Best Budget Binoculars 2019
(under 200 $/£/€)

Binocular Reviews Home > Binocular Guides > Annual Binoculars Awards > BBR's Best Budget Binoculars 2019

Intro

In this article (and in the video above), I'm going to reveal to you the winners of the BBR awards for the Best Budget Binoculars of 2019, as well as past winners that are still relevant and current as this is where you can really grab a great bargain! Not all binoculars on this page retail for well under 200 $/£/€, with many under $150. So 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 at the main BBR Awards Page here.

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:

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 2019

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: