Best Budget Binoculars

Nikon Sportstar binoculars header

For years I traveled with a cheap pair of binoculars and thought all compacts were pretty much the same thing, but I was wrong. It wasn’t until a friend leant me his Nikon’s that I realized my mistake and I went out and bought a pair for myself.

If you are trying to match a reasonable price with a great performance you can’t go wrong with a pair of Nikon Sportstar binoculars. They are small enough to slip into your pocket, are waterproof, and have 10x magnification.

The coated lenses are clear and bright and offer pin-sharp focusing as close as 3.5m (10”). Perfect for traveling and wildlife watching.

If you have ever taken a pair of cheap bin’s with you out in the field, you’ll know the frustrations of being ‘let down’ by your kit. Here are a few things to look out for when buying new binoculars.

Nikon Sportstar binoculars
Perfect for wildlife watching


If nature and birdwatching are your thing, you will need 8x to 10x magnification. My eyesight is poor so my preference is for the latter. Anything larger than 10x is too difficult to hold steady.


As wildlife is most active at dawn and dusk, you need clear, bright quality lenses that are good in low light conditions. Coated lenses filter the light and protect against excessive glare. 


You need to see a sharp clearly defined image throughout the focal length. Test the focusing dial, it must be well engineered and smooth to the touch. 

Check the eyepieces. You are looking for adjustable dioptre rings for each eye and sliding rubber eyecups for glasses.

A good pair of bin’s will focus close-up which is invaluable for spotting small animals and insects without scaring them off.


If you are in a damp humid environment your binoculars will steam up. It’s annoying on the outside but fog inside the lenses is infuriating. I only look for sealed gas-filled waterproof bin’s these days, I’ve had too many bad experiences to risk it again.


It goes without saying that lighter binoculars are more convenient for travel. No one wants to lug around heavy gear if they don’t have to. Compact binoculars are light and my Nikons weigh only 300g. That said they are much heavier than my old non-waterproof equivalents. The extra weight is the price you pay for added quality.

If you are in the market for decent binoculars and you find a pair that meet these criteria, go for it. But if you want to play safe and use the same model as me, you can’t go wrong buying a Nikon Sportstar. I recommend them.