Many beginning bird watchers share the same confusion when it comes to binoculars magnification and deciding which power is right for them. Some people believe that all binoculars are virtually the same, however this is not the case.
Binoculars magnification is simply the amount of “zooming in” that binoculars do. For example, an 8x pair of binoculars means that the binoculars make the object 8 times larger than when viewed by the naked eye.
Oftentimes, deciding between 8x vs 10x binoculars can mean the difference between having a successful birding outing and a poor one. Determining what binoculars power you are going to buy is a very important decision, as some factors that are affected are: details visible, the weight of the binoculars, low-light conditions, the ability to see close-up birds, and many more important factors. Continue reading this article for a further discussion on how to choose between 8x vs 10x binoculars, as you have seen how important binoculars power is for bird watching.
Why Are 8x or 10x Better for Bird Watching?
This subject is full of opinions and many people love one over the other. It is hard to say definitively if an 8x pair of binos is better than a 10x pair because they each have their own important attributes to keep in mind.
There are several key benefits for 8x magnification binoculars and these will be discussed.
If you plan on being a close to medium distance away from birds, 8x are superior, as they allow you to see closer images more clearly. Along the same lines, locating close birds is easier with 8x binoculars, as they have a larger field of view, giving you more glass to see the birds with. Once you do see movement and you need to focus on that bird, focusing speed is another factor that 8x binoculars take the edge in. If there is a bird on the move that you need to find and keep up with, it is easier to see moving birds through a set of 8x power binoculars.
Birding is a great hobby to enjoy right before sunset, and 8x power will give you much better low light conditions. If a lot of these factors are things you worry about, the 8x is probably your best bet.
On the flip side, there are benefits of using 10x magnification binoculars as well.
One of the most obvious benefits to 10x binocular magnification is that any birds that are farther away will be much more clear and show more details. If you are someone who wants to take in the smallest details of a bird, these are great binoculars for that. A bird watcher who likes to sit still and observe would be well served by a 10x pair, as they will truly enjoy the extra magnification without having to adapt to close-up birds like someone who is walking would.
Superior magnification is really the biggest benefit that 10x binoculars have going for it, but that does not mean these are not good binoculars. To many birders, 10x are their standby because of the clarity and superior magnification they give to people.
Is 10x Better for Birding than 8x, or Not?
As you read in the last paragraph, the debate of 8x vs 10x binoculars is strong, as it should be. Each of the powers has its own benefits. It really comes down to what a birder is looking for in a pair of binos. If you are someone who stays in the same spot and will see birds farther away, a pair of 10x binoculars are excellent for you. If you are someone who likes to hike and walk trails to find birds, a pair of 8x will help you if you get close up to some birds. At the end of the day, it just depends on what you are trying to accomplish while you are birdwatching. Either way, you go, you really can’t go wrong!
If you are someone who likes to walk trails to find birds, a pair of 8x will be the best for you!
Let’s Compare Two Popular Binoculars for Birders
For the purpose of this article, let’s compare the Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 binoculars and the Nikon Monarch 5 10×42 binoculars. You have finally decided you want to buy the Nikon Monarch 5, but now you can’t decide between the 8x model and the 10x model.
The 8×42 Monarch 5 would be ideal for someone who is looking for a pair of binoculars that have a wide field of view, that allows them to see close-up birds as well as farther back. If you plan on using them in low-light conditions, 8x magnification is always a good choice. If you are looking for a lighter pair of binoculars, the Monarch 5 8×42 weighs 20.8 ounces. Prices on Amazon are just over $250 for these binoculars.
Nikon Monarch 5
The 10×42 Monarch 5 is ideal for someone who wants a pair of binoculars that can surely show details of birds. If you are looking for a pair of binoculars that can see much farther as well, these are a great option for you to consider. While being slightly heavier, this pair of binoculars only weighs about an ounce more than its 8x power counterpart. That is nothing when compared to the added magnification you get with this pair. Prices on Amazon are right around $300 for this pair.
Other Factors to Consider When Buying Binoculars
While binoculars magnification is arguably the most important factor to take into account when buying a pair of good binoculars, it is not the only one.
One of the more important factors is the size and weight of a pair of binoculars. While the weight and size seem like small factors, think about how much they will matter if you are birding for more than a couple of hours. When holding an object up for long enough, a couple of ounces make all the difference. Usually, the increase in weight is because the focal length of 10x binoculars is slightly longer than 8x binoculars. This is why 10x are heavier because there is more material. Size is important if you are worried about the mobility and maneuverability of your binoculars. Size is again affected by the longer focal length of the 10x compared to the 8x.
There is one more factor that is arguably the most important to many beginning bird watchers, as well as seasoned veterans, and that is budget. A 10x pair of binoculars is always going to cost slightly more than an 8x pair. This is because of the longer focal plane and due to the extra material used to make the 10x pair. With all of the options on the market today, you can be sure to find a pair of binoculars that meet your binocular magnification requirements, size and weight requirements, and your budget.