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Compact Binoculars, Waterproof Binoculars
Binoculars Size and Weight
Cheap binoculars tend to be compact, perfect for throwing in a backpack or even a pocket. The lighter the binoculars are, the longer you'll be able to hold them and the steadier your grip will be.
Binoculars Water Resistance.If you plan to use your binoculars in wet conditions or in a boat, a pair of cheap waterproof binoculars would be worth considering. Waterproof binoculars are sealed to keep the moisture out; if moisture seeps inside the lens of non-waterproof binoculars, the image will be blurred. Most waterproof models are well beyond our price range (the ultra high-end Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision is one example) and we noticed only a handful that count as cheap; one is the Barska 10x25 Compact Waterproof Binocular (starting at $25, Amazon), which is noted in reviews at Campmor for its solid construction and ability to keep water at bay.
Binoculars Prisms.In addition to lenses, binoculars contain a prism that turns the image so you see it right-side up. There are two types of binocular prisms. Porro prisms are bent so the front and rear lenses are offset from the eye pieces, which enables a wider field of view and greater depth perception. Binoculars with roof prisms have a straight ocular path between the front and rear lenses (essentially, they overlap), which makes the binoculars less bulky and potentially able to withstand more wear and tear. Binoculars prisms of the roof variety are more difficult to adjust for the spacing between your eyes but are much more compact. Among the models we researched, the Bushnell Permafocus 8x25, Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I, and Barska Gladiator 7-21x40 Zoom feature Porro prisms; the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 and Vivitar CV-1025V feature roof prisms.
Two levels of quality further distinguish binocular prisms. Most lower-end binoculars sport BK-7 prisms, which will, according to experts at Oceanside Photo & Telescope, square off a bit at the edges, yielding some distortion. BAK-4 binocular prisms offer better quality viewing -- they're more rounded, which gives better edge-to-edge clarity, and are made with higher-quality optical glass. In general, BAK-4 prisms are found in models priced beyond the Cheapism niche.
Binoculars Eye Relief.An important factor for people who wear glasses is eye relief. Eye relief refers to the distance between your eyes and the eyepiece and the associated point at which the full image comes into focus. Basically, if this distance is long enough, you can look through the binoculars wearing your glasses and see a full image. If the eye relief distance is too short, looking through the binoculars will be like looking through a tube. Experts at REI suggest that eyeglass wearers should look for an eye relief of at least 11mm; others recommend 14mm as a starting point.
In the Cheapism price range, our two top picks meet the minimum 11mm criterion -- the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 has an eye relief of 12mm, and the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I has an eye relief of 11mm. (The Bushnell Powerview 8x21 provides eye relief of 10mm.) If keeping your glasses on is a priority (or a necessity), you might consider spending a little extra for the Nikon Action EX Extreme (starting at $113, Amazon), which boasts an eye relief of 17mm, a more comfortable range for viewing while wearing glasses; users report in reviews at Binoculars.com that they do, in fact, sync nicely with glasses. Another thing eyeglass wearers should look for is fold-down eyecups (available on both of the Bushnell binoculars we researched) that bring your eyes closer to the lenses.
LaScala Optics Othello 3x25 Opera Glasses Review
Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera Review
Bushnell Powerview 8x21 Review
Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 Review
Olympus Roamer 8x21 Review
Bushnell H20 Porro Prism 8x26 Waterproof Compact
Bushnell Powerview 8x21
Eagle Optics Energy 8x21
Vivitar 1502612 4x30
Eagle Optics Triumph 8x25
Olympus Outback 8x21 RC I
Bushnell Permafocus 8x25
Pentax Papilio 8.5x21
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