We've met many people who that want to dip their toes in the birdwatching pool, but don't want to invest $300-$500 in a nice pair of binoculars. If you fit into this category, we present the Celestron Nature DX 8x42. These binoculars provide a great birdwatching experience while listing for only $140, and often selling for a bit less than that. Given the relatively low price, these bins are able to treat you to an impressively sharp image, have a fast and easy focus adjustment, and are quite comfortable in hand. 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 are able to 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, all while not requiring a huge investment.
Celestron Nature DX 8x42 Review
Cons: Average construction quality, mediocre low-light performance
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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. If you already have a nice pair of binoculars and are looking for a secondary, inexpensive, and portable pair, we'de suggest you take a look at the Vortex Diamondback 8x28, which only weighs 14 ounces.
The Celestron Nature DX put in an impressive performance in our clarity testing, staying within a respectable distance of the top performers.
In our testing, the Celestron Nature DX was able to consistently get the main subject looking quite sharp, with small details clearly discernable. As you can see in the image below, you can clearly make out the small black cap of Garry the Goldfinch. This is why we think these bins are great for beginner birders, they are able to display the small but significant identification traits of small birds. The downside of the Nature DX's clarity, when compared to higher priced models (like the Viper HD, also in the picture below), 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 Viper 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 priced 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 or 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 above were taken within minutes of one another on a cloudy day. You can see that the Viper HD (which usually sells for around $500) 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 teh difference does become 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.
What we really love about the Nature DX is the 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 on a bird and focused 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 3 settings where they solidly lock in place. It could be nice if there were more than 3 options, 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 higher priced models.
The most noticeable difference between the construction of the Nature DX and higher priced models like the Vortex Viper HD or the Athlon Midas is teh rubber coating. The rubber on the Nature DX feels slightly more plasticy and slightly less grippy than that of other modes. The strap is also thin and has no padding. However, we didn't find any large construction issues, with everything staying in perfect alignment throughout our testing, so we wouldn't call a slightly less expensive rubber coating and strap a dealbreaker by any means.
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 object in focus. That butterfly that lands on the branch in front of you will look spectacular through your binoculars. The best close focus range we've come across is 4.9 feet (on the $2000+ Swarovski and Zeiss models), 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.
Honestly, we can't believe that the Celestron Nature DX 8x42 lists for only $140 and can usually be found online for around $110. Apart from a slightly lower quality rubber coating and some slight blurriness at teh edge of the image, these binoculars really feel like a $300 pair. These bins are an incredible value for those that are just getting into birding, or that want to try it out for the first time.
The Celestron Nature DX 8x42 offers good performance at an impressively low price. For those that want good enough optics to start identifying small birds, but don't want to make a big investment, the NAture DX is far and away the best option.
— Max Mutter