Best Cheap Binoculars

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

39 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
410 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cheap binoculars

Last Updated December 2019

Binoculars are essentially two miniature telescopes connected together that focus in tandem. Almost anything you can use a telescope for, you can use binoculars for, too. Binoculars just happen to be smaller and infinitely more portable.

Binoculars are ideal for birdwatching, getting a good view at the theater, watching any kind of sporting event, stargazing at large constellations, and hunting. They’re also essential military equipment. Also known as field glasses, binoculars are nearly as old as telescopes themselves. Although the basic design is similar across the board, binoculars still come in a wide variety of types, magnifications, and viewing capabilities. They also come in a range of prices.

If you’re looking for a great pair of cheap binoculars, our buying guide has everything you need to consider to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. For our favorite budget binoculars that don’t sacrifice quality for price, see the matrix above.

Always start by adjusting the distance between the two sides of the binoculars, called barrels, so they are the correct width for your eyes. You’ll see a perfect circle through the binoculars once they are adjusted correctly.

Key considerations

The main consideration when shopping for cheap binoculars is how you will use them.

Birdwatching

If birdwatching is your hobby, a pair of binoculars with a lower magnification will work best. This gives you a wider field of view to follow entire flocks and to find birds when they’re perched on branches and among leaves. Higher magnifications are also harder to hold steady when you’re trying to focus on one bird.

Theater

If you’re taking your binoculars to the theater, your main concern should be size. Large, clunky binoculars will draw unwelcome attention. Choose smaller binoculars that can easily fit into a pocket and be used with one hand. Magnification of 4x to 8x will be sufficient.

Sports

For viewing sporting events, you’ll want the widest possible field of view. You need to get close to the action while not losing sight of the overall playing field. Binoculars with 7x to 10x magnification will offer a close look but won’t restrict your field of vision and cause you to lose the ball while it’s in play.

Inexpensive binoculars with outstanding magnification

The BFULL 12 x 50 Folding Binoculars may feel a bit heavy at first, but they’ll grow on you due to their sturdy design and 12x magnification. These are full-size binoculars that fold compactly and are easy to use and focus. The 50mm objective lenses are fully coated to give you a sharp, clear image even in weak evening light. A pouch, cleaning cloth, and lens caps are included. These cheap binoculars are compatible with most tripods, too.

Military

Binoculars for military use need first and foremost to be rugged and durable, able to withstand extremes of heat, cold, rain, and frost. The exact magnification will depend on your duties. Binoculars for general guard duty should have a wide field of view, while spotters need binoculars with high magnification to pick out targets at long range.

Hunting

These days most hunters have telescopic sights on their rifles. Therefore, hunting binoculars don’t need the high magnification of the scope. A lower magnification coupled with a larger objective, 40mm and up, is best for hunters to spot their game before zeroing in through their telescopic sights.

Stargazing

Large objectives of 50mm and over gather more light, and a stronger magnification of 12x and up yields better results when looking at the heavens. You’ll definitely need a tripod to hold your binoculars steady. Binoculars with a magnification of 12x and up are impossible to hold steady in your hands.

Primary users

If the primary people using the binoculars will be adults, you can get larger, heavier, and less shockproof equipment. That translates to more expensive binoculars. If children will be the primary users, you should focus on rubberized coverings, a smaller physical size, and a lower cost when shopping for binoculars.

EXPERT TIP

Cover the barrel for your right eye and adjust the binoculars using the center wheel until the image is clear and sharp in your left eye. Cover the barrel for your left eye and use the diopter on the right barrel to change the focus for your right eye until it is also crisp and sharp.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Focus

The central focus knob on a pair of binoculars should move smoothly without requiring undue strength. However, it should be tight enough to remain in place once the binoculars are focused. A diopter focus is required only if adults are the intended users of the binoculars.

Magnification

For children, 4x or 8x magnification is sufficient for binoculars. For adults, 8x and 10x are the most common magnifications. A magnification of 12x and above should be reserved for stargazing or military spotting.

Objective size

The larger the objective, the more light will enter your binoculars. This enables you to see in low-light circumstances. If you’ll be using the binoculars during the day, the objective size doesn’t matter. If you’re hunting early in the morning, late at night, or doing some stargazing, you’ll want the largest objective you can find.

EXPERT TIP

Find your target with your naked eye before trying to find it through the binoculars. Without moving your head or your focus, bring the binoculars up to your eyes and find the target through them.


Staff  | BestReviews

Accessories

Harness straps: Vortex Optics Binocular Harness Strap
Use a harness strap to keep your binoculars from bouncing around on your chest while you’re walking. This Vortex Optics harness strap is far better than the simple strap that comes with most binoculars.

Smartphone mounts: Gosky Universal Cell Phone Binocular Adapter Mount
Have you ever wished you could use your smartphone to take pictures through your binoculars? With the Gosky smartphone mount you can. It holds your smartphone in place so you can take sharp pictures through the eyepiece of the binoculars.

Tripods: Vortex Optics Binocular Tripod Adapter
If you’ve got binoculars with 12x magnification or greater, you’ll need a tripod to hold them steady. This model from Vortex Optics offers easy attachment and works with all tripod-adaptable binoculars.

Eyecups: Field Optics Research Binocular EyeShield Winged Eyecups
Keep the sun out of your eyes with eyecups, like these from Field Research Optics. They attach to the eyepiece of the binoculars and keep external light from interfering with the image and washing it out.

Rain guards: Vortex Optics Binocular Rain Guards
Protect your binoculars during inclement weather with these rain guards by Vortex Optics. They snap on quickly to keep out rain and moisture.

Lens blowers: Giotto’s Rocket Air Blaster
Use a lens blower like Giotto’s Rocket Air Blaster to blow dust and small particles of debris away from the lenses of your binoculars. Give the bulb a fast squeeze and a blast of air cleans off the lenses.

EXPERT TIP

Once you find your target through the binoculars, use the center knob to adjust the focus until you can see it clearly.


Staff  | BestReviews

Cheap binoculars prices

The low price range for cheap binoculars is $5 to $15. These binoculars offer low magnification of 4x to 8x and are often kid-sized.

Mid-range cheap binoculars cost $15 to $25. You’ll find binoculars of every magnification, size, and objective size in this range.

Cheap binoculars from $25 to $30 have a noticeably higher quality. To get the most for your money, we recommend choosing adult binoculars from this price range.

Tips

  • Any field of view between 300 and 375 feet is considered adequate for most uses. The greater the magnification, though, the smaller the field of view will be.
  • It’s difficult to maintain a steady image with 12x magnification. Even small movements of your hands will result in wild gyrations in your field of view. If you have 12x or greater magnification on your binoculars, invest in a tripod to stabilize the binoculars.
  • If you wear glasses, you’ll need to know the eye relief number on your binoculars. This is how far from the lenses your eyes can be and still get a clear image. With glasses, you’ll need an eye relief of about 15mm.

Designed with children in mind

These cheap binoculars come in seven eye-catching colors. They are great for children to use for birdwatching, theater viewing, during sporting events, and more. They have soft rubber eyepieces to protect children’s eyes and a rubber coating on the body for a non-slip grip. These binoculars are shockproof against dropping and the lenses are fully coated for delivering sharp images. They’re a great gift idea.

Other products we considered

We like the POLDR Small Pocket Binoculars. These lightweight binoculars are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand but sport a 12x magnification and a 25mm objective. These cheap binoculars are great for the theater, birdwatching, and more. We also like the ultra-low-cost Educational Insights GeoSafari Compass Binoculars. These two-toned binoculars have rubberized grips and a built-in compass for first-time users who are exploring the world. The 4x magnification is great for beginning birdwatching and the included neck strap is ideal for hiking.

Don’t blow on the lenses of your binoculars. Your breath has moisture in it that will cause tiny particles to adhere to the lenses. Use a lens blower instead.

FAQ

Q. What does “8x” mean when shopping for binoculars?
A.
This refers to the magnification. Anything seen through the binoculars will appear to be eight times closer than it actually is with 8x magnification. With 10x magnification, objects will appear 10 times closer and so on.
 

Q. What does the objective lens do?
A.
The objective lens gathers the light and focuses it on the rear lens, which in turn magnifies it. The wider the objective lens, the more light it can gather, which is helpful in low-light conditions in the evening or early morning.
 

Q. What is the diopter and how do I use it?
A.
Your two eyes don’t always have the same focus. The diopter is an adjustment knob, usually for the right eye, that allows you to adjust the binoculars to get a clear image with both eyes.

The team that worked on this review
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    Alvina
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    Katherine
    Editor
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