Whether you’re watching birds at your feeders from your kitchen window, or out in the wilderness trying to tick off new species – a quality pair of binoculars makes the experience so much more satisfying. It can mean the difference between getting a great look at a spectacular bird, or not even being able to see it at all.
If you’re on a budget for buying a new pair of binoculars, you will be pleased to know that you still have some fantastic options for a quality pair of bins. No, they won’t be as amazing as a $2000 Leica pair, but there are still some wonderful choices in the lower price range and we’ve done extensive resaerch to share the very best ones in this article. Hopefully it will help to make your decision an easier one, so you can get out there sooner spotting birds and wildlife of all sorts with your new binoculars.
What’s the problem with cheap binoculars?
A low cost (under $100 or so) pair of binoculars is clearly not going to get you something at the top of the range with the very best optics available. But we’ve come a long way, and what you can get for a small amount of money these days can be surprising. For many people, a quality pair of low cost binoculars can serve you very well indeed.
When looking at a pair of bins to buy in this price range, and especially at the very low end, you can run into some common problems which are good to be aware of so you can avoid them. The lowest quality binoculars can be appealing with thier price tag, but you might soon regret your purchase and wished you spent a little more. Here’s why:
Chromatic aberration – In simple terms, lower quality optics can cause an effect called chromatic aberration that results in a halo of sorts being visible around the objects you’re looking at. This is because the optics aren’t able to focus the color wavelengths perfectly, as is the case with higher quality products. The same effect is often seen in low cost digital camera lenses. When it comes to binoculars, it may not always show up as an issue, but any product that is known to have excessive chromatic aberration problems are ones that we will recommend against buying.
Distortions – this is another issue that you might or might not notice, depending how long you spend looking through your binoculars. In a nutshell, distorted optics can make the image appear curved either inwards or outwards as if you were looking at your reflection in a round reflective ball or spoon. Even good quality optics can suffer from mild distortion, but you’ll want to avoid models that are known to have bad distortion issues.
Build Quality – obviously a lower cost binocular is not going to be built like a tank. But with that said, well built binoculars can be bought for $100 or under nowadays – you just need to know which ones to avoid. If you plan on using your binoculars for long periods of time, you’ll want something that feels good in the hands, can be comfortably held up to your eyes, and can cope with bumps and mild adverse weather conditions.