Best Binoculars For The Money: Celestron vs Bushnell vs Nikon vs Olympus

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Best…
Under $50
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$50-$100
Nikon logo
$100-$200
Nikon logo
$200-$300
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Whether you’re “looking” for affordable binoculars for bird watching, sporting events, stargazing, or other activities, we’ve got you covered with tips on what features to look for, what all the binocular lingo means, and our top picks for a variety of categories (including pricing).

Article Overview

What Features Are Important?

Don’t know what all the numbers and lingo mean when it comes to binoculars? Here’s a brief rundown of the essential features and what they all mean for your viewing experience.

Magnification And Objective Lens Diameter

Magnification and objective lens diameter are two of the most critical elements in a pair of binoculars. These are the two numbers that identify what type of binoculars you’re purchasing.

For example, 10 x 50 is the magnification (10) x objective lens diameter (50). Magnification appears as 7X, 8X, 10X, and higher. This means that you’ll be able to see objects in the distance 10 times larger (with 10X binoculars) than you would with the naked eye. The second number is the objective lens diameter in millimeters.

Lens objective size is also crucial. Larger lenses collect more light than smaller lenses so that objects will be brighter in binoculars with larger lenses.

Field Of View

The field of view is the amount of area, in feet or meters, that you’re able to see when you’re looking through binoculars. Magnification and objective lens diameter affect your field of view. Higher magnifications give you a smaller field of view, while larger lenses give you a wider field of view. So, if you’re comparing two pairs of binoculars, both with 10X magnification but different lens sizes, the lens size determines the field of view. And vice versa.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is a feature for people who wear eyeglasses. Eye relief relates to the field of view — it’s the distance, measured in millimeters, that you can hold the binoculars away from your eyes and still get the same field of view as those without eyeglasses.

Exit Pupil Diameter

The exit pupil diameter (derived from dividing the lens size by the magnification) defines the brightness your binoculars provide. The larger the number, the brighter the images will appear. If brightness is key, you’ll want a higher magnification and larger lens size.

What Will You Be Exploring?

Binoculars laying on ledge (caption: Best Binoculars for the Money)There’s an affordable pair of binoculars well-suited for almost any occasion, and here are some of our recommendations for various uses. Simply click on each link to jump to that product’s review. Or continue reading on to see our top picks based on pricing tiers.

Best Binoculars For The Money

There are hundreds of binoculars on the market, ranging from $10 to $3,000 or more. Most of us don’t want to drop three grand on a pair of binoculars, let alone $300.

So, read our reviews below to find the best binoculars for what you need in your price range. We also cover high-end binoculars, just in case you’re looking to splurge.

Under $50 | Under $100 | Under $200 | Under $300 | High End | Compact

Best Binoculars Under $50

As with anything in life, you get what you pay for. Sure, a $30 pair of binoculars just can’t compare to a $1,000 pair, but there are some good budget and mid-range choices out there. Here are the best we’ve found for under $50.

Bushnell 133450 Falcon Review

Bushnell 133450 Falcon 10 x 50 binoculars View on Amazon

Bushnell is a top optic manufacturer with a long track record of quality products. It’s hard to find a better pair of binoculars than the Bushnell 133450 Falcon 10 x 50 in this price range.

This product is perfect for general use and has some added features, like auto focusing Porro prism9-mm eye relief, 5-mm exit pupil, and coated lenses. The field of view is 300-feet at 1000 yards, and it comes with a strap and case.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent value
  • Great HD clarity and brightness
  • Fluid zoom adjustment
  • InstaFocus lever for rapid focusing
  • Eye relief suitable for people who wear glasses
  • Coated lenses
  • Items closer than 25 ft. will be blurry
  • Not waterproof
  • Bulky
  • Some consumers complain that the lens covers pop off easily

Pricing

  • $39.01 , includes strap and case
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Field of View: 300-feet at 1,000 yards
  • Eye Relief: 9mm

Best Binoculars Under $100

The following binoculars are all excellent values if your budget allows for spending a bit more than our previous three products.

Nikon | Wingspan | Olympus | Celestron

Nikon Aculon A211 8 x 42 Review

Nikon 8245 Aculon A211 8 x 42View on Amazon

The Nikon 8245 Aculon A211 8 x 42 is a super value for bird watching enthusiasts or hunters. These binoculars are well suited for people spending hours outdoors.

They’re relatively compact and lightweight, easing the strain on your neck, and they have rubber eyecups for maximum comfort.

They deliver a slightly higher mid-range magnification and have a good close focus of 16.4 feet. And the wider field of view is a handy feature when tracking birds in flight.

Pros

Cons

  • Great value for birding and hunting
  • Easy to focus
  • Porro prism design (better performance in lower-priced binoculars)
  • Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups 
  • 12mm eye relief
  • Multi-coated eco-glass lenses with anti-fog protection
  • Not fully waterproof
  • Must purchase strap and case separately
  • Not ideal for indoors
  • Some users complain about blurring and some distortion of images around lens edges

Pricing

  • Check Amazon for availability
  • Magnification: 8X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 420 feet
  • Eye Relief: 12mm
  • Nikon Aculon A211 also available in 10 x 50 and 10-22 x 50

Wingspan Optics Spectator 8 x 32 Review

Wingspan Optics SpectatorView on Amazon

The Wingspan Optics Spectator 8 x 32 is another top choice for bird watchers and hunters in this price range. The Bak 4-K prisms on these binoculars are high quality, giving them excellent clarity and focus.

Users report fantastic sharpness. The Wingspan is also tripod adaptable and has a 4mm exit pupil diameter.

The only major complaint we found was that these binoculars aren’t as lightweight as some other comparable products.

Pros

Cons

  • Very sharp images and focus
  • Good field of view
  • Compact (fits into a jacket pocket)
  • Non-slip grip
  • Heavily coated lenses with fog proofing
  • Lifetime warranty
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Not ideal for low-light conditions
  • Weatherproof but not entirely waterproof
  • A bit heavier than other similar compact binoculars

Pricing

  • $79.92 , includes strap, carrying bag, cleaning cloth and covers for all 4 lenses
  • Magnification: 8X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 32mm
  • Field of view: 362 feet
  • Eye Relief: 14.8mm
  • Lifetime warranty

Olympus 118760 Trooper 10 x 50 Review

Olympus 118760 Trooper 10 x 50View on Amazon

The Olympus 118760 Trooper 10 x 50 DPS I Binocular is a solid choice for birding, hiking, and watching outdoor sporting events.

The Bak-7 lens system isn’t as good as Wingspan’s product (see above), but these binoculars are better in lower light conditions.

With a wide-angle field of view and anti-reflective lens coating for better image brightness, contrast, and quality, the Olympus is a super value.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent clarity and sharpness
  • Durable construction
  • Porro prism design
  • 12mm eye relief
  • 5mm exit pupil (suitable for both low-light conditions and daylight viewing)
  • UV protection
  • No waterproofing
  • Lens covers aren’t attached

Pricing

Celestron SkyMaster Review

Celestron SkyMasterView on Amazon

Celestron SkyMaster is a top-selling series of high-quality, reasonably-priced astronomy binoculars, with a wide range of optics and prices.

The Celestron SkyMaster Giant 15 x 70 is one of their most popular models and is a powerful stargazing binocular for the money. The magnification, low lighting features and diopter adjustment for fine focusing, and the large aperture all allow you to view nebulous planets, double stars, and even faint galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

Celestron also uses BAK4 and multi-coated optics for superb sharpness, brightness, color, and contrast. This SkyMaster model is on the heavy side but you can still use it as handheld binoculars. They also come with a tripod adapter.

Pros

Cons

  • Great value
  • Excellent sharpness and brightness
  • Large aperture ideal for low light conditions and stargazing
  • Comes with a tripod adapter
  • 13mm eye relief
  • Not waterproof or fog proof (but comes with a rain guard)
  • Heavy
  • Must purchase tripod separately

Pricing

  • $89.00 , includes objective lens cap, rain guard, tripod adapter, carrying case, neck strap, and lens cloth.
  • Magnification: 15X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 70mm
  • Field of view: 230 feet (4.4 degrees against the sky)
  • Eye Relief: 13mm

Best Binoculars Under $200

Two binoculars in this price range stand out: the Nikon Action EX Extreme and Vanguard Spirit ED. Most of the models in each series fall within the $100-$200 range.

Nikon | Vanguard

Nikon Action EX Extreme Review

Nikon Action EX ExtremeView on Amazon

The Nikon Action EX Extreme All-Terrain Series includes a variety of optic choices, and all prices fall between the $100 and $200 range.

Here, we’re reviewing the 10 x 50 binoculars, one of their most popular models for their versatility. You can use these binoculars for closer-up bird watching and hunting, marine use, sporting events, decent stargazing, and more.

This model uses BaK4 high index roof prisms and has a good field of view and close distance at 23 feet. All models in the series include eye relief and water- and fog-proofing. They’ve also been tested for water submersion.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent brightness, sharpness, and color
  • Rugged construction
  • Multi-coated lenses are waterproof and fog proof
  • Long eye relief
  • Good in lower light
  • 25-year limited warranty
  • On the heavy side and bulky, so not ideal for long stretches of bird watching or hunting
  • Stargazing is limited compared to Celestron products
  • Some users complain that the lens covers don’t stay on well

Pricing

  • $168.99 , includes lens covers
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Field of view: 341 feet
  • 25-year limited warranty
  • Available in 7 x 35, 7 x 50, 8 x 40, 10 x 50, 12 x 50, 16 x 50

Vanguard Spirit ED Review

Vanguard Spirit ED 10 x 42View on Amazon

The Vanguard Spirit ED Series of binoculars are an excellent value for their high quality and features. Here, we review the 10 x 42 binoculars, their most popular model.

Like its Nikon counterpart, these binoculars are 100% waterproof and fog proof, have multi-coated lenses and a BaK4 prism design. You can’t beat their premium lifetime warranty — they’ll replace your binoculars any time for any reason.

Vanguard submerges each binocular in three feet of water for 30 minutes and thoroughly retests it before shipment.

Pros

Cons

  • Super sharp and bright images
  • Multi-coated lenses are waterproof and fog proof
  • Color-dispersion correcting, extra-low dispersion (ED) glass
  • Easy to focus with large adjustment wheel
  • 16mm eye relief
  • Twist-out eyecups
  • Premium lifetime warranty
  • Some users report peripheral distortion, especially during lower-light conditions
  • Doesn’t include tripod adapter

Pricing

  • $379.97 , includes case and strap
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 314
  • Eye Relief: 16mm
  • Available in 8 x 36, 8 x 42, 10 x 42, and 10 x 50

Best Binoculars Under $300

When getting into the $200 to $300 price range, you can really step up your viewing experience. You get much better brightness, clarity, color, and contrast in this price range. Here are our top picks for the best binoculars under $300.

Bushnell | Vanguard | Steiner

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10 x 42 Binoculars Review

Bushnell Legend Ultra HDView on Amazon

The award-winning Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism 10 x 42 binocular is a top choice for birding, hunting, and other outdoor activities.

At just over $200, these binoculars are hard to beat for their high-quality, features, and price. The key to their super light transmission is their anti-reflective lens coating and ED Prime glass for HD viewing and sharp, color-true detail.

These binoculars also use a BaK4 Roof Prism system and RainGuard HD anti-fog technology for 100% all-weather protection.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent optics with superior sharpness
  • Perform well in low light, through dawn and dusk
  • 15.2mm eye relief and locking diopter ring
  • Good close focus at 6.5 feet
  • Fairly lightweight and easy to hold
  • Twist-up eyecups
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Rain and waterproof, but can’t submerge in water so not ideal for marine use
  • Lens covers could be more secure
  • Must purchase tripod adjustment separately

Pricing

  • $273.05 , includes soft carrying case, microfiber carry bag, neck strap and body harness
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 340 feet
  • Eye Relief: 15.2mm
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Available in black or camo

Vanguard Endeavor ED 10 x 42 Review

Vanguard Endeavor ED 10 x 42View on Amazon

The Vanguard Endeavor ED 10 x 42 binocular’s optics are equally as impressive as the Bushnell Legend, and there are very few differences between the two when it comes to optical details.

There are some differences in their features. Vanguard Endeavor’s twist-up eyecups provide an extra position for comfort, the rubber grip is easier to hold, and the lens covers are more secure.

On the other hand, the Bushnell Legend is slightly lighter weight, has a better close up focus, and comes with more accessories (including a neck and harness strap). Both come with an excellent lifetime warranty.

Pros

Cons

  • Excellent optics with superior sharpness
  • Perform well in low light, through dawn and dusk
  • 16.5mm eye relief and locking diopter ring
  • Good close focus at 8.2 feet
  • Twist-up eyecups
  • Premium lifetime warranty
  • Heavier than Bushnell Legend
  • Can’t submerge in water
  • Must purchase tripod adjustment separately

Pricing

  • $250.89 , includes case and strap
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 340 feet
  • Eye Relief: 16.5mm
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Available in 8 x 32, 8 x 42 and 10 x 42

Steiner Marine 7 x 50 Review

Steiner Marine 7 x 50 binocularsView on Amazon

Germany-based Steiner has a long history of producing high-quality optics. The Steiner Marine 7 x 50 binoculars feature marine glass designed to mimic traditional Steiner navy/military styling with fully multi-coated optics, Bak-4 prisms for excellent low-light performance, and a peak light transmission of over 90%.

A huge plus for boaters is this binocular’s waterproof and shockproof housing, which protects the optics if you drop them in water.

The Steiner Marine uses a Sports-Autofocus system that puts everything into focus from 20 yards out once calibrated to the user’s eyes — another huge plus when you’re on a moving boat.

Pros

Cons

  • Sharp, brilliant optics
  • Excellent autofocus
  • Multi-coated lenses with excellent low light performance
  • Waterproof and shockproof to 20G’s
  • No-slip grip, even when wet, with black rubber armoring
  • 22mm eye relief with glasses or sunglasses
  • Very large and heavy
  • A few users report slight barrel distortion

Pricing

  • $211.65 , includes case, strap and rain and spray guard
  • Magnification: 7X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50mm
  • Field of view: 354 feet
  • Eye Relief: 22mm
  • 10-year warranty

Best High-End Binoculars

If budget isn’t a concern, it might be worthwhile to invest in a good pair of binoculars for your hobby.

Vortex | Zeiss

Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars 10×42 Review

Vortex Optics Viper HD BinocularsView on Amazon

Vortex’s Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars give you a high-density optical system with excellent resolution and edge to edge clarity. Get up to 10 times magnification and high-definition views in full light and low light situations thanks to the XR anti-reflective lenses. It has a locking, right-eye diopter that adjusts the barrels to your eyes with a center wheel to focus and fine-tune for sharper views. In addition to being scratch-resistant, waterproof, and fog proof, these binoculars are compact and feel sturdy and high-end with a weight of 2.7 pounds.

Pros

Cons

  • Adjustable eye cups and IPD to align with your eyes or wear with glasses
  • Glass pack chest harness included
  • Lightweight, easy-grip ergonomic design
  • Lifetime warranty on waterproof and fog-proof performance
  • More expensive
  • On the heavier side

Pricing

  • $499.00
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 341
  • Available in 10 x 42, 10 x 50, 12 x 50, 8 x 42

Zeiss Optical 10 x 42 Victory RF Review

Carl Zeiss Optical 10x42 Victory RF BinocularView on Amazon

If you have a few thousand to drop on a pair of binoculars, the Carl Zeiss Optical 10 x 42 Victory RF Binocular is one of the best high-end binoculars you’ll find. Zeiss has been a leader in the optics and imaging industry since its founding in Germany in 1846.

They make superb-quality binoculars, as well as medical optical devices and even space telescopes. The optics in this pair of binoculars are unparalleled, thanks to their expert design featuring HT (high-transmission) glass by Schott, enhanced T coatings for 95%+ light transmission, and FL- lenses for extreme color resolution.  

Pros

Cons

  • Unbeatable brightness, even in low light conditions
  • Users liken the image clarity to “close to 3D”
  • Large, easy to focus wheel, even while wearing gloves
  • Close focus at 6.2 feet
  • Large diopter adjustment range
  • Lightweight, easy-grip ergonomic design
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Very expensive

Pricing

  • $3,544.99
  • Magnification: 10X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm
  • Field of view: 361
  • Available in 8 x 42, 8 x 54, 10 x 42, and 10 x 54

Best Compact Binoculars For The Money: USCAMEL Folding Pocket Binoculars Review

USCAMEL 8 x 21 Folding Pocket BinocularsView on Amazon

Looking for the best binoculars for travel or small binoculars you can slip in your pocket for the theater? The USCAMEL 8 x 21 Folding Pocket Binoculars are among the smallest you’ll find at a price that’s tough to beat. But that doesn’t mean these binoculars skimp on optics, at least for this price range.

These binoculars use Bak4 roof prisms for optimal clarity at a smaller lens size. But, be forewarned. You’re not going to get a wide field of view from these binoculars because the lenses are smaller and magnification is 8x.

For concerts or the theater and general outdoor use, they’ll more than suffice. 

Pros

Cons

  • Clear HD optics with Bak4 prisms and antiglare
  • Can fit in your pocket
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • FMC-green coated lenses
  • 11mm eye relief and fold-down eyecups
  • Image stabilization
  • Users report that they’re limited for very long distances
  • Difficult to focus
  • Unclear what the field of view is

Pricing

  • $23.99 , includes case, strap and cleaning cloth
  • Magnification: 8X
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 21mm
  • Eye relief: 11mm
  • Available in black or camo

Other Features To Consider (Video)

Other features that may be important to you are the size and portability, weatherproofing and waterproofing, and lens coating that protects the lenses from scratches and improves clarity. Want a better understanding of what the numbers mean? Not sure what magnification and lens size you’ll need? Check out this informative video by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to help you decide.

Plan On Taking Your Binoculars Camping?

Hopefully, you’ve narrowed down your binoculars of choice. What else do you need for your adventures? If you’re planning on camping and want to invest in a quality tent, read our best tents for camping reviews to discover our top picks.

If you need other gear to make your camping experience comfortable and memorable, check out our best camping gear list for our tips and reviews of various must-have gear.

What binocular features are the most important to you?

About The Author:

Sally holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in anthropology from James Madison University. She went on to pursue a master’s in journalism at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An international traveler since she was under 10 years old, Sally loves exploring the world’s mysteries first-hand. Her favorite destinations? Greece, the British Virgin Islands and NYC.

She also spent much of her career in health sciences communications and has enjoyed working with and learning from some of the world’s leading academic scientists in genetics, global health, addiction research and other fields. Her work has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, People, Forbes, Huffington Post, and more.

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