Top 7 binoculars to buy under $500 – The best mid-priced binoculars


top 7 binoculars to buy under $500

When we are standing on the market line of choosing the right binoculars, it may be a bit more complicated than we expect. The hundreds of manufacturers and possible thousands of binoculars models, it is hard to know what is good and what is not but in this post, I want to share with you the top 7 binoculars to buy under $500

$500. This is an estimated budget people may be able to spend on some exceptional quality binoculars, according to some researches I’ve done. An estimated price the majority of people are willing to invest but rarely more. With this money, you can either buy a “4K binoculars” or just the “HD” ones.

The terms of 4K and HD are purely a simple illustration. There are many key points you may need to consider when you are looking to buy a binocular rather than “just buy it” or someone just recommended these ones for me. Therefore, in this topic, I will try to largely cover the top 7 mid-range binoculars.

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The following listing is not in order from the best to the least and does not cover specialized binoculars (e.g. astronomy). We do have a recommended binoculars page if you want to check with our top 4 recommended binoculars of all times.

Table Of Contents

What are the top 7 binoculars under $500?

BinocularsMagnificationApertureExit PupilsEditor’s rating
Canon 8×25 IS8x25mm3.1mm4.8/5
Nikon Monarch 5 8×428x42mm5.25mm4.7/5
Celestron Outland X 10×5010x50mm5mm4.4/5
Olympus 8×40 DPSI
(Cheapest)
8x40mm5mm4.2/5
Zeiss Terra 10×42 ED10x42mm4.2mm5/5
Maven C1 10×42 ED10x42mm4.2mm4.9/5
Pentax 6.5×21 Papilio II6.5x21mm3.23mm4/5

Short Glossary Terms Used:

  • Magnification is how many times an object is bigger than what you see with your naked eyes. An example of 10x magnification means that the object you see is magnified 10 times.
  • Aperture or the objective lens diameter is the frontal main lens size. This is recognised as being the second number from a binocular description (e.g. 8×40 = 8x magnification and 40mm aperture). Larger the aperture – better low light performance with the binoculars
  • Exit pupils is the diameter of the light beam going through your ocular into your pupils. Larger the exit pupils = better low light observations and a wider field of view. The human eye have the pupils open for about 2-3mm during the day and up to 7mm during the night. The exit pupils is calculated by dividing the aperture to magnification (e.g. 40mm/8x=5mm exit pupils)

Canon 8×25 IS

top binoculars to buy under $500

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The 8×25 from Canon is binocular with image stabilisation and this would be first of my recommendation. Although these binoculars may not perform well under dim light or nighttime because of the small aperture (objective lens diameter), the optics behind and the image stabilisation are excellent for performing medium-range observations during day time.

These binoculars are amazing for daylight observations as nature, wildlife & birdwatching, sports & stadium sports, events & concerts etc, and because of the image stabilisation, these are an exceptional choice for a pleasant super steady watching without to worry too much about the shake induced.

The objective lens diameter is indeed a big minus. 25mm is way too low to be able to observe the night sky, and the least you can do is to observe the moon during the night which does not require the extra aperture for light as it is bright. But with 8x magnification, you probably won’t observe much, but enough to identify a few of the major craters on the moon.

Now let’s have a look on a list with the pros & cons of the Canon 8x25mm IS

PROS

  • Amazing optics made by Canon
  • The image stabilisation is gold!
  • 8x magnification is optimum for most observations
  • Relatively cheap compared to other image stabilisation binoculars
  • Lightweight and portable

CONS

  • The objective lens diameter is only 25mm which is low
  • Would perform badly under low light conditions
  • Have an exit pupil of 3mm which is low.

The Canon 8x25mm IS would work amazingly if their main purpose is for daylight observations such as the above-mentioned ones. You can check the price on the amazon by clicking the image represented.

The reason I have chosen the 8×24 over the 10×30 which can fit under the same price range is that the 8×24 is not only a lot cheaper but there is no much difference in aperture (still you won’t be able to perform any stargazing with the 10×30) and the magnification from 8x to 10x won’t make a major difference.

Still, a crosspoint would be that you may want to invest into the 10×30 and there is nothing wrong with them, even better, the Canon 10×30 have the second generation of image stabilisation and may perform even better. Have a look at the following links for these products (amazon affiliate link, read the disclosure on the sidebar)


Nikon Monarch 5 8×42

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The Nikon manufacturer is not only a leading line for DSLR cameras and lenses but binoculars with amazing optics also. The Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 is binocular with 8x magnification and a 42mm objective lens diameter.

The Monarch 5 8×42 is nitrogen-filled and O-ring sealed for complete waterproof, fog proof & weatherproof, and this is extra long term protection to avoid the forming of fungus and mould inside the binoculars.

Pros and cons of the Nikon Monarch 5 8×42

PROS

  • Featuring ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) Glass
  • Fully Multicoated Eco-Glass lenses
  • Dielectric High-Reflective
  • Multilayer Prism Coatings
  • Waterproof and Fogproof
  • Lightweight and portable
  • 8x magnification is optimum for most observations
  • 42mm objective lens diameter is good for low-light observations.

CONS

  • Significant price difference between the Monarch 8×42 and the Prostaff 8×42 due to the ED glass.
  • Most of you may not need the Monarch as the Prostaff would do just fine on a more accessible price.

The reason I have chosen the Monarch 5 8×42 vs the Prostaff 7 8×42, which both of them have the same magnification and objective lens diameter is that the Monarch has ED glass inside (extra-low dispersion) for a sharper, clearer and more brilliant field of view.

There is a major price difference between the two but at this moment we are talking about quality. I do own a Prostaff pair of binoculars and I can say that those are absolutely amazing and if you don’t want to invest the extra money you still cannot go wrong with the Prostaff.

But if you are looking for enhanced clarity and amazing quality of wildlife observations, nature, sports & events, even the basic stargazing, I would recommend the Monarch 5 8×42, but if you are not willing to invest the extra money, Prostaff 7s 8×42 would do just fine.


Celestron Outland X 10×50

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Celestron is covering binoculars from as low as 8×25 to big as the “astronomy daddies” 25×100 as I own one. Those binoculars are competing on the top for the best binoculars more like under $300 rather than $500 but it does worth mentioning as the quality of Celestron binoculars always surprises me.

The Outland X series from Celestron are binoculars with their main purpose for daylight observations incl. nature, wildlife and birdwatching, sports & events etc, whilst the Skymaster series are astronomy based binoculars.

On the other side, the 10×50 binoculars have all the optics and qualities you may need to be performing amazing observations. With a 10x magnification (the reason I have chosen the 10x over 8x this time) is that you may be able to perform the same above observation but on a higher magnification, still enough to be able to observe handheld without the need of a tripod.

But the 50mm objective lens diameter is far superior over 42mm even if there is only 8mm to add. That extra 8mm would make a great difference to use the binoculars for stargazing, and to observe the moon at 10x is just beautiful and you may be able to see some details on it.

The pros & cons of the Celestron Outland X 10×50

PROS

  • Waterproof, nitrogen-purged and rubber armored
  • Large 50mm for outstanding low-light performance
  • 10x magnification which is optimum for any general observations.
  • Multicoated optics for improved contrast and resolution
  • Very cheap

CONS

  • It may be a bit heavy compared to others due to the objective lens of 50mm

There are some other versions of the Outland X binoculars such as 8×25, 8×42, 10×25 and 10×42. In terms of pricing, they are all binoculars which may be easily categories under $100 category but they worth looking over, as the same as 10×50 which is an amazing pair of binoculars with good optics and most of the features as the more expensive ones.


Olympus 8×40 DPSI

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The Olympus 10×42 are the cheapest binoculars from our top 7 binoculars under $500 and costs approximately only 10-12% of the targeted price by us. They are good quality binoculars with amazing optics and very popular on the market with many thousand positive reviews which makes these binoculars one of the most popular ones on the market.

The optics behind is simple but good quality. These binoculars have a UV protection against harmful sun rays. But do not ever look towards the sun without any certified solar filters.

Pros and Cons of the Olympus 8×40 DPSI

PROS

  • 10x magnification which is optimum for any general observations.
  • UV protection
  • Wide-angle field of view
  • Durable and relatively lightweight and portable.

CONS

  • No nitrogen-filled gas, waterproof, weatherproof fog proof
  • May feel a bit cheap
  • The optics behind are not in the top of the market

Although the optics are not the best they are great. I had the chance also to watch through those binoculars and they are really amazing for the actual price. If you are not willing to invest a lot in binoculars and you are just starting, I would recommend getting your first binoculars the Olympus 8×40 before investing more into the expensive gear.


Zeiss Terra 10×42 ED

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It’s a Zeiss product. Zeiss is the worldwide leading quality of glass elements. With these binoculars, you can never go wrong. This is Zeiss binoculars.

While some other Zeiss binoculars may go a few thousand bucks or even more, the Zeiss Terra is the “starter edition” into Zeiss optics. Too many words “Zeiss” isn’t it?

In terms of optics, there is no doubt that these are our number one recommendation for binoculars but unfortunately, we do not own them, although I have tested Zeiss binoculars before, I can truly say that the quality beat the marketplace.

With a 10x magnification which is optimum for most of the observation and a 42mm objective lens diameter, they are a perfect balance between magnification, portability and low-light performance.

Shall we take a look over Pros and Cons of Zeiss Terra 10×42 ED?

PROS

  • Zeiss product – worldwide leading glass quality.
  • ED glass elements
  • Lightweight, durable, weatherproof, waterproof & fog proof
  • Hydrophoic multi-coating
  • The perfect balance between magnification, aperture and portability.

CONS

  • Expensive

In general, Zeiss guarantee that their products are reaching the top quality and the binoculars are the sharpest, calibrated, colour-rich and only the best elements are provided to ensure great user experience. Shortly? You cannot get wrong with the Zeiss Terra 10×42 ED at all if you can afford them.


Maven C1 10×42 ED

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Maven products are not that popular as compared to Zeiss but they have a high-end line of binoculars with amazing optics and features. The Maven C1 10×42 ED is somehow similar to the above Zeiss version but slightly cheaper.

This binocular is well balanced, lightweight and have behind powerful optics with ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, waterproof, weatherproof and fog proof. The advantage is also that the Maven binoculars come with a lifetime unconditional warranty (as advertised by them, subject to change)

But overcrossing the manufacturer, you may be able to observe as much as through most of the 8×42 binoculars with tiny differences of the field of view.

The Pros and Cons of Maven C1 10x42mm ED

PROS

  • ED glass elements
  • Lightweight, durable, weatherproof, waterproof & fog proof
  • The perfect balance between magnification, aperture and portability.
  • Fully multi-coated lenses
  • Lifetime warranty offered by Maven

CONS

  • Not much popular as the leading manufacturers, therefore, some people may avoid buying those binoculars.

The binoculars were also reviewed and heavily tested in the field in the hunting industry, wildlife observation and quoting the Jordan Budd from @rockslide, the binoculars nearly match the Zeiss quality but on a third of a price, and the binoculars (C1) also wins the “Great Buy Award’ on Outdoor Life 2018.


Pentax 6.5×21 Papilio II

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The Pentax is also known as a good camera and lens manufacturer producing high-quality optics but this binocular is a bit different from all the above-listed ones.

Pentax 6.5×21 II is the only binoculars from the list with the ability to macro! Yes, that’s right! I can’t call it a 100% macro observations and more like close-up observations, but with this binocular, you can not only carry on the standard observations but close-up observation with a minimum focus distance of 50cm

Now, this is a perfect type of binoculars for nature lovers. The experience you have while carry these observations is unique. You are able to observe through both of your eyes very close flowers, insects, butterflies and even small animals.

If you are a true nature lover, this is the binoculars I would recommend you to get as you cannot go wrong. Just beware that with all these advantages, some disadvantages may come such as small objective lens diameter and poor low-light performance.

But let’s have a look at the pros and cons of the Pentax 8.5×21 U-series Papilio II

PROS

  • The first close-up/macro binoculars from our list
  • Perfect for nature lovers
  • Good magnification to carry handheld observations
  • Can be used both for macro and normal observations
  • Fully multi-coated optics

CONS

  • Small objective lens diameter.
  • Poorly low-light performance
  • Tiny exit pupil of only 3.23mm
  • The optics behind may not be the best on the market.

There are two versions of these binoculars: Pentax Papilio II 6.5×21 and the Pentax U-series Papilio II 8.5×21. The other version has better magnification but would perform worse in low light condition than the 6.5x version and the exit pupil is even smaller, giving difficulty for some people to watch through and always keep the light beam which goes through the eyepiece oculars aligned perfectly to your pupils.

The 6.5×21 have a better low-light performance than the 8.5×21, wider field of view and better stability when observing macro. The disadvantage is giving up the extra 2x magnification.

If you do not mind the darker images and you want the extra 2x magnification, from those two I would recommend the 8.5x version, but for anyone else, I say that the 6.5x will give you the best experience.


Thanks a lot for checking our top 7 binoculars to buy under $500 list. I hope that you may found what you were looking for, and we really appreciate if you give us a share to spread the love.

I am bad at saying goodbye, so, I hope to see you around! Take care!

Gabriel Mihalcea

Passionate about binoculars, photography and blogging with years experience behind, I love to split my time and observe the beauty of this world with different eyes.

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