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!