Good, Inexpensive Birdwatching Binoculars
As a birdwatcher, backyard astronomer, and nearsighted baseball fan who sits in the nosebleed section, I needed to replace my old Bushnell binocs (far left) without breaking the bank.
I scoured reviews of compact, inexpensive binoculars for birding. After much research, I settled on the Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Binoculars. I've had them since 2007, and I love them.
In 2010, I accidentally acquired 10x42 Nikon Trailblazer All Terrain Binoculars (ATB) in a gift goof-up. I love them both. Below are my reviews of each model, followed by top-rated binoculars by other reviewers.
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATB Binoculars
...Compact, Waterproof, Fog-Resistant, Go-Anywhere Binocs
I love these binoculars. They're small, light, sturdy, and have coated optics to resist fogging and keep out water.
I really like the way they fold almost double to save space. They'll fit in a large pocket, or you can tuck them into the padded carrying case with a wide loop meant for a belt. At 14.4 ounces, less than a pound, they weigh almost nothing.
Like most good binoculars, you focus the left eyepiece, then turn the right eyepiece to fine-tune for different vision in each eye. The main focus knob is in the middle, and is stiff enough not to slip, but loose and grippy enough to work when wearing gloves.
The eyepieces twist out to keep your eyes off the lenses and help with focus, or twist in flush with the lens if you're wearing glasses.
I used them for a few years and thought I'd gotten a steal by picking these up at REI for less than $100 (they often sell for even less than that on Amazon).
Then I acquired the monster Nikon Trailblazer 8x42 binoculars below. I still use my compact Nikon Trailblazers for hiking and travel, but when I'm home and spot a bird, I grab the 10x42s.
Review: Nikon Trailblazer 8x42 ATB BInoculars
... High Magnification, Waterproof, Fogproof
Officially, these binoculars cost about $200, but you can often buy them on Amazon for half that price.
Weighing 1.6 pounds, these are not compact binoculars; they're about the size of a pair of Red Bull cans. So I tend to use them at home or from the car, rather than carrying them hiking. The wider strap helps, but I've got a bad neck.
Their power makes up for the weight. You really have to make sure you've twisted the eyepieces all the way out to hold your eyes away from the lenses, but they make for incredible birdwatching.
For example, I've got a pair of kites nesting on tall trees at the far end of my street. To the naked eye, they're white dots against the sky. With these Nikon 8x42 binoculars, I can see their red eyes and yellow feet to confirm that yes, they're white-tailed kites!
Like the 8x25 Trailblazers, these Nikon binoculars come with a padded case (velcro flap closure) with a wide loop for a belt. They also come with lenscaps for both ends (the 8x25s only had lenscaps for the eyepieces). However, while the 8x42s have lens caps for the far ends you can clip to the strap, the eyepiece caps do not have any way to attach them; you just have to drop them into the carrying case.
The 8x42 Trailblazers are hinged so you can adjust their width to suit your eyes, of course, and again have the right-eye adjustment plus large central grippy rubber knob for focusing. Again, they are waterproof and fog-resistant. For all but the most serious birdwatchers and wildlife watchers, I recommend these.
Technical Specifications for Nikon Trailblazer ATBs 8x25 and 8x42
Side-by-Side Comparison (Photos are to Scale)
Note: Technical Specifications below are from Nikon's official website; sometimes Amazon sellers give inaccurate specs. Links below provide helpful information on what these terms mean.
Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 vs. 8x42
|Binoculars||Nikon Trailblazer 8x25||Nikon Trailblazer 8x42|
Field of View at 1000 yards
Size (Length x Width)
4.1 x 4.5 in
6.1 x 5.2 in
Distance Between Eyes
More Recent Nikon Trailblazer Models
I got my original Nikon Trailblazer 8x25 ATBs in 2007. In 2008, Nikon released updated versions of both models, just a little bigger, at 10x25 and 10x50. They appear to be well-rated, so I assume they're just as good as mine... or a little better.
Have you got a good pair of binoculars? Which do you recommend? What do you use them for (birdwatching, sports, etc)?
anonymous on March 19, 2011:
Awesome lens! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel on 3/19/2011. Have a great day!