Top 6 Budget-Friendly Binoculars For Birding (+ Pricing!)


Bird watching is an amazingly low-entry hobby that many can easily pick up. This is because all you really need to get started with bird watching is a pair of binoculars! However, not everyone can afford pricey binoculars. If you’re a student like me, or you would like a pair of affordable budget-friendly binoculars then this article is for you. I did a little research online on which pairs give you the most bang for their buck and here’s what I found:

The Top 6 Budget-Friendly Binoculars For Bird Watching:

  1. Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars
  2. Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×42 Binoculars
  3. Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 Binoculars
  4. Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8×42 Binoculars
  5. Vortex Optics Crossfire HD 8×42 Binoculars
  6. Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8×42 Binoculars

These top 6 binoculars come with different unique features that make them stand out from the crowd and from each other, but they share one common trait – affordability. If you’re curious to find out more about their details and which one works best for you, read on to find out!

Summarized Table of The Top 6 Budget-Friendly Binoculars For Bird Watching

s/nBinoculars ModelMagnification and Objective Lens SizePricing (new)
1Celestron Nature DX 8×42$146
2Bushnell Legend Ultra HD10×42$175
3Nikon Prostaff 3S8×42$126
4Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD8×42$140
5Vortex Optics Crossfire HD8×42$140-$150
6Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8×42$219

1) Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars

About:

Celestron is a well-known brand that many birders will know and trust because of their reliability. In fact, it is actually the top pick for binoculars under $200 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I will now highlight some features of the binoculars that you should take note of.

Robust frame

The Celestron Nature DX features a robust frame that includes a waterproof mid-sized body that is compact and it great for portability. So they’ll be fine if you slip up and leave them out overnight, drop them in water…or spill your drink on them! (But please don’t do it purposely) It features a precise build and consistent design to offer protection from outdoor elements. Overall, the binoculars don’t feel too heavy in the hand, and they have a nice rubber coating all around which makes them really comfortable to hold.

High quality imagery

The binoculars feature fully multi-coated lenses for brighter images, more contrast, highest resolution with phase-coated BaK-4 prisms, 8x magnification power, and 6.5-foot close focus. As a result, the images are bright and crisp focus makes these Celestron 10-42 binos a joy to use.

The image quality is really is excellent, especially for the price. At 8x magnification, you’re obviously not going to get a great image when looking at a kite from 100 yards away, but anything reasonably close looks amazing. The color is true, and the field of view is pretty wide.

And here’s something that really sets these apart from a less expensive model also by Celestron: these are really good at close focus. You would be able to observe objects (in our case, birds) at just about 5 feet away. It’s great for instances during backyard bird watching, where birds will be closer by.

Extra accessories included

The binoculars also come with a compact carrying case, objective lens caps, an eyepiece rainguard, a neck strap, a lens cloth, and an instruction manual for easy use on the go. These are items that are also made of really good quality, so you won’t have to worry about buying a pair of binoculars that’s too cheap and end up not lasting.

Also, if you purchase a separate tripod, the binoculars are tripod-adaptable, which means that you can mount your binoculars on a tripod. This will give you a more stable view.

Celestron warranty and customer support

If you’re worried about how the binoculars will last over time, you can purchase this pair with confidence from because Celestron is backed by a limited lifetime warranty. You’ll need to get registered and you’ll have access to technical support from their team. No worries about being tricked or scammed!

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

The Celestron Nature DC 8×42 Binoculars is priced at a very price-efficient pricing of about $146. This is a very decent price for a pair of binoculars of this calibre. I tend to see that those below $100 tend to be not worth.

Link to purchase:

You can grab ahold of these binoculars over on Amazon at this link. If you can, you can look around for a cheaper price if you come across one. You’ll definitely want to get this at the best deal.

2) Bushnell Legend Ultra HD 10×42 Binoculars

About:

Bushnell is a great brand that many birders will recognize for its reliability. The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Binoculars are a great starter pair for anyone looking for a great bang for their buck. These binoculars are great, but there are a few considerations to take note of. This pair comes in either black or camouflage-colored external body.

Great quality optics

In the Legend series by Bushnell, there are some industry-leading features such as ED Prime glass and a locking eyepiece diopter. The binoculars also have a 10x magnification zoom, which allows for a looking at birds from a longer distance.

Rainguard HD: Great for wet weather

In the Bushnell Legend, there is a special feature that I really like called the Rainguard HD. What’s useful and unique about this is that its lens will produce droplets when it comes into contact with water, allowing for it to not blur up the whole image. The lenses are coated with hydrophobic and oleophobic lens coating that keeps water, fog, and oily fingerprints from wrecking your vision. This means that you can continue observing birds in the rain.

Extra accessories

When you purchase the Bushnell Legend, it typically comes with these other accessories:

  • Cloth Drawstring Bag for storage and cleaning
  • Carrying Case with Belt Loop for easy transportation and storage
  • Neck Strap, allowing for easy carrying and use
  • Rubber lens covers to protect glass

Lower build quality, higher optics focus

These binoculars seem to focus more on their optics and clarity of view. However, from my experience and also some reviewers on Amazon can agree that this pair is not for those who want to take hard knocks. The focus adjuster is flimsy and it dents easily from small knocks. Eyecups also fall off easily, so you would want to take note of that and keep them in your backpack.

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

This pair can be found usually at around $175 a pair. It’s a great pair to consider for its great image quality and magnification.

Link to purchase:

If you’d like to consider purchasing this pair, you can check it out on Amazon here. You can also look around to see where to get the cheapest option, but I’ve mostly seen them around this range.

3) Nikon Prostaff 3S 8×42 Binoculars

About:

Nikon is a trusted brand that is well-known not only in the US but internationally for their product quality and reliability. The Nikon Prostaff 3S is part of the Nikon Prostaff series which features other binoculars. I’ll just be focusing on the Nikon Prostaff 3S.

Bright, clear, and premium optics

The Nikon Prostaff 3S features an optical system created from lead-and-arsenic-free Eco-Glass. It also has multilayer coatings, which provide high light transmittance across the entire visible light spectrum, are applied for bright images. So you will expect to see fewer color aberrations that appear on the rims and on the edges of the image.

It features high-reflectivity silver-alloy mirror coating applied on the mirror surfaces of the prisms for a bright and clear view. If you intend to go birding during the night or in the early mornings, a pair of these will work fine!

Long Eye Relief

Nikon has manufactured the PROSTAFF 3S binoculars, as well as many other of its optics, with a high-eyepoint design for long eye relief without vignetting. This is great because it couples with the turn-and-slide rubber eyecups that allow users to adjust the eye-relief for a custom fit.

With a great eye relief, for those of you who are wearing eyeglasses, or just don’t want to squint too hard to make out small features while looking through it, this pair will work great for you.

Rubber-Armored Design

PROSTAFF 3S has a rugged rubber-armored coating to provide a non-slip grip, even in the wettest conditions. By far, this binocular is the one with the best grip and ergonomic considerations in mind. The coating feeling great to the touch and will help in preventing accidental slips.

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

This pair will cost about $126. You can expect most of this model to be around this range, but do look out for sales in Amazon.

Link to purchase:

You can find the link to the Nikon Prostaff 3S on Amazon here.

4) Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8×42 Binoculars

About:

Wingspan Optics produces their binoculars with the sole intention of bird watching. The Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD is also a popular and commonly recommended binocular for those looking to go bird watching on a budget. It’s a great buy if you want to get a decent pair that will last a really long time.

Sharp image detail

Binoculars used for other purposes such as hunting and shooting aren’t too particular about the way the image has to be bright, sharp, and colorful like what’s required in bird watching. The NaturePro HD binoculars pay attention to those with High-Definition sharpness that is great for looking at birds with higher detail.

Crystal-View Phase Correction

NaturePro provides TRUEHue Color and Crystal-View Phase Correction that delivers a great color clarity, saturation, and quality that other binoculars of this price range do not offer.

Great wide field of view

This pair of binoculars offer an extra-wide field of view because it allow for switching between Close Focus and Wide View. You can get to see more details on a Hummingbird plumage with the Close Focus, and also track a fast-moving bird in flight such as a peregrine falcon with the Wide View.

Great for the outdoors

The binoculars are also great for the extreme outdoors because it is waterproof, fog-proof, drop proof and also features an anti-slip grip for added protection. I really believe having all this ruggedness built into this binoculars is great because you don’t have to think about how to protect your binoculars when it rains or snows, you just keep on observing your birds. Its anti-slip grip is also perfect for gloves worn during the winter, so you don’t keep accidentally dropping your binoculars when you hold them up.

Lifetime warranty

They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty if you’re not happy with your purchase. So you can purchase these binoculars to try it out without any extra worries if you don’t like it in the end.

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

The Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8×42 Binoculars typically cost around $140. In my opinion, with its build quality and attention to detail, this price is an absolute steal and a great deal that cannot be ignored if you’re looking to start bird-watching with this.

Link to purchase:

You can purchase the Wingspan Optics NaturePro HD 8×42 Binoculars on Amazon through the link here.

5) Vortex Optics Crossfire HD 8×42 Binoculars

About:

Vortex Optics is a well-known brand among those who love hunting and bird watching. It’s a reliable brand that many love. With these binos, you’re likely to not be disappointed because of their dedication to good imagery. Here are some considerations to take note if you choose to purchase this pair.

Great magnification and objective lenses

It offers an 8x magnification & 42mm objective lenses and are optimized with select glass elements to deliver exceptional resolution, cut chromatic aberration and provide outstanding color fidelity, edge-to-edge sharpness and light transmission. The images look incredibly clear and sharp while outdoors. As a birder, its a consideration you can consider if you want a consistently high-grade image of the birds.

It also features fully multi-coated lenses that increase light transmission with multiple anti-reflective coatings on all air-to-glass surfaces. This is very beneficial for the bird watcher because you want to achieve the best color accuracy in your binos, because sometimes, the plumage of a bird can differ between two very similar species of subspecies. Sometimes a simple yellow vent can make all the difference. With these binos, you’ll do fine to get color-accurate images for your bird identification needs.

Great build quality

The binocular features soft rubber adjustable eyecups that twist up and down. This provides a great eye relief for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. I personally really like the center focus wheel here because of its smoothness but also it provides really nice traction to it, so it doesn’t turn too much or rollover. There are diopters which can be adjusted to your eyes. Once you adjust these to your eyes, you don’t need to touch them anymore.

The binocular is built with nitrogen purging and O-ring seals that provide water and fog proof performance in all environments. In wet weather, it reamains waterproof and also has anti-slip properties with its rubber non-slip grips so you won’t accidentally let it slip out of you hands. Rugged construction withstands recoil and impact. This means that it can survive a drop or two if you’re a bit careless while outdoors. These are built to last, and a great investment for the long-term, possibly for birders who want a pair of binoculars that can last at least 10 years.

Comes with GlassPak Binocular Harness

The Crossfire HD offers an interesting combination with the GlassPak Binocular Harness which is included with the purchase. It acts as a storage case and protection for your binoculars while still being kept close for quicker deployment. It is strapped right across the chest, so you can stow away and take out your binoculars easily without fumbling around in your backpack. In my opinion, great for bird watching. Some people carry their neck harnesses around but that still leave the binos out and exposed, but because this harness is a case, you’ll also get extra protection.

There are tethers that fasten the binocular to the harness, which prevents accidental drops. Here are some steps included for you to follow when yo want to set up the harness.

  1. Thread the wide end of the binocular tether straps through the harness strap buckles.
  2. Size to fit by adjusting the one-size-fits-all harness strap.
  3. Thread the binocular tether straps through the strap attachments on binocular.
  4. Thread the binocular tether straps back through the tether strap buckles to secure.

Contains a tripod adapter socket

This has got to be one of the more useful features that some binos don’t have. The Crossfire HD has a tripod adapter socket down the middle so you can attach an adapter and a tripod to it. A tripod will definitely help you to achieve greater stability while observing birds, especially if you’re ready to be camping at a spot without moving.

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

The Vortex Optics Crossfire HD 8×42 Binoculars is typically sold at around $140-$150. This price is a great price and a great investment for budget binoculars that will last a long time.

Link to purchase:

The Vortex Optics Crossfire HD binos are available on Amazon at this link.

6) Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8×42 Binoculars

About:

Vortex is a well-loved and known brand that many bird watchers can identify and trust in. The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD is one of the more affordable pair of binoculars in its entire range. It was designed with great value at an affordable price for budget birders. If you ask me, these look amazingly beautiful because of that olive green coating. The Diamondback HD also comes in various sizes, but for the purpose of bird watching, I recommend getting one with 8x magnification & 42mm objective lenses.

Great tool for nighttime bird watching

What makes the Diamondback HD really shine and stand out from the rest is its great suitability for nighttime birding. I don’t just mean dusk but pure pitch black. When you aim at objects that produce light even if it is minimal, you will be able to gather enough light to actually have a decent vision on it. However, once again focusing is difficult as it was at daytime, but no color fringing was apparent at this time.

Heavyweight binoculars

This pair of binos are really heavy right off the bat. It measures up to be about 30.1 oz without any ocular lens eyecups. I would recommend that you either purchase a harness or use the harness that comes with the binoculars.

Great optics for the price

If you were to compare these with the Razor HDs in their line of binoculars, they have a smaller field of view but not by a lot.  This pair of binoculars only has a small amount of chromatic aberrations. The optical system does a very good job of minimizing it. However, on certain objects you can make out aberrations on the very edges of what you are looking at, I would rate it at 8/10. In comparison to the Bushnell’s binoculars at the same magnification, the images seen on these were still considered brighter and far crisper.

Delicate focus knobs and great tripod adapter socket

Adjustable eyecups twist up and down for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. Center focus wheel adjusts the focus of both binocular barrels at the same time. Diopter (located on right eyepiece) adjusts for differences in a user’s eyes.

However, the diopter adjustment is a little on the sloppy side. The ring turns very easily and you can definitely accidentally bump them and change the settings unwantedly. It’s definitely a more delicate piece of equipment and is an investment for a more comfortable bird watching experience, maybe from your backyard.

The tripod adapter socket has got to be one of the more useful features that some other binos don’t have. Similar to the Crossfire HD, it also features a tripod adapter socket down the middle so you can attach an adapter and a tripod to it. A tripod will definitely help you to achieve greater stability while observing birds, especially if you’re ready to be camping at a spot without moving.

Well-protected lenses

The lenses are fully multicoated with dielectric coating and armortek coating. These two help to provide bright, clear, and color-accurate images and allow for some ruggedness by resisting scratches, oil, and dirt. These are great if you are going bird watching because color accuracy is key to identifying birds. Also, it’s also a good plus for a lens to have scratchproof and protection against oil and dirt damage to your lens.

Rugged non-slip exterior

The exteriors have a really nice secure and non-slip rubber material and aluminum finishing that allows for durable external protection. It also features really nice dents on the underside for you to rest your thumbs ergonomically. I personally like that nice touch. The brushed aluminum makes the whole frame look really professional and sleek.

The binoculars have been through argon purging and O-ring seals that provide water and Fog proof performance in all environments.

Comes with GlassPak Binocular Harness

Similar to the Crossfire HD by Vortex Optics, the Diamondback HD also offers an interesting combination with the GlassPak Binocular Harness which is included with the purchase. It acts as a storage case and protection for your binoculars while still being kept close for quicker deployment. It is strapped right across the chest, so you can stow away and take out your binoculars easily without fumbling around in your backpack. In my opinion, great for bird watching. Some people carry their neck harnesses around but that still leave the binos out and exposed, but because this harness is a case, you’ll also get extra protection.

There are tethers that fasten the binocular to the harness, which prevents accidental drops. Here are some steps included for you to follow when yo want to set up the harness.

  1. Thread the wide end of the binocular tether straps through the harness strap buckles.
  2. Size to fit by adjusting the one-size-fits-all harness strap.
  3. Thread the binocular tether straps through the strap attachments on binocular.
  4. Thread the binocular tether straps back through the tether strap buckles to secure.

Lifetime warranty

As Vortex Optics binoculars are built to last, they also offer a lifetime warranty, so you don’t have to worry about discovering any minor faults that need to be corrected or replaced once you’ve received your pair of binoculars.

Video demonstration:

How much it costs:

The Vortex Optics Diamondback HD 8×42 Binoculars typically cost $219. You can have a look around to find a great price.

Link to purchase:

If you’d like to consider purchasing a pair of the Diamondback HDs, you can find them on Amazon at this link.

Final Thoughts

With bird watching already being a fairly cheap hobby to get into, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck and I get it. Hopefully, after you’ve read through this entire article, you’ll be able to pick out the one that’s ideal for you.

Do also take note that your choice should also take into consideration factors other than just price. You should also consider portability, durability, look and feel, and usability when you make the decision. Hopefully, I’ve ironed that out for you. Now go! Pick your budget-friendly binoculars of choice and get birding outdoors!

Happy bird watching!

My Recommended Birding Resources:

Hey there, Justin here!

Here’s a list of all my favorite resources, products, and all brands I trust and love.

Although some may be affiliate links, I will only recommend those that I think are of great value. Simply purchasing using the links helps to keep this blog running!

  • My Binoculars: The pair of binoculars that I personally use is the Celestron Nature DX 8×42 Binoculars. It’s a great budget pair for beginner birders. Highly valued for its price! Read my review here.
  • Safe Paint for Bird Baths: Not any paint can be used to paint bird baths. Links to all safe paint for bird baths are in this article I wrote!
  • Sealers for Bird Baths: Not all sealers can be used to paint bird baths. Links to all sealers for bird baths are in this article I wrote!
  • Safe Paint for Birdhouses: Not any paint can be used to paint birdhouses. Links to all safe paint for birdhouses are in this article I wrote!
  • Birding Apps: 2 of my favorite birding apps are Merlin Bird ID, and eBird Mobile! Merlin is great for tracking and identifying birds, and eBird Mobile is great to track the birds sighted when birding. Read a post about them here.
  • Birding Websites: I’ve compiled a list of links to my top 10 recommended birding websites in a blog post. Find the links here!
  • Birding Podcasts: Birding podcasts are a great way to learn about birds. Links to the top 8 that I recommend can be found here!

Alternatively, you can check out my resources page here where I’ve compiled all the links to the above!

Justin

Justin is a hobbyist birder that hopes to share his birding knowledge with the world. His favorite bird is the Large-tailed Nightjar and he really loves potato chips!

Recent Posts