Best Monoculars: Crystal Clear Optics for Long-Distance Sighting
Get a better view of objects at a distance with these monoculars.
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON October 23, 2019
Monoculars are gaining popularity in a number of areas due to their lightweight and compact sizing. Easier to store and more portable than their clunkier binocular counterparts, today’s monoculars can offer the same clear and accurate sighting capabilities in a more streamlined package. In fact, many folks find monoculars easier to handle and focus than a pair of binoculars, since you’ve got only one lens to worry about.
Whether you’re a hunter, bird watcher, hiker, weekend warrior, or just a nosy neighbor, investing in a high-quality monocular can help you see farther, clearer, and more accurately. There are plenty of options on the market when it comes to choosing the monocular that’s best for you. They run the gamut of prices, optical capabilities, and construction materials. Here, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out by coming up with our top picks that are currently available.
A 12 x 50 high-power prism monocular that is waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof and is made for wildlife enthusiasts who are also into wildlife photography.
- Has a 12x50 magnification
- Comes with a 50-mm objective lens
- Smartphone adapters are compatible with almost all smartphones in the market
- Multi-coated lens provides superior light transmission and brightness
- Zooming in affects the color quality of the photo
- Requires a tripod to lessen vibrations
- Can be a bit heavy for some users
An affordable, high-definition monocular with a retractable lens and multi-coated optical lens that offers a wide view and is great for travels.
- Has a compact and comfortable non-slip grip design.
- Protected from moisture, dust, and debris.
- Has great light transmission and brightness
- Comes with a cleaning cloth, neck strap, and carrying case
- Has only average magnification power
- Clarity can be distorted when range is increased
- Tends to fog up in humid conditions
For the serious outdoorsman who wants the most high-tech, top-of-the-line monocular, this sleek and ultra lightweight monocular does just about anything you can imagine.
- Lightweight and fully shockproof
- Offers superior magnification and zoom
- Hot Track thermal imaging and five color palettes provide nighttime clarity unlike any other model
- Available in 35 or 50mm options
- Price point is overly prohibitive for many consumers
- Housing is only water-resistant, not waterproof
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Monoculars
- Provides portability. With the compact size and lightweight quality of a monocular, you won't feel burdened as you run around capturing rare scenery and wildlife action. They are also easy to store when not in use and will not take too much space in your backpack. You also won't worry about it getting scratched or hitting surfaces while walking around dense forests or rocky roads.
- Frees up your other hand for more productivity. A monocular requires only one of your hands to operate, so you can carry other essential stuff with you, such as maps or tumblers, while bird watching. You can also do other things, such as make calls or hold onto something to protect yourself from falling or slipping without interrupting your rare moments with nature.
- Cost savings. In many cases, a monocular is cheaper than binoculars, so if you are on a budget but still want to invest in an optical device that you can bring along on your adventures, then getting one is highly recommended. Just make sure that despite the cheap price, you can still get a better quality monocular with a decent magnification.
Types of Monocular
Night Vision Monoculars
As the name implies, this type of monocular is primarily used at night, mostly for night hunting or surveillance activities. It is great for locating targets in the dark. You can choose the technology on which it can operate. You have two technology options to choose from: infrared and thermal-imaging. Both subtypes of a night vision monocular can also be used during the day. You simply have to turn off the infrared or thermal imaging mode.
An infrared monocular is a subtype of a night vision monocular. It does not use light to illuminate things in the dark. Rather, it uses a different wavelength. The best thing about infrared monoculars is their inexpensive price tag. For a relatively cheap price, you can get a decent monocular that is invisible, so you won't distract animals you are hunting or observing. However, there are infrared monoculars that have a visible red light, so choose carefully before purchasing one.
Thermal Imaging Monoculars
Thermal imaging monoculars are another subtype of night vision monoculars. They are very useful at night because they can detect animals that are good at hiding or camouflaging. By detecting heat, they use it to form an image of objects in the dark. What's great about this night vision monocular is that it does not have a visible red light that some infrared monoculars have. That means you do not have to worry about scaring animals away with it.
It is a given that monoculars are already compact, except for spotting scopes that fall under the category of monocular telescopes. However, there are monoculars that are smaller than average. They are about a couple of inches smaller than regular monoculars and are enough to fit in your pocket or purse. The disadvantage of these monoculars, however, is that they have smaller magnifications as well. They also have a smaller lens diameter. Despite their less powerful specs, they are quite cheap and good enough for simple viewing activities.
Gosky is a China-based company with an American hub located in Atlanta, Ga. It’s a newer company that offers high-quality optical equipment at a reasonable price point. The company specializes in monoculars, binoculars like the Gosky 10x42 Binoculars, and spotting scopes like the Gosky 20-60X 80 Porro Prism Spotting Scope.
Vortex Optics is an American manufacturer of optical equipment for various purposes. It produces riflescopes, binoculars, monoculars, and red dots. Vortex Optics products can be a bit pricey but their looks alone are enough to tell you that they are durable and made of high-quality materials. The Vortex Optics Solo Monocular, for instance, is a good-looking monocular that provides crisp and clear images.
Bushnell has been an industry leader in high-performance sports optics for more than 65 years. The company prides itself on providing outstanding customer service and strong retailer partnerships. It leads the pack with innovative and affordable products such as the CelluCore 30 No Glow Cellular Trail Camera and the Match Pro 6-24x50 Riflescope.
- Under $60: Monoculars under $60 are decent optical equipment that are enough to let you appreciate animals and nature even with their less powerful specs. They are for people who enjoy intense outdoor activities without worrying about scratching or breaking their monoculars in the process.
- $60 to $170: Monoculars within this price range are already high-powered and have optimal brightness and clarity. They are even waterproof and quite durable. However, they lack the look that matches these qualities. They are for people who just enjoy nature viewing and bird watching in silence without anyone chatting them up about their equipment.
- $170 and up: These are premium monoculars that are ultra HD and deliver super clear images. This price range also includes monoculars that have power specs in terms of magnification, prism, and make. These expensive monoculars are for nature and wildlife enthusiasts who are quite invested in their hobby.
There is no point to a monocular if you cannot see anything through it. That is why magnification is one of its essential features. Keep in mind that a 12x magnification is not always the best one. It may be great for a pair of binoculars, but not for monoculars. Monoculars are already at their best with a 6x or 8x magnification.
Lens coating and diameter should also be considered when buying a monocular. Purchasing coated lenses are highly recommended for use during cloudy weather because they enhance image clarity and brightness. In terms of diameter, a bigger lens diameter does not guarantee a brighter image.
Ease of Use
Using monoculars over your eyeglasses can be tiring, so try to find a monocular that is comfortable to use even with your eyeglasses on. Find out if a monocular has an eye relief feature.
- Special Features. Night vision mode, waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof features are just a few special features a monocular can have. Choose a monocular that has special features that match your needs and preferences. Many of today’s monoculars are also equipped with Wi-Fi capability and can record and upload video and photographic footage to your smartphone.
- Prism. A monocular that has poor prism quality generates images that are dim and blurry. It can also cause vertigo. Therefore, you can choose a monocular that has either a roof prism or Porro prism. Both offer good-quality images.
- Field of View. A narrow field of view can help you focus on smaller areas but in great detail. A wide field of view, on the other hand, lets you see the whole picture. For most people, a monocular that offers the middle ground of these two types of field of view is the best choice.
Best Monoculars Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Protect your monocular, and always store it in a case when it’s not in use. It will protect the unit from dirt, moisture, and collision damage.
- Use the cloth provided by the manufacturer or any other lint-free cloth to clean the lens. You can dab it with an alcohol-based solution for the best results.
- Avoid handling the monocular with dirty or greasy hands. Use wet wipes to clean dirt off your hands to avoid contaminating the lens.
- Most monoculars advertise to be waterproof, but not all gadgets live up to the hype. Try to keep the unit in dry conditions, and wipe it dry before storing it in the case.
Q: Is a monocular better than a binocular?
A monocular is only half the weight of a binocular and easier to carry and handle. However, it can get uncomfortable to hold if you plan on using it for a long period of time. You should opt for binoculars for lengthy observations since they are more comfortable on the eyes.
Q: Which monocular has the best zoom?
The Gosky Titan 12x50 High Power Prism Monocular and the Gosky High Definition Monocular Telescope both offer a magnification of 12x, which is the highest on our list. This magnification is also one of the highest on the current market. Anything above 10x is considered to be an impressive amount of magnification.
Q: Do all monoculars have night-vision capabilities?
Most monoculars on the market can only be used in the daytime, and some special models have great vision in low-light conditions. It is possible to find a monocular with sophisticated night-vision technology. Such models use infrared technology to light up images in the dark. They are, however, more expensive.
Q: Can I use a monocular with my glasses?
If you wear glasses, you have to leave a space of at least 0.5 inches between your eye and the eyepiece for a better view. That space is referred to as eye relief. You have to either adjust or remove the eye cap to get a better view. The same case applies to sunglasses. People who don’t wear glasses don’t have to worry about eye relief.
If you’re looking for the ideal combination of performance, durability, and price, the Gosky Titan 12x50 High Power Prism Monocular is hands down our top pick. It offers an impressive 12x magnification as well as an impressive zoom and smartphone compatibility, all for under $100.
For an even more budget-friendly option, the Authentic ROXANT Grip Scope High Definition Wide View Monocular is . It’s a high-definition wide-view monocular that features a retractable eyepiece and multi-coated optical glass lens, and a super low price tag.