We've met many people who want to dip their toes in the birdwatching pool, but don't want to invest a pile of money in the best binoculars. If you fit into this category, we present the Celestron Nature DX 8x42. These binoculars provide a great birdwatching experience at a bargain price, treating you to an impressively sharp image, fast and easy focus adjustment, and comfort in hand. However, we're not saying these bins are magical; they do have some drawbacks compared to higher-priced models. Namely, poor performance in low-light conditions, some lack of clarity at the edge of an image, and lower-quality materials. If your birdwatching interest eventually becomes a passion, you will likely want to upgrade to a better model. What these binos can do is provide enough performance for you to make out the subtle features of birds, enjoy learning your warblers, and generally have a good experience as you try your hand at a new hobby — without requiring a huge investment.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on January 11, 2022 with additional comparisons and recommendations on what we would buy.
Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Review
Cons: Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance
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|Pros||Inexpensive, good clarity and brightness||Very clear and bright, easy to adjust, comfortable, high-quality construction||High-quality construction, very comfortable to use, great clarity||Excellent brightness, great clarity, comfortable||Good clarity, small and lightweight, relatively comfortable|
|Cons||Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance||A bit heavy for the backcountry||Heavy for backpacking or carrying long distances||Slightly heavy for backpacking||Poor low-light performance|
|Bottom Line||The most budget-friendly option we've found that offers a good introduction to birdwatching||This model is our first choice and offers just about the best clarity and brightness you can get from a binocular without a quadruple-digit price tag||Good optical quality, but not the best in the price range||An excellent balance of price and all-around performance with particularly impressive brightness||An inexpensive, small, and packable model that offers surprisingly good optics|
|Rating Categories||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Ease of Adjustment (15%)|
|Construction Quality (15%)|
|Close Focus Range (7.5%)|
|Field of View (7.5%)|
|Specs||Celestron Nature DX...||Vortex Viper HD 8x42||Nikon Monarch 7 ATB...||Vortex Diamondback...||Vortex Diamondback...|
|Multi - Coating||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC||FMC|
|Field of View (at 1000 yards)||388 ft||409 ft||362 ft||393 ft||332 ft|
|Close Focus||6.5 ft||6.5 ft||8.2 ft||5.0 ft||6.0 ft|
|Eye Relief||17.5 mm||18 mm||16.5 mm||17 mm||18 mm|
|Size (Length x Width)||5.3 x 4.9 in||5.8 x 5.3 in||5.6 x 5.1 in||5.7 x 5.1 in||4.6 x 4.5 in|
|Weight||22.2 oz||24.2 oz||24 oz||21.8 oz||14.0 oz|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Celestron Nature DX 8x42 really impressed us in our testing, especially considering the relatively low list price. With good clarity and smooth focus, these bins certainly punch above their weight class.
The Celestron Nature DX put in an impressive performance in our clarity testing, staying within a respectable distance of the top-performing binoculars. The Nature DX was consistently able to get the main subject looking quite sharp, with small details clearly discernable, like the small black cap of Garry the Goldfinch, one of our test birds. This is why we think these bins are great for beginner birders; they can display the small but significant identification traits of small birds.
The downside of the Nature DX's clarity, when compared to more expensive models, is the image gets a bit blurrier the farther away you move from the center. You can see in the image below that most of the branches are in focus in the competitor image, but the ones towards the edge of the Nature DX image are blurrier. You can't really tell this from a still photo, but that edge blurriness makes the image feel less immersive. It's the difference between feeling like you're actually sitting right next to the birds versus feeling like you're looking at a picture of the bird. That feeling of immersion is the main advantage you get from spending more on a higher-quality pair of bins, but the Nature DX still provides a good birding experience.
Here again, the Nature DX impressed us by staying within spitting distance of the higher-end models. In bright light, we honestly had some trouble telling the difference between the Nature DX and other higher-priced models in terms of brightness. In these situations, the Nature DX produced exceptionally bright images.
It was when the light got a bit dimmer that we noticed differences. For example, the side-by-side photos below were taken within minutes of one another on a cloudy day. You can see that the Viper HD produced a noticeably brighter image than the Nature DX. In this cloudy situation, the difference is noticeable but not limiting, as the Nature DX image is still bright enough to display good detail on the birds. However, in the very early morning and very late dusk, the difference becomes greater, with the Viper HD still able to display some features and color patterns of the birds, while the Nature DX produces images more akin to silhouettes with comparatively little detail. Again, this is a clear drawback, but one that wouldn't ruin the experience of a new bird watcher.
Ease of Adjustment
Here the Nature DX was able to hang with the big dogs, earning a very high score.
We really love the Nature DX's focus knob, which is supple and smooth yet solidly locks in place once you stop moving it. One of the biggest frustrations for new birders is learning to quickly get their bins focused on a bird before it decides to flit away, and the Nature DX's focus knob is great for learning that skill. The eyecups are also easy to adjust and have three settings where they solidly lock in place. More than three options could be nice, but none of our testers felt this kept them from getting a good image. The only adjustment that is a bit finicky is the diopter, which is adjusted with a separate knob that is quite stiff. This does make minor adjustments a bit difficult, but this is something you'll only have to adjust once when you first get the binoculars, and then maybe again every few months as you jostle the binoculars around and knock things loose.
This is one area where the relatively low price of the Nature DX does show a bit. They certainly aren't poorly constructed, but some of the materials are clearly of a slightly lesser quality than those of the premium models.
The most noticeable difference between the construction of the Nature DX and higher-priced models is the rubber coating. The rubber on the Nature DX feels slightly more plasticky and somewhat less grippy than other models. The strap is also thin and lacks padding. However, we didn't find any significant construction issues, and everything stayed in perfect alignment throughout our testing, so we wouldn't call a slightly less expensive rubber coating and strap a dealbreaker by any means.
The Nature DX weighs only 22.2 ounces, quite light for a full-sized pair of binoculars. This generally makes them comfortable to hold. However, they are somewhat small in stature, so those with larger hands may feel like there isn't much space for their thumbs.
The Nature DX also lacks any sort of ergonomic grooves in the bottom of the barrels, something that many higher-end models have and that makes for a slightly more comfortable hold.
Close Focus Range
The Nature DX's close focus range of 6.5 feet means you'll be able to get all but the closest objects in focus. That butterfly that lands on the branch in front of you will look spectacular through your binoculars. The closest focus range we've encountered is 4.9 feet, which would let most people focus on a butterfly that landed on their feet. The Nature DX can't do that, but in our opinion, it gets plenty close enough.
Field of View
The Nature DX has a relatively wide field of view of 388 feet at 1000 yards. We felt this was plenty wide enough to enjoy looking at distant landscapes and to give enough wiggle room to try and get the binoculars on a small bird hopping around in a nearby tree.
Should You Buy the Celestron Nature DX 8x42?
Honestly, we can't believe that the Celestron Nature DX 8x42 is so affordable considering its performance. Apart from a slightly lower quality rubber coating and some slight blurriness at the edge of the image, these binoculars really feel like a more expensive pair. For anyone seeking good enough optics to start identifying small birds without making a big investment, the Nature DX is a great option.
What Other Binoculars Should You Consider?
The Celestron Nature DX 8x42 offers good performance at an impressively low price. However, for a slight step up in price, you can pick up the Vortex Diamondback HD 8x42, which offers excellent glass at an approachable price. If you have a bit more to spend, check out the Vortex Viper HD 8x42, which is one of our favorite pairs with exceptional performance across the board.
— Max Mutter
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