Best Binoculars Under $300: Buying Guide, Pros & Cons And Key Features

binoculars close up - featured image

Last Updated on October 1, 2020

Shopping for a binocular can be a lot of stress. And after the whole thing, you may end up not finding one that suits your needs best.

The major factor that’ll determine the kind of binocular you’ll get is its cost. And, before now, you have had to spend upwards of $1,000 to get a decent pair. 

But not anymore.

Now, you can find a decent pair of binocs for a fraction of that price thanks to technological advancement in the optics industry. Many reputable companies can now offer a pair of $300 binoculars that’ll perform over and beyond.

In this light, I put a ton of time into researching the best binoculars under $300 on the market. All of which have been tested over and over for functionality. This would give you a clear picture of what goes into the pair you’re considering beforehand and reduce your chance of stressing over return.

But as always, “you get what you pay for.” Binoculars that fall within this price range don’t have the best image viewing prowess but would get the job done pretty fine. If you don’t know much about binoculars, you can use the brief guide at the end to make an informed purchase.

Let’s get to it. 

1. Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 Binoculars – Best 8×42

Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binocular (Black)

Key Features

  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • ED glass
  • Rubber armored shell
  • Central focus wheel
  • Fully multi-coated optics

Even if you’ve never bought a binocular, there’s a great chance you’ve heard of Nikon – Yes, the popular name on digital cameras and other optics. The optic giant is also known for producing top-quality imaging products both at affordable and premium prices.

And the Nikon Monarch 5 is one of the best affordable binoculars Nikon produces and has been recommended for hunting, stargazing, and sightseeing by many experts. More specifically, it’s a great pair of binoculars for bird watching. This is by far the best hunting binoculars under $300, IMO. 

The Monarch 5 has the edge over other cheap binocs since it borrows from the impressive R&D of its manufacturer, Nikon. It has a fully multi-coated ED glass to display the best possible image. Images on this bin would come out crisp and sharp, at least, good enough to not get a headache from distortion.

Seriously, it’s image quality is better than some binoculars that cost twice as much. Also, its lower 8x magnification gives it a  wide field of view. With a 330ft FOV, you’ll easily track or lock-in on birds in flight.

The Monarch 5 is easy to handle thanks to its being light weight and well-positioned central focus. The twist-up eyecups ensure you’re don’t get frustrated with diopter adjustment.

Eye relief is crucial for birders who are eyeglass wearers, which is a lot of us. And you’d certainly appreciate the 19mm eye relief of the Monarch 5.

Also, compared to older models that had an almost 10ft close focus, the new models focus as close as 8.2ft. This isn’t close to being the best, even in this price range, but it works.

It comes with necessary accessories such as lens caps, neck strap, carrying case, lens pen, and a cleaning cloth.

The only issue with the Monarch 5 is that its build quality as dropped over the years. Its shell may have an uneven coating or rubber seams along the sides, which makes it look cheap.

Nonetheless, it would last many seasons. Besides, you’d be hardpressed to find any binocular with comparable image quality in its price range.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Wide field of view
  • No-fault warranty
  • Crisp quality images

Cons

  • Drop-in build quality
  • Hard to use in bright sunlight

Takeaway

The Monarch 5 is recommended if you want the best binocular you can get under $300 for birding. If you’re feeling generous, you can get buy it with a better quality bino harness and carrying bag than the ones that came with it. And you’d end up spending only a little over $300.

CHECK CURRENT PRICE

2. Vortex Diamondback – Best Alternative Option

Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8x42 Binoculars, Black, Model Number: DB-214

Key Features

  • HD Glass
  • Close focus: 5ft
  • Eye relief: 17mm
  • Field of view: 392ft
  •  Weighs 1.3 pounds
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Lifetime “no-fault” warranty 

The Diamondback breaks the mark between price and performance. Its dielectric fully multi-coated lens produces bright and clear images on par with way more expensive binoculars. It’s almost the same as the Monarch 5, but cheaper.

However, it starts to show lapses in low light conditions, which is only expected. If it didn’t, no one would have to spend thousands on a pair of Zeiss or Swarovski binocular. This doesn’t mean its useless in low light, but you should expect a significant drop in quality.

The ergonomics of the 8×42 Diamondback is excellent. It has a lightweight size and is designed for smooth operation. The thumb indent on the top of the bino, in particular, makes it a pleasure to handle.

As always, twist-up eyecups and an easy-to-use eye diopter are always a plus. It has an impressive close focus that would allow you to see clear details on birds less than 6ft away.

Although the Monarch 5 has a slightly better eye relief, 17mm is not bearable spec for eyeglass wearers looking to use this model.

The shell of the Vortex Diamondback is durable and backed by the company’s lifetime no-fault warranty. It’s almost unbelievable to have such coverage on a pair of binoculars that costs way under $300.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • Impressive image quality
  •  Easy to handle
  • Unmatched close focus

Cons

  • Mild chromatic aberration in some situations

Takeaway

This is easily one of the best binoculars you’d find for less than $300 or even $200 if you find a good deal. You would enjoy clear images and a wide field of view that makes it hard to differentiate from binoculars that cost over double or triple its price.

And, Vortex offers a lifetime warranty that covers any damage, regardless of how it might have happened.

CHECK CURRENT PRICE

3. Celestron Nature DX 8X42 Binocular – Best Value

Celestron – Nature DX 8x42 Binoculars – Outdoor and Birding Binocular – Fully Multi-coated with BaK-4 Prisms – Rubber Armored – Fog & Waterproof Binoculars – Top Pick Optics

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  •  Weighs 1.75 pounds
  • Eye relief: 18mm
  • Close focus: 6.5ft
  • Field of view: 388ft
  • Limited lifetime warranty

The Celestron Nature DX is the cheapest binocular in this review, and it’s in no way of inferior quality. In fact, it was listed as the top under $200 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

With enough lighting, you would get bright and sharp all day long. But unsurprisingly, image quality starts to drop as the environment is dark, cloudy, or under an overcast sky. For instance, a brightly colored bird may appear as dark grey through the lens in a thicket.

Nonetheless, it’s a remarkably good binocular for casual bird watching. The 6.5ft close focus is also nice for a backyard bird watcher to view closeby birds and insects from a porch. Its twist-up eyecups and eyepiece diopter can be dialed in easily.

And its ample eye relief of 18mm is ideal for eyeglass wearers. But a few people complained that it hardly stays in position after adjustment.

The bin is only a little larger than a can of soda, so it’s easy to handle. It also comes with accessories like a neck strap, lens caps, lens cloth, and an instruction manual to use on the go.

The shell is sturdy but may become burdensome if you’d be having it around your neck for hours on a safari or expedition. It’s also designed to be waterproof and fog proof. However, it may not be well-built enough to withstand heavy splashes.

Pros

  • Good bang for the buck
  • Nice image quality
  • Good for close range birding
  • Perfect for eyeglass wearers
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not totally waterproof
  • Eyecup may not stay in place
  • Slightly heavy

Takeaway

If you want an easily affordable binocular under $300, the Celestron NatureDX is the one for you. It has pristine optics and easy adjustment that can be shared in a family. Plus, its low price means it’s easily dispensable in case it gets damaged.

CHECK CURRENT PRICE

4. Carson 3D Series – Best 10×42

Carson 3D Series High Definition Binoculars with ED Glass, 8x42mm, Black

Key Features

  • Fully multi-coated ED lens
  • Field of view: 314ft
  • Eye relief: 16mm
  • Weighs 1.4 pounds
  • Close focus: 9.8ft
  • Waterproof and fog proof
  • No-fault lifetime warranty

If you like to zoom in a little further while birding, a 10x binocular is the way to go. And because so many folks prefer glassing this way, I’ve included the Carson 3D Series as the best 10×42 binoculars under $300, in the list.

Although it’s popular among users, it’s a hidden jewel that should see more popularity than some binocs from top brands. For its price, it offers way more value than any other 10×42 binocular that’s under the $300.

First, you’ll notice a thoughtful ergonomic design while you try to dial-in for the first use. The focus knob is smooth compared to other budget binoculars I’ve tried. But the eyepiece only locks at an extended position.

As you might expect, the image quality is astounding and comparable to the more expensive models. But you would notice the subtle differences under certain conditions. Meanwhile, it offers better nighttime or low light viewing than the previous models on this list.

However, the close focus is a bit too fat at 9.8ft but is expected of a 10x magnification bino. The same way you’d lose some screen space (FOV) at this magnification.

The standout feature of the Carson 3D binocular is its build quality. Although it has the same rubber armor as other cheap binos, it complements with a rugged military-like design. And the thumb indents on top of the shell are handy.

Also, it’s relatively lightweight. At least, a lot better than the Celestron DX 8X42 binocular.

Finally, the same attention to detail Carson puts into the binos is reiterated on the packing case. Any birder or outdoor enthusiast would appreciate one as a gift.

Pros

  • Rugged plastic shell
  • Easy to hold
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Good value for the money
  • Lifetime no-fault warranty
  • Smooth adjusting focus knob

Cons

  • Plasticky feel on the shell
  •  Limited field of view

Takeaway

The Carson 3D 10×42 is a gem among 10x magnification binoculars. Take one on your next expedition if you prefer to indulge in long-distance glassing with not-so-active birds. Its narrower FOV may work so well with tracking swift birds or targets.

Not to forget… You can make it a pair of family binocs without worries, thanks to its no-fault warranty.

CHECK CURRENT PRICE

5. Vanguard Endeavor ED – Best Lightweight

VANGUARD Endeavor ED 8x32 Binocular, ED Glass, Waterproof/Fogproof

Key Features

  • Multi-coated ED lens
  •  Waterproof and fog proof
  • Field of view: 377ft
  • Close focus: 6.6ft
  • Eye relief: 19.5mm
  • Weighs only 1 pound
  • Diopter locks
  • Waterproof and fog proof

The Vanguard Endeavor is not only the lightest option in this list but also the most sophisticated. And don’t worry about the fact that a 32mm objective lens wouldn’t allow as much light as the 42mm.

It has superb optics, smooth handling and focusing, and a quality set of accessories.

The image quality is similar to what you’d see in more expensive models in terms of brightness and sharpness but not detail. But you can rest assured you’d enjoy birdwatching with it, even at the after hours.

Its open bridge design is going to easy to handle by virtually anyone, except for the 1% of folks that have gigantic hands. Also, you can lock the diopter in position once it’s dialed-in, so you don’t have to do it all over, especially if you’re sharing with kids. And the 3-stage eyecups adjust easily for eyeglass wearers.

Among all the bins on this list, I believe it also has the best-quality carrying case. So much so that it can be used casually and it’s well-padded to protect the binoculars. It also has a neck strap and protective covers for the lenses.

The price of this binocular puts me in a goldilocks situation. It may not have the best image quality in its price range, but it has a better design and build than most binoculars in its class. For instance, it has a magnesium alloy body compared to the regular plasticky rubber shell of other binocs on this list.

Pros

  • Durable build
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to handle bridge design
  • Locking diopter adjustment 
  • Good eye relief
  • Premium lifetime warranty

Cons

  • Not the lightest for its size
  • Average field of view

Takeaway

The thing is, there a few binoculars with 32mm objective lenses that are lighter and maybe even cheaper. But the Vanguard ED 8X32 is a full package offering way more features, better durability, and comparable image quality with any model in its class.

CHECK CURRENT PRICE

a guy with binoculars

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Binoculars Under $300

Having a set budget for buying stuff is a good habit. It may limit your purchasing power, but nevertheless, you keep being reminded of just how much you initially wanted to spend. There are also times when you’d find a better deal even beyond your budget, but there will, of course, be valid reasons for it.

For choosing the best binoculars under $300, we’ve laid out certain factors that will help you in making a decision. The best budget binoculars based on your needs and wants or anything between them is made easier for you now, with what you’ll read below. 😉

Optics Specs

Lenses

The major component of a bin is its lenses. The first number signifies how far it can zoom-in on objects while the latter is the size of its objective lens.

Also, a viable objective lens diameter would be between 32mm and 42mm. Anything larger or smaller would either be too heavy or compact for serious birding.

Magnification

So, a “10×42” bino has 10x magnification and a 42mm objective lens.

For birding, I’ll recommend opting for 8x or 10x magnification. This puts you in a sweet spot to enjoy enough lens space (field of view) while being to follow or track birds at a distance.

Take a look at the best binoculars for wildlife viewing that’s priced under $300 and compare the highlights.

Attachments And Accessories

Most binoculars would come with accessories to clean debris and prevent scratches to the lens. This can include covers for the eyecups, objective lens, and a carrying case.

Some brands can go as far as to include a cleaning cloth and a lens cleaning pen.

A neck strap is an equally important attachment that not only helps you to carry your binocs around easily but also keeps them from dropping out of your hands. It would come as a package with most binoculars under $300, and some may even include a shoulder harness.

Warranty

At this price point, it’s not uncommon to find a binocular with a lifetime warranty package for any damage – no questions asked. At the very least, the bins should be covered for a few years; even it’s for limited damage.

Stay away from a model or brand that offers any less.

Let’s watch the beauty of these birds from a birdwatcher’s view before we wrap this up:

Wrapping Up

Buying a binocular under $300 isn’t cheap but wouldn’t exactly get you the best in the game.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t find a good pair at this price and still enjoy excellent imagery and durability. It would also be light enough to be taken on a safari or expedition and easy to use.

Moreover, if you look closely, you would find many with a nice warranty package that could cover a lifetime.

Finally, if you find it hard to choose between all the options I’ve listed above, I’ll strongly suggest going for the Vanguard Endeavor.

It uses Nikon’s revered optics engineering to provide the immaculate images that have little to no chromatic aberration. It has a wide enough FOV for any type of birding and is easy to handle and operate.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *