First of all, let's define what we mean when we talk about "cheap binoculars" on this page. We're talking about good quality binoculars that will give you years of pleasurable use without eyestrain or headaches. We're talking about instruments that will provide clear, clean, crisp images and actually allow you to feel as though you're a part of distant action. When we talk about cheap binoculars on this page then, we mean quality optics obtained inexpensively or, as we often say, cheaply. We're not talking about finding binoculars at inexpensive prices that are made cheaply/poorly.
As a word of caution, we're generally unaware of optics manufacturers who can consistently produce good quality binoculars that regularly retail for less than US$100. Obtaining or producing quality components, maintaining a trained and skilled staff to assemble components with precision, and achieving consistent quality... even in this age of international trade, it just doesn't allow good optics to be sold at those prices and provide for the company to still be in business next year.
If you're considering buying something that regularly retails for less than US$100, please study it carefully to ensure you're not actually getting low quality cheap binoculars! Yes - we're aware of a number of popular models that regularly retail for about US$80 and we don't recommend most of them. They're usually "cheap binoculars" that are also made cheaply.
Production costs for a grade of optics that will be so enjoyable that you'll use them frequently will push the regular retail price up closer to US$200. The goal is to get that level of quality or better for less than their regular retail prices.
Secondly, let's address those who are looking for good prices on new, off-the-shelf optics and then we'll go on to other online ways to achieve the bargain hunter's dream. To do that, let's consider whether the binocular you're anticipating buying is going to be one of your first three binocular purchases.
If it is, then we'd like to suggest that you consider what we do with important purchases (first, second, and third binoculars have ALWAYS been important purchases!) and buy online from reputable dealers. You can find really good quality, cheap binoculars from established dealers whether they're a sales demo unit, discontinued models, inventory clearance sales, or just a periodic sale with a manufacturer's rebate coupon You'll do just fine without having the most recent developments in optics for your first three binoculars, trust us! Once you've more experience, you may feel a bit more comfortable choosing to assume the inherent risk in buying used in your search for cheap binoculars. What's the rationale behind this approach?
By buying your cheap binoculars brand new off a competitive optics dealer's shelf, you're not taking the risk of inheriting someone else's literal and figurative headaches. When buying a reputable brand optic from a reputable dealer, you don't have to worry about those problems that can be so difficult to notice and yet so nasty, like "minor" deviations in collimation. You'll not worry about whether or not the previous owner succumbed to temptation and popped the instrument open to satisfy curiosity - thus letting humidity's insidious, grasping fingers inside to wreak havoc with the prisms and coatings. (You'll want to see the pictures of humidity-fed fungus growing on lenses on our used binocular buying checklist page.)
Some of the online optics dealers have policies allowing you to return an optical purchase within 30 days for a refund if you find that your purchase doesn't "fit" in one way or another - please double check that it's true of the online vendor you're dealing with, though, before you make your purchase! Remember, it's your money and you're trying to make it last. You want "cheap binoculars" that work for you!
One of our favorite online vendors is EagleOptics.com. Not only due to the 30 day return policy written on nearly every binocular page on their site, but they also do an excellent job of keeping track of rebates for the many products they sell. If there is a rebate available for the optical instrument (or tripods and other accessories) you're considering, the folks at Eagle Optics more than likely have it noted on the page for that product with a link to the relevant manufacturer's rebate page. That makes it particularly convenient and easy to shop their web site. They also have a sale page that lists any binoculars, spotting scopes, or accessories which they may have on sale. We've found them to be friendly and good to deal with.
The dealer's return policy is important if you approach your first three purchases as we recommend. It allows you to spend enough to get a good instrument without risking your financial resources unnecessarily on an optic you don't like after it arrives. We've never, ever regretted scrimping and saving to make our first binocular as good as we could afford. A liberal return policy helped us shop with greater confidence. We still have that first instrument, use it frequently, and still love the clean, crisp, bright images it provides. And yes, we shopped so carefully that we achieved a discounted purchase price that lets us include it in with our cheap binoculars purchases!
Here's another online benefit for you. Unfortunately, most brick and mortar stores which stock good quality optics don't usually specialize in them. The staff members, although making every effort to be helpful, are not usually knowledgeable about binoculars, spotting scopes, etc. If you e-mail or telephone an online retailer you'll frequently be communicating with a qualified, knowledgeable person.
If your use priorities allow you to do so, consider buying Porro prism binoculars instead of a roof prism model. The roof prism models are lighter and more compact, but the Porro design has a reputation for providing more of a three dimensional view and greater clarity as well having a lower price tag - all other things being equal.
If you're intent on finding cheap Swarovski binoculars for one of your first three binocular purchases, please let us suggest looking for either a demo model at your online retailer or a discontinued model. You'll find one that will give satisfaction. No, you'll not pay rock bottom price for it because Swarovski quality commands a certain premium pricing, but you'll likely avoid the potential problems of buying used at this stage.
Are all online dealers reputable? You've probably learned by now that it's just as easy to encounter someone with shady business practices online as offline. The problem is that, while you can evaluate the offline dealer and his shop in person, it's significantly more difficult to do online. There are online dealers who have earned reputations for treating their customers fairly and we recommend doing business with them.
In Canada and the United States, we like dealing with EagleOptics.com (as already mentioned above), Amazon.ca and Amazon.com (USA) have established themselves as strong competitors on price. Moreover each has earned a reputation for fairness and we highly recommend them to you. (We'll not send you to someone who may have a slightly lower price, but won't honor a refund policy or may be out of business tomorrow or next week!) We feel that you'll be able to get competitive prices on good quality binoculars so you'll have "cheap binoculars" you'll be happy using for years to come. Of course, you're doing research so you'll be shopping wisely!
For our friends in Britain, we recommend Amazon.co.uk . By all means, please do shop carefully, but we feel comfortable with the thought that you'll find you're in good hands with Amazon.
We find that our kindly neighbors in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa also frequently shop with Amazon.co.uk due to agreeable pricing, availability, and reasonable shipping time and rates. We've always been pleased with the Amazon's service and have never had a reason to regret recommending it to friends.
One last option that's available from time to time is that of purchasing a test model from OpticsReviewer.com. When we've completed our tests and written a review, we often sell the instrument so we'll have resources to use for another binocular or monocular to test and review. If you'd like to shoot us an e-mail via our contact page, we'll let you know what we presently have for sale. We like to take good care of the optics we test so the next owner will find as much enjoyment with them as possible!
If you're interested in buying used binoculars, please read about finding quality, used binoculars priced inexpensively, both online and offline.
Enjoy your research, your shopping, and using your "cheap binoculars"!