Whether you’re into bird-watching, hunting, sporting events, live music, or astronomy, a good pair of binoculars is a must.
Quality binoculars can run up into the thousands of dollars, though. What if your budget is, say, less than $100?
Never fear. There’s a good-quality, inexpensive pair out there for you.
A quick Amazon search throws up thousands of options. The prospect of wading through them surely seems daunting. Again, not to worry.
Here, we’ve taken a look at ten of the top-rated binoculars on Amazon for under $100. Our focus was on image quality, ease of use, portability, and best use (i.e., is it better for close viewing or amateur astronomy?).
Below, we’ll walk you through each set and hopefully help you make the best decision for your activity of choice.
Let’s start with a simple ranking table. The top-listed is our best choice pair.
|SkyGenius 10 x 50||Good image quality when zoomed|
|Bushnell Falcon||Clear images with 420-ft field of view|
|Celestron SkyMaster||Good for astronomy|
|Bushnell H2O 10 x 42||Rapid, sharp focusing|
|Wingspan Optics NatureSport||Versatile|
|Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8 x 32||Good close focus (6.5 ft)|
|Aurosports 10 x 25||Versatility|
|Wingspan Optics Feather||Smooth, sharp focus|
|Nikon 8245 ACULON A211||Clear even when zoomed|
|Bushnell PermaFocus 10 x 50||Simple to use|
Our First Choice: SkyGenius 10 x 50 – Best Overall
Weighing in at 1.76 pounds, these binoculars are sturdy, if somewhat bulky, with a classical center wheel and right diopter (eye cup) focus system.
They can focus on objects 16 feet or more away, magnify up to 10 times, and have a 367-foot field of view.
The 16-foot close focusing distance means these are not the best for nearby objects but should be fine even for amateur bird watchers who like to keep an eye on their feeders.
The wide field of view means you see a lot without having to swing back and forth. They produce clear, sharp images, even in low light.
The focusing system is easy to use and they retain their image quality even when zoomed, meaning that you don’t get much blur when you’re looking at distant objects.
When compared to a pair of Bushnell binoculars, one user stated that, while the quality was similar, the SkyGenius binoculars were more portable and easier to store.
They have great customer service and are willing to replace defective units.
The 2nd Choice: Bushnell Falcon – Best Field of View
This pair has a 420-foot field of view at 1000 yards, meaning minimal side-to-side adjustment to capture the action.
They boast a quick-focus lever, making focusing a breeze and making it less likely that you’ll miss something important while you’re fiddling with the focus.
They are more lightweight than the SkyGenius binoculars, at 1.31 pounds.
Their close focusing distance is 20 feet, so keep that in mind if you’re more interested in checking out nearby objects. They only magnify up to 7 times, but this is often plenty for most purposes.
They provide clear images and you can use them with or without glasses. You may notice a slight chromatic aberration or colored haze around some objects, but it shouldn’t be distracting.
The carrying case these binoculars come with is a bit low-quality, as is the strap, and the lens covers don’t fit well, so you need to be mindful to keep from losing them.
These drawbacks, however, have little to do with the quality of the optics, which, for a mere $31.38, are excellent.
A few users did complain about double images, a result of poor collimation (prism adjustment).
In some types of binoculars, you can fix this yourself. In others, you need to find a shop or return them to the company for adjustment.
It’s probably safest to send it to the experts. Other users had difficulty focusing with the quick-focus lever.
This may have been due to unfamiliarity with the system or perhaps a defective unit.
Overall, though, in fully functioning units, the optics are outstanding, and the wide field of view is a major plus.
Our 3rd Pick: Celestron SkyMaster – Best Astronomy Binoculars
These large binoculars have smooth focusing and work great for observing the heavens, especially the moon. They have a large aperture, which means they pull in a lot of light.
While heavier than other offerings (3.28 pounds), they are light enough to hold for short periods of time. For extended viewing sessions, a tripod is recommended.
This pair provides clear, crisp images with low chromatic aberration.
In terms of hardware, the lens caps are attached, the moving parts (focus adjustment, etc.) glide smoothly, and you can adjust the prisms yourself if you find they’re out of alignment.
That being said, the outer 25% of the field of view does show some blurring and there is chromatic aberration around very bright objects.
The minimum focusing distance is 43 feet, making these unsuitable for most terrestrial uses. Though the focusing mechanism is smooth, it’s slow.
The tripod adapter that comes with the unit is poor quality, so users recommend purchasing one separately.
Many users complained that the unit arrived poorly collimated. However, as mentioned, you can collimate the unit yourself.
Our 4th Pick Bushnell H2O 10 x 42 – Best Rapid Focus
Bushnell boasts that these binoculars are waterproof and fogproof. They magnify up to 10 times with a 12-foot close focusing distance. They have the center wheel and diopter focusing system.
At 1.56 pounds, they sit right in between choices 1 and 2. Despite the multi-step focusing system, you can focus this pair rapidly to get crisp, clear images with little chromatic aberration.
They have thick, comfortable grips, attached lens covers, and can be used with and without glasses. Because they are 10x, some users observed more distortion around the edges of the field of view than an 8x magnification pair would have.
While the chromatic aberration is slight, it still exists, and the images are a bit dim. Some users complain that the eyecups are harder than those on other binoculars.
While lightweight, they are heavy for their size, which matters because you need to hold binoculars with greater magnification more steadily than those with less magnification. One user did experience water damage, despite the waterproof claim.
Our 5th Pick Wingspan Optics NatureSport 8 x 32 – Best Multi-Use
This unit produces clear, sharp images, and is solidly built while remaining lightweight (0.94 pounds). Its portability and good optics make it great for concerts or nature activities (e.g., bird watching or hunting).
It’s waterproof and fogproof, with a 362-foot field of view and 9.8-foot minimum focusing distance. As one of the shortest minimum focusing distances, and boasting 8 times magnification, this is a truly versatile unit.
You can even use them with and without glasses. The focusing knobs can be hard to turn, making it difficult to focus, and the lens covers don’t fit well.
However, Wingspan’s customer service is good, and they are willing to replace defective units.
Our 6th Pick Celestron 71330 Nature DX 8 x 32 – Best Minimum Focusing Distance
These binoculars can focus on objects as close as 6.5 feet. At 1.25 pounds, it’s not as lightweight as the Wingspan NatureSport, but is still easily portable.
It’s waterproof, sturdy, and has smooth focus controls. Images are clear, colors are true, and it’s nice for stargazing, though it won’t give you the same quality moon images as the Celestron SkyMaster.
As with many of these units, the lens covers don’t fit well and fall off. Fine-tuned focusing is difficult with this pair. Due to their small size, they aren’t good for people with widely spaced eyes.
Our 7th Pick Aurosports 10 x 25 – Best Low-Light Binoculars
These are a powerful little pair of binoculars, with 10x magnification and clear images, even in low light. They have precise focus and retain their image quality when zoomed.
They’re lightweight and waterproof, so they’re great for outdoor activities. Some users complain of hazy images with blurry edges and prism alignment problems.
They don’t work well with glasses and are small for some faces. Despite the waterproof claim, some users did experience water damage.
Our 8th Pick Wingspan Optics Feather 8 x 25 – Best Focusing
This unit boasts a 6.5-foot minimum focusing distance with a 356-foot field of view and is waterproof and fogproof. It’s a solid pair of binoculars with good smooth focusing, providing sharp images.
After prolonged use, some users noted that they needed to readjust the diopter, suggesting it may be loose in some units. It’s not a good pair for stargazing as it doesn’t pull in much light and images can be slightly dim.
It has greater chromatic aberration and blurring than other pairs, with some users even noticing these issues in the center of the field of view. These problems become more pronounced as you zoom in, so it’s not great for distant viewing.
Our 9th Pick Nikon 8245 ACULON A211 8 x 42 – Best Zoom
At 2.29 pounds, this is a heavier offering than most, but it’s a solid, rugged pair of binoculars. It produces clear, crisp images even when zoomed in all the way.
Its minimum focusing distance is one of the longest of all our choices, at 49 feet, so it’s only good for distant viewing. Colors don’t come through well and the brightness of the images is variable.
There’s chromatic aberration as well as blurriness around the edges of the field of view. The diopter can be hard to turn, and the unit is a bit small for some faces.
Our 10th Pick Bushnell PermaFocus 10 x 50 – Simplest to Use
This pair has a featured called fixed focus, meaning that you don’t have to do any focusing, just zoom in and out. It’s super simple to use. It has a 393-foot field of view and weighs 3 pounds.
It’s great for distant viewing, so you can easily stargaze with this unit. It’s rugged and you can use it with and without glasses.
However, the fixed focus means that you get less versatility than you’ll find with other binoculars.
If an object appears blurred, the best you can do is try changing the zoom to see if it brings it into focus. This means it’s not good for action viewing, so it won’t work for sporting events.
It’s also not great for viewing nearby objects you probably can’t focus on anything under 50 feet away. Its weight makes it less portable than others as well.