Holiday money to spend? The Pop Optics “Pop Five”: Best Binoculars Under $300

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That cash you were gifted during the holidays burning a hole in your pocket?

Why not buy yourself a little happiness? Allow us to explain.

We know we all spend too much time indoors staring at screens, primarily because “that’s where the electrical outlets are.”

We know we rely too much on our devices.

We know we should spend more time outside. We want our kids to spend more time outdoors. We’ve seen the tsunami of reports in the last few years describing all the benefits of time spent outdoors (TSO): less stress, more creativity, enhanced physical, emotional and cognitive health.

Oh, and increased happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happier?

All we need is a device designed to be used outdoors, so we'll spend more time outside and see all those benefits...right?

So with that holiday money why not consider giving yourself the gift of “less stress, more creativity, and greater physical, emotional and cognitive fitness”? Why not treat that "device-reliant" part of yourself with a new device that may just make you happier—a binocular? The good news is a decent binocular can be less heavy AND less expensive than you think, and while buying one can be complicated, we’ve done most of the work for you!

Here are our “Pop Five” recommended binoculars under $300—we’re biased of course, but we think any one of these would make you or any nature-loving person you know a happy camper (or walker, or hiker, or nature lover) once you open it and step outside! All come with a neck strap and carrying case so you’ll be ready to go! Prices are approximate and will vary slightly depending upon vendor.

(Note: includes affiliate links. The ideal way to purchase binoculars is to test drive them first at a reputable brick and mortar optics emporium staffed by experts. If you’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of Cape May NJ you couldn’t do any better than to visit Cape May Bird Observatory’s Northwood Center store).

The Pop Five

1. Kowa YF Compact Porro 8 X 30 $100 (16.7 oz)
Compact, easy-to-use and very lightweight, the Kowa YF is the perfect binocular for kids or any nature enthusiast with little or no experience using binoculars. There’s also a 6X-magnification version for a few dollars less that’s a little brighter and with a slightly wider field of view—a great first binocular for kids!


2. Celestron Nature DX 8 X 42
$140 (22.2 oz)
A full-size binocular that’s a great value for the price. Feels great in the hand and has an image quality many experienced optics users would expect to pay more for. Also comes in an 8 X 32 for about $20 less.


3. Opticron Savanna R PC 8x33  $185 (15.1 oz)
The Savanna R PC shares many features with the porro prism Savanna which is very similar to our #1 binocular above. With a very appealing weight of 15.1 oz., the view through this binocular is bright and clear and the relatively small distance between the two eyecups when closed down make it a great
choice for children or anyone with
close-set eyes.


4. Nikon Monarch 5 ED 8 X 42 $250 (20.8 oz)
The Nikon Monarch 5 has been a perennial bestseller in this price range—in fact, you could argue the Monarch invented the “high-end optical quality under $300” category that is so crowded today. The ED glass allows for sharp images with great contrast under most light conditions. Many serious birders and
owners of $2000+ binoculars started
with a Nikon Monarch 5!


5. Zeiss Terra ED 8 X 42 
$340 (25.4 oz)
Yes, this is our most expensive of the five, but after all it is a Zeiss—known for decades for its incomparable optical quality and precision craftmanship. For years Zeiss binoculars have been the high-end optic of choice for serious birders with a price to match—but with this entry level Terra ED you get Zeiss quality and features at a fraction of the price.