How to Choose?
Some cheap binoculars have plenty of value while others are just cheap. How are you supposed to know which is which?
If you’re not an expert on binoculars already, the many choices can be overwhelming, especially since some people recommend binoculars that cost from $300 to over $2,000.
Can you really get quality optics under $100? Under $50?
Yes, you can.
You will lose out on some quality, for sure. However, increasing the cost comes with diminishing returns. Furthermore, some low-priced binoculars punch well above their price tag.
While all of the binoculars on this list are good, some are better at certain tasks than others. Reviewing the following information will help you decide which one is best for you.
Magnification and Field of View
There’s often a push and pull between magnification and field of view.
The same glass with the same objective lens with a higher magnification will show you less of the landscape and vice versa.
The sweet spot for general nature viewing tends to be between 8x and 10x. At 10x magnification, an object 1,000 yards away will appear to be only 100 yards away.
The problem with higher magnifications, in addition to a smaller field of view, is the fact that every hand movement is magnified. This can result in the image bouncing around if you don’t have it on a tripod.
So, your choice of magnification often depends on how far away you are from what you want to view and how difficult it is to spot.
Objects which don’t move, such as stars, are easily found and are best observed with higher-magnification binoculars.
However, deer and other animals can be difficult to find, so you’ll want a little less magnification and more field of view.
Price has the most correlation with optical quality. The more you spend, the better the view you’ll get.
This is because of two aspects: glass quality and lens coatings.
Not all glass is the same. Better-made glass will have fewer imperfections, which translates to a better image.
However, that glass will be more expensive. Generally, cheaper glass will have fuzzy edges or even a fishbowl effect to the view.
More expensive glass will not only have better optical quality but can be lighter, too.
Extra-low dispersion glass, or ED glass, produces a higher-definition image but also has a higher price.
Somewhat more important than the glass itself is the coating on the glass.
Lens coatings work to ensure that reflected light stays the same wavelength and at the same angle, keeping the visual image is as accurate as possible.
The more coatings, the more optical aspects are optimized. Multi-coated lenses are better than just a single coating.
Fully coating all of the optics means that the lenses and prisms are doated. So, fully multi-coated binoculars tend to have better images than fully-coated or multi-coated binoculars.
Phase coating is a special coating that’s better than normal coatings but also commands a more expensive price.
Your binoculars’ physical defenses against water and hard knocks can be reduced to save money if you don’t go on harsh adventures with your equipment.
On the other hand, if you do venture into the woods or on the water, paying more for thicker construction and rubber armor can keep your binoculars safe and prevent them from turning into a pile of useless glass shards.
Other durability aspects include waterproofing and fog-proofing.
Waterproofing refers to body construction, such as tight tolerances and O-rings, to keep water from entering your binoculars.
Water inside the optics can obscure the view and make your binoculars frustrating, if not impossible, to use.
Water-resistant binoculars can be used in light rain. Waterproof binoculars can be used in rain without worry, and some can even survive a temporary dip underwater.
Much like your car’s windshield, fog can make it difficult to look through your binoculars’ lenses.
More expensive binoculars tend to have the atmosphere inside replaced with a non-reactive gas such as argon or nitrogen, which helps prevent fog from building up.
Fog-proof does not mean that the outside of the lenses don’t fog (though it can provide resistance against such), rather that the inside of the lenses don’t fog.
You can wipe away external fog but not internal fog!
However, if you don’t use your binoculars outside during temperature swings, fog-proofing isn’t as necessary.
Hunters need it; sports viewers may not.
There are two prism styles in use today: Porro and roof prisms.
Porro prisms flare outward or, occasionally, inward. They are bulkier and heavier but are cheaper to manufacture.
They may be the classic style but are not yet outdated.
Roof-style prisms are a more modern style and keep everything in line. Roof-style binoculars are more compact and lighter but are more expensive to manufacture.
Size and Weight
This last consideration depends on how far you want to travel with the binoculars on foot.
Smaller and lighter binoculars are better for hikers and people who will be using the binoculars frequently throughout the day.
Heavy binoculars can cause hand fatigue over time.
However, if you intend to use the binoculars from your car, in your backyard, or while you’re sitting at a sporting event, extra weight isn’t a hindrance.
We’ve all had to balance price and value before. Every binocular on this list is a good balance between the two.
What do you need these binoculars for?
If you’re a hunter, the Bushnell Trophy is great for you. If you’re a long-distance hiker who wants to save weight and space, get the Wingspan Optics Feather ED.
Want to gaze upon the stars? The Celestron SkyMaster Giant is the binocular for you.
If you’re a casual nature watcher who wants a versatile set of binoculars, then the Bushnell Falcon can do a bit of everything for very little cost.
Whichever binoculars you choose, all of these will help you observe whatever you’re looking at clearly and without a price that makes your wallet weep.