7 Best Budget Binoculars Under $100 in 2019

ranger looking through inexpensive binoculars

Generally, the phrase “you get what you pay for” applies more to binoculars and rifle scopes than many other products.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great set of glass without saving money.

Stores, whether they’re physical or on the internet, are inundated with massive amounts of cheap binoculars with great claims and poor results.

Cheapening out with binoculars can leave you frustrated and send you back to the store to buy another pair, thereby costing you more money than anticipated.

To help you cut through the chaff, here’s a list of best affordable binoculars that are worthwhile purchases and don’t empty your wallet.

Some are good for general nature viewing. Others are good for hunting or stargazing.

If you’re not sure which one will work best for you, there is a buyer’s guide after the binocular reviews.

 

The 7 Best Cheap Binoculars: Outdoor Empire Reviews

  1. Bushnell Falcon 7×35
  2. Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32
  3. Bushnell H20 8×42
  4. Nikon Aculon A30 10×25
  5. Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70
  6. Best compact: Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25
  7. Best for hunting: Bushnell Trophy 10×42

 

CategoryBest generalBest compactBest for hunting
ProductBushnell Falcon
Bushnell Falcon

Wingspan Optics Feather ED
Wingspan Optics Feather ED

Bushnell Trophy
Bushnell Trophy

Magnification7x8x10x
Objective Lens Diameter35 mm25 mm
42 mm
Field of View at 1000 Yards420 ft356 ft330 ft
Close Focus Range20 ft6.5 ft10 ft
Eye Relief12 mm13 mm15 mm
Weight21 oz12 oz25 oz
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

1. Bushnell Falcon 7×35

Bushnell Falcon 7x35

Specs

Magnification: 7x
Objective Lens Diameter: 35 mm
Prism: “Auto” focusing Porro prism
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 420 ft.
Close Focus Range: 20 ft.
Eye Relief: 12 mm
Lens Coating: Fully-coated
Weight: 21 oz.
Misc: InstaFocus lever, fold-down eyecups

Overview

The Bushnell Falcon 7×35 is a classically-designed pair of binoculars with a price that hasn’t caught up with inflation.

It uses fully-coated Porro prisms to provide lots of light and clarity to your pupils. This does bring up the weight and make the binoculars larger in your hand; however, you also get enough light transmission to use these binoculars at night.

You also get an impressive field of view: 420 feet at 1,000 yards.

The magnification is 7x, which is more than enough to see far-off objects with clarity and without the image bouncing all over the place.

An InstaFocus lever lets you dial in the focus without having to spin a knob. Once set, the “auto focusing” prism means you don’t need to adjust the focus for any object from 40 feet to, theoretically, infinity.

InstaFocus does come with a disadvantage, though: it relies on your eyes to change the focus, which can result in eye strain for some people.

Pros

  • Auto-focusing prisms remove the need for a knob and keep the price down
  • Suitable for astronomy
  • Very impressive field of view

Cons

  • Fixed-focus may produce eye strain
  • Low-quality accessories

Recommendation

The Bushnell Falcon 7×35 is a good do-anything budget binocular, but it lacks the magnification for fine details and may strain some people’s eyes.

 

 

2. Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32

Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 32 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 362 ft.
Close Focus Range: 3 m
Eye Relief: 14.8 mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Weight: 15.2 oz.
Misc: Fog-proof, waterproof

Overview

Weighing under a pound, the Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32 fits a lot of viewing power into a package small enough for a coat pocket.

The 8x magnification is good for many tasks, from birdwatching to sports viewing. The 32 mm objective lens provides a field of view of 362 feet at 1,000 yards and brings in enough light for casual stargazing.

However, there may not be enough light gathering to discern details at dawn or dusk.

The prisms are BaK-4 roof prisms, so they don’t flare out like Porro prisms, which is partly why they are so compact.

The outside has a soft, rubber grip to keep these binoculars from slipping out of your hands. Some accessories are included, such as a nylon mesh carrying case, a neck strap, and lens protection covers.

Wingspan claims that these binoculars are waterproof, which is borne out in the reviews. However, waterproof does not mean submersible, so these binoculars may not survive a canoe trip.

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Waterproof and fog-proof

Cons

  • Mediocre light gathering
  • Some users report visual distortion at the edges

Recommendation

The Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32 is good for people who want to observe far-off objects in daylight without putting too much demand on their binoculars.

 

 

3. Bushnell H20 8×42

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 410 ft.
Angular Field of View: 7.8 degrees
Close Focus Range: 18 ft.
Eye Relief: 17 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 25.6 oz.
Misc: Rubber armor, waterproof, O-ring sealed, nitrogen purged, fog-proof and twist-up eyecups

Overview

One of the toughest binoculars on this list, the Bushnell H20 8×42 is designed to handle the abuse of rough waters.

To that end, it’s not only waterproof but has O-ring seals to keep water out if it is accidentally submerged. The thick and high-grip rubber coating keeps the binoculars in your hands so they don’t fall into the water in the first place.

The optics are multi-coated to transmit ample light without distorting the image, though some people have mentioned some visual aberration around the edges. However, that’s to be expected with budget binoculars.

The eyecups twist in and out rather than folding up or down, which increases the amount of eye relief adjustment. The diopter ting is a bit hard to use, so these binoculars are not the best for sharing.

Pros

  • Comfortable, non-slip rubber coating
  • Completely waterproof

Cons

  • Diopter adjustment can be difficult
  • Heavy
  • Occasional chromatic aberration around the edges

Recommendation

The Bushnell H2O 8×42 is great for adventurers who want binoculars that can keep up with them but won’t hurt the pocket if they are lost.

 

 

4. Nikon Aculon A30 10×25

Specs

Magnification: 10x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 262 ft.
Angular Field of View: 5 degrees
Close Focus Range: 8.2 ft.
Eye Relief: 10.6 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 9.7 oz

Overview

The Nikon Aculon A30 10×25 is a very compact and lightweight set of glass which can go almost anywhere due to its weight (fewer than 10 ounces).

This light weight is achieved in two ways:

  1. Specially made lenses with lighter materials than most glass
  2. 25 mm objective lenses

The first has no downsides, but the small objective lenses do. Namely, little light will be gathered compared to other binoculars on this list, and the field of view is well under 300 feet at 1,000 yards.

This makes these binoculars unsuitable for hunting, where you need to scan a landscape for your animal.

But, if you aren’t searching for something while viewing, the Aculon A30 is an excellent choice. The optics are bright (with ample sunlight) and clear enough to produce a great image. The 10x magnification brings far-off objects right in front of your eyes.

Watersports are another weakness though, as these binoculars are not waterproof.

Pros

  • Extremely lightweight for all-day use without fatigue
  • Very close focus distance for short-range use

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Poor field of view and light gathering capabilities

Recommendation

When ounces matter and you don’t need to use your binoculars during the dark or to find objects, the Nikon Aculon A30 is an excellent choice.

 

 

5. Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70

Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70

Specs

Magnification: 15x
Objective Lens Diameter: 70 mm
Prism: Porro BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 231
Angular Field of View: 4.4 degrees
Close Focus Range: 43 ft.
Eye Relief: 18 mm
Lens Coating: Multi-coated
Weight: 48 oz.
Misc: Rain guard, tripod adapter, folding eyecups

Overview

If you want the most magnification possible, then you want the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70!

The massive 15x magnification lets you see extremely distant objects with clarity. The 70 mm objective lens, while large and heavy, provides a field of view of 231 feet at 1,000 yards and adequate light-gathering capabilities.

You can use these binoculars for stargazing or for bird watching.

In fact, some people prefer these binoculars for stargazing over traditional telescopes due to how much light they gather, even at night.

Also, these are excellent for finding celestial objects before observing them with your telescope.

However, the intense magnification and small field of view makes these binoculars difficult to use in the field.

You’ll be looking at too little of the landscape at a time, and every little tremor in your hand will cause the image to bounce.

So, these binoculars are best used with a tripod. Thankfully, they come with an adapter.

Pros

  • Extreme magnification
  • Great light-gathering, even at night

Cons

  • Blurry image edges
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Too heavy for backpacking and extended use without a tripod

Recommendation

If you need a lot of magnification and plan to use these binoculars on a tripod, then the Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15×70 will help you see the stars.

 

 

6. Best Compact Binoculars Under $100 – Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25

Specs

Magnification: 8x
Objective Lens Diameter: 25 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 356 ft.
Close Focus Range: 6.5 ft.
Eye Relief: 13 mm
Lens Coating: Phase Coated ED Glass
Weight: 12 oz.
Misc: Waterproof, fog-proof, and nitrogen purged

Overview

Wingspan Optics makes high-quality binoculars at a low price point. The Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25 is one of the few ED binoculars available under $100.

ED means “extra-low dispersion.” Combined with phase coating and roof-style BaK-4 prisms, you get extreme optical clarity and light-gathering capabilities despite the small 25 mm objective lens and 12-ounce weight.

The field of view is 356 feet at 1,000 yards, and the close focus range is 6.5 feet, which is barely any distance at all for binoculars.

The feather line is also waterproof and nitrogen-purged for fog-proofing, so you can use these binoculars almost anywhere, whether camping, hunting, or at a sports event.

The only real downside is, since Wingspan Optics had to fit expensive glass into binoculars under $100, the body is not as well made as other binoculars at this price point.

Pros

  • High-definition glass at non-high-definition prices
  • Very compact and lightweight for all-day comfort
  • Waterproof and fog-proof

Cons

  • The glass is better made than the body
  • Not the best light-gathering capabilities (but better than expected for a 25 mm objective lens)

Recommendation

If you want a small, compact pair of binoculars with excellent clarity for under $100, choose the Wingspan Optics Feather ED 8×25.

 

Click here for 8 more great compact binoculars!

 

 

7. Best Hunting Binoculars Under $100 – Bushnell Trophy 10×42

Green Bushnell Trophy 10×42Specs

Magnification: 10x
Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm
Prism: Roof BaK-4
Field of View at 1000 Yards: 330 ft.
Close Focus Range: 10 ft.
Eye Relief: 15 mm
Lens Coating: Fully multi-coated
Weight: 25 oz.
Misc: Nitrogen purged, available in two colors: green and camo

Overview

The Bushnell Trophy 10×42 just barely skirts in under $100, but it is well worth the expense.

Available in green or Realtree camouflage, the Bushnell Trophy line is aimed at hunters and is an excellent hunting binocular for hunters on a budget.

Fully multi-coated, roof-style BaK-4 prisms ensure you have enough light transmission and optical clarity at all times of day to discern whether you’re looking at a buck or doe. That’s aided by the 10x magnification.

Despite the high magnification, well-made 42 mm objective lenses allow you to see enough of the landscape at once to easily find your target.

The body is thick and durable enough to survive the perils of a hunting trip. This does increase the weight, though.

Pros

  • Great balance between magnification and field of view
  • Good light-gathering capabilities even at dawn and dusk
  • Quality accessories

Cons

  • The camo version is more expensive due to licensing costs
  • Not as good at discerning details past normal deer hunting ranges
  • Somewhat heavy

Recommendation

If you need a good pair of hunting binoculars and have spent most of your budget on rifle, scope, and ammo, then, the Bushnell Trophy 10×42 is the best choice for you.

 

 

How to Choose?

binocs dangling from hand

Some cheap binoculars have plenty of value while others are just cheap. How are you supposed to know which is which?

If you’re not an expert on binoculars already, the many choices can be overwhelming, especially since some people recommend binoculars that cost from $300 to over $2,000.

Can you really get quality optics under $100? Under $50?

Yes, you can.

You will lose out on some quality, for sure. However, increasing the cost comes with diminishing returns. Furthermore, some low-priced binoculars punch well above their price tag.

While all of the binoculars on this list are good, some are better at certain tasks than others. Reviewing the following information will help you decide which one is best for you.

 

Magnification and Field of View

There’s often a push and pull between magnification and field of view.

The same glass with the same objective lens with a higher magnification will show you less of the landscape and vice versa.

The sweet spot for general nature viewing tends to be between 8x and 10x. At 10x magnification, an object 1,000 yards away will appear to be only 100 yards away.

The problem with higher magnifications, in addition to a smaller field of view, is the fact that every hand movement is magnified. This can result in the image bouncing around if you don’t have it on a tripod.

So, your choice of magnification often depends on how far away you are from what you want to view and how difficult it is to spot.

Objects which don’t move, such as stars, are easily found and are best observed with higher-magnification binoculars.

However, deer and other animals can be difficult to find, so you’ll want a little less magnification and more field of view.

 

Optical Quality

Price has the most correlation with optical quality. The more you spend, the better the view you’ll get.

This is because of two aspects: glass quality and lens coatings.

Glass Quality

Not all glass is the same. Better-made glass will have fewer imperfections, which translates to a better image.

However, that glass will be more expensive. Generally, cheaper glass will have fuzzy edges or even a fishbowl effect to the view.

More expensive glass will not only have better optical quality but can be lighter, too.

Extra-low dispersion glass, or ED glass, produces a higher-definition image but also has a higher price.

Lens Coatings

binocs lens upclose

Somewhat more important than the glass itself is the coating on the glass.

Lens coatings work to ensure that reflected light stays the same wavelength and at the same angle, keeping the visual image is as accurate as possible.

The more coatings, the more optical aspects are optimized. Multi-coated lenses are better than just a single coating.

Fully coating all of the optics means that the lenses and prisms are doated. So, fully multi-coated binoculars tend to have better images than fully-coated or multi-coated binoculars.

Phase coating is a special coating that’s better than normal coatings but also commands a more expensive price.

Learn more about lens coatings here.

 

Durability

woman with binocs on the mountain

Your binoculars’ physical defenses against water and hard knocks can be reduced to save money if you don’t go on harsh adventures with your equipment.

On the other hand, if you do venture into the woods or on the water, paying more for thicker construction and rubber armor can keep your binoculars safe and prevent them from turning into a pile of useless glass shards.

Other durability aspects include waterproofing and fog-proofing.

 

Waterproofing

Waterproofing refers to body construction, such as tight tolerances and O-rings, to keep water from entering your binoculars.

Water inside the optics can obscure the view and make your binoculars frustrating, if not impossible, to use.

Water-resistant binoculars can be used in light rain. Waterproof binoculars can be used in rain without worry, and some can even survive a temporary dip underwater.

 

Fog-proofing

Much like your car’s windshield, fog can make it difficult to look through your binoculars’ lenses.

More expensive binoculars tend to have the atmosphere inside replaced with a non-reactive gas such as argon or nitrogen, which helps prevent fog from building up.

Fog-proof does not mean that the outside of the lenses don’t fog (though it can provide resistance against such), rather that the inside of the lenses don’t fog.

You can wipe away external fog but not internal fog!

However, if you don’t use your binoculars outside during temperature swings, fog-proofing isn’t as necessary.

Hunters need it; sports viewers may not.

 

Prism Style

porro vs roof prism binoculars

There are two prism styles in use today: Porro and roof prisms.

Porro prisms flare outward or, occasionally, inward. They are bulkier and heavier but are cheaper to manufacture.

They may be the classic style but are not yet outdated.

Roof-style prisms are a more modern style and keep everything in line. Roof-style binoculars are more compact and lighter but are more expensive to manufacture.

 

Size and Weight

man using binocs to view cliff

This last consideration depends on how far you want to travel with the binoculars on foot.

Smaller and lighter binoculars are better for hikers and people who will be using the binoculars frequently throughout the day.

Heavy binoculars can cause hand fatigue over time.

However, if you intend to use the binoculars from your car, in your backyard, or while you’re sitting at a sporting event, extra weight isn’t a hindrance.

 

Conclusion

We’ve all had to balance price and value before. Every binocular on this list is a good balance between the two.

What do you need these binoculars for?

If you’re a hunter, the Bushnell Trophy is great for you. If you’re a long-distance hiker who wants to save weight and space, get the Wingspan Optics Feather ED.

Want to gaze upon the stars? The Celestron SkyMaster Giant is the binocular for you.

If you’re a casual nature watcher who wants a versatile set of binoculars, then the Bushnell Falcon can do a bit of everything for very little cost.

Whichever binoculars you choose, all of these will help you observe whatever you’re looking at clearly and without a price that makes your wallet weep.

 

Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson learned to walk in the mountains and has spent much of his life exploring the outdoors. He is equally at home in the woods, at the range, or on the gunsmithing bench, and loves to build guns almost as much as he enjoys shooting them. His travels have taken him to the four corners of the United States. Though his favorite hunting spot is in Alaska, Kansas deer taste better.

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