolded width)

Cons:

  • 2-year limited warranty
  • Not ideal for low-light settings such as stargazing
  • Reported actual field of view far smaller than manufacturer claim

Bushnell has been in the business of sports optics for 65 years, and reviews of their high-performing products are always strong. The Bushnell H2O Roof Prism Binocular is no exception and by far delivers the best quality for under $100.

There seems to be some disagreement over the field of view on this pair of binoculars. The manufacturer claims 410 ft@1000yds while customers and resellers claim between 305 and 325 in actual use. Regardless, the field of view is respectable for an 8x42mm set.

Though other pairs in this price range (such as the Nikon 8245 Aculon A211) can bring you a wider view, the Bushnell H2O delivers a crisper, brighter image thanks to the BaK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics. And the right-eye diopter allows you to easily adjust the focus to your individual preference.

A larger lens means more light makes it to your eye, and this pair of binoculars has some of the brightest lenses available in both their price and size ranges, but unfortunately they are not well-suited for skygazing or low-light settings in general. You’ll see more stars than with your naked eye, of course, but this pair can only bring those planets and stars 8x closer.

The real bonuses with the Bushnell H2O are in the details — details that are common in the more high-end binoculars but unexpected in such an inexpensive pair. The eye relief is a whopping 17mm, which is a good 5mm higher than comparable pairs (the 8x42mm Aculon is the next best thing at 12mm), and makes these ideal for eyeglass wearers on a budget. The waterproof case and fogproof lenses make these binoculars durable and perfect for any outdoor activity. And, thanks to their use of the roof prism rather than the porro, they’re fairly lightweight at only 1.5 pounds, though you can find lighter pairs of lower quality in this category.

The thoughtful touches of the Bushnell H2O Waterproof Roof Prism Binoculars (See at Amazon) rival pairs twice their cost, and they’re best-suited for nature viewers who want high-performance in both landlocked and marine settings.

ALSO READ: “2020’s Best 10×50 Binoculars (An In-Depth Review)

2. Athlon Optics Midas ED, 8x42mm

Best value binoculars for wildlife viewing.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Twist-up eye-cups
  • Right eye diopter
  • Slim & compact
  • Large center-focus knob for easy focusing
  • Multi-coated optics for superior light transmission
  • Tripod Mount optional
  • Good low-light performance
  • Extra-dispersion glass

Overview:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Manufacturer Stated Field of View: 426 (ft@1000yds)
  • Eye Relief: 17.2mm
  • Roof Prism
  • Angle of View: 8.1°
  • Close focus: 6.6’
  • Exit Pupil: 5.25mm
  • Weight: 25oz
  • Dimensions: 5.7in x 5.2in

Cons:

  • Minimum focus distance 6.6’
  • Heavier than the other models in the same performance and price range

Athlon Optics has only recently become a serious competitor in the binoculars market, thanks to a global price decrease in precision manufacturing for optics. However, like the Bushnell H2O, the Athlon Optics Midas ED Binocular blew other models in its category away thanks to high-end optics and luxury details.

The same BaK-4 prism we saw in the Bushnell provides more light to your eye and increased image clarity, while the multi-coated ED (extra-dispersion) glass removes chromatic fringe. The pairing translates into excellent low-light performance in the Midas binoculars, outshining even the price-comparable Celeston, a brand known for rivaling telescopes for their stargazing uses.

The Midas’s field of view is outstanding at 426 ft@1000yds and their angle of view clocks in at over 8 degrees. The Vortex Diamondbacks, long accepted as the best binoculars available in this category, only offer a 393 ft@1000yds. Strangely, given the impressive detailing on these lenses, the minimum focusing distance is far worse than other models in this range at 6.6’. For most nature viewers, that minimum distance won’t be an issue, but it is a small drawback with this pair.

With a right-eye diopter, adjustable eye cups, and smooth central focusing knob, the Athlon Optics Midas ED Binocular offers easy focusing customization for individual needs. And the eye relief beats even the Bushnell H2O at 17.2mm, making these ideal for eyeglass wearers.

Unlike other budget pairs, the Athlon Optics Midas ED Binocular doesn’t rely on plastic parts to cut manufacturing cost, but unfortunately all of the luxurious metal hinges and details do result in added weight to the binocular. The Midas weighs in at 25 ounces, nearly 4 ounces heavier than the Vortex Diamondbacks. For the more adventurous outdoor enthusiasts that extra weight is worth packing, though. The Midas is both waterproof and fogproof, and the hard chassis plus metal detailing keep dust from sneaking into the case as well as protecting the binocular in both high and low temperatures.

The rugged durability and unexpectedly great low-light performance make the Athlon Optics Midas ED Binocular (See at Amazon) perfect for those nature viewers who plan to seek out extreme conditions or intense weather.

3. Vortex Viper HD, 8x42mm

Best high budget binoculars for wildlife viewing. Great for frequent users.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Twist-up eye-cups
  • Locking right eye diopter
  • Large center-focus knob for easy focusing
  • Proprietary multi-coated optics for superior light transmission
  • ArmorTek coating prevents exterior lens scratching
  • Tripod Mount optional
  • Excellent low-light performance
  • High Density extra-low dispersion glass

Overview:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Manufacturer Stated Field of View: 409 (ft@1000yds)
  • Eye Relief: 18mm
  • Roof Prism
  • Angle of View: 7.8°
  • Close focus: 6.5’
  • Exit Pupil: 5.25mm
  • Weight: 24.5oz
  • Dimensions: 5.6in x 4.9in

Cons:

  • Heavier than the other categories, but still the lightest in their range
  • Higher close focus distance

Although the Athlon Optics Midas ED edged the Vortex Diamondbacks out of the top slot for the Under $300 range, Vortex Optics came back for victory and took this category with the award-winning Vortex Viper HD Binoculars.

The jaw-dropping image clarity in these lenses is rivaled only by pairs with a four-digit price tag, and easily beats the Vortex Diamondback, Athlon Midas, and even the Nikon Monarchs 7 and 5. The same BaK-4 roof prism we saw in the Bushnell and Athlon is advanced with proprietary coatings in the Viper model — providing that increased image clarity mentioned above — while the High Density extra-low dispersion glass removes chromatic fringe for excellent low-light performance. All these extra touches on the lenses and prisms make the Vortex Viper HD one of the only lower-price pairs able to compete in high-definition with the winner of our high-end category.

The Vortex Viper’s field of view is outstanding at 409 ft@1000yds and their angle of view clocks in at 7.8°. But the Viper suffers from the same issue with close focus as the Midas did, with a fairly large minimum focusing distance of 6.5’. As mentioned previously, most nature viewers won’t be affected by this issue, but it could be an annoyance for some.

The Viper has the same easy focusing customization as our previous winners with adjustable twist-up eye cups and central focusing knob, but the Vortex Viper HD goes a step beyond by including a diopter with locking capabilities. The 18mm the eye relief in this pair beats every other winner on this list, making these perfect for eyeglass wearers.

The Viper HD weighs in at 1.5 pounds. Truthfully, you can find lighter, more compact binoculars in this range, but the Viper out-performs most of the full-size pairs in its range. At this level of quality, they’re still the lightest of comparable full-size pairs on the market. The Viper is both waterproof and fogproof, and the hard-chassis provides durability in intense conditions while its rubber armor maintains a non-slip grip for the user.

The Vortex Viper models have won multiple awards for performance, and it’s easy to see why.  The proprietary coatings on these High Density extra-low dispersion glass make the Vortex Viper HD Binoculars (See at Amazon) perfect for those nature viewers who have the extra budget and want the very best image available in this range.

4. Vortex Optics Razor HD Roof Prism, 8x42mm

Best bang for the buck expert level binoculars for wildlife viewing.

Pros:

  • Lifetime warranty
  • 100% waterproof and fogproof
  • Twist-up eye-cups
  • Locking right eye diopter
  • ArmorTek coating prevents exterior lens scratching
  • Proprietary multi-coated optics for superior light transmission
  • Tripod mount optional
  • Amazing low-light performance
  • High Density extra-low dispersion glass

Overview:

  • Magnification: 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Manufacturer Stated Field of View: 388 (ft@1000yds)
  • Eye Relief: 17.5mm
  • Roof Prism
  • Angle of View: 7.4°
  • Close focus: 6’
  • Exit Pupil: 5.3mm
  • Weight: 24.2oz
  • Dimensions: 5.9in x 5.1in

Cons:

  • Smaller field of vision
  • Small percentage of users report slippage with the locking diopter
  • Higher close focus distance

Despite some serious competition from the Nikon Monarch HG, Vortex Optics once again took the top slot in this category, this time with their award-winning Vortex Razor HD Binoculars. Ultimately, our choice came down to image resolution and some amazing proprietary touches on the Vortex Razor HD.

The Vortex Optics’ Apochromatic optical system (APO) provides a sharpness in color that is unmatched in other models, even in this high-end category. As with the Viper model, the Vortex Razor HD pairs a BaK-4 roof prism with the Vortex-standard premium High Density extra-low dispersion glass. Their proprietary coatings on the lenses and prism glass and their coating application process lead to increased brightness and clarity and fantastic high-definition image resolution. The Razor gives an amazing low-light performance that blows all our previous winners away.

The Razor HD’s field of view is respectable at 388 ft@1000yds with an angle of view of 7.4°, though it is far worse than the Nikon Monarch HG at 435 ft@1000yds. The Vortex Razor’s close focus drops down to 6’, edging the Nikon (at 6.6’) out again.

The Vortex Razor HD includes a locking right-eye diopter, twist-up adjustable eye cups, and central focusing knob, offering easy focusing customization for individual needs. Unfortunately, a small percentage of users have reported issues with the locking mechanism on the diopter slipping; thankfully the Vortex offers a lifetime warranty for the full binocular, but it is an annoyance. The eye relief is great at 17.5mm and makes these perfect for eyeglass wearers.

The Razor HD weighs in at a little over 1.5 pounds. The increase of quality alone makes them worth packing, and they’re still one of the lightest, most compact pairs on the market in this category. The Razor is both waterproof and fogproof with a hard-chassis for increased durability and fully-body rubber cuts the danger of noise pollution and provides a non-slip grip for the user.

The Vortex Razor HD (See at Amazon) may not have the best field of vision on the market in this range, but its high-definition images are impossible to match. This pair is ideal for all nature viewers who have the extra budget. The proprietary coatings and applications on these High Density extra-low dispersion glass earn the price tag on the Vortex Razor HD Binoculars.

ALSO READ: “The Best 12×50 Binoculars of 2020

Conclusion

That wraps it up for my list of the best binoculars for wildlife viewing. By choosing one of these binoculars on the list, you ensure that you’re getting the best value binoculars for the price you pay.

I hope you found this article helpful, and as always, make sure to share this with your friends and family!