Bright images, accurate color, and good resolution are characteristics of all of the high scorers in this category. All, except for the Vortex Diamondbacks, have high-quality extra-low dispersion (ED) glass.
We were curious to see whether the Nikon Monarch 7s—which are often a list-topper in binoculars reviews—would take the top spot. In the end, the Ziess Terra EDs narrowly edged them out for bragging rights to best in class.
It wasn't just those two models in a tight race; this group had the closest scores, second only to the Top of the Line, with all hovering right around a four on our scale of one to five. In a nutshell: Reviewers liked these bins.
Once you've perused these stars, check out the top picks for four other price categories in our complete Audubon Guide to Binoculars.
Zeiss Terra ED 8x42
The takeaway: These bins have top-tier optical performance with great clarity, and took the lead with higher marks for overall feel, including ease of focus, balance, and comfort in the hand.
More specs: 24.5 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 375 ft/1,000 yd FOV, two-year warranty
Nikon Monarch 7 8x42
The takeaway: There's little mystery as to why the Monarch 7s are perennial favorites: They provide razor-sharp optics with excellent light-gathering capabilities that just feel good in your hand, even after hours in the field.
More specs: 22.9 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 351 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty
Eagle Optics Ranger ED 8x42
The takeaway: Reviewers raved about the Ranger's fast focus, ergonomics, and good performance in bright- and low-light settings. Some noted a loss of clarity at the edges and over distance.
More specs: 23.6 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 341 ft/1,000 yd FOV, unlimited lifetime warranty
Vanguard Endeavor ED II 8x42
The takeaway: A very slick pair of bins adept at distinguishing subtle colors and a fast focus speed. While these are the heaviest model among the top picks in this categories, reviewers didn't seem to notice, and found them well-balanced and comfortable.
More specs: 25.75 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 367 ft/1,000 yd FOV, lifetime warranty
Vortex Diamondback 8x42
The takeaway: Vortex redesigned the Diamondback this year, shaving off three ounces with a new, sleeker housing and upping the optics with fully multi-coated lenses that increase light transmission.
More specs: 21.8 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 393 ft/1,000 yd FOV, unlimited lifetime warranty