Birdwatching in the UK

Best Birdwatching Binocular

Sometimes life takes a pleasant turn. It happened to me recently when I received an email asking me to test and review a pair of birding binoculars called “Eden 8x42HDs”. I have been a keen bird-watcher since a child and developed a passion for optics since buying my first decent pair of binoculars, a pair of Zeiss 10x50 Jenoptems, too many years ago to remember. My own binoculars are now a prized pair of Zeiss 8x32FLs which I bought only last year, part exchanging my beloved, but ageing and much heavier Swaro 8.5x42s. 

The Edens duly arrived. Taking them out of the box was an interesting moment as I had no idea what to expect having been told that they were an inexpensive pair. Well, a pleasant surprise was in store. First impressions were more than good: the binoculars looked well-built, classy and expensive. In the hand, they fell into place perfectly, felt sturdy and seemed well constructed with restrained but up-to-date styling. The label states that they are fully waterproof and “nitrogen purged” and they are fully covered in black rubber. Pleasingly, they feel compact and light, probably owing to their magnesium alloy construction. I liked the way that the objective lenses had been set back from the edges sufficiently to keep accidental finger prints off as well as to allow them to be stood safely on end. The lenses also have protective rubber lens covers, held on by rings just like a pair of Swaros – very nice, yet easily removable if that takes your fancy.

At the eyepiece end, a pair of attractive over-sized lenses adds an air of real quality. Probably it is the largeness of these that allows for the very long “eye relief” that allowed me to see a full (and pleasingly very wide) field of view whilst still wearing my glasses. These are the most comfortable binoculars I’ve used whilst wearing spectacles – and I had searched for and found what I hoped were the best in my own Zeiss FLs. Normally, to see the whole field of view without restriction, I have to press my Zeiss eyepieces against my spectacles or, as I most usually do, take my glasses off – but not with the Eden’s. The eyecups twist up and down smoothly and easily, too, with three firm intermediate click stops. The adjustment for eye focusing or “dioptre adjustment” is on a ring located on the right-hand lens barrel; again, this proved firm, smooth and was easy to set.

The binoculars come with a strong and well-constructed Cordura nylon case that is well-padded and snug fitting. The strap has a stretchy rubberised section that reduces the apparent weight of the binoculars when round the neck. I was surprised just how effective this strap was, making the binoculars feel light and comfortable even after a long morning’s birding. The binoculars also come with a high quality rain-guard that fits well yet is very easy to flick out of the way quickly, ready for use. 

I decided to save the pair for testing during a week’s birding holiday in north Norfolk. Well, needless to say, the British weather did its best and produced a dull, wet day with inky black clouds threatening thunder, but even looking into the garden of our Norfolk holiday cottage showed these binoculars to be a very capable pair indeed. Despite the very dull light, the view was bright even into the shadows, with saturated colours made all the better by the very high contrast. On the subject of focus, the over-sized grippy focusing wheel proved a delight to use with its ultra-smooth silky smoothness and quick speed of focusing. The close-focus proved excellent – I could all-but focus on my own feet, making these binoculars useful for a wide range of uses. 

Later, in the far hide at Snettisham, the binoculars came up trumps. The view was genuinely very pleasing indeed. I was so impressed that I asked the chap next to me to have a try – he was using a pair of Leica’s. Well, he, too, was genuinely taken aback by them and he enthused over their quality, spending quite a while with them – he commented especially on how wide, sharp and bright the view was, how easy they were to use and how much lighter they were than his own. Over a week in Norfolk, I used them in a whole range of conditions and even late into the evening looking at nightjars in Sandringham woods, they proved entirely useful – the effect at dusk was a little like switching on an extra light with the nightjars being easily visible until the darkness meant we just had to leave for home.

The next day at RSPB Titchwell’s luxurious new Parrinder hide, my first look through the binoculars brought me a wonderful view of an early whimbrel – a fine bird with the binoculars easily picking out its eye-stripe, dark cap and the distinctive pale stripe on the crown. Within half an hour, the binoculars had found me ruff, redshank, black- and bar-tailed godwits, knot, a garganey, three spotted redshanks – one still sporting stunning black breeding plumage – a fine and elegant greenshank, a common sandpiper and a couple of marsh harriers. As ever, of course, no bearded tits or bittern – such is my luck at this reserve! But, not a bad morning’s birding at all – and fine views throughout.

The binoculars proved easily able to resolve fine plumage detail and, subjectively at least, seemed as sharp as any I have tried, a sharpness that was consistent across the whole field of view. What also stood out was the ease of bringing them to the eye, the naturalness of the colours and an image that was bright, vibrant and contrasty. 

You can tell that I was impressed but, to test my findings, knowing these things are subjective, I decided to again to ask a couple of birders in the hide to try them out. They, too, gave only praise. Somehow, this company have managed to source a pair of what seem to me to be exceptional optics – yet for a mid-range price. With top-range bins now well over fifteen hundred pounds a pair, I remain in wonder at how this can be achieved. If there is a weakness with the Eden’s, I didn’t manage to find it, and I did ask several other keen birders to help me find one. This must be good news for the many who – perhaps rightly – feel that the prices of top optics are now all-but verging on silly money.

You can buy your own best birdwatching binoculars by clicking to the link.