0 dollar 8x42 binoculars
Same features at the same price gets you basically the same bino in terms of performance. All are good in this respect and will do anything you ever need to do. Handling and preference as to brand,though,is a different matter. Steiner and Vortex are very active in the birding community and I like supporting both of them. Of these, I like the Vortex for its handling, but my favorite bino in this price range for handling is the Swift Audubon 828. One very sweet birding binocular. I would also take a look at it.
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The discontinued Stokes Talon at 200 dollars, wherever you can find it, is a good deal. Google. At 500 dollars, the Vortex Viper 8x42 is an improvement over the Monarch. Good with glasses too, if you ever want that.
Binoculars are changing so much that in 5-10 years you will probably want a new pair.
There is much talk of a Bushnell Legend ED 8x42, but the launch is delayed due to the economy.