Editor's note: Some information in our binocular guide might be out of date, so please be sure to do additional research to check prices and specs.
If you're looking to upgrade your binoculars but you don't want to shell out for high-end models, all of the optics in this category offer exceptional value. They're made of quality components, including high-density or extra-low-dispersion glass, which enhances color, contrast, and resolution.
As with all six categories, we asked reviewers to test every pair of binoculars within this group, so they'd be comparing similarly priced optics. In this category, weight emerged as one of the most-discussed characteristics. That's because the Vortex Vipers, which took best in class, are so light in comparison to many of the other contenders.
Once you've considered these standouts, check out the top picks for five other price categories in our complete Audubon Guide to Binoculars.
Maven B1 8x42
The Takeaway: The B1s earned high scores for clarity and brightness, but their close-focus capacity—assessed by examining objects about five feet away—and ease of focus pushed them to the top: More than one volunteer went gaga for the “beautiful focus.” A couple of smaller-handed testers subtracted points for the bins’ heft, but most were fans of the option to color-customize various components.
More specs: 29.1 oz; 388 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; unlimited lifetime warranty
Nikon Monarch HG 8x42
The Takeaway: Reviewer after reviewer raved about how much they liked the feel of these light-weight bins. The view didn’t disappoint, either, especially when it came to the clarity and color of the image.
More specs: 23.5 oz; 435 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; limited lifetime warranty
Vortex Viper HD 8x42
The Takeaway: Everyone agreed that these binoculars have superb handling. They also earned high praise for terrific color rendition and brightness.
More specs: 24.5 oz, 409 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; unlimited lifetime warranty
Opticron DBA VHD 8x42
The Takeaway: Nicely balanced in the hand, which some reviewers attributed to the relatively large open area between the barrels. Produce a crisp, beautiful image, though they lost points when it came to close-focus capacity.
More specs: 24.6 oz; 366 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; limited lifetime warranty
Vanguard Endeavor ED II
The Takeaway: These bins have laudable light-gathering capabilities and color rendition. What’s more, they earned high marks for overall feel—judged on ease of focus, balance, and comfort in the hand. “Really nice grip,” one reviewer said.
More specs: 27.2 oz; 377 ft/1,000 yd FOV; waterproof/fogproof; unlimited lifetime warranty