Editor's note: Some information in our binocular guide might be out of date, so please be sure to do additional research to check prices and specs.
The high scorers in this category all have high-quality, extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, which minimizes color distortion and delivers bright images, accurate hues, and good resolution.
We were curious to see whether the Nikon Monarch 7s—which are often a list-topper in binoculars reviews—would take the top spot. Ultimately, the Ziess Terra EDs narrowly edged them out for bragging rights to best in class.
As with every category, the the cost listed is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. But some of the models below and elsewhere in our guide can purchased for less in stores and online.
Once you've perused these standouts, check out the top picks for four other price categories in our complete Audubon Guide to Binoculars.
Zeiss Terra ED 8x42
The takeaway: The Terra EDs provide a “superb crisp image,” as one reviewer said, and were lauded for their comfort in hand. Their close-focus capacity nudged them into the lead by the slimmest of margins.
More specs: 24.5 oz; 375 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof, limited lifetime warranty
Nikon Monarch 7 ATB 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. And they just feel good in your hand, even after hours in the field.
More specs: 22.9 oz; 420 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; limited lifetime warranty
Opticron Explorer WA ED Oasis-C+ 8x42
The takeaway: “Nice, clear picture,” one reviewer commented—and one that was easy to obtain thanks to the fast focus and close-focus capacity. A couple of reviewers commented on aberration, or blurring of the image, at the very edge of the field of vision.
More specs: 23.6 oz; 393 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; limited lifetime warranty
Vanguard Endeavor ED 8x42
The takeaway: Reviewers praised the Endeavor’s fast focus and bright images with good color saturation. They were especially impressed when it came to ergonomics: “I love holding these,” said one reviewer, who awarded them perfect 10s for balance and comfort in hands.
More specs: 25.8 oz; 367 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; unlimited lifetime warranty
Bushnell Forge 8x42
The takeaway: Optical performance is what earned the Forges their spot in the top five of this category. With a total weight five ounces more than the next-heaviest contender, some testers found them too big and a bit bulky compared to the rest of the bins in field.
More specs: 30.8 oz; 426 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; 20-year warranty