Best Hunting Binoculars Under $200 in 2018

What is a Binocular?

A binocular is simply a pair of identical telescopes mounted side by side and aligned to point in the same direction, allowing the viewer to use both eyes when viewing objects far away. Compared to spotting scopes, binoculars provide a more comfortable viewing experience allowing use with both eyes open in a relaxed manner. Binoculars provide a three-dimensional, magnified view of what you are looking at and gather more light than the unaided human eye.

Pair of vintage binoculars on a carrying case
Binoculars let you spot game from far away.

Optical System

Binoculars generally use a roof or Porro prism system to correct an inverted image. Roof prism systems are easily recognized by the objective lens and eyepiece positioned in a straight line. Roof prism systems create a durable, lightweight, compact, and streamlined body, with three-dimensional images. This creates an image lacking contrast and sharpness as well as lower resolution and color definition. Porro prism designs are recognized by the objective lenses spaced farther apart than the eyepiece. Porro prisms offer a wide field of view, three-dimensional images, and improved depth of field.

To increase the reflectivity of the prisms, the reflective surface is coated with standard aluminum, high-reflective aluminum or silver, offering approximately an 85%, 93% and 98% reflectivity rating respectively. Assuming prism and coating quality is equal, Porro prism and roof prisms perform equally well. Finally, prism quality will affect the overall optical performance.  Binoculars will either use BaK-4 or BK-7 prisms. Both prisms are made from borosilicate glass while Bak-4 uses a barium oxide additive. BaK-4 are high-quality prisms because they have a higher refractive index and eliminate internal light scattering more than BK-7. BaK-4 are used in high-end binoculars while BK-7 are often used in lower price-point models.

Lens Coating

Anti-Reflective (AR) lens coatings make a significant difference in how bright and sharp the image will be. Without AR coatings, glass reflects four to five percent of light. With 10 or more glass surfaces in binoculars, it is possible 50 percent of light would be lost as it passes through all lenses in binoculars. AR coatings reduce reflected light to about one to two percent per glass surface. AR coatings greatly increase light transmission, resolution, contrast, color fidelity, and reduce reflections, light scattering and glare.

To inform customers of the number of lenses that are coated, an industry standard is used to identify the coating level:

  • Coated optics have one or more surfaces with one or more lenses having anti-reflective coating.
  • Fully-coated optics have all air-to-glass surfaces coated with an anti-reflective coating.
  • Multi-coated optics have one or greater surfaces with one or more lenses coated with multiple anti-reflective coatings.
  • Fully multi-coated optics have all air-to-glass surfaces coated with multiple anti-reflective coatings.

Magnification

Woman looking through binoculars sitting against a blue Jeep.
Binoculars aren’t just for hunters. If you enjoy the outdoors, you will find plenty of uses for binoculars.

Magnification is the process of enlarging the appearance of an object through the use of magnified lenses. For example, a 20x spotting scope enlarges the image twenty times the size as seen by the normal, unaided eye. Binoculars and spotting scope magnification can be fixed or variable, generally ranging from 7x to 12x for binoculars and 12x up to 60x for spotting scopes.  The magnification of the optic is designated by the first number in its optical configuration, 10×50 for fixed and 20-60×85 for variable. Since magnifications on spotting scopes are very high they must be used on tripods to achieve a steady view of the object. Magnification of the optic, in turn, affects the brightness of the image and the field of view. In general, the lower the power, the larger the exit pupil—providing a brighter image—and wider the field of view. The higher the power, the narrower the field of view but the ability to pick up greater details.

Field of View

Field of View (FOV) is the observable image visible through the binocular. Field of view is measured in angular (degrees) or a linear field. Linear field measurements are the width in feet (or meters) of the viewing area at 100 yards (or 100 meters.) The wider the field of view, the greater the area you will see in the image. A wide field of view is helpful for close shooting ranges and moving targets. For variable power magnifications, the increase in power will also decrease the field of view.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance between the eyepiece and where the eye sees the full field of view with no dark edges around the image. Eye relief is measured in millimeters. Long eye relief in binoculars and spotting scopes is better for users wearing eyeglasses. Eyecups (fold down or twist up) allow the users to adjust the cups position best suited for their eyes. Without eyeglasses, the eyecups should be in the up position. With glasses, the eyecups should be in the down position to obtain the widest field possible.

Interpupillary Distance

Interpupillary distance (IPD) is the distance between the centers of the left and right eye pupil.  This distance is adjustable by rotating the barrels along the hinge until the user’s eyes line up with the center of the eyepieces. When IPD is not adjusted properly, edge shadows will appear over part of the image. When IPD is adjusted properly, the user will see a single image without edge-shadow.

Focusing

Focusing is the method of adjusting the optics to correct the image to achieve maximum sharpness. Viewing objects at different distances will generally require the binoculars be re-focused to achieve optimum sharpness.

There are three basic types of binocular focus systems: center focus, individual focus, and permanent focus:

  • Center focus has a central knob to control the focus mechanism. This is the most commonly used mechanism.
  • Individual focus has each individual barrel of the binocular focus individually.
  • Permanent focus is a fixed focus binocular with no method of adjusting focus. They are easy to use but generally do not have a close focusing range.

These systems use either a single focus knob or dual focus knob. Single focus knobs simply control the focus mechanism at the same rate throughout. Dual focus knobs have a coarse and fine adjustment for focusing. Dual focus knobs are a quicker and more precise focusing design.

Accessories

Lens covers usually come included with the binocular.  These help prevent dust and contaminants from accumulating on the optics. Lens cover designs range from simple rubber covers to spring-loaded flip-up caps made from durable nylon composite material. All binoculars should come with a neck strap and carrying case. Neck straps allow you to secure the binoculars around your neck when not in use. Some include a harness that distributes the weight to your shoulders and torso taking the strain off your neck. A harness system is generally more comfortable to wear and keeps the binoculars close to your body. A carrying case or a storage case is recommended in order to keep the binoculars clean and protected.

Lens filters fit into or clip over the objective lens of the binocular. There are numerous styles but generally the most helpful are yellow and polarizing. Yellow improves visibility through haze, low light and cloudy days. Polarizing reduces glare in bright lighting conditions. Clear lens filters can be applied and simply prevent scratches of the optics during use.  Sunshades are an accessory that attaches around the objective lens. This is a simple method of reducing glare and bright reflections from the sun. Some sunshades use a honeycomb filter that also serves the same purpose but also reduces glare and reflections from the objective lens. Honeycomb filters, however, will cause some minor light loss due to the obstruction of the objective lens.

Binoculars

There are many kinds of binoculars of varying quality and price range made by different companies. We’re narrowing it down to help you decide on a quality binocular that is under $200 good for glassing and scouting. All the binoculars listed below have been researched thoroughly and will provide you with a great magnification tool.

 Vortex Optics Diamondback 8×32

The Diamondback series is the workhorse for Vortex binoculars. These binoculars have fully multi-coated lenses and a high-performance optical system giving hunters clear images in low-light settings. Vortex Diamondback binoculars have an ultra-wide field of view that allows for you to cover ground quickly. The quality of glass is outstanding; however, the image can get blurry around the edges. Additionally, medium to large hands are needed to grip the oversized barrels on the binoculars. This is a great buy with the ultra-wide field of view.

Specifications and Features

  • 15.6mm eye relief
  • 4mm exit pupil
  • 426′ field of view at 1,000 yards
  • 5.3′ close focus
  • 55-75mm interpupillary distance
  • Weighs 15.5 ounces
  • Price: $189

 

Nikon Prostaff 5 ATB 10×50 

These are Nikon’s newest addition to the Prostaff series. These binoculars have multi-coated lenses allowing light transmittance through a greater spectrum. The Prostaffs have a high-eyepoint design which allow many users with eyeglasses to gain a clear image. The binoculars appear to be made with quality materials, but there is an issue with black space around the edges. Additionally, you must hold onto the caps, they do not stay on the binoculars.  This is a great buy with the extra accessory kit.

Specifications and Features

  • 19.6mm eye relief
  • 5mm exit pupil
  • 293′ field of view at 1,000 yards
  • 16.4′ close focus
  • Central focus system
  • Weighs 28.7 ounces
  • Price: $198.95

 

Bushnell Legend L-Series 10x42mm

Bushnell’s Legend L series is out to set a new standard of performance with clarity and brightness. These binoculars have a long eye relief helping the user see through the eyepieces. The Legends use a water-repellent lens coating, so you can still see through them in the worst conditions. Additionally, they have an ultra-wide field-of-view. If you wear glasses, you might have a difficult time focusing the Bushnell Legends. These binoculars provide a clear picture, but the eyecups are cheap and glued horribly; however, this is a great buy for a low-cost binocular.

Specifications and Features

  • 18mm eye relief
  • 4.2mm exit pupil
  • 340′ field of view at 1,000 yards
  • 8′ close focus
  • BaK-4 prism
  • Weighs 23.5 ounces
  • Price: $169

 

Redfield Rebel 10×42 mm

The Redfield Rebel series has a compact design without suffering quality. These binoculars provide a crisp image but are heavy in their design. Additionally, they provide detailed images through the glass with a wide field of view. Just beware of the touchy focus. This is a great buy for a compact design.

Specifications and Features

  • 16.3mm eye relief
  • 4mm exit pupil
  • 341′ field of view at 1,000 yards
  • 4′ close focus
  • 58-73mm interpupillary distance
  • Weighs 26.4 ounces
  • Price: $133.99

 

Sightmark Solitude 10×42


Sightmark solitude provides a Bak-4 roof prism system that is covered in rubber armor. The optics are fully multi-coated providing a clear view with extended eye relief. Additionally, the binoculars are waterproof, dustproof, and fogproof. The Solitudes are rugged but lightweight making them acceptable for any terrain. These binoculars are great for the price, the best bang for your buck deal. This is a great buy for a highly versatile rugged pair of binoculars.

Specifications and Features

  • 15mm eye relief
  • 4.27mm exit pupil
  • 340′ field of view at 1,000 yards
  • 6.6′ close focus
  • 56-74mm interpupillary distance
  • Weighs 1.49 lbs.
  • Price: $81.73

Do you have a favorite pair of binoculars? Tell us which ones in the comment section.

Prices here reflect what was listed at the time of original publication and are subject to change.

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  • Leupold 10X42’s and Swift 10X50 both are relatively old now. I just gave my daughter a pair of Bausch and Lomb 10X42 that I got on a special sale one time that we’re every bit as good as the Leupold’s. Good article.