Best budget binoculars 2024: Cheap but high-quality models

The best budget binoculars make hobbies like astronomy and birdwatching more accessible because, let’s face it, investing in optics can get expensive quickly.

Not everyone can afford to buy top-of-the-line products, but that doesn’t mean we should be deprived of hobbies and experiences. Inexpensive binoculars can be a more economical solution for those who want to use them occasionally.

It’s not a bad idea to try it with a more affordable pair to start, then upgrade if you’re sticking with it. You’re budget pair can then become your backup pair. It might also be that you only need binoculars for a short excursion like a stargazing event or one-time wildlife-watching trip, which makes a cheap binocular a more attractive prospect.

Though some of the choices we’ve made on this list are suitable for kids to use, we have a dedicated guide to the best binoculars for kids, where all of the models are suitable for smaller hands and faces. Alternatively, our guide to the guide to the best binoculars overall will help you find a superior model that might be right for you.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best binoculars under $200 that we’ve tested, rated and reviewed and would recommend to anyone that needs to get started observing without breaking the bank. However, many of the models are also binoculars under $100 so no matter the budget there should be something for you here.

So, whatever the reason you’re looking for one of the best binoculars on a budget, we’ve tested, rated and reviewed multiple models so you don’t have to.

The quick list

Best budget binoculars we recommend in 2024

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Best overall

Celestron UpClose G2 10 x 50

Lightweight and affordable — especially good for astronomy , and they are tripod adaptable too

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Angular field of view: 6.8 degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: Bk7
Eye relief: 12 mm
Weight: 27 oz
Guarantee: 2 years

Reasons to buy

+

Great for astronomy

+

Lightweight

+

Tripod adaptable

Reasons to avoid

Not good for spectacle wearers

Poor objective lens caps

Bk7 glass

Buy if:

You’re a beginner astronomer: If you’ve already owned a pair of binoculars these won’t be impressive, but they’re great for newcomers.

You want to share views: The UpClose G2 are tripod adaptable, lock on to your target and share the view with friends or children.

Don’t buy if:

You want something mainly for astro: If you want something for astronomy specifically, you’ll likely want a better quality pair that will give better views.

You wear spectacles: The 12mm eye-relief is not suitable for glasses wearers.

The bottom line:

🔎 Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 Binocular: Great for a entry-level pair, they would be a good choice for astronomy groups on a budget ★★★★½

We think the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 binoculars which we previously reviewed are the best binocular under $100 but also the best overall. They boast 10x magnification, which is perfect for a wide-field view of the night sky. The 50 mm diameter is big enough to let in enough light for occasional skywatching. They would be good for someone starting out, who isn’t sure astronomy will be a long-term hobby, or just as a pair to keep handy for causal observing at home or camping trips.

Though these are an affordable pair of binoculars from Celestron, the build quality can only be described as ‘average’. If you want a pair of binoculars that will last a lifetime, you’d probably want to look elsewhere. As we review so many binoculars, we’re constantly exposed to top-quality binoculars with amazing build quality and glass, so we are probably the harshest critics.  In reality, if it’s just a pair of binos to get closer views then these are a perfectly reasonable option.

  • Read our full Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 review
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Attributes Notes
Design Basic no-frills design
Performance A pleasingly low amount of chromatic aberration
Functionality A good entry-level pair for general use

Best for detail

Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 Binocular

Best for seeing detail: The huge magnification and large objective make them a great choice for astronomy newcomers

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 60mm
Angular field of view: 5.3-degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: BaK-4
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 39.2 oz (1.1 kg)
Guarantee: Limited lifetime

Reasons to buy

+

Great light transmission

+

Deep sky astronomy is possible

+

Suitable for glasses wearers

Reasons to avoid

Large and heavy

Tripod is required

The supplied neckstrap is poor (thin)

Buy if:

You want to stargaze with them: The huge aperture drinks in loads of light and can be used for deep sky astronomy.

You wear spectacles: The generous 17mm eye relief is comfortable for glasses wearers.

Don’t buy if:

You don’t want to buy a tripod: The 12x magnification will also magnify any wobble by that amount, you’ll need a tripod to enjoy still views.

You want something lightweight: These binos are huge and weigh over 2.2 lb / 1kg.

The bottom line:

🔎 Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 Binocular: A great value pair of astronomy-friendly binoculars. The tripod adapter is especially welcome given the high magnification. ★★★★½

This powerful and capable set of quality binoculars makes viewing deep-sky objects such as the Andromeda Galaxy a joy, which is impressive for a pair that typically costs around $70.

The Celestron Skymaster 12×60 is built around a Porro Prism design and features the preferred BaK-4 glass rather than the BK7, which is often used in cheaper pairs. The multi-coated optics provide bright and detailed views, while the objective lenses of 60mm allow in a large amount of light. Thanks to the 12x magnification, these binoculars are perfect for spotting moon craters and resolving individual stars in clusters like the Pleiades and Hyades. 

Remember though, any amount of wobble will also be magnified 12x. While this would make for a very frustrating viewing experience, Celestron has thankfully included a tripod mount. You’ll need to buy a tripod adapter and a tripod separately. Another perk of having a tripod is that views can be shared — more than one person can see the same view without refinding the target.

The build quality of the Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 binoculars is fantastic; they feel like a premium pair. They are covered in a non-slip rubber, enhanced by textured pimples for added grip (handy if you use them without a tripod). The rubber makes them water resistant but not waterproof or nitrogen purged, although we didn’t experience fogging during our hands-on Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 review. They come with lens caps and a simple carry case to aid portability.

  • Read our full Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 binocular review
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Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 Binocular
Attributes Notes
Design Excellent build quality
Performance Suitable for astronomy
Functionality Generous 17mm eye relief, tripod mount

Best for stargazing

Celestron Cometron 7×50 Binocular

Best for handheld stargazing: This inexpensive pair of binoculars are great for viewing the stars without a tripod

Specifications

Magnification: 7x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Angular field of view: 6.8-degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: BK7
Eye relief: 13mm
Weight: 27.3 oz (774 g)
Guarantee: Limited lifetime

Reasons to buy

+

Great value for money

+

Wide exit pupil

Reasons to avoid

Not waterproof

Less desirable, BK7 glass

Just 13mm eye-relief

Buy if:

You’re on a tight budget: For a full-sized pair of binos, you won’t find much cheaper than this pair.

You don’t need anything fancy: These binos will get you closer to the action; if that is all you need them for, they are a perfectly reasonable option.

Don’t buy if:

You want the best quality glass: This pair uses the inferior BK7 glass that means the edges will appear more blurred than if BaK-4 glass was used, though for the price, we can’t complain.

You will use them around water: They are water resistant, so fine in light rain, but nothing more.

The bottom line:

🔎 Celestron Cometron 7×50 Binocular: If you are looking for a very inexpensive way to enjoy skywatching, you can’t argue with the Celestron’s Cometron 7×50. ★★★★

In our Celestron Cometron 7×50 review, we bill these binoculars as ‘remarkable value for money’. The price fluctuates between $40 and $55 (sometimes less during sales events). You are very unlikely to get binos of this quality for any less. 

They have large 50mm objective lenses and a 7x magnification, enough to provide users with a fantastic introduction to stargazing, and you won’t need to use a tripod to get steady views.

The Porro Prism design is ideal for astronomy, though you can, of course, use them in the daytime too — an affordable way to get closer to sporting action or closer to the stage at festivals.

The optics are multicoated, although the glass is BK7, not the more desirable BAK4. This means that instead of a perfectly defined disk of light, you’ll see a fuzzier edge. 

Although the Celestron Cometron 7×50 are water-resistant, they are not waterproof or fogproof, and they don’t feel particularly ‘nice’, but we struggle to complain about this given the price of these binoculars.

  • Read our full Celestron Cometron 7×50 review
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Celestron Cometron 7×50
Attributes Notes
Design Basic, porro-prism
Performance Good for celestial and terrestrial viewing
Functionality Wide FOV, short eye-relief

Best for portability

Occer 12×25 compact binoculars

Best pocketable binos: The Occers offer optics that perform surprisingly well considering their small size and price

Specifications

Magnification: 12x
Objective lens diameter: 25mm
Angular field of view: 273-degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: BaK-4
Eye relief: 15mm
Weight: 8.8 oz (249g)
Guarantee: N/A

Reasons to buy

+

Foldable eyecups

+

Wide field of view

+

Feels robust in the hand

Reasons to avoid

Not waterproof

No lens caps

Short eye relief

Buy if:

You want a pocketable pair: This pair weighs only 249g and fits perfectly in your hand, making them easy to carry on walks, to sporting events, and to concerts, so you never miss a moment.

You want a wide field of view: Great for covering large areas such as fields or savannas.

Don’t buy if:

You need something waterproof: These binoculars are fine for use in light showers but not for heavier rain.

You want something for astro: The 25mm objective lens diameter is half what we’d recommend for astronomy.

The bottom line:

🔎 Occer 12×25 compact binoculars: Ideal for keeping in your pocket day-to-day. They’re surprisingly good quality and provide great views given the low price. ★★★½

The Occer 12×25 binoculars are an excellent choice for beginners who want a high-quality yet affordable pair. They are lightweight and compact, making them highly portable. The binoculars are designed with non-slip rubber armor and stippling to provide a comfortable grip, even for small hands.

With BaK-4 multi-coated lenses, sharp images and accurate colors are assured (enough for a pair of binos at this price point, anyway). We were pleasantly surprised throughout our Occer 12×25 compact binoculars review — there was less chromatic aberration (color fringing) than the Celestron Outland X 10×42, which cost almost double.

The center focus wheel is easy to use, enabling quick and comfortable focusing and the soft rubber foldable eyecups further enhance the comfort of use.

The Occer 12×25 binoculars include a handy neck strap to prevent accidental drops and a carrying pouch that protects them from being damaged during transportation. It is important to note that the binoculars do not come with lens caps, so be cautious when sliding them into pockets with sharp objects.

  • Read our full Occer 12×25 compact binoculars review
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Occer 12×25 compact binoculars
Attributes Notes
Design Lots of grip, portable
Performance Bright and colorful views, minimal chromatic aberration
Functionality Wide FOV, pocketable

Best for young observers

Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 Binocular

Best for young observers: The Opticron Adventurer’s are tough, durable, waterproof

Specifications

Magnification: 8x
Objective lens diameter: 42mm
Angular field of view: 7.5-degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: BaK-4
Eye relief: 18mm
Weight: 22 oz (623 g)
Guarantee: 2 years

Reasons to buy

+

Great value binoculars

+

BaK-4 glass

+

Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

Reasonably heavy

Poor close focus

Buy if:

You want top-quality glass: They utilize top-quality BaK-4 glass that is fully multi-coated.

You wear spectacles: These binos have a generous 18mm eye relief, allowing glasses wearers to enjoy the entire field of view.

Don’t buy if:

You want something to use in your garden: The close 5m focus is below par for backyard bird and bug watching.

You want the ‘wow’ factor: Though there’s nothing particularly ‘wrong’ with them, they are an average pair of binos.

The bottom line:

🔎 Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42: A good choice as a general-purpose binocular, and perform well for astronomy ★★★

Though a lower specification than 10×50 binoculars that are generally recommended for adults, the Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 are perfect for young observers because they have lighter and smaller bodies but still provide enough magnification and light-gathering power for a great sky-watching experience. In our Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 review review,  we and found them to be an excellent value.

The binoculars have impressive specifications for their price point. They are a Porro prism design and utilize quality BaK-4 glass, along with fully multi-coated lenses. They are waterproof and resistant to dew and wrapped in a protective rubber-like armor — ideal for children. The binoculars come with a soft carrying case, a neck strap, and rubber lens covers to ensure their safety. They have long eye relief that is comfortable and convenient for glasses wearers.

The Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 binoculars are an excellent choice for young people who are interested in astronomy. These binoculars are versatile and can be used for wildlife and landscapes during the day as well.

  • Read our full Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 review
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Opticron Adventurer T WP 8×42 Binocular
Attributes Notes
Design Durable coating
Performance Good for astronomy, not great for nearby subjects
Functionality Narrow FOV, long eye-relief

Best for newcomers

Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211

Best for newcomers — a great choice if you’re starting your stargazing journey

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 50mm
Angular field of view: 6.5 degrees
Optical design: Porro prism
Glass: BaK-4
Eye relief: 11.8mm
Weight: 31.7 oz / 899g
Guarantee: Lifetime warranty

Reasons to buy

+

Great value for money

+

Good optics

+

Wide field of view

Reasons to avoid

Not good for spectacle wearers

Some chromatic aberration

Not clear across entire field of view

Buy if:

You want an affordable means of stargazing: If you want to get a closer look at the night sky from home without breaking the bank, these will serve you well.

You want to share views: They are tripod adaptable so more than one person can see the same view without re-finding and focusing.

Don’t buy if:

You wear glasses: The eye relief is just 11.8mm so glasses wearers would really struggle to see the entire field of view.

There’s very limited space in your backpack: The porro prism design takes up more room than a roof prism pair.

The bottom line:

🔎 Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211: These are a good option if you’re just looking for a basic pair of binoculars that you won’t expect too much from ★★★

For the price, we are more than happy to recommend the Nikon Aculon A211. The 10x magnification is suitable for astronomy providing you have a steady hand (so as not to see too much wobble). Their performance is impressive for the price, and if it’s just a pair of binoculars to get closer to the action or stars every now and then, these will do the job. 

Seasoned astronomers (and regular terrestrial binocular users) will notice where some of the design shortcuts have been made, but for a casual user, they look and feel nice and are comfortable to hold. Nikon has opted to use top-quality BaK-4 glass in these binos which is great, and the 50mm objective lenses let in a lot of light at night. The 6.5-degree field of view is ideal for observing starfields and nebula, though expect to see some image blur at the outer edge.

If you’re planning on taking your binoculars out on hikes, you’ll probably want to consider a roof prism pair, as this porro prism design, despite being better for creating a brighter image, will take up more room in your backpack.

  • Read our full Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211 review
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Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211
Attributes Notes
Design Nicely designed with a few quality shortcuts
Performance Fine if you don’t expect too much
Functionality No good for glasses wearers

Best for adventurers

Vortex Optics Copperhead HD Binoculars

Best for outdoor adventures — they are waterproof, shockproof and fogproof

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Angular field of view: 6.4-degrees
Optical design: Roof prism
Glass: HD glass (no rating)
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 22.9oz / 649g
Guarantee: Lifetime warranty

Reasons to buy

+

Great value for money

+

Good optics

+

Wide field of view

Reasons to avoid

Some chromatic aberration

Not clear across entire field of view

Buy if:

You will take them across adventurous terrains: They are designed to withstand the highest impacts

You like getting value for money: Impressive specs coupled with a lifetime warranty is attractive

Don’t buy if:

You don’t want to buy from a company associated with hunting: The company’s focus is very much on hunting and shooting

You want only the best image: Though we have yet to complete a full review, there have been user reports of blurred edges and some chromatic aberration.

The bottom line:

🔎 Vortex Optics Copperhead HD 10×42: Great if you need a rugged and reliable pair out in the field ★★★★

For around $150 the Copperhead HD 10×42 boast many specs that make them perfect for use in the great outdoors. Of course — this is where most binoculars will be used, but we mean the trekking over rocky terrains and wading through rivers type of outdoors.

They have tough rubber armor to provide users with a secure and non-slip grip, though should an accident happen, they have been designed to withstand high impact. They are also waterproof (though we can’t find what their waterproof rating is), and they are nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging — use them in all temperatures without having to wait for the lenses to clear.

We wouldn’t describe them as astronomy binoculars, and we are yet to get our hands on a pair for an in-depth review, but the 10x magnification coupled with a respectable 42 mm lens diameter should let in enough light for an enjoyable night under the stars.

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Vortex Optics Copperhead HD 10×42
Attributes Notes
Design Roof prism, compact
Performance Good for general observers
Functionality Waterproof, shockproof, nitrogen purged

Best lightweight durable pair

Bushnell H2O 10×42

Best lightweight and durable pair — aircraft grade aluminum and protective rubber protect the quality optics

Specifications

Magnification: 10x
Objective lens diameter: 42 mm
Angular field of view: 6.4-degrees
Optical design: Roof prism
Glass: BaK-4
Eye relief: 17mm
Weight: 22.2 oz / 629 g
Guarantee: 20-year warranty

Reasons to buy

+

Durable design

+

Waterproof

+

Lightweight

Reasons to avoid

Image quality isn’t great

Not ideal for astronomy

Buy if:

You’ll use them around water: Accidents happen, but with the Bushnell H2O range you can rest easy knowing they are IPX7-rated.

You’re buying for a child: These binos are very durable and will withstand knocks and drops; they’re light, too.

Don’t buy if:

Your main discipline is astrophotography: These are best for terrestrial observing.

You want outstanding image quality: Though durable, the image quality isn’t the best; if you’re looking for amazing optics, you’ll be disappointed.

The bottom line:

🔎 Bushnell H2O 10×42 are a lightweight but hardy pair of binoculars that produce good images thanks to the high quality glass and fully-multicoated lenses.

This is another hardy pair of binoculars. From Bushnell, the ‘H2O’ in the name indicates the IPX7 waterproof rating. They can withstand submersion in water up to one meter deep for a duration of up to 30 minutes without sustaining damage. That is added peace of mind if you plan on using them around water; it also means you don’t have to worry if the weather turns nasty. They are fog-proof, too.

The non-slip rubber texture provides a secure grip around the lightweight aluminum body, protecting the quality optics inside. They feature BAK-4 glass, and the lenses are fully multi-coated to enhance the contrast and provide the user with true-to-life color. They weigh just 22.2 oz so they are comfortable to hold for long observing sessions.

The minimum focusing distance is 11.18ft / 3.6m which might be short enough to use in your backyard to watch birds and bugs, depending on the size of your garden. The image isn’t amazing, but ‘good enough’ for getting closer to the action.

Bushnell believes in this product so much that they offer a 20-year product warranty, where they will repair or replace the binoculars if they should fail.

It’s worth pointing out that we’ve seen these binoculars with a discount of around 50% at special deal events like Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday.

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Bushnell H2O 10×42
Attributes Notes
Design Porro prism, rugged exterior
Performance Top optics for true-to-color views
Functionality Lightweight, waterproof

Best budget binoculars Frequently Asked Questions

Which are the best budget binoculars?

We think the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 binoculars are great for those on a budget; you will struggle to find a different pair that strikes the balance between quality and affordability as these do. Though they don’t have the best glass, the large objective lenses and 10x magnification make them a great choice for budding astronomers. They are a perfect entry-level pair from a trusted optics brand.

Who makes the best cheap binoculars?

We think Celestron make the best cheap binoculars because they have such a wide range of binoculars at different price points. That makes it appealing for observers no matter your budget.

What is the best binocular under $200?

If you’re happy to spend a bit more we think the Nikon 10×50 Aculon A211 are a fantastic pair of binoculars under $200. However, if you wear eyeglasses then try them out before buying because they don’t have a huge amount of eye relief.

What is the best binocular under $100?

We recommend the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 as the best binocular under $100 and the best budget binocular overall due to their low price, light weight and their surprising stargazing ability. 

I struggle to hold binoculars steady, what should I do?

1. Get a comfortable, firm grip on the binoculars
2. Tuck your elbows into your body, preferably against the ribcage or place them on something stationary like a wall or fence.
3. Use a tripod with a binocular mount for prolonged use with heavier binoculars (check the binoculars are tripod-compatible before purchase). On this list, the Celestron UpClose G2 10×50 and the Celestron SkyMaster 12×60 are both tripod compatible.

We also have a full guide on How to Hold Binoculars Steady.
 

What features should I look for in budget binocular?

A few key features to look for in budget binoculars are:

1. Balance affordability and quality.

2. Magnifications of 7x to 10x are generally the best for skywatching. Objective lenses should be 50mm and larger for astronomy.

3. Porro prisms and BaK-4 glass are best for stargazing. 

4. Check binoculars are tripod adaptable if you suffer from shakey views.

5. If you wear spectacles, you’ll need something with long eye-relief, 17mm or above.

How we test the best budget binoculars

To guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best binoculars for kids to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every binocular through a rigorous review to fully test each instrument. Each binocular designed for kids is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each pair of binoculars is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each binocular and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.

We look at how easy they are to operate, whether eye relief can be adjusted for spectacles wearer if a binocular comes with appropriate accessories or carry bags and also make suggestions if a particular set of binos would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on binoculars for kids, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

Source: Space.com

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