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What you get for less than $100

Most of the camera binoculars priced at less than $100 get average ratings of only about two stars out of a possible five from owners reviewing them. Budget binoculars use BAK-7 glass, so the optics aren't as good, and the cameras have very low resolution. The small eye relief (usually 10mm) makes them uncomfortable for eyeglass wearers.

Professional comparison reviews don't cover camera binoculars this inexpensive, and because it can be tricky to learn to use them, it's hard to know how much to rely on owner-written reviews. Owners do report quite a few quality-control problems such as misaligned binocular optics and camera failures after only brief usage. Still, more costly camera binoculars don't fare much better in owners' reviews.

In this price range, we found the most owner-written reviews for the Bushnell budget series called ImageView. These camera binoculars can still take small video clips, but they lack the instant-replay feature on the more-expensive models discussed earlier. The ImageView 8x30 models have cameras with 2- or 3-megapixel resolution. Retail prices vary enormously for these, but sometimes you can find one priced as low as $75.

If you want to spend even less, the ImageView 10x25 camera binoculars use lower VGA (0.3-megapixel) resolution. The 640-by-480 photos are fine for posting to the web or e-mailing. We found one detailed review of a Bushnell 10x25 ImageView VGA (*Est. $60) model at BackpackGearTest.org, where a hiker reports on its use over a two-year period. He notes that not being able to turn off the sound is a big drawback, because the sound of the camera tuning up can scare off the wildlife you're trying to photograph. Overall, he suggests that the ImageView serves well as compact binoculars but isn't very satisfactory as a camera.

The ImageView 10x25 camera binoculars come in several different versions. Some use a monochrome LCD screen and provide only 8 MB of internal memory without any slot for a memory card. The latest models, however, have a color LCD plus a slot for an SD card. All the ImageView 10x25 binoculars magnify 10x but use a camera that only magnifies 8x, which seems like a recipe for disappointing photos.

The Tasco Snapshot 10x25 VGA (*Est. $75) lacks a tripod socket and memory-card slot. Like most camera binoculars, this model gets mixed reviews from the half-dozen or so owners reviewing it at Amazon.com. Some find that it works well; others can't get it to work at all. One owner notes that it requires holding the camera still for a moment after slowly pressing the shutter to prevent blur, while another says it really does have a learning curve.

The compact 8x22 Celestron VistaPix 8x22 VGA (*Est. $50) also lacks a tripod socket and memory-card slot, and the 22mm objective lens makes for especially dim viewing. However, because the binoculars and camera both use 8x magnification, you're more apt to take photos that match the view you see.

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Celestron VistaPix 8x22 Digital Camera Binocular
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $89.95   
Average Customer Review:  
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Bushnell Imageview SD Slot Binocular with VGA Camera (10 x 25)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $120.95 $54.79   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

Digital Camera Binoculars Runners Up:

MagPix SX3 *Est. $150

3 picks by top review sites.

Meade CaptureView CV-6 *Est. $200

2 picks by top review sites.

Celestron VistaPix 8x32 *Est. $145

2 picks by top review sites.

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Meade Captureview 8x30 3.2 Megapixel Waterproof Digital Camera Binocular
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $87.99
Average Customer Review:  
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Celestron VistaPix 8x32 3.1 Megapixel Binocular/Digital Camera w/LCD (Champagne Gold)
Buy from Amazon.com
from Amazon.com
New: $271.95   
Average Customer Review:  

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