Our 12 Best Birding Binoculars for under $200

Nikon Monarch 7

Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Greg Gillson

You want to purchase binoculars for bird watching but you don’t know who to trust and you have a budget in mind, well you came to the right place.

This post was written and researched by a real birder–me, Greg Gillson! I’ve been birding over 45 years, sometimes with poor optics, so I know what birders need in binoculars. You can read more about me, right here.

When you are doing your research for buying budget birding binoculars under $200 you may be led to reviews and recommendations made by people who are not birders. The reviewers tend to copy one another’s lists–even for binoculars that are less than ideal for bird watching.

There was a time, not long ago, when getting decent bird watching binoculars for under $200 was not possible. There was no such thing as “best binoculars under 200 dollars.” Things have improved. But there are still a lot of cheap models out there that say they are for birders, but they aren’t very good. The ones listed here should work well for you and yet stay in your budget.

Here are my 12 choices for best bird watching binoculars under $200 for real birders–you! I’ll tell you why below. [Plus 2 bonus binoculars under $230 to consider.] First, the list.

The best binoculars for bird watchers under $200 are these:

  • Wingspan SkyBirder 8×42
  • Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42 – Highly Recommended
  • Nikon ProStaff 3S 8×42
  • Vortex Crossfire 8×42  
  • Wingspan NaturePro HD 8×42
  • Wingspan SkyView 8×42 – Highly Recommended
  • Carson VP 8×42  
  • Vanguard Spirit XF 10×42

If I had to choose just one pair of Binoculars as the best for under $200 it would have to be the Celestron Nature DX 8×42. You can read my thorough review of these binoculars right here. They have recently just tipped over $200 but are still worth it for the price.

A recent binocular review by Cornell’s All About Birds (source) has these three birding binoculars as best budget:

  • Opticron Oregon 4 PC Oasis 8×42
  • Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42
  • Hawke Nature-Trek 8×42

What makes a good birding binocular?

Just before we get into it, this is me, doing a bit of birding.

Photo of the author viewing birds with binoculars

The 8×42 style is the best all-round full-sized birding binocular. That is 8-power magnification and an objective lens size of 42 millimeters. Dividing 8 into 42 gives 5.25mm of exit pupil (anything of 5 or over gives excellent brightness even in dim conditions, such as twilight or overcast winter days or in the deep dark woods! I’ve selected 7 of the best in this price range for you.

There are also a couple of 10x binoculars I picked out. They are not quite as bright in dim conditions (exit pupil 4.2mm), but magnify another 25% more than 8x binoculars. Sounds great (and it is), but that also means 25% more hand-shakiness magnification and a bit heavier, too. So be warned, more magnification isn’t necessarily better for long days in the field. 

They also have narrower field of view, making it harder to find that movement in the canopy, or get on that lone swift flying far overhead. 10x binoculars, in general, have shorter eye relief–there are very few models suitable for eyeglass wearers. 

A final problem more magnification brings is that these binoculars will likely not have very good close focus. Butterflies at your feet or a bird in a nearby hedge may be too close to focus. If most of your birding is in open country, then these are a good choice.

There is one compact binocular I selected, an 8×28 model. These can be very dull in low light conditions (exit pupil 3.5mm). But they are good as a hiking binocular or something small to have as a binocular you always carry in your car’s glove compartment. Or a pair for feeder watching out the window.

Finally, I’ve selected 4 mid-sized binoculars in the 8×32 range. Their exit pupil is 4.0mm. So in low-light conditions, comparing side-by-side with a good 8×42, they won’t give quite as bright and colorful display. 

Most of the time you won’t notice the difference. They use the same prisms and ocular lenses as their corresponding 8×42 brothers. So they generally are much better quality than the compact binoculars, while still having a smaller form factor and less weight–perfect for smaller hands.

In summary, a good birding binocular is 8×42 with wide field of view to see more birds (>390 feet @ 1000 yards), close focus for great view even in close bushes or window feeders (<8 feet), and longer eye relief for better view for eyeglass wearers (15.5-19 mm). Good exceptions include 10×42, 8×32, and a compact 8×28 with the above specs, depending upon use.

Which binoculars are best for birding at all prices? I compare over 80 models of birding binoculars and discuss all these specifications in more detail in this buying guide article.

A quick note: All binoculars here are for adults. Children less than 14 years old may have their eyes too close together to see with both binocular lenses at the same time. 

But see the Opricron Discovery WP PC 8×32. [See buying guide above under “Interpupilary Distance” and “Kids Binoculars.”]

Wingspan SkyBirder 8×42

ED glass fully multicoated. BaK-4 prisms with phase corrected coatings. Waterproof/fog-proof. Nitrogen sealed. Limited lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 425 ft @1000 yards (very good)
Close focus: 6.6 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 17.8 mm (very good)
Weight: 27 oz (okay)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $150-200 range. Excellent optics. The specs are all good (especially wide field of view) but this is getting a bit on the heavier side. Compares favorably with the Bushnell Legend L Ultra. Replaces Wingspan CrystalView.

Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42 – Highly Recommended

ED glass. Fully multi-coated. Phase coated BaK-4 prisms. Rubber armored, polycarbonate body. Waterproof. Nitrogen-sealed. Limited lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 393 ft @1000 yards (good)
Close focus: 6.5 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 (excellent)
Eye relief: 17.8 mm (very good)
Weight: 24.9 oz (good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $100-150 range. The ED glass makes this the Best full sized 8×42 birding binocular under $220.

Check out my in-depth review of the Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42 binocular.

Nikon ProStaff 3S 8×42

Eco-Glass (lead-free, arsenic-free). Multi-layer coatings. Silver mirror coatings on prisms. Waterproof/fog-proof; nitrogen sealed. Polycarbonate body. Limited lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 378 ft @1000 yards (okay)
Close focus: 9.8 ft (okay)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 20.2 (excellent)
Weight: 19.9 oz (excellent)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized $100-150 range. Optics properties aren’t as good as others here. Excellent eye relief for eyeglass wearers. Field of view and close focus specs not as good as others in its class. Not bad. Just not quite as good.

Vortex Crossfire HD 8×42

HD glass. Fully multicoated. Waterproof/fog-proof; nitrogen-sealed. Unlimited and transferable lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 393 ft @1000 yards (good)
Close focus: 6 feet (very good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 17 mm (good)
Weight: 23.8 oz (good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $100-150 range. Good value. Best close focus in its range (though barely).

Wingspan NaturePro HD 8×42

Fully multicoated lenses. Phase corrected BaK-4 prism coatings. Waterproof/fog-proof; nitrogen sealed. Limited lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 430 ft @1000 yards (excellent)
Close focus: 6.6 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 17.2 mm (good)
Weight: 22 oz (very good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $100-150 range. Excellent optics and specs, but HD glass, not the better ED glass. Widest field of view and lightest in this range. The wide field of view is very desirable in the full-sized 8×42 birding binocular in the $100-150 range. 

Wingspan SkyView Ultra HD 8×42 – Highly Recommended

ED glass. Fully mulitcoated. BaK-4 prisms. Phase coated. Waterproof/fog proof; nitrogen sealed. Limited lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 393 ft @ 1000 yards (good)
Close Focus: 6.6 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 17.8 mm (very good)
Weight: 22 oz (very good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $150-200 range. Was unavailable for a while. Back in stock in February 2020. The ED glass makes this a good choice.

Carson VP 8×42

Fully multicoated. BaK-4 prisms. Phase coated. Waterproof/fog-proof; nitrogen sealed. No fault warranty.

Field of view: 393 ft @1000 yards (good)
Close focus: 6.6 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 5.25 mm (excellent)
Eye relief: 17 mm (good)
Weight: 24.6 oz (good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 8×42 $100-150 range. Good optics, but lacks ED glass. Great value. The no-fault warranty is an added bonus.

Vanguard Spirit XF 10×42

Fully multicoated lenses. BaK-4 prisms. Phase coated. Waterproof/fog-proof. Textured rubber armor. Premium lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 332 ft @1000 yards (okay)
Close focus: 6.9 ft (good)
Exit pupil: 4.2 mm (good)
Eye relief: 16mm (okay)
Weight: 23.5 oz (good)

Greg’s comments: Full-sized 10×42 range. Good close focus. The eye relief is a bit short for eyeglass wearers. Narrow field of view as expected for 10x binoculars. Does NOT have ED glass.

Vortex Diamondback 8×28

HD glass. Fully multicoated. Dielectric prism coatings. Waterproof/fog-proof; argon sealed. Rubber armor. Lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 332 ft @1000 yards (okay)
Close focus: 6 ft (very good)
Exit pupil: 3.5 mm (okay)
Eye relief: 18 mm (very good)
Weight: 14 oz (excellent)

Greg’s comments: Compact 8×28. Narrow field of view is typical for compact binoculars. Good for eyeglass wearers. The best compact binocular for around $200 that I can recommend for birding.

Vortex Diamondback HD 8×32

HD glass. Fully multicoated. Dielectric prism coatings. Waterproof/fog-proof; argon sealed. Rubber armor. Lifetime warranty.

Field of view: 426 ft @1000 yards (very good)
Close focus: 5 ft (excellent)
Exit pupil: 4.0 mm (good)
Eye relief: 16 mm (okay)
Weight: 15.9 oz (excellent)

Greg’s comments: Mid-sized 8×32 range. Excellent wide field of view and close focus. Eye relief is a bit short but should work for many eyeglass wearers. Best mid-sized 8×32 birding binocular at under $220 if you DON’T wear eyeglasses.

Wrapping Up

Keeping this post up-to-date and accurate has been challenging. Models in this price range seem to become unavailable regularly.

Today there are a plethora of binoculars under $200 claiming to be “bird watching binoculars.” Most will not satisfy. Originally I listed 14 models that are suitable for birding. Of those, I found 8 to recommend. Unfortunately, several became unavailable, some permanently so, some are supposed to be back in stock. I have since added 2 other models to consider.

Thus, there are 2 binoculars here with nearly identical specs. These are the best cheap binoculars (I should say “best budget binoculars for birding”) that are suitable for bird watching out-of-doors:

  • Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42
  • Wingspan SkyView Ultra HD 8×42

These are my choice for the best bird watching binoculars under $200.

Read my in-depth review of the Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42 binocular.

For a compact binocular to keep in the glove compartment or for hiking, there is only one binocular in this price range that is suitable, the Vortex Diamondback 8×28. In low light conditions (dusk, woods, gloomy day) it will not be as bright and colorful as a full-sized binocular. You will need to check the price of these as they no longer fit in this category.

Please note that I didn’t find any binoculars under $100 that are well-suited as birding binoculars. For the most part, you have to give up waterproofing, wide field of view, close focus, wearing eyeglasses, or forgo decent optical glass once you go under $150. 

The best birding binoculars just cost more for better quality.

If you have a budget of $250 to $500 you can get significantly better binoculars. This jump in price gets you better optical quality and better build quality. Please see the list in my article the Best Bird watching binoculars under $500.

If you wish to look at binoculars under $100, I have written an article on binoculars under $100 for backyard bird watchers. These have some trade-offs, such as poor brightness in dusky conditions, or not waterproof. But for feeder watching they may be perfect!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are binoculars so expensive?

There are several reasons why binoculars can be quite expensive, ranging from the quality of materials and manufacturing to features and brand reputation. Here are some key factors contributing to their cost:

1. Quality of Optics:

Binoculars rely on high-quality glass lenses for clear and accurate vision. This glass needs to be free of imperfections and have appropriate coatings to improve light transmission, reduce glare, and enhance color fidelity. Expensive binoculars often use specialized glass types like fluorite or ED glass, which offer superior optical performance, further driving up the price.

Internal prisms play a crucial role in redirecting light within the binoculars, impacting image quality and brightness. Higher-quality prisms made from materials like BaK-4 glass produce better images with minimal distortion and chromatic aberration, contributing to the cost.

2. Precision Engineering:

High-end binoculars are manufactured with incredibly tight tolerances, ensuring perfect alignment of lenses, prisms, and other components. This precision engineering requires specialized equipment and skilled labor, increasing the cost.

Robust materials like magnesium alloy are often used in expensive binoculars for increased durability and resistance to weather and wear. Additionally, features like rubber armoring and waterproof and fogproof seals add to the complexity and cost.

3. Features and Functionality:

Binoculars with higher magnification or wider field of view require more complex lens systems and larger objective lenses, impacting the price.

Some high-end binoculars have image stabilization features to address hand movements and ensure a steadier view, adding significant cost due to the required technology and components.

Other features like rangefinders, compasses, and built-in illuminators can further increase the complexity and cost of binoculars.

Surely a scope is better than binoculars for bird watching?

Not necessarily! Both scopes and binoculars have their advantages and disadvantages for bird watching, and the “better” choice depends on your specific needs and priorities. Here’s a breakdown:


You can scan larger areas for birds and observe their interactions and habitat more easily. Binoculars are smaller and lighter, making them convenient to carry and use for extended periods. They also provide some depth perception, which can be helpful for judging distances and identifying birds. Binoculars generally cost less than scopes, making them a good option for beginners or casual birdwatchers.


Scopes can offer magnifications of 20x to 80x, allowing you to see incredible detail on birds even at great distances. Many scopes have built-in image stabilization, which significantly reduces shakes and improves viewing comfort. They are also perfect for observing birds on open water, at the top of trees, or across fields.

Comments 14
  1. Despite their popularity, the way binoculars work, what makes one better or different than another, and what all the numbers mean, are still rather mysterious to many prospective buyers. I highly recommend bushnell binocular to everyone.

  2. Very true about binocular specs being mysterious to most people, Simona. Bushnell has many nice binoculars. I just wish the Bushnell Legend L 8×42 was still in stock. It was tremendous for birding!

  3. In most areas, there are birdwatching clubs that you can join. These are not only a good way to see birds, but also a good way to meet like minded people. best binoculars

  4. Thanks so much for info….doing research, have used a very inexpensive binoculars for years…..love birds…..budget is $125 to $150 so hoping to find a sale!!! You have helped me tremendously…..thanks again!

  5. Thanks for your kind comments. Consider going to $170 to get something you will cherish for years. You're almost there!

  6. Hey ! I am really confused which binocular to buy. I am going to this park Trinity Bellwoods Park and I was hoping if I could know that if Nikon Monarch 5 or Carson 3D 8×32
    would be good ? thanks in advance !

  7. Steve,

    Are you going to be taking up bird watching more often. Or just this one trip?

    The Carson 8×32 may be smaller and more compact. They will be easier to carry. In dim light they won't be as bright as full sized binoculars. Once the sun is up, you won't notice the difference.

    Skip the Monarch 5 and buy the less expensive, but newer and better in my opinion, Celestron Nature DX ED 8×42. They are bright and clear with much wider field of view. These will be a great bird watching binocular.

  8. The Carson 3D 8×32 binoculars is now being sold with ED glass. Product is listed as "Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars with ED Glass"

  9. Any thoughts on the Nikon Prostaff 7s? I only see the 3s mentioned here but the 7s comes in at under $200 as well. Currently torn between 8×42 Nikon Prostaff, Celestron Nature DX ED, or 8×32 Celestron Trailseeker.

  10. See my compendium buying guide with over 100 binoculars compared on specs only:

    Because of the narrower field of view, I placed these Prostaff 7S in the "not-quite-as-good specs" 8x in the $250 to $500, range. Under $200 is a good price.

    In the $250-300 range I chose Athlon Midas, Vortex Diamondback, and Celestron Trailseeker as Best specs.

    One reviewer liked the Prostaff 7s: "Optics Trade selected the Nikon Prostaff 7s 8×42 and the Vortex Diamondback 8×42 as the best of the 100-400 Euros."

    It looks like you are looking at the right models of binoculars. I'm sure that the differences between the 3 on your list are so slight that you'll be happy with whatever you get. You are at the "choose one" state!

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