Finding a quality pair of binoculars may seem like a daunting task when faced with such a vast array of brands on the market. Some brands and models stick out above others in terms of optical fidelity, image quality, form and function. While high-end binoculars can cost several thousands of dollars, for the serious birder, a good pair of binoculars is a worthwhile investment.
The Leica Ultravid 8x42 ($2,099, 2010 price) and Ultravid 10x42 ($2,199, 2010 price) binoculars use fluoride-containing lenses to optimize color accuracy. The lenses also feature Leica's AquaDura coating, which repels water and dirt to minimize cleaning and ensures continued optical clarity. The coated prisms also ensure a brighter image. The Ultravids are waterproof and fogproof and have a close focusing distance of under 10 feet.
Zeiss Victory T* series
The Zeiss Victory T* consistently gets rave reviews for image quality. While the 10x42 Victory T* FL ($2,299, 2010 price) uses fluoride-containing lenses for superior, edge-to-edge image clarity and a LotuTec coating to repel water and dirt, its Intelligent Tuned Focus minimizes turns of the diopter when focusing, so that you can quickly focus on what you want. However, for those looking for the best, the 10x45 Victory T* RF ($2,999, 2010 price) has a laser rangefinder system to give you distance information and won Outdoor Life's 2009 Editor's Choice Award for image quality and performance.
The Swarovski EL uses high-definition optics and field flattener lenses to yield a pair of binoculars with superb optical quality with sharp, edge-to-edge definition and no chromatic aberrations or vignetting. The 10x42 EL ($2,479, 2010 price) and 8.5x42 EL ($2,339, 2010 price) also have four separate coatings on the lenses to enhance scratch resistance, brightness and color while repelling water and dirt to minimize cleaning. The rubber coating makes the binoculars easy to use in a variety of weather conditions. This pair of binoculars is waterproof, fogproof and submersible.