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Compact binoculars aren’t your “army-style Rambo 4 see from 5 miles away binoculars. No: hunters, birdwatchers, nature lovers and general users use this item to enhance their viewing experience.
In this article, we will present you with five different items, and a guide to select the best compact binoculars under $100 depending on your needs, and preferences. So without further ado, let’s get down to business!
Best Compact Binoculars Under $100 Comparison Table
The Whats, The Whys, And The Ifs of Compact Binoculars Under $100
Before we dive into reviews on our list of products, you should know a thing or two about the product category so that you can buy optimal binoculars, that is, the ones that are best for you. Here, we will discuss what the product is, what is it used for, and what factors should you pay attention to during the selection process.
The concept of such binoculars is self-explanatory: they are bigger than your mini binoculars but smaller than the military-grade binoculars. Hikers, campers, birdwatchers or your average John Does often don’t need expensive military binoculars, so they seek small binoculars to enhance their viewing experience.
Consequently, they opt for small pocket binocular, for they offer some acceptable all-around features:
- Solid magnification(generally varies between 8X and 12X)
- Medium FOV, acceptable for outdoor activities
- Compactness (lightweight, foldable, ability to carry in your pocket)
- Easy to use (simple functions, such as focus adjusting)
- Sturdiness (mostly made of plastic or aluminum alloy)
- Multicoated or fully multicoated (for better light transition, reduction of glare, etc.)
Let’s clear something out: bigger zoom doesn’t mean better binoculars (or better view). Let’s play the role of the binocular manufacturer: if you introduce more zoom inside your binoculars, you have to work very hard to not only zoom the perceived object but to make it bright and colorful as if you are watching it in the real world.
If the binoculars are 10X42, the number 10 refers to the magnification. In short, if the magnification is 10, it means that you can see the object ten times closer than you would with a naked eye. 42 refers to the objective lens size, which is placed at the front of your binoculars.
The objective lens collects and gathers the light, but doesn’t do the magnification; magnification is done by the ocular lenses, those located at the front of binoculars.
FOV is related to the magnification and refers to the field of view. When you look at the world with the naked eye, your FOV is quite broad (read this interesting Quora discussion on FOV). Human naked eye FOV is roughly 180 degrees, but as you use the binoculars (let us say 8X), your FOV becomes narrower; the bigger the magnification, the shorter the FOV gets.
What does this mean for you? Well, if you are buying binoculars for birdwatching or other outdoor activities, you should always go with the binoculars that feature great FOV. While you probably want great zoom, you probably don’t want to sacrifice a lot of FOV for it (unless you want to observe one particular bird!).
But, if you seek binoculars for opera, concerts or spectator sports, you should care about FOV. Why? Well, if you watch the games, you are probably focusing on the ball. Similarly, if you are attending the concert or opera, you will likely concentrate on performers more than on anything else.
The same can be said for zoom. If you want an opera binoculars, do you need a 12X zoom? No, you should probably go with the 8X zoom, which will allow you to see the performers, not the buttons on their costumes.
Compactness And Ease Of Use
One of the great things about small binoculars is that they mimic the military grade binoculars in clearness and clarity, but are much less complicated. Often, these binoculars feature adjusting, rotating handwheel, with which you adjust the focus.
You should also pay attention to dimensions and weight; some binoculars are bigger and heavier, some smaller and lighter. For instance, Skygenius 8×21 Binoculars will fit in your back pocket (when folded), but Bushnell 10X42 Binoculars probably won’t.
I believe compactness shouldn’t be the determining factor when you buy binoculars but is something worth considering. For instance, you might seek those that are light, so that they don’t burden you when you are hiking or camping or binoculars that are small so they fit in your bag when travelling.
Sturdiness And Coating
Binoculars on our list are made of plastic or aluminum alloy. Those that are made of plastic are inexpensive and light, but less sturdy and durable. You have to be more careful with how you use them since their material doesn’t protect them.
Furthermore, some are waterproof, some aren’t (Bushnell 10X42 Binoculars are also fog proof). And just because they are waterproof, that doesn’t mean you should drown them in the sea! No matter how sturdy they are, these aren’t military grade binoculars!
I also want to clear one thing; none of these binoculars feature night vision technology. Manufacturers throw the phrases such as “low-light night vision” quite liberally, probably to attract your attention. Some people bought the item because they thought the binoculars feature night vision, which is absurd.
And when it comes to coating, go with the multicoated or fully multicoated binoculars, preferably with those that feature BAK4 prisms. Why? Coating determines the amount of light that will pass through the objective lens (and travel to your eye).
Fully multicoated optics allow more light to come through the lens, while multicoated reflect more light than the fully multicoated lens. When it comes to price, FMC optic is often more expensive than the fully coated (or multicoated optic). Preferably, you should go with the FMC if you want better brightness and more precise viewing.
Last but not least, you should also think about the additional kit that comes with the binoculars. Most packages include carrying case, strap and cleaning cloth. More expensive products also come with things such as lens covers, which offer more protection for front and rear lenses.
Interestingly, Gosky 10×42 HD Binoculars also feature smartphone adapter, allowing you to connect your smartphone onto the binoculars and record videos or images through the binoculars (though, it is tricky to use). Consider the quality of this additional kit, since some straps are less comfortable and sturdy than others, and some carrying cases are often too tight in my oppinion.
Best Compact Binoculars Under $100 Reviews
Though marketed as theater binocular, Skygenius is also used for hiking, birdwatching, traveling, etc. Both kids and adults use it, due to its inexpensiveness and low-expertise requirements.
Skygenius is only 4.14 x 3.62 x 2.35 inches big and weighs roughly 0.4 lbs. Its Field of View is 369 ft/1,000Yds, which is excellent for such an inexpensive item. It features 8X zoom, with 21 mm objective (as the product name suggests).
When folded, these small binoculars are 2.3 inches big and can fit in your pocket. What we are most impressed with is the view quality. These binoculars feature Roof Prism optic (BK7, read more about it here), paired with FMC Green optics (the FMC stands for fully multicoated, see here). Thanks to the implementation of the FMC and BK7 prism design, these binoculars provide excellent view quality.
Its wide FOV and easy to focus design make the Skygenius very desirable. They are lightweight, but not too light; they can endure some kicking (don’t punch them intentionally!). Jokes aside, the material is solid. On the right eye lens, you have the diopter with which you can balance the view.
They are made mostly of plastic, so, you will experience that odor of newly purchased things. These binoculars come without protective caps and aren’t that sturdy, so be careful with how you operate with them.
- Extremely inexpensive
- checkLightweight and small
- checkExcellent view quality
- checkEasy to adjust and use, perfect for beginners
- Not that sturdy
- Cheap plastic odor
Aurosports is 3.7 x 2.1 x 3.6 inches big and weighs 0.5 lbs. This binocular features 10X zoom paired with 25 mm lens. Note that the 25 mm refers to the objective lens; the eye lens is 23 mm big.
In the middle, you have the focus handwheel, which rotates very smoothly. Aurosports binoculars are perfect for outdoor activities (such as birdwatching) since they offer both day and night viewing (to be fair, these aren’t night vision binoculars, but you will be able to see in low-light conditions).
FOV is 362ft/1000 yds, similar to the Aurosports. It features BAK4 type prism (read more about it here), which is considered a better alternative to the BK7. Lenses are fully multicoated, and the binoculars are waterproof, which helps extend durability.
Thanks to the BAK4 prism and green film (manufacturer says Full HD, but come on, this isn’t a TV screen!), the Aurosports 10×25 can be used in low light conditions. Of course, you can’t see during the night, but sunset/dusk conditions, yes, you can.
These binoculars come with a portable bag, lens cleaning cloth, anti-slip strap, and user instructions. Note that you won’t need the instructions, for the item is reasonably easy to use. The strap that comes with them isn’t that reliable. Also, the case should have been larger and more protective, but I understand that sturdier case would increase the price.
- Value for money
- checkGood for low light conditions
- checkPerfect for outdoor activities, especially birdwatching
- checkWaterproof and somewhat sturdy
- The feels a bit unreliable
- The carrying case could have been larger and sturdier
Occer binoculars are 4 x 4.4 x 1.9 inches big, slightly larger than the two previous products. Also, these weigh 20 ounces (1.25 lbs), doubling the weight of Aurosports and Skygenius. The objective lens is 25 mm in diameter, eye diameter 15 mm.
It has 12X magnification, highest on our list. FOV is 273ft/1000yds, which is ok for this specific magnification, allowing you to see clearly, widely and farther. These binoculars use BAK4 prism design, paired with FMC coating. They are made of durable ABS plastic, covered with shock-proof rubber.
The lenses translate colors very efficiently (no color distortion), allowing you to view the perceived object as it is. They can also be used in the low-light environment. The implementation of the blue and green film helps with light reflection, reducing the effect of glare.
The product comes with carrying case, strap and cleaning cloth. It is made of quality and sturdy plastic, which increases its durability, but also the cost. Still, the Occer 12×25 Binoculars are reasonably priced, considering the view and magnification quality.
We didn’t like the included strap. It is very thin and will rub on your neck, due to the binocular’s weight. The belt is durable but should have been more comfortable.
- 12X zoom, best on the list
- checkSturdy and durable (also waterproof)
- checkClear, bright view (considering the cost)
- The strap is somewhat uncomfortable
- The adjustment of focus wheel takes some time
Now we arrive at the expensive stuff! Gosky 10×42 Binoculars are perfect for outdoor activities, due to their extremely wide 42 mm lens and 307ft/1000yds FOV. These binoculars are 5.75 x 2.1 x 4.96 inches big and weigh roughly 1.5 pounds.
Lenses green film FMC lenses offer a clear view and 10X magnification, delivering fantastic view performance. These are right HD binoculars, and also features smartphone adapter, allowing you to record your surroundings. The objective lens is 42 mm big, with 18mm eye entry.
It is made of magnalium (combination of magnesium and aluminum, see here), and is much sturdier than all previous binoculars on our list. However, you will have to pay a lot more for that sturdiness, since this is the second most expensive product on our list.
The eyecups are adjustable/removable so that you can use them depending on whether or not you wear eyeglasses. This item also has 1/4″-20 thread on the front, so that you can attach the tripod on it. You also receive carrying bag, comfortable strap, cleaning cloth, as well as eyepiece and lens cover for more protection. And, you receive a smartphone adapter compatible with most smartphones.
These binoculars are more expensive and are larger than others on the list. But, if you are looking for sturdy and durable binoculars for outdoor activities, this is the right item for you.
- Extremely durable
- checkAmazing view quality
- checkSmartphone adapter
- checkQuality and comfortable strap
- checkComes with a protective cover (for eyepiece and lenses)
- Expensive compared to the rest on the list
- The phone adapter is tricky to use
Sturdy, elegant and durable; that is the Bushnell 10X42 Binoculars. These waterproof binoculars are 5.91 x 7.09 x 3.15 inches big, and weigh 1.69 lb, making them the heaviest on the list. This is also the most expensive item on our list.
They use BAK4 prism, and multi-coated optics, which grant excellent light and color transition. Bushnell 10X42 is purged with nitrogen and sealed with O rings, making them water and fog proof. When it comes to view performance, they are the best compact binoculars under 100 dollars.
Covered with antislip rubber, they provide firm and ergonomic grip, allowing you to focus on viewing more than any other item. The objective lens is 42 mm broad, eye relief 17 mm, which is more than enough for outdoor activities. FOV is extensive, being 305 ft/1000 yds.
We loved the sizeable adjustable knob on the center, which grants smooth and straightforward focus adjustment. The focus is rapid and sharp, excellent for viewing fast moving things. And since the eye relief is quite large, people with glasses can also use these binoculars.
The product comes with carrying case (could be a bit larger, but is quality made), comfortable strap, covers (for both front an rear lenses) and cleaning cloth. There is one issue we have with this item, and that is the lack of FMC; these are multicoated, not fully multicoated, meaning that you can see clear and sharp images, but they would be even better with multicoated lenses.
- Well built, durable and sturdy
- checkWaterproof and fog proof
- checkCovers for lenses
- checkCan be attached on a tripod
- checkQuality carrying case
- checkComfortable strap
- checkErgonomically designed (firm rubbered grip)
- The most expensive item on the list
- Not fully multicoated
Conclusion – Which is the Best Compact Binoculars Under $100?
If I had to pick one, I would go with the Bushnell 10X42 Binoculars. Although these binoculars aren’t fully multicoated, they still offer the clearest viewing. Also, they are the most durable and sturdiest item on our list, with excellent FOV and wide objective lens.
I recommend the Bushnell 10X42 Binoculars for those who seek outdoor pocket binocular, for they are sturdy and resistant to water and fog. They are a bit heavy (and expensive), but the strap that comes with it is sturdy and comfortable.
But, if you seek binoculars for indoor activities (such as opera), consider opting for cheaper binoculars, such as the Skygenius 8×21 Binoculars. Again, it comes down to your personal needs and preferences. Whatever you choose, make sure you pay attention to the things we discussed.
Pay most attention to magnification and FOV, as well as the multicoating, since these things affect the quality of the view you get. If you cover all these issues, you will undoubtedly pick those binoculars that are ideal for you and your favourite activities.