Best Binoculars for the Money
Digitalnerds blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. we never accept free products from manufacturers.Learn more.
Good glass is impossible to explain without having used it. When you get a look through some quality binoculars it makes a world of difference. It’s like seeing the world for the first time. We have three of the best binoculars for the money in this review. You cannot beat this quality and affordability!
The right pair of binoculars can be a lot like having a new superpower. Most people have had low grade binocular experiences that are, essentially, toys compared to the high quality models on the market. The binoculars that we have reviewed, in several activities, are all the highest quality.
The Wingspan Optics by EagleScout were some of the most incredible binoculars that we have ever reviewed. They were by far the overall favorite of the three that we reviewed. However, the story hardly ends there. There are many other considerations when it comes to use of binoculars and some of the others might better fit your needs.
If you are in the market for a pair of binoculars that are a great value and do work like something that perform like those priced hundreds of dollars higher, we have those for you.
How We Tested
Each pair of these binoculars had unique characteristics. They were carried out into the world and used for several things. These binoculars were focused on things like birds and wildlife, traffic, way points from a great distance and even entertainment.
How the binocular performs is unique to the activity. We have great binoculars that see clearly from a distance but are big and bulky. They may not fit into your activity. So, we took that into account when it came to testing and outcomes.
Fog proof lenses were fogged on purpose to test their might. We played to the strengths of these optics, but we also wanted to see how they performed under pressure. Because we got our hands on these binoculars in February, we tested them out in below freezing temperatures.
Most importantly, we were looking to see how these extreme temperatures would affect the clarity of the lens over time. With a warm forehead so close to the cold glass it was very interesting to see how each fogged and the time it took for them to recover.
Best Binocular for the Money
The three pairs of binoculars that we chose were not necessarily cheap binoculars, but they were budget friendly options. If you have ever shopped for the very best in binoculars than you know what they can cost in the upper echelons. Once you start pulling up Swarovski you can get into very high range.
This kind of price is out of reach for most of our readers and we thought it best to find binoculars that perform at the highest level without that crazy price. We were looking for the best binocular for the money and we found the Nikon Aculon, Celestron by Outland X and EagleScout by Wingspan.
With each of these you should be able to get out of the shopping cart without spending much . Now, how much you value a pair of binocualrs has a lot to do with your choice, too!
Nikon Aculon A211 10×50 binoculars
While the word Nikon brings up thoughts of photography and cameras, they are also a maker of high quality binoculars. You see, Nikon is a master of lens making and they use that expertise in our powerful selection of the Nikon Aculon A211 10x50 binoculars.
With their powerful multicoated lenses and rubber armor casing, you will find that the Nikon is as much about durability as it is about clarity of view. The comfortable field of view built in with the adjustable eye cups you will get a comfortable binocular to look through
There is a certain level of authority when you carry these binoculars around. You feel like you belong with these big chunky binos. The Nikons are not the type of binocular that you see every day. The carrying case is massive and looks like a you could be carrying a small laptop, or something to that effect, inside of.
In short, these are a real pro’s lenses. While I was “piloting” these big binoculars it felt like I was steering a ship that might have been a little above my pay grade. Its important to mention this because you might be a beginner and when you receive these binoculars they will force you to overcome a large learning curve or underutilize all they have to offer.
I noticed a bit of a bend in the view on these that, after a bit of viewing, goes away. This is not a deal breaker by any stretch, but it was something that stood out at the beginning of each session.
The Nikons are very powerful, but they are also huge and full of options to focus with 10-power optics that visually bring subjects closer. In our opinion that is a lot to manage. You might not want such a big pair of binoculars if you are looking to carry light and be mobile with these.
Overall, the Nikon Aculon A211 10X50 binoculars are for the true optics aficionado. There are parts and pieces to these that you can fine tune and really make your own. If you aren’t looking for that kind of all encompassing optics experience, you might be better investing in one of the other models mentioned.Check Prices
- Incredible Lens
- Tripod Adaptable
- Covers for All Lenses
- Very Bulky
- Complex Use with 10 Power Optics
Wingspan Optics EagleScout 10X42 High Powered Binoculars for Bird Watching
After several iterations of testing and review we have come to appreciate the Wingspan over the other two options. They represent the perfect vessel for an affordable pair of binoculars. The make up is highly durable, rubber coated with serious lens caps for protection when not in use.
I love how these lens caps on the larger lens are attached. They are rubberized caps that are attached by a small piece of the same material. Built into the housing, these caps are never going to get lost. You cannot drop them off a height or into the water. This is a huge benefit for this pair of binoculars. The smaller caps are a one piece cover and that is great, too!
This means you are only responsible for one other piece of plastic while the binoculars are in use.
The EagleScout by Wingspan are also about as big a pair of binoculars that you want to have around if you are going to be mobile. You could argue they are too big to wear for a long time or while doing arduous hiking and certainly rock scrambling or climbing.
However, if you are after a serious picture from a distance and need that view at a moment’s notice they are worth wearing. These were a joy to operate and having them on my neck allowed me to see much more than I otherwise would have with the Nikon’s that are simply to big to walk and carry for any length.
They are tripod compatible which means you can really kick back and watch the natural world from a distance. They were designed for bird and wildlife watching. However, if you are hunting a massive expanse like that in the west, having a pair of binoculars on a tripod can be a necessary part of the hunt. Glassing the sides of mountains can take a substantial part of the day.
Above all it is the heightened field of vision and unmatched clarity in these lenses that puts them on a pedestal. There are few binoculars at this price point that have this kind of difference making view. To make it easy to understand, the Wingspan optic is like an HD picture compared to the other two. That’s not saying the other two are not great but there are levels.
This pair of binoculars would have been much better if it came with an adjustable lanyard much like that of the Celeron and that was our only complain on this one. It does come with a lanyard, but I was really blown away by the design and adjustable nature of the Celeron.
Overall, we fell in love with the package deal that is the EagleScout by Wingspan. It seemed to hit all the right high notes and did so in a simple package with some great features.
- Incredible Clarity and Brightness
- No lanyard Included
Celestron – Outland X 10×25 Binoculars – Waterproof & Fog proof
The mighty mini of the group, Celestron – Outland X 10x25 Binoculars – Waterproof & Fogproof Binoculars – Compact Binoculars for Adults – Multi–Coated Optics and BaK–4 Prisms – Protective Rubber Armoring. These also featured a 10x magnification with a 25mm objective lens and Bak4 prism, these multicoated lenses are waterproof and filled with dry nitrogen in order to stop fogging.
We tested the fogging factor on these lenses, and they returned to 100% clarity in seconds. We used these binoculars in the early mornings and then we brought them out at dusk. We used them in the middle of the day. We even fogged them up with our breath to see how that would clear out.
The antifogging technology is real. Though we don’t know all the science when it comes to the dry nitrogen but I can tell you this much, it works!
The Celestron also feature a great lanyard that is incredibly adjustable to fit just the way you like it. While the other binoculars came packed with a great lanyard, I have never seen one with such the capability for customization.
Depending on the “mission” you might set this lanyard a number of different ways. The more mobile we were with these binoculars the more we kept them high and tight. However, if it was a relaxing day at the park we would simple leave the lanyard loose to watch birds and squirrels.
That is pretty powerful considering the size of the binoculars. With adjustable eyecups, diopter and focus wheel you can see whatever it is you need to see, with incredible clarity and comfort. Those two things are the pinnacle of any pair of binoculars.
The Celestron binoculars did not break down under conditions they had the same resistance to fog as the larger models, but they truly shined with the adjustable neck strap and compact size. Therefore, we gave them the nod when it came time to identify the best binoculars for tactical use.
The Outland X optic lacked some of the important features that we loved about our larger binoculars. One of the most important was the fact that the lenses had no real protection. There are no lens covers, though you do get a cloth for cleaning the lenses. They are also very much a fixed optic. Aside from the centerline adjustment these binoculars are basically what they are.
Despite those CONS these are a superior and affordable binocular on the market of optics today.
Overall, Outland X has one of the most affordable and mobile pairs of binoculars on the market. If your optics are important but not the focal point of your plans, these are the best option out there.
- Small Enough to Pack
- Adjustable Lanyard
- No Lens Protection
- Least Amount of Object Lens Diameter
Best Overall Binoculars For the Outdoors
If you are looking to pack a pair of binoculars for outdoor enjoyment that is not focused on any one task you would be looking for a smaller binocular with big power and carrying capability. This would give you the freedom to take them on hikes, adventures and even spend the evening watching the sun crest the mountains with them by your side.
We found that the Celestron are exceptional when it comes to packing and carrying. The size for many reasons seems at first like a detriment but when you are packing out for a hike and realize that these take of exponentially less space and weigh less without sacrificing much on the quality of view, it becomes a no brainer.
Outland X has created a small package that is tough, adjustable and will fit snug into your hiking bag, trunk, backpack or even inside your tent. With its exceptional 10×25 magnification and lens diameter you will not miss a thing.
Our answer for best overall binoculars for the outdoors is the Celestron by Outland X. While they are not the built for bird watching like the Eagle Scout by Wingspan, they are very much a creation that can keep pace with you on the trail while providing great magnification.
Best Binocular for Bird Watching
The Eagle Scout by Wingspan Optics is literally designed for bird watching. That was the intention when these binoculars were created.
These are chunky, drop proof with an effective tank like anti slip grip. The Eagle Scouts have all the make of a high quality pair of bird watching binoculars. They have the multi coated lenses, the Bak4 experience with a powerful 10×42 view.
If you are considering taking up watching wildlife or even if you have been at it for years, you will find that these binoculars give you a crystal clear view of the natural world.
One day after school we had a red tail hawk circling our yard. It was scoping out our chicken coop. Sometimes hawks try to swoop down and grab a quick meal from our chicken coop. Today we pulled up and caught the hawk circling. The bird quickly landed in a pine that was about 50 feet tall and 80 yards away.
Since we had these great binoculars to review, we decided to try viewing the hawk with all three models. The clarity and proximity of view was astounding when it came to this model. It was crystal clear, no pun intended, that these were the best binoculars for bird watching.
On another occasion we spent a day at the park just watching the spring birds arrive early. We could see the Jays and the Cardinals as clear as day. I mean we could make the markings out on their feathers from a hundred yards.
Best Hunting Binocular
Looking at birds is one thing. It’s a great thing but it’s just one step. As hunters we must find the prey before they find us. That is crucial to the practice.
When you are looking around for deer in the eastern woodlands, you wont often see a full deer standing in the middle of a field. Often you are looking for a piece of a deer. You might see a rump, a leg, an eye and nose or maybe you can discern an antler from a set of branches.
What the Nikon Aculon A211 represented in our reviews was the best ability to focus and incredibly enhanced image brightness. What these two things do so well is allow you to appreciate the contrast in your field of vision. In other words, you easily discern the grey, greenish color of an old tree from an ashy hide of a white tail deer.
The binoculars are also tripod compatible which can make a huge difference to the average hunter. Though these are giant binoculars, if you make them a priority in your hunting bag you will be able to see everything and on a tripod you will be unstoppable.
Best Tactical Binocular
Binoculars for tactical use are very important and must be effective in a variety of areas. These could be used for military use, hunting or another type of mission altogether. Binoculars are a popular tool of first responders because of their ability to keep them out of harms way but still acquire visual data.
We chose the Celestron by Outland X for tactical use. These multi coated 10×25 binoculars were also waterproof and highly durable. They are filled with dry nitrogen to stop the fogging.
When it came to us choosing the best budget binoculars for tactical use, we were looking at a few particular criteria.
When it comes to tactical maneuvering or tactical missions in general, you will likely be carrying other items besides the binoculars. This could be a backpack filled with other items including your binoculars. This means space is at a premium.
In those tactical scenarios you could be running, climbing, jumping or other physical activities. There is the chance that these binoculars get damaged or at least fall. They could ding off rocks or something else. Durability is critical.
You want your affordable binoculars to give you clarity of vision and field of vision at great distances. So, we considered how these binoculars did from far away.
How do these binoculars carry? Are they capable of getting in your hand or around your neck?
They fit well in hand but also come with a highly adjustable neck strap that fits these binoculars anyway you see it. If you find yourself on a mission and that mission requires a pair of reliable binoculars, the Celestron by Outland X is the best tactical binocular on this list.
There are binoculars outfitted with Swarovski crystal that run over $3000! What we have found with these “cheap binoculars” is that they have many of the same features and are a joy to use. They are exponentially less expensive and that makes a big difference for our readers.
There is something to be said about a product and its accessibility. A good product should be affordable, and these binoculars have that value to quality ratio. There are a number of companies making cut rate binoculars that are manufactured in China.
The Eagles Scout by Wingspan offers an incredible value as the best binocular for the money. They really blew us away in many ways. The details, the storage, the ease of use and protection of lens all stood out amongst this group of binoculars.
For backpacking and storage options the Celestron by Outland X are another great value in compact binoculars. They are a very different animal than the Wingspan, but they have an important place in all of this.
Everyone of these binoculars is a great value and a powerful example of our access to lens technology at its best.
When it comes to binoculars, we really look to two sets of features. The first is how the binoculars perform. Its their zoom and its their clarity that are the biggest features. We have three powerful binoculars that give great clarity, are designed not to fog and to focus through a variety of fields of vision.
The other defining feature of a quality pair of binoculars is how they adjust to fit the wearers eyes. Whether they are the type that hinge at the center or have eye cups that can be manipulated. The Wingspan worked best when I leaned them against my eyebrows rather than pressing my eyes into them. The user will find the best way to look through their binoculars but having them fit comfortably to the contours of our unique faces makes a big difference.
During the testing process we also included children. It was important for the children to be able to see exactly what we were seeing. Be it an airplane in the sky or a squirrel in a tree. These binoculars give you the ability to share your experience.
On our quest to find the best binoculars for the money we found ourselves with three pairs that varied in size. The Celestron was the smallest pair, the Nikons were second largest and the Wingspan, the powerhouse, were the largest pair of binoculars that we tested.
Size is an interesting thing when it comes to optics. If you are looking to conceal or carry binoculars in a pack or pocket, even, then you are looking for a smaller pair. Of course, if your activity is focused solely around using those binoculars in something like taking in a show, watching birds or wildlife, then having that big powerful pair of binoculars makes sense.
We must be aware of what we are doing with our binoculars if we are going to own the right pair. Of course, with these affordable binoculars you could stand to buy a couple. You could own more than one pair and enjoy having those for chosen activity.
Have you ever looked through a child’s pair of toy binoculars? For a long time, there wasn’t much difference between those lenses and that which you would find in a pair of cheap binoculars.
The lenses in your binoculars do something called refraction. That is the bases of how all lenses work. They bend light.
Binoculars use multiple lenses and prisms to achieve their end. Your eyepiece lenses allow you to view the Porro prisms that are inside the binocular. The Porro prism is what gives the binoculars their heft. These bend light in a unique way before shooting your view out of the objective lens. The objective lens is larger lens at the back of the binoculars.
The technology of the Porro prism is astounding. When you look at something far away through a magnifying glass what do you see? The picture is often flipped upside down. There are two prisms in each side of the binocular. They are laid side by side and each prism shifts a magnified image 90 degrees.
If you just looked through your eye lens and objective lens the world would be upside down. The first prism shift that view a bit and the prism next to it shifts that view another 90 degrees for a total of 180 degrees that flips the view right side up.
Because of modern technology the world of lenses has advanced substantially. The multi coated fog proof lenses that used to be reserved for only the best binoculars are now mass produced. They are a higher quality lens.
Because of the nature of their relationship with lenses it was very clear that the Nikon Aculon model had the best lens for all around use.
These are tools for the outdoors. All three of these optics are going to be at their best when you are viewing a landscape or the creatures there in. Accidents happen and your binoculars could fall, tip, be spilled on or some other accident could befall them.
The two larger models felt unbreakable. We did not put these through any kind of torture test but the rubberized protective coating on these models gives you the sense that they can take a licking.
Even the Outland X, with its great lanyard, has a heft to it that feels like it could take some punishment. No one is perfect and if one of your prisms gets banged loose, you basically have a bulky telescope!
The experience of sitting down and intentionally glassing an area is something most Americans should enjoy. It doesn’t have to come with a loaded rifle. You can marvel at distant rock formations; you can just watch wildlife and do so at a safe distance. That is the benefit of owning a quality pair of binoculars.
The Eagle Scout by Wingspan is undoubtedly the best binocular for the money on this list. It can be an all-around optic to be used for several things. The experience is crisp and bright.
If you are looking for more tactical or active situations you might do better with the Celeron by Outland X. These smaller binoculars have a great adjustable strap system and they also give you the ability to pack them down in a backpack and take up very little space. The clarity on these 10X25s is still very impressive.
This doesn’t mean that the Nikon Aculon 10X50 is not a great binocular. This is a powerful binocular that is definitely going to stand up to clarity and brightness of the Wingspan. It suffers from the fact that it’s an all around great binocular!
After this review its clear that through advances and technology and mass production, everyone can attain a pair of affordable binoculars. Whether its size, value, or just brightness and clarity that you are looking for in your next pair of binoculars this list has something for everyone.