Binoculars under 200 – Buying guide & Comparison
If you’re interested in finding the best inexpensive binoculars but aren’t keen in doing a lot of research into it, then the following short paragraph should provide all the information you need. After going through dozens and dozens of online reviews and product comparisons, we found the Carson VP-042 to be the most suitable inexpensive binoculars available for sale. It was particularly well received by outdoorsmen due to its good water and fog proofing, which makes it fit for humid mountainous environments or any type of boating activity. The minimum focus distance of 6.6 feet will allow you to study insects and birds without getting too close and the 330 feet/1,000 yards field of view places in the upper ranges for a 10x magnification binoculars. If the well rated Carson product isn’t available, then the Celestron 71333-CGL will make for a good alternative.
Finding some good binoculars for the money can look like a daunting task at first, especially if you are unfamiliar with all the technical specifications involved and to the relevance, they hold for our particular needs. But things aren’t that complicated, and a brief summary of the most relevant things to look for and an explanation will get us well on our way to finding the binoculars we want.
At the risk of sounding condescending by giving you well-known info, magnification refers to how close the binoculars will make images further away appear and it’s expressed by a figure representing how many times the object you’re looking at has been magnified, followed by an “x.”
Although it is the most important feature of binoculars, too much magnification can have its downsides. If the object is brought too close, then you risk losing all the background, which will prove very confusing. Furthermore, handshaking will seriously affect the stability of the image, if we don’t use a support.
For common purposes, the sweet spot between long reach and practicality is at around 8x-10x magnification. Choose more than that only if you want to use the binoculars for looking at objects that are very far, like ships off to sea. Smaller, and your piece will only be good for watching ball games and theater plays.
Field of view
Or how much of the background will “fit” inside the range of the binoculars. This is usually expressed in degrees or in units of a size set for a particular distance (e.g., 300 yards at 1000 yards). A lot of magnification naturally diminishes how much of the background you can see, so a wide field of view will be especially important for 10x-16x binoculars.
Activities that involve watching fast moving objects, such as birds will require it the most, but a wide field of view will help in any situation since it makes it less confusing to focus upon relatively close objects using powerful binoculars.
The minimum focus distance will also be important if your intention is to watch nature up close since it will make small nearby objects, such as dragonflies, butterflies or fish appear clearly to the observer. The minimum focus distance for good binoculars should fall below 10 feet.
The brightness is generally calculated by dividing the figure indicating the width of the lens (expressed in mm, always after the magnification figure) by the figure for magnification. For example, a 10x-42 model will have a 42/10 brightness score, meaning 4.2.
This is a good indication of the range of light conditions in which binoculars will provide a clear, discernible image and the bigger the figure is, the better. Pricey models, but even some of the best binoculars under 200$ have specially treated lenses to increase the overall brightness past what the threshold defined by their specs.
Like with nearly all optics, the lenses on binoculars can get foggy in certain conditions, such as those offered by the high altitude, low temperature and high humidity environments that are frequented by hikers.
Some manufacturers offer special provisions to counteract this phenomenon, and anti-fog lenses might prove a great investment for passionate outdoorsmen. Likewise, if you spend a lot of time on a river or lake, it would be a good idea to look for a water resistant model.
People that use spectacles might want to pay special attention to the “eye relief” spec. This tells you how far can the eyepiece move from the back lense, and should be as high as possible in order to accommodate their specific needs.
Above certain figures, size and weight might become important for hikers and bird watchers, who have to carry their binoculars for hours on end, usually by a neck strap.
Top binoculars (under $200) reviews in 2018
If you have trouble making up your mind between all the affordable binoculars available on the market, then you might be interested in looking over our list of top picks. We’ve selected them based on customer feedback and the good response they received from reviewers, with a special consideration given to the value they provide for the price. While no one goes out of his way to write cheap binoculars reviews, all good product tests do feature a “best buy” section.
The Carson VP-042 falls roughly middle of the range between a small, portable binoculars and high magnification professional equipment. As such, it’s good for most outdoor activities but should also perform well in an urban setting.
It’s most salient feature is the water and fog proofing, conferred by a nitrogen purged body and O-ring seals, which give it great reliability when used in high humidity environments, such as temperate mountains or the seaside.
At 10x magnification power with 42 mm objective lens, it lets enough light through to be adequately used during sunset and sunrise hours, or under a heavy cast sky. This makes for a good medium between magnification and field of view, with its lens being curved enough to cover 330 feet of width at 1,000 yards.
It can focus down to 6.6 feet from the observer, meaning you could get a detailed close view of near objects, without having to step away from them.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($161.49)
The Celestron 711333 is intended as a good companion for outdoorsmen and nature explorers of all sorts. As such, its lenses have been outfitted with a special coating that allows for superior visibility in low-light conditions, since you can’t really count on car headlights and streetlights lighting up your objective when on the trail.
Its 10x magnification place it among the higher ranges for a medium sized binoculars, and paired with 42 mm of lens diameter, it offers a good mean between how much and how far you can see.
The minimum focus distance is just 6.5’ feet, which means you won’t have any trouble studying rare birds or insects up close.
At only 1.75 lbs the item is lightweight enough to not feel like a strain on the back of your neck when worn with an appropriate strap during long hikes.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($116.98)
With an extra-large field of view — 350 feet at 1000 yards — the Bushnell Legend L series will prove great for hunters who don’t want to lose sight of their mark or bird watchers that need to keep track of those fast flying critters.
The item is also fog and waterproof, with additional lens covers, to better handle the humid environments where it will see the most use.
A number of coatings have been added to its 42 mm objective lens, both to better contrast the light coming from the roof prism (which is a given for all good binoculars of its type) but also to offer better brightness during dusk and early morning hours.
The minimum focusing distance is rather poor, however, at around 9 feet, which will make it less than an ideal pick for nature watching. But it more than supplements with the superior ruggedness the 2.2-pound frame offers to this hunting-oriented piece.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($179.95)
The Bushnell H2O is a compact and rugged binoculars well fit for use in the outdoors, which comes at a fraction of the cost of models with similar specifications.
It has been nitrogen treated and fitted with re-inforced O-rings to prevent fogging in cool and wet environments. Users tend to find it sturdy, with rubber inserts into its frame giving better grip and better resistance to mechanical forces.
Like nearly all high rated 10×42 mid-range models, it features a BaK-4 roof prism for image correction, which is generally considered to be more reliable than the Porro found on some units.
As for downsides, the H2O is slightly heavier than its competition, and the minimum focus range is nothing to write home about either, with anything closer than 15 feet appearing as a blur, regardless of how precisely you might work the easy-to-handle rubber knobs.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($76.99)
This Wingspan model is specifically intended to meet the demands of any bird watcher, and if you consider yourself among the practitioner of this hobby, feel free to elevate it to the top of the list.
It has 8x magnification with a 32mm objective lens diameter, which is great for observing objects at around 1000 yards away, without adding too much bulk to the whole frame.
In regards to the maximum field of vision, the 32 mm objective hits well above its weight, with 352 feet of width covered at 1000 yards. Needless to say, this will help you keep your eye on fast flying birds, that might otherwise escape the frame of the binoculars.
While definitely a sunny weather item, this wingspan model is small enough to fit in the pocket of a jacket and doesn’t need to be needlessly exposed to rain by hanging it by a strap around your neck.
Buy from Amazon.com for ($67.92)