Best Budget Binoculars 2021
(under 200 $/£/€)

Binocular Reviews Home > Binocular Guides > Annual Binoculars Awards > BBR's Best Budget Binoculars 2021

Intro

In this article, I reveal the winners of the BBR awards for the Best Budget Binoculars of 2021 . As well as this, this page also contains a selection of past winners that I feel are still relevant and current and well worth considering as I find this is where you can often really grab a great bargain! Note: All binoculars on this page retail for well under 200 $/£/€, with many under $150 and even some under $100. So, without further ado, let's get started:

BBR's Award Winners

Annual Binocular Awards LogosAbout the BBR Binocular Awards
I started the BBR awards series back in 2010 and since then they have grown to become what I believe are the most important binocular awards on the web. They are also a great way for me to showcase the very best binoculars, night vision devices, scopes and accessories that I have fully tested and reviewed in the past 12 months in a range of categories. For more take a look a the main 2021 Best Binoculars BBR Awards Page.

Best Budget Binoculars under 200 $/£/€

There is no doubt that with the rise of manufacturing and imports from places like China where labor is extremely cheap, the increase in competition in the market place has produced an improvement in the general standard of the best budget binoculars and this is something that I have definitely noticed over the past decade or so that I have been reviewing binoculars.

However, this has also resulted in the flooding of the market with many sub-standard and in some instances truly terrible instruments, especially at this cheap and low-cost price range.

Thus it is always a great feeling to unearth a budget binocular that rises up well above the crowd and over the years, I have unearthed a number of real gems:

Best Low-Cost Binocular 2021 (Under $130 / £130 / €130)

Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Best Low Cost Binocular 2021 - Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 BinocularsI have to say that these Savanna WP binoculars from Opticron and in particular the 6x30 configuration combined with using Porro prisms that give it their traditional-looking binocular body shape was a real revelation to me this year.

I actually chose them as one of the instruments to take along with me on a kayaking trip as their somewhat unique setup made them perfect for this. But it also makes them ideal for a whole host of other uses and I highly recommend them as a low-cost option for observing wildlife in places like forests or for backyard birding, taking to sporting events, or stashing in your bug-out bag. As well as this they are great for children or anyone with unsteady hands.

6x30 Configuration
Combining a very moderate 6x power with 30mm lenses makes for an interesting combination and I am somewhat surprised that it is not more commonly found: Firstly it produces 5mm exit pupils (30÷6) which is more than decent and for a mid-sized instrument is actually large, which along with quality optics and coatings play a big part in maintaining a bright image in low light conditions.

As well as helping produce a larger exit-pupil the lower power also makes it easier to maintain a more steady, shake-free view. Another huge advantage is that it helps produce a wider view. Measuring 420ft wide at a distance of 1000yds, the field of view on these is really impressive allowing you to quickly locate objects (especially smaller ones) and then follow them if they are fast and erratic moving (like birds for example). So as a close-range birding binocular (be that in forests or just backyard birding), or a binocular to take to an outdoor sporting event where you will see more of the action without having to pan the view about, these are certainly a good choice.

Porro Prisms
Whilst not as compact, at this lower price point Porro prism binoculars like these are often optically superior, delivering brighter, better quality views when compared to lo- cost roof prism binoculars. For the reasons why see Cheap Binoculars – Is a Roof or Porro Prism Best? and I found these Opticron Savanna WP binoculars to be an excellent case in point as they produce a remarkably bright image considering the small 30mm lenses and in my opinion, the quality is easily amongst the best in this class and matches that of far more expensive instruments.

Also important to mention is that the prisms are also made from BaK-4 glass, which is a good thing, especially at this price point where many instruments will use inferior glass (for binoculars) like BK-7 glass.

Eye-Cups & Eye-Relief
Not only does the Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 binocular have twist-up eyecups, but you also get a massive 21mm of eye-relief. Many budget binoculars will have simple folding cups with less than enough eye-relief required to accommodate eyeglass wearers.

  • Low Cost - approx $130 / £100
  • Comfortable Porro Prism Body Design
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filled)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Porro Prisms
  • 6x30 Configuration = Large 5mm Exit Pupil
  • Wide FOV: 420ft at 1,000 yards / 140m at 1,000 meters
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 9.8ft / 3 meters
  • Eye Relief: 21mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Opticron Savanna WP 6x30 Binoculars

Best Binocular (Under $200 / £200) 2021

Bresser Condor 10x42 Binoculars

Best Mid-Level Binocular 2020, the Bresser Condor 10x42 BinocularsWith a price tag of around $200 / £150 / €160, my first impression of these German-made Bresser Condor binoculars after removing them from their packaging was that they both look and feel like a way more expensive instrument.

Along with a good design and attention to detail, this is made possible a whole host of impressive external features like a high-quality rubber exterior an all-metal focus wheel, metal diopter adjuster and aluminum eyepieces.

What is even more impressive is that the quality is far more than skin deep which can be seen by the fact they accumulated a more than impressive score of 78% on the BBR scale and thus were an easy pick for me as the best binoculars of 2020 within the sub $200 price range and certainly one of the best I have ever used at this level.

Image Quality
Quality optical components and coatings combine well to deliver an excellent quality image with a level of brightness that for a 10x42 is easily as good or better than the majority of the mid-level priced competition. Indeed I would say they compete very well against more expensive instruments giving many mid-high level 10x42's a real run for their money.

Main Features:

  • Current Price: Approx $200 / £150 / €160
  • Single Top-Hinge Body
    • Polycarbonate Chassis (PPS) with Metal Bridge
    • Aluminium Eyepieces
    • Water & Fogproof (Nitrogen Filled)
    • Aluminium Central Focus Wheel
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics with Silver "Ultimate Reflection Coatings"
    • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
    • BK-4 Glass
    • Eyepiece Lenses: 6 groups, 8 pieces
  • 15mm of Eye Relief
  • Wide FOV: 111@ 1000m (approx: 333ft @ 1000 yards)
Buy & Compare Prices: Bresser Condor Binoculars

Best Compact Binoculars (under 200 $/£/€) 2020

Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars

Steiner BluHorizons 10x26 Binoculars - Best Compact Binocular 2019 BBR Award WinnerAble to automatically adjust the brightness of the view depending on the light conditions, these Steiner BluHorizons have optics are not only built well, but are one of them most innovative instruments that I have reviewed in a while:

Just like the photochromic lenses on a pair of adaptive sunglasses, the lenses transmit less light in very bright conditions resulting in less glare and a more vibrant, less washed out image.

As well as all this, these Steiner binoculars also have just about every feature that I look for in a good set of compacts, including the double hinge design which permits them to fold down into a true pocket binocular when not in use.

On top of simply testing them in the office, I also put the Steiner 10x26 BluHorizons through its paces whilst I was on safari in Southern Africa and found that they performed extremely well the real world: This is reflected in the excellent BBR score of 78% that they achieved, which included a 9/10 for their body stats and 8/10's for their build quality, optical components and optical stats. Now if you also consider their low price point, this score is seriously impressive and makes them one of the highest scoring compacts that I have ever tested and fully deserving of the award.

Highlights & Features:

  • Mid Level Optics - approx $190 / £170
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Steiner AutoBright™ Optics
  • Schmidt Pechan Roof Prisms
  • Double Hinge Body Design with Metal Bridge
  • NBR Long Life Rubber Armouring
  • Rainproof IPX4 rating
  • Central Focus Wheel
  • Fold-Down Rubber Eyecups with Side Shields
  • Wide FOV: 322ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 3m (9.8ft)

At their current retail price, I do believe that they offer great value for money and are well worth considering if you are after a compact for uses like travel, safaris, hiking, camping and even skiing:

Buy & Compare Prices: Steiner BluHorizons Binoculars

Best Binoculars Under $100 /£/€

Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binoculars

Best Low Cost Binocular 2019 - Vortex Vanquish 10x26 BinocularsWhilst planning for a camping trip, I knew that I wanted to take a low-cost easy to use and carry binocular along with me, and so as an experiment I decided to see what instrument I ended up with if I had to buy one myself as apposed to being sent a pair to review.

So after a lot of research, I decided on this Vortex Vanquish 10x26 Binocular and just to say that I was happy with ,my purchase is an understatement as they performed well beyond my expectations and in my opinion are as good, if not better than many mid-range compacts costing more than double.

Image Quality
For a compact and especially a compact at this price point, the quality and brightness of the view was surprisingly good and certainly ranks them right at the top against their direct competitors in this size category and price point. I will also go as far as to say that it is as good as the better mid-range compacts that cost more than three times as much.

Build Quality & Components Used
At this price, it is not a given that your binoculars will be fully water and fogproof and whilst you may not go out in the wet, it is still important and is for me a big indicator as to the overall quality of a binocular, so it was great to discover that the Vanquish is both.

There are also loads of other small indicators of quality, this includes the ratcheted diopter adjuster, metal eyepiece housings and a bespoke focus wheel all of which contribute to placing this binocular well above what I would normally expect to find at this price point.

Eye-Cups & Eye-Relief
Not only does the Vortex Vanquish 10x26 binocular have twist-up eyecups, but you also get a full 16mm of eye-relief. Most budget binoculars will have simple folding cups and not enough eye-relief to accommodate eyeglass wearers, so this will certainly be a plus point to some.

  • Low Cost - approx $99 / £96
  • Compact Reverse Poor Prism Body Design
  • Water & Fog Proof (Nitrogen Filling)
  • Right Eyepiece Diopter
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Wide FOV: 294ft @ 1000 yards
  • Minimum Focal Distance: 2.3m (7.6ft)
  • Eye Relief: 16mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Vortex Vanquish Binoculars


Winner Best Budget Binoculars 2019

Carson RD Series 8x42 Binoculars

Best Low Cost Binocular 2019 - Carson RD Series 8x42 BinocularsDespite the fact that it only currently costs about $150 or £105 (you can see where to buy in the below), the first thing that really strikes me about the Carson RD Series 8x42 binocular is that you would never guess that it is so inexpensive by looking at them. Indeed they would not look out of place in a lineup of the best mid-range instruments out there.

These Carson binoculars have a simple, understated, but classy look to them and the finish on them is excellent.

Small details like the dimpled focus wheel with etched RD branding on the face really does set them apart from the hoards of generic mass produced instruments that I see at this price level all the time.

Scoring an excellent 72% on the BBR scale, something that really impresses me is that the quality is far more than just skin deep as under the hood, the Carson RD continues to punch well above its price tag:

Body Quality: 7/10 72%
Excellent
Body Stats: 8/10
Optical Quality: 7/10
Optical Stats: 7/10
Image Quality 7/10
Extras & Details: 7/10

Fully Multi-Coated Optics
Firstly it is important to note that the optics are way better than a lot of their direct competition and after testing and comparing, I rated the view as excellent at this price range.

So let's take a closer look at how they have achieved this:

To start with, the Carson RD 8x42 binoculars are Fully Multi-coated, meaning that all of the outer glass surfaces throughout the optical pathway have multiple layers of anti-reflection coatings. Whereas many of their competitors will just add these special coatings to some of the elements to save production costs.

The result is brighter and higher quality images and believe me, the difference between binoculars with fully multi-coated optics and those that are just coated is definitely noticeable.

Silver Mirror Prism Coatings
Then, rather than just using Aluminium mirror coatings on the prisms which once again is common with budget binoculars, the Carson RD 8x42 binoculars use Silver mirror coatings on its BaK-4 roof prisms.

This means that they have a much higher level of reflectivity and thus once again results in brighter, higher quality views than the majority of their direct competitors at this level.

Once again, this is something that I certainly noticed when testing and comparing them against others in this class.

Open bridge design on the Carson RD 8x42 BinocularsSize & Weight
When reviewing this instrument I actually had to recheck their weight because, weighing in at just 617g / 21.8ozs this Carson RD is up there with the most lightweight 42mm binoculars that I have ever tested.

Here I think the combination of a lightweight polycarbonate chassis combined with the open bridge design has really paid off, making these an ideal choice if a low cost, but high performance lightweight binocular is something that you are after.

Accessories
The general level of the accessories within the budget end of the market tends to be quite low because with most low-cost binoculars you are supplied with very generic, cheap looking mass produced cases, neck straps and lens covers.

This RD binocular has a good quality neck strap, but a particular highlight for me with this Carson binocular was the carry case that is most certainly a step above almost all others at this range.

The semi-rigid construction not only looks great but certainly improves the level of protection offered to the instrument inside.

The case comes with its own detachable shoulder strap and it also has a very comfortable hand strap that I really like.

Inside there is a separate netted pocket that is perfect for storing your cleaning cloth and perhaps a few small personal items.

The Carson binoculars also fit perfectly inside and can be stored with the eye-cups extended which is all too often not the case and so whilst a very small thing, is one thing that really annoys me.

42mm Objective Lenses on the Carson RD 8x42 Binoculars

Weaknesses?
Ok, so we have discussed some of the major highlights, but what about their weaknesses as no binocular is perfect, especially at the budget end of the market.

So like all others, these Carson do have their weaknesses.

Firstly I thought that the twist-up eyecups turned just a little too easily for my liking. So whilst twisting them up, this is no problem, the issue I have is that they do have a tendency to twist down again when pushing them firmly against your face if you don't have them fully extended. (Please not I have had some feedback from a reader on this saying that theirs was fine and this was not a problem, so hopefully it was just on my sample.)

Secondly, whilst the field of view is adequate and not overly restricting, you can see from this table, it is a little narrower than the average 8x42 binocular which may be an issue if you specifically require a very wide view.

Main Features & Specifications

  • Low Cost - approx $149 / £150
  • Open Bridge Body Design Dimensions: 5.3x 2.2 x 5.8ins
  • Polycarbonate Chassis Weight: 21.8ozs (617g)
  • Fog & Waterproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • Silver Coated BaK-4 Roof Prisms
  • Field of View: 372 @ 1000yds
  • Min Focus Distance: 9.8ft
  • Long Eye Relief: 17mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: Carson RD Series Binoculars
 

Best Budget Binoculars 2016/17 (Under $130 /£/€)

Opticron Savanna R 8x33

Best Low Cost Binocular 2016 - Opticron Savanna R 8x33 BinocularsI really like the body design and shape of the Savanna R 8x33 from Opticron. Indeed it is very similar to that of the Carson above and these will make an excellent choice should you be looking for a smaller, more lightweight budget binocular.

Highlights include the use of aluminium in the chassis, fully multi-coated optics, but instead of the silver mirror coatings that you get with the Carson, these are the less reflective aluminium which is more in line with what is normal for this budget price level and so perfectly understandable.

Here once again, the quality of included accessories is way above that which you normally receive at this level and so to me it really does show what is possible in this price range:

  • Low Cost Bins - approx $130 / £99
  • Open Bridge Body Design Dimensions: 5.1in x 4.7in (13cm x 11.9cm)
  • Polycarbonate & Aluminium Chassis Weight: 15.1ozs / 428g
  • Fog & Waterproof
  • Fully Multi-Coated
  • Aluminium Coated BaK-4 Roof Prisms
  • Field of View: 366 @ 1000yds
  • Min Focus Distance: 11.5ft
  • Long Eye Relief: 20mm IPD Range: 5.2cm - 7.6cm
Current Price & Where to Buy: 8x33 Opticron Savanna R Binoculars

Helios Mistral WP6 8x42 Binoculars

Highly Commended - Helios Mistral WP6 8x42 BinocularsWhilst both of these instruments are roof prism binoculars, they have different configurations and body designs. So the choice you make will largely depend on which design you prefer and which specifications (e.g.: 42mm vs 33mm lenses) are more important to your needs.

The Helios also excels in that it has a wider field of view but offers you less eye-relief.

  • Low Cost Bins (approx £110)
  • Polycarbonate Chassis Sealed & Nitrogen filled for water & fog proofing
  • Tripod Adaptable
  • Fully Multi-Coated Optics
  • BaK-4 Silver Coated Roof Prisms
  • Field of View: 387ft @ 1000yds
  • Close Focus: 2m (6.6ft)
  • Twist-Up Eyecups
  • Eye Relief: 17.5mm
Current Price & Where to Buy: 8x42 Helios Mistral WP6

Best Cheap Binocular (Under $50 / £50 / €50)

Levenhuk Atom 10x50

Levenhuk Atom 10x50 BinocularsOn the whole these Levenhuk Atom 10x50 binoculars are in my opinion better than what their very low price tag would suggest and so from that point of view, I think you are getting some good value for money.

Highlights included a good quality and bright image, wide view for a 10x binocular and a good build quality.

The fact that they use porro prisms helps with the image quality and brightness as they do not require a number of expensive treatments in order for them to deliver the same performance as a roof prism made from the same glass. However I think it is important to keep your expectations to a realistic level and thus mind that there are a number of areas where these and indeed every bin in this price range dol fall short when compared to more expensive products.

However if this is your maximum budget, then these Levenhuk Optics are not at all bad and far better than having not optics at all.

If you prefer a roof prism binocular, take a look at last years winner below, the Tom Lock Series 1 really surprised me when I tested them and still make a great choice for 2015/16:

Past Winners:

Current Price & Where to Buy: Levenhuk Atom Binoculars
 

Best Budget Binocular 2015 (Under $130 /£/€)

Meade 8x42 Rainforest Pro

Award Winning Meade 8x42 Rainforest Pro BinocularsThe list of highlights on the Meade Rainforest Pro is impressive at this level and that is why I still think they are definitely worth considering in 2021

In this budget price category you do not expect to find a binocular that has as many features so as to match most mid to high end instruments and on top of this you'd never expect to find one that can compete with them in pretty much every area, including build quality and performance.... in 2015, I found two!

The 8x42 Rain Forest Pro was the first time I had tested a Meade Instruments product and it was a complete revelation to me.

Importantly these are fully multi-coated, have phase corrected BaK-4 roof prisms, lifetime warranty, long eye relief and a very wide field of view (395ft @ 1000yds) that is certainly going to please most birders, wildlife observers and general users looking for a bargain:

Current Price & Where to Buy: Meade 8x42 Rainforest Pro

Other Contenders: