Definitive Guide to Monoculars

The Definitive Guide to Monoculars: Buying Guide and Reviews

People have always wanted the ability to see things that are far away. For that purpose, we often use either telescopes or binoculars. But these things are often bulky and expensive. Even a spotting scope may be too big. However, there’s an alternative option. You can just get monoculars instead.

A monocular is a simply a smaller version of the telescope. You see through it with one eye like with a telescope, but you hold it in your hand just like your regular binoculars. A typical monocular is small enough that you can easily ring it with you in your pocket or attached to your belt.

Comparing the Monocular to Other Telescopic Magnifying Devices

Like the telescope, spotting scope and binoculars, a monocular is a device that makes faraway objects seem nearer. This makes you see details that you can’t really see at a distance. But to give you a more accurate description of the monocular, it may be better to compare it side by side to the other magnifying gadgets.

Monoculars vs. Telescopes

A telescope is a great way to view far away objects. You also use a single eye to see through them. However, with very few exceptions the telescope is much larger. Check out the Hubble telescope, which is a telescope in space. It uses a mirror that measures almost 8 feet in diameter.

Obviously the most accessible telescopes won’t be that large. But they’re still going to be generally too big to be truly portable. It’s great to use astronomy, but usually you need a stand for it and it stays in just one place.

Monoculars Vs. Spotting Scopes

A spotting scope is smaller than the largest telescopes. In fact, some consider spotting scopes as simply the largest class of monoculars. So they’re more versatile and more affordable than typical larger telescopes.

Also, many spotting scopes have several interchangeable eyepieces, so you can use the one that’s most comfortable for you. With a monocular, you’re stuck with the singe eyepiece that’s simply non-removable.

But you still have the same problem with them as you do with telescopes. They’re still too large. They offer much greater magnification than your typical monocular, but that just means they’re bigger and heavier. You need to have them mounted on a tripod if you want to use them properly. A monocular is just more portable because it’s lighter and smaller.

Monocular Vs. Binoculars

In some ways these offer similar benefits. Binoculars can magnify objects up to 4 to 25 times magnification, and that’s similar to what monoculars offer. They’re also somewhat portable. The smallest ones can be clipped to your belt and even the bigger ones can be carried in its bag or strapped around your neck.

The two viewing scopes of the binoculars also give some level of depth perception. The images you see are more in 3D, compared to the flat 2D image you get when you just use one eye.

But it’s still harder to move around when you have binoculars. The double scopes mean they’re double in size and weight. It’s harder to move around than when you’re using a monocular you can carry in a pocket.

Your slight movements also don’t bother your view on the monocular. With binoculars, the view really suffers if you’re even a little bit unsteady. That’s why with binoculars it’s often best if you have something steady to rest your elbows.

Also, binoculars may suffer from non-aligned lenses. Some people may also have eyes that are closely set near each other, so the binoculars may not fold to accommodate both eyes. Both are obviously not problems with the single scope of the monoculars.

Basically, the main difference of the monocular with all of the other options is that you can carry around the monocular with you all the time. You can just have one in your pocket and you’re set. If any unplanned event or object is going on around you, then you can just whip it out and take a closer look, so to speak.

With telescopes, spotting scopes, and binoculars, you have to plan it when you want to bring it with you. That’s because they’re all too big and heavy despite the advantages they offer. But not forgetting that you even get monocular with rangefinders to make life even easier when you want to quickly determine distance.

  • So if you’re planning to look at the stars and the planets in the heavens more closely, you can use a telescope.
  • If you need to look at something here on earth that’s too far away from you than a monocular can manage, you need a spotting scope.
  • If you’re planning to go to the park for bird watching, binoculars are great.
  • But if you want to look at the stars or at birds or at any faraway object at any time, you can use your ever-present monocular handily.

Best Uses for Monoculars

So should you get a monocular? As it should be evident at this point, it all depends on several factors. You may want to get a monocular for the following situations and purposes:

· It’s also a better and more affordable option if you just want a quick look at faraway objects rather than a longer inspection.

Bird watching Activities

· You’re a birdwatcher, and you like to go to the park and hang out with your family and friends. Since you can always have your monocular with you, you can get a better view of the birds if the plan to go to the park is unplanned. See this post on Best monocular for birdwatching to see what we recommend for the avid bird watcher.

​Hiking Activities

· You’re hiking, and you want to look out for dangerous animals every now and then. It’s dandy if you’re on the lookout for baby bear cubs, since Mommy may be nearby. You really don’t want to reenact that bear attack scene in The Revenant.

  • You’re on the beach, and you want to be discreet when you’re looking at all the bikinis.
  • You’re at a local sporting event and you want a closer look at the action.
  • ​You’re watching a concert.
  • ​You have a large swath of property, and you want to check for intruders every now and then.
  • You wish to check if there are wasps’ or bees’ nests around your home.
  • ​Your kids are fascinated with telescopes, and you want a cheaper option. With the more affordable monocular, you’re not heartbroken if your kids break it.
  • You’re playing golf and you want a closer look at where you want to put the ball.
  • You can’t afford more expensive telescopes.
  • You’re at sea or at an ocean park and you want a closer look at the whales and dolphins. Or perhaps you’re fishing and you want to see what kind of lures and baits the more successful anglers are using.
  • You’re walking at night and suddenly the clouds part and you have a clear view of the night sky.

Now if any of these situations apply to you, then go ahead and buy a monocular. This decision, however, leads to another question: how do you pick the best monocular for your own use? You will have to consider several crucial factors to pick the one that suits your needs.

Magnification

When you look at a monocular in a store, you may notice that it comes with 2 numbers such as 8 x 20 or 12 x 50. The first number (the 8 and the 12 in the examples) refer to the magnification power.

The magnification power refers to how closer the object may seem to you when you look through the monocular. Let’s say you have a monocular with 8x magnification and you’re watching a basketball game in a stadium. You’re in the upper box level and you’re about a hundred feet away. But when you watch with your 8x monocular, it will seem like you’re at ringside only 12.5 feet away.

So what magnification level should you choose? Here are your options:

  • 4x. This is the smallest magnification power, so it’s the cheapest. This is the type should get for your kids. It’s great for them since the small image zoom gives them a much larger field of vision. They give a great landscape view and the kids won’t have any trouble find the object they want to focus on. Also, the view is great even if the kids have unsteady hands.
  • 6x to 8x. This is the level of magnification that works well for most needs of adults, but they’re still great for kids too. You get much better zoom so you can see things from farther away. These monoculars also generally offer brighter and clear images than the 4x variety. You only have a slightly smaller field of vision so they’re still great for landscape viewing.
  • 10x to 14x. At this magnification power range, you have a nice compromise between image zoom and field of vision. You get a nice clear view of objects even farther away, but the field of vision isn’t so small that you have a difficult time focusing on the object you’re interested in. This is a great all-around choice especially for newbie monocular users interested in higher quality images.
  • 15x to 19x. Now you’re emphasizing zoom, which means you don’t mind a smaller field of vision. At this point you should check if you have the steady hands necessary for this so you can get the clear image you want.
  • 20x to 25x. These are the most powerful magnification levels available for monoculars. These offer superb zoom and you can get details that the other magnification levels can’t offer. On the other hand, the field of vision is much smaller so finding the object you’re looking for will be more difficult. It’s best if the object isn’t moving at all. Also, these won’t work unless you have very steady hands, so often they come with some sort of detachable tripod.

In general, though, most people should choose a magnification power from 8x to 12x. That offers a nice zoom level and a decent field of vision, and you won’t have to look for a tripod to help out.

Objective Lens Diameter

The second of the two numbers (the “20” in “8 x 20”) refers to the diameter of the objective lens in mm. The objective lens is the lens farthest from your eye and closest to the object you’re looking at. So in this example, we have a monocular with an objective lens size of 2o mm.

The size of the lens here will determine the amount of light the monocular can gather. The bigger the lens, the more light you have, and that means you get a brighter image. For particularly low light conditions, you may want to get a size at least 30 or 35 mm in diameter.

The drawback is that when you have a bigger lens, it also means you have a bulkier and heavier monocular. So it’s not quite as portable, which defeats the purpose of having a monocular in the first place.

Lens Coating

The quality of the coating on the lens will affect the brightness of the image, as well as the price of the monoculars.

  • Coated. If the lens are merely “coated”, then that means it’s a budget unit. This may not provide you with the image clarity you want, especially when you have the light in front of you.
  • Fully coated. This is the next best coating, but it still involves just a single material to coat the lens. It’s good enough for newbies, but you may still have some problems with glare and sunlight that can reduce the quality of the view.
  • Multi-coated. Now with several anti-reflective materials for the coating, you can have superb views and resolutions even in less than ideal conditions.
  • Fully multi-coated. This is the top of the line coating, with the best image brightness. You have several excellent anti-reflective materials on the lens, and often there’s even a waterproof coating too. This greatly adds to the price, however.

Additional Factors

Here are some other considerations that you should also keep in mind:

  • How much does it cost? You have to remember that this may depend on where you buy it. Usually, it’s cheaper online.
  • How big and heavy is it? How well does it fit in the hand? All these are questions that will affect how you use it in the field. The problem, however, is that people may have different perceptions. It may be comfortable for you and not for someone else. So you may have to try it out first. That’s why you may want to find a model first in a store, so you can hold it in your hand and to your eye. If it feels great, then you can buy it online.
  • How durable is it? Here you may want to note features like waterproofing and shock proofing. The material for the coating should also tell you a lot about durability. The duration of the warranty can also give you a clue as to its durability.
  • What comes with the purchase? It may come with straps or a carrying case. Sometimes it comes with a cleaning cloth. A tripod may be included too.

The Top Monocular Reviews

Leica 8 x 20 Waterproof Monovid Monocular

Leica_8_x_20_Waterproof_Monovid_Monocular

Our Rating:

When you first get a look at the Leica 8 x 20 Waterproof Monovid Monocular, you will notice 3 things right away. First there’s the price. This is almost obscenely expensive, especially when you consider that it’s about 3 times what you have to pay for a good monocular with 12 12 x 50 specs.

But then you notice the Leica brand, which is one of the most iconic brands in the photographic equipment industry. Finally you will see for yourself the absolutely excellent quality of the monocular, which may explain both the fame of the brand and the exorbitant price.

It’s true that the magnification is just 8x. But that’s more than enough for most purposes. What’s also true is that the images you get are all brightly lit, with very sharp contrast. You can use this with your eyeglasses too.

That kind of image clarity doesn’t go away quickly either. The lens doesn’t fog because of the nitrogen filling. The fully multi-coated lens coating even keeps the moisture and dirt away. It’s actually waterproof up to 5 meters, although it may be best if you don’t put in the swimming pool.

The focus distance is about 7 feet, since any closer than that and you don’t really need a monocular anyway. The field of view is 6.3 degrees, which at 1,000 yards gives you a view measuring 331 feet across.

In addition, you also get an extra close-up lens. This lets you use the Leica as a super magnifying glass. Find a quarter-inch insect and hold the monocular a foot away, and you will get to see the eyes and the mouth in great detail and bright colors. This lens will give you a whole new view of coins and jewelry, and can also help you read the fine print in your insurance contract.

It really feels like a quality product when you hold it in your hands. It’s made with aluminum with a rubber shell. If you drop it, it’s not likely to break. It comes with a case, and there’s a special compartment for the close-up lens. When you open the case, the monocular also pops out for easier access.

It’s very light at 4 ounces, and it also comes with an adjustable wrist lanyard. The size is ideal. It’s small enough to bring with you everywhere, but it’s not too small at 4 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter.

Pros

  • The image quality is astonishingly clear and bright despite the 20 mm objective lens size.
  • The 8x magnification will suit most activities such as bird watching.
  • The close-up will offer a fascinating new view of insects like butterflies and ants, as well as jewelry.
  • It’s small and lightweight.
  • It’s very durable and the overall build quality is excellent.

Cons

  • It’s unbelievably expensive. That also means that you won’t really feel comfortable handing this over for your kids to play with.
  • You have to buy your own objective lens cover. This should have been part of the purchase given the price.
  • The warranty is for 3 years. At this price range, it should have been a lifetime warranty.

In any case, once you buy this you’ll probably never have to buy another monocular for the rest of your life. Everything about this monocular is high quality, and that should explain why so many fans utter the Leica brand name in hushed awed tones. You may not be comfy having your kids play with it, but you may be able to pass this on to the next generation when the time comes.

Enkeeo_8X30_Compact_Monocular

Our Rating:

Now we come to the other end of the price spectrum, as the Enkeeo is as affordable as the Leica is prohibitively expensive. At this price range, you’re more apt to be less worried when your young kids get a hold of this. But its performance will also likely mean that you’ll want to play with this too.

This also comes with 8x magnification, which should suffice for activities like wildlife viewing and for stadium events such as concerts and sports. The field of vision is quite wide at 10.5 degrees, which gives you 600 feet across at a thousand yards. Surprisingly, it comes with fully multi-coated lens that offers bright images and accurate colors.

The focus wheel lets you control the view with one hand. Of course, the 30mm objective lens size helps with the image quality too. But it’s not really all that big and heavy. It may be much longer than the width of your hand at about 10 inches, but then it only weighs 11.6 ounces (330 g).

The purchase comes with the manual, carrying case, a neck strap, covers for both the objective lens and the eyepiece, and a cleaning cloth. It even comes with a tripod just in case you’re at home bird watching or simply looking out over your country property.

Pros

  • The price is very affordable, so you can get this for your kids.
  • The image quality is stunning, especially for this price range.
  • It’s very easy to carry with you. You can even strap this on your belt.
  • It’s also no problem to use. The tripod is especially nice.
  • It comes with the expected accessories like the cleaning cloth and lens covers.

Cons

  • The main problem is that there aren’t any special features to ensure its durability. So don’t get it wet, and don’t drop it too.
  • There’s also no readily available warranty information, even if you visit the Enkeeo website. That may explain why it’s so affordable.

Monoculars at this price range aren’t supposed to be this good, since they’re not expected to have fully multi-coated lens. But the Enkeeo 8X30 Compact Monocular is astonishingly good. The price is for kids and the performance is for adults. You’re just not quite sure how long this goodness will last.

Polaris_Optics_NatureSight_10X42

Our Rating:

Polaris is a well-known and highly regarded brand in the optics industry. They’re famous for offering high performance units at very reasonable prices. This NatureSight model is a good example, and it’s the official Polaris monocular for bird watching.

The 10x magnification is great for viewing birds in the park, since obviously you don’t want to spook them by getting too close. However, you can get a great view starting at 2.5 meters away. The 5.8-degree field of vision is also nice at 305 feet at 1000 yards, so you can get nice landscape views and find what you’re looking for easily.

With the 42 mm size of the objective lens, you’re certainly going to get some exceedingly clear images, as you also get fully multi-coated lens. The design also makes it fog-proof and waterproof. It also keeps the debris and dust out.

It’s very easy to use, as it’s small at just 5.31 inches long. The weight isn’t much at 11.6 ounces. The armor offers a nicely secure no-slip grip so you don’t drop it. And even if you do drop it, this armor design is extremely robust anyway. It comes with a lifetime warranty.

When you’re out and about, you can put this in the carrying case or just strap it to your belt. The eye cups let you use this with or without your glasses. It comes with shoulder straps, and there are covers and a cleaning cloth for the lenses.

Pros

  • The price is quite reasonable.
  • You’ll get a great view of the birds even at a thousand yards away.
  • There’s no problem carrying this around.
  • It’s easy to hold and use with one hand.
  • You have the complete set of accessories you need. That includes 4 bird watching e-books.
  • It’s very robust and waterproof too. The warranty is for a lifetime.

Cons

  • The eyepiece cap isn’t as secure as it ought to be, so you need to be careful.
  • The case itself doesn’t attach to your belt.

This is an excellent mid-price option, as it offers terrific performance and there’s really nothing much wrong with it. It’s affordable enough—and tough enough—that it can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

Bushnell_Legend_Ultra_HD_Monocular,_Black,_10_x_42-mm

Our Rating:

This is a bit more expensive than the others on this list, but it’s thankfully nowhere near the Leica price range. The 10x magnification works well for hunting and for other activities such as stadium events and people-watching too. You can even

What’s also noticeable is the considerably high quality of the image. That’s what you get when you have 42 mm objective lens with fully multi-coated optics. There’s no arguing with the clarity that can’t be matched by cheaper units. This comes with prime glass and a special chemical coating for high resolution and contrast.

You can also zoom in and out as you wish. The field of view is 340 feet at 1,000 yards. (The Bushnell website has this at 340 feet at 1,000 feet but that’s obviously a typo.)

It’s about 5.4 inches long, and the weight is set at 13.2 ounces. The eye relief is at 15.2 mm, so you should be able to use this with your eyeglasses. You can use this in any weather with its “RainGuard” design, as it is waterproof and fog-proof.

It comes with a clip so you can set the monocular on your belt. There’s also a rail that lets you use it with a tripod, though you have to buy that separately. It comes with a carrying case, lens caps, and a lanyard.

Pros

  • The sharpness of the image is magnificent even when you’re far away.
  • You can just clip this on your belt when you’re on and about.
  • You have caps for the eyepiece and for the objective lens.
  • It’s waterproof.
  • The warranty is for a lifetime, though that’s only for buyers in the US and Canada. Your local dealer if you’re elsewhere may have a different warranty condition.

Cons

  • The price is a bit much for many buyers. It’s expensive enough that you may feel apprehensive when your kids play with it.
  • It’s not quite light at 13 ounces.
  • The strap may be a bit too thin for some folks. It’s strong, but you may feel it biting into your skin.
Polaris_Optic_Explorer_12_x_50_Monocular

Our Rating:

This is the unit you get when the 10x42 NatureSight still isn’t enough you. This is even more popular, since the image quality is even more stunning. The 12x magnification makes you feel like you’re right beside the bird, while the field of vision is 246 feet at 1,000 yards

The 50 mm object lens gives you the superb contrast, clarity, and brightness you’ll love in your images. It also helps a lot that you have a fully-multi-coated lens. It’s waterproof, fog-proof, and dustproof too.

The grip offered by the casing is very secure. This measures 6.4 inches long and at its widest it measures 3.1 inches. So clearly it’s not meant for your pocket. It’s also a bit on the “heavy” side at 14 ounces.

But it comes with a stainless steel tripod stand. It also comes with a nylon mesh carrying case, covers for the lens and eyepiece, and a cleaning cloth.

Pros

  • While it’s not really cheap, its price is only a bit more than the price of the NatureSight.
  • The image quality is fantastic, especially in this price range.
  • You have caps for the eyepiece and for the objective lens.
  • It’s waterproof.
  • The warranty is for a lifetime.

Cons

  • It’s a bit bulky and heavy at 14 ounces.
  • The rear eyepiece cover doesn’t come with a lanyard, so you need to take care not to lose the cover.
  • The belt strap isn’t really all that durable.

All in all, at this price range it’s exceedingly fine. It’s no wonder it’s a top bestselling monocular.

​Monocular Brands not mentioned

​Below are some of the world's better known brands that have not made the Top 5 list above but that we have done some reviews on and you are welcome to view them on those pages.

​Vortex Monoculars

​This is a very common brand and have been part of both the binocular and monocular market for a very long time. They offer great value for money and have a wide range of models to chose from. Vortex is ranound for the durability of their consumer goods and their sigle lens offering is no different. You can read more about the top 5 vortex monoculars review here.

Conclusion

All these units are excellent, and they offer great value for money. They all offer decent portability and superb image quality. So which should you get? There are 2 answers for this.

If you’re an adult and you want to get a nice monocular for your money then the Polaris Explorer is a great option. It’s actually very easy to use and you can have it with you always with no problem. For those who especially need a monocular for a specific reason, then the Polaris Explorer gives you the most bang for the buck. With the lifetime warranty, you won’t need to buy another one.

However, you can’t really have your kids using the Explorer, and it may be too much for the casual user. For these people, the best is the extremely affordable Enkeeo 8X30. You won’t think it’s cheap, not with the image quality it offers with its 30mm objective lens and fully multi-coated optics.

In fact, you won’t find a better monocular at this price range. As for the durability, it’s not that big deal at this price range. You can buy 20 of these for the price of the Leica monocular. It’s unlikely that you’ll actually have to buy that many in your lifetime with a bit of care.

Whether you get the Explorer or the Enkeeo 8X30, just be careful with your friends—some of them will want to “borrow” this without telling you. These monoculars are great for all kinds of sightseeing purposes, and the prices are just right.