5 Best Binoculars Under $500 – Satisfy Your Observing Needs! (Spring 2022)

From lightweight and casual compact models to specialized binoculars for adepts - we've reviewed the best ones on the current market.
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Last updatedLast updated: May 13, 2022
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It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the world of binoculars or already acquainted with them. $500 is a significant amount to spend on a set of binoculars. You start to wonder, is this still an amateur device or already a professional one? Making the correct choice becomes more challenging because you want to make the most of your purchase. Our comprehensive guide will show you the best binoculars under $500 and help you choose the right alternative.

We based our research and ranking on a wide range of features, such as magnification and objective lens diameter, prism type and glass, eye relief and close focus distance, and field of view. Whether you are a professional hunter searching for a sturdy weatherproof gadget with a 12x magnification or a simple wildlife enjoyer that doesn’t want their binoculars to take up a lot of space in a backpack, our guide will satisfy your needs.

5 Best Binoculars Under $500 Review

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Editor’s Choice

Vortex Optics Viper HD 10x42

Features
  • Magnification and lens: 10x42mm
  • Field of view: 341 feet at 1000 yards, 6.5°
  • Prism: Roof, ED
  • Close focus distance: 6 feet
  • Eye relief: 16.5mm

Vortex Viper HD are our Editor’s Choice because they offer great value for the money. These binoculars offer an impressive 10x42mm magnification and lens diameter. They also have a right eye diopter for easy adjustments and a 341 feet field of view. The roof prism type and ED lenses provide excellent clarity and durability, while the 16.5mm eye relief ensures comfortable viewing. They can stand up to even the harshest environmental conditions with their durable and weatherproof construction. They are an excellent choice for anyone looking to explore the great outdoors. So if you’re looking for top-of-the-line binoculars that won’t break the bank, the Vortex Viper HD is a great option.

The Vortex Viper HD is almost identical with its equally popular brother, Vortex Razor binoculars. They both offer premium features at a premium price point and are incredibly lightweight and compact. However, the Razor has better state-of-the-art optical elements that offer stunningly high resolution and bright, clear images. For hunting, the Vortex Razor would be a worthy upgrade but for birding and other activities, the Vortex Viper HD shines.

What do we love it for?

  • Fully weatherproof
  • Tripod adaptable
  • No accidental shifts in focus because of right eye diopter
  • High-Density ED glass provides excellent HD image quality
  • Rubber armor body for easy gripping and external protection

What were we disappointed with?

  • May be too large and bulky for some users
  • More expensive than some other models on the market
RELATED: Best 10×42 Binoculars (Spring 2022)
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Most Convenient

Nikon Monarch M7

Features
  • Magnification and lens: 10x42mm
  • Field of view: 362 feet at 1000 yards, 6.9°
  • Prism: Roof, ED
  • Close focus distance: 8.2 feet
  • Eye relief: 16.5mm

The Nikon Monarch M7 are our choice for Most Convenient binoculars because of its light weight of just 24 ounces, compactness, and user-friendly design. With 10x magnification and a 42mm lens diameter, these binoculars provide an exceptionally wide field of view, allowing you to track movement from far away easily. Additionally, they feature a right eye diopter for easy focusing and finest Extra-low Dispersion lenses for superb image quality. Moreover, the Monarch M7 has a generous 16.5mm eye relief, making them perfect for glass wearers or those who require a little extra space.

The Monarch M7 and M5 have a lot in common. They both have a sophisticated exterior design that is comfortable to hold and high-end features for the best image quality. However, the M7 is pricier and doesn’t come in the 12x magnification. Essentially, you can get everything the M7 has from the M5 at a cheaper price point except the wider field of view and oil and water repellent coating.

What makes it special?

  • Apparent image
  • Light gathering is excellent
  • Rugged and weatherproof
  • Easy to focus

What cons did we find?

  • Some users found the eyecups challenging to use
  • Others felt that they were not as sturdy as they would like
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Best for Hunting

Athlon Midas G2 UHD

Features
  • Magnification and lens: 12x50mm
  • Field of view: 281 feet at 1000 yards, 5.4°
  • Prism: Roof, ED
  • Close focus distance: 5 feet
  • Eye relief: 15mm

The Midas G2 UHD binoculars are our Best for Hunting due to their extra protection on the exterior lenses, which prevents the scope from enduring dirt, oil, and potential scratches. They offer a 12x50mm magnification and an impressive field of view of 281 feet and provide unparalleled clarity and detail in even the most challenging conditions. They also feature a right eye diopter, which allows precise focusing, and high-quality Extra-low Dispersion lenses that provide superior color fidelity and brightness. Overall, if you’re looking for a powerful pair of binoculars that won’t let you down on your next hunting adventure, the Midas G2 UHD are an excellent choice.

The Athlon Midas G2 stacks up well against top-rated binoculars like the Vortex Viper on this list. It has an equally decent optical quality and is much lighter and compact. You can pick up the Midas G2 and get a nice picture quicker than you would the viper. For hunting or any activity that requires you to hold the binoculars longer, you would be better off with the Athlon Midas G2 than the Vortex Viper.

What are our favorite features?

  • Clear, sharp view
  • Minimal chromatic aberration
  • Premium glass construction that is well above its price range
  • Ergonomic grip for comfortable handling and tethered lens caps for easy access

What could be better?

  • May not be suitable for those with smaller or close-set eyes, as the lenses may not be able to be adjusted close enough together
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Highest Image Quality

Zeiss Terra ED

Features
  • Magnification and lens: 10x42mm
  • Field of view: 330 feet at 1000 yards, 6.3°
  • Prism: Schmidt-Pechan, Schott ED
  • Close focus distance: 5.3 feet
  • Eye relief: 14mm

The Terra ED is our choice for the Highest Image Quality binoculars because of a Schmidt-Pechan prism type that provides excellent color rendition and brightness. With a 10x42mm magnification and lens diameter, these binoculars give an impressive field of view of 330 feet. There is also a feature of a right eye diopter for easy adjustments and high-quality Schott ED lenses for the best possible image quality. The Terra ED is a good alternative if you’re looking for a high-quality pair of binoculars to deliver exceptional clarity and detail in every viewing situation.

The Zeiss Terra ED is a worthy contender against other powerful binoculars on this list like the Nikon Monarch M7. It stands out for its speed of focus and field of view. For birding, both binos are excellent options, but for hunting, the M7 is a better option because it offers better close focus. Also, the M7 has better diopter adjustment for the correct eyepiece.

What makes it special?

  • Excellent resolution, contrast, and color rendition, with minimal glare or color fringing
  • High-quality build with durable materials and construction
  • Smooth and precise focus control

What cons did we find?

  • The diopter adjustment for the right eyepiece is resistant and challenging to turn unless the eyecup is rotated to the outward position
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5
Best for Birding

Vanguard Endeavor ED II

Features
  • Magnification and lens: 8x32mm
  • Field of view: 378 feet at 1000 yards, 7.2°
  • Prism: Roof, Hoya ED
  • Close focus distance: 5.9 feet
  • Eye relief: 17.5mm

Endeavor ED II are definitely the Best for Birding because of their textured center focus wheel and 8x magnification power, which is ideal for tracking birds in motion. They have a wide field of view spanning 378 feet and are packed with high-quality Hoya Extra-low Dispersion lenses for superior image quality. Besides, there is an easy-to-use right diopter adjustment and durable housing to withstand the harshest conditions. The Endeavor ED II is a good option if you are searching for reliable binoculars that will help you follow bird movements with clarity.

The Vanguard Endeavor ED II is a close call if you have to pick a substitute for the Vortex Viper and the Athlon Midas. Its open bridge design sets it apart and it is longer and front-heavier than the Midas. If you have to choose between it and the Midas regarding image quality, it is better, because it has a slightly narrower field of view.

What makes it stand out?

  • Excellent clarity and sharpness across the field of view
  • The mechanics are butter smooth and accurate, with no wobble or jitters in the image
  • The right eye focus lock is pretty nifty
  • Lifetime warranty

Which disadvantages must you keep in mind?

  • They are a little heavy, which may be a drawback for some users
  • The locking mechanism on the focus wheel occasionally gets stuck

Things to Consider

Choosing a set of binoculars for under $500 could be an arduous task, especially if you are not familiar with all the specs and features. There are many brands and models on the market, which can make it challenging to find a reliable one that will meet your expectations. However, we are here to help you out and make your task easier by composing this buying guide.

Beginner’s Advice

If you are entirely new to the world of binoculars, there is nothing to worry about. Under $500 is a relatively affordable range of binoculars that will give you access to high-quality optics and features. You should expect a device to be well-built, reliable, and provide high-quality images at this price range. You should also be able to easily adjust the focus wheel and diopter adjustment for optimal comfort. Other features to look out for include compatibility with a tripod mount and water resistance/fog proofing.

Essential Specifications of Binoculars

Magnification and Lens Diameter

5 Best Binoculars Under $500 - Satisfy Your Observing Needs! (Spring 2022)

Magnification and lens diameter is the most crucial things when it comes to picking binoculars

The first and the most important thing you should think about when choosing binoculars is their magnification. It is measured in ‘x’ and usually lies within a range of 4x to 12x. The rule of thumb says that the higher the number of ‘x’, the more prominent objects will appear. Nevertheless, it is not always the truth, as high magnification often comes along with a decrease in the field of view.

Therefore, you should decide what you will use your binoculars for. If you need them for birdwatching, 8x will be more than enough as most birds are not that far away. On the other hand, if you need them for hunting or long-distance stargazing, a higher magnification will be the best option.

To dive into the theme, check out our extensive guides for the best binoculars for hunting and best binoculars for bird watching.

When it comes to the lens diameter, it is also necessary to think about what exactly you want to see through your binoculars. Typically, larger lenses offer more light and clarity when observing far-away objects, while smaller lenses are better for shorter distances and moving objects.

Field of View

The field of view is the area you can see through the binoculars, and it depends on several things. First, it usually ranges between 200 and 400 feet, or 4 and 8° – anything above or below this range is unusual to find. Secondly, a wide field of view is often achieved with lower magnification and thus larger optics, while a narrow field of view is usually the result of higher magnification.

Finally, the field of view also depends on the design of the binoculars and their barrels. Porro prism binoculars offer a wider field of view than roof prism models, often at the expense of compactness and weight.

Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance between your eyes and the ocular lenses of the binoculars. It is crucial because it determines how comfortable it will be to use the binoculars for extended periods. Most binoculars have an eye relief of between 14 and 18mm, which is generally enough for most people. However, if you wear glasses, you should look for a model with longer eye relief, as it will allow you to see the entire field of view without having to remove your glasses.

Close Focus Distance

Close focus distance refers to how close an object must be for the binoculars to bring it into a clear view. Generally, the closer a thing is, the easier it will be to see with a pair of binoculars, making the close focus distance a critical consideration when choosing a pair.

Many different factors can affect the close focus distance of a pair of binoculars, including size and weight. Larger and heavier models often have better close focus distances, while smaller and lighter models may struggle to bring objects into clear view. In addition, some binoculars have unique features that can help improve their close focus distance, such as eyepieces designed for long-distance viewing or high-tech coatings that enhance light transmission.

Prism System

5 Best Binoculars Under $500 - Satisfy Your Observing Needs! (Spring 2022)

By their construction, porro prisms are usually heavier and more extensive than the compact and lightweight roof prisms

You need to consider two main types: porro and roof prisms. The main difference between them is in how they refract light. Porro prisms typically have a straight shape and use glass wedges to reflect incoming light through the lens system. On the other hand, roof prisms have a kinked or angled shape, which allows them to reflect light more directly. This results in less loss of light and better overall image quality.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both porro and roof prism binoculars. Porro ones are typically cheaper to manufacture, so they are often found in lower-priced binoculars. They also tend to be heavier and bulkier than roof prisms, making them less convenient. However, porro prisms typically offer better depth perception and a wider field of view than roof ones.

Roof prisms are more expensive to manufacture, but they offer many advantages over porro prisms. They are commonly lighter and more compact, making them more convenient to carry.

You can discover a few more lightweight and compact options with roof prisms in our guide for best compact binoculars.

Additional Features

Weather Resistance

If you plan on using your binoculars in a variety of different climates, then you’ll want to make sure that they can withstand whatever Mother Nature throws at them.

Some binoculars are fully waterproof and can be submerged in water without any issues. Others are only weather-resistant and can withstand light rain or snowfall.

Optical Coatings

Commonly used optical coatings include:

  • Anti-reflective coatings help minimize reflections from the lenses and improve light transmission
  • Phase-correction coatings enhance the sharpness and contrast of images
  • Hydrophobic coatings help repel water and fingerprints.

FAQ

Generally speaking, it is recommended that you avoid purchasing used binoculars if possible, as there is no way to know for sure how well they have been cared for by their previous owner.

It is widely thought that binoculars do not age well. This is because they are often exposed to a wide range of environmental factors, such as heat, moisture, and exposure to sunlight, which can cause them to degrade over time.

If you do decide to purchase used binoculars, be sure to inspect them thoroughly before making a purchase, and only buy from a reputable source.

Tripods are usually recommended for binoculars with magnification of 10x or more. However, with a good pair of binoculars and sturdy tripod, you can achieve excellent results even if your magnification level is lower than 10x. If you need to stabilize the image, a decent quality tripod will do the job well without costing too much money.

There are some things to think over when choosing the best tripod for your needs. The most important aspect is probably the height of the tripod. You will want to make sure that the tripod is tall enough so that you can comfortably view the object you are trying to observe.

Another point to consider is the weight of the tripod. A heavier tripod will be more stable and therefore produce better images. However, it will also be more difficult to carry around. If you plan on using your binoculars for long periods of time, it is worth investing in a tripod that is easy to transport.

The final subject to consider is the price. There are many high-quality tripods on the market, but they can be quite expensive. If you are on a budget, you may have to compromise on some of the other factors, such as portability and height.

There are a few basic steps that you can take to keep your binoculars clean and working well.

The first step is to use a soft, dry cloth to wipe away any dirt or dust from your binoculars’ lenses and other components. If there are any stubborn spots, you can use a gentle cleaning solution to remove them.

Once the lenses and other components are clean, you should apply a lens coating or cleaning solution to help protect them from future dirt and debris. There are various products available that can be used for this purpose.

Finally, you may want to invest in a quality cleaning kit, which can help you keep your binoculars clean and free of scratches or other damage. This can include brushes, microfiber cloths, and other tools that will help you keep your binoculars in optimal condition.

Our Verdict

Based on our conclusion, the best binoculars under $500 is the Vortex Viper HD. This pair is ideal for use in a wide range of activities and is overall worth your money. Nikon Monarch M7 takes place in our top because of its user-friendly design and compactness. It is easy-to-use lightweight equipment that appeals to everyone. Our hunter buddies may consider the Athlon Midas G2 UHD, as it will support them through all the poor weather and maintain a clean and uncluttered vision of a target. Every model from our top picks is worth looking into, and we ensure that you will be content with your decision.

References

1.
Nikon | Sport Optics | Sport Optics Guide
This guide is intended to help you understand and fully enjoy the use of your binoculars. Click on the categories below to view basic information, useful tips on how to choose and use binoculars, and explanations of optical technologies.
2.
How to Clean Binoculars Properly without Damaging the Lenses | Space
Here's our guide on how to clean binoculars properly, so you're well-prepared for the next stargazing event.
3.
How do binoculars work? - Explain that Stuff
A simple introduction to how lenses work in binoculars and telescopes and how to choose the right pair of binoculars.
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