“cheapism helps you find the cheapest "best buys"” — lifehacker
In this review:
  1. Best Cheap Binoculars
  2. Binocular Reviews
  3. Binocular Magnification, Focus
  4. Compact Binoculars, Waterproof Binoculars
  5. Discount Binoculars Features Comparison Table

Cheap Binoculars Buying Guide

When it comes to binoculars, there is a dizzying array of models to consider, from top-of-the-line $2,500 Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision to cheap binocular knockoffs for $9 or $10. Prices usually correspond to the quality of the optics and the durability of the product.

At the lower end of the market, you won't get superlative clarity or a pair that can be passed down for generations, but you can find good binoculars for less than $50 if you just want something reasonable for sightseeing, ball games, theater, or casual bird-watching.

In the Cheapism range, finding decent optics is possible if you know what to look for and how you plan to use the binoculars. If, for instance, you'll be carting them to sporting events, choose a pair with a wide field of view. The Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 (starting at $44), one of our top choices among cheap binoculars, is optimal for this kind of activity. In addition to boasting a wide field of view, these cheap binoculars are focus-free, so keeping up with the action requires no action on your part. Good all-around cheap binoculars are exemplified by the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I (starting at $30), an appropriate choice for activities such as backpacking because they're small, light, and useful for short-range viewing. Additionally, the dioptric correction suits people with different vision in each eye. Likewise compact enough to take on a hike or keep in the glove compartment is the entry-level Bushnell Powerview 8x21 (starting at $14), which is also fine for bird-watching in daylight. The Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera (starting at $21) completely lives up -- or down, as the case may be -- to its price. It supports a camera that takes up to 160 images, but pictures don't come out clear enough to warrant saving.

Specialty models designed for activities like butterfly-gazing or for use in low light conditions like stargazing will cost you more but may not be entirely out of reach (think low triple digits). The features that make up a pair of binoculars are fairly standard throughout the product category. Models are distinguished more by their specifications (and price point) than by their features, which themselves are denoted by a precise technical vocabulary. Product overviews are littered with terms such as binocular magnification, field of view, focus adjustment, prisms, and eye relief that may be unfamiliar to first-time buyers but are important factors to understand and consider before making a choice, and each is discussed below.

You should also pay attention to the size and weight of the cheap binoculars (Will they fit in your pocket? Will they be comfortable to hold for long periods?); the presence of extra features (e.g., waterproof construction); and their performance in the field (How clear is the image? How user-friendly are the binoculars? How do they hold up to normal, and even excessive, wear and tear?). Again, these matters are discussed on the following pages. All this information can help you choose the cheap binoculars that are right for you.

Big names in the binoculars market include Bushnell, Barska, Tasco, Olympus, Nikon, Eagle Optics, Penta, and Alpen Pro. Each of these producers makes binoculars at a variety of price points, but Bushnell, Barska, Tasco, and Olympus offer the largest selection of cheap binoculars.

by Elizabeth Sheer (Google+ Profile)

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Best Cheap Binoculars

Bushnell Permafocus 7x35
Gold Medal

Bushnell Permafocus 7x35

The wide angle view with the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 greatly expands the area you can see, which makes this model good for sporting events or viewing the city from on high. The focus-free feature ensures you won't miss any of the action. These binoculars can be used with a tripod and have a BK-7 Porro prism.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
Olympus Roamer 8x21
Gold Medal

Olympus Roamer 8x21

The Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I is a good choice for travelers, backpackers, or anyone who wants a small, lightweight binocular that delivers above-average image clarity. The dioptric correction compensates for different vision in each eye. This model features a BK-7 Porro Prism.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »

Good Cheap Binoculars

Bushnell Powerview 8x21
Gold Medal

Bushnell Powerview 8x21

A super cheap entry-level binocular, the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 is sharp during the day, compact enough for hiking, and very lightweight. It comes with a BK-7 roof prism and offers average clarity.

Read Full Review and Compare Prices »
 

Don't Bother

Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera

While combining a camera with binoculars may be an appealing idea, its execution on the Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 leaves much to be desired. The model stores up to 160 images, but the clarity is unsatisfactory.

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