Best Binoculars Under $500: Review & Guide 2023

Binoculars Under 500

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People use binoculars for a lot of different tasks, and each of those tasks has slightly different requirements and priorities.

This makes it hard to isolate a single pair of binoculars and say “this is the best for every situation”.

That said, a great pair of binoculars has to check a few boxes and have the right magnification and image quality for what you’re using it for.

Based on my knowledge and research, I’ve found the Vortex Optics Crossfire HD binoculars to be the best place to start when you’re looking for a new pair of binoculars. 

Product Reviews

  • waterproof and fogproof
  • Rubber gives you a secure grip
  • get a wider field of view
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  • 10x power is a good workhorse level
  • Comes with a carrying bag and strap
  • 25mm Objective lens
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  • BAK4 prisms
  • Waterproof & fogproof
  • Lifetime warranty
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  • Comes with Tripod adapter
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Water resistant
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  • Lightweight at only 0.66 pounds
  • Small and compact
  • Not very ergonomic
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  • Exceptional image quality
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Price is relatively high
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  • Lots of power
  • Ergonomic design
  • Diopter a bit hard to access
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1. Best Overall – Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars


I recommend starting with these because Vortex is a high-quality and well-known brand with a lifetime warranty on all of their optics.

Since you can get the Crossfire’s with anywhere from 8x to 12x magnification, and they’re reasonably priced, I really do consider them the best overall pair of binoculars.

Features & Specifications

  • Magnification options at 8x, 10x, or 12x: Unless you have a specific reason to need more than 12x magnification (or less than 8x), then you’ll be able to find a Crossfire that fits you.
  • Large Objective lenses: the 8x version comes with a 42mm objective lens, while the 10x and 12x come with a 50mm objective. In all cases, you get plenty of light and you shouldn’t notice the image in the binos being darker than your naked eye until it gets pretty dark outside
  • Fully multi-coated lenses: The coatings on the lenses not only enhance the image quality, but also protect the glass from dirt and scratches so they last longer. 


  • Nitrogen purging and o-ring sealed: This makes them waterproof and fogproof. The lenses might still fog on the outside, because there’s not really a way for a manufacturer to control that, but preventing fogging on the inside is critical.
  • Rubber armor: the rubber not only protects the binoculars and absorbs bumps and drops, it also gives you a secure grip that won’t become slippery when wet.


  • Roof prisms: This can also be seen as a pro, but I’m including it as a con because you can get a wider field of view and better image quality generally with porro prisms.
  • Tripod mounting is complicated: Unlike some binoculars that have threads on the bottom or come with a tripod mount, the Crossfires take a little more doing in order to get mounted on a tripod.


The Crossfire HD binoculars are a great choice, and you can get them in the magnification that makes the most sense for your specific use-case.

The price can turn some people off, but compared to premium brands that the Crossfire competes with, the price is very reasonable.

Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars

The price of Vortex Optics Crossfire HD Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

2. Best for Kids – Hontry 10×25 Compact Binoculars


The Hontry 10×25 binoculars are small, cheap, and easy to use. They are perfect for binoculars that you want to be able to share with your kids and not worry too much if they get beat up.

Features & Specifications

  • Porro prisms provide great image quality: One of the drawbacks of this is that they may not be as durable, but the company backs them with a 3-year warranty.
  • They weigh only 0.6 pounds: This makes them easy even for young children to handle, while the image quality is good enough to actually use.
  • Glass lenses: most binoculars made with kids in mind employ plastic lenses, which, frankly, suck.


  • 10x power is a good workhorse level: It’s enough to be useful for when you want to see something, and not too much to be fun for the kids to play with around the house.
  • Comes with a carrying bag and strap: makes it convenient to take to sporting events or out on hikes to see wildlife more closely


  • 25mm Objective lens: this means that these binoculars are really designed for daylight use. In a dark theater or concert arena, the image in the binos will be noticeably darker than the naked eye.
  • No other magnification choices: If 10x isn’t appropriate for you, then you’ll just have to look elsewhere.


These binoculars strike a great balance of actually being good enough to use for birding, hiking, and hunting, but also being cheap enough and accessible enough for kids to enjoy playing with.

Hontry 10×25 Compact Binoculars

The price of Hontry Compact Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

3. Best for Hobbyists – Adorrgon 12×42 HD Binoculars


These binoculars from Adorrgon are great for hobbyists because they come with a lot of important accessories that can make a big difference without costing an arm and a leg to get them.

Having a mini tripod and a phone adapter so that you can take pictures through the binos is an awesome feature to have. 

Features & Specifications

  • Mini tripod: Great for stabilization on-the-go.
  • Phone adapter: You can take photos or even record video through the lens.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses: Gives you better image quality and durability.
  • 42mm objective: large enough to give good light transmission in most situations


  • BAK4 prisms: These are considered the gold standard in binocular image quality
  • Waterproof & fogproof: This makes them a lot more versatile in different situations
  • Lifetime warranty: You do have to activate it after purchase, but it’s awesome they have this.


  • Not as crisp as more expensive binos: If you want to count the feathers on a bird’s back, you’ll need a different pair.
  • The tripod and phone adapter are cheap plastic: They can be flimsy and take some baby-ing to keep in good condition.


These are a great set of binoculars for someone who’s serious enough about using them to spend a little bit of money but not ready to drop a big chunk of change.

They come with some useful accessories and have a lifetime warranty to boot.

Adorrgon 12×42 HD Binoculars

The price of Adorrgon 12×42 HD Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

4. Best for Long Distance – Celestron SkyMaster 20×80 Binoculars


These binoculars are designed with astronomy in mind, so that should give you a good idea of how much magnification they offer.

You can get the 20x version (pictured above) and they also have a 25x version. These are intended to be strong enough to give you a decent view of the moon.

Features & Specifications

  • 20x or 25x magnification: This is so much that it will be great for things 300 yards or more away from you, but it will be bad for anything much closer.
  • Bak4 prisms: For seeing clear detail a long way away, this a must.
  • Porro prisms: They won’t be as tough as roof prisms, but they’ll give you a better picture.


  • Comes with Tripod adapter: This makes mounting it much easier
  • Lifetime warranty: Just in case something happens
  • Water resistant: These binoculars can withstand an unexpected downpour


  • Not waterproof: these are designed for amateur astronomy, not marching through a swamp
  • Too bulky to hold by hand: you really do need a tripod to get the best out of these


These are for seeing things that are really far away, plain and simple. They are big and awkward and meant to be on a tripod.

But if you use them the way they are intended to be used, then you’ll get treated to amazing images that you can’t get with lower power binoculars.

Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars

The price of Celestron SkyMaster Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

5. Best for Lightweight – Steiner Safari UltraSharp Binoculars


The Safaris are the polar opposite of the Celestrons, despite being right in the same price range.

These are designed to be compact, ultra sharp, and quick to find your target. The name “safari” is apt because they are well-designed for someone who wants to use them in daylight to quickly spot wildlife.

Features & Specifications

  • Available in 26mm and 42mm objective lenses: the 42mm is significantly more expensive, but will give you a clearer and brighter image.
  • Folding eyecups: this is so folks with glasses can use them comfortably
  • 10x magnification: no other powers are available with the safaris, but 10x is a good workhorse power


  • Lightweight at only 0.66 pounds: Nearly as light as the children’s binoculars
  • Small and compact: easy to take with you when you travel


  • Warranty is lacking: only covers defects
  • Not very ergonomic: they are great for short-term viewing, but not long-term study of a subject


These are great for quickly catching glimpses of wildlife before they get away. They aren’t the right binoculars if you want to set up somewhere and observe something over a long period of time. 

Steiner Safari UltraSharp Binoculars

The price of Steiner Safari UltraSharp Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

6. Athlon Optics Midas Binoculars


Athlon Optics makes a lot of different types of (you guessed it) optics, and they are a well-known and trusted brand.

I would put them in a similar category to Vortex, though they tend to be a little higher-priced. The Midas binoculars are no exception to that rule. 

Features & Specifications

  • XPL lens coating: This mixture of coatings helps make the image amazing and the glass tough and durable
  • ED glass and ESP dielectric coating: these ensure accurate color reproduction and a sharper image
  • 8x or 10x magnification options: no 12x option, so if you want that much you’ll need to look elsewhere


  • Exceptional image quality: This is where most of the justification for the price comes from
  • Lifetime warranty with hardly any exceptions: Athlon stands by their binos incredibly well. As long as you’re using them as binoculars, they are covered.


  • Price is relatively high: If you’re not a stickler for image quality, the only thing you’re paying all that extra money for is the warranty, which is comparable to Vortex


These are a great set of binoculars. Argon-purged, waterproof, rubber armor with a magnesium chassis, the works.

These are the best option on this list for serious birders or hunters who want binoculars they can rely on for a long time.

Athlon Optics Midas Binoculars

The price of Athlon Optics Midas Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

7. Nikon 8250 Aculon A211 16×50 Binoculars

Nikon is probably the most well-known brand on this list, and one of the best reasons to buy this pair of binoculars is because you already know and trust the Nikon brand.

They offer higher magnification than you may want, but if 16x is workable for your use case, then these are a solid choice.

Features & Specifications

  • 50mm objective: this gives you a lot of light to see clearly
  • Porro prism design: this will give you better image quality at the expense of a little bit of durability
  • Turn-and-slide rubber eyecups: these can be adjusted to be more comfortable for extended viewing


  • Lots of power: 16x will let you see details from pretty far away
  • Ergonomic design: great for looking through them for longer periods of time


  • Too much power for most hunting applications: between 8x and 10x strikes a better balance between magnification and field of view
  • Diopter a bit hard to access: if you have small fingers it will be easier


It can be hard to explain why it can be worth buying more expensive binoculars, because it all just comes down to “quality”, but after you’ve gone through a pair of cheapos, it’s a lot easier to understand why a pair like the Nikons are worth the extra money.

Nikon 8250 Aculon A211 16×50 Binoculars

The price of Nikon 8250 Aculon A211 16×50 Binoculars varies, so check the latest price at

Buying Guide


While it’s natural for more folks to assume that they need more magnification than is necessary, the problem with adding magnification is that it makes finding your target harder. Therefore, this means you want to strike the right balance between power and FOV. 

For hunters, this usually means either 8x or 10x. Sometimes it can make sense to get 12x if you are going to be hunting in generally open areas that don’t have a lot of trees or brush.

For other uses, like astronomy, where you’re going to have the binoculars on a tripod and plenty of time to find the subject, by all means get 20x and above.

Roof Prisms vs. Porro Prisms

Porro Prisms

Roof prisms are a more modern design and are less fragile of a set-up than Porro prisms. Porros, on the other hand, give better field of view and overall better image quality (all other things being equal).

For the most part, I have not seen much of a difference in either image quality or durability between the two options.

I’m sure binocular aficionados who are more experienced than me may have a different opinion, but it seems like the technology has gotten good enough that they are closer together than they once were.


Mounting binoculars to a tripod can be an adventure sometimes, so it’s nice to find a pair that either has a simple ¼ 20 thread on the bottom or comes with a compatible tripod adapter.

Whatever you’re planning on using the binoculars for, you want to make sure you get all the accessories you need to get the functionality out of it that you want.

Features to Look For

It can be very handy to have a diopter adjustment, so you can adjust the focus on the two lenses independently to accommodate for differences between your eyes.

I’d also recommend lookin for Bak4 prisms instead of BK7, since they are of a higher quality. Finding that shouldn’t be hard, though, since even pairs in the “budget” category often have Bak4 glass now. 

Durability & Construction

I’m a big fan of having a rubber exterior on binoculars, because it makes a big difference in handling, even when it’s not wet outside.

It just feels like the binoculars will handle more bumps when they’ve got the rubber on the outside. 

Ideally, your binoculars will either be nitrogen or argon purged on the inside. This prevents internal fogging, which is very difficult to resolve when it happens.

The binoculars should also be O-ring sealed, or there isn’t much point in having it purged, since the gas will just escape. This has the added benefit of keeping the interior waterproof.


What Is the Best Strength of Binoculars to Buy?

For hunting, I’d recommend either 8x or 10x unless you have a specific reason why you want something different. For astronomy, I wouldn’t go less than 20x, and honestly to see much more than just the moon you’ll need an actual telescope. For birding, you may want to go higher than hunting, but certainly not higher than 16x. 

Is 10×50 or 20×50 Better?

10×50 will give you better low-light performance and faster target acquisition, and 20×50 will give you a larger and more detailed image when you are locked onto your subject. Which is better will depend on what you’re using it for and what your personal priorities are.

What Is the Most Popular Size of Binoculars?

My guess is probably 10x magnification is the most popular, but I have not seen any data on this particular question. 10x is usually workable in most situations, even when it’s not the ideal magnification for the task. 


Getting the right pair of binoculars can sometimes require some trial and error.

Sometimes it’s worth buying a cheap, simple pair so you can test out the magnification and other features and find out first-hand what the most important things are to you.

My pick for best overall are the Vortex Optics Crossfire HD binoculars.

They are a reasonably-priced, high-quality option with multiple powers to choose from, a fantastic warranty, and durable construction.

If they don’t quite fit what you want, hopefully you’ll be able to find something perfect in the other options on our list. Would you recommend a different set of binoculars under $500? I’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments below.

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