The 10 Best Monoculars

Updated March 12, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

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We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Perfect for viewing wild animals up close, stargazing, or simply bringing distant objects into clear view, these monoculars offer high quality optics in a compact and exceedingly portable package. They are available in a range of capabilities and budget options to suit casual wildlife enthusiasts through to die-hard explorers. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best monocular on Amazon.

10. Gosky Prism 12X50

The Gosky Prism 12X50 is a powerful option that lets you spot objects at great distances in crystal clarity. It provides good light transmission along with a sealed dust- and water-proof body that is also impact-resistant and ready for extreme use again and again.
  • comes with a mini tripod
  • easy for beginners to focus
  • somewhat heavy and unwieldy
Brand Gosky
Model 4331892981
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

9. Orion Zoom 8439

The Orion Zoom 8439 lets users enjoy views of birds and wildlife, bullseye targets, outdoor scenery, and even craters on the moon with its 10 to 25x magnification capabilities. Also, it has a rubber-coated body that ensures a firm grip.
  • short 20-inch near focus distance
  • doesn't include a lens dust cap
  • focusing ring is difficult to move
Brand Orion
Model 8439
Weight 14.4 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. Firefield 5x50 Nightfall 2

The Firefield 5x50 Nightfall 2 is designed for nighttime use and is equipped with a battery-saving pulse IR illuminator, giving you a clear view no matter how dark it may be. It also features a weather-resistant, rubber-armored housing for tactical use.
  • runs on standard aa batteries
  • somewhat narrow field of view
  • focus must be adjusted every time
Brand Firefield
Model FF24066
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

7. Vortex Optics Solo R/T

The Vortex Optics Solo R/T features a ranging reticle that allows for windage corrections, as well as a flared eyecup to prevent stray light from entering and obstructing your view. It feels solid and well-built, so don't hesitate to take it on every trip.
  • o-rings keep out dust and debris
  • no discernible vignetting
  • included case is poorly made
Brand Vortex Optics
Model SOL-3608-RT
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

6. Nikon High Grade 5x15

The Nikon High Grade 5x15 offers some impressive specs, including a small size, at just 3 inches long, a smooth rubber eyecup, an internal focusing system, and an antireflective lens coating. Plus, it offers a 472-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • lightweight titanium housing
  • transmits light very well
  • not the highest magnification
Brand Nikon
Model 7394
Weight 5 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

5. Wingspan Optics Outdoorsman

The high-powered Wingspan Optics Outdoorsman delivers an extended range of view up to 1,000 yards away, and produces a bright image in dim light conditions. It is fog-proof, waterproof, and impact-resistant, so feel free to use it in rough environments.
  • good depth of field
  • focus operates smoothly
  • slip-resistant housing
Brand Wingspan Optics
Model 4331892729
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

4. Carl Zeiss Optical T 10x25

The Carl Zeiss Optical T 10x25 is equipped with a nonslip coating that combines nicely with its weather sealing, giving you the ability to take it out in the rain with confidence. It comes with a convenient leather pouch and a carrying strap.
  • exceptional color fidelity
  • quick-focusing capabilities
  • near perfect edge-to-edge clarity
Brand Zeiss
Model 52 20 53
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

3. Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision

The Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision reveals your surroundings to you in stunning infrared, with illumination capabilities that reach up to 350 meters away and a 1x to 5x digital zoom for seeing what's going on even farther from you.
  • connects easily to a computer or tv
  • runs on four aa batteries
  • wide 50mm objective lens
Brand Bestguarder
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Bushnell Legend

The Bushnell Legend combines a lightweight, travel-friendly, streamlined design with ultra HD visual excellence for bright, crisp, and clear views at a distance. It can be used handheld or mounted on a tripod for stability.
  • water- and fog-proof
  • capable of 10x magnification
  • smooth focus ring adjuster
Brand Bushnell
Model 191142
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Leica 8x20 Monovid

The Leica 8x20 Monovid is a highly durable, completely waterproof option that is ideal for those who go on intense birding and hunting adventures. It provides brilliant, high-contrast images, so you can catch every little hint of movement.
  • nitrogen filled to prevent fogging
  • no edge distortion
  • small enough to fit in a pocket
Brand Leica
Model 40390
Weight 16 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

Taking The Long View: Distance Optics

The earliest functional telescopes were designed by Dutch spectacle makers in the first years of the 17th Century. In the year 1609, Italian astronomer (and mathematician and philosopher and scientist writ large), Galileo Galilei designed an improved version of those first refracting telescopes. He pointed it skyward, becoming the first person known to have beheld a celestial object in a manner refined beyond the vision of the naked eye.

From those rudimentary optical devices have descended everything from the observatory to the Hubble Space Telescope, to the pair of binoculars tucked into the backpack of the hiker. And of course something else was born, too: the field of modern astronomy and a better understanding of the entire universe.

Today, there are many reasons for why a person might want to extend his or her vision out across a great distance. With the right optical hardware, one can enjoy a better view of a sporting event, concert, or a parade. Enhanced long distance vision is important for bird watching and other nature activities, or for hunting, too. In a tactical situation, such as a police stakeout or combat scenario, the better one can see from farther away, the safer they and the team remain and the better they can control the unfolding events.

Long distance viewing can also be important for various professional applications, such as surveying land prior to development, or in studying city streets or highways before an improvement or repair project. And of course the stargazer needs good optics to best enjoy the celestial bodies above.

Choosing the right device for your long distance viewing needs might not involve considering a massive astrographic telescope, but there are still a few considerations to keep in mind.

Why Monoculars Are Often Better Than Binoculars

If there is one primary reason why a monocular is often a better choice than a pair of binoculars, it is weight. By the very nature of their design, a pair of binoculars will usually weigh twice as much as a monocular with equivalent magnification power. If you're assembling a kit for use in a tactical situation or you are a trekker or climber carrying your gear over long distances, weight matters.

While many people prefer the stereo vision afforded by binoculars, which recreates the way the human eyes see together, when you are trying to view a distinct object or a limited area without much depth, the monocular's flatter view can help you isolate the image more easily.

Because binoculars usually allow focusing adjustments for both eyes, with a center knob controlling both sets of optics and one side of the unit featuring another ring for fine tuning (most people have slightly different vision quality in each eye), they can provide a sharp view indeed. But that also means more effort required to achieve this sharp view, and it means more potential for improperly focused optics that can cause frustration, eye strain, and that can hamper your distance vision instead of helping it.

Monoculars also offer enhanced potential for situational awareness, as you can maintain your view of the long range object or area in question yet open the other eye for a quick review of the space closer to your person. This can be of critical importance in combat or emergency situations.

Choosing The Right Monocular For You

The first thing to note when considering which monocular you will buy is magnification power. But consider the fact that stronger is not always better. The more powerful a monocular's magnification power, the harder it will be to keep it steady and in focus. If you are hoping to get a better view of objects that aren't that far away, or if you value a wider field of vision over greater range of vision, than look for a monocular with midrange magnification over one with extreme power.

Choosing a monocular that has a zoom feature can mitigate the issue of too much power, but with zooming in and out comes even more difficulty in achieving perfect focus, so know the give and take a zoom option offers you.

Next consider the time of day during which you will use your monocular. Many monoculars have amazing light gathering capabilities and work well even in darkness. Still others have actual night vision capabilities, sending out their own infrared light that can you can detect thanks to their specialized lenses. A night vision monocular is a great idea for many nature scientists or for use in tactical situations. However, most monocular that work well at night have optics that are objectively inferior in daylight. If you are primarily going to use your optical gear during the day, then you have many more options for a good monocular.

Ultimately, choosing the right monocular may well come down to its physical size and weight. If you are a hiker who regularly carries large loads of gear on your back, then every ounce matters. Opt for a smaller monocular and enjoy the view it affords you, even if other larger models have better magnification. If you are unconcerned with gear weight, then by all means choose an option large enough to be used as a spotting scope while hunting or as a compact telescope for viewing the firmament.

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Last updated on March 12, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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