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Sometimes you just want compact binoculars when you go out bird watching. This best small binoculars for birding article concentrates on binos with objective lenses – which largely determines the overall size of a pair of binoculars – no larger than 28 millimeters.
Most binoculars we’ll look at will have 25 millimeter objectives, and one is really tiny at just 20mm. With smaller lenses like these, the weight also becomes less, which is something you’ll appreciate if you intend to spend an entire day with them hanging around your neck or tucked in a pocket.
The purpose of this post is not to pick one set of binoculars over all the rest but to give you several options from which you can choose when you’re in the market for compact binoculars for birding.
If you’d simply like to check the pricing and availability of the binos in this article at Amazon, you can click (or tap) the links in the list just below.
- Olympus Tracker 10×25
- Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8×25
- Vortex Diamondback 8×28
- Leica Ultravid BR 8×20
- Swarovski CL Pocket 8×25
Olympus Tracker 10×25
In case you’re new to binoculars, you should know that most model names include the magnification power and the size of the objective lenses (the larger lenses at the “far” end, not the lenses next to your eyes) right in the name itself.
For example, these Olympus Tracker 10×25 binos have a 10x (10 times) magnification power, meaning they enlarge real life objects to ten times their normal size. They have 25 millimeter objectives. When you put those two numbers together, you get the 10×25 in the model name.
See how that works?
Now let’s take a quick look at the Olympus Trackers themselves. Size is a major consideration with all of these binos. The Tracker measures 3.9 inches by 4.5 inches by 1.9 inches and weighs 9.9 ounces.
The field of view – important for birders – is 273 feet at the standard 1000 yards. This is decent for a small pair of binoculars like these, but there are others (below) that are better.
Close focus doesn’t matter as much for bird watchers, but I’ll mention it for comparison purposes and because you’re obviously not limited to using these binoculars only for birding. The close focus of the Tracker is 8.2 feet. This isn’t the closest, but it is about average.
Eye relief – significant for eyeglass wearers – is 15 millimeters. Not bad, but a little on the short side.
One downside to the Olympus binoculars is that they are not waterproof, so don’t go out in the pouring rain with them and don’t drop them in a puddle. You’ll regret it in either case.
Zeiss Terra ED Pocket 8×25
The Zeiss Pocket 8×25 binoculars measure 4.4 inches long by 4.5 inches wide. (I wasn’t able to find a height measurement. This may be because it varies.) They weigh 10.9 ounces, so they’re roughly the same size as the Olympus model but weigh an ounce more and don’t magnify objects quite as much – only 8x.
The field of view, at 390 feet, is the best – by 30 feet – of all five of the binos in this article. The glass and prisms inside are arguably the best as well.
The close focus of the Terra Pocket binos is 6.2 feet, another best amongst these models. Eye relief distance was not available.
The Terra ED 8×25 binoculars are waterproof, since they are nitrogen filled. This probably also makes them fogproof – a feature that matters if you go out at dusk or dawn.
Vortex Diamondback 8×28
Vortex, another major player in the optics world, has the largest pair of binos here when it comes to objective lens size. The Diamondback 8×28 only magnifies as much as the Zeiss Terra, but it lets in more light which theoretically gives a better view of your target.
These measure 4.8 inches high by 4.5 inches wide. (Here I couldn’t find a length, which is strange.) The Diamondbacks weigh 14 ounces – nearly a pound – which is quite a bit for a compact set.
Field of view (FOV) stands at 360 feet – right in the middle of the pack. Close focus, however, is on the long side at 13.1 feet – almost twice the distance of the Terra model.
Eye relief is the best of all of these at 19.3 millimeters.
The Diamondback is waterproof (and fogproof?) due to argon purging. The glass is really good in these binos too.
Leica Ultravid BR 8×20
You know how to interpret the 8×20 in Ultravid 8×20, so you realize that the objectives in these Leica binos are the smallest of the five pair listed here. What you almost certainly can’t figure out is what the BR stands for. It has to do with the shock-absorbing, protective coating covering the unit which is made of Black Rubber. Leica makes a similar pair denoted with BL which stands for Black Leather.
The Ultravids measure 4 ⅜ inches wide by 3 ⅝ inches high by 1 ½ inches long (deep) and weigh about 8.5 ounces, making them the lightest pair here. So, if weight is a major selling point for you, these are the ones to get.
FOV is 341 feet which is just a little less than average.
Close focus distance is approximately 7.2 feet which is also a bit less than average.
Eye relief is the same as the Olympus Tracker at 15 millimeters – on the short side.
These are nitrogen filled and so are waterproof to a depth of 5 meters and are likely fogproof too.
Swarovski CL Pocket 8×25
Finally, we come to the Swarovski Pocket 8×25 binoculars that measure 4.3 inches long by 3.9 inches wide by 1.8 inches high and weigh 12.2 ounces. (I’m not sure what the CL in the model name stands for.)
The FOV is 357 feet putting the Pocket right in the pocket; that is, in the middle of these five pair.
Close focus is 8.2 feet – average, and eye relief is 17 millimeters…did I mention average?
The inert gas used to fill the Swarovski 8×25 binos isn’t specified, but it almost certainly is nitrogen or argon. In any case, it gives them a “submersion tightness” of 4 meters, which is nearly as good as the Leicas just above.
Conclusions about the Best Compact Binoculars for Birding
So, there you have it. I’ve given you the major features and specs for what are probably the 5 best pair of small binos for birding in the market today.
Judge for yourself, based on your usage style and needs, which pair is best for you. Remember, I didn’t promise to pick “the best” pair overall.
Here again is the list of links that will take you to Amazon where you can make your purchase. Click any one of them now and enjoy your new binoculars soon.