Best Monoculars: The Ultimate Buyers Guide Reviews Top Rated Models

What is smaller and lighter than a telescope or a typical pair of binoculars, but offers super magnification and many of the same features? A monocular.

Whether you enjoy bird watching, camping, hiking, hunting, exploring caves, picnics, scouting the horizon for the perfect photo, or just to get a better view while watching the concert or race, monoculars work well for a lot of different activities.

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Some models are as small as your thumb and easily fit into a pocket, purse, or backpack. Larger and more expensive models may offer very sophisticated features like night vision or infrared capabilities.

Vortex Monocular Review: Watch Video Below

There are many models to choose from, at a variety of prices. What is the best monocular out there?

We’ve done the work for you and researched that question by compiling basic information about monoculars, reading monocular reviews, and putting together a comprehensive guide to the top models of monoculars.

MONOCULAR COMPARISON TABLE


ImageSizeFOVWeightRatingCost
ImageSizeFOVWeightRatingCost
Polaris Optics Explorer

12x50 246/1000 18 .oz 4.6$
ROXANT Grip Scope

6x30 183/1000 8.8 .oz 4.8 $
ROXANT Pocket Monocular

7x18 250/1000 2.4 .oz 4.7 $
Vortex Optics Solo

10x25 315/1000 5.6 .oz 4.4 $
MiluoTech Monocular

16x52 98m/8000m 8.4 .oz 4.2 $
Vortex Optics Tactical

8x36 393/1000 12.8 .oz 4.4 $$
Vortex Solo Monocular

10x36 325/1000 9.8 .oz 4.4 $$
Orion Monocular

10x42 309 / 1000 11 .oz 4 $
Brunton Echo Pocket Scope

7x18 181 / 1000 1.8 .oz 4.1$
Celestron Nature

10x25 304 / 1000 9.1 .oz 4.3 $


MONOCULAR OR BINOCULARS?


Why choose a monocular over a pair of binoculars? There are lots of reasons. Both will help you see objects that are far away, but there are important differences.

Bushnell Binoculars Focus

For those folks who wear glasses or contacts and have differing prescriptions in each eye, binoculars can be hard or impossible to focus. A monocular eliminates that issue, since you’re only looking through one eye.

Two hands are usually required to use binoculars, particularly if they are high-powered. If you’re trying to hold a rifle in one hand, or if you are an amputee and only have one hand, a monocular is the better choice.

Some customer reviews also mention that for folks who are legally blind, a monocular is a compact, discreet, easily transportable device for helping them see objects more clearly.

  • SIZE: For a lot of folks, size matters. Monoculars are smaller and easier to carry than telescopes.

    A compact monocular generally weighs less than a pair of binoculars and can be stored easily in a coat pocket, purse, or backpack. Some models will clip on a belt. For hiking or bird watching, a monocular is much easier to carry on a long trek.
  • COST: They are often less expensive than high-quality binoculars, scopes, or telescopes. Some models are as low as $15.
  • VALUE: You can get better value for your money. Unless you are a professional photographer or serious hunter, you will probably be happy with an image 3-10 times larger than usual.

    That magnification on a monocular is less expensive and easier to carry, which makes a monocular a better, less expensive choice for many folks.

    Many models also include carrying cases, lanyards or hand straps, and/or belt clips.
  • FEATURES: Many types of monoculars offer terrific magnification and the same features as binoculars – night vision, waterproofing, thermal, and infrared. Monoculars can magnify images dramatically.

    They can also be used to magnify things up close, like small print on a map, if you turn the monocular upside down. Size, portability, features, ease of use – these reasons make the monocular attractive to buyers.

FEATURES OF MONOCULARS


It’s amazing that a device that’s so small can still offer a variety of features.

WATERPROOF

For outdoors use, consider getting a waterproof monocular.

If you’re on a sailboat, a ski boat, hiking on a rainy day or sitting in a duck blind on a foggy morning, a waterproof monocular will work better for you.

MAGNIFICATION AND OBJECTIVE SIZE:

Monoculars are advertised showing their magnification and objective
size -- for instance 6x10. The 6 refers to the magnification. The 10 refers to the objective size.

Any device that magnifies, from a simple magnifying glass to a high-powered telescope will offer some degree of magnification. Magnification is the number of times an object appears bigger.

For instance, a bird viewed with a monocular that has a magnification of 6 will be six times larger than the bird seen with the naked eye. The higher than magnification, however, the more complex and difficult the device will be to use.

For a monocular, a magnification of 5 or 6 is very practical. When you get into magnifications of 8 or higher it’s more difficult to hold the device steady and the field of view is smaller. Think about paparazzi photographers holding a camera with a long zoom lens that needs a tripod to be steadied, and you get a good illustration of that idea.

Objective size refers to the second number in “6x10.” It’s the size (in millimeters) of the diameter of the front lens. The bigger lenses offer better clarity and sharpness of viewing because they have better light-gathering ability.



However, the larger lenses are also heavier, and many would say that the most attractive feature of a monocular is its compact size.

FIELD OF VIEW AND CLOSE FOCUS:

Field is view is explained simply as how much you see when you look at something through a monocular.

If a line of trees is a thousand yards away and the monocular has a field of view 375 feet at a thousand yards, you’ll be able to see 375 feet of the line of trees. A basic rule regarding optics is that the larger the magnification, the smaller the field of view.

Close focus refers to the minimum distance that a monocular can focus on something. Some monoculars measure that in inches. If you’re looking at a spider web a few feet away, close focus can really enhance that experience.

Monoculars come with a focus ring, enabling you to adjust the focus. If you like to watch birds or animals, a focus ring that’s easy to move works well, but you want to avoid one that’s so sensitive that it’s easy to knock the image out of focus.

If you prefer just viewing stationary objects, opt for a focus ring that’s less pliable.

EYE RELIEF:

What do you do if you have to wear glasses but you are looking to purchase a monocular? An important consideration is “eye relief” – that term, which is a measurement in millimeters, refers to how far your eye can be from the eyepiece and still see clearly.

A good rule of thumb is that an eye relief of 14 will allow you to see well even if you have to wear glasses when looking through the monocular.

LENS COATINGS:

The rule of thumb is that the more coatings on a lens, the brighter the image. There are basically three terms you will see regarding lens coatings.

Fully multi-coated is the best, and the next best is multi-coated, and then finally fully coated. At minimum, you want a lens that is coated.

If brightness is critical to you – for instance, for photography – you will want a monocular that’s fully multi-coated.

GLASS:

The quality of the glass will determine if your view is clean, crisp, and bright. Prism glass or Ba-K4 glass are what you want.

Roof prisms are the most common but some larger monoculars use porro prisms. Both roof and porro prisms are fine.

Porro prism optics are vulnerable to bumps and have a tendency to become blurry after even small bumps so the ruggedness of a roof prism may be preferable.


TYPES OF MONOCULARS


There are many different types of monoculars, and a thoughtful buyer will need to decide what features best suit their needs.

  • Do you need a waterproof monocular, for rugged outdoors use?
  • Do you like to travel light while hiking? If so, a pocket monocular or compact monocular may be your best bet.
  • Is it a gift for a child? You may not want to spend too much.
  • Do you like to explore caves, or hunt? If so, a night vision monocular or thermal monocular may be worth the investment. Many of them offer photo and video capabilities, too.

POCKET MONOCULAR or COMPACT MONOCULAR


The ease and portability of the pocket monocular are unmatched in the optics world. There are many models out there.

If you’re on a budget, the inexpensive HDE 15-55 Zoom 21mm monocular, offers good value and makes for a durable stocking-stuffer for kids or the casual bird watcher.

Another good model in the mid-price range is the Vortex Optics Solo.

It has fully-coated optics and it’s waterproof.

NIGHT VISION MONOCULARS


Did you know that night vision devices were being developed as long ago as World War II? The military began using night vision devices widely during the Vietnam War.

They are primarily used by law enforcement and the military, but in recent years they have become very popular among civilian users.

  • Night vision monoculars are very useful for many different activities – for instance, professional surveillance, hunting at night, or exploring a cave.
  • Night vision monoculars allow you to see in the darkness because they amplify the existing light. They come in digital and analog.

WHAT'S THE BEST NIGHT VISION MONOCULAR?

A terrific product is the Carson Mini-Aura Digital Night Vision Monocular. It’s inexpensive and has very compact at Dimensions: 2.6'' x 2.2''x 2.2.''

It weighs only 3.4 ounces, so it fits easily into your pocket. Since it’s completely digital, it won’t burn out.

Carson Mini-Aura Digital Night Vision Monocular

You can view objects up to 82 feet away even when it’s completely dark, and it reflects light. Intensity can be adjusted with the push of a button. It’s a great value, especially if you like camping or night hunting. A carry pouch and wristband are included.

If you want to spend a bit more the Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision Monocularhas a 1.5 inch TFT LCD. The camera and camcorder will takes 5mp photos and 720p video from a distance of 350 meters.

A cable allows you to use this for surveillance also. The tripod jack and water-resistant housing make it versatile in many different conditions, too. Additionally, it also has an infrared illuminator. You can also use it to take photos in the daytime.

THERMAL OR INFRARED MONOCULARS:


If you take night-vision a step further, you get the thermal or infrared monocular.

It’s a more sophisticated type of image-converting technology. Infrared energy is emitted from everything as heat.

Thermal monoculars convert the heat from objects, animals, or people into a visible image.

NOTE: You can’t point a thermal monocular through a window or use it under water because the heat of you is reflected back.

The technology has been around for about 25 years. These types of optics were developed by and for military, police, and security uses, at first. Seeing humans or animals in low light or total darkness and/or challenging weather conditions proved very useful for those professions.

It’s also useful for detecting “hot spots” in industrial or electrical facilities where there has been an equipment malfunction.

Because thermal monoculars offer a highly-sophisticated versatility in viewing, they are usually not cheap. However, as mentioned above, the Bestgarder 6x50mm model has infrared capabilities.

The Pulsar Quantum HD38A Thermal Monocular PL77323 features are outstanding, such as 640x480 display resolution, LCD display, video output, and a 30 Hz refresh rate. A person can be detected up to 1,000 yards away.

Viewing modes can be set for city or woods. Even moving objects can be seen, at 30 frames per second. It’s also resistant to harsh weather conditions, and can be mounted.

Another well-rated model, for a bit less money is the FLIR Systems Scout III-240 Thermal Imager.

With a crisp picture and a fast startup time, this model, which includes a camera, can detect an animal or man as far away as 382 yards.

It has a lightweight, weather-resistant case.

Night Vision vs Thermal Vision - Video Explanation

HUNTING MONOCULARS:


Hunters get a lot of use from monoculars. The portability, affordability, and ease of use are big factors in their popularity with hunters. Viewing terrain from a distance to locate prey is much easier with a monocular.

Monoculars can also be used at the rifle range or archery range. Another critical factor for hunters is that Monoculars can withstand harsh weather conditions more easily than other optics.

So What is the BEST Monocular for a Hunter?

The highly-rated Polaris Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular offers stellar features at an excellent price in the middle range.

With 12x50 magnification, it’s a powerful tool and it’s waterproof.

It comes with a tripod for ease of use when your hands are busy aiming, for instance in a duck blind or stand of trees.

It’s also resistant to fog and dust.

The field of view is 246 feet, with multi-coated lenses. You can focus using one hand while carrying your rifle in the other hand.

Another good choice is the Bear Grylls Waterproof Rugged Monocular (9X32MM) – very small and lightweight but quite powerful.

It was designed in conjunction with Bear Grylls, the famed survivalist.

At 9x32 you get less magnification, but there’s enough magnification for most encounters. It features a BaK-4 prism lens which is fully coated. The outside is coated with rubber, and its tiny ridges make it easy to grip even in bad weather.

The adjustable focus ring includes a separate ring which allows adjustment to different eye relief distances.

HIGH POWER MONOCULARS:


As mentioned before, the Polaris Optics Explorer High Powered 12X50 Monocular offers stellar features at a bargain price of around $50-60.

With 12x50 magnification, it boasts an incredibly bright and clear way to view anything outdoors at a range of up to 1,000 yards.

Sometimes the higher power of a monocular doesn’t do well if your hand isn’t rock steady but the tripod included with this model eliminates that issue. Users report that even in low or poor light, this monocular offers excellent views.

Another excellent choice is the Eyeskey High Power 10-30x50 Zoom Monocular.

It has fully multi-coated glass, and is waterproof and fog-proof and features an adjustable eye cap and rubber outside for easy gripping.


MONOCULAR BRANDS


NIKON MONOCULARS

Nikon is an old and trusted brand in cameras, but they don’t offer a lot of models of monoculars. In fact, a search of “monocular” on the Nikon website turned up no results. However, we found a couple of models that are very favorably reviewed.

Nikon 5x15 High Grade Monocular

  • FOV: 472 foot / 1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 18 inches
  • Weight: 2.6 oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • Eye Relief: 15.8 mm
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Size: 2.8x1.2

The Nikon 7394 5x15 High Grade Monocular is a not cheap, but it offers great value. It weighs just 2.6 oz. so it fits well in a purse or backpack or pocket. The lens coatings are multi-layered. The 5x magnification is big enough for excellent viewing but small enough that you don’t have to worry about your hand shaking. Users who wear glasses don’t have to remove their glasses to use this model.

  • FOV: 345 foot / 1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 30 inches
  • Weight: 2.4 oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • Eye Relief: 12 mm
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Size: 2.8x1.2

Nikon 7x15 High Grade Monocular

The Nikon 7491 7x15 High Grade Monocular is just a bit more expensive but it offers a more powerful magnification, slightly smaller size, and is rated highly. With a 345-foot field of view at 1,000 yards, it’s a great tool to take anywhere, and at 2.4 ounces it fits easily in pocket or purse. It works well in very humid conditions.

BUSHNELL MONOCULARS

Bushnell makes a variety of products for hunters like rifle scopes, binoculars, and trail cameras. The company has been around for more than 65 years and claims it has won performance awards. They are well-known for their “sports optics.”

Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular

  • ED Prime glass
  • Ultra Wide Band Coating
  • RainGuard™ HD
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • BaK-4 prisms
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Picatinny rail mount

The Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular with Mil-Hash Reticle, 10 x 42-mm offers great clarity and versatility. It features fully multi-coated optics and BaK-4 prisms, twist-up eyecups, and a carry clip. It also has a Picatinny rail and can be used with a variety of accessories including a tripod.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, check out the Bushnell Legend Ultra HD Monocular, which offers high quality optics, a durable and beautiful design, and it’s waterproof. It also features BaK-4 prisms and fully multi-coated optics.

VORTEX MONOCULARS

Like Bushnell, the Vortex brand is popular among hunters. The company makes many different kinds of optical products, such as range finders, binoculars, and spotting scopes. They guarantee all their optics, in case of damage.

Vortex Solo Monocular

  • FOV: 352 feet/1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 16.4 feet
  • Weight: 9.7 oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • Roof Prism
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Rubber Armor

The Vortex Solo 10x36 mm Monocular is a great value offers a durable rubber casing, an eyecup that’s adjustable, a utility clip, anti-reflective coatings, and its waterproof.

The Vortex Optics Solo Monocular 8x36 offers many of the same cool features as the 10x36 including the multi-coated lenses and rubber armor construction. It’s shockproof, as well as waterproof.

The carrying clip allows it to be clipped onto a belt or other flat-edged surfaces like a pocket or vest.

POLARIS MONOCULARS

Polaris Optics makes high-quality monoculars and binoculars primarily aimed at the birdwatcher market. All products come with a lifetime warranty. The offer seven different models of monoculars. Their products consistently get good reviews and they are not pricey, with most models selling for less than $100.

Polaris Optics Nature Wide View Monocular

  • FOV: 304 feet/1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 8.2 feet
  • Weight: 14 oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • Bak-4 Prism
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Rubber Armor

The Polaris Optics Adventure 10X50 Wide View Monocular offers many features and gets wide praise from users.

It boasts of offering detailed, clear views of birds or wildlife from 1,000 yards and features a tripod, strap slot, one-hand focus, and claims to be not only waterproof, but fog proof climate proof and even drop proof. There’s a 30 day money-back guarantee if not fully satisfied.

For a bit less check out the Polaris Optics Scout 6X32 Compact Wide View Monocular. It’s waterproof and offers a wide range of vision – 378 feet at 1,000 yards.

CARSON MONOCULARS

Carson was founded in 1990 so it’s a relative newcomer in the optic field, but many of its monoculars have earned very favorable reviews, and most are very affordable. It manufactures a variety of optical devices, including magnifiers and microscopes. They also hold more than a hundred patents.

Carson Optical BlackWave Monocular

  • FOV: 273 feet/1000 yards
  • Close Focus: 4 feet
  • Weight: 4.4oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • BK-7 Prism
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Rubber Armor

The Carson BlackWave 10x25mm Waterproof Monocular (WM-025) offers many of the same features as more expensive models, such as nitrogen filled lenses, a sturdy casing, and waterproofing. Users report it offers great range of view and it’s sturdy and easy to focus.

The Carson CloseUp 7x18mm Close-Focus Monocular (CF-718) is a real bargain. It weighs just 1.8 oz. and has a carrying case, strap, and lens cloth. The field of view is 432 feet at 1,000 yards – better than some of the much more expensive monoculars.

CARL ZEISS MONOCULARS

Zeiss is an old company and it’s well-respected in the optics industry. They started in 1846, making microscopes. Zeiss is a pioneer in the optics industry, scientifically manufacturing and patenting lenses.

Well-established as a global giant in more than thirty countries, Zeiss makes binoculars, range finders, scopes – just about anything with a lens. Zeiss products include lifetime warranties on the optics and one year on the accessories.

Carl Zeiss Optical Inc Victory PRF Monocular

  • FOV: 330 feet/1000 yards
  • Laser Rangefinder
  • Weight: 10.9 oz.
  • Waterproof/fogproof
  • Fully multi-coated
  • 10-1300 yard range
  • Twist-up eyecup
  • Rubber Armor

Take for example the Carl Zeiss Optical Inc. Victory PRF 8x26 Monocular offers stellar quality and features. You can accurately locate objects at up to 1,300 yards. There’s a digital laser rangefinder, multi-coating, and its water and dust resistant, just to name a few of the features.

A less expensive model is the Carl Zeiss Optical Inc Monocular (5x10 T MiniQuick). It’s about the same size as a fountain pen, so fits easily almost anywhere.

It features a 300-foot field of view at 1,000 yards. With a non-slip outside casing and anti-reflective multi-coating, you can expect Zeiss quality and durability.

BARGAINS MONOCULARS


The higher-priced models are not hard to find but for most of us, the less-expensive models are preferred. As mentioned, the Carson brand monoculars offer great value for the money.

Here are three more models which are rated very highly and won’t clean out your bank account because none cost more than $100:

Vortex Optics Solo 10x25 Waterproof Monocular

Vortex Optics Solo 10x25 Waterproof Monocular - This little beauty offers many features: multi-coated optics, waterproof, easy focus, rubber eye cup, BaK-4 prism.

Polaris Optics ProSpotter
Compact Monocular

You cannot beat the Polaris Optics ProSpotter 10X42 Compact Monocular, a powerful handheld monocular that promises clearer, brighter views and has many features.

The Superex® Dual Focus 16x52 Monocular offers multi-coated optics, adjustable zoom, and a carrying case and wrist strap.

Superex® Dual Focus 16x52 Monocular

CONCLUSION

Whether you’re looking for a very simple monocular just for casual use, or you’re a serious hunter, birder, or hiker and want to spend more for a really top of the line model, there are many different models out there.

Decide what features matter most, and how much you want to spend. Amazon is offering some great bargains, and if you’re looking for a Christmas gift you should go ahead and order now.

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