A pair of binoculars is a typical tool that is a great thing to have for numerous activities when out in the wild blue beyond. They can be good for hunting, fishing, and even just for sightseeing purposes when going on a long hike. In some cases, they can even help you get your bearings in largely unknown areas where being able to get a visual on landmarks can mean the difference between staying lost or heading in the right direction.
We know binoculars can be quite expensive. They can run the gamut as far as price goes. You can find them anywhere from $200 up, some even capping above $500 total. Breathe a sigh of relief, though; you don’t have to settle for destroying your bank account over a nice pair of optics. There are numerous examples of high-quality binocular products at a more than fair price, and we’re here to sort through them all to give you a better picture of just what’s out there on the market at this time.
First, we’re going to showcase the bare minimum of what you should know about binoculars before you even think about hitting that purchase button. Right after that, we are going to go straight into the product reviews.
Finally, we’ll cap off the article with a section that contains even more details on these handy visual tools that will hopefully enrich your understanding of them more and give you a better idea of how they can help you to enjoy your outdoor experience even more.
- Finding the Best Binoculars
- Top 10 Best Binoculars 2021 – Under $100
- 1. Best Overall Binoculars Under $100: Nikon Aculon A211 10×42
- 2. Best Binoculars for Boating: Bushnell H2O Roof Prism 8×42
- 3. Best Premium Binoculars: Celestron Outland X 10×42
- 4. Best Compact Binoculars: Leupold BX-1 Rogue
- 5. Best Budget Binoculars: Occer 12×25 Compact Binoculars
- 6. Best Binoculars for Bird Watching: Wingspan Optics Spectator 8×32
- 7. Best Binoculars for Hunting: Bushnell Powerview 10×50 Porro Prism
- 8. Best Binoculars for Stargazing: Celestron Skymaster 25×70
- 9. Best Binoculars for Glasses: Bushnell Falcon 10×50
- 10. Best Binoculars for Kids: Kidwinz Compact 8×21
- Guide to Buying the Best Binoculars Under $100
- Take One Last Look
Finding the Best Binoculars
Here are a couple of fast and easy points of consideration on binoculars. It’s good to have a decent lay of the land before making any sort of purchase decision. If you are wanting more information on these products, however, there will be a more in-depth guide right behind the product reviews.
There are few different kinds of binoculars out there that are used based on what the individual needs.
These are binoculars that have 40mm lenses or higher, with some models getting as large as 70mm. The advantage of these models is that they can take in much more light (even in low lighting conditions). They also have a much wider field of view capability than smaller models. They can come at the price of being a bit too bulky for hiking and extended hunting trips.
These are going to have up to 40mm lenses, but will at least have a 30mm lens. These are good for almost any kind of outdoor sport or activity. They will usually give you above-average quality with the optics and a decent amount of light transmission for the dollar.
These are the smallest kind of binoculars on the market that usually have 30mm lenses or lower. These are going to be lightweight and small in size. They are certainly ideal for light backpacking and hiking situations and even leisure activities such as birdwatching in your backyard. Obviously, due to their size, these are not going to be the best in terms of light transmission and optical quality, but they will probably get the job done at closer ranges.
Binoculars come in a wide range of magnification levels. Rather than any one being better than the rest, it’s important to choose binoculars with a magnification level that matches what you intend to do with them.
10x magnification is a good all-purpose choice, but you might prefer something weaker for relatively close targets—birdwatching, for example, is best with a weaker magnification and a wider field of view. On the other hand, you’ll want something much stronger for long distances (stargazing binoculars go as high as 25x, for example).
Quality of Optics
Optical quality boils down to two main things. These are namely the quality of the glass and the coating on the lens itself.
Cheaper-designed lens glass can potentially give more distorted views and can be a bit foggy in their overall clarity. The general assumption is that the more you spend, the better the glass on a pair of binoculars will be, but this doesn’t always have to be the case.
The lens coating is an important consideration as well. They keep reflected light stable in such a way that the visual image isn’t distorted too much. When looking at these cheaper models of binoculars, make sure that the lenses are at least multi-coated. This gives the optics more of a fighting chance of being higher quality in their image even if the glass of the lenses isn’t top of the line.
You’re going to be out and about in various woodland and other natural environments with these things, and they need to be able to take a beating. Make sure they are of a durable design or at the very least come with a decent carrying case of some sort. Another bonus is if the model is fog, water, and weatherproof.
So, put on some warm wool socks and lace those boots up. Let’s see what’s out there on the market when it comes to stellar binocular models that won’t hurt your wallet in the process!
Top 10 Best Binoculars 2021 – Under $100
- Size: Full (42mm)
- Zoom: 10x
With a spacious 10×42 lens style, this high-quality product from Nikon is perfect for all purposes. Pretty much anything from hunting, hiking, birdwatching, concert-going, and much more. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find such value in a pair of binoculars like this, especially at the price point.
These binoculars have a lot of fantastic extras on them despite being a sub 100 dollar pair. They come with comfortable rubber eyecups for long-term viewing. The lens glass is durable and coated multiple times for clarity in various lighting scenarios. And as far as the housing goes, it has a nice and smooth rubber coating ensuring this pair of optics won’t slip out of your hands in a downpour.
There’s not much to criticize here. Nikon is known for its high-quality product lines, and this is a no-brainer when it comes to a low-cost solution to your optical needs. While it doesn’t specialize in one area in particular, if you’re looking for a great pair of binoculars to have for almost any occasion, you won’t be disappointed with the value that the Nikon A211 can give. If you need to see further the Celestron Skymaster 25×70 might be better, and the Leupold BX-1 Rogue is a better compact option, but most people will love these Nikons.
- Size: Full (42mm)
- Zoom: 10x, 8x
Bushnell is one of the oldest manufacturers of binoculars out there, and with that kind of legacy comes quality. This waterproof offering allows for high-level optics while keeping nasty elements at bay.
As obvious from the name in the title, this pair of binoculars is 100% waterproof (as well as fog proof). It doesn’t matter if you’re going out in the Gulf of Mexico for fishing, taking part in white-water rafting, or are traveling the Amazon in search of lost cities. This is a pair of binoculars that will never fog up or let you down due to its nitrogen-purged design. It has a unique O-ring design that lets it be submerged in water for hours without compromising the interior.
These binoculars also come with rubber grip housing, a jumbo focus knob in the center, and variable eyecups for all kinds of comfort levels. And with an 8×42 lens setup, you’ll be more than prepared to spot potential dangers and useful landmarks while sailing on the high seas.
It’s hard to give the Bushnell H2O any negative marks. This is a solid adventurer’s binocular setup that is fantastic for taking on aquatic/boating outings. It’s maybe a bit bulky, but overall this is a great choice for all sorts of outdoor adventures due to its highly waterproof nature. If you’re worried about size you may want to consider the Leupold BX-1 Rogue, though some people will prefer the larger Bushnell.
- Size: Full (42mm)
- Zoom: 10x, 8x
This sleek-looking pair of binoculars weighs at just under 2 pounds and is water and fog proof due to its nitrogen purged design. It also comes with great quality of life additions such as a protective rubber build over the housing and adjustable eyecups for on the go eye relief. These binoculars also come with great extras, such as a carrying case, non-abrasive lens cleaning cloth, and lens caps.
The Celestron is composed of a high-grade Bak4 prism design with its lenses, which gives you a greater range of colors. And with a 10x magnification potential, you’ll be able to observe anything up to 1000 yards. For a pair of binoculars that is well under $100, this is practically a steal.
The biggest downside we could find with these binoculars is a lack of phase coating on the prism. This can reduce the clarity of this product drastically compared to more expensive variations. With that being said, it’s still a solid item. At its price point along with its 10x magnification capabilities, we think this is a fantastic deal for an under $100 pair of binoculars.
- Size: Compact (25mm)
- Zoom: 10x
If you’re looking for a pair of binoculars with the impressive optics that come with Porro prism designs, but are also looking for something that won’t encumber you too much on lengthy woodland outings, then the Leupold BX-1 might just be what you’re looking for.
Weight just right under one pound, this set of binoculars comes complete with a lightweight yet durable aluminum frame that won’t strain your neck in the slightest. Additionally, it comes complete with 10x magnification potential and BAK-4 prism design, giving you excellent visual quality. And if you’re looking to put this item to the test in harsher environments, not to worry. The BX-1 is both water and fog proof.
The downside to the BX-1 is that it is so small. The spread of the eyepiece section itself only can adjust so far. This means it might not be long enough for individuals that have broader faces, who would likely prefer the full-sized Nikon Aculon A211 10×42. Other than that, this is a solid compact binocular set that will be more than suitable for your outdoor needs.
- Size: Compact (25mm)
- Zoom: 12x
Occer is a well-known brand that gives its customers high-level optics at bargain prices. Their 12×25 Compact model is composed of BAK-4 prisms. These are considered to be top of the line in a lot of optical products. It allows for a high level of image quality. Adding to this is the inclusion of a multi-layer green film on the lenses themselves. This allows the unit to work incredibly well in not-so-bright lighting conditions and gives it an almost night vision-level component without actually increasing the price point the next several tiers in the process.
As far as durability goes, this is a solid product bar none. Made up of hardened ABS plastic and a rubber housing, these binoculars can take whatever the outdoors can dish at them. Also, these binoculars are very light and they weigh in at under a single pound. This makes them great for all kinds of uses, not just merely for the great outdoors.
This is a budget-minded product, so that means there’s room for error. We are a bit concerned about how waterproof the binoculars are in the long run. Also, since they are so light to hold, they can be difficult to stabilize properly to get a good view of things. At this price point, however, we think these issues can be overlooked by most—though, if you want a sturdier, waterproof option, the Celestron Outland X 10×42 might be worth the added expense.
- Size: Medium (32mm)
- Zoom: 8x
These binoculars were made with the birdwatching nature enthusiast in mind. They are composed of a high-quality BaK4 prism, which is good for overall image quality. It also comes with a lot of great extras, including a mesh carrying bag, a strap, a cleaning cloth, and helpful eyepiece and lens protective coverings.
Probably the most noticeable thing about this product is just how tiny it is. It weighs just under one whole pound, making it one of the most lightweight products on this list. These are great binoculars for impromptu needs, especially if you just noticed a few interesting new birds land nearby in your backyard that you want to examine quickly.
This is a great product for bird watchers everywhere, but we also think it would make a good low-cost choice for concerts, and even hiking trips. We’re a bit skeptical of its overall waterproof-ness and we wouldn’t recommend submerging it for long periods. We also found that the light-catching capabilities were a bit lacking with these binoculars. At this price point, however, it’s more than understandable. If you’re looking for a small, portable set of binoculars, look no further.
- Size: Full (50mm)
- Zoom: 10x, 8x
These binoculars offer a 10x level of magnification, making them quite adept at spotting whatever large buck or turkey you might be tailing at the moment. They also feature Bak7 prism optic lenses, which are multi-coated for any kind of lighting you can put them through. We can’t stress enough how fantastic these binoculars are at their price point. They truly offer some of the best visual quality for hunters of all stripes.
The thing that sold us on this product, however, was its very apt camouflage design. And at just 1.5 pounds, these high-powered optics aren’t going to tax you too hard while you’re out in the hinterlands. It also comes with a durable canvas carrying case and lens covers to keep your optics safe when not in use.
This is a solid product, however, we found a glaring issue. For one, this set of binoculars isn’t waterproof, which is a huge thing if you’re going trekking in the great outdoors for any long period. This might be a dealbreaker for some (who should go for the waterproof Bushnell H2O Roof Prism 8×42 instead, even though they’re smaller and offer less zoom), but otherwise, these are high-quality hunting binoculars at a fantastic price.
- Size: Full (70mm)
- Zoom: 25x
These binoculars offer a wide aperture design, which is great for gathering all kinds of light, no matter the situation. And with 25x magnification, these things excel at long range as well. The SkyMaster is primarily marketed towards stargazers and people interested in astronomy, and it’s easily a top choice for them with its top of the line BAK-4 prism design and multi-coated optics.
We think the best thing about these binoculars are the fact that they can mount on most tripods. When you take into account the finely fashioned rubber body and the long lens style, you’ve got the making of a pair of binoculars that offer a solid grip as well as stability.
The downside we found to these great nighttime binoculars is that, while they are water-resistant to some degree, they are not 100% waterproof. So, don’t be taking these guys on any long-term swamp trek or other kinds of adventures where there’s a possibility of submersion. The Celestron simply won’t make it in such conditions. They are also heavier than other examples on this list, but as we said earlier these binoculars aren’t meant for hiking or most outdoor activities. If you keep that in mind, there’s a solid product for budding astronomers here, overall.
- Size: Full (50mm)
- Zoom: 10x
People who wear glasses can have a bit of a tough time dealing with binoculars. This is especially true if they aren’t designed with any sort of feature that creates a soft barrier between your glasses and the sensitive lenses of the binoculars themselves. Bushnell strives to eliminate this problem with the Falcon series.
These binoculars come complete with a unique roll-down eyecup system. That means you can roll back the rubber cups from the lenses, which allows you to get a closer look without marring your prescription glasses and/or sunglasses in the process. How does the rest of the product stack up, though? The Falcon gives you a fantastic 10x magnification and with the 50mm lens you’re going to be able to get some stunning wide vistas through the viewfinder.
While these are fantastic binoculars at an equally fantastic price point, the one big thing we found lacking with this product is the fact that it is neither fog-proof nor waterproof. This is a big deal when it comes to the longevity of these binoculars, especially if you are interested in taking long outings in humid locations. These are great as far as optics go, and you can easily find them for under $50, so we think there’s not much room for complaint here!
- Size: Compact (21mm)
- Zoom: 8x
These binoculars are made with children in mind. That means they are built to be as durable as possible! Everyone knows how kids can be extremely harsh on their items. Kidwinz keeps this essential reality in mind and has made these binoculars shockproof while also coating the entirety of the outside in thick rubber. Even the eyepieces are rubberized, ensuring that children don’t get injured if they accidentally ram their binoculars into their face.
What about the optics, though? These binoculars support an 8x magnification, which isn’t too shabby for a pair of children’s optics. These are great for nature walks, birdwatching, and even light stargazing in dusky conditions. This item also comes with a carrying case, strap, and cleaning cloth as well.
This is a product made for children, so it’s not necessarily going to be the most top of the line in terms of its optics. There’s not a lot of clarity in the image quality the further out you look with these binoculars. Additionally, they are quite small in design, and we think they are suitable for young children at best. Older kids will probably be better served by a compact adult model like the Leupold BX-1 Rogue.
However, if you’re looking for a solid item for your child that will withstand a beating, then these are the binoculars to get. If you’re not satisfied, they have a 60-day money-back guarantee, and to sweeten the deal the product comes with a lifetime warranty as well.
Guide to Buying the Best Binoculars Under $100
Here are some more in-depth points that expand a bit more on what we covered earlier in this article. The goal for this section is to go over some more details of the product to give you a clearer picture of what you might need to know before making a purchase.
How Do Binoculars Work?
Binoculars are just instruments that magnify objects via two telescopic sights that are connected to a frame that is usually made up of some kind of metal or plastic. By using multiple glass lenses of various curvatures, the binoculars magnify the target more as the image goes through each respective lens in a sequence.
In some older models of binoculars, each time the image was magnified, a small amount of light could be lost each time. This was rectified later on by embedding prisms within the binoculars themselves. These assist in light-bending and allow for smaller models of binoculars to be made while, at the same time, making them more powerful than models from the past.
Binoculars are a relatively recent invention in human history. The first example of one dates back to the seventeenth century; however, the first actual hand-held pair was made in 1702. For an extensive history of binoculars, as well as telescopes, please take a look at this informative document courtesy of the University of Arizona.
How Do I Buy the Right Binoculars?
Here’s a small guide on types of binoculars utilized for different activities, and what you might need for each one.
When it comes to hiking, a small and compact pair of binoculars will do you quite well. They are not nearly as heavy as bigger models. Your body will thank you later for it. Be aware, however, that compact models of binoculars don’t usually have the view distance of other full or medium-size models. If you’re going to be hiking in fairly lengthy areas and want to get a more complete view of things, consider stepping it up to a medium-sized model.
For the best hiking binocular on this list, we recommend the pick that took our top spot.
Before we get into hunting locales, it’s good to make sure your binoculars are camo in design. Also, make sure that they are hardy, have a decent strap, and are water, weather, and fog-proof.
If you’re going to be hunting in large, open areas, then a durable pair of binoculars that can magnify up to 10x magnification is going to be a good pick for this. Additionally, you’re going to want to make sure they have a fairly wide field of view as well so you don’t miss out on details that you might miss in a more narrow viewport.
If you’re primarily going to be focused on dense forest landscapes, however, then an 8x magnification with a wide view is suitable for your needs. Most hunting in this type of local is going to be done in much closer proximity, and will not require as much magnification as opposed to more open-air areas, such as plains and mountains.
If you’re in the market for some hunting binoculars, take a look at our top pick.
This isn’t too demanding of a pastime that would require a high-tech pair of binoculars. A simple 8x magnified pair will suit your needs just fine. Just make sure that the coating of the lenses are neutral and don’t blot out certain colors. This is so you can properly make out every detail of the particular bird you are observing at the time.
If you’re looking for the best bird watching binoculars, here’s our top pick.
It’s fairly obvious that if you’re going to be doing a lot of aquatic-based activities, then a pair of waterproof binoculars are definitely going to be the way to go!
If you can manage to get a decent pair that includes an image stabilizer in its mechanics, then even better. Boats aren’t known for being very steady, no matter how turbulent the water is at the time. A good image stabilizer can help give you a good, clean look at things without too much of a headache.
Some marine-based binoculars also come with a bearing compass. This allows you to determine the height of an object in your viewfinder based on the angle of the object and its position on a map.
If that’s what you need, take a look at our top pick for binoculars best for boating.
This isn’t too much of a hassle. A simple pair of compact binoculars will do quite nicely unless you are anticipating being a huge distance away from whatever show you happen to be watching! There’s no need to go exorbitantly high in price if you’re looking for a pair of these just for a one-off concert experience. If you’re an avid music-festival concert-goer, however, you might consider buying a good pair of binoculars to be used more in the long-term.
Budget Binocular FAQ
How Do I Pick the Right Pair of Binoculars?
This all boils down to your budget and what exactly you need the binoculars for. If you’re just looking for a lightweight pair of binoculars to take on a quick hiking trip, then you’re only going to need something compact and not too high-tech (or too expensive).
If you’re looking to do some serious hunting in more dangerous or weather-prone regions, consider purchasing a more durable pair of binoculars instead.
What Are These Numbers I Keep Seeing in Reference to Binoculars?
Let’s say your model of binoculars is 10×50. The first number indicates how much the binoculars can magnify objects. The second number is the diameter of the lens itself, in millimeters.
What Are the Differences Between Roof and Porro Prisms?
The original design of binoculars utilized what is called a Porro prism. They are placed 90 degrees adjacent to one another and are considered to be very efficient with light.
Roof prisms, on the other hand, are a relatively recent design where the eyepieces are manufactured in a more straight-line fashion. They are usually smaller and weigh less but they are more precision-based in their design and are thus quite expensive in comparison to Porro prism binoculars.
Are Binoculars Easy to Clean?
Absolutely. All you have to do to clean a lens on a binocular is just apply a light brush to the surface of the glass. Afterward, a light application of cleaning solution that is wiped off with a non-abrasive cloth will be more than adequate to completely keep your binoculars clean and ready to use.
If you’d like a professional explanation on how best to clean your binoculars, take a look at this YouTube video from Vortex Optics.
Take One Last Look
We hope that these reviews have helped you to determine the best set of binoculars for your budgetary needs. We know binoculars can run on the expensive side fairly easily, but a good set of optics will help you out tremendously out in the wild. You don’t have to destroy your bank account to get a decent and long-lasting pair that will serve you for many outdoor adventures to come.
If you didn’t see something on this list that struck your fancy, or if you’re having a tough time determining the right product for you, then please take another look at the minimum we think you need to know before making a purchase.
If you want more depth, however, take a look at our lengthier section after our product reviews. This way you can learn more about the nitty-gritty of these budget-minded yet high-quality binocular products.
If nothing on this list meets your needs, check out our list of the best binoculars available at any price.
We’ll see you on the trail soon!