Olympus Roamer 8x21 Review

From $30 Best

The Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I is a good choice for travelers, backpackers, or anyone who wants a small, lightweight binocular that delivers above-average image clarity. The dioptric correction compensates for different vision in each eye. This model features a BK-7 Porro Prism.

When you're travelling around and curious about your surroundings, you never know when you might need to see something up close. Cue the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I. Reviews of this model say the light weight and small size make it carry-around-friendly; at Binoculars.com, for example, users report the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I fits in a purse or hangs comfortably around your neck and doesn't add to the load you might already be hauling, be it birding equipment or camping gear. Reviews also note you can hold this pair up to your eyes for extended periods without straining your arms. Users report taking these binoculars to performances, concerts, and sporting events, and birders say distant images are clear and sharp, although having good light is a necessary condition. One student who posted a binoculars review at Amazon crows about having spotted more wildlife than his peers while using the binoculars during a class trip and an artist says this model enables her to see detail in the scenes or objects that she's translating onto a painted canvas, although she comments that the dimensions seem flat. Reviews further indicate that users appreciate the independent focus for each side of the binocular as well as the moderate price point.

The Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I (starting at $30, Amazon) weighs a mere 5.9 ounces and provides 8x magnification with an objective lens width of 21mm. In addition to the center focus, the Olympus Roamer 8x21 features built-in dioptric eye adjustment, which lets you adjust the right lens so you can see clearly even if the vision in your eyes is different. And, unlike budget models designed solely for distance viewing, you can focus on objects as near as 7.2 feet with the Roamer 8x21. The 336-foot field of view is about average for this price range, as is the 11mm eye relief. These binoculars sport a BK-7 Porro prism system that's encased in a single housing, which gives them a relatively sleek look.

In sum, the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I provides a good viewing experience at a very competitive price. The dioptric adjustment is a welcome extra.

Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 Review

From $44 Best

The wide angle view with the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 greatly expands the area you can see, which makes this model good for sporting events or viewing the city from on high. The focus-free feature ensures you won't miss any of the action. These binoculars can be used with a tripod and have a BK-7 Porro prism.

When the action is changing all around you, having binoculars that you don't need to focus is a blessing. In Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 reviews, this model wins accolades for the constant sharp and clear view of a football on the move, a bird winging through the air, or, as a review at the company's site reports, the numbers on racing boats as they start and finish a competition. And, with a field of view that extends 578 feet wide, you get to see all the action all the time, not to mention the scene around the action. According to binoculars reviews at Binoculars.com, these binoculars are a must-have for bird-watching, hunting, whale and dolphin watching, as well as for sporting events and relaxing by the lake. One review at Amazon also points out that focus-free binoculars are a good choice for kids who might not be able to manage the manual focus on other models. A review at B&H comments that the Permafocus 7x35 enabled a traveler with poor vision to take in all the sights during a vacation.

As with most cheap binoculars, however, a Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 review notes that you lose some clarity around the edges. Additionally, the permanent focus is designed for distance viewing -- at least 50 feet away -- so plans for close-in observation will be thwarted.

At 22.5 ounces, the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 (starting at $44, Amazon) is heavier than most of our top picks. If you're using it to watch a game, you might feel compelled to put it down after a while, although it does come with a tripod mount. As the full name of this model indicates, it features 7x magnification and objective lens width of 35mm. The eye relief is 12mm, which is just about the minimum for eyeglass wearers, and some sites say it's an OK fit with spectacles. The Permafocus 7x35 features a BK-7 Porro prism.

Most people who posted Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 reviews agree with a user at Optics Planet who comments that these binoculars are a solid value and well worth their price.

Bushnell Powerview 8x21 Review

From $14 Good

A super cheap entry-level binocular, the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 is sharp during the day, compact enough for hiking, and very lightweight. It comes with a BK-7 roof prism and offers average clarity.

It's clear from Bushnell Powerview 8x21 reviews that some users regard this as an entry-level model, one that makes a practical and fun gift for kids or grandkids. With a starting price of $14, these binoculars are certainly cheap enough to replace if lost or broken and, they're easy to focus. And yet, as one review at Binoculars.com points out, this is not a toy and it meets the needs of adult users, as well. Binoculars reviews generally report it provides a good enough view of wildlife in its many forms, comes in handy at the theater or opera, and serves as a trusty aid during travels. As one review at Viewpoints notes, the binoculars do not disappoint despite the very low price. At Amazon, a user reports being pleasantly surprised at the quality and says the Powerview 8x21 has replaced a pricier and larger pair as the binoculars of choice for concerts; another writes that he uses the binoculars at the shooting range to check the accuracy of his shots instead of retracting the target holder. We did come across a few gripe about not getting a clear or sharp image, especially around the edges of the viewing field.

With a folding design and a weight of less than 7 ounces, the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 Binoculars (starting at $14, Amazon) is sufficiently light and compact to carry anywhere, and its many admirers do. The field of view is a respectable 378 feet, so you'll see a large area around a central object and the 8x magnification is powerful enough for casual users; the minimum focus distance is 21 feet. Eyeglass wearers might struggle a bit given the 10mm eye relief; the fold-down eyecups should help, but one user asserts they're too small to stay down. The Powerview 8x21 contains a roof prism made of BK-7 glass.

The main selling point for the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 is the price, which many reviewers consider a steal. These binoculars are suitable for users of all ages in situations where getting a better view enhances the overall experience.

Where to buy

Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera Review

From $21 Think Twice

While combining a camera with binoculars may be an appealing idea, its execution on the Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 leaves much to be desired. The model stores up to 160 images, but the clarity is unsatisfactory.

When you're out birding and come across an unusual specimen, what fun it would be to take a picture so you could identify it later. Sure, you could also bring along a camera, but if the two were blended into one ... Indeed, most people who bought the Vivitar CV-1025V (starting at $21, Amazon) say they chose it for the digital camera functionality. But according to Vivitar CV1025 10x25 reviews, the results are exactly what you'd expect with a $20 camera; in other words, subpar. As a pair of binoculars, reviews at sites such as Amazon generally give it a passing grade. Users say it's fine for sporting events and hiking through the woods and for anyone who's just curious about how binoculars work. A binocular review at B&H, however, gripes that it's hard to focus and elsewhere another review expresses disappointment with the optics. But it's the camera that takes the most heat. Reviews report pictures come out blurry, the batteries must be removed when not in use, the settings are hard to adjust; one user complains that lining up the shots is tricky and the subject of the picture rarely shows up where you intended it to be.

The Vivitar CV1025 10x25 has, as its name indicates, a 10x magnification and objective lens diameter of 25mm. Eye relief is 11mm and the field of view at 1,000 yards is 303 feet. There's a center focus and a roof prism, which helps keep the CV1025 fairly compact. The camera can hold up to 160 images; it features a 3/4-inch preview screen and 640x480 resolution.

If you're looking for a two-for-one novelty item, the modest price of the Vivitar CV1025 10x25 will appeal. But if you actually want to make use of its distinguishing feature -- the camera, that is -- you're in for some disappointment.

Buying Guide

When it comes to binoculars, there is a dizzying array of models to consider, from top-of-the-line $2,500 Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision to cheap binocular knockoffs for $9 or $10. Prices usually correspond to the quality of the optics and the durability of the product. At the lower end of the market, you won't get superlative clarity or a pair that can be passed down for generations, but you can find good binoculars for less than $50 if you just want something reasonable for sightseeing, ball games, theater, or casual bird-watching.

Cheap Binoculars Buying Guide

In the Cheapism range, finding decent optics is possible if you know what to look for and how you plan to use the binoculars. If, for instance, you'll be carting them to sporting events, choose a pair with a wide field of view. The Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 (starting at $44), one of our top choices among cheap binoculars, is optimal for this kind of activity. In addition to boasting a wide field of view, these cheap binoculars are focus-free, so keeping up with the action requires no action on your part. Good all-around cheap binoculars are exemplified by the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I (starting at $30), an appropriate choice for activities such as backpacking because they're small, light, and useful for short-range viewing. Additionally, the dioptric correction suits people with different vision in each eye. Likewise compact enough to take on a hike or keep in the glove compartment is the entry-level Bushnell Powerview 8x21 (starting at $14), which is also fine for bird-watching in daylight. The Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera (starting at $21) completely lives up -- or down, as the case may be -- to its price. It supports a camera that takes up to 160 images, but pictures don't come out clear enough to warrant saving.

Specialty models designed for activities like butterfly-gazing or for use in low light conditions like stargazing will cost you more but may not be entirely out of reach (think low triple digits). The features that make up a pair of binoculars are fairly standard throughout the product category. Models are distinguished more by their specifications (and price point) than by their features, which themselves are denoted by a precise technical vocabulary. Product overviews are littered with terms such as binocular magnification, field of view, focus adjustment, prisms, and eye relief that may be unfamiliar to first-time buyers but are important factors to understand and consider before making a choice, and each is discussed below.

You should also pay attention to the size and weight of the cheap binoculars (Will they fit in your pocket? Will they be comfortable to hold for long periods?); the presence of extra features (e.g., waterproof construction); and their performance in the field (How clear is the image? How user-friendly are the binoculars? How do they hold up to normal, and even excessive, wear and tear?). Again, these matters are discussed on the following pages. All this information can help you choose the cheap binoculars that are right for you.

Big names in the binoculars market include Bushnell, Barska, Tasco, Olympus, Nikon, Eagle Optics, Penta, and Alpen Pro. Each of these producers makes binoculars at a variety of price points, but Bushnell, Barska, Tasco, and Olympus offer the largest selection of cheap binoculars.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

Binocular Reviews

If you're expecting superior light transmission that allows you to use your binoculars in the dark or to see sharp, high-contrast images during daylight hours, you're bound to be disappointed with a cheap pair of binoculars. What you should be able to get in the budget price range, according to the binocular reviews we read, is a clear image, ease of handling and focusing, and enough adjustability in the focus to work with your particular eyesight.

Binoculars Ease of Use.

User friendliness, of one type or another, is a mark of our top picks. The fixed focus on Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 Binoculars (starting at $44), for example, makes them a cinch to use. On cold winter days when you're wearing gloves, you won't need to worry about fiddling with the focus mechanism. The fixed focus is a bottom-line requirement when attending a NASCAR race, notes a binoculars review at Amazon, because it enables you to clearly and continuously see all the action without constant adjustments.

When things aren't moving as fast as cars around a track, though, dioptric lenses that focus independently and adjust to the vision in each eye is a welcome bonus. Purchasers of the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I (starting at $30) point out in binocular reviews at Amazon that focusing requires a few steps, but the process is easy enough and the effort pays off in sharp viewing with both eyes, even for people who wear glasses (several users suggest taking them off first). Users also like the light 5.9-ounce weight of this model, which makes them comfortable to hold and carry.

The combination of low price and small profile of the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 Binoculars (starting at $14) seals the deal for many buyers, but it's the compact size that really calls to them. Binocular reviews at sites such as Binoculars.com note that this model is a good choice for young users -- it's particularly easy for small hands to manage -- and the folding design proves convenient for travelers and opera-goers; one adult user with macular degeneration reports it provides a welcome assist on the golf course.

The one outlier among the models we researched is the Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 Binocular Digital Camera (starting at $21). A binoculars review at B&H asserts that the instructions on the display screen are confusing and the two lenses don't come into focus together. At Amazon several reviews gripe that the camera function is a pain to use and the captured images are blurry.

Binoculars Image Clarity.

Along this performance dimension, the models on our list score pretty high; that is, whatever you're viewing almost always looks sharp and clear.

The Permafocus feature on the Bushnell 7x35 is just what's called for when watching moving objects, binocular reviews assert. Fans of these binoculars say they're the bomb at football games where, as one reviewer comments at Optics Planet, you can sit in the end zone and see all the action clearly thanks to the always-in-focus lenses (the extra-wide view field certainly helps; more on that later). That said, several binocular reviews point out that the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 doesn't work as well for objects that are less than 50 feet away, which is no surprise given that the fixed focus is meant for distant viewing.

Users who posted at B&H laud the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I for its crystalline images, although a review at another site states that images can appear flat; that is, two dimensional rather than three. Others appreciate the well-defined detail that comes with the ability to focus as needed on objects/scenes that are relatively close in or at a far remove.

Binocular reviews for the Bushnell Powerview 8x21, also at B&H, note the surprisingly clear images, particularly at concerts and shows, given the very low price point. One binoculars review elsewhere cautions, however, that one cost of the model's cheap price is the loss of some brightness.

The consensus opinion in binocular reviews of the Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 is that they're fine as binoculars but -- and this is a biggie -- it's the camera feature that drew people in, and it's impossible to get a clear shot. One purchaser recounts in a review on Amazon the difficulty of lining up a shot and the mediocre photo image that resulted.

Binoculars Durability.

All things being equal, higher-priced binoculars deliver better durability than budget models. That said, the longevity of inexpensive binoculars depends on how often you use, and perhaps abuse, them. Low-cost binoculars are lightweight, which makes them great for tossing around, but dropping them with any frequency will probably knock the lenses out of alignment. Indeed, we read several binocular reviews by regretful buyers saying they wish they had spent more money for a pair that would have lasted longer than six months. On the other hand, as reviews of the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 point out, these binoculars are so inexpensive that replacing then doesn't pinch your wallet if they break. And some win points for durability. Subjecting the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 binoculars to a fair amount of stress does no harm at all, asserts a binoculars review, and a user of the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 reports that after 15 years and some mishaps, they're still going strong.

Binocular Magnification, Focus

The primary features of cheap binoculars are the magnification and objective lens width. Binocular magnification refers to how much larger the distant object will appear, or how much closer it will seem to you. The greater the binocular magnification, the more light is needed to display the image on the binocular lenses, which in turn requires a larger objective lens. The objective lens width is the width of each of the two lenses on the binoculars. The greater the lens width, the more light is collected; the more light, the brighter the image appears.

The binocular magnification and lens width are typically included in the model name. For example, Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 binoculars have a magnification of 7x, which means objects will appear seven times closer than they actually are, and an objective lens width of 35mm. For most outdoor activities, such as bird-watching or sightseeing, a 7x or 8x binocular magnification is appropriate. All three of our top picks boast one or the other of these binocular magnifications. The Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 provides a magnification of 10x, a level that rewards viewers with a bit more detail than 7x or 8x but somewhat crimps their field of view (see below).

For indoor activities such as opera or theater, a lower binocular magnification (such as 3x or 4x) is often preferable because the lower magnification requires less light to magnify the image. For example, the LaScala Optics Othello 3x25 Opera Glasses (starting at $30) are designed for the dim light of theater and opera performances.

Some binoculars, like the Barska Gladiator 7-21x40 Zoom (starting at $30), can change magnifications with a zoom lens so you can choose the correct binocular magnification for any situation. In this example, magnification starts at 7x and reaches up to 21x, but the flexibility doesn't impress users. Reviews of this model posted at Amazon report an inability to bring the view into focus, with serious problems arising at magnification as low as 10x. Note, though, that models with variable magnification in general perform better at lower magnification levels than at higher levels.

Binoculars Field of View.

A binocular's field of view determines how much surface area you can see in the distance. Let's say you're looking at a bird 1,000 feet away. A larger field of view lets you see more of the area around the bird, making it easier to follow as it moves on the ground or flies through the air. Similarly, if you're watching an opera performance or a football game, a larger field of view lets you see more of the stage or the playing field.

The field of view is determined in part by the objective lens width but also by the design of the lenses. You have a wider field of view with lower binocular magnification than with higher binocular magnification. Again, this is where your intended use should help guide your purchase decision. For birders, experts at Optics Planet caution against giving priority to a wide field of view because you could be sacrificing image clarity. Enthusiasts of team sports, on the other hand, may rank a wide field of view above ultra-sharp detail on their list of priorities.

Field of view is measured in the number of feet around a center point that you can see at 1,000 yards. For example, the Bushnell Permafocus has a very large field of view: 578 feet at 1,000 yards. Our two other picks, the Olympus 8x21 Roamer DPC I and Bushnell Powerview 8x21, respectively feature a 336-foot and 378-foot field of view, which is quite respectable. The Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 is graced with a narrower 303-foot field of view.

Binoculars Focus Adjustments.

Most binoculars typically have a center focus knob and some kind of diopter adjustment. The center focus knob lets you zoom in on an object or scene, while the diopter adjustment lets you adjust the strength of the right and left ocular lens to compensate for the strength or weakness of each eye. Most cheap binoculars we researched feature a central focus knob, and the Olympus 8x21 DPC I boasts a built-in dioptric adjustment as well.

One notable exception is the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35. These cheap binoculars are designed for someone who just wants to lift the binoculars to their eyes and look at something in the distance. To keep things simple, the focus on this model is permanently set to infinity. This means that everything farther than about 50 feet away will come into clear focus. While this type of focus is not suitable for up-close viewing, it's ideal for anything with a lot of action, like a horse race or ball game.

Compact Binoculars, Waterproof Binoculars

Cheap binoculars tend to be compact, perfect for throwing in a backpack or even a pocket. The lighter the binoculars are, the longer you'll be able to hold them and the steadier your grip will be. The Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I and the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 each weigh no more than 7 ounces, while the LaScala Optics Othello 3x25 Opera Glasses (starting at $30) are a lightweight 4.5 ounces. Moving up the scale, the Vivitar CV-1025V 10x25 binocular digital camera hits the mark at 14 ounces and the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 weighs in at a hefty 22.5 ounces. Experts note that binoculars this heavy are best set on a tripod, particularly for a long day of bird-watching or hunting; among those we researched, only the Permafocus 7x35 is adaptable for this use.

Binoculars Water Resistance.

If you plan to use your binoculars in wet conditions or in a boat, a pair of cheap waterproof binoculars would be worth considering. Waterproof binoculars are sealed to keep the moisture out; if moisture seeps inside the lens of non-waterproof binoculars, the image will be blurred. Most waterproof models are well beyond our price range (the ultra high-end Swarovski 10x42 EL Swarovision is one example) and we noticed only a handful that count as cheap; one is the Barska 10x25 Compact Waterproof Binocular (starting at $25), which is noted in reviews at Campmor for its solid construction and ability to keep water at bay.

Binoculars Prisms.

In addition to lenses, binoculars contain a prism that turns the image so you see it right-side up. There are two types of binocular prisms. Porro prisms are bent so the front and rear lenses are offset from the eye pieces, which enables a wider field of view and greater depth perception. Binoculars with roof prisms have a straight ocular path between the front and rear lenses (essentially, they overlap), which makes the binoculars less bulky and potentially able to withstand more wear and tear. Binoculars prisms of the roof variety are more difficult to adjust for the spacing between your eyes but are much more compact. Among the models we researched, the Bushnell Permafocus 8x25, Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I, and Barska Gladiator 7-21x40 Zoom (starting at $30) feature Porro prisms; the Bushnell Powerview 8x21 and Vivitar CV-1025V feature roof prisms.

Two levels of quality further distinguish binocular prisms. Most lower-end binoculars sport BK-7 prisms, which will, according to experts at Oceanside Photo & Telescope, square off a bit at the edges, yielding some distortion. BAK-4 binocular prisms offer better quality viewing -- they're more rounded, which gives better edge-to-edge clarity, and are made with higher-quality optical glass. In general, BAK-4 prisms are found in models priced beyond the Cheapism niche.

Binoculars Eye Relief.

An important factor for people who wear glasses is eye relief. Eye relief refers to the distance between your eyes and the eyepiece and the associated point at which the full image comes into focus. Basically, if this distance is long enough, you can look through the binoculars wearing your glasses and see a full image. If the eye relief distance is too short, looking through the binoculars will be like looking through a tube. Experts at REI suggest that eyeglass wearers should look for an eye relief of at least 11mm; others recommend 14mm as a starting point.

In the Cheapism price range, our two top picks meet the minimum 11mm criterion -- the Bushnell Permafocus 7x35 has an eye relief of 12mm, and the Olympus Roamer 8x21 DPC I has an eye relief of 11mm. (The Bushnell Powerview 8x21 provides eye relief of 10mm.) If keeping your glasses on is a priority (or a necessity), you might consider spending a little extra for the Nikon Action EX Extreme (starting at $113), which boasts an eye relief of 17mm, a more comfortable range for viewing while wearing glasses; users report in reviews at Binoculars.com that they do, in fact, sync nicely with glasses. Another thing eyeglass wearers should look for is fold-down eyecups (available on both of the Bushnell binoculars we researched) that bring your eyes closer to the lenses.

Additional Products We Considered

Nikon Aculon A211 8x42 Review

From $80

Best Binoculars for Birding and Wildlife Under $100


  • High-quality BAK4 porro prism.
  • 420-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • Durable, non-slip rubber armor.
  • Lenses made with lightweight lead- and arsenic-free glass; multicoated to improve brightness.
  • Limited lifetime warranty and no-fault repair/replacement policy.


  • Not waterproof or fogproof.
  • 12 mm eye relief is probably too short for people who wear glasses.
  • Diopter adjustment, for fine-tuning the focus to account for any differences in vision between left and right eyes, is a bit tight, some reviewers say. On the upside, it's unlikely to get knocked out of focus once set.

Takeaway: These 8x42 Nikon binoculars (model 8245) are an excellent choice for general use and sporting events, as well as wildlife- and bird-watching. The 8x magnification allows a very wide field of view. Reviewers admire the optics and consider these some of the best binoculars for the money.

Bushnell H2O 10x42 Review

From $95

Best Binoculars for Hunting Under $100


  • Excellent optics, clarity, and sharpness for the price.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • 305-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • Roof prism made with high-quality BAK4 glass.
  • 17 mm eye relief is plenty long enough for people who wear glasses.
  • Multicoated lenses reduce glare and let in more light.
  • Non-slip rubber provides a firm grip.
  • Included lens caps remain attached to the binoculars so they don't get lost.


  • A handful of complaints about double vision and difficulty focusing.

Takeaway: Bushnell H2O 10x 42mm binoculars garner high praise from users. The clarity and brightness are impressive, reviewers say, and the waterproofing allows them to take this model kayaking, whale watching, or into a duck blind without worry of water damage.

Editors' Note: Two retail chains will no longer be selling Bushnell binoculars following a consumer outcry against the brand's parent company, Vista Outdoor, which manufactures guns that include assault-style rifles. Consumers who support the boycott may want to consider the Nikon 8245 Aculon A211 8x42 or the Barska Blackhawk 10x40 waterproof monocular instead.

Where to buy

Bushnell PowerView 10x25 Review

From $19

Best Compact Binoculars Under $50


  • Compact and lightweight (8.5 ounces).
  • Tough, durable build; non-slip rubber armor.
  • More capable than expected for the price, reviewers say.
  • Anti-glare lens coating (single layer) on all air-to-glass surfaces allows more light in.
  • 300-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • Comes with a case and neck strap.
  • Available in a camouflage pattern.
  • Lifetime limited warranty.


  • Setting the focus and proper eye position can be tricky.
  • Image isn't as clear and crisp as some reviewers would like.
  • Not waterproof or fogproof.

Takeaway: The Bushnell PowerView 10x25 binoculars have a compact yet sturdy build, making them a fine choice for hiking, traveling, sporting events, outdoor concerts, and the like. Some users consider the image quality only so-so, but most rate this model an excellent value for the money.

Editors' Note: Two retail chains will no longer be selling Bushnell binoculars following a consumer outcry against the brand's parent company, Vista Outdoor, which manufactures guns that include assault-style rifles. Consumers who support the boycott can look to our runner-up choice among compact binoculars, the Tasco Essentials 10x25.

Celestron Cometron 7x50 Review

From $35

Best Binoculars for Stargazing Under $50


  • Porro prism preferred for stargazing.
  • User-friendly; reviewers say it's easy to adjust the spread of the eyepieces.
  • Good image clarity and brightness.
  • 357-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • Comes with a case, lens caps and cloth, and neck strap.


  • Somewhat heavy, at 27.3 ounces, and bulky, given the porro prism and large objective lenses.
  • 13 mm eye relief is on the short side for people who wear glasses.
  • May fog up in humid conditions.
  • Some reviews lament that distant planets appear fuzzy.
  • BK7 prism glass (lower quality than BAK4).

Takeaway: Celestron Cometron 7x50 binoculars (model No. 71198) are often deployed for gazing at the stars, although reviewers say faraway planets don't look as clear as the moon. User-friendly and inexpensive, this model is a good choice for first-timers seeking astronomy binoculars.

Tasco Essentials 10x25 Review

From $13

Good Compact Binoculars Under $50


  • Very good image clarity.
  • User-friendly; reviewers say the focus is easy to adjust.
  • Lightweight, pocket-size design.
  • Rubberized grip.
  • 300-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • Strap included.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.


  • Prone to breaking, some users report.
  • No carrying case.
  • Not waterproof or fogproof.

Takeaway: The bargain-priced Tasco Essentials (Roof) 10x 25mm binoculars may be a bit fragile, but they're cheap enough that it doesn't matter to many buyers. These small binoculars are the lightest we researched, at 8.4 ounces, and consumers say they're easy to use -- a good option for kids as well as adults.

Explore One 6x21 Review

From $16

Best Binoculars for Kids


  • Sturdy, rubber-coated construction; hard for kids to break.
  • Diopter adjustment allows separate focusing for each eye; most cheap binoculars marketed to kids have only a central focusing knob.
  • Comes with a nylon wrist strap and a carrying case that straps onto a belt.
  • Brightly colored design.
  • Lightweight, at 9 ounces.


  • Limited magnification (6x).
  • Mediocre focus and image clarity.
  • Not waterproof or fogproof.

Takeaway: Make no mistake: Explore One 6x21 binoculars are designed solely for children, not adults. They're more a toy than a piece of field equipment, with so-so optics and limited magnification. That said, they're functional in the most basic sense, and inexpensive and tough enough to withstand abuse. Reviewers say kids really enjoy using them.

Barska Blackhawk 10x40 Monocular Review

From $43

Best Monocular Under $50


  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Compact and comfortable, with a textured grip and ergonomic finger rests.
  • Durable build.
  • 17 mm eye relief allows users to wear glasses.
  • 315-foot field of view.
  • Comes with a case, lens covers and cloth, and a wrist strap.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.


  • Some reports of distortion and problems focusing.

Takeaway: The Barska Blackhawk 10x40 Monocular is ideal for hunters and sportsmen who need rugged optics in the field. It's weatherproof and designed for tough conditions, yet easy to hold and use. Some buyers are disappointed with the optics, but most reviewers give this model a hearty endorsement.

Vortex Solo 8x25 Monocular Review

From $49

Best Compact Monocular Under $50


  • Excellent brightness and image clarity.
  • Solid, sturdy build.
  • Lightweight, at 5.6 ounces.
  • BAK4 roof prism.
  • 378-foot field of view.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Lanyard and carrying case included.
  • Unlimited lifetime warranty.


  • Lacks sharpness, some reviewers say.
  • Narrow focus ring can make focusing tricky; the ring is a bit stiff.

Takeaway: The Solo 8x25 Monocular from Vortex Optics is a good choice for anyone who prefers a monocular over bulkier binoculars. The optics are impressive, and users appreciate the light weight and compact size. This monocular has a couple of shortcomings, but it's a handy tool that's easy to carry while hunting or hiking.

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Barska 3x25 Blueline Opera Glass Review

From $35

Best Opera Glasses Under $50


  • Compact, lightweight, and stylish.
  • Easy to focus on costume detail or performers' faces.
  • 367-foot field of view.
  • Lightweight, at 6.35 ounces.
  • Comes with a leatherette drawstring pouch and a gold-trim cord that's comfortable around the neck.
  • Limited lifetime warranty.


  • Some users would prefer stronger magnification, although 3x is typical for opera glasses.
  • Some reviewers admire the elegant design but not the optics.

Takeaway: Nights at the opera -- or the theater or the ballet or any other performance -- are made more enjoyable by a good pair of opera glasses like the Barska 3x25 Blueline Opera Glass. These stylish opera glasses don't have particularly strong magnification but provides a closer look at the stage than the naked eye while maintaining a wide field of view.

Where to buy