No matter where your next adventure takes you – whether it’s the back country to hunt, bird watch, or hike; the ocean to boat or sail; or the city to see a concert, a show, or a game – you’ll likely need a trusty pair of binoculars at your side. Apart from glasses, binoculars are the most used optical device worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. Given that you’ll use your binoculars over and over in a variety of different settings, your binoculars are an investment that boasts re-usability and true long-term value. If you’re on a budget and looking for the best binoculars under $200, you’ve come to the right place.
What separates the different kinds of binoculars?
At first glance, binoculars seem easy to understand. They make things that are far away easier to see, and that’s that. Nevertheless, the numbers and terms surrounding binoculars can be difficult to parse. For example, what exactly is the difference between 8×42 and 7×35 binoculars? Before we dive into your binocular options and before you can choose the best binoculars under 200 dollars, it’s important to understand these two numbers.
Magnification: The first number tells you how strong the binoculars’ magnification level is. For example, an 8×42 set of binoculars zooms in 8 times closer, and a 7×35 pair zooms in 7 times closer.
Size of the Objective Lens: The second number indicates how large the objective lens is. The higher is number, the higher the amount of light that enters the lens.
Once you understand these numbers, there’s one crucial question you have to ask yourself:
What do I want to use my binoculars for?
Are you hiking or going to a football game? You’ll need a compact pair with a 7x or 10x magnification level. Bird watching? You’ll need to make sure you’ve got a big objective lens (the standard for bird watching is 8×42). For a relatively comprehensive guide, head over to Optics Planet, a good source for binocular enthusiasts.
Without further ado, we present the 5 best binoculars under 200 dollars. Though by no means comprehensive, at the very least this list will help you get your search started.
Best Binoculars Under $200
The Bargains ($20-50)
If you’re just getting into the game – whether you’re hunting, fishing, or bird watching – and aren’t looking to commit to an expensive pair of binoculars, this is your category.
1. Bushnell Falcon Binocular
The Numbers: 7×35
Best For: Bird Watching
The Scoop: HD clarity in a small, cheap package, these are a great pair of “starter” binoculars for a first-time bird watcher. One of the most popular pairs of binoculars on Amazon, these provide a solid number of features for such a reasonably-priced pair, including auto focusing, an insta-focus lever (which actually works perfectly and easily), and fold-down eye cups that protect your eyeglasses or sunglasses.
The entire Falcon series provides good bang for your buck, and though the magnification and the optic lens aren’t the most extensive, this pair offers great durability and function for the price. Though it won’t take the place of a spotting scope – and it’s not designed to – and some have complained that the eye pieces don’t necessarily move well in concert with each other, if you’re looking for a cheap binocular option, this is it.
The Mid-Range ($50-$150)
A step up from the basic binoculars in terms of quality and magnification, these pairs begin to enter the upper tier while still avoiding breaking the bank.
2. Bushnell PermaFocus Roof Prism Binocular
The Numbers: 10×42
Best For: Hunting and Sporting Events
The Scoop: This pair’s camouflage design makes its intentions clear from the first time you lay eyes on it – it’s meant to be used while hunting in the backwoods. Its PermaFocus makes it a breeze to use, with a generous 305-foot field of view, and its ergonomic rubber grip ensures that it’s easy to handle while in action.
Indeed, the PermaFocus is this set of binoculars’ selling point – just raise them to your eyes, and everything is in focus. This is the primary difference between these and the Falcons, and if that particular feature is worth the extra money to you, then this is your pair. However, BEWARE: if you wear glasses or your eyes see at different capacities, you may want to consider a different pair. These are largely a young person’s pair of binoculars.
3. Carson VP Series and Waterproof and Fog-proof
The Numbers: 10×25
Best For: It’s compact, so general use, sports, shows, concerts, etc…
The Scoop: Containing the smallest objective lens of all of the pairs in this article, these binoculars boast a 10x magnification capability in an extremely compact package. As such, these aren’t the best pair for activities in which you need a wide range of vision – such as bird watching – but for general use, concerts, and sporting events, you can’t do better.
These are just about the best pair of compact binoculars that you can buy; however, be sure that you know what you’re getting into, as the compact frame won’t allow for a wide range of vision. If you’re looking for a compact pair of binoculars with a crystal clear picture for a reasonable price, the Carson VP Series is perfect.
The Top Shelf ($150 – $200)
The best you can get for less than $200, these binoculars will cost you but the investment will pay off in terms of quality and longevity – for serious binocular-heads.
4. Hawke Endurance 8×32 ED Binoculars
The Numbers: 8×32
Best For: Everything – hunting, safaris, bird watching
The Scoop: The darling of the online binocular community, the Endurance ED Binoculars are just about the best binoculars under 200 dollars when you’re looking for pure optics. The ED glass and the multi-coated lenses reduce color fringing and perform well at distances long and far, creating incredible picture quality. Also resistant to water and fog, you can take these specs anywhere you want.
In terms of performance, these binoculars have almost no chinks in the armor; however, the near $200 price is about as much as any average person wants to spend on a pair of binoculars. If you’re a hardcore outdoorsman who is looking for top-notch performance out of your specs, these will perform as well as any top-of-the-line pair out there.
5. Nikon PROSTAFF 5 Binoculars
The Numbers: 10×42
Best For: Hunting
The Scoop: One of the first things you’ll notice about these binoculars is how light they are. Crafted from fiberglass reinforced polycarbonate resin, these are some of the best binoculars under 200 dollars in terms of excellent picture quality, though perhaps not quite as perfect as the Hawke Endurance ED series. However, if you don’t see well, these binoculars are great – the retractable eye cups and long eye relief make these a top selection for those who wear glasses.
Which are the best binoculars under $200
Again, it comes down to how much you’re willing to spend as an “average person.” If you wear glasses, these could be a solid pick; however, the Hawke Endurance ED’s picture quality is hard to ignore. Ultimately, the best binoculars under $200 is whatever suits you the most. This guide is far from exhaustive, but it provides some of the best options out there on the market today.