Best cheap binoculars

Gear

Binoculars were invented in the 17th century, but only gained widespread use and popularity in the 19th century.

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How to choose budget binoculars

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, a sports fan in the cheap seats or an amateur stargazer, a good pair of binoculars can open your eyes to a broad and vivid world. However, the high price tag of some popular models of binoculars may be a barrier to entry into your new hobby. 

Thankfully, there are plenty of capable and dependable binoculars that are more than affordable. Top pick Bushnell PowerView Wide Angle Binoculars is a great substitute for higher-priced models due to its clarity.

What to know before you buy cheap binoculars

Magnification and diameter

The first thing you may notice when shopping for binoculars is the pair of numbers that headline every model, like 10×25. These numbers represent the magnification factor and the objective lens diameter, and they’re one of the most important considerations for choosing the right pair. The most common magnification factors are 8x and 10x, and though the numbers seem close, they result in very different views. Smaller magnification leads to a wider field of view, while larger magnification provides a closer and more detailed image.

The objective lens diameter controls the amount of light your binoculars can take in; larger lenses provide brighter images and enable better low-light viewing. Smaller lenses are good for everyday use and are usually lighter and more responsive to movement.

Field of view

Simply put, the field of view is the size of the area you can see through your binoculars. Lower magnification expands the FOV, while larger magnification narrows it. Finding the right FOV depends heavily on your intended use — a narrow FOV is best for still viewing, and a wider FOV is well-suited for seeing movement.

Eye relief

Your binoculars’ eye relief could be a make-or-break consideration. The eye relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece, and it’s especially important for those who wear glasses. Many binoculars come with adjustable eye cups and some are built with good eye relief, but some are not made with eye relief in mind — especially some cheaper pairs.

What to look for in a quality pair of cheap binoculars

Common hobbies for using binoculars

Birdwatching and nature viewing: For those who want to get up close and personal with nature and wildlife, a wide field of view is optimal, so look for parameters like 7×35 and 8×42; for closer detail, choose something more powerful, like 10×42 or 12×50. Be forewarned: binoculars with larger lenses can be heavier and less portable.

Stargazing: There are many binoculars designed specifically for astronomy, and they usually have high magnification and large objective lens diameters — some as high as 20×80. The larger lens diameter allows for more light, which can clear up dark and obscured night images. If that’s too heavy, a pair with 10×42 specs does a great job with stargazing.

pair by Hontry

Sports and live events: When you’re in the cheap seats, you want to get the best view of the action possible. There are plenty of great choices in the 10×25 size, like this cheap compact pair by Hontry. Smaller objective lens diameter is preferable, whether the magnification is between 7x-12x, and no matter what, your live event binoculars should be lightweight and portable.

Hunting: Hunting binoculars are popular and usually top off at a magnification of 10x, but lower factors are adequate. As far as lens diameter, hunters should find success with anything between 25-50 millimeters.

How much you can expect to spend on cheap binoculars

Cheap binoculars start at about $20-$25 for minimum quality and can top off below $100. Consider spending anything from $50-$80 a success.

Cheap binoculars FAQ

Are cheap binoculars water-resistant?

A. In many cases, inexpensive binoculars are made to withstand the elements, being either waterproof or water-resistant, but the option always adds to the price. Many cheap binoculars cut costs by leaving out weather resistance, so review the manufacturer’s info before buying.

How do I keep my binoculars clean?

A. Many binoculars come with care packages or maintenance kits, but if you need something à la carte, lens pens and microfiber cloths are great for clearing fingerprints and keeping your image clear. Never use clothing or tissue, and avoid any cleaners that aren’t specifically formulated for lenses.

What are the best cheap binoculars to buy?

Top cheap binoculars

Bushnell PowerView Wide Angle 12x50 Binoculars

Bushnell PowerView Wide Angle 12×50 Binoculars

What you need to know: Bushnell is well-known for reliability and durability, and the PowerView reflects the reputation, providing visual clarity at a good price.

What you’ll love: Instafocus feature, rugged build, multi-coated optics.

What you should consider: Some users find these too large.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top cheap binoculars for the money

Binoteck 12x42 Binoculars for Adults

Binoteck 12×42 Binoculars for Adults

What you need to know: These compact binoculars are great for all-around use, especially in low-light and twilight conditions.

What you’ll love: Lightweight, weatherproof, smartphone adapter included.

What you should consider: Grip is not great.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Nikon Aculon A30 10x25 Binoculars

Nikon Aculon A30 10×25 Binoculars

What you need to know: These rubber and plastic-constructed folding binoculars offer plenty of visibility and functionality, especially for the price.

What you’ll love: Fast and smooth range of focus, ergonomic design.

What you should consider: High-end price for cheap binoculars.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Hontry Optics 10x42 Waterproof Binoculars

Hontry Optics 10×42 Waterproof Binoculars

What you need to know: This pair is built for wet conditions, making it great for rainy days and beach trips.

What you’ll love: Lightweight, durable, good field of view.

What you should consider: Eye relief is not good for glasses-wearers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

 

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Matt Fleming writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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