If you're out on the water regularly and are looking for wildlife, then a good pair of binos is a must-have. Here's our pick of the best birding binoculars for sailors
If you are a keen wildlife watcher, choosing the best birding binoculars for use on your boat can be a challenge. The main issue is the pay off between the magnification/field of view and the stability (or lack thereof!) onboard.
The greater the magnification the more satisfying your wildlife watching experience but also the more settled your platform needs to be. A tight field of view and great magnification will also tend to make you pretty nauseous when at sea and be virtually useless for finding lights and other vessels, the primary purpose of marine binoculars.
For many boaters, the compromise can be too much and so keen wildlife watching sailors will often carry two sets – a good quality, wide field of view set for onboard and a higher magnification, smaller field of view pair as their best birding binoculars for settled anchorages.
There is some techy stuff around binoculars that you need to get your head around before you purchase. The essentials are the field of view and the magnification. Most marine binoculars are 7×50, which means they magnify things by 7 and have quite a large diameter lens at 50mm letting in lots of light and making the field of view larger.
Wildlife binoculars range hugely but often people compromise with a 10×48 set which gives good magnification but doesn’t need a tripod to keep them steady.
Other factors to take into account are the weight and robustness. If you have a habit of dropping your bins (as I do) then armouring is a godsend.
Best birding binoculars for onshore use
Leica Noctivid 8×42
If money is no object and quality is what you are after you can score a truly great pair of binoculars for around £16-1800. These beautiful Leica binos cost more than that even, but they do offer the highest quality optics, robust yet light weight frames. Every design choice has been made to create a comfortable, high quality experience for the user so the eye pieces are larger and better and the focus wheel is precision engineered to ensure the perfect focus is achieved as easily as possible.
Zeiss 10X42 Terra ED binoculars
These are a lovely set of bins. At 10×42 they offer great magnification and the slim build combined with the Zeiss optics – who are renowned for their extremely high lens quality – making for a lovely piece of kit.
Water resistant, compact, robust. They are expensive, but you won’t regret it.
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars 10×42
Vortex originate in America but their warranty is worldwide and unlimited. They do a huge range of binoculars to a very high standard so you can spend hundreds or thousands depending on your budget. I have a Vortex Crossfire set and love them. Good price point for me so I don’t have to worry too much about smashing a hugely valuable set (see the clumsy clause above) and yet the optics are stunning. I particularly like the vibrancy of light you get through them.
Opticron Adventurer II WP 10×42 Binocular
A lovely slimline set of bins, perfect entry pair for the budget conscious. Good optics, easy to use and robustly made with a good reputation for quality. Only a 2 year warranty though so you may need to replace them in the not too distant future.
Best birding binoculars for use at sea
Steiner Navigator Pro 7×50 marine binoculars
Steiner do a lovely range of binoculars and although these are not exactly a budget option they are not so expensive as to be unthinkable for those who want a fairly general purpose options. This set is waterproof and ruggedised to a degree and includes and inbuilt compass so they will be very handy for splitting both navigation and bird watching duties. Their magnification is about as high as you would want to go on an unstable platform.
Fujinon Mariner 7×50
Robust and reliable these Fuiinon Mariner binoculars sit in the medium price range and will do you well onboard. I like the shape of these binos and prefer them to the more squat look of the Steiner. Certainly they do tend to feel a little more settled in hand than the Steiner. The optics aren’t quite as good but you will still enjoy good use of these binoculars. Like the Steiners they also offer 7x magnification and an inbuilt compass.
Celestron 10 x 50 Outland X Binocular
You can buy a reasonable set of 10×50’s for less than £100, but this set by Celestron offers some really nice features including a rubberised case and nitrogen fill for better light transfer. They might not be priced at the very bottom of the market, but for those looking for a set of binos that could do the job for navigation and wildlife observation, you’d struggle to find a better pair for this price.