You may want to enhance your hiking, exploration or other activities with a set of binoculars, but you may not want to spend thousands of dollars on a top-notch set. You don't have to. In fact, two well-rated binoculars fall under the $100 range, with a third bargain option for less than $150. All three pairs are better than adequate for certain activities, although only one is waterproof to hold up in foul weather. There's no denying, however, each one is a bargain.
Olympus RC I Outback 8x21
If lightweight and compact are selling points in a budget binocular, then the Olympus RC I Outback 8x21 may be the set for you. This pair weighs in at fewer than 7 ounces and can be folded into a size that easily fits in a pocket or palm. Those who wear glasses benefit with a roomy eye-relief and adjustable eye cups. These are not waterproof or fog proof, and the field of view is smaller than the Nikon bargain binoculars, but perhaps still adequate, at 324 feet. Minimum focusing distance is about 7 feet, and the warranty is limited to 1 year. Average price in 2009: $50.
Nikon Action 7x35
Nikon Action 7x35 is one of the top-rated basic binoculars for a bargain price. In addition to the low cost, which falls below $100, pros on this set include the generous, 25-year warranty that Nikon also offers on pricier models. The glasses are not all that lightweight, weighing in at about 24 ounces, but they do offer an incredibly wide viewing field at 489 feet. Cons on the model are its lack of waterproofing. They are also known to fog up in wet or cold weather and are not comfortable for folks who wear glasses. Average price in 2009: $60.
Nikon Action EX Extreme ATB 7x35
If you must have waterproofing, you can still get a decent pair of binoculars under $150 with Nikon Action's advanced model. The Action EX Extreme ATB 7x35 is still not fog-proof, although you may find it billed as such, but it is larger than the regular 7x35, making it easier to keep steady. This model still offers the incredibly wide 489-foot field of view and 25-year warranty and may be more feasible for folks who wear glasses. The Extreme is also fairly heavy, weighing in at about 28 ounces, and its minimum focusing distance is a lengthy 16 feet. Average price in 2009: $120.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.