BINOCULARS

Best Binoculars Under $100: The Advice You’ll Need When Choosing Your First Binoculars

Binocular under 100
Cole Palmer
Written by Cole Palmer

Whether you are a hiking enthusiast, a beginner bird watcher or you simply enjoy looking at things that are far away, investing in a binocular is a good idea. As there are many options available, it is smart to start with cheaper ones, say the best binoculars under $100, and later upgrade according to your needs.

But how to choose the best binoculars that will not damage your budget?

Do not worry yourself if you don’t know anything about magnification, lens diameter, and other binocular specs. We have compiled a list and prepared a guideline in order to help you choose the best budget binoculars on the market today.

So, read carefully, and please take into consideration that this text is oriented towards beginner and hobbyists who want to own a decent binocular.

Product NameMagnificationObjective LensDesignPrice
Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof10x42 mm100% waterproof
Fog-free performance
Nonslip rubber armor
Check price on Amazon
Nikon 8246 ACULON A21110x42 mmRubber armored coating for non-slip gripCheck price on Amazon
Olympus 118760 Trooper10x50 mmUV protection
Sure-grip rubber coating
Check price on Amazon
Celestron SkyMaster16x80 mmWater resistant body
Integrated tripod adapter rod
Check price on Amazon
Tasco Essentials8x25 mmRubber armored housing
Ultralight binoculars
Check price on Amazon
Nikon 8245 ACULON A2118x42 mmRubber armored coating for non-slip gripCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell PermaFocus7x35 mmNon-slip rubber for shock absorption and firm grip

Focus-free feature
Check price on Amazon
Olympus Trooper8x40 mmPlastic body, sure-grip coating; UV protection
Built-in dioptric  correction
Check price on Amazon

Features to Consider Before Purchase

Let us explain the basics. Although there are similar looking products, there are many aspects to be looked for and specs to be understood when choosing binoculars.

Size

  • Full-size: As the name suggests, full-size binoculars are the choice for the serious viewer. They perform better and capture more light; are great for bird/wildlife watching and boat use, but are heavy and unsuitable for backpacking.
  • Mid-size: Mid-size binoculars offer the best of both worlds: good light capture and good magnification: but again a little heavy and bulky for backpacking.
  • Compact: Compact binoculars are the lightest option, easy to carry around when biking or backpacking; but they have its limitations with the smaller lens diameter and convenience.

Two compact binoculars

Magnification: the power of the lens

Every binocular has two number identification (ex: 10×42) that show the magnification power (10x) and the diameter of the lens (42mm).

The magnification factor of 10 means that the image you see will appear 10 times closer than it actually is. If you want to look at a bird that is 500 yards away, looking it through a 10x binoculars it will appear as if it is 50 yards away (500yards/10x=50yards).

Lens diameter: the light capturing part of the binoculars

The diameter of the lens (the big ones on the front side of the binoculars) is just that – the diameter of the lens (measured in millimeters).

Binoculars eye piece

The larger the diameter, the more light the binoculars is able to catch, meaning the image will be brighter. Also, the larger lens diameter means that you will have better visibility in low light conditions, like dawn, dusk or cloudy weather.

Lens coating

Most binoculars today have lenses coated with various coatings in order to prevent the reflection of the light and to provide a sharp, clear image. The best ones offer fully multicoated lenses for reduced reflection and increased light capture. Also, many offer UV coated lenses for protecting the eyes.

Eye relief

The eye relief means how far away from your eyes you can hold the binoculars and still see the whole field of vision. This is important to be noted for people wearing glasses; most manufacturers note that you should roll down the eyepiece collars when viewing with glasses.

Eye relief of binoculars

Field of view

Another important spec you should look into when choosing your first binoculars is the field of view. The field of view is the width of the area that you will see standing 1000 yards away.

The wider the apparent angle of view means a wider field of view resulting in a panoramic view of the image, the narrower apparent angle means a narrower field of view. In most cases, the bigger the magnification results with the narrower field of view. A wide field of view is recommended for bird watching and general panoramic sightseeing.

Exit pupil size

The exit pupil size is the number that shows the brightness of the image that you will see in low light situations. The pupil of the human eye dilates up to 7mm, meaning that in low light our eyes adjust to gather more light.

The same goes for the binoculars exit pupil size: the bigger the exit pupil size – the better image you will see in low light or nighttime viewing.

Viewing the clouds with binoculars

If you plan to use your binoculars for low light conditions (dusk, dawn or in densely wooded areas) or watching the night sky, you should look for one with high exit pupil size. For daylight viewing, this number is not as important.

Weather resistance, waterproof, fog proof

These specs are somewhat self – explanatory; you should consider this if you plan to use your binoculars on a boat or use in rainy weather and if you plan to use your binoculars in hot/humid areas.

  • Weather resistant binoculars are resistant against light rain but are not completely resistant to submersion in water.
  • Waterproof binoculars have special seals to keep moisture out; they are also resistant to fine dust.
  • Fog proof binoculars have an inside atmosphere with inert gasses in order to prevent fogging of the interior sides of the lenses and prevent condensation and trapping of moisture in the body of the binoculars.

Binoculars for the outdoors

Dimensions & weight

Depending on the purpose for which you plan to use the binoculars, the dimensions and overall weight have to have a big part in your decision.

For example, if you plan to go backpacking, hiking or biking and have limited space available, you should consider smaller and lighter versions. And vice versa, for use on boats and where you don’t have to carry everything on your back, you can get a bigger and heavier version.

Materials & durability

The material of the body is an important factor in the overall weight of the binoculars. Most commercial binoculars today are made of hard plastic to ensure lightweight and coated with hard rubber coating to allow for good non-slip gripping.

Kowa binoculars on the table

Many manufacturers offer products that have anti – shock rubber coatings, to absorb low impacts. NOTE: Binoculars are not resistant to heavy shock and can only withstand light impacts.

Top Products on the Market Today

We have listed and explained the basic specs that you should consider when choosing your first binoculars.  Now let’s list the top rated budget binoculars.

Bushnell H2O Binocular

Bushnell h20 prism binocularsPrice: Approx. $70

Magnification: 10 x 42 mm, 8 x 42 mm

Dimensions: 7.09 x 5.91 x 3.15 in

Weight: 1.69 lbs

Specific features: BaK-4 prisms for clear, crisp viewing; multicoated lenses for excellent light transmission; 100% waterproof, filled with inert nitrogen atmosphere for fog-free performance; non-slip rubber coating for shock absorption.

Best use: Wildlife observation, hunting, use of boat/water.

The Bushnell H2O Binocular comes in two available options: 10x42mm and 8x42mm. Both have the same specifications, the difference between the two is the magnification.

These binoculars are well built, and fairly inexpensive in relation to their characteristic compared with more expensive models. The fully waterproof option is excellent for use on boats or in rainy weather, where you do not have to worry about moisture entering the housing and interfering with the image.

The focus is quickly adjusted; the eye relief on these is 17mm which means they can be easily used with or without glasses. The lens protection caps are twist-on and can be attached to the strap.

The 8x42mm offers a better image when held in hand, where the 10x42mm performs better when using a tripod. The 8x42mm has a brighter image and is easier to hold; the 10x42mm has larger magnification.

Depending on the application, the Bushnell H2O Binocular is an excellent choice for most beginner or hobby activities, as they are one of the best cheap binoculars out there.

PROS:

  • High-quality lenses for increased clarity
  • Very well built and good grip surface
  • Come with case and strap for carrying
  • Waterproof and fog-proof performance

CONS:

  • The multicoated lenses don’t work well in poor lighting

Check the price on Amazon

Nikon 8246 Aculon Binocular

Nikon ACULON A211Price: Approx. $77

Magnification: 10 x 42 mm

Dimensions: 8.1 x 4.13 x 4.13 in

Weight: 1.68 lbs

Specific features: Excellent ergonomics; turn-and-slide rubber eyecups for comfortability with extended use; multicoated eco-glass lenses for clear images; rubber armored coating for non-slip grip.

Best use: Wildlife observation, general sightseeing, hiking.

The Nikon 8246 Aculon Binocular presents a great choice for beginners. The Nikon lenses are of excellent quality and they offer amazing clarity and light transmission.

They feature Aspherical multicoated lenses which are made from Nikon’s lead and arsenic free Eco-Glass; the lenses offer great quality and clarity of the image. They also have the BaK4 Porro prism system for high-quality viewing.

Also, the housing is well built and sturdy, and considering its size it is sufficiently lightweight. The central focus knob has a smooth movement which allows for fine and easy adjustment of the focus. The body is fully rubber coated and is easy to grip and feels good to the touch.

The eye relief is 11.6mm, so these can be used with or without glasses. They have good balance, and come with its own strap and carry case. Good choice for the first pair of binoculars.

PROS:

  • Nikon Eco – Glass lenses
  • Easy adjustment of the central focus knob
  • Turn – and – slide rubber eyecups
  • Durable rubber coated body

CONS:

  • Relatively heavy
  • Non – waterproof

Check the price on Amazon

Olympus Trooper Binocular

Olympus Trooper 10x50 DPS IPrice: Approx. $68

Magnification: 10 x 50 mm

Dimensions: 7.5 x 7 x 2.5 in

Weight: 1.88 lbs

Specific features: UV protection, aspherical optics for the distortion-free image, wide angle of view, anti-reflective lens coating for better image brightness.

Best use: Panoramic sightseeing, bird watching

The Olympus Trooper Binocular has a standard Porro Prism system which allows for easy focusing on fast moving objects. Also, these binoculars have an apparent angle of 65°: this means that the linear field of view is 342 feet at 1000 yards, resulting in a panoramic view.

They also have the BaK-7 lenses, a feature that Olympus is famous for, which allow for the excellent sharpness of the image and good light intensity. The exit pupil size on these is 5mm, which means that they can be used for low light situations and nighttime watching.

The central focus knob is easily adjusted for fast focusing, so they can be extremely useful in bird watching, or when observing fast sporting events. The lenses have UV protection coating for protecting the eyes from harmful UV rays, but feature monolayer coating for maximal light gathering.

Also, they have folding eyecups, and eye relief of 12mm which allows for them to be used with or without glasses. The body is made of hard plastic, with high-quality rubber coating for secure gripping. These binoculars are sold with a neck strap and carrying pouch.

The tripod adapter point is under the Olympus logo plate on the front, so if you want to utilize this feature you’ll have to unscrew this plate. These binoculars are not water, shock or fog proof, so you will have to be very careful when handling them.

PROS:

  • Magnification power 10x
  • Very wide angle field of view for panoramic image
  • Easy focusing for viewing fast moving objects
  • Wide lenses for maximal light transmission
  • Sure – grip rubber coated body

CONS:

  • Non – waterproof
  • Lens covers are not attached and can be easily lost
  • The carry pouch is not that convenient

Check the price on Amazon

Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars

Celestron SkyMaster 20x80Price: Approx. $102

Magnification: 16 x 80 mm

Dimensions: 16 x 12 x 7 in

Weight: 5.86 lbs

Specific features: Multi-coated lenses, water-resistant body, BaK-4 porro prism system, large 80 mm lenses for maximal light transmission, integrated tripod adapter rod

Best use: Observing the night sky, observing far away objects

The Celestron Skymaster Binoculars offer superior features when looking for a relatively cheap but very decent binocular. The magnification power of 20 means that the object you are observing is seen 20 times closer. This is excellent for people who want to look at the stars or want to observe objects very, very far away.

The lenses are multi-coated, for maximum light gathering; the 80mm lenses gather a lot of light and the image that is projected is very good, even in low-light conditions. The eye relief is amazing 18mm, so these can be easily used with or without glasses.

They are a bit on the heavy side, so it is highly recommended that they are used on a tripod; for this purpose, they come with an integrated tripod adapter and finder rail. The mounting is easy and the stabilized binocular offers superior viewing performance.

There is a central focus knob for easy focusing. The body is very big and coated with rubber for ultra – firm grip. But even though the rubber coating feels well on the hands, you can not hold this binocular for long.

These also have water resistant body, they are not resistant to total submersion in water, but a light rain will not do any damage to them. They come with a soft case, neck strap, tripod adapter and rain guard.

PROS:

  • Very large magnification factor
  • Excellent choice for star gazing due to wide field of vision
  • Multi – coated lenses for sharp image
  • Integrated tripod adapter for stabilized viewing
  • Water resistant body

CONS:

  • Very heavy and tiring to hold for long
  • Hard to focus on closer objects

Check the price on Amazon

Tasco Essentials Binocular

Tasco Essentials binocularsPrice: Approx. $32

Magnification: 12 x 25 mm

Weight: 0.7 lbs

Specific features: 12x magnification, coated lenses for a clear view, rubber armor for a firm grip, compact size for easy carrying.

Best use: Big game hunting, bird watching, hiking.

Tasco Essentials Binoculars come in several different models. Here we look at the Tasco Essentials Binoculars. It has a magnification factor of 12x and fully coated lenses for good light transmission. It has roof prism system with compact size.

The binocular has a central focus knob, rubber armored body, and rubber fold – down eyecups. They come in black and camouflage color. The exit pupil size on these is the only 2.1mm, so they are not very useful in low light conditions.

But considering the price, the Tasco Essential 12x25mm Compact Binoculars are a good choice to have them around. The small size and compact option are an advantage when traveling light and you want a simple binocular.

PROS:

  • Good 12x magnification
  • Coated lenses for clear view
  • Compact size and light weight body
  • Good quality considering the price
  • Come with case and non-detachable neck strap and

CONS:

  • Non – waterproof
  • Difficult to use with glasses

Check the price on Amazon

Nikon 8245 Aculon

Nikon Aculon 8x42Price: Approx. $70

Magnification: 8 x 42 mm

Dimensions: 8.1 x 4.1 x 4.1 in

Weight: 1.66 lbs

Specific features: Ergonomic design; turn-and-slide rubber eyecups; multicoated eco-glass lenses for clear images; rubber armored coating for non-slip grip.

Best use: Bird watching, general sightseeing, hiking.

The Nikon 8245 Aculon is a good choice for a novice. Nikon is famous for making quality lenses, which is the case here: the binoculars feature Aspherical multilayer – coated lenses which are made from Nikon’s Eco-Glass – a lead and arsenic free glass; the lenses offer great quality and clarity of the image.

They also have the BK4 Porro prism system for high-quality viewing. Also, the housing is well built and sturdy and comes in black and Real Tree Extra Green Camouflage colored option.

The focus is achieved through the central focus knob which has smooth and easy motion. The eye relief is 12mm, so these can be used with or without glasses.

The exit pupil size on these binocular is 5.3mm, which means that they have good light capture and transmission, and offer good image in low – light conditions like dusk, dawn or wooded areas. The Nikon ACULON Binocular is a great option for its price, easy to use and it comes with a neck strap and a padded case.

PROS:

  • Nikon Multilayer – Coated Eco – Glass lenses
  • Smooth adjustment of the focus
  • Tripod adaptable
  • Durable rubber coated shock resistant body

CONS:

  • Non – waterproof

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell PermaFocus

Bushnell PermaFocus Porro Prism BinocularPrice: Approx. $50

Magnification: 7 x 35 mm

Dimensions: 7.5 x 7.3 x 2.5 in

Weight: 1.4 lbs

Special features: Focus-free feature, coated lenses for increased image brightness, non-slip rubber coating for shock absorption and firm grip.

Best use: Wildlife tracking, fast moving sporting events

The Bushnell PermaFocus is a mid-sized binocular. It features magnification factor of 7x, with a 35mm objective lens. This results in an exit pupil size of 5mm, meaning that it works well in low light situations, like dusk, dawn or wooded areas.

It also has an eye relief of 12mm, so the binocular can be used with or without glasses. It features BK-7 Porro Prism system.

These have the Focus free feature, this allows for instantaneous viewing at almost any distance (Note: the Focus-free models are designed for distant objects; the close – focus limit is subjective and depends on the user’s eyesight).  The Focus – free option is great for viewing sporting events and especially when wearing gloves.

The lenses are fully coated for maximum light transmission. The body of the binoculars is built from quality materials; features non-slip rubber coating that has shock absorbing properties. They come with a neck strap, padded case and cleaning cloth.

PROS:

  • Focus – Free feature
  • Tripod adaptability
  • Rubber shock absorption coated body

CONS:

  • Not waterproof/fog – proof
  • Focus – free feature may interfere when looking at objects in close focus

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell PermaFocus

Bushnell permafocus 7x50Price: Approx. $58

Magnification: 7 x 50 mm

Dimensions: 7.5 x 8.9 x 3.4 in

Weight: 1.7 lbs

Special features: Elegant design, focus-free feature ideal, coated lenses for increased image brightness, non-slip rubber coating for shock absorption and firm grip.

Best use: Wildlife tracking, use with gloves.

The Bushnell PermaFocus is full sized binoculars with increased brightness for long – distance observing. The lenses are fully coated for maximum light transmission. It has a wide-angle field of view, and features fold down eyecups.

The eye relief is 20 mm; this allows the binoculars to be used with or without glasses. The exit pupil size is staggering 7.1mm; it has the BK-7 Porro Prism system.

This binocular is a good choice for a beginner; it is relatively lightweight compared to its size. It has the Fixed – focus feature that allows for instant viewing without the need to adjust the focus.

This has its advantages and limitations: the advantage is the instant focus which comes in hand when watching a sporting event or when in use for long – distance viewing; a limitation is the close – focus, this is subjective and depends on the eyesight of the user, and also this feature doesn’t allow for very close viewing.

The build is good, the rubber coating offers firm, non-slip grip and offers shock absorption. They have a tripod adapter option, and come with a neck strap, padded case and cleaning cloth.

PROS:

  • Focus – Free feature
  • Large lens for increased light transmission
  • Tripod adaptability
  • Rubber shock absorption coated body

CONS:

  • Not waterproof/fog – proof
  • Focus – free feature may interfere when looking at objects in close focus
  • Close object are blurry

Check the price on Amazon

Olympus Trooper DPS

Olympus Trooper 8x40Price: Approx. $56

Magnification: 8 x 40 mm

Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.4 x 2.2 in

Weight: 1.56 lbs

Special features: Made of hard plastic, UV protected lenses, very wide angle of view for a panoramic view, rugged design, sure – grip rubber coating.

Best use: Wide panoramic sightseeing, bird watching

The Olympus Trooper DPS has a standard size, offers magnification factor of 8x. It has BK-7 Porro Prism system which is more light efficient, providing a vivid, 3D image with excellent depth of field.

It has monolayer coating on the lenses, providing good light transmission. This binocular has an exit pupil size of 5mm, which makes it a good option for low – lighting conditions like dusk, dawn or wooded areas. The central focus knob is smooth, easy to adjust for clear, crisp focused image.

The eye relief is 12mm, and they feature folding eyecups, for better viewing with glasses. The extra wide angle of view of 65° allows for panoramic viewing of distant natural landscapes, also allows for easy viewing of moving objects, for example with bird watching or sporting events.

The Olympus Trooper 8×40 DPS I has tripod adaptability, the screw mount is on the front of the hinge, under the logo plate. It comes with a strap and case for storage and carrying.

PROS:

  • Magnification power 8x
  • Very wide angle field of view for panoramic image
  • Easy focusing for viewing fast moving objects
  • Sure – grip rubber coated body

CONS:

  • Non – waterproof

Check the price on Amazon

Final Thoughts

We have done our job in making a list of the top choices, and now it is up to you to make an informed decision about what will be your first binoculars.

Viewing the sea with binoculars

No matter how extensive your knowledge of optics is, it is always a good idea to read about the binoculars you are thinking of getting. We hope that our review will help you choose the best option that will work for your needs, of course without breaking the bank.

You can drop us a line at our comments section with your thoughts and experiences about using some of the mentioned products.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cole Palmer
Cole Palmer

Cole’s passion is travelling around the world. His favourite destinations are South Asia and Western Europe. Cole spends lots of time sailing and knows how important is to have a good gear while you are in the middle of the ocean. Another thing that he is passionate about is astronomy, he says that the best place to look at the sky at night is usually far from the coast.

  • Cole Palmer

    The Tasco Essentials Binocular is a wonderful choice. It is a durable product that will serve your son well for a long time.

  • Cole Palmer

    The Olympus Trooper Binoculars are a good choice for the money. They may not be the best choice for extreme conditions, but they are surely among the best under normal conditions.

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