Before your next hike or trip, make sure to grab a pair of binoculars for stunning views. Check out this review for the best pair of high-quality optics, all for under $100.
Everyone loves the peace and tranquility of a walk through nature or cruising through the seas. As you prepare for your next outdoor adventure, though, don’t let your view stop at just the human eye. For less than $100, you can have high-quality binoculars at hand for the most spectacular views of the world around you. You’ve paid money for your vacation, or taken the time to drive to your favorite trail, so it’s worth investing in an optical tool that will bring nature to life.
Buying your first pair of binoculars can feel overwhelming and complicated. There are seemingly a million measurements, numbers, and technical terms that have no rhyme or reason to the average outdoor enthusiast. However, these figures do matter when choosing the best pair of binoculars to match your level of activity and budget. To cut through the noise and ease you into the world of optics, we’ll give you the rundown on how to pick a pair and a review of our preferred choice, the Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10 25x.
How To Pick The Perfect Pair
As you shop around for binoculars, it’s critical to consider two main questions: for which activities do you need them, and how much are you willing to spend? The binocular market is vast, but this reflects the variety of ways that people use binoculars and their level of expertise or interest. The same goes for the price tag and how much people will budget for better views.
How Will You Use Your Binoculars?
As someone who loves the great outdoors, I say everyone needs a handy pair to take in the beauty of our planet. Aside from just taking in surreal and up-close views of nature, binoculars are used for birding, glassing, target practice, surveying land, watching concerts and sports, hiking, sailing, and even stargazing. Depending on your purpose, you’ll want to look for the specific qualities that enhance your experience.
For example, prime time for most hunters is dawn or dusk, when the sun is low in the sky, the temperature drops, and critters come out to play. Hunters in these conditions will want binoculars with excellent light-gathering capacity so that their binoculars can still produce detailed images even at twilight.
If birding is more your speed, you might look more at the magnification and field of view. You’ll want a mid-range magnification power to observe all the details of the bird you’re spotting, but too much magnification and you’ll limit the peripheral area that you can view around your subject. This means that if your bird takes flight, you won’t be able to quickly follow its path as you work to refocus your binoculars.
Long story short, there are typically trade-offs for each feature and style of binocular. Higher magnification can lead to narrower views, less vivid images, and shakier objects in your picture. Lower magnification power means not being able to see long distances. A larger objective lens gives you better light transmission but makes for a more cumbersome optical tool in your pack. As you can see, there isn’t a perfect answer, but there is a perfect pair that suits you.
How Much Do You Want To Spend?
We often see beginners with the mentality that, in order to get an elite pair of binoculars, you need to have the cash to match. This simply isn’t true, especially if you know the qualities that are most important to you. You can save a lot of money by buying binoculars that are appropriate for the class of your hobby and level of skill.
A way to think about this is that most hunters only shoot at the 100 to 200-yard range. If this sounds like you, save money by buying binoculars with lower magnification, but prioritize a larger objective lens. For long-distance sharpshooters at the highest level, it might be worth saving up until you can get your hands on a several hundred dollar set.
Another way to save is to consider the inner-workings of the optics and glass. There are two main prism designs, a roof system, and a Perger-Porro system. Roof prism binoculars tend to cost more than Porro prisms because their design is more complex and typically makes for more compact binoculars. Conversely, binoculars with a Porro system give off World War II vibes with their wider, clunky frames. These designs are usually cheaper and, for their cost, give incredible views that most price comparable roof designs can’t.
No matter what your budget is, just be sure you’re not over or under spending on your optical tools. If you’re an expert hunter, you’re going to be disappointed with binoculars that don’t provide crisp, clear views and a wide field of view. At the same time, beginners will be frustrated with their overpriced binoculars that have unnecessary features, too much zoom, and insufficient portability.
Our Solution - The Trailblazer
As you weigh our above considerations, you might be thinking that you’re not quite sure of some of your answers – and that’s ok. We see lots of beginners or easy-going hobbyists that are just looking for a solid recommendation to get them one step closer to their favorite trails and incredible sights. Our solution to this and our preferred multi-purpose use binoculars are the Nikon Trailblazer ATB 10x25mm. These binoculars are perfect for many uses, and we love how affordable they are compared to other binoculars of a similar class. We’ll outline in detail why these are an excellent fit for most recreational outdoors folks, but feel free to skip down for the too long, didn’t read, conclusion.
The Nikon Optics Standard
If you’re at all nervous about buying a pair of binoculars for under $100, rest assured that the Trailblazer ATB is of the highest quality for its class. Nikon started making sporting optics in the 1920s and hasn’t let up in their advancements since. While you shouldn’t base your decision on brand names, it’s reassuring to know your purchase comes from a world-renowned manufacturer that leads the way in optical research.
Before moving forward with your purchase, you should always be sure to check out the specs on any optical tool. Most sellers will list their binoculars’ numbers and features so that you can make an informed decision. We’ve rounded up the most practical details on the Trailblazer so that you can compare it to your other options.
One quality we love about the Trailblazer is just how lightweight and compact it is. These binoculars only weigh 9.9 ounces and can easily fit into your pack or the side pocket of hiking pants. You won’t find many models on the market that can pack in high-tech optical systems while still maintaining such a light build. These are perfect for camping or hiking trips with the entire family. Even budding naturists will feel comfortable holding and using this sleek design.
|Nikon Trailblazer 10×25 ATB|
|Objective Lens||25mm; Multicoated optics with multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds|
|Prism Type||High-Index BAK4 Roof Prisms|
|Field of View||342|
|Durability||Waterproof, fog proof, made of plastic with rubber armoring|
|Accessories||Nikon travel case, compact binocular strap covers, compact binocular lens covers.|
The Trailblazer ATB’s compact build isn’t an accident, but rather a feat of engineering. These binoculars feature a roof prism system. In a roof prism system, the two light-refracting prisms in each ocular tube line up with one another. This design is why roof prism binoculars have smaller frames than those with Porro prisms. As previously mentioned, roof prisms are more complicated to engineer and typically cost more.
A downside to the roof prism system is they can produce more color-fringing and distortions in your image. Contrary to common sense, the light waves actually travel in a more complex pattern before reaching your eyes because the roof prisms align. More expensive roof prism binoculars apply phase-corrected coatings to their prisms, which corrects this problem. Unfortunately, the Trailblazer ATB 10x 25 mm doesn’t seem to have this coating to prevent color-fringing.
However, the Nikon Trailblazer does come equipped with BAK4 prisms, which are the highest quality you’ll see on binoculars. BAK4 prisms have a high refractive-index, so you don’t lose any light transmission as light travels from point A to point B. The other prism you’ll often see on binoculars is a BAK7 prism, which sometimes produces a dimmer image, especially around the edges of your view.
These binoculars also have a fantastic, fixed magnification power of 10x. This is plenty of power for recreational hikers, hunters, and birders. Buyer beware though – the objective lens is only 25 mm. This a relatively small objective lens diameter for this high magnification and means you won’t have the same quality of images right before sunrise or just after sunset. You might also experience some shakiness if you’re sighting fast-moving objects or needing to scan an area quickly. For example, it might be challenging to focus and view a split-second play on the football field. We recommend using these binoculars during the day and with slower-moving targets so that you’ll get natural-looking, close-up images that are picture-perfect.
Perfect For Families and Beginners
The Trailblazer ATB is our top choice for bringing families and beginners closer to nature because it is comfortable, durable, and comes with all the accessories you need to get started. Getting used to binoculars, making adjustments, and correctly holding them can be tricky for first-timers, but the Trailblazer makes it all a breeze. With these binoculars, there’s just one focus knob on the top of your binoculars that glides smoothly for quick adjustments to your view.
Getting your eyecup just right will impact the sharpness of your image. You want to make sure your eyes are the proper distance away from the eyepiece and minimize any loss of light. The Trailblazer ATB simplifies this process with twistable, rubber eyecups. These are great for those who wear glasses, have poor eyesight, or children who tend to have larger pupils than the average adult. The eye relief – the distance your eyes need to be from the eyepiece – on these binoculars is decent at 10mm. Good eye relief, like this, will keep your eyes from becoming fatigued or having to squint.
These binoculars are also incredibly durable for whatever life may throw your way. You will appreciate the non-slip, rubber coating on the body of these binoculars so that you never lose your grip. These also fit comfortably in your hands, making inadvertent drops and stumbles less likely. If you do manage to drop these in a puddle, their 100% waterproof and fog proof optics keep this set protected.
Lastly, the accessories included in your purchase will set you on the right path for any hike. You can expect a carrying case, strap covers, and a lens cover. You’ll want these items to store your binoculars when they’re not in use to protect the body and lenses from any dirt, dust, or debris.
Best In Its Class
As you shop around, you’ll notice the Nikon Trailblazer 10x 25 mm has almost zero complaints. Folks that buy these binoculars all note that you’re getting an incredibly high-end optical tool with magnificent views for the cost. We think this is the best choice for those on a budget, beginners, or families that enjoy camping, hiking, recreational hunting or birding.
Regardless of which pair you end up choosing, be sure you’re making an informed decision based on your needs and preferences. Look past the buzzwords, and don’t be afraid to dive into the specifications. This review should give you a solid starting point for understanding what you should prioritize for the incredible views of the world around us.