Best binoculars under 500 header

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Binoculars are excellent companions when hiking, birdwatching, stargazing, hunting, sailing. You can even use binoculars during concerts, range finding, military services, and so on. The wide application of binoculars means there are a lot of manufactures in the market.

This has led to a wide price range for binoculars. You can get a pair for as low as $50. There are also models that fall below $100, $200, and $300. And the high-end models cost well over $1000. Most people can’t spend over a thousand dollars on a binocular and frankly, we wouldn’t encourage you to. You can get quality binoculars without having to break your bank.

As you can see, there’ll always be binoculars that fall within your budget. But if you want a really special pair of binoculars that has a good build, superb image quality and can stand the test of time, then you need a budget of about $500.

$500 isn’t a small amount of money. And if you’ll be spending that amount on a binocular, then you want a product superior to those in lower price ranges. However, choosing the best binoculars under 500 dollars can be a daunting task. Why? This is because there are so many options in the market that it’s easy to get confused and overwhelmed.

We’ve done all the hardwork for you by doing extensive research and testing of different products. This has allowed us to compile the list of the very best binoculars under 500 dollars. Read the review below to know more about these binoculars.

There is also a buying guide that will educate you on things to look out for in a binocular. This will be especially useful for those that have never owned a binocular. So here we go.

The 6 Best Binoculars Under 500 Dollars for 2020

Vanguard Endeavor ED IV 10×42 Binoculars

VANGUARD Endeavor ED IV 10x42 Binocular, Premium Hoya ED Glass, SK-15 Prisms, Waterproof/Fogproof

$409.75  in stock
5 new from $409.75
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This is a binocular that will greatly exceed your expectations. The build quality, elegant design and excellent optical performance are some of the features that’ll quickly impress you. This binocular is made using Extra Low Dispersion Glass (ED glass) which is commonly found in high-end binoculars.

ED glass reduces chromatic aberrations and greatly increases the quality of the image produced. There is also the SK15 prism which provides excellent light transmission and color fidelity for a superior viewing experience. The advanced MultiGuard coatings also bring about improved light transmission. We really like that this binocular performs well in low-light situations.

The rubber armoring helps protect the binocular against falls and impact. And the ergonomic design of this binocular makes it easy to handle. You’ll also find that the chassis is made of magnesium alloy which provides a stunning balance between strength, weight, and durability.

The open bridge design helps you maintain a firm grip on this binocular no matter the weather conditions. Thanks to the sealed O-ring and nitrogen purging, this binocular is 100% waterproof and fogproof. Outdoors enthusiasts will especially find this feature handy due to the unpredictable conditions.

Focusing this binocular is smooth and straightforward without being overly sensitive. Also, the dioptric adjustment wheel rotates smoothly. This binocular includes standard accessories you’d expect in a high-end binocular. There’s a carry case, eyepiece rainguard, cleaning cloth, and a padded neoprene neck strap.

For the price, you can be sure that this binocular will stand the test of time and be extremely durable.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Dimensions : 5.87 x 5.12 x 1.65 in / 14.9 x 13 x 4.2 cm
  • Weight : 766 g / 27.04 oz
  • Field of view: 340 ft @ 1000 yards

Pros

  • Elegant and ergonomic design.
  • Excellent optical performance.
  • Easy to handle and fine tune.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Long eye relief.
  • Extremely durable.
  • Includes accessories.

Cons

  • Bit bulky but still easy to handle.
  • Carry case could be a bit roomier.

Other Buying Options:

Maven C3 ED 12×50 Binoculars

Maven C3 ED Binocular Gray/Orange (12X50)

$425.00  in stock
1 new from $425.00
Free shipping
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To use the exact words Maven used to describe these binoculars online, they features a well-balanced lightweight polymer frame, extra low-dispersion (ED) glass, and fully multi-coated lenses for an exceptionally clear, bright, high-contrast image with excellent color reproduction.

We checked all these claims and found them to be true. The polymer frame makes this binocular lightweight, making it easier to transport. This also means you can use this binocular for extended viewing sessions.

Thanks to the ED glass and fully multi-coated lens, this binocular has superior low-light performance. Being ‘fully multi-coated’ means this binocular has multiple layers of anti-reflection materials. And you see the effect of this in crystal clear images you enjoy. People using eyeglasses can comfortably use this bino thanks to the long eye relief.

This binocular is suited for use outdoors thanks to the waterproofing. The sealed O-ring makes this binocular waterproof. The sealing also keeps dust away, which is just as important as keeping water out. Nitrogen has been placed in the interior of this binocular to make it fogproof.

Accessories such as neck strap, carry case and cleaning cloth are included in the package. The high-quality materials used make this binocular durable and you’ll be using it for a long time.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 12x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 50 mm / 1.96 in
  • Dimensions : 5.25 x 2.5 x 6.6 in / 13.3 x 6.4 x 16.8 cm
  • Weight : 793 g / 28 oz

Pros

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Exceptionally bright image.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Long eye relief.
  • Very durable.
  • Comes with standard accessories.

Cons

  • Strap could be better made.

Other Buying Options:

Zeiss Terra 10×42 ED Binoculars

Zeiss Terra 10x42 ED 524206 Binoculars w/Free 60 ct. Zeiss Lens Wipes

$499.99  in stock
3 new from $499.99
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‘These are as clear as day,’ said several users of this binocular. And you’ll have to use this binocular to see for yourself. We can, however, assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

One of the many things we like about the Zeiss Terra ED is that lightweight and compact for a 42-mm binocular. The incorporated ED glass also tells you the manufacturers are serious about the image quality of this product.

We should mention that the fact that you see ED written on the name of a binocular doesn’t actually mean it’s made with the glass. A single look through this binocular and you’ll quickly realize that ED glass was indeed used.

The physical performance of this binocular is also great. It has a compact frame which makes it lightweight and easy to handle and use. The black rubber armoring cushions this binocular against falls and other impacts. There’s a ridge along the upper side of the barrels that falls naturally on your palm just where you bend your fingers.

This makes this binocular very comfortable to handle. The long eye relief (18mm) allows people to use eyeglasses to comfortably use this binocular. You’ll see different accessories like lens cap, cleaning cloth, rainguard, and neck strap in the package.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Dimensions :  5.6 x 4.7 x 1.65 in / 14.2 x 11.9 x 4.2 cm
  • Weight : 725 g / 25.6 oz
  • Field of view: 330 ft @ 1000 yards

Pros

  • Compact.
  • Easy to handle.
  • Superb optical performance.
  • Long eye relief.
  • Rugged and durable.
  • Includes accessories.

Cons

  • Carrying case could be of better quality.

Other Buying Options:

$596.75
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Steiner Optics Predator Series 10×42 Binoculars

Steiner Model 2444 Predator 10x42 Binoculars

$412.99  in stock
15 new from $412.99
1 used from $292.74
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The Steiner Binocular brand is one of the most respected within the optics industry. Their binoculars are popular for being of high-quality as well as providing value for money. The Predator series was manufactured with hunters in mind.

That’s why the Steiner Optics included their own special color adjusted transmission coatings (CAT) on the lenses. This improves optical performance and makes wildlife more visible. Also, this binocular performs very well in low light conditions.

But you don’t have to be a hunter to enjoy the superb optical performance of this binocular. Use it for any activity you like and you’ll be blown away by the high-contrast and crystal clear images you get.

It’s very easy to fine tune this binocular using the central focusing wheel. This binocular is perfectly suited for the outdoors due to the waterproofing. The sealed O-ring prevents water and dust from penetrating this binocular while the nitrogen purging makes it fogroof. Being fogproof prevents moisture from getting to the internal optical components.

This binocular includes standard accessories – carry case, eyepiece rainguard, cleaning cloth, neck strap – you’d expect in a high-end binocular.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 10x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Dimensions : 6.9 x 4.9 x 2.5 in / 17.5 x 12.4 x 6.4 cm
  • Weight : 751.3 g / 26.5 oz
  • Field of view: 328 ft @ 1000 yards

Pros

  • Has Steiner optics special coatings.
  • Crystal clear images.
  • Easy to use and handle.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Comfortable for glass wearers.
  • Comes with standard accessories.

Cons

  • Attached lens cover can get in the way when viewing.

Hawke Frontier ED X 8×42 BinocularsOur Top Pick

Hawke Frontier ED X Binocular (8x42, Green)

$469.99  in stock
8 new from $469.99
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This binocular looks and feels good. For a binocular in the mid-range series, this Hawke Frontier bino is very compact and also well-balanced. Transportation, storage and handling are all super easy. There’s a rubber armoring on the body of this binocular. The rubber is very sturdy and will protect against impacts. Mistakenly drop your binocular? Don’t worry, the rubber armoring got you covered.

The design of the focus wheel is top-notch, making focusing smooth and precise. You can easily use it even when wearing gloves. ED glass and multi-coated lens are responsible for the bright and clear images you enjoy. The ED glass prevents chromatic aberrations while the coatings enhance light transmission.

Also, the BAK4 roof prism used also contributes to the high-quality images. BAK4 is generally considered the best type of prism you can find in any binocular. And it has high light transmission and refractive index properties. The chassis is made of magnesium alloy which provides a stunning balance between strength, weight, and durability.

It’s not often you see binoculars with magnesium chassis. But those with magnesium chassis are extra durable due to the properties of the metal. As you’d expect, this binocular is completely weatherproof. Nitrogen purging makes this binocular fogproof and protects the internal optical components. Also, this binocular is waterproof and dustproof due to the internal sealing. The long eye relief is particularly beneficial to people wearing glasses as they also get to see the entire field of view.

This binocular is supplied with a rainguard, neoprene strap, removable tethered objective lens covers, and a carry case with strap. High-quality materials confer durability.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Dimensions : 5.5 x 4.8 in / 14 x 12.2 cm
  • Weight : 692 g / 24.4 oz
  • Field of view: 426 ft @ 1000 yards

Pros

  • High build quality.
  • Elegant appearance.
  • Good combo of strength and weight.
  • Images of the highest quality.
  • Waterproof.
  • Includes accessories.
  • Long eye relief.
  • Sturdy, rugged and durable.

Cons

  • No major shortcoming.

Nikon Monarch 7 8×42 Binoculars

Nikon 7548 MONARCH 7 8x42 Binocular (Black)

$476.95  in stock
6 new from $476.95
2 used from $419.50
Free shipping
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as of November 26, 2020 12:47 am

We don’t think Nikon is a brand that needs any introduction. Chances are you’ve used, encountered or at the very least heard of Nikon products before. The brand is popular for their high-quality optics and imaging products.

The Monarch 7 delivers big when it comes to performance. And one of the reasons behind that is the ED glass used. We’ve mentioned ED glass several times in this review. And by now, you should know ED is highly favored in the optics industry because of its image clarity, vibrant colors, brightness, and resolution of details. And it also prevents chromatic aberrations. Don’t worry, we’ll talk more about this in the buying guide.

The high-quality coatings of this binocular are another reason for its superb optical performance. You have the dielectric multilayer prism coatings and the phase correction coatings. The two together improve light transmission and provide outstanding bright and clear images.

We also like the exceptionally wide field of view. This allows you to locate objects faster and track birds and other mobile creatures. The central focus knob is very easy to use. Bringing objects into focus is completely straightforward and hassle-free.

Thanks to the sealed O ring, this binocular is waterproof and can withstand the elements of the outdoors. It’s also fogproof thanks to the interior being filled with nitrogen.

 Quick Specifications

  • Magnification : 8x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Dimensions : 5.7 x 5.1 x 1.65 in / 14.5 x 13 x 4.2 cm
  • Weight : 590 g / 20.8 oz
  • Field of view: 420 ft @ 1000 yards

Pros

  • Outstanding bright and clear images.
  • Exceptionally wide field of view.
  • Easy to handle and focus.
  • Waterproof and fogproof.
  • Long eye relief.
  • Super durable.

Cons

  • Diopter adjustment may be a bit stiff when new.

Best Binoculars Under 500 Dollars – The Guide

Now that you know what are the best binoculars under 500 dollars you can get today, let’s get to the buying guide. Because, knowing what the best models is great, but knowing exactly why they are great and how to choose your binoculars is even better!

What is ED Glass?

We mentioned ED glass several times in the review above so you must have figured out it’s pretty important. ED glass stands for Extra-low Dispersion glass and it’s highly sought after in the optics industry.

If you want to get nerdy, you can just do a Google search and type ‘What is ED glass?’ You’ll see tons of pages and posts about ED glass, how it works and the science behind it, diagrams, and so on. But we’ll keep it simple for you here. We aren’t exactly science geeks, haha.

its image clarity, brightness, vibrant colors and resolution of details. I would never purchase a bird watching binocular that didn’t feature ED glass.

ED glass prevents or reduces chromatic aberrations which occurs when your binocular is unable to focus lights of different wavelengths. And you’ll see this as faint halos around objects which results in poor image quality. The use of ED glass results in clearer and brighter images.

ED glass is used where precise image quality is desired. It’s expensive and used to be available only in high priced and premium binoculars. But now, it is available in mid-range binoculars.

The fact that there’s ED in the name of a binocular doesn’t mean it actually contains ED glass. And that’s why we did extensive research on all the products on our list to be sure they indeed contain high-quality ED glass.

How To Choose Your Binoculars

Size and Weight

Binoculars come in three sizes – compact, midsize and full-size. A major determiner of the size of a binocular is the size of the objective lens. Generally, the objective lens of compact binoculars do not exceed 30mm (8×25, 10×28, etc.). Midsize binoculars are larger and have objective lens sizes ranging between 30mm to 40mm (10×30, 8×32, etc.). Full-size binoculars have the largest objective lens of all, exceeding 40mm (8×42, 10×50, etc.).

So which one do you go for? Compact binoculars are portable and easier to transport, store and use. Sometimes they are referred to as travel binoculars because of their lightweight. Mid-size binoculars are a bit bulky. But not so bulky they will slow you down or become a burden. Full-size binoculars are the biggest of all and are not so easy to transport especially if you want to travel light.

You also need to carry a tripod along as full-size binoculars aren’t easy to handle because of their weight. One thing you need to understand is that there are always tradeoffs between the size and performance of a binocular.

Bigger binoculars are generally better and you’ll have to compromise a bit on performance if you want a lightweight bino. This implies that as you go down from full-size binoculars to compact binoculars, there’s a corresponding decrease in functionality.

However, midsize and compact binoculars with top-notch eyepiece design and coatings can have performance similar to that of full-size binoculars. And we must remind you that the binoculars we’ve reviewed are all mid-size binoculars. They have better functionality than the compact models providing better, clearer and high-contrast images.

If you don’t have any pressing luggage and weight restrictions, then you should totally go for a mid-size binoculars because of their improved performance. And they last longer than the compact models. You don’t really need to go beyond mid-size binoculars. Full-size models are bulkier and more expensive. And you can get similar functionality in high-quality mid-size binos like ones in our list.

Best binoculars under 500 dollars

Magnification and Objective

Just like you have names to identify you, binoculars also have their own method of identification. Identifying a binocular goes beyond just knowing the brand name. Every binocular comes with a set of numbers usually written as 10×42, 8×32 and so on. These numbers aren’t assigned randomly as they depend on the specifications of the binocular.

The magnification is usually written first, followed by the objective lens diameter. So in a 10×42 binocular, the magnification power is 10 while 42 is the objective lens diameter (usually expressed in mm). You can also write the magnification power alone. If we are to write the magnification power of the above example alone, it will be 10x.

So what’s the magnification power of a bino? This simply refers to the number of times the image you are looking at has been enlarged. So a 10x modification power means what you are seeing has been magnified ten folds.

The objective lens diameter determines how much light enters the binocular and ultimately your eyes. The bigger the objective lens, the more light that enters the binocular. And this means you’ll get brighter and crystal clear images. Based on this, all binoculars should have large objective lenses, right? Not so much.

If you call, we mentioned above that the size of the objective lens has an effect on the size of the binocular. The bigger the objectives, the bigger the binocular. And should the objective size become too large, it’ll have an effect on the binocular size as it’ll become bulky. So manufacturers usually find a balance between objective lens diameter and binocular size.

Field Of View

This simply refers to the width of the area you see when using a binocular. So how’s the field of view important? A large field of view means you can see wider, making it easy for you to locate animals or objects. Activities like birdwatching will be more enjoyable with a binocular having a wide field of view. This is because you’ll be able to track and locate animals and objects faster.

Everyone definitely wants to enjoy a detailed view when using binos. Therefore, you should always go for binoculars with a large field of view.

Weather Resistant, Waterproof, Fog Proof

How many times has the weather been perfect when you were using your binocular outdoors? Well, you may have had better luck than us but there’s no denying that the conditions outdoors can be really unpredictable. One moment, it’s sunny and then it starts raining suddenly.

This is why you need weatherproof binoculars. And this means the binoculars are either waterproof, fog proof or both. Waterproof binos have completely sealed O-rings that keep water and moisture out. Manufacturers sometimes use an internationally accepted standard to quantify how waterproof a binocular is and state how long it can be submerged. But don’t intentionally dip your binocular in water. The waterproofing is to safeguard against accidental splashes and drops in water.

To fogproof a binocular, an unreactive gas like nitrogen or argon is filled in the interior (nitrogen purging, argon purging). Fogging occurs when moisture penetrates your binoculars and condenses on the optical components. This results in reduced image quality as well as durability of the binocular. And don’t join the argument of whether argon is better than nitrogen or vice versa. As far as fog proofing of a binocular is concerned, there is no significant difference between the two gases.

N.B: All fog-proof binoculars are waterproof, but NOT all waterproof binoculars are fog-proof.

Prisms

The type of prisms used in a binocular has an effect on the optical performance. And the types of prisms used are BAK4, BK7, and SK15 prisms. BAK4 is considered the best prism that can be used in a binocular. This is because it transmits light better than any other prism. Also, it has a higher refractive index and lower critical angle. We are getting too technical now, aren’t we?

SK15 is another excellent material that can rival BAK4. Some manufacturers even prefer SK15 because it has the highest refraction of all the prism material. And this leads to the production of high-contrast images.

BK7 is a good prism material in its own right but inferior to the two above. It’s favored because it is less expensive.

Coatings

Binoculars with coated lenses generally have better optical performance. And this brings about improved image quality and reduction in glare and reflections.

All coatings are not equal. And it’s important to go for binoculars with high-quality coatings. A binocular can either be coated, multi-coated or fully multi-coated. Fully multi-coated lenses are the best as multiple layers of coating materials are applied to the whole lens.

Multi-coated comes next and this simply means there are multiple layers of coating. The least is coated lens which just has only a layer of coating material.

Eye Relief

This is especially important to those that wear glasses. Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the eyepiece when you are using the binocular. If you wear eyeglasses, make sure your binocular has an eye relief of at least 11mm.

Chassis Materials

The frame of your binocular on which the whole optics is built is referred to as the Chassis. The materials used for the chassis has an effect on the overall durability of the binocular. Most commonly used materials are aluminum, magnesium and polycarbonate.

Aluminum is the most popular material used for binoculars. It’s strong, lightweight, corrosion resistant and inexpensive. Magnesium is also very strong and is even lighter than aluminum. Polycarbonate is temperature resistant and can handle extreme conditions better than the two metals.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the best binoculars under 500 dollars and a comprehensive buying guide so you know what to look out for. You are paying a bit extra for these binos and that’s reflected in their enhanced performance. The durability of these binoculars is also unmatched. And you’ll be getting a top-notch product you’ll be using for a long time.

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