Since 2015 I have been a freelance writer and wildlife photographer, working out of some of the planet’s most spectacular wildlife and nature travel destinations–from the Amazon to Raja Ampat–diving, snorkelling, fieldherping, birding and photographing my way around the world.
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A decent pair of binoculars is life-changing. Being able to observe animals and animal behaviour up close is a major thrill, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get something great.
I’ve used both very expensive and what most birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts would consider “budget” binoculars. While you can definitely tell when you are using a pair of 500 dollars binoculars, it is certainly not to say that you can’t get something great for a fifth of that.
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The below article is a review of the best binoculars under $100. Since I only use and review serious gear made by serious manufacturers, all of my best binoculars under 100 are from reputable companies that have been making optics equipment for a long, long time.
Under 100 doesn’t mean cheap binoculars
These aren’t cheap binoculars in the sense that they’re cheaply made. Rather, they’re what I believe are the best budget binoculars out there.
These are not no-name brands, but affordable binoculars at a very reasonable price from respected optics makers.
Whether you’re looking for birding binoculars or an all around versatile binocular that provides good optical quality and clear images, I hope the below sections making buying binoculars that won’t break the bank straightforward.
The Winner of Best Binoculars Under $100: Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8×42
Here’s my take
Nikon’s Aculon is one of the most widely used pairs of budget binoculars in outdoor sports–from hunting to fishing to birdwatching–which is why it’s at the top of my best binoculars under 100 list.
This is a fantastic piece of optics equipment that gives you a wide field of view, fully multi coated lenses and well-made aspherical glass elements that make sure you are getting stellar image quality, even from so-called “budget binoculars.”
Ultralight, an easy-to-use smooth central focus knob that allows for quick focusing and rubber armor coating to make sure these don’t slip out of your hands, the Aculon A211 8×42 are the best binoculars under 100 on the market, for use in a wide range of different conditions.
Bear in mind that these are not water-resistant. I’ve had problems in the past with binoculars in wet environments, although I’ve found storing them inside their case inside of a dry bag tends to do the trick. All in all, very nice optics for the money.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||42|
|Eye Relief (mm||12|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yards)||420|
Here’s a synthesis of Reddit and Optics forum comments on the Aculon 211 8×42
Some users express concerns about the quality of zoom binoculars and recommend fixed magnification binoculars, specifically suggesting models like the 8×42 in Nikon’s range. One user lauds the 10×42 model as suitable for beginner use, mentioning they have no trouble stabilizing them and even their kids can use them comfortably. However, concerns about eye relief for glasses wearers are raised, and it is suggested that the Nikon Action EX version may be a better choice.
In terms of alternatives, users suggest considering Nikon’s Porro prism binoculars, such as the 7×35 Aculons or 10×42 models. The consensus is that these are perceived as offering a steadier view for handheld use and being more enjoyable overall.
Additionally, users emphasize the importance of finding the right magnification for one’s specific needs, with 8x being a popular choice for versatility, especially for birdwatching and general use, while 10x is preferred for more specialized activities like astronomy.
Other Great Options
While the Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8×42 are the best binoculars under 100 overall, there are a number of great alternative options out there that are worth considering.
- The Celestron – Outland X
- The Vortex Optics Raptor Porro Prism Binoculars
- The Celestron – SkyMaster 25X70
- The Bushnell PowerView 10 x 50mm
- The Celestron – SkyMaster 15×70 Binocular
Best Binoculars Under $100: Celestron Outland X
Here’s my take
The Celestron Outland had to make the list of best binoculars under 100 because it tends to be harder to find lightweight roof prism binoculars in this price range. If lightweight is what you’re after (for instance, if you travel a lot and you don’t want your binoculars taking up a considerable amount of your allotted checked or carry-on space), these are a great option.
The Celestron Outland is coated in the rubber armour you would expect from a quality pair of optics and, as is the case with roof prism binoculars, this is a fully weather-proof and fog-proof piece of gear.
I think maybe the most convincing reason to include this on a list of the best binoculars under 100 is the adjustable eye cups make them easy to use for eyeglass wearers. For me, this has always been my issue with binoculars.
If you are looking for something for backyard birding or stargazing, and that will give you great clarity in low light conditions, definitely consider the Celestron Outland.
Bear in mind that if you are really serious about optics and want or are used to the absolute best, you’re going to have to spend more than a hundred bucks. But for people just looking for a functional piece of kit to travel with and have on hand when needed, these are nice.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||42|
|Field of view (degrees)||5.6|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yards)||294|
Here’s a synthesis of what optics enthusiasts on Reddit and birding/optics forums are saying
Some people believe that roof prism binoculars in the sub-$100 category come with inherent build quality and image quality issues due to the lack of phase coating. They are definitely right about that, but I think you need to accept this price range of binoculars for what they are before buying.
They recommend looking at alternatives, such as the Nikon Aculon 8×42 Porro binoculars (covered above), which are seen as having better build quality and a better warranty.
Users also highlight the advantages of porro prism binoculars in terms of optical quality and recommend considering models like the Nikon Trailblazer 8×25 for those on a tight budget. However, there are positive comments about the Celestron Nature DX binoculars, indicating that they are suitable for birdwatching and night sky viewing.
In response to someone looking for binocular recommendations for birding within a modest budget, users provide various suggestions.
While the Celestron Outland X 10×42 is considered, some recommend the Nikon 8×40 Action EX, emphasizing its better image quality and field of view.
They also advise against roof prism binoculars on a budget, suggesting that porro prism binoculars may provide a better experience for beginners.
Best Binoculars Under 100: #2: Vortex Optics Raptor Porro Prism Binoculars
The Vortex Raptor are some of the best cheap binoculars because it’s rare that you find a pair of Vortex binocs in this price range. Vortex is acclaimed hunting, birding and wildlife viewing optics and the Raptor is a very nice high-quality piece of gear.
In addition to the brand recognition and respectability of Vortex, this pair also deserves to be included on any best binoculars under 100 list because of the flexible porro prism design.
Porro prism means these binoculars have a high degree of adaptability to different facial structures, which is often a complaint people have when borrowing binoculars. The fully multi coated optics provide crisp and sharp images, and the nitrogen purging feature helps you stay waterproof and fog-free in those steamy jungle or cloud forest habitats.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||32|
|Field of view (degrees)||6.3|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yards)||339|
A synthesis of what the experts and aficionados on Reddit and optics forums are saying
On the whole, Porro prism binoculars like the Vortex Raptor are praised for their optical quality but criticized for their bulkier design. Suggestions include examining models with ED glass, such as the Athlon G2 UHD or Vortex Viper HD, which start to get considerably more expensive, though they would still be considered on the budget end of the binocular market.
Best Binoculars Under 100: #3: Celestron – SkyMaster 25 X 70
Another pair that deserved to make it on the best binoculars under 100 list, the Celestron SkyMaster 25×70 provide great long-distance viewing for birders, wildlife watchers, and hunters.
These binoculars are suitable for both terrestrial use and star gazing, and the long eye-relief is a nice touch for birders and wildlife enthusiasts who wear glasses. It is so frustrating having to put contact lenses in just to use binoculars.
Keep in mind that higher magnification (over 10x) really reduce your field of view. You need a very steady hand to keep such powerful binoculars on target, but the 25x is nice for when you do need to see something quite far away.
Using these on a boat, for instance, could be very touchy, since every movement will heavily impact your ability to stay on target. It would be ideal to have either a monopod or tripod mount to go along with these binoculars.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||70|
|Field of view (degrees)||2.7|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yards)||141|
What experts and enthusiasts on Reddit and optic forums saying about these binoculars, including recommendations for alternatives
People have shared both positive and negative experiences with the Celestron SkyMaster 25×70 Binoculars.
On the positive side, users have found these binoculars to offer impressive views of celestial objects. They’ve mentioned successful observations of star clusters like the Pleiades (M45), the Moon with its craters, and even the Orion Nebula (M42). Mars is also described as a distinct and exciting sight through these binoculars. Users have expressed their amazement at the enhanced details they could see with the SkyMaster 25×70.
However, there’s a common thread regarding the need for a tripod when using these binoculars due to their high magnification, as hand-holding can lead to shakiness and reduced enjoyment.
On the flip side, collimation issues have been a recurring concern.
Collimation, which refers to the alignment of the two optical paths in binoculars, can be problematic with high-magnification binoculars such as these. Some users have reported that their binoculars were out of collimation, leading to difficulties in merging images and discomfort.
Attempting to fix collimation issues may be possible with adjustments, but it’s not always straightforward, and professional repairs might be costly. These concerns have prompted recommendations for alternatives, such as Celestron’s Skymaster 15×70 binoculars, which are easier to handle without a tripod and can provide a satisfying stargazing experience, as well as the need to prioritize mechanical alignment issues before adjusting collimation.
Additionally, suggestions have been made for monopods or parallelogram mounts to stabilize the view when using the SkyMaster 25×70 Binoculars, given their large size and high magnification.
Best Binoculars Under 100: #4: Bushnell PowerView 10 x 50mm
Of course, there was going to be at least one Bushnell pair on a best binoculars under 100 list. I’ve owned and used Bushnell optics since I was a kid and my first pair of binoculars ever was a pair of Bushnell.
The PowerView gives you phenomenal HD clarity, which you would expect from a pair of Bushnell, but the most enticing feature on these binoculars, IMO, is how quickly it focuses. The worst part about a cheap pair of generic binoculars is how long they can take to focus, but the PowerView gets you focused really fast.
One of the best pairs of binoculars under a 100 that you can keep in your car, in your camper, or tuck away in a checked or carry-on bag while traveling. Keep in mind that “instafocus” does not mean autofocus. Autofocus, of course, is going to cost you more money, so bear that in mind so as not to be disappointed with your purchase.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||50|
|Field of view (degrees)||6.5|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yards)||341|
A synthesis of what experts and enthusiasts on Reddit and optics forums are saying about these binoculars and potential alternatives
The reviews are mixed, with some positive aspects and points of consideration.
In the context of binoculars for stargazing and general use, the PowerView model is found to offer an affordable option with a 10x magnification, suitable for handheld observations of celestial objects. Users have reported decent performance in terms of resolving objects like the moons of Jupiter and enjoying views of celestial features such as the Orion Nebula and the Andromeda Galaxy.
The 50mm objective lenses are appreciated for their light-gathering ability, making it possible to see fainter celestial details. These binoculars are generally seen as a cost-effective choice for astronomy.
However, some users have mentioned that the Bushnell PowerView 10×50 may not be readily available in certain regions, and they have suggested alternatives. For example, the Pentax 10×50 S-Series SP is recommended as it features Bak-4 prisms, slightly longer eye relief, and fogproofing, all of which contribute to a better observing experience.
Additionally, the Bushnell Legacy 10×50 WP is suggested, known for its waterproof and fogproof features, Bak-4 prisms, and superior multicoating. It is considered an excellent choice for both daytime and nighttime use.
The binoculars’ sharpness at the edge of the field of view is discussed, with the understanding that most binoculars show some blurriness at the periphery. Overall, the advice tends to steer beginners toward binoculars with fog-proof capabilities, as well as models with long eye relief for added comfort and convenience during observation.
In summary, the Bushnell PowerView 10x50mm binoculars are seen as a budget-friendly option for stargazing and general use, providing a decent observing experience. However, there are suggestions for alternatives, such as the Pentax S-Series SP or the Bushnell Legacy 10×50 WP, which offer improved features like Bak-4 prisms, fog proofing, waterproofing, and long eye relief, making them appealing choices for beginners and more experienced users alike.
Best Binoculars Under 100: #5: Celestron – SkyMaster 15×70 Binocular
I wanted to also include Celestron’s SkyMaster 15×70 on the list of best binoculars under 100 because the more powerful 25x70s are a bit limited by their magnification. The 15×70 is quite a bit less powerful, which means a wider field of view and easier focusing.
They still have quite a large aperture for stargazing, and you get all of the same quality that you get with the SkyMaster 25×70; these are just more practical for wildlife viewing, and especially birdwatching, while still gathering a ton of light for low-light viewing.
Keep in mind that these are fairly heavy and, like their big brother 25x70s, are ideally used with a tripod. The eye relief on these is also a bit better than the 25x70s, so they are going to be more comfortable if you wear glasses.
|Objective Lens Diameter (mm)||70|
|Field of view (degrees)||4.4|
|Field of View (feet at 1000 yard||231|
What experts and enthusiast on Reddit and optics forums are saying about these as well as suggestions for alternatives
The positive aspects mentioned include the binoculars arriving well-collimated, offering sharp stars and even hints of color in celestial objects like the Orion Nebula and Pleiades. The field of view is relatively wide, and the reviewer was able to observe various deep-sky objects with ease. However, the reviewer points out that these binoculars are not ideal for beginners and recommends them as a second pair, particularly after owning binoculars with smaller magnifications.
Despite these positive observations, the reviewer notes several caveats. The Celestron SkyMaster 15x70s were compared to 7×50 binoculars from Orion and found to be less impressive.
The 7×50 binoculars provided a wider field of view, were easier to handle, and felt lighter, which reduced arm fatigue during extended observations. The review also underscores that the Celestron binoculars require a solid tripod to provide a stable view, as the included plastic bracket is deemed inadequate.
In conclusion, for a beginner or someone looking for a wide field of view, alternative options like 7×50 binoculars from Orion are recommended for their ease of use and lower overall expenses. It is also suggested that stepping up to a higher quality binocular brand, such as Opticron or Oberwerk, could provide a more satisfying experience and better quality control.
So, in a nutshell, these Celestron binoculars offer decent views but may require extra investments in tripod accessories, and other alternatives are suggested for both beginners and experienced observers seeking a better user experience.
What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Binoculars Under 100 List
I don’t hunt, so my binocular use is strictly for viewing wildlife, particularly birds, but also for spotting reptiles and mammals in trees.
I also like to have a pair of binoculars with me when I’m out in the bush as part of a wilderness survival kit. Being able to see what’s out in the distance to plan your next move in an emergency scenario can be very useful.
I’ve owned and used binoculars my whole life, ever since my dad first got me into birdwatching and would take me to see big congregations of bald eagles on the Fraser River in British Columbia when I was a kid.
In preparation for writing this article, I also spent many hours reading reviews, watching demos and talking to my birder and hunter friends about what they would recommend as a good “budget” pair of optics from a reputable company, either for someone not looking to spend a ton of money or as a backup pair.
The synthesis of all that is my best binoculars under 100 list.
Main Evaluation Criteria to Choose the Best Binoculars Under 100
There are a few things that make all the difference when choosing a pair of binoculars. They are:
- The glass type
- Lens coatings (i.e., multi-coated optics)
- Exit pupil
- Eye relief
Bear in mind that most binoculars in this price range are not going to perform the same way expensive binoculars will.
You can get a really good pair of binoculars for under 100, but you’re not going to get amazing binoculars.
Optical quality isn’t already directly proportional to price, but it tends to be. Better lens materials and construction make for clear images and things like phase correction coatings and prism specific coatings do have a marked impact on optical performance.
The glass type
There are many thousands of glass formulas in the world for different applications. BK-7 and BK-4 are ones used in binoculars, monoculars, and spotting scope prisms and, basically, they refer to the refractive index of the glass and, therefore, the image quality you can expect.
Typically, the glass being used in binoculars under 100 is BK7, which is less quality than BK-4 (although still good). If you can, however, opt for BK-4 when possible.
A rubber armored body is the standard for all high-quality, durable binoculars. Another durability factor is whether a pair of binoculars is weatherproof. The best binoculars under 100 aren’t always going to be weatherproof, unfortunately.
Lens coatings (i.e., multi coated optics)
As a general rule of thumb, more coatings are better. If you can get fully multi-coated, even better.
Multi layer lenses perform better in adverse weather conditions, enhance clarity, reduce glare and give you a bright image.
Some budget binos don’t have this, which can result in a slightly darker image.
Because I’m almost always on the road, and because I’m a super serious birder, I like a compact binocular.
Yes, I want something that is going to be good for casual bird watching, at a reasonable price, with a nice coated lens that lets in as much light as possible, and of course, I want waterproof binoculars because I spend so much time in the jungle wildlife watching, but at the end of the day, small binoculars are my preference.
Exit pupil 3-5mm
The exit pupil is that bright circle that you can see in the center of your eyepieces when you hold your binocs at a slight distance from your eyes and the objective lenses pointed towards the light. A larger exit pupil will improve your image quality, which can sometimes be missing in even the best binoculars under 100.
Eye relief 13-18mm
Your eye relief is basically the space between the frame of the binoculars and the glass. A larger relief is preferable for people with glasses, otherwise, your glasses are knocking up against the lenses.
Low to medium power
10x magnification is plenty for binoculars in this price range. Anything more (and we have included two such pairs on the above list) can result in poorer image quality and a reduced field of view.
Looking After Budget Binoculars
I still see so many birders and wildlife enthusiasts abuse their binoculars, so I thought I would include a quick guide on looking after your gear. Even the best binoculars under 100 are not going to last long if you mistreat them.
Wipe down metal parts and brush your lenses off
Do this with a wad of tissue made for lens cleaning or with an ultra-soft camel-hair brush. This will helps dislodge sand and dirt. Failure to remove this stuff could damage your lens when you clean it. Hold your binoculars upside down while you do this so that dirt falls away from the lens surface.
Wipe your lens surfaces down
The best way to do this is to fold a piece of lens-cleaning tissue a couple of times. This stops your skin oil from soaking through and getting on the lens. Using a circular motion, gently buff the lenses.
Use lens cleaner to get rid of oil
If you find there is any oil on the lens after wiping it down, place a single drop of lens cleaner on your tissue and re-wipe.
Examine internal optics for dirt
You should do this by holding the binoculars up to the light and examining the inside through the objective lens. It is not advised to open your binoculars because it is easy to disrupt the alignment if you don’t know what you’re doing. Better to take your gear to a pro for internal cleaning.
Always secure your binoculars
Always stow your binocs away inside your jacket or under your arm when jumping, climbing, getting into a boat etc.
Why Getting the Best Budget Binoculars Makes Sense
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get yourself a nice pair of binoculars from a reputable manufacturer. While it is possible to spend upwards of a thousand dollars on a pair of binoculars, you can easily get something for much less.
Spending even a hundred dollars on a pair of binoculars will ensure that you get something functional that provides good image quality and makes your birdwatching and wildlife viewing much more enjoyable. I hope this list of the six best binoculars under 100 has provided you with some options to mull over as you build your nature travel and wildlife tourism gear arsenal.
Frequently asked questions when it comes to budget binoculars
What is the best binoculars for a reasonable price?
It really depends on what you’re using them for. If you’re looking for something for astronomy, then you are going to want binoculars that have larger objective lenses, such as 15×70 or 20×80 models. These larger lenses allow for more light gathering, which is essential for observing celestial objects like stars, planets, and deep-sky phenomena.
The Celestron SkyMaster 15×70, for instance, is a popular choice for stargazing and provides a decent balance between magnification and field of view. However, it’s important to note that these larger binoculars can be heavy and might require a tripod for extended use.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in birdwatching or general outdoor activities, a pair of 8×42 or 10×42 binoculars might be more suitable. The 8×42 configuration offers a wider field of view, making it easier to track fast-moving birds. Models like the Vortex Diamondback 8×42 and Nikon Monarch 7 10×42 are well-regarded for their optical quality and durability.
Who makes the best budget binoculars?
There are a ton of well-respected optics brands out there, and, of course, everyone has their preference. It’s more important to first shortlist binoculars made by respected brands like Bushnell, Celestron, Nikon, etc., and then compare them based on your intended purpose.
If you’re a birdwatcher, then you’ll want budget binoculars that offer a good balance between magnification and field of view, making it easier to spot and follow birds in their natural habitat. Brands like Nikon, with their Aculon series, or Celestron, offering options like the Nature DX, provide decent quality for birdwatching without breaking the bank.
For stargazing, especially on a budget, you might want to consider binoculars with larger objective lenses. Celestron’s SkyMaster series or the SkyGenius 10×50 binoculars are well-regarded for their affordability and performance under the night sky. The larger objective lenses gather more light, allowing you to observe celestial objects with greater clarity.
In the end, what makes the “best” budget binoculars varies from person to person, as it depends on your specific needs and preferences. To find the right pair for you, it’s essential to consider factors such as magnification, field of view, and durability, as well as the reputation of the brand.
Additionally, reading reviews from other users who share your intended use can provide valuable insights into which budget binoculars will best suit your requirements.
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