Last Updated on August 17, 2020
Binoculars can be an expensive purchase, and even mid-grade models can cost hundreds of dollars. We don’t all have that kind of money to throw around on expensive binoculars, but the good news is that you can get a functional, high-quality pair of binoculars for less than $50. There are a lot of models available for this price online, but we all know that there are going to be some clunkers available for that price, and only a few gems.
That’s why we’ve created this list of reviews of some of the best binoculars under $50. We’ve done the hard work for you and determined which models will work well for you on your budget, and which will leave you wishing that you hadn’t spent any money at all. We’ve also created a buyer’s guide for people who have never shopped for binoculars before so that you can have a deeper understanding of binoculars before you buy.
|Best Overall||Celestron Outland||
|Best Value||Bushnell Falcon||
Celestron makes some of the best and most expensive binoculars on the market. The Celestron 71341 Outland X 10×25 includes some of the technology that makes those other models so great, but in a scaled-down and cheaper package. 10x magnification, however, is nothing to scoff yet and fantastic for a model that is this small and this lightweight. While the 25-millimeter lenses are not that large, the final images are still plenty bright, and surprisingly crisp.
This model is waterproof and fogproof, which makes it suitable for outside use, even in humid or wet conditions. It also comes with a great, lightweight carrying case, that’s small enough to slip into a purse or backpack. One gripe about this model is that it doesn’t come with adjustable eye relief, and the 10-millimeter viewing distance is probably going to be too short for people who use glasses. However, if you don’t use glasses, it would be hard to find a flaw with this model, which not only works well but comes at a great price.
The OZMER 10X42 Compact Binoculars are an excellent all-around pair of binoculars that secure the second place on our list due in large part to their 42-millimeter lenses. The bigger the lenses, the brighter the final image will be, since bigger lenses let in more light. This model has some of the biggest lenses at this price point, so you’re getting a good deal already. It also comes with good 10x magnification, which makes it competitive with far more expensive models.
One thing that it has over the top entry on this list is its adjustable eye relief, which means it’s more suitable for you if you wear glasses, or if you’re going to be using it for long periods of time. However, the focusing on this model is a bit finicky. The system is nonintuitive, so it usually takes a couple of minutes of trial and error to figure it out. That’s not enough to cost this model a position on this list, but it is one of those things that you’ll probably end up wishing worked differently.
The Bushnell Falcon 133410C is our choice for best value. Unlike a lot of binoculars these days, it comes with a lever-action focus, which makes it quick and easy to find the best focus for any situation. While it’s not quite as fast as the “Instafocus” that Bushnell bills it as, it is still very quick and easy compared to the wheel-based focusing systems on other pairs of binoculars. This model also comes with a minimum focus distance of only 20 feet, which is competitive with other models that cost hundreds of dollars.
The one knock on this model is that it only has 7x magnification. We’d like to see 8x or 10x, as when you get under those levels the value of the binoculars starts to go down. However, this model is cheap, even among the entries on this list, so if it doesn’t suit your needs, you’re not out a lot of money. While this model isn’t quite a “steal,” it’s easy to use, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to purchase.
The Simmons ProSport 899890 seems too good to be true when you first encounter it. It comes at an extremely low price, which with many things is the first sign that the quality may not live up to your expectations. However, let’s talk about the upside first. This model comes with 10x magnification, which is good for a cheap model. It also comes with massive 50-millimeter lenses, which are much larger than you could reasonably expect at this price.
However, those pluses come at the cost of the binocular’s optical qualities. For one, it has bad issues with chromatic aberration, especially the blues and the yellows, which dramatically reduces the clarity. The eyepieces are also placed too far apart for most people, which makes them difficult to use. Compounding that problem are design flaws which makes this model difficult to bring into focus, which means that they’re hard to use. Overall, this is a very frustrating model, and you could get better value for the same price on something different.
The Wangyishengshi 800474 barely functions and isn’t worth the money. It does come with large 50-millimeter lenses, but that’s where the good news ends. These binoculars have low-quality parts, which means you have a lot of problems with optical clarity, but also that if you drop it once it’s probably going to break. It’s also not waterproof or fogproof, features that are almost necessary to have a good experience.
Quality control issues also plague this model. It often arrives broken or built so poorly that its unusable. That’s not a headache that anyone should have to deal with. If you’re looking to get good value out of your purchase, you’re going to be sorely disappointed, as these don’t provide a great experience, but also have a high chance of breaking, which means their lifespan often gets cut short.
A binocular’s optical components are what makes it tick, and are easily the most important feature of a pair of binoculars. If the binocular has good optics, it will probably work well, and small annoyances won’t matter as much. Companies that make binoculars use a set of numbers to describe the optics, which you can often find in the model name. For instance, “12×35,” means that the binoculars in question have 12x magnification or “power” as it’s often called and that it has lenses that are 35 millimeters in diameter.
Bigger lenses are usually better, as they let in more light and lead to a brighter final image. They also create a wider field of view, which can be nice for scanning through the binoculars.
How well a pair of binoculars holds up and how easy it is to grip are functions that depend on the outer shell. Different models use shells made from different materials, which have different levels of effectiveness in different situations. Metal shells are the most durable but can get slick in rain or humid weather. Textured metal shells solve this problem by adding bumps that make it easier to hold, but don’t sacrifice durability.
Plastic shells are also common, are weaker than metal, and can get slick in wet conditions. Some companies address these concerns by adding a rubberized layer over the plastic shell, which makes it much easier to hold, especially in wet circumstances.
It’s important to remember that the shell is the first line of resistance against damage if you accidentally drop your binoculars, so if you can get a more durable shell, it’s almost always worth it.
You don’t have to protect yourself from your binoculars, but your binoculars may need protection from you. Damage to binoculars almost always happens because of user error, but there are a couple of things that manufacturers can do to help you keep your binoculars in good shape. Neck-straps are especially effective in this regard, and also allow you to hang the binoculars to rest your hands when they’re not in use.
Lens caps are another useful feature. They serve to protect the lenses from dust and water when they’re not in use, and in many cases keep you from leaving fingerprints when you’re incautious. They’re an underrated feature that can do a lot to extend the lifespan of your binoculars.
Have a different budget? Here are some of our other guides:
The Celestron 71341 Outland X 10×25 is our top choice due to its good magnification and compact size. The OZMER 10X42 Compact Binoculars are great all-around and especially good for people who wear glasses due to their adjustable eye relief. The Bushnell Falcon 133410C is our choice for best value, coming with a low price, a lever-action focus adjustment, and an excellent minimum focus distance. The Simmons ProSport 899890 suffers from optical issues and will be too wide for most people. Finally, the Wangyishengshi 800474 is poorly designed and built and has little upside.
Hopefully, our reviews have helped you understand what kind of binoculars you can get for less than $50. With that information in mind, you should be able to find a model that works well and makes your wallet happy, too.
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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