- 8 Best Binoculars For Under 300 – Complete Buying Guide
- How to choose the best binoculars for under 300
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final words
Birdwatching? Hunting? Whale watching? All these outdoor activities require an indispensable tool: binoculars. It’s a long-term investment that every outdoorsman should have. And if you’re on a budget, I reviewed here 8 of the best binoculars for under 300 that will give the best bang for your buck. It might be cheaper than high-end models, but these options aren’t short of functionality.
As an avid hunter and habitual birdwatcher, I’ve purchased multiple binoculars over the years. I still have one of those bulky yet trusty Porro prism pairs. But as the optic industry becomes more and more modern, roof prisms continue to dominate the market.
Below, I reviewed 8 of the most reliable Porro and roof prism binoculars that you can get for a low price. Whether you’re hunting, nature observing, wildlife watching, and more, these are guaranteed to give you the best experience. See which one you’d love to bring on your next outdoor trips:
8 Best Binoculars For Under 300 – Complete Buying Guide
OUR #1 CHOICE
OUR TOP PICK: Nikon 7577 MONARCH 5 Binoculars
Product Name: Nikon 7577 MONARCH 5 Binoculars
Product Description: When it comes to the best binoculars for under 300, you’ll never go wrong with the Nikon 7577 MONARCH 5. This is available in 10 x 42 and 8 x 42 sizes to suit your outdoor activity. The MONARCH 5 uses Nikon’s premium extra-low dispersion (ED) glass for clear and crisp images. It also boasts of brilliant FOVs compared to other models. Aside from that, this has an apparent FOV of 51.3 degrees on the 10 x 42 model. I also like the long and adjustable eye relief through its turn-and-slide rubber eyecups. This pair of binoculars also boasts its dielectric multilayer prism coating that provides accurate and rich colors. Such features made Nikon MONARCH 5 my go-to binoculars for birdwatching. Moreover, these optics have a durable rubber-armored body that can resist extreme conditions. It’s also fitted with a non-slip grip that keeps it tacky during wet conditions.
Offer price: $$$
Field of View
Color and Contrast
Value for Money
When it comes to adjustments, these binoculars have a smooth central focus knob for on-the-go configuration. It allows users to change focus without too much guesswork.
Lastly, the MONARCH 5 has an O-ring seal for waterproofing as well as an unbeatable fog-proof performance.
Overall, these binoculars weigh 1.35 lbs. and have dimensions of 7.6” x 3.15” x 5.94”. It’s mid-sized and small enough for convenient carry.
The only thing I don’t like that much is the annoying squeak when adjusting the focus knob. It sounds like a bird chirp, which can be unpleasant when you’re with a group of birders who are trying to focus on their subjects.
Rubber-armored for durability
Long and adjustable eye relief
ED glass for excellent clarity
The focus knob is squeaky, which can be annoying for some.
Celestron Nature DX Binoculars
If you’re on a budget, my top recommendation is the Celestron Nature DX Binoculars. This pair is available in various sizes, including a 10 x 56, 8 x 56, and my 10 x 42 model. The 10 x 42 mm pair has a 5.8-degree FOV or 304 feet at 1,000 yards.
These binoculars are fitted with premium glass optics with multi-coatings for bright and true-to-life images. I also like the phase-coated BAK-4 prisms that produce accurate images. It’s paired with a 14 mm eye relief for eyeglass wearers.
Aside from that, the Celestron Nature DX is tripod adaptable in case you’re aiming for better stability. It also has a 6.5-feet close focus without chromatic aberrations.
Moreover, these binoculars have a polycarbonate housing with a rubber-armored design. The eyecups have a twist-up design for quick eye relief adjustments. Overall, the housing of these binoculars is fully waterproof and fog-proof for the best performance in any weather condition.
For this price range, Celestron has one of the most unbeatable warranty coverage. A limited lifetime warranty covers your purchase of the Nature DX Binoculars. They also provide unlimited technical assistance to help you maximize the product.
If you’re a beginner nature observer, the Nature DX Binoculars will offer the best value for money. The eye relief isn’t that grand, but it’s something most keen-sighted users won’t mind.
Carson 3D Series Waterproof Binoculars
If you’re looking for binoculars to use in wet conditions, I highly recommend the Carson 3D Series. This pair is available in 10 x 42, 10 x 50, 8 x 32, and 8 x 42 mm sizes. I personally tried the 10 x 42 mm model, and the results are quite impressive.
To start, these binoculars have an ED glass that delivers bright and sharp images. It also has BAK-4 prisms with 16 mm eye relief and a FOV of 314 feet at 1,000 yards on its 10 x 42 mm model.
Aside from that, these binoculars have a nitrogen-purged body with an O-ring seal. This makes it both waterproof and fog-proof for the best performance during rainy or snowy conditions. I also want to highlight that this pair comes with phase-corrected prisms that enhance the color fidelity of the images in any environment.
Moreover, the Carson 3D Binoculars are suitable for hunting and birding. Its rubberized armor body makes it easy to grip even with one hand. I actually like the thumb grooves on the barrel that guides users where to hold the binoculars.
These binoculars are also tripod-adaptable and complete with added accessories. You’ll receive a shoulder harness, lens covers, neck strap, lens cloth, and a storage case.
The only thing I noticed is that the build of these binoculars has more plastic than other models. Also, the eyecups only have one locking position, which can be an issue for some users.
VANGUARD Endeavor ED Binoculars
The VANGUARD Endeavor ED Binoculars have extra-low dispersion glass for exceptional image clarity and detail. It also has advanced MultiGuard coatings to boost light transmission on the BAK-4 roof prisms.
Moreover, these binoculars have twist eyecups as well as a locking diopter for easy setting and viewing. It’s very intuitive and an excellent choice for beginners.
The VANGUARD Endeavor Binoculars have three-stage twist eyecups as well as long 16.5 mm eye relief for eyeglass wearers. With a precise focus wheel and an open-bridge body, these binoculars offer accuracy on a light package.
Aside from that, these binoculars are available in 10 x 42 mm size with a FOV of 340 feet in 1,000 yards and a near focus of 8.2 feet.
You can also get this in an 8 x 42 mm version, with a FOV of 367 feet and a longer eye relief of 19 mm. Nevertheless, both the 8 x 42 mm and 10 x 42 mm have the same barrel size.
I also like VANGUARD’s lifetime warranty on their binoculars. So even if it’s not as affordable as the Celestron Nature DX, you’ll get the best value from its performance and guarantee.
The only thing users notice is that they have to glue the eye caps in place because it tends to fall out. Other than that, this is a reliable pair of binoculars for birders, hunters, and nature observers.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binoculars
Are you going out on a rainy day? If so, you should consider getting the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binoculars. This pair has Rainguard HD that repels water on the lens area to keep your view clear and unobstructed. It’s also IPX7 waterproof and fog-proof.
Aside from that, these Bushnell binoculars have ED Prime glass with ultra wide band coatings. This eliminates chromatic aberration as well as color-fringing that will ruin your viewing experience.
The Bushnell Legend binoculars also have a PC-3 chemical coating on the roof prisms that enhances their contrast and resolution. You’re going to enjoy true-to-life colors and accurate images.
Overall, these binoculars have a 15.2 mm eye relief, 6.2-feet close focus distance, and a FOV of 304 feet at 1,000 yards.
Meanwhile, its chassis is made of magnesium with hard plastic parts. I also like the rubberized coating and grip, which makes the binoculars effortless to hold on to any condition.
Unlike other binoculars, the Bushnell Legend has rubberized knobs that are a breeze to rotate. It doesn’t snag or produce squeaky sounds, which is a big plus for birders.
Aside from the binoculars, you’ll also receive a neck strap and a microfiber carry bag. It’s well worth the price considering Bushnell’s quality and performance.
However, some users complain about the fit of the eyecups. When extended, the eyecups snag and pull off the binoculars quite easily.
Pentax SP WP Binoculars
When it comes to ultimate magnification, the Pentax SP WP Binoculars are sure winners. This has a massive 20 magnification power with a 60 mm objective lens. With this powerhouse optics, you’ll be treated to crystal clear images even in low light conditions.
Aside from that, these Pentax binoculars have premium multilayer coatings that boost the light transmission on the BAK-4 prisms. On top of that, the glass lens has a specialized coating that wicks water, dust, and grease.
Moreover, this pair is nitrogen-filled and waterproof to resist outdoor elements. It can be submerged up to 1 meter of depth, which is a great choice for hunting during rainy or snowy conditions.
Also, this is one of the few Porro prism binoculars that I really swear by. It has a FOV of 2.2 degrees or 125.4 feet in 1,000 yards. This is paired with a 3 mm exit pupil and generous eye relief of 21 mm.
Considering these massive features, I was actually surprised by its price tag. This is totally a steal in terms of performance to cost ratio.
If you find the 20 x 60 mm too intimidating, you can get these Pentax binoculars in 10 x 50, 12 x 50, and 8 x 40 mm versions.
While the field of view is narrow, it’s actually an advantage if you want an immersive viewing experience. It felt like you’re using a high-powered telescope, which is perfect for stargazing and other long-distance viewing activities.
Athlon Optics Midas UHD Binoculars
If you’re looking for trusty 8 x 42 mm binoculars, you should consider the Athlon Optics Midas UHD. This is fitted with ED glass that has little to no chromatic aberration. It also delivers sharp and clear images that are true to life.
Aside from that, this has advanced fully multi-coated lenses for optimal light transmission. This translates to crisp images even in low light conditions. I also appreciate the ESP dielectric coating on the roof prism that reflects over 99% of the light into your eyes.
Moreover, this has a FOV of 8.1 degrees or 426 feet at 1,000 yards. It also has a generous eye relief of 17.2 mm, ideal for eyeglass wearers. On top of that, these Athlon binoculars have a 6.5-feet close focus.
These binoculars also sport a magnesium chassis, which reduces their weight by up to 35%. It also has twist-up eyecups equipped with intermediate stops for optimal eye relief.
Instead of nitrogen, this is argon-purged for better waterproofing and anti-fog properties. This is aside from the XPL coating that keeps oil, water, and dust off your lenses.
Whether you’re hunting, birding or nature observing, the Athlon binoculars can put up with the harsh outdoor elements. It has rubber armor that offers a topnotch grip and protection against wear and tear.
Aside from the 8 x 42 mm version, you can also get these Athlon binoculars in a 10 x 42 mm size.
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars
My last pick for this roundup is the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars. This is available in various magnification and objective lens sizes, but I recently tried their 10 x 42 mm model. It has rock-solid optics using fully multi-coated lenses to prevent color aberration.
Aside from that, this has a dielectric coating on its roof prisms for accurate and true-to-life images. The phase correction coating also enhances contrast and resolution for the most immersive viewing experience.
Moreover, the Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 10 x 42 mm has a 15 mm eye relief and FOV of 330 feet at 1,000 yards.
In terms of construction, these binoculars have adjustable eyecups and IPD. This is aside from the rubber armor for durable external protection.
These binoculars also have O-ring seals for waterproofing as well as argon-purged lenses to prevent fogging. All of these components are contained inside a lightweight magnesium chassis.
In addition, these binoculars have a center focus wheel on both barrels and an adjustable diopter to suit all users. It’s also tripod adaptable for hands-free operation.
If there’s one thing I really love about Vortex binoculars, it’s their no-questions-asked warranty policy. It’s a big deal for a pair of binoculars at this price range.
However, the focus wheel emits a spring-like sound whenever I’m adjusting it. It’s not really noisy, but it somehow makes these excellent binoculars feel a little bit cheap. Other than that, I don’t regret putting my money here.
How to choose the best binoculars for under 300
There are many binocular options in the market. While many of them look the same from the outside, what matters most is the insides. You need to dive into a few technical features if you want to get the best bang for the buck.
To make it simple, here are the features you need to check before putting your money on a pair of binoculars:
The first thing you have to consider is the overall size of the binoculars you’re going to get. In general, binoculars are available in compact, mid, and full sizes. Here’s a quick rundown of the sizes:
- Compact: Lens diameter of no more than 30 mm
- Mid-sized: Lens diameter between 30 mm and 40 mm
- Full size: Lens diameter of more than 40 mm
Most of the time, backpackers and hikers opt for a compact option since it’s lighter and easy to carry.
On the other hand, most birdwatchers, hunters, and nature observers will purchase mid-sized binoculars. It’s not too small and not too large while providing them a wide range of features to enjoy.
Meanwhile, full-size binoculars are reserved for those who want the brightest images in low-light conditions. However, these binoculars are bulky, heavy, and comes with a bigger price tag.
Take note that the lens diameter of the binoculars isn’t just about the bulk. It also plays a big role in image clarity, which I discussed further below.
Binoculars are often sized using two numbers (examples: 8 x 42, 10 x 28, 8 x 28 etc.). The first number represents the magnification power, while the second number is the objective lens diameter (more on this below).
The magnification power of binoculars dictates how much you can zoom in toward your subject. Most binoculars in the market are available in 8 and 10 magnifications.
An 8-power model has a wider field of view with decent image quality and stability. It’s suitable for most applications, but if you want an intricately detailed view, you’re better off with a 10-power model.
However, with great magnification power comes some tradeoffs. While 10-power binoculars allow you to zoom in closer to a subject, they will also amplify the movement of your hands. In short, 10-power binoculars are shakier and require a binocular stand to enjoy topnotch image quality.
When it comes to boating or other activities with unstable conditions, a 10-power binocular model may not be the most practical choice.
If you’re new to binoculars, I recommend starting with an 8-power model. From there, you can work your way toward higher magnification.
✔️Objective lens diameter
As mentioned, the second number on a binocular sizing pertains to the objective lens diameter. It’s the physical size of the lens fitted on the other end of the eyepiece.
The larger the lens diameter is, the more light it can gather. This means you can observe clearer images even in low-light conditions.
The most common option among users is an 8 x 42 binocular size. The 42 mm lens diameter is popular among birders, whale watchers, and nature observers.
So when do bigger lenses come in handy? If you’re into stargazing and professional wildlife observing, you can get a lens diameter as big as 50 mm. There are also 56 mm options for maximum clarity paired with a higher magnification power.
Most of the time, bigger lens diameters are paired with higher magnification power to produce crisp images. It also allows a wider field of view for the best viewing experience.
To give you an idea, here are the best lens diameter options for specific activities. Take note that these are just general suggestions and will vary depending on specific applications you have in mind:
- 28 mm/32 mm: backpacking, hiking, camping
- 42 mm: birdwatching, nature observing, hunting
- 50 mm/56 mm: big game hunting, stargazing, long-distance observing, low-light conditions
Once you’ve decided on the size, the next thing to check is the outer shell material. This will shield the inner components from harsh elements. Basically, you can choose from these three common options:
- Magnesium. Magnesium chassis is no doubt the most durable option. It will hold well against impact and other outdoor elements. However, it can be slippery to hold on during wet conditions unless fitted with a rubber armor.
- Rubber. If you want the best grip and decent durability, rubber or rubberized plastic will do a job. It’s lighter than metal and slightly cheaper too.
- Plastic. Cheap binoculars often use plastic material for the casing. While it rarely affects the optics, durability is a bit in question. Plastic gets brittle over time, and it’s not the most reliable option against falls and bumps. Nevertheless, it’s affordable and will last long given proper maintenance.
✔️Field of view (FOV)
Field of view refers to the viewing degree of the lens with direct relation to the magnification power and objective lens diameter.
Small lenses tend to have narrower FOVs. And since it’s narrow, there’s less light going into the lens, making the images darker, especially in low-light conditions.
Take note that even if two different binoculars have the same magnification and objective lens size, they can still have varying FOVs. Why? You have to check the eyepiece.
To be sure, it’s best to read the fine print when it comes to FOVs. It will dictate how wide you can see 1,000 yards away from your location.
Exit pupil is the small, bright circle you can see on the eyepiece when holding the binoculars around 30 cm away from your eyes. This part functions as a virtual aperture, which regulates how much light gets into your eyes. In short, it affects how bright the images will be.
To calculate the exit pupil of a pair of binoculars, you simply have to divide the lens diameter by the magnification power.
Here’s an example:
42 (objective lens diameter) ÷ 8 (magnification power) = 5.25 mm exit pupil
Take note that exit pupils can range from 2 mm to 7 mm. The bigger it is, the better it would be for low-light conditions. In the example above, a 5.25 mm is already a good choice for dawn or dusk viewing.
Binoculars are available in two prism types: Porro and roof.
Porro prism was invented in 1850 by Ignazio Porro, an optical instrument inventor. Binoculars with this prism have larger barrels due to the way the prisms are positioned.
With a Porro prism, the prism glasses are offset from each other. This occupies a larger space, thus the bigger barrels. Still, this design is intended to provide a better depth of field as well as a wider FOV.
On the other hand, roof prisms were invented by Achille Victor Emile Daubresse in the 1870s. Instead of the offset design Porro has, roof prisms are aligned with each other.
And to compensate for the slightly lower depth of field, roof prisms are fitted with phase-correcting or prism coating on their lenses.
Eye relief refers to the distance between the eyes and the binocular eyepiece on which the exit pupil is formed. This is a very crucial feature for eyeglass wearers. Binoculars with short eye relief will create a vignetting effect for those wearing eyeglasses.
The good thing is that many binoculars have adjustable eye relief settings to suit all users. Still, it’s a very important feature to check to ensure that you’ll have an optimal viewing experience.
In general, eyeglass wearers need an eye relief of 14 mm to 20 mm or higher.
✔️Waterproof and fog-proof features
The last feature to check would be the waterproof rating and fog-proof feature of the binoculars. Waterproof binoculars are a good choice for whatever activity you’re planning to use them on.
I always look for an O-ring seal since it allows binoculars to remain dry inside after a dunk in the creek. On the other hand, water-resistant binoculars can endure drizzle, but not an entire soak on a body of water.
Meanwhile, fog-proof lens coating is very important, especially during rainy or snowy conditions. This will save you from the hassle of wiping your lenses all the time.
Aside from that, binoculars filled with dry nitrogen or argon gas will also prevent moisture from getting into the lenses when you move from a cold to warm environment.
Lastly, consider the price of the binoculars you’re going to get. Based on my experience, the best binoculars for under 300 offers decent value for beginners and casual users alike.
If budget isn’t an issue, there’s no problem investing in a premium and top-dollar pair. However, make sure that you’re going to use the optics to their full potential. Otherwise, splurging is just overkill.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the difference between expensive and cheap binoculars?
A: Expensive binoculars often use high-quality optic glass with better accuracy than cheap models. As much as possible, avoid dirt-cheap binoculars since these models often have a higher bubble count. The imperfections are also noticeable on very cheap optics.
Q: Should I wear my eyeglass when using binoculars?
A: If you’re wearing eyeglasses, make sure that the binoculars you purchased have adjustable eye relief. This will let you adjust the exit pupil diameter to suit your viewing experience.
Q: Why do my binoculars have double vision?
A: Double vision is a common problem in binoculars. This occurs when the optics are out of collimation, which means that the light doesn’t pass through the lenses as it needs to be. Nevertheless, there’s a way to fix this problem with the proper configuration of the collimation screw to adjust the prism.
Q: Should binoculars touch your face?
A: Unless the eye relief is really short, there’s no need to make eyecup contact. In the end, it’s all about the preference of the user and the features of the binoculars.
Q: Can binoculars hurt your eyes?
A: Binoculars don’t cause damage to the eyes. Still, you should avoid using it for too long, so your eyes won’t suffer from fatigue. Also, make sure that your binoculars are configured properly, so your eyes won’t have to overcompensate for optimal viewing.
The best binoculars for under 300 will provide an immersive viewing experience on a budget. Still, you should always check the features to ensure that it meets your needs. To help you out, I listed above 8 of my trusted binoculars, which will give you the best value for your money.
The likes of Nikon MONARCH 5, Celestron Nature DX, and Carson 3D are excellent picks. You can also consider brands like VANGUARD, Bushnell, Pentax, Athlon, and Vortex.
What do you think of these picks? Share your thoughts below!