Best Binoculars Less Than $500: We Check Out the High Quality Optics Available in 2020
Last Updated: October 23, 2020
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What's the best thing about this price range?
Every hunter will find a pair of binoculars that more than fits their needs - it's the number one attraction of this budget category.
Forget the overpriced costs, exacting preciseness, and trumped-up marketing gimmicks. All you want is dependability, high quality, and durability for the field.
This price range can literally dish it all!
QUICK LIST: 7 Best Binoculars Under $500 In 2020
- Monarch 5 10X42
- Vortex Viper HD 10X42
- Nikon Monarch 7 8X42 ATB
- Leica Trinovid BCA 8X20
- Maven C3 ED 10X50
- Zeiss Terra ED 10X42
- Steiner Predator 10X42
2020's Top Hunting Binoculars Less Than $500
This is the price range that the majority of hunters will shop in, and sometimes, no more than this is needed.
Entry level hunters who want to start out with a dependable binocular will typically be attracted to this budget range. Even experienced bino users often find that they don't need the trappings that the expensive one's tout. This is going to be a category that pleases all hunters of all skill levels.
And, for $300 to $500, you're going to see an upgrade in quality compared to lower budget binoculars. Specifically, image, build, and coating quality. Unless you have fastidious taste, you'd be hard-pressed not to find a set of binoculars to suit your hunting needs right here.
|Monarch 5 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
|Vortex Viper HD 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
|Nikon Monarch 7 8X42 ATB||CHECK PRICE|
|Leica Trinovid BCA 8X20||CHECK PRICE|
|Maven C3 ED 10X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Zeiss Terra ED 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
|Steiner Predator 10X42||CHECK PRICE|
Our 7 Best Binoculars Under $500
1. Nikon Monarch 5 10X42 Binocular
Nikon is well-known as one of the best binocular brands and saying that this Nikon Monarch 5 10X42 is a favorite among hunters, still wouldn't do this binocular any justice. So, maybe telling you that it was the number one Nikon binocular listed in Amazon's 100 Top Best Binocular Seller's List might add some weight to its reputation.
At around $300, you're getting a heck of a lot of upgrades... ED Glass, Eco-Glass, Dielectric coatings, HighPoint design...
Just with this one sentence, it's already met the criteria to make the top hunting binoculars in this price range, and still there's more! If you're shopping for value, you're going to get the best bang for your buck with the ever-reliable Nikon binocular.
2. Vortex Viper HD 10X42 Binocular
If you're easily impressed by ratings, then this $500 Vortex Viper HD 10X42 will blow you away! But, don't expect me to give up that info so easily... you're going to have read our full review of the binocular to find out how it did with other hunters.
As a teaser, this Viper deserves its spot for meeting every criteria of the standard we had in place for high budget binoculars. It has the HD Lens Elements, XR Fully Multi-Coated, Dielectric prism coatings, and phase correction coatings that hand over unbeatable image quality on a silver platter.
But, it also has a locking diopter piece! No more accidental shifts and bumping out of focus. Since this isn't something we see very often, even on high budget binoculars, this is the one thing that just had me tickled into giving it a spot to be featured.
3. Nikon Monarch 7 8X42 ATB Roof Prism Binocular
If you are willing to spend less than $100 more, the Nikon Monarch 7 8X42 ATB (All-Terrain Binocular) has everything the Monarch 5 above has, plus some! With multi-setting click stop rubber eyecups, an extremely wide field of view, and the ATB designation, this Nikon is irresistible.
Nikon shines in the under $500 price range so to get the scoop on what bino could suit your hunting style, you might want to check out some of the other binoculars in their line-up before you make your final decision.
But, if you have 500 clams to spend you can't go wrong with the Monarch 7 - and as a bonus, you will even get some change!
4. Leica Trinovid BCA 8X20
Yes, you're seeing this binocular in the right price class - it really is under $500. The Trinovid BCA may be small, but it's a Leica.
- Wide IPD
- Short eye relief
The Trinovid BCA is a compact binocular inspired by the larger Trinovid series of binos. It's 3.6 x 4.1 inches by length and width, and it only weighs 8.3 ounces. The small 20 mm objective lenses helps to keep the BCA bino small and portable.
But, you may be tempted to think the BCA is overpriced for its mini size - it's not. Yes, you can afford full-size binos with this budget, but it won't have Leica quality behind it. With their world-class glass, proprietary coatings, and top-secret glass elements, sight picture quality is well above what inferior brands can provide on even their high-end and larger binoculars.
With a double hinge frame, the Trinovid tubes are collapsible to "fold" inwards for an even more compact fit in your pocket or a case. Speaking of cases, Leica does not provide one for the mini binoculars, not even a generic nylon case. You'll have to budget a few more bucks to keep them protected or in storage.
The Leica bino has an extremely wide IPD range of 32-83 mm to fit users of all ages - just because they're small it doesn't mean they're made for kids. The eyecups have a twist up design with 5 positions that stay in place even with brows pressed up against them. They very well might be pressed up against the brows since it has short eye relief of 14 mm.
Interestingly, the diopter is located on the objective bell of the right tube. It works to focus your right eye just the same as if it was in the traditional position on the eyepiece.
Never underestimate quality from a brand such as Leica even if it comes in a small package. After all, it's designed to be ultra compact for your birdwatching, wildlife observing, and sightseeing needs.
5. Maven C3 ED 10X50
Maven is one of our favorite brands. Their optics are high-quality and they're well-made. You know there's something about them when even others are echoing our thoughts - you get more than what you pay for.
- ED glass
- Long eye relief
- Dielectric coating
- Narrow FOV
The higher in magnification and objective lens size you go, the narrower the FOV. At only 262 ft @ 1000 yds, it's not great, but there's a silver lining. You can always find another bino with a slightly wider FOV and the same configuration, but you won't find the same edge-to-edge sharpness, bright picture, and amazing color rendition throughout the entire FOV that you will have in the Maven.
We have an opinion on this as we field tested the C1 10x42 binos that essentially have the same grade of quality optics. ED glass eliminates chromatic aberration and enhances resolution. The dielectric coating allows maximum light reflectivity with little light loss.
What does this mean for you? It means you have a 90% light transmission rate, 22.4 twilight factor, and 25 brightness rate which is almost 10 points higher than the 12x50 model. All in all - you'll be surprised by how bright, sharp, and crisp your sight picture will be.
The Maven C3 bino has the longest eye relief of 19.5 mm of all the C series binoculars. For a 10x50, it's lightweight at 28 ounces. The external lenses have a scratch and oil resistant coating, it's fog and waterproof, and it comes with some extra freebies like a neoprene neck strap, double-layered microfiber storage bag, and lens caps.
The C3 comes from an American brand with an unconditional lifetime warranty. We dare nay-sayers to compete with that - oh wait, there aren't any!
6. Zeiss Terra ED 10X42
The Zeiss Terra ED 10X42 deserves a spot for its Schmidt-Pechan prism assembly with ED glass and excellent close focus distance. It's also worth mentioning that it comes in well under price, in fact this sweet bino is closer to the $300 price range - for a Zeiss!
For a fully waterproof and fog-proof binocular housed in durable rubber armor, and from a renowned optics brand such as Zeiss this is an absolute steal... But, there is a reason the Terra is so affordable - it's made in China. So, does that affect the quality and should it influence your decision of whether or not to invest in this optic? You will have to check out our detailed review to find out.
7. Steiner Predator
The Steiner Predator 10X42 just barely earned a spot, but it deserves a mention for its CAT coatings, fully multi-coated lenses, and N2 Injection System technologies.
It also features an integrated Fast-Close-Focus center wheel on a Makrolon housing chassis.
What to Look for in a Binocular in This Price Range?
You're still playing around with a lot of money when you're shopping around and below 500 bucks. The key to choosing the right binocular is being able to discern the right pick of the litter. Some binoculars will offer it all, and others, not so much. Some manufacturers will focus in on one quality feature, where others will spread the quality around with several features.
For instance, you may have a feature-basic unit, but it's been constructed with the best glass there is. Another binocular may offer a fancy gadget here and a fancy feature there, but there's not really anything "high quality" about it as a whole. Let's take a peek at what you want to look for when shopping this price range.
- Glass: The higher the quality, the better.
- Coatings: The more, the better. Additional prism-specific coatings should also be expected in this price range.
- High power 10X42: You want to make sure you get accurate distances with these binoculars by being brand-specific. Going higher-powered in this price range may result in poorer image quality.
- Eye relief 13-18 mm: Ensure your investment is comfortable to glass with.
- Exit pupil 3-5 mm: Smaller than 3 mm? Expect to lose out on a lot of light-gathering potential.
- Quality Warranty: If you're spending the best of what you can afford, ensure you have a warranty to match the quality of your investment.
Make the Most of Your Buy!
In the end, it doesn't matter if you're spending $20 or $500, you still want the best of what you can afford. Focusing in on what matters to you most, be it glass, durability, or handle-ability, it will be the key to a well-informed buy.
This price category offers every hunter an activity-specific binocular. You don't have to spend more to get the most out of your buy. Just stay on target, stay on budget, and you'll be one happy Glasser!