Best Bird Watching Binoculars 2022

Binocular Reviews Home > Birding Binoculars > BBR's Best Birding Binoculars 2022 Awards

Annual Binocular Awards LogosThis page consist of the winners of the Best Binoculars for Birding 2022 in a range of sub-categories and forms part of the main 2022 BBR Bino Awards. As always, I also highlight a number of winners from previous years which I feel are still well worth your consideration.

Best 8x42 Birding Binoculars 2022

General, All-Round, Value-for-Money, Birding Binos for use in a variety of conditions & environments

In this first section I am looking for a very high-performance instrument, but not at any price. So whilst not cheap these winners have what I would describe as an excellent performance to price ratio and are what I consider to be right at the sweet-spot in this regard. As well as this core price to performance ratio, they must also possess many other attributes like a wide field of view for example that make them an ideal all-round birding binocular:

Two Winners, the same as last Year!
As with last year, I have been spoilt for choice in this particular area and have tested many excellent instruments that I would describe as being an ideal all-round birding binocular.

Both the GPO Passion ED 8x42 (winner in 2020 & 2021) and the Hawke Frontier 8x42 ED X binoculars (winner in 2019 & 2021) are not only very evenly matched, but both make extremely good binoculars for birding, and thus I knew that it was always going to be tough for any instrument to come along and beat them this year. So whilst I have tested several very good binos, in my opinion, there were none that I would consider to be better than these two for what I would describe as a general, all-round birding binocular.

Therefore and as with last year, because I really can't bring myself to separate or choose between them again, I have decided to have joint winners and let you opt for which you prefer the most! So listing them in alphabetical order, the two best general birding binoculars for 2022 are:

1. GPO Passion ED 8x42 Binoculars

By combining excellent quality materials and coatings and an extremely high degree of workmanship and all at a very competitive price, German Precision Optics (GPO) has produced an instrument that delivers an exceptionally bright, high-quality view with an impressively wide field of view which in my opinion makes them an ideal all-round birding binocular.

Excellent Quality Image
The GPO Passion ED 8x42 binoculars incorporate many top-end features and components including ED (extra-low dispersion glass) elements in the lenses, Schmidt-Pechan roof prisms that are both dielectrically coated, and phase-corrected that all come together to a bright, superior quality image.

Extremely Wide Field of View
As most birders will know, having a wide field of view is an extremely important feature as it enables you to more easily find and then follow your subjects, this is especially true of the small faster-moving ones at closer range. At 426ft wide at 1,000 yards, these GPO binoculars have an extremely wide view that ranks up there with the very widest 8x42 binoculars that I've ever come across.

As well as great quality optics, I found these GPO binoculars to have an excellent build quality and a general performance that was well above what I would expect to find in just about every area.

Main Highlights & Details:

  • Mid to High-End Binoculars. approx: $350 / £400 / €400
  • Single Top-Hinge Body Design
    • Magnesium Chassis & Bridge
    • Water & Fogproof (Nitrogen purged)
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • ED Glass Lenses
  • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Mirror Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • Very Wide Field of View: 426ft at 1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 6.6ft
  • 18mm of Eye Relief

Outstanding Quality at a Reasonable Price

Buy & Compare Prices: GPO Passion ED 8x42 Binoculars

2. Hawke Frontier 8x42 ED X Binoculars

From having the same width of view to the same amount of eye-relief and same close focusing distance and many of the same or similar high-end optical features, the superb Hawke Frontier 8x42 ED X binoculars are in many ways very similar to the GPO Passion ED's above.

High-Quality Optics & Excellent Image
Like the GPO, the Hawke Frontier ED-X incorporated ED glass elements within their lenses and have phase-corrected and dielectrically coated roof prisms. One area where they do differ however is that these Hawke's also include extra water repellent coatings on the outer lens surfaces. These all added up to give them a superior and I must say outstanding 9/10 score for the optical components used and an almost perfect 9/10 for the image quality. Which for an instrument at this price level is as good as it gets.

Wide Field of View
Measuring 426ft wide at 1,000 yards, these Hawke binoculars have the same extremely wide view as the GPO above, both of which rank up there with best and both are what I would consider as being wide-angle binoculars which as I have already mentioned is often especially important for many types of birding.

Main Highlights & Details:

  • RRP: $389.99, £389.99 retail price approx: $400 / £380
  • Single Hinge Body Design
    • Magnesium Chassis
    • Waterproof & Fogproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • ED Glass Lenses
  • BaK-4 Roof Prisms
    • Dielectric Mirror Coatings
    • Phase Corrected
  • Very Wide Field of View: 426ft at 1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 6.6ft
  • 18mm of Eye Relief

Outstanding Quality at a Reasonable Price
Considering the level of optical and exterior components used and the high quality of their construction, the relatively low price point of $349 / £389 is seriously impressive:

Buy & Compare Prices: Hawke Frontier ED X Binoculars

Also Very Highly Recommended

Made in Japan, the Opticron Imagic incorporates just about the highest level of optics that you could wish for (especially at this price), but almost more importantly, this quality is backed up with a superior image.

Exceptional build quality and I do like the fact that the Fujinon HC has it's own unique styling which really sets it apart from the many, many other very generic looking instruments currently flooding the market.

Best of the Best Birding Binoculars 2022

The winner in this section is quite simply the very best binocular for birding that I have ever tested and reviewed here on BBR and is ideal for those who simply want the best no matter the price:

Swarovski EL 8.5x42 Binoculars

Swarovski EL 8.5x42 Binoculars - Best of the Best Birding BinocularsWinner of the overall award for binocular of the year in 2016, and scoring an eye-watering 93% on the BBR scale, which to-date is still the highest score ever achieved, the latest version of the 8.5x42 Swarovski EL is in my mind still the best overall binocular for birding that I have come across and thus have no hesitation in recommending it in 2022 if you want the ultimate birding binocular.

Standout Highlights:
Scoring a perfect 10/10 for both the optical components used and the resulting image quality, there is no doubt that the use of the best glass, coatings, and their obvious technical expertise translates into an incredible view, which is matched by a few, but in my experience never surpassed as the view through the Swarovski EL 8.5x42 is simply superb and most certainly a highlight that cannot be overstated.

Build quality and the quality of materials and components used on every single aspect of this product, including the accessories is as good as it gets. Period.

The eyecups and 20mm of eye-relief is excellent and whilst not class-leading, the field of view is up there with the best in this size category, which if you consider that they actually have a slightly more powerful 8.5x magnification than the usual 8x, makes it even more impressive and as we know, a wide FOV is an important feature for most types of birding.

Body Build & Components Quality: 9/10 93%
The VERY Best
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Components Quality: 10/10
Optical Stats: 9/10
Image Quality 10/10
Extras & Details: 10/10
  • Alpha- Level Binoculars - approx - approx $2100 / £1500 / €1500
  • Magnesium Chassis
  • Fog & Waterproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated
  • Dielectric Coated, Phase Corrected Roof Prisms
  • Wide Field of View: 399 @ 1000yds
  • Min Focus Distance: 4.9ft
  • Long Eye Relief: 20mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Swarovski EL Binoculars

Best Backyard / Forest Birding Binoculars 2022

Hawke Endurance ED Marine 7x32

Hawke Endurance ED Marine 7x32 BinocularsWhilst these Hawke binoculars are designed with marine uses in mind, they have a number qualities and features that make them a perfect birding binocular for use at closer ranges and or when light conditions are not ideal, yet you still want something a little smaller and more lightweight to carry about than a full sized instrument.

This includes a lower 7x magnification, that enables the very wide field of view which is great for quickly locating and then following fast or erratic moving birds at closer ranges (like in your back garden or a forest).

The lower power also ensures they maintain a relatively large exit pupil which helps maintain a bright image in sub-optimal light conditions.

Highlights Include:

  • Mid-Level - approx $299 / £230
  • Mid Sized, Single Hinge Body
  • Water (IP67) & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filled)
  • 32mm Objective Lenses with ED elements
  • Phase Corrected BaK-4 Roof Prisms
  • 7x Magnification for more stable images & wider views
  • Very Wide Field of View: 145m @ 1000m / 435ft @ 1,000 yards

For more information, take a look at the video below as not only do I go over some of the main features of these very interesting Hawke marine binoculars, but I also discuss how they are perfect in a number of areas other than the marine world.


Current Price & Where to Buy: Hawke Endurance ED Marine Binoculars

Best Low Cost Birding Binoculars 2022

Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Best Low Cost Binocular 2021 - Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 BinocularsThe very moderate 6x power combined with mid-size 30mm lenses and a traditional Porro-prism shape all combine to produce an extremely versatile and easy to use binocular suitable for older children and adults alike and I could easily put it forward as a contender in many categories. Already a winner in the main BBR Awards section as the best low-cost binocular, I have no hesitation in describing them as an excellent choice for many types of close-range wildlife observation and birding, be that in forests or just your back garden.

6x30 Configuration
Combining a 6x magnification with 30mm lenses makes for an interesting combination and I am somewhat surprised that it is not more commonly found: Firstly it produces 5mm exit pupils (30÷6) which is more than decent and for a mid-sized instrument is large, which along with quality optics and coatings play a big part in maintaining a bright image in low light conditions.

As well as helping produce a larger exit-pupil the lower power also makes it easier to maintain a more steady, shake-free view. Another huge advantage is that it helps produce a wider view. Measuring 420ft wide at a distance of 1000yds, the field of view on these is really impressive allowing you to quickly locate objects (especially smaller ones) and then follow them if they are fast and erratic moving (like birds for example). So as a close-range birding binocular (be that in forests or just backyard birding), or a binocular to take to an outdoor sporting event where you will see more of the action without having to pan the view about, these are certainly a good choice.

Porro Prisms
Whilst not as compact, at this lower price point Porro prism binoculars like these are often optically superior, delivering brighter, better quality views when compared to low-cost roof prism binoculars. For the reasons why, see Cheap Binoculars – Is a Roof or Porro Prism Best? and I found these Opticron Savanna WP binoculars to be an excellent case in point as they produce a remarkably bright image considering the small 30mm lenses and in my opinion, the quality is easily amongst the best in this class and matches that of far more expensive instruments.

  • Low Cost - approx $130 / £100
  • Comfortable Porro Prism Body Design
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filled)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Porro Prisms
  • 6x30 Configuration = Large 5mm Exit Pupil
  • Wide FOV: 420ft at 1,000 yards / 140m at 1,000 meters
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 9.8ft / 3 meters
  • Eye Relief: 21mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Best "Compact" Birding Binoculars for Low-Light 2022

Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32

Best Compact Binoculars in Low-Light 2021 - Opticron Discovery WP PC 8x32 BinocularsWith it's 32mm lenses, this Opticron Discovery WP PC is not in the strictest terms a true compact like those featured down below, and would certainly not win the award for the most compact binocular out there.

However, due to a very clever design, it is still a very small binocular and less bulky than most mid-sized instruments and thus it is my pick as an excellent choice for a "compact" birding binocular to use in low light conditions.

By utilizing a really condensed optical design this incredible Opticron Discovery has the same outer dimensions as many of the larger true compacts yet is way smaller than most other mid-sized binoculars with similar-sized objectives.

Thus the real beauty of this is that the combination of the larger 32mm objectives and the really high-quality glass and coatings means that you still get the same higher performance of high-end, mid-sized optics (when compared to a true compact), but in a package that does not look out of place in a line-up of these true compacts! Unless the size is critical, it is a definite win-win situation but is especially important if you need or want to maintain a good low-light performance.

If you compare the Opticron Discovery's dimensions (LxHxW) of 4.3in (10.9cm) x 1.8in (4.6cm) x 4.6in (11.7cm) with that of a genuine pocket-sized compact like the Swarovski 8x25 CL Pocket binoculars above, with its dimensions opened out dimensions of 4.3in (10.9cm) x 1.8in (4.6cm) x 3.9in (9.9cm), they are very similar and it is only once you fold them, that the double hinge designs of the Swarovski and the Steiner above have the advantage.

Add to this 17mm of eye-relief, a very wide field of view (393ft @ 1000yds), and an extremely close minimum focusing distance of only 3.9ft then you have a go-anywhere, take anywhere binocular that excels in most situations and especially good for birding, wildlife, travel, outdoor sports and butterfly, flowers and other close-range observation! Superb.

  • Mid-Price Compacts - approx $230 / £150
  • Very Compact Shape for a 32mm Binocular
  • Lightweight ABS Plastic Chassis - Weight: 13.8oz (391g)
  • Fog & Waterproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated
  • Field of View: 393 @ 1000yds (131 @ 1000m)
  • Ultra Close Focus: 3.9ft
  • 17mm of Eye-relief
Current Price & Where to Buy: Opticron Discovery Binoculars

Best Full Compact Birding Binoculars 2022

Pentax Papilio II 8.5x21 Binoculars

Updated with a fully multi-coated optical system the Pentax Papilio II is now better & more versatile than ever.

The general build-quality is excellent, which is especially impressive when you consider their relatively low price point which I have found to be a common theme on all the Pentax Optics that I have used, tested and reviewed in the past. I really like the feel of the binocular in the hands and whilst the low-geared focus mechanism is not great for making rapid adjustments from near to far, it makes it very easy to fine tune the focus and achieve a perfectly sharp image.

With their incredibly close minimum focusing distance these are ideal for the close observation of things like butterflies or flowers when out in the field or for use in a gallery or museum.

Other optical highlights include quality BaK4 reverse Porro prisms and aspherical lens elements for a quality and brightness of view that is impressive for a compact binocular at this price level.

Keeping this in mind as well as the fact that they are also very small, lightweight, with a very good quality, bright view (for a compact), and a reasonably wide field of view, it means these Pentax Papilio II 8.5x21 binoculars are extremely versatile and thus make a good general use, all-round compact ideal for use in a wide range of areas.

Therefore even though they may not scored as highly as other compacts I have reviewed over the years, I feel that their versatility and relatively low price point makes them a deserved winner in this class.

Main Specs & Features:

  • Low-to-Mid Price Compacts: Approx: $129 / £119 / €129
  • Reverse Porro Prism Design
    • Right Eye Diopter
    • Helicoidal Twist-Up Eyecups
    • Tripod Socket
    • Dimensions: 11.6cm x 11cm x 5.5cm
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
    • BaK-4 Reverse Porro Prisms
    • Aspherical lens elements
  • Field of View: 315ft @ 1,000 yards / 105m @ 1,000 meters
  • Ultra Close Minimum Focus: 0.5m /1.6ft
  • Eye Relief: 15mm
Buy & Compare Prices: Pentax Papilio II Binoculars

Past Winners Still Very Highly Recommended

With a BBR score of 83% these Steiner 8x24 Wildlife binoculars is one of the best compact binoculars that I have ever reviewed. Due to the double-hinge body design & roof prisms these are a true pocket sized binocular.

If budget is not your primary concern and you are simply looking for the best-of-the-best pocket-sized compact binoculars then you need not look any further than the Swarovski CL 8x25 Pocket.

Best "Wildcard" Birding Binoculars 2022

Pentax VD 4x20 WP Binocular & Monoculars

A compact binocular that splits into two to form a two monoculars, that you can share or if you want join them together end-on-end to make a 16x spotting scope! The Pentax VD 4x20 WP is a set of optics that the Transformers would be proud of!

Very small, lightweight, shareable, tough, waterproof, with an excellent quality, bright view, and a good low light performance for a compact. This Pentax VD 4x20 WP Binoculars also has an extremely wide field of view and extremely close minimum focus distance, that is easy to use (large exit pupil) with minimal image shake (low power).

As well as all this, if you also include that it also converts into a monocular or a scope it all adds up to make for an incredibly useful and versatile instrument, that I can see being a great option in many areas, but with their low power is great for viewing things like birds at closer ranges and thus is great for Backyard Birding and or Forest Birding.

Main Specs & Features:

  • Mid-High End Compact Binoculars: Approx: $249 / £244 / €245
  • True Pocket Sized Design
    • Detachable Single Hinge Body with Metal Bridge
    • Converts from a Binocular into two Monoculars or a Spotting Scope
    • Fully Waterproof (JIS Class 7)
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
    • Phase-Coated
    • Super-high-reflection Dielectric multi-layer coatings
  • Ultra Wide FOV: 1525ft @ 1,000 yards / 175m @ 1,000 meters
  • Ultra Close Minimum Focus: 0.5m /1.6ft
  • Eye Relief: 19mm
Buy & Compare Prices: Pentax VD Binocular

Best Long-Range Birding Binoculars 2022

Kite APC 16x42 Image Stabilised Binoculars

Kite APC 16x42 Image Stabilised Binoculars - Best Long Range, High Power Birding BinocularsIn stark contrast to the low-power 6x30 Opticron's below, these very powerful 16x binoculars from Kite Optics are a very different beast, but just like them, they were a real revelation to me when I tested them and proved to be far better than I had ever wished or hoped for.

Image Stabilization
Firstly IS technology has come a long way in recent years and as I say in my review of them, the first time I turned the Kite APC 16x42 binoculars on and looked through them I was blown away by just how much more stable the image was. This lack of image shake enabled me to fully enjoy and take in all the extra image detail that the high 16x power provides, which for birding, in particular, is not only enjoyable but can be important when trying to identify LBJ's (little brown jobs) or very similar species with only minor differences in markings.

16x42 Configuration
This unique and somewhat extreme combination does have it's down-sides which I go into in great detail in my review which I urge you to read if you are interested, but for long-distance observation of just about anything, but in particular wildlife and birds where you may be at the coast, on a lake front, on rolling hills or out in wide-open fields and don't want the hassle of carrying about a tripod, then these Kite APC IS binoculars are well worth considering.

  • High-End Binoculars - approx $1000 / £950 / €950
  • Image Stabilization
    IS Correction Angle: 2°
    Batteries: 2x AA (+ 2xAA spare)
    Battery Life: 120 hours(including use of the internal spare battery)
  • Waterproof: IPX7
  • Fogproof: Nitrogen Filled
  • Fov: 204ft @ 1000yds / 68m @ 1000m
  • Eye Relief 14mm
  • Close Focus: 4m / 13.0ft
Current Price & Where to Buy: Kite APC Binoculars