Can you get a decent pair of binoculars for under $100? Or will they just be frustrating and fall apart? I believe you can like your binoculars without spending a lot, especially if you get a pair from the Aculon A211 series by Nikon. I’ve had a pair for a couple of years now on my sailboat and I’ve been very pleased by them.
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The Nikon Aculon A211 series of binoculars includes multiple models with various magnification levels and objective diameters: 7X35, 8X42, 10X42, 7X50, 10X50, 12X50, 16X50, 8-18X42, and 10-22X50. The basic construction, features, and quality are the same for all models but prices are higher for the models with higher or variable magnification levels and larger objective diameters.
The A211 series lands in almost every list of the top-rated budget binoculars. Nikon is legendary for the quality of their cameras and the reputation is equally deserved by their binoculars.
Binocular buying basics
When buying binoculars, the most important features to compare are the magnification level and the objective diameter. Almost all binoculars have these two numbers in their name. For example, a pair of 10X50 binoculars provide 10X magnification with 50mm objective diameters.
Magnification level is pretty self-explanatory and obvious—the higher the magnification level, the larger objects will appear. Put another way, objects can be farther away and you will still be able to see fine details like recognizing a person’s face, reading sail numbers, or distinguishing a red-tailed hawk from an osprey.
Objective diameter refers to the size of the larger openings in the front of the binoculars, not the openings closest to your eyes. The larger the openings, the more light they allow into the lenses and the brighter the images will be. In other words, they will work better in low light conditions like early morning and twilight.
Some standard features worth mentioning that all of the Aculon A211 models have in common are:
- Turn-and-slide adjustable rubber eyecups make it easy to set the correct eye-to-lens distance with or without eyeglasses and help to keep the lenses clean.
- Light weight (just over 1.5 lbs. for model 8246) versus comparable binoculars means they are easier to hold steady for long periods of time.
- Ergonomic design puts textured and ribbed surfaces under your fingers for secure holding even on a pitching foredeck. The rubber coating provides a good grip even when wet, which is valuable when sailing.
- Fluted focus barrel at your fingertips rotates smoothly for precise adjustments.
- High quality, adjustable, non-slip neck strap with lens caps.
- Tough, padded, soft case.
I purchased the 10×42 model 8246 for around $90. The 10X magnification is enough for identifying people or sailboats within a mile or so. The 42mm objective diameter works well under most lighting conditions in which I typically sail. If you sail offshore or around the clock, you might like one of the more powerful models better but you’ll also pay more for them.
I normally wear eyeglasses for long distance vision but I’m able to easily adjust these binoculars to my eyes with the built-in diopter.
What I like most about them:
- Bright, clear images to the periphery of the field of view
- Compact design doesn’t take much storage space
- Settings aren’t easily bumped out of adjustment
What I like least about them:
- Objective lens caps fall off the neck strap easily and can be misplaced
If you’re looking for very good binoculars at a budget price, you won’t go wrong in choosing one of the Nikon Aculon A211 models. If I lost mine, I’d buy them again.
Low price alert!
If you want to save even more off the already low price of these binoculars, Defender.com has several remanufactured models on sale. These have Nikon’s 90 day manufacturer’s defect warranty PLUS Nikon’s Lifetime $10 “No Questions Asked, No Fault” Repair/Replacement warranty.
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