Binoculars present a useful tool for observing nature, birds, animals, shows, and sports from a distance. The best binoculars under 300 dollar can provide magnification of distant objects and allows them to be focused and clear through the binocular lenses in order to provide a pleasing viewing experience. While binoculars come with many different features, there are a few that create the best binoculars. These include a light weight, strong magnification, comfortable eye relief, durable construction, and positive reviews. The following binoculars each possess these features.
2. Best binoculars under 300 dollar Comparison Table
Use this table if you quickly need to find the top rated binoculars for the money. I can’t accurately indicate the price of each binocular, as it varies from day to day. If you are lucky, you might find a nice discount on a certain model.
|Product Name||Magnification||Objective Lens||FOV||Exit Pupil||Weight||Rating|
|Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binocular||10 x||42 mm||340 ft||4.2 mm||24.7 oz||4.6|
|Nikon 7576 MONARCH 5 8x42 Binocular (Black)||8 x||42 mm||330 ft||5.3 mm||20.8 oz||4.7|
|Vanguard Endeavor ED Binocular (8x42)||8 x||42 mm||367 ft||4.2 mm||25.8 oz||4.8|
|Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars with ED Glass 10x42mm||10 x||42 mm||314 ft||n/a||20.4 oz||4.8|
|Celestron 71370 8x42 Granite Binocular||8 x||42 mm||426 ft||5.3 mm||21.8 oz||4.8|
3. Top 5 Best binoculars under 300 dollar Reviews
4. 13 Crucial factors to consider when searching for the right binoculars
I could come up with 20 different things to consider before deciding on a set of binoculars. That might bore you to death though, so I narrowed it down to the following 13 crucial factors. I have sorted these in order of importance for your convenience. Magnification and Objective Lens Size are the number 1 and 2 factors. Make sure to consider these when you choose a binocular.
The first factor you should think about, is the magnification of your binoculars. How do you choose the right magnification? Many people make the mistake of thinking that the bigger the magnification, the better the binoculars. That is most definitely not an accurate assumption.
If you are hunting in dense forest, perhaps a 14x or even a 19x would be better for your use. If you will be using the binoculars for watching birds, a magnification of 8x is a better option.
You are the one that knows exactly what you will be using the binoculars for. If you are looking for a good all-round binoculars, a 10x magnification should work well for you.
2. Objective Size
The size of the lens is the objective size. This second part in the typical 10×42 denotation tells us what the objective size is for a binocular. The value 10 refers to the magnification. The 42 refers to the objective size as measured in millimeters (mm).
The bigger the objective size, the bigger your set of binoculars will be. This means that the first thing we consider, is again, how will you be using these?
If you will be travelling with your binoculars, you won’t enjoy lugging around a big, heavy set of binoculars. The smaller the objective size, the more compact the binoculars.
For travelling purposes, sporting events, or going to the opera, you might lean towards a smaller objective size. If you need a wider field of view, perhaps when hunting, or viewing panoramas, a larger objective size would suit you better.
You must be thinking: “Great, another non-answer!”
If this has left you more confused than when you first got here, you might want to stick with the all rounder of 10×42.
3. Exit Pupil
The exit pupil is the diameter of light in millimeters visible through the eyepiece. It is determined by dividing the objective lens diameter by the magnifying power. So a pair of 10x50s would have an exit pupil size of 5mm (50/10 = 5). 8x32s would have an exit pupil size of 4mm (32/8 = 4)
You can see this beam of light when you hold up your binoculars (eyepieces towards you). It appears as a tiny circle of light in each eyepiece. The circle of light is the magnified image as it exits the binoculars and enters your eye. The bigger the diameter, the better you’ll see in dim light, up to the maximum diameter of the human pupil itself, generally between 4mm to 7mm, depending on age and available light.
Here is a good video that helps demonstrate and explain exit pupil:
Obviously then, the larger the exit pupil, the more light gathering capacity, and the brighter your bird image will be. If the exit pupil size is near the same size of our pupil, it will be more difficult to find images. For example, in bright light when our pupils are contracted to 2-3mm, those compact 8×21 bins (exit pupil = 2.6) are going to be difficult to use because our eyes are going to have to be centered exactly over the exit pupil to find our bird. Trying to follow an arctic tern on a rocky boat with a pair of compacts will have you barking at the buoys in no time! The image will also appear darker and not as clear.
For general purpose birding, choose a pair of binoculars with an exit pupil size of at least 4mm.
If you do most of your birding in shaded conditions (thick forests), dim light (owling) or on boats, choose 5mm or more.
4. Field of View (FOV)
The field of view refers to how wide an area is visible through the lens at a certain distance. It is a measurement taken at the 1000 feet mark.
For example, the Vanguard Endeavour 10×42 has an incredible field of view of 374ft. This means that with the Vanguard Endeavour you can see an area 374ft wide at a distance of 1000 yards.
A larger magnification means a smaller field of view. A smaller FOW might not be the right option if you will be viewing fast moving objects at a distance. For example, wildlife viewing and watching sports might be better suited to a wider FOW.
5. Close Focus
Close focus is the shortest distance at which the binocular is capable of providing a sharply focused image of an object. As a general rule, as magnification increases, the minimum close focal distance also increases. So yet another trade-off for you to consider: More magnification or shorter-distance close focus?
Especially of interest to birders because there will be times when you will want to see the detail of a bird less than 15 or even 10 feet away. Therefore, a good birding binocular should have a minimum close focus of 15 feet, 10 feet would be better. If you like to view other creatures up close such as butterflies, reptiles, etc. close focus is also an advantage.
6. Ease of Focusing
A good pair of bird watching binoculars will allow you to get a quick & sharp focus of your bird. This is important in because many birds are constantly moving around and you will need to be able to focus quickly. A good focus mechanism will focus from close to far with one full revolution of the dial or less. You don’t want to have to turn the knob too many times in order to bring a bird into focus.
And make sure you get a pair of binoculars with a central focus that you can comfortably turn with your index finger. It should turn smoothly, without much effort. You will find that most birding binoculars do have central focus. Some models of binoculars have individual focus eyepieces which must be adjusted when looking at birds closer than about 30 feet, which is awkward and time consuming for bird watching. Again, you get what you pay for so you’ll find that more expensive bird watching binoculars have finer-tuned focus mechanisms.
7. Lens Coating
The next crucial factor to consider is the lens coating. I would never go for any binocular that is not multi coated. The general rule is that more coatings on lens is better. These multiple coatings offer a whole bunch of benefits, some of these are:
- Promote superior contrast
- Increase in brightness and clarity
- Enhance light
- Keep images true to color
- Protects the lenses from scratching
- Makes lenses easier to clean
There you go, 6 reasons to go for multi-coated lenses.
8. Binocular Eye Relief/Eye Cups
This is an important element for eyeglass wearers. Eye relief is the distance measured in millimeters a binocular can be held away from the eye and still present the full field-of-view image in focus.
Eyecups are usually designed so that the eye relief is the right distance for non-eyeglass wearers, between 9-13mm. However, eyeglass wearers need greater eye relief to compensate for the distance their glasses stand away from their pupils. The problem occurs when there is not enough eye relief, resulting in a narrower field of view.
You want to be able to use your birding binoculars without having to constantly remove your eyeglasses to look. That can cost valuable time when trying to spot a bird.
Some binoculars will have rubber eyecups that fold down to get your eyes/eyeglasses closer to the lenses, while other more expensive models will have adjustable eyecups.
As a general guideline, for those who wear thinner, closer fitting glasses choose an eye relief between 14-15mm.
For those who wear thicker, farther fitting glasses, choose 16-18mm.
Of course, your best bet would be to try out several bins & see what works best with your particular eyeglasses. It is still a good idea for non-eyeglass wearers to also try out binoculars for eye relief as well, to find the distance that works best for them.
9. Extra-low dispersion (ED) Glass
For the serious binocular enthusiast, ED or extra-low dispersion glass is a must. Is it a must for the everyday user? Probably not. Think of ED being the HD (high definition) version of binocular glass.
ED glass does vary in quality as there is no industry standard. A bino with good quality ED glass will reduce chromatic abberation.
Chromatic abberation is BIG word. It reduces the difference in wavelength in the image you are viewing. Ever look through a binocular, and see a fuzzy outline to an object? We call this effect CA (chromatic abberation).
Bino’s with ED glass will reduce this effect, for a clearer image with better contrast and high resolution colour.
10. Twilight Factor
The twilight factor refers to image sharpness and image detail in low light conditions. A larger twilight factor will result in a sharper, brighter image in low light conditions.
The picture below shows the difference between a low and high twilight factor bino.
My opinion is that twilight factor does not come into the final decision for most bino users. If you will be using your binocs early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, this could make a big difference.
11. Prism Design
There are two types of prism systems, porro & roof:
Porro prism binoculars have a z-shaped optical path where the objective lenses are offset from the eyepieces, resulting in a wider set of binoculars.
In roof prism binoculars, the prisms overlap closely and the objective lenses are approximately in line with the eyepieces. The result is a slim, streamlined shape.
Because of the pricier technology required, roof prism binoculars are more expensive than porro prism binoculars. You can get an excellent pair of porro prism birding binoculars priced around $250. To get the equivalent optic quality in a pair of roof prism binoculars, you would have to pay around $400 and up. So if you’re on a budget, porro prisms may be your best option.
Remember though, that because porro prism binoculars are not as rugged and durable as roof prism binoculars, you may be better off in the long run with a roof prism if you can afford it.
Waterproof optics provide protection against not only water, but also dust, dirt, cracker crumbs, etc. as well as internal fogging. It is certainly a nice option, especially for active birders. Waterproof seals are made with rubber O-rings and and nitrogen gas purging.
If you take your warm binoculars to go birding on a chilly morning without nitrogen gas-filled optics, they will most likely fog-up on the interior because of the quick temperature change from warm to cold.
You’ll be bummin’ when you can’t see anything through the fog! And you never know…you just may slip when crossing that creek. It would be nice to know your bins are waterproof. It is also a plus if you live in humid climates.
13. Portability – Size and Weight
Now more than ever, there are an incredible amount of binoculars on the market. They come in every shape and size. It is crucial that you buy a pair that will suit your needs. You don’t want to go travelling with a big and bulky pair. You don’t want to be stuck with a compact bino with too little magnification when you are out hunting.
As with many of the other factors, you will have to find the perfect balance for your use. For example, some of the more compact designs, like the Canon 10×30 IS Ultra-Compact weigh in at just 21 ounces. The Canon only offers 10×30, while the heavier Vortex Diamondback offers 10×42 magnification.
Is that 3oz important enough to you to sacrifice some magnification? If you are carrying the bino’s around in a backpack on a long trip, it might be.
5. Methods and test settings
The main method was watching under many different conditions but in familiar settings, everyday, if possible a couple of hours a day. I used a Gitzo tripod with a small video head and tripod adapters most of the time, complemented by handheld viewing. On excursions I prefered to take just two binoculars for better comparison.
Good test objects need to provide a high contrast, be stationary and have a huge variety of shapes, textures, colors and be at different distances. The plants in my garden and the surroundings provided all this, with light from early morning to late evening, and hopefully with some raindrops on a dull day. Of course I watched birds as often as I could, but never managed to watch the same bird with all five binoculars.
In the second period of reviewing, in autumn 2015, I dug deeper – more observations handheld, on dull days, and late afternoon into the darkness.
Here are some examples of tests and test objects that provided a lot of insights:
The whiteness and brightness test – White flowers are useful for this, in backlight, in frontlight, in the shade, in the twilight. Apple, rhododendron and Cornus nutalli blossoms. Great for checking out the bright parts of the tonality range.
The apple tree flare test – blooming apple trees against morning sun with a huge contrast of white blossoms and dark shaded bark and twigs reveal mercilessly if and where the flares and veiling glares turn up.
The dog test – my Hovawart is always dusty, with shining wet eyes, providing fine detail plus strong contrast, like yellow pollen in black fur.
The 3D test – flowers and the trunk of my dwarf pine are reference points for how three dimensional the images look. Guess how the modern flat field binos compare to the classic designs.
The red tulip test – how saturated are the warm tones? One word: Ultravid.
The skin tone test – family members indoors and outdoors. In cinematography, all camera and lens tests are first and foremost about skin tones, so a binocular with a yellowgreen cast will not make people look good.
The starling on a dead branch test – having the bird sing on the dead topmost branch, especially with overcast, white sky, is the best test for chromatic aberration.
There are 4 levels of testing which are increasingly demanding on the binocular:
- Handheld use
- Tripod mounted use
- Tripod mounted with Zeiss 3×12 booster, outside
- Tripod mounted, objective unmasked or masked, with 20mm opening, with Zeiss 3×12 booster and 2 inch Edmund Optics USAF 1951 glass negative, put on a Rex lightbox, indoors. Resolution test and visual contrast judgement.
The use of a booster has its own problems, but this time fitted quite well with my impressions from tripod mounted use.
My guess is that most manufacturers optimize their binos for handheld use. If they look sharp enough handheld, most customers will be satisfied. A closer look with boosters will reveal deficiencies which may disturb the tester but be irrelevant for ordinary use.
6. Where to Buy
You could step into your nearest Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas or even Walmart and grab a pair of binos. My recommendation is to stick with Amazon. They have all the information you need available. One of my favourite things about Amazon, is all those user reviews by people like you and me.
Finding the best binoculars under 300 dollar can be more than a little bit of an appeal battle, but hopefully you find the information provided above to be useful in your search. For a person who is looking for good all-purpose binoculars that have outstanding build quality as well as optics, the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binocular is an excellent option. The binocular performs very well in observations of wildlife during the day as well as other distant objects. As an astronomical binocular, Bushnell 10X42 also provides sharp pinpoint stars. The binocular is very bright, comfortable, clear and sharp. You will definitely be satisfied with the purchase of Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Roof Prism Binocular.