Avid bird watching enthusiasts often look like pack mules hiking to a gold rush in the west. Bird watching binoculars are one of the critical pieces of equipment they carry.
There are a lot of issues when it comes to choosing binoculars for bird watching. Optics and personal preference seem to be the foremost, but here is a list of issues you should consider.
Bashability isn't really a word in the English language, but it certainly applies to bird watching. The bashability of binoculars refers to how tough they are. For instance, if you drop them on the driveway while loading the car, will they hold up? What if you drop them off a small cliff? I, err…"a friend" once did this on the cliffs above Torrey Pines beach in San Diego. More than a few people have been surprised to learn that binoculars go out of whack when bashed. Now, I realize you would never drop them or subject them to anything but the finest treatment, but just check them for me.
I like wine. I drink wine. Unless I am standing at the cash register, I can't really tell the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and one selling for $100. Bird watching binoculars seem to run along the same lines.
You can buy bird watching binoculars for as much as $1,000. Heck, Victoria's Secret or Neiman Marcus probably have diamond encrusted ones for $100,000. Do you need to spend this money? No. My personal experience has revealed binoculars in the $200 to $400 range perform well and I've never missed a sighting because of their quality.
Obviously, you can spend whatever you wish, but keep in mind you don't have to go overboard. Plus, binoculars without diamonds tend to still be on the beach once you make it down from the cliff.
This may sound obvious, but you need to buy binoculars that are comfortable. Ideally, you are going to lug these babies around for 10 or 20 years. Make sure they "fit" your face and spacing of your eyes. Also, make sure they don't weigh too much. After a few hours of birding, this can become an issue.
If you're going to be a birder, you're going to need binoculars. Like wine, you can go overboard on them, but don't need to.