Binoculars have a wide variety of uses, from birding to hunting to stargazing and beyond. And the prices can also vary just as widely. You can find cheapo binoculars from just $10 or break your piggy bank so you can shell out for over $1000 binos.
But there’s no reason why a great pair of binoculars has to break the bank, piggy or otherwise. There are some great affordable pairs out there that might completely suit your needs without forcing you to re-mortgage your house or sell your first born.
So here’s my list of the best binoculars under $100 that you can pick up today…
Top 6 Best Binoculars Under $100 In 2023 Reviews
1 Gosky 10 x 42 Compact Roof Prism Binoculars – Best Low Cost Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 10 x 42
Since we’re looking for the best binoculars you can buy for under 100 bucks, we’re going to get pretty close to that price from the get-go. My first recommendation is the 10 x 42 Compact Roof Prism Binoculars from Gosky for about $80.
There are all sizes of binoculars available out there, but I’ve gone with 8-10x magnification for this list because they’re the most versatile. 10x magnification is also about as strong as you can handhold and still keep relatively steady.
Lots of great accessories…
Here, the Goskys come with a tripod interface on the bottom to help keep them even steadier. However, you’ll need to purchase an adapter to take advantage of this feature. You’ll want to use a tripod for sure if you’re going to use the handy smartphone mount that comes free with these binos. This is a great way to take photos and videos through you’re your binoculars for later viewing.
They also come with a padded neck strap and a soft carrying case for convenience, and objective lens covers for protection.
Nice and compact…
These are roof prism binoculars, making them one of the most compact binoculars under 100 dollars around, though they’re mid-weight at 24.8 ounces (704g). The roof prisms are quality Ba-K4 (barium-potassium) glass with good clarity and a dielectric coating for extra brightness.
The lenses here are fully multi-coated as well for enhanced brightness and durability. The image you get here is decent but not the sharpest ever. They could do with improved brightness and contrast.
Good overall specs for the price…
They have a diopter ring on the right eyepiece for adjusting individual eye focus. The central main focus is not terribly smooth, though, and this makes these binos a bit slow to get sharp. You get a field of view of 307 feet at 1000 yards, which is OK for 10x binos. The close focus is also a moderate 16.4 feet. They have a moderate eye relief of 12mm, which is just enough to wear glasses with.
They also have twist-up eyecups for greater comfort if you don’t wear glasses.
Finally, while claiming to be waterproof, these don’t have an official IP rating to tell what conditions they can withstand. The rubber out coating of the body provides good grip and probably some shock protection. However, the plastic body doesn’t seem all that durable.
Overall, these are a decent pair of binoculars with a really good set of accessories.
- Great set of accessories included.
- Good image with FMC lenses.
- Body doesn’t seem very rugged.
- Brightness and contrast could be better.
- Field of view is a bit limited.
2 Nikon 8245 Aculon A211 Binoculars – Best Image Quality Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 8 x 42
Next up is a pair of Aculon A211 Binoculars from Nikon, a brand well-known for camera optics for decades now. At $85, these binoculars are basically the same price as the Goskys. So let’s look at the main differences between them.
Bigger but better…
The Nikons are a bit heavier at 26.6 ounces (754g). They’re also bigger and bulkier. However, this isn’t just because of a design difference. These are porro prism binoculars that require an offset, and that makes them wider than roof prism binos like the Goskys.
The high-quality Ba-K4 prisms “eco glass” (meaning lead and arsenic free) used here combine with the fully multi-coated Aculon lenses to give a really bright and sharp image. The contrast here is also far superior to the Goskys.
In short, they blow the Goskys out of the water for image quality…
At 8x magnification, they’re not as powerful, but this gives you a better field of view. Here you get the same 16.4 foot close focus, but also a very impressive 488 feet at 1000 yards because of those porro prisms. You get the same 12mm eye relief for glasses wearers here. They also have twist up eye cups, but they’re stiffer and stay in place better on the Nikons. The central focus ring is smooth and accurate. The diopter, though, is really stiff and needs some breaking-in.
On the other hand, you don’t get the accessories that Gosky provides. While they come with a padded neckstrap and objective lens caps, the caps aren’t great. They don’t fit well and come off very easily.
Don’t get them wet…
These Nikons are also not waterproof or fog-proof. While they provide you with a superior clear image, these two factors can make or break the deal for some outdoor enthusiasts who want to use their binos in all sorts of weather.
- Very sharp and bright image.
- Great field of view.
- Easy to focus.
- A bit heavy
- Not waterproof or fog-proof.
3 Nocs Provisions Standard Issue – Best Waterproof Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 8 x 25
Next in my Best Binoculars Under $100 review, if you really need all-weather binoculars, our next pair might be right up your alley. The $95 Standard Issue 8 x 25 waterproof binoculars from Nocs Provisions have an IPX7 rating which means they really are waterproof.
With a rubberized body and medical-grade O-ring seal, these guys can be submerged for up to 30 minutes. Obviously, it’s not recommended to use binoculars underwater, but in heavy rain, you’ve got nothing to worry about. The rubberized body also gives the Nocs a really great grip and also superior shock protection.
But if you still manage to damage them, they come with a lifetime guarantee!
The optical system here is much like the Goskys. They use roof prisms and fully multi-coated lenses to provide magnification and clarity. Here you get 8x magnification and a field of view of 357 feet at 1000 yards. This has nothing on the Nikons, of course, because of the different prism system. These lenses are nitrogen purged, though, so they’re fog-proof.
At the same time, though, these binos are super light at only 11.9 ounces (336g); in fact, they are one of the best lightweight binoculars under 100 dollars that you can buy. They’re also compact, with dimensions of 4.53 x 4.25 inches. This will let them discreetly fit in a pocket and stay out of the way.
The Nocs here have a central focus system and a diopter ring. These best affordable binoculars for rain also come with twist-up eye cups for comfort. However, if you wear glasses, you’re probably going to find it impossible to focus with only 7mm eye relief.
How about the image quality?
It’s sharp here, sharper than the Goskys but still not close to the Nikons. They also provide less contrast and a lot less brightness, due to the only 25mm objective lens diameters. So basically, you’re looking at a bit of a trade-off between durability and image quality.
- Waterproof (IPX7) and fog-proof.
- Durable and easy to grip.
- Lifetime guarantee.
- Not very bright.
- Not the best contrast.
4 Pentax UP 8 x 25 WP Binoculars – Most Unique Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 8 x 25
Our next three pairs of binoculars are all trying to get as close to $100 as possible without going over (Price is Right Rules!). At $99, Pentax offers us their UP 8 x 25 WP binoculars for consideration.
What are these binoculars all about?
For starters, they’re a bit weird-looking with a closed polycarbonate body. They’re also odd in that the objective lenses are much closer together than the ocular lenses. This is the opposite of the Nikons, though; in truth, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, both of them are porro prism binos that require an offset and some extra width.
But these are still small binoculars…
They’re less than half the weight of the Nikons at only 12.3 ounces (349g). They also measure just 4.3 x 4.6 inches, making them just slightly bigger and heavier than the Nocs. The big thing to point out here is that the interpupillary distance on these binos is fixed. They don’t have a central hinge like all the other models on this list. That can be an issue for those of us with quite narrow or very wide eye set.
The eye relief here is 15mm and comfortable for glasses wearers to use. However, there is, unfortunately, no diopter ring here for people with different eye strengths. On the other hand, the focus is very smooth and easy to change one-handed. You can focus from a super-impressive 6.27 feet up to infinity.
The image here is also very sharp, with great contrast coming from the porro prisms and FMC lenses. You’re not getting the superior brightness of the Nikons, but with 25mm objective lenses, that’s to be expected. Compared to the Nocs, you’re getting a brighter image here.
They’re also waterproof and fog-proof, though the IP rating is again not given. Don’t drop them in the ocean, just in case!
- Sharp high-contrast image and superior close focus.
- Durable and come with limited lifetime warranty.
- Small and light.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- Less adjustable with no diopter or central hinge.
- Not the brightest.
5 Omano Smithsonian Bird Watching Binoculars – Best Bird Watching Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 10 x 42
Omano Scientific has paired up with the Smithsonian Institution to bring you a pair of binoculars as close as you can get to $100 and still be under. Their Bird Watching Binoculars are priced at $99.99 and come packaged with the Smithsonian Bird-Watching Guide, a soft case, shoulder strap, smartphone adapter, and lens covers.
Even if you don’t want to use them for birding, these are still great binoculars…
These are compact roof prism binos, but they still give an impressive field of view. You can see 354 feet from a distance of 1000 Yards, which is excellent for 10x binoculars. They give an image that’s crisp and quite bright. It doesn’t rival the Nikons for sharpness or contrast, but the brightness is just slightly less here. There is no noticeable color aberration in these lenses, which is essential for birding.
With a weight of 24.6 ounces (699g), these definitely aren’t the lightest binos around. They’re also a bit big at 65. X 5/5 inches. They are nitrogen-purged, however, so the lenses won’t fog up on you. They also claim to be waterproof, but once again, we don’t get an official IP rating to understand what level of waterproofing they offer. There’s also no lifetime warranty here.
Could do with more protection…
The body of these best binoculars for bird watching under 100 dollars is mostly smooth polycarbonate with just a little rubber on the grip area. I’d like to see more protection against knocks here, especially because they are a bigger, heavier pair of binos.
They do have a diopter to help with uneven vision. The 12mm eye relief is just enough to wear your glasses with. The rubber eye cups twist up and out; however, they aren’t very tight and often slip back down.
- Waterproof and fog-proof.
- Good field of view for 10x magnification.
- Eye cups don’t stay in place well.
- A bit big and heavy for roof prism binoculars.
6 Bushnell H2O – Best Quality Compact Binoculars Under $100
Specs: 10 x 42
At the same oh-so-close to $100 price of $99.99, the Bushnell H2O are the last binoculars on my list.
This is one more 10 x 42 binocular that give great magnification. They do have a limited field of view of 305 feet at 1000 yards, which is the least for the 10x binos we’ve looked at. This is because they use a roof prism design and also because they’re still quite compact for 10 x 42s. Still, they’re 25 ounces (709g) and so not the lightest pair around.
What’s great about these binoculars is the sharp image they offer and good contrast. I’d put them second only to the Nikons in these categories, and for brightness as well. There is some color aberration in these lenses, though, which may put off birders. But overall, we’re looking at a very sharp image.
Impressive specs for the price…
They have the standards of a central hinge, central focus knob, and diopter ring. The focus here has a great throw – not too long or too short – that makes it easy to find a great focus fast. They’ve got a close focus of 12 feet, which is quite good. The 17mm eye relief is very comfortable to use with glasses. The eye cups twist up for the comfort of non-glasses-wearers.
The durable rubberized body here provides a great grip and some serious knock protection, much like the Nocs. However, there’s no “no-questions-asked” warranty here.
Finally, these high-quality compact binoculars are nitrogen purged, making them fog-proof. Bushnell also advertises them as water resistant, but again without an IP rating, I can’t be sure how resistant they are. Certainly, don’t submerge them in H2O, even if that’s a part of their name!
- Good sharp image.
- Grippy and durable.
- Fog-proof and “water-resistant.”
- Some color aberration.
- Limited field of view.
How to Choose the Best Binoculars Under $100?
When you’re in the market for some binoculars, you can find the number of choices available overwhelming. There are just so many sizes and types available. To make the job of choosing binos easier, here are some of the main features to take into account to get the right pair for your needs.
Magnification and Objective Lens Size
These are the main specs of any pair of binoculars and are given in a 2-part number like 8 x 25 or 10 x 42. The first number tells the magnification power, with 8x meaning things are eight times closer/bigger than they appear to the naked eye and 10x even bigger. The 8x and 10x sizes featured here are the best compromise between magnification and stability. But you need to decide whether you need a stronger magnification and less shakiness, or vice versa.
The second number you see is the diameter of the objective lenses, the ones that face out to what you’re looking at. And yes, this is always given in millimeters (mm). Smaller lenses like 25mm (about 2 inches) let in less light and have a narrower field of view, all things being equal. A 42mm lens lets in a lot more light and a wider image, but these make for bigger and bulkier binoculars.
Size, Weight, and Prisms
Speaking of size, bigger and heavier binoculars are usually bigger than lighter models at the same price because they have higher-quality components inside. So you have to think seriously about whether you want lighter and smaller binoculars that may not be as crisp as bigger ones.
A big part of the reason why some binoculars are bigger than others is the prism system they use. Binoculars have a pair of prisms in each tube to magnify and flip your images, so they’re right-side up. Porro prisms need a wider offset but generally produce sharper and brighter images. Roof prisms can be more compact and lighter, but let in less light.
Again, you have to choose compactness or image quality.
If you’re spending close to $100 for binoculars, you want them to last. Durable bodies covered by rubberized armor can help protect binos from bumps and bangs that can damage them.
Waterproofing is also protection, this time from the elements. The best waterproof binoculars can be used or just carried around in the rain without a worry. So if you think you’ll be meeting some weather, look for an IP rating of IPX4 or more for rain protection.
For Glasses Wearers
If you normally wear eyeglasses, you should wear them when you use binoculars, too. This can be tricky, though, with some models. The most important thing to look for is “eye relief.” This tells you how far from the ocular lenses your eyes need to be to focus on the image. If you have less than 0.4 inches (10mm) of relief, you likely won’t be able to focus with your glasses on. And that probably means no focus at all!
A diopter ring is also very useful for people with unequal vision in their two eyes. Let’s face it, that’s most of us! A diopter lets you set and lock a different focus for your two eyes so you can use the central focus consistently.
Looking for Some Superb Binoculars or More Info on Buying the Perfect Pair?
And for even more high-quality info, our in-depth guides on Binocular Parts and Their Functions and What Do The Numbers ON Binoculars Mean could well come in useful. Or you may be interested in knowing How to Repair Binoculars at Home?
So, Which of These Best Binoculars Under $100 Should You Buy?
For under 100 smackeroos, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better binoculars than the ones I’ve shown you here. But taking everything into consideration, I have to choose a favorite.
This is always the hardest part, and since I don’t know what you’re going to be using them for, I have to just look at the binoculars with the best image for the price. And that’s the…
These binos give the sharpest, highest contrast, and brightest image. They’re big but not too big to be cumbersome. And at around $85, the price is right.
However, if you need something waterproof, have a look at the other options I’ve given you here. You won’t be disappointed!
Happy viewing on a budget!