Best Binoculars Under $250 Or $300 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide [2020]

deer hunter using binoculars
Image Referenced Western Hunters

Are you in the market looking for a quality pair of binoculars just under $250 or $300 without breaking the bank?

Whether you’re into hunting, birding, marksmanship, and shooting, these inexpensive binoculars does the job and they work pretty well.

By the end of this post, you will have some better ideas on which configuration is exactly right for your needs and requirements.

We have tested 8 of the best binoculars under $250, and there are 3 that stand out the most for different reasons – BEST PRICE, BEST VALUE, BEST FOR LOW LIGHT & BEST OPTICAL QUALITY.

Leupold BX-2 Alpine is our top pick for the highest optical quality, the CARSON RD BAK4 for the best value & Vortex Diamondback HD 10X50 for best low light performance.

But there are more!

We also put 2 other options on the table for you to look at.

Let’s start!

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Best Binoculars Under $250

PREVIEWPRODUCTFEATURES
Best Optical Quality

LEUPOLD BX-2 ALPINE

  • Features:10X42mm, 28oz, Magnesium body, 100% waterproof, Fog proof, & shockproof
  • Benefits:4mm exit pupil for better low light & eye relief, Sharpest optical quality, Wist-up eyecups and generous eye relief
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Best Value

CARSON RD 10X42mm

  • Features:10X42mm, BAK-4 Prism glass,  Open-bridge design, Included accessories
  • Benefits:Super affordable for ONE-TIME use, Tripod mountable for image stabilization, Wide FOV, Lightweight for fast moving subjects
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Lowest Price 

ADORRGON 12X42

  • Features:12X42mm, 18mm large eyepiece, BAK-4 Prism glass, Anti-slip grip
  • Benefits:Great low light performance, Wide FOV, Great for ONE-TIME use,  Perfect for bird watching
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BEST FOR LOW LIGHT

VORTEX DIAMONDBACK HD 12X50

  • Features:12X50mm, 4.1mm exit pupil, Multi-layer prism coatings, Rubber Armor
  • Benefits:Great 12X low light performance, Tripod Adaptable, Comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses, Life-Time Warranty
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BEST FOR MOVING SUBJECTS

VORTEX CROSSFIRE 8X42

  • Features:8X42mm, Fully Multi-Coated, Roof Prism Glass, Center Focus Wheel
  • Benefits:Wider FOV, Adjusts the focus of both binocular barrels at the same time, Increased light transmission for better low light performance
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Leupold BX-2 Apline 10X42 – Best Optical Quality

leupold bx-2 apline objective lens
Image Reference SportsmannewsTV

The BX-2 Apline is one of the best Leupold binoculars within the $250 price range. Leupold is a top American name brand for producing some of the World’s best optics for outdoors and firearm optics. Some are contracted by military units around the globe.

Out of all others we have tried, this one has the best image quality with the sharpest image than other models by using the same glass as the VX-3 rifle scopes. Additionally, it’s waterproof using its solid external body with rubberized coating for better user experience.

Available in 10X42mm and 8X42mm. Based on our hands-on experience, the Leupold felt magnified just a hair above other models… It almost felt like it’s a 12X.

Leupold BX-2 Acadia 10x42mm Binocular
  • Leupold Model #172700 BX-2 Acadia 10x42mm in Shadow Gray
  • 100% Waterproof, fogproof, and backed by Leupold's lifetime
  • Fully multi-coated lens system ensures maximum brightness for clarity, contrast, and color fidelity
  • BAK 4 Prisms deliver a perfectly round exit pupil with virtually no edge distortion and a crisp, clear image

Vortex Crossfire 8X42 – Best For Wide FOV

Vortex Crossfire 8X42

Vortex is one of the best optics makers in the industry with products ranging from precision long-range rifle scopes, spotting scopes, red dot sights to binoculars. The Vortex Crossfire 8X42 is another great product added to the list.

The Crossfire 8X42 is recommended because it’s similar to the Diamondback HD series but with more field of view than the Diamondback HD 8X42 models… by about 20-30 feet, which is great for looking at moving subjects such as sports, cars, birds in the distance.

It comes with Vortex’s Crossfire HD glass with included GlassPakTM binocular hardness for quick optic deployment, and with superior durability and protection.

Sale
Vortex Optics Crossfire HD 8x42 Binoculars, Black, Model:CF-4311
  • 8x magnification & 42mm objective lenses, these Crossfire HD binos are optimized with select glass elements to deliver exceptional resolution, cut chromatic aberration and provide outstanding color...
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission with multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. Roof prism design is valued for greater durability and a more compact size.
  • Adjustable eyecups twist up and down for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. Center focus wheel adjusts the focus of both binocular barrels at the same time. Diopter (located on right...
  • Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection. Binoculars are tripod adaptable allowing use on a tripod or car window mount.

Vortex Diamondback HD 10X50 – Best Low Light Performance

Vortex Diamondback HD 10X50
Image Referenced Vortex Optics

The Diamondback HD series binocular similar to the Vortex Crossfire series, and the differences between them is hard to tell. But the Diamondback series binoculars have just slightly more field of view by 20-30 ft more than the Crossfire models in both 10X & 8X with 42mm objective lens.

Sale
Vortex DB-217 Optics Diamondback HD 12x50 Binoculars, Black
  • 12x magnification & 50mm objective lenses, these Diamondback HD binos are optimized with select glass elements to deliver exceptional resolution, cut chromatic aberration and provide outstanding color...
  • Fully multi-coated lenses increase light transmission with anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. Dielectric coating provides bright, clear, color-accurate images. Armortek coating...
  • Adjustable eyecups twist up and down for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. Center focus wheel adjusts the focus of both binocular barrels at the same time. Diopter (located on right...
  • Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection. Binoculars are tripod adaptable allowing use on a tripod or car window mount.

Carson RD BAK-4 8X42 – Best For Value

CARSON RD BAK4 binoculars
Image Referenced CARSON OPITCAL

The CARSON BAK-4 is unique, best value for the money binoculars than the Adorrgon and other ones around the $150 price range. This thing can compete with other big players but remain inexpensive.

Optically speaking, we didn’t notice much difference when comparing with something like the Vortex. The overall feel, focus ring, diopter, and construction feel like the same as the $250 Leupold, which is very interesting.

This compact binocular with contemporary open bridge design. The BAK-4 prisms and multi-coated optics to produce a crisp, bright image. Additionally, it’s lightweight binoculars, which makes it ideal for sporting events, hiking, and any outdoor activity.

Carson RD Series 8 x 42mm Open-Bridge Waterproof High Definition Full Sized Binoculars Grey Large
  • Lightweight Full Sized Open-Bridge Binoculars Magnification: 8x Power Objective Lens Diameter: 42mm Color: Green
  • Nitrogen Filled and O-Ring Sealed Making Them Both Waterproof and Fogproof Great Lightweight Binoculars for Bird Watching, Hiking, Sight-Seeing, Travel, Sporting Events, Concerts and Other Outdoor...
  • BAK-4 Prisms and Fully Multi-Coated Optics Ensure Bright, Sharp and Crystal Clear Images Feature Extra Long Twist Down Eyecups Tripod Mountable
  • Field of View: 372 feet at 1,000 yards Eye Relief: 17mm Close Focus: 9.8 feet Weight: 1.4 lbs. Dimensions (LxWxH): 5.25 inch x 5.6 inch x 2.0 inch

Adorrgon 12X42 – Best For The Money

Hiking trip everyone using binoculars

This is one of the best selling binocular on Amazon because it’s great quality and it’s under $60. Please check the price by click on the link below to check the latest price.

It’s very inexpensive, which is perfect for ONE-TIME use, whether be a rare hunting trip, National park visit or something like that so you don’t dump bunch money into something you’re not gonna use often.

However, it’s NOT going to stack up against other higher-end ones, but for just under $60 it does the job and it’s a great buy best for the money.

Sale
12x42 Powerful Binoculars with Clear Weak Light Vision - Lightweight (1.1 lbs.) Binoculars for Birds Watching Hunting Sports - Large Eyepiece Binoculars for Adults with BAK4 FMC Lens
  • 【Powerful 12x42 Binoculars, but Lightweight Enough】 Weight only 1.1 pounds (0.6 Pounds lighter than 10x50 full size binoculars). Equipped with 12x powerful magnification, 42mm large objective lens...
  • 【18mm Large Eyepiece Binoculars, Larger Image, Clearer Details】2.25 times the image size of 12mm eyepiece binoculars (e.g. 10x25, 12x25, 10x21 compact binoculars). Large eyepiece makes full use of...
  • 【HD Vison with Quality Optics】 Large 16.5mm BAK4 Prism and Fully Multi-coated lens guarantee the key elements of an HD vision, brighter view and crisp images. Perfect for birds watching, hunting,...
  • 【Clear Weak Light Vision】 Adorrgon Binoculars can deliver clear vision in weak light condition, but not in not completely darkness. Perfect for Hunting or Concerts at night. Comes with Carrying...

Budget Binoculars Buyer’s Guide

Binoculars are a great outdoors accessory to have for travelers, hikers, bird watchers, and hunters. Binoculars provide the ability to get a close-up view of something that is far away.

For buyers who are on a budget of around $300, modern-day binoculars offer great optimal vision while being portable, affordable and lightweight.

However, buying a good pair takes a little more research. Don’t worry, we’ve done the research to provide you valuable buying decisions below:


Common Applications

group outdoor activities using binoculars for sighting cool stuff in nature
Image Referenced NPS.gov

Binoculars are used to see subjects or identify targets far away using magnified optics. Common applications include:

  • Hunting
  • General Outdoors
  • Bird Watching
  • Low Light
  • Marksmanship

Each application demands a little bit more specific features such as lens clarity, magnification, range estimator…etc

Which Is The Best Magnification For Binoculars

This is arguably the most important question you can ask yourself.  What’s the best binoculars magnification for what you’re doing with it.

The best magnification for binoculars under $250-$300 range is 8X to 10X. Up to 10X is the most common within this price range, and they’re the best compromise between the enlargement of the image and the field of view.


Objective Lens

The bigger the objective lens the more light transmission. Common binoculars under $250 have 42mm objective lens size, but the light transmittance varies due to magnification level.

High magnification binoculars have thicker lens inside the body, which lessen the light as it pass through each lens.

So when you have an equal quality 10X and 8X binoculars compared side by side, the 8X may have a slightly better image under low light.


Exit Pupil – Why It’s Important

Exit pupil has a direction relationship with how much light the binoculars gather for the user to see.

The human eye pupil varies in diameter with the following conditions:

  • Under bright conditions (2-3mm)
  • Under low light conditions (7mm)

8X42 creates about 5mm exit pupil, and 10X42 creates about 4mm exit pupil, so under normal lighting conditions they are more than enough for the users to see bright images.

Importance #1: As the objective lens increase in size for example 50mm vs 42mm, the exit pupil also increases relatively, thus 50mm on a 10X binoculars can produce about 7mm exit pupil, which is great for low light viewing.

Importance #2: Large exit pupil also creates a large eye box for the users with great eye generous relief distance, which makes it easier to align the eyes without seeing any black optical rings around the edges of the view.


Eye Relief (Also For People Who Wear Glasses)

Eye relief is the perfect distance between the binoculars eyepiece to the user’s eye, or the focal point where the light passes through the ocular lens (eyepiece).

If you wear corrected lens glasses you want generous eye relief distance. 8X42 generally speaking have more eye relief than the 10X by 1mm, and therefore the user will get full field of view without seeing any optic shadows or black rings around the edges.

Longer eye relief gives a smaller field of view than similar priced models with shorter eye relief.


Image Stability

Image stability is key if you’re doing birdwatching or anything that requires you to be still. No one likes a shaky magnified image while looking through the binoculars.

In layman’s term, the 10X model provides more image detail and you’re able to see further, but the shaky image is multiplied as the magnification increases.

Most of the budget binoculars under $300 or even $500 don’t have internal electronic image stabilization, which eliminate all the annoying shaky movements and the stabilizer delivers a clear and sharp image for high magnification… something like 10X, 14X, 20X and more.

If you’re interested in checking out these image stabilized binoculars please check out Best Image Stabilized Binoculars on our website.


Field Of View – Look For ~(340 – 420 ft) @ 1000 yards

The field of view is how wide an area is encompassed in the binoculars’ image. The specs will usually list it as distance and angle. About 340 – 420 ft @ 1000 yards at maximum magnification are good FOV specs for most long-range viewing applications.

In layman’s term, at maximum magnification, the field of view will narrow and vice versa. It’s also a matter of eyepiece design.

Wide-field-of-view eyepieces usually have shorter eye relief and may not work for eyeglass wearers. Though it is important, FOV is usually not the first concern.


Glass Definition

Most binoculars glass are well made. You can only get so much clarity, but there is no need to spend extra money just to get that 5-10% more clarity, it’s just totally unnecessary.

Please exclude the very cheapest options (say under $50), which are basically little more than toys quality, but the rest like the Leupold, Nikon and other name brands will ensure they have the best glass quality as they’re made in Japan.

For low light situations, it is necessary to consider higher grades of glass as High-grade glass types, such as:

  • (ED) – Extra-low dispersion glass
  • (FL) – Fluoride glass
  • (HD) – High-definition glass

Remember the increased image quality from high-grade glass is especially obvious when viewing in low light and the best advice for most people is to purchase optics with the highest quality glass you can afford.


Are 10×42 Binoculars Better Than 8×42 ?

There is actually no specific singular best option between the two. Rather it comes down to your specific applications.

It doesn’t hurt to get both!

  • 8X binoculars is best for viewing fast moving subjects at medium distances
  • 10X is great for stable viewing of a distance subject

This depends on the activities you’re doing. Before you dig deeper into this comparison, it’s very important you understand what these number means…

10X42 – 10X magnification with 42mm objective size lens, and 8X42 means 8X magnification with 42mm objective size lens.

These two configurations are the most common binoculars on the market, most brands will release both version in the same model series.

Which is better 10×50 binoculars vs 10×42 binoculars ?

By this point you understand how to read these specs and what features are most important to you. 10X50 VS 10X42, same magnification but different objective lens size.

With a slightly larger 50mm objective lens than the 42mm on a 10X power binocular, the 50mm is indeed a better choice to capture more light. However, when you compare them side by side on a bright day, they look the same as far as brightness and image sharpness go.

But under low light condition such as dawn or dusk, the 50mm gives you a significantly better image than the 42mm. Exit pupil also plays a big role, which we have covered earlier.

The 50mm lens also makes the binoculars slightly larger and heavier than the 42mm models, but not by much.

10X50 usually costs more than 10X42, and that’s one of the reason why we recommend the Vortex Crossfire 10X50


How Much Does A Good Pair Of Binoculars Cost?

Maybe you realize you can spend a little more on binoculars than $250 to get the really good qualities you want, or maybe you just want to stay within the $250 and $300 range.

Generally speaking across the board, the 10X and 8X are the most common and 10X magnification binoculars cost slightly more for just $10 – $20 extra.

High-end binoculars can go from $500 up to $1000 with internal electronic image stabilizer, but for the most part you’re paying for the brand name, glass quality, and magnification, which are deciding factors for shoppers.

Round-Up

Leupold BX-2 Apline has the greatest optical quality and the best overall performance. The next is the Vortex Diamondback HD 10X50 for the best low light performance. The CARSON RD BAK-4 is the best for the value of being around $150. The Adroggon 12X42mm is the best for the money under $60 for anyone using a pair of binoculars on rare occasions.

8X and 10X are the most common magnification type, and the objective lens size is a key factor that controls exit pupil diameter, size of the binoculars and light gathering capability.

I hope you find this list-review helpful… please check out more content on our site.

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Jason gordon

Jason has 15 years of experience in software engineering, and his hobby on the weekend is to master firearm skills for fun and for protection. His engineering background also landed him a side job at the local gunshop where he is in charge of the daily operation of online sales, so he is surrounded by guns and gun experts. He is an also an active competition shooter in IDPA, USPSA and 3-gun with 7 years of experience.