Binoculars come in all different sizes and magnifications. They can range in price from bottom of the barrel binos under $20 to top of the line units at over $2000. But are more expensive binoculars really worth 100 times the price!?
Rather than looking at the best binoculars out there in general, today, I’m going to look for great deals. After all, you’d be willing to pay a little more to get something leaps and bounds better.
If you want to find out which are the best binoculars for the money that you can get, you’ve come to the right place.
So, let’s get started with the…
Top 8 Best Binoculars In 2023 Reviews
1 Nikon Aculon A30 – Best Lightweight Binoculars For The Money
Size: 10 x 25
If you know binoculars, you might be surprised to see that our first and cheapest pair is from Nikon. These are the Nikon Aculon A30 10 x 25 binoculars. This means they have 10x magnification and 25mm objective lenses (this is about 2 inches but normally measured in millimeters).
These are surprisingly small and lightweight binoculars for 10x magnification. They weigh less in at just 9.7 ounces (275g), and when folded down, they are only 2.75″ x 4.75″ wide and tall. They do, however, fold out to the same width as a normal set of binos.
Get up close…
The central focus here is smooth and has just the right amount of throw, so you won’t find it overly sensitive or too insensitive. They can focus as close at 8.2 feet which also makes these binos good for bug-watching and close birding applications. The compact barrels here use BaK4 (barium-potassium) room prisms, and the multi-coated Aculon lenses are clear and durable.
You get a nice sharp image with these binoculars and a fair deal of contrast without color aberration. The exit pupil, though, is small at 2.4 mm, and that means these binos are going to be a bit dark in low-light situations. You get a 5 degree anglular field of view here, and that translates into being able to see a width of 262 feet from a distance of 1000 yards.
You’re getting a lot of binocular here…
So what’s not to like? A small eye relief of just 10.6mm means that glasses wearers will probably want to avoid these binos. They’re also not guaranteed waterproof, nor are the lenses fog-proof.
But for about $65, they still do a pretty great job.
- Clear image with good contrast.
- Small and lightweight for 10x binoculars.
- Not waterproof or fog-proof.
- Not very bright and limited FOV.
- Not great for glasses wearers.
2 Bushnell H2O – Best Budget Binoculars For Glasses Wearers
Size: 10 x 42
Next up in my rundown of the Best Binoculars For The Money, from Nikon, we move on to Bushnell, another well-known and trusted name in the binocular game. This company has some really high-quality units on the market, but here we’re looking for the best deal. And I think we’ve found them in the Bushnell H2O 10 x 42 binoculars.
Excellent eye relief…
Since these are 10x binos, we can put them up against the Nikon Aculons for a direct comparison. First off, the H2Os give you 17mm of eye relief versus Nikon’s 10.6mm. This is enough distance that people who wear eyeglasses can comfortably use these binos with their glasses on and still get them to focus properly. They also have a diopter ring to help you set a different focus for each eye.
They’re also waterproof, sporting a tough rubberized and easy-to-grip body and an O-ring seal. This gives them an IPX7 rating which means they can be used in the rain and even dropped in water without water getting in. The barrels are also nitrogen purged to make the lenses fog-proof. This makes them one of the best budget waterproof binoculars you can buy.
So far, these $100 binoculars impress…
Like the Nikon Aculon, the Bushnell H2Os use a BaK4 roof prism system to get to 10x magnification while keeping the binoculars streamlined. Although they’re just slightly bigger, they do weigh a whole lot more, at 25 ounces (709g). Still, this isn’t by any means too heavy to be uncomfortable – they’re just not quite as easy to slip in a pocket and forget about.
The image you get here is sharp and really comparable to the Nikons. However, I did notice some slight color aberration that might bother birders a bit. The big difference is in brightness. The H2Os have a 5mm exit pupil and much bigger objective lenses, so they are quite a lot brighter than the Nikons. They also have a wider field of view at 305 feet at 1000 yards. That’s not huge, but it beats the Aculons.
- Waterproof, fog-proof, and durable.
- Good sharp image.
- Good for glasses wearers.
- Some color aberration.
- FOV is a bit limited.
3 Celestron Skymaster – Best Powerful Binoculars For The Money
Size: 12 x 60
We’re suddenly making a bit leap here. The Celestron Skymaster binoculars are a very different sort of animal from what we’ve seen so far. But as the idea is to get the best bang for your buck, these binoculars deliver a lot for a surprisingly low price of just under $100.
The Skymasters are 12 x 60 binoculars, meaning that they have 12x magnification. This is different to the 8x and 10x binos we’ve looked at. With 12x power, these are binoculars for longer-range spotting and, of course, stargazing/astronomy applications. At this high power, they pretty much need to be mounted on a tripod for stability and can be if you buy an added tripod adapter.
Bigger than most…
Once again, they feature BaK4 prisms, but here they’re offset porro prisms for increased clarity and brightness. However, this does make the binoculars necessarily bigger. And these guys are big at 8.1 x 8.25 inches. They’re also really quite heavy at 39.2 ounces (1111g). Once again, this weight makes a tripod a must.
Multi-coated lenses enhance brightness, and you get a 5mm exit pupil here, which is moderately bright but not what you’d necessarily expect for 60mm objective lenses. You get a linear field of view of 278 feet at a distance of 1000 yards, which is decent for 12x magnification. The close focus, though, is 59 feet which is quite far, to say the least.
And how’s the image?
It’s pretty sharp with good contrast. There is some noticeable color aberration here, which might put off birders. But the brightness level is decent, and there’s only a little linear distortion that is almost unnoticeable here.
If you wear glasses, you’ll be glad of the 17mm eye relief and also the diopter ring. But I do wish they were fog-proof and more than just mildly water resistant.
- Good strong magnification.
- Clear image and power for the price.
- Not fog-proof or waterproof.
- Some color aberration.
4 Steiner Safari Ultra-Sharp – Best Affordable Binoculars For The Money
Size: 8 x 22
Lucky us – we get to continue on with some big names in the binocular world but at budget prices. While Steiners can get up to $1000, the compact, affordable Safari Ultra-Sharp binoculars are a great deal at under $120.
Like the Nikon Aculon A30s, the Steiner Safaris are intended as compact and highly portable binoculars. They weigh 10 ounces (283g), so they’re about the same as the Nikons. However, they are a bit bigger at 4.1 x 4.3 inches. This is simply because they don’t fold down as compactly.
The central focus wheel here is large and easy to grip, making it convenient for quick adjustments. There’s a left-eye diopter ring as well to help set a different focus for each of your eyes. You also get an OK close focus of about 10 feet.
Wide field of view…
Because these are 8 x 22 binoculars, you get less magnification (8x) than what we’ve seen so far, so they might not be as good for some longer-distance applications like bird-watching. However, this is made up for with a wide field of vision of 377 feet from a distance of 1000 yards. That lets you see a much wider view than most any 10x binos will.
The image here is very high in contrast, which is something we expect from Steiner. The BaK4 roof prisms used here keep things sharp in the center, though I did notice some blurring towards the edges. This is a bit surprising from Steiner, to be honest, but we do have to remember the very low price point.
Best for daytime use…
The color is generally true, with a bit of green and yellow amplification. With an exit pupil of 2.8mm, these aren’t the best binoculars for dusky, low light conditions, though they work well during the day. They’re also waterproof and fog-proof, which is great for outdoor conditions.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- High contrast.
- Good FOV.
- Some edge blurring.
- Not the brightest.
- Eyecups don’t stay in place well.
5 Athlon Optics Midas – Best Bright Affordable Binoculars For The Money
Size: 8 x 42
Next up, we’re going to climb in price quite a bit with the Athlon Optics Midas 8 x 42 binoculars. The quality here is quite high, and as well these binos are available at a really great price of about $280. They originally sold at over $350, so you’re getting a great deal on some snazzy binoculars.
Let’s look at some specs…
These are 8 x 42 binoculars, so they, of course, have 8x magnification. But compared to the Steiners we just saw, the objective lenses are much bigger at 42mm versus 22mm for the Steiners. This helps to make them a whole lot brighter.
But the lens and prism coatings also make a big contribution to brightness and contrast. The lenses are fully multi-coated for added brightness and excellent color transmission. The roof prisms in these bad boys are ESP dielectric coated, also to enhance brightness and color. In fact, these are some of the brightest affordable binoculars on the market.
Superb quality for the price…
This results in an image that is the clearest, sharpest, and most contrasted we’ve seen so far. There is little to no color fringe here, and the brightness is excellent, even for low light conditions. You also get a close focus of just 6.5 feet which is great. And the field of view is 426 feet at 1000 yards, the best we’ve seen yet.
These binoculars are also waterproof. They can be used in the rain and even submerged. The manufacturer hasn’t listed an actual IP rating, but they describe the performance of an IPX7 rating. The barrels are also argon purged for excellent fog-proofing.
One criticism here is related to eye relief. These binos have twist up eye cups to help you set eye relief up to 17.2mm. This is great news for glasses wearers. However, the eye cups don’t always stay in place well, and this could be frustrating. At 25 ounces (709g), they’re a convenient mid-weight binocular that’s durable and easy to take anywhere.
- Excellent sharpness and contrast.
- Fog-proof and waterproof.
- Great FOV and short focus.
- Eye cups don’t stay in place well.
6 Zeiss Terra ED – Most Versatile Binoculars For The Money
Size: 10 x 42
Zeiss is basically known as the pinnacle of binocular brands. So I was really surprised to find this pair of Terra EDs for less than $400. I know this is another big jump in price, but bear with me as I explain why I think they’re still a great deal.
At 5.6 x 4.7 inches long and wide, these are mid-sized binoculars which some will prefer to smaller pocket-sized ones. However, they’re only 25.6 ounces (725g), so with that size and weight, they’re easy to keep steady even with their 10x magnification.
Use them anywhere…
Like the Athlons, these are waterproof and fog-proof binos. The barrels have been nitrogen purged to keep out all moisture. And the waterproofing can allow them to handle submersion in water down to 100 mbars, which translates to a depth of about 3.5 feet. Not that they’re meant to be used for scuba diving!
The Schmidt-Pechan roof prism design, German-made Schott ED glass lenses, and FMC coatings lead to 88% light transmission. Combined with a 4.2mm exit pupil, these binos are very bright and provide excellent contrast. The image sharpness is comparable with the Athlons, except here, there is no noticeable color fringe at all. This allows them to produce some of the clearest binocular images in this price range.
Since these are 10x binoculars, you’d expect a tighter FOV. And you get it here with a still respectable 330 feet at 1000 yards. The close focus is an impressive 5.3 feet which makes them great for close viewing activities like bug-watching. And glasses wearers will find the 14mm eye relief comfortable. And here the eye cups slide out and stay put where you want them.
- Sharp, high contrast image.
- Excellent brightness.
- Fog-proof and waterproof.
- Slightly limited FOV.
- A bit pricey.
7 Nikon Monarch 5 – Best Value for Money Binoculars
Size: 8 x 42
Coming to the end of my Best Binoculars For The Money review, and for a little bit more money, naturally, we’ve got the Nikon Monarch M5 8 x 42 binoculars to examine. At about $450, these are a big leap from the $65 Nikon Aculon A30s.
Are they still a great deal?
For this kind of money, we have to expect a few things. First off, we’d expect to be able to use these best value binoculars in all weather conditions. Well, they’re waterproof and also nitrogen purged for fog-proofing. The rubber coating on the body also helps to protect them from knocks and scrapes.
The Monarch5s are mid-sized at 5.7 x 5.1 inches long and wide. They weigh just 22.2 ounces (629g), making them surprisingly light for their size. This makes them extra comfortable to hand hold and also carry around suspended from the included neckstrap.
You’d also expect excellent clarity and sharpness…
With ED (extra-low dispersion) glass lenses and phase-corrected, dielectric multi-layer coated roof prisms, that’s exactly what you get. This is the best clarity and contrast we’ve seen on this list so far. The 5.3mm exit pupil and FMC lenses also combine to provide excellent brightness. Even at dusk, you get a whole lot of contrast. You don’t see any color aberration here either, and no linear distortions.
In short, excellent optics…
The close focus is a good 8.2 feet good for close animal spotting. The field of view isn’t fantastic. At only 335 feet from 1000 yards, you’d expect more from an 8x binocular. However, this is certainly because of some compensation with the roof prisms. If you have to choose clarity over FOV, I’ll choose clarity, thanks!
- Excellent clarity and contrast.
- Very bright.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- Limited field of view.
8 Vortex Optics Viper HD – Best Premium Binoculars For The Money
Size: 8 x 42
Vortex are one of the newer, flashier brands out there in the optics world. They’ve quickly gained a following for excellent binoculars and scopes that’s well-deserved.
The Viper HDs are one such high-quality product. While they were originally sold for $600, you can now pick them up for less than $500, so this is another of the best quality binoculars for the money that you can find.
These are 8 x 42 binos like the Monarchs, so let’s compare them directly…
With argon purging, these binos are fog-proof like the Monarchs. They’re also waterproof and can be used in all weather conditions, again just like the Monarchs can. However, the rubberized armor of the Vipers seems more durable than the Monarchs to protect the binos from scratches and knocks.
Both binoculars use roof prisms that have been dielectrically coated for enhanced clarity and light transmission. The exit pupil here is 5.25mm, so basically identical to the Monarch’s 5.3mm. And the brightness is basically identical. I really can’t tell the difference here – but they’re both delightfully bright. I’d say the Monarchs have a slightly superior contrast, though I prefer the color trueness of the Vipers.
Great for spectacle wearers…
The eye relief here is up to 18mm, so that’s higher than the Monarchs and a bit better for glasses wearers. They’re a comfortable weight at 24.5 ounces (695g).
For close focus, the Vipers are the better option, with the ability to focus down to an impressive six feet. They also win with a much wider field of view. The FOV here is an incredible 409 feet at 1000 yards, which blows the Monarchs away. This is basically where the extra cost comes into play. Otherwise, these are both are quality binos with great optics.
- Bright and sharp.
- Great contrast.
- Durable, fog-proof, and waterproof.
Looking for More Specific Binocular Recommendations?
So, Which of These Best Binoculars For The Money Should you Buy?
This is always the hardest part. We’ve just looked at eight binoculars at very different price points and with different sizes and magnifications. The thing they all have in common is that they’re all great deals. They are all are some of the best binoculars you can get for the money you’re going to spend.
But now I have to choose a champion..?
Given the waterproofing and fog-proofing, excellent optics, and comfortable weight at a great price, I will have to hand it to the
These are a really great pair of multi-use binos. Sure they cost a fair bit, but I think they’re more than worth the money, in fact, more so than the other pairs on this list.