Last Updated: January 30, 2021
If you’re here, you’re either a licensed hunter (I don’t promote poaching), an avid birder, or a field worker for wildlife. There can be several things that I missed about you, but what I am certain of is that you need some decent binoculars without breaking your bank.
I know not everyone needs high-end and techy stuff when we’ve got options that can get the work done and help us save money. If that’s the case with you, then pay close attention as I unveil my top picks for some of the most affordable yet high performing binoculars.
My personal favorite is the Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars but I wouldn’t blame you if you fell for any other product on this list as all of them are just as impressive, if not more.
- The Best Binoculars Under $500 Reviewed
- What Sets Apart The Best Birding Binoculars Under $500?
- Bottom Line
The Best Binoculars Under $500 Reviewed
1. Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism – Best Overall
The Viper is worthy of your admiration for more reasons that come to mind when you first set your eyes on this beauty. Featuring a highly dense optical system, these binoculars can help you cover the distance between you and your target with their 10X magnification power.
If you’re worried about blinding glare and similar optical aberrations that you may come across outside, don’t be. The lenses on the Viper have an anti-reflective coating meant to deal with just these sorts of problems.
I found the image quality to be crystal clear, in fact, the word HD makes perfect sense once you try these for a few minutes. Not only is the view bright and free of any color imperfections but also perfectly sharp, when focused properly.
The results are comparable to several pricier options in the market.
You’d be glad to know that this little toughie can tag along on any hunt or outdoor adventure you’ve planned. No need to worry about the perils that await, its rubber-reinforced frame coupled with its resistance to both water and fog, is more than enough for whatever lies ahead.
Moreover, I am not a glass wearer myself but if you are, then the adjustable eyecups will make things much easier for you.
Lastly, these binoculars have a locking diopter. Don’t you just hate it when you accidentally ruin the focus and have to readjust again? If yes, then you’ll be just as relieved as I was with this feature, and mind you, this is very hard to come across in such affordable models.
- The image quality is comparable to what pricier options deliver
- This model is well worth the price it comes at, perhaps even more
- The locking diopter is very handy
- It is perfect for the outdoors and even for hunting
- Some buyers have reported shipping problems with different sellers, it is best to contact the manufacturers beforehand.
The Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars are easily among the best hunting binoculars under $500 because of the immaculate image quality and resilient construction meant to endure the vicissitudes of the outdoor world.
2. Nikon MONARCH 5 10x42 Binoculars – Best Budget
When a product carries the name of a leading manufacturer in the optics industry, it is only natural for anyone to feel confident about it. I felt the same way and I can say that I was not disappointed, not in the least.
The Monarch 5 is best explained with the word ‘immaculate,’ and I’m not just saying this because it features a decent utility, which it does, but because of how affordable this gadget is. And this has earned it a place among the best binoculars under $500.
The model features an ED glass technology inculcated into its frame. Don’t know what ED is? No problem. Extra-low dispersion, or ED for short, is a lens technology that lets you visualize objects from afar without any color aberrations. In simple words, it improves clarity.
The rubber-made eyecups and a handy focus knob in the center allow you to truly immerse yourself in the sight before you. While the performance is not comparable to high-end products worth thousands of dollars, it is still very impressive for what you pay.
Being waterproof and fog-resistant makes it all the better, and in case you were wondering about its durability, the Monarch’s rubber-coated is more than enough for whatever comes its way.
It is a bit bulkier, though not as much as its predecessor, but still. This means that it will be perfect for birding but not for competitive sports or hunting.
If you’re planning on using it for the former then you won’t regret your decision.
- This product presents an impressive deal for a very affordable sum
- The ED glasses are worth praise as they drastically improve image clarity
- You will be impressed by the highly sturdy and resilient frame
- Being resistant to fog and water makes them perfect for outdoors
- These are a bit bulky, making them better suited for birding rather than hunting.
Any list of the best birding binoculars under $500 would be incomplete without the mention of Nikon’s Monarch 5 in it. This is because of the potent mixture of excellence, durability, and affordability that this model seems to present with ease.
3. Leica Trinovid BCA 8x20 – Best Compact Model
Inspired by the Trinovid series, this Leica model is both more compact and lighter. Don’t be deceived though, these binoculars are by no means inferior and instead boast performance excellence worthy of the name that they carry.
The glass elements are not known, Leica has been very secretive about them but they work so who am I to complain? Things get even better with the lens coatings that prevent blinding glares from ruining your experience.
To further add upon the compactness, these binoculars are easily foldable and will go nicely in your pocket (a big one), or a storage case. The eyecups are both comfortable and steady, they won’t displace even if you press your brows against them.
However, some, including myself, feel that the 14 mm eye relief is not enough (eye relief is the distance required between your eyes and the lens to see through them, the more the better).
- These binoculars are surprisingly affordable
- Being compact, they are perfect for long hunting trips but will be fine for birding too
- You can fold them up and store them with ease
- They are very lightweight
- The image quality is pretty impressive
- The only downside is that the 14 mm eye relief is not enough
The Leica Trinovid BCA 8x20 Binoculars are worthy of their place on this list, not only because of their affordability but their compactness which makes them all the more useful in the wilderness.
4. Maven C3 ED Binoculars – Best Warranty
I could go on rambling about how amazing the image quality is with the Maven C3 ED Binoculars and I won’t be lying, it really is, but there’s so much more to it. Firstly, these binoculars are lighter than most other models and hence perfect for long outdoor treks.
They also perform much better under dim lighting conditions, making them all the more useful for birding (if you’re into owls for instance) and hunting at night. You also don’t have to worry about scratches, fog, or water, it can take all of them.
But the best part is yet to come, that is their customer service. Sometimes it's not as much about the product itself but how the company treats its customers that makes you want to get into a deal. This is the case with Maven.
They offer an unconditional for-life warranty! If your unit ever gets damaged, you can send it to the manufacturers for free repairs or a replacement. Isn’t that something?
- The ED glass lens is very impressive
- These binoculars have a much better performance in dim light conditions
- They are highly affordable
- The lightweight frame makes them perfect for outdoor usage
- The eye relief is long enough
- Unconditional lifetime warranty
- The field of view (FOV) is not the best but still pretty decent
The Maven C3 ED Binoculars are perfect if you’re looking for durability. Even if they do run into some problems along the way, you can send them to the manufacturers for repairs or replacement, no matter where you bought them from.
5. Steiner Optics Predator Series – Best For Spotting Game
The Predator Series from Steiner has been all about delivering some of the most iconic hunting binoculars, including this highly affordable yet thoroughly impressive model. The multi-coated lenses on this bad boy are perfect for the outdoors as they maximize light transmission.
You will also find the simple and quick focusing mechanism, aptly named ‘fast-close-focus,’ very helpful when scouting for the game. How many times have you missed an animal because it was either perfectly hidden or there wasn’t enough light?
Not to worry about that anymore as these binoculars use the color adjusted transmission, shortened as CAT, which simply boosts the contrast to help you spot your target with ease even if it is well hidden.
Lastly, these binoculars come with an impressive warranty period: for-life. You can request repairs and replacements at any time, and it won’t cost a dime.
- They are perfect for spotting game owing to their color adjusted transmission
- The focus adjustment is simple and quick
- The binoculars are fog-proof
- The lenses are coated (multiple times) to avoid glare
- You can get the product repaired or replaced at any time from the manufacturers, for free.
- Some users have reported getting the package with an open seal, if that happens, don’t accept the package and send for a replacement.
The Steiner Optics Predator Series Binoculars are perfect for avoiding glare and instead scouting the surroundings for game. Using color adjusted transmission, these binoculars can make spotting all the more easier for you.
What Sets Apart The Best Birding Binoculars Under $500?
Whether you’re out shopping for low-priced binoculars or surfing through product listings online, don’t pick one without giving it a proper thought. You want to get your money’s worth, something that performs well and lasts.
In this section, I will show you what to consider and why it is important:
Look For Anti-Reflective Surfaces
As someone who frequents outdoors and enjoys the sight of birds nesting and feeding, I assure you that nothing can ruin the experience as much as glare. It simply sucks! Glare happens when light reflects off a smooth surface like glass.
Ordinary lenses suffer from this fatal flaw, however, many models feature coated lenses that are meant to mitigate or eliminate glare. Sometimes, lenses will feature multiple coatings, and if that is the case, go for these as they will offer the best light transmission.
Eye Relief Is Important
To put it simply, you need to place the objective lenses at a certain distance from your eyes to see through them. This distance should be at least 17 mm for the best results. A shorter eye relief will reduce the comfort level, so be sure to get one that feels right to you.
And if you wear glasses, then you can’t go any lower than 17 mm.
Don’t Ignore The Field Of View
You’ll come across the acronym FOV multiple times when browsing through binoculars. It stands for ‘field of view’ which is the area visible through the lens. The length or angle (either one of these can be used in this context) is usually measured at a distance of 1,000 yards.
The more, the merrier, that’s all I can say in this regard.
There Are Other Considerations Too
A decent model should be resistant to fog and water, this makes it perfect for outdoor adventures. Or maybe the crystal clear image quality is what you're looking for but shying away from it because you think you have to break the bank to get it? Then you should check out the best 10x42 binoculars - there might be a pleasant surprise waiting for you.
Moreover, you should not use a bulky or heavy model for hunting as it can become a drag on long trips. However, bigger models are perfect for birding as they deliver a far better image quality.
Before we move on, here’s an interesting YouTube video on how to use your binoculars for birding. Enjoy!
All of the products listed above are excellent at what they do. Some might fare better in birding while others will be perfect for scouting the field for your hunting trip.
You can use one for the other but it is best to go for what is specifically meant to accomplish a said task.
My personal favorite is the Vortex Optics Viper HD Roof Prism Binoculars, which undoubtedly stands as one of the best hunting binoculars under $500.
However, if you’re running on a low budget then the Nikon MONARCH 5 10x42 Binoculars will do an excellent job as well.
Well, that’s it. I hope that this article proved to you that you never have to compromise with quality even if you’re on a tight budget, at least not with binoculars.