Optics technology has come a long ways in recent decades, and you can get a pretty solid set of binoculars for a fraction of the high end models. The best hunting binoculars under 300 bucks will be a little heavier and bulkier than the top dollar glasses.
The lenses will be coated, but typically will not have all of the high tech coatings of a premium binocular. Even so, most binoculars manufactured today will fall into this category.
The key to getting a good value in this price range is to read the specifications closely, and monitor user reviews to sort out the good from the bad. There is a relationship between price and quality, and I have done much of the leg work for you, putting all the information in a comparison chart.
Comparison Chart: Top Binoculars Under $300
|Leupold BX-2 Acadia 10×42||(4.9 / 5)||6.2 in||28.0 oz||368 ft|
|Luepold Cascades 10×42||(4.8 / 5)||5.5 in||23.2 oz||268 ft|
|Vortex Diamondback 10×42||(4.7 / 5)||5.9 in||24.4 oz||330 ft|
|Nikon Monarch 5 8×42||(4.7 / 5)||5.7 in||20.8 oz||330 ft|
|Vanguard Endeavor ED||(4.6 / 5)||6.1 in||25.8 oz||340 ft|
|Bushnell Lengend Ultra HD||(4.5 / 5)||5.5 in||22.5 oz||340 ft|
|Vanguard Spirit ED 10×42||(4.4 / 5)||5.7 in||22.6 oz||452 ft|
Binocular Reviews – Under $300
The features that you need to look for in $400 will be different than in more expensive binoculars. Specs like weight, length, and field of view are all very comparable. Look for these two things during your comparisons:
- Twilight Factor – It’s important to make sure you are getting optics that will gather up enough light to get a bright and clear image during dawn and dusk low light situations.
- Durability – Since binoculars at this price are usually mass produced, the build quality is often times a telling sign if they are worth buying. Remember they need to be rugged to withstand the abuse they will see over years in the field.
Leupold BX-2 Acadia 10×42
Finally we come to the Leupold Acadia binoculars. They are the heaviest, 6 ounces more than the Nikon Monarchs, and largest binoculars of the top models I’ve covered so far.
While that is extra weight to be carrying around while scouting, it also means they are durable. Many customer reviews remark at how “bulletproof” the Acadia’s feel. Optically, these binos are multi-coated, with the optical tubes are filled with nitrogen using Leupold’s proprietary process.
The Leupold BX-2 Acadia should perform well for hunting, birdwatching, and scanning, and they are a practical choice when considering the features for the price.
Vortex Diamondback 10×42
Vortex Optics has produced a winner with their Diamondback class of optics. The average working man hunter can now get high performance binoculars at a reasonable price. If you are coming from cheap department store binos, you will be happily surprised to see what you get for the little bit higher price. In fact, many people have sworn they can’t see a difference when doing side by side comparisons of the Diamondbacks to models priced 3 times higher.
The Diamondbacks are known as good low light optics, allowing you to take advantage of the magic hours of dawn and dusk. The D-backs weigh 24.4 ounces, making them light enough to carry all day, yet substantial enough to make it easy to have a steady view.
The accessories for these binoculars are very good. They come with attached front and back lens covers, a surprisingly comfortable neck strap, and a zippered neoprene carrying case. Like all other Vortex products, the Diamondbacks are backed up by their “VIP Lifetime Unconditional Warranty”, and that should put you at ease when spending hundreds on your hunting optics.
Nikon Monarch 5 8×42
The Monarch 5 represents Nikon’s midrange binoculars in the ATB family. Hunters will love the Monarch 5’s for their fully multi-coated lenses, and Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) prisms that are even dielectric coated for the highest reflectivity. The dielectric coating has previously only been available to the top of the line Monarchs, but it is great to see it has been pushed down to the mid-range model.
The Monarch 5 are “ATB” or all-terrain binoculars, which means waterproof, fog proof, and rubber armored housings that will hold up to the use and abuse of outdoorsmen. The FOV is narrower than most on our list, but it makes up for it with edge to edge clarity of image that is lacking in the wide view models.
The bottom line is, hunters should consider the Monarch 5 ATB binoculars because they are rugged, but also the lightest full sized binoculars on this list, and simply because they are made by Nikon so you know you are buying high quality glass.
Vanguard Endeavor ED
Check Price on: Amazon
Vanguard Sporting Optics is a newer company in the optics world, formed in the early 90’s (a relatively short time ago in optics terms). In that short time they have developed a solid reputation for quality, affordable outdoors binoculars and spotting scopes.
The Endeavor ED’s are equipped very nicely for a mid-range binocular. They come equipped with a locking diopter, twist up eye cups with 3 pre settings, extra low dispersion glass (ED), and multi-coated lenses.
The coatings are P2 phase coating on the BAK-4 prisms, V-Max silver coating for light reflection, Ant-reflection, and an Emerald Coating that is designed to improve the image of colors in the green range.
Bushnell Legend Ultra HD
Check Price on: Amazon
The Bushnell Legend binoculars have been around for a few years now, likely due to their high popularity among hunters and outdoorsmen. They are very similar to the Vanguard Endeavor ED in many ways. Like the Endeavor, the Bushnell Legend Ultra is manufactured in China, so there are occasional build issues that come up.
The Legend Ultra HD have an “ED Prime” glass that is designed to produce an high resolution picture with accurate color. The glass is also coated with a RainGuard HD water repellent coating, and a wide band coating to minimize reflection and draw in more light.
The Bushnell binoculars come with a nicer microfiber case, with a padded neck strap. Many people prefer the soft touch outer coating of these binoculars over the heavy rubberized armor of the Vanguards.
Vanguard Spirit ED
Check Price on: Amazon
The Vanguard Spirit ED’s are one step down from the Endeavor family in price, but are still well equipped binoculars. The Spirit is lighter and more compact than the Endeavor, and features the same magnesium body, and open bridge construction.
The Spirit ED’s have the same 3 stage eyecups, but lack the locking diopter you’ll get with the Endeavor ED. The body has the same rubberized armor coating for durability and ergonomic handling.
The optical performance is pretty good, although not as sharp at the edges as some of the better binoculars on this list. The lenses are indeed multi-coated, but without some of the fancier Silver and Emerald coatings that you’d get in the Endeavors.
Binocular Reviews – Under $400
Leupold BX-2 Cascades 10×42
Check Price on: Amazon
The folks over at Leupold have produced an extremely popular set of optics in the BX-2 Cascades. On all the various sites I’ve researched, nearly every customer review marvels at the excellent brightness and edge to edge clarity of the BX-2’s.
The Cascades are comfortable to use thanks to the locking diopter, the generous 16mm eye relief, and twist up eye cups. If you wear eyeglasses, you won’t have any problem using these.
The 8×42 have a FOV of 341ft, but it’s made up for with sharp images, and quick acquisition, with little blackout. The Leupold Cascades look, feel, and most importantly, perform like a quality set of optics.
Summary and Resources
If you cannot afford any of these models, you can still get good performance at the $200 range. Be very careful what you buy at that price range, because optics manufacturers are mass producing these glasses, and that’s where problems can arise.
Read about how to select hunting binoculars first. Then take my advice by thinking of binoculars as a long term piece of equipment, you can get a much better piece of optics at $500. Instead of raiding the bargain shelf at the sporting goods store, you should save up until you can invest in the best.