The Best Binocular Under $100

This is one of my best finds.Among my many interests is birding. I have more than 300 species, which ranks me a more than a novice and less than someone whose observation of something rare will be immediately accepted by his fellows. One of the ways birders impress one another is by purchasing high-end binoculars–say in the $1,300 to $1,500 range. If birding is your fowl obsession, this is a fine way to spend money, though not an entirely necessary investment. The best bins won’t make up for an inexperienced or sloppy birder. But, the do signal a serious intent. (One of the best birders I know, however, uses a decades old pair of $200 bins that are almost falling apart).Most birding binoculars start at $300-ish.

The Best Binocular Under $100But, what if you’re a new birder, a young person, or someone who just wants a nice pair of inexpensive bins for looking at clouds or watching the neighbors? Well, most low-end binoculars are pretty sad. Look through them long enough and blindness may not seem like such a bad alternative.So, I was very pleased when more than a year ago, Pete Dunne, the noted birding author, introduced me to these fine binoculars. The Nikon Action series takes advantage of inexpensive, but high-quality, Chinese optics and manufacturing.

The result? A very nice pair of 7×35 bins (Model 7215) that sells for as little as $49 online (do a search). The 7×50’s, heavier, larger, but better at dusk and dawn, sellfor a bit more.These are fine binoculars. They are what I keep under the front seat iof my car for unexpected sightings. They are what I loan to friends and recommend to new birders. When I let fellow birders look through them and ask them to guess how much I paid for them, the usual answer is $300 or more. Are they perfect bins? Of course not, but you would have to spend several times as much to get anything better and most people (who have never looked through really great binoculars) can’t tell the difference.Nikon also offers the somewhat more expensive Action EX series, which are waterproof and more rugged. Not that I have had any problems with the Actions I already own. I have not tested the EX series, so I can’t tell you if they produce images as good as the earlier models. I suspect they are fine. BTW, friends don’t let friends buy “zoom” binoculars because the optics are so lousy. And I wouldn’t even think of recommending the Action zoom models.