Gear Advice

Category: Get in the Game

The top-scoring binoculars for less than $200.

You can spend a small fortune on the world's finest binoculars, but you don't have to break the bank in order to purchase a pair of optics that are great for birding. All of these bins deliver bright images and good—in some instances great—fields of view at a modest price. To make the most of your investment, always clean bins with a micro-fiber lens cloth. A tissue or T-shirt will scratch the lens coatings crucial to optical performance.

One note about cost: A couple of the contenders in this category have a manufacturer's suggested retail price that is just north of $200. We have included them in this group because they are often on sale for less than $200; each is denoted by an asterisk next to the price.

Once you've perused these budget-friendly bins, check out the top picks for four other price categories in our complete Audubon Guide to Binoculars.

Celestron Nature DX 8x42

Price: $140
Score: 3.74
The takeaway: When reviewers learned the price of these bins after testing, many were surprised that such affordable optics performed so well. They outscored all others in their class in clarity, brightness, and color rendition, and reviewers appreciated the sturdy feel and close-focus capacity.
More specs: 22.2 oz, waterproof, 388 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty

 

Nikon Prostaff 3s 8x42

Price: $120
Score: 3.67
The takeaway: Reviewers gave high marks for brightness and ease of focus. Reviewers particularly liked the overall feel, and found these bins to be sturdy. 
More specs: 19.9 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 413 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty

 

Celestron Trailseeker 8x42

Price: $180*
Score: 3.54
The takeaway: Very good clarity, brightness, and eye relief. Nice balance and apparent contrast, and solid focus ease and speed. 
More specs: 23.1 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 426 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty

 

Opticron LE WP 8x42

Price:$175
Score: 3.25
The takeaway: Quite nice clarity and color rendition. Very sturdy feeling, and the rubber armoring provides a good grip. Reviewers had varied opinions on how comfortable they are to hold.
More specs: 23.9 oz, waterproof, 342 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty

 

Kowa SV 8x42

Price: $169*
Score: 3.01
The takeaway: Good clarity, crispness, and eye relief. Reviewers found that the bins didn't excel at focusing on birds a few feet away, but they could quickly and easily focus on birds at a distance.
More specs: 23.5 oz, waterproof/fogproof, 330 ft/1,000 yd FOV, limited lifetime warranty

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