The competitors in this category are all drool-worthy, with exceptional performance in low light and large fields of view, and constructed with top-notch materials. Among these elites is a newly released model, Leica's Noctovid, which just came out in August and earned a higher ranking than the brand's longstanding Ultravid optics.
Speaking of scores, they were incredibly close for all five binoculars in this category. Your best bet for finding the best match for you is to get your hands on the optics and try them out, but you really can’t go wrong with any of these models.
Once you've perused these beauties, check out the top picks for four other price categories in our complete Audubon Guide to Binoculars.
Swarovski EL SwaroVision 8.5x42
The takeaway: The SwaroVisions pulled ahead with perfect scores in several categories, including clarity, color rendition, and focus response. The only grumbles among testers were that the unique lugs make it difficult to swap out the neck strap.
More specs: 29.5 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 399 ft/1,000 yd field of view (FOV), limited lifetime warranty
Zeiss Victory SF 8x42
The takeaway: Excellent image, eye relief, and, as reviewers noted again and again, brightness. They were also wowed by the wide field of view the bins afford. One reviewer called them near-perfect, the only downside being the lack of thumb indents, but most praised the comfort of the design.
More specs: 29.2 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 444 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime transferrable warranty
Leica Noctovid 8x42
The takeaway: Birds pop through these remarkably bright binoculars. They offer a nice depth of image, excellent field of view, good performance in low-light conditions, and superb eye relief.
More specs: 30.3 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 442 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty
Swarovski EL SwaroVision 8x32
The takeaway: Optically excellent with a super fast and smooth focus response. These bins, which are the lightest in this category thanks to the smaller objective lenses, outshone the others when it came to weight and comfort.
More specs: 21 oz; waterproof/fogproof; 423 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty
Leica Ultravid 8x42
The takeaway: Slips effortlessly into the hand and delivers beautiful color and a crystal clear view of birds in the sky, canopy, and undergrowth.
More specs: 27.9 oz; waterproof/fogproof; 389 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty