The 10 Best Monoculars

Updated June 09, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Monoculars
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 38 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Perfect for enjoying wildlife close-up, stargazing or simply to bring distant objects into clear view, these monoculars offer high quality optics in a compact and highly 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. Barska Blackhawk

The Barska Blackhawk is available in a 10 x 25 and 10 x 40 model, both of which come for a great low price that make them perfect for those on a tight budget. They have a 60° wide-angle apparent field of view that allows you to see more of your surroundings.
  • housing offers a secure grip
  • never fog up in humid climates
  • takes while to fine tune the focus
Model AA12132
Weight 14.1 ounces
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

9. Gosky 12 X 50

The Gosky 12 X 50 is a powerful option that lets you spot objects at great distances in crystal clarity. It has good light transmission, and a sealed dust and waterproof 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
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

8. Orion 8439

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

7. Firefield Nightfall 2

The Firefield 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.
  • uses standard aa batteries
  • somewhat narrow field of view
  • focus must be adjusted at every use
Brand Firefield
Model FF24066
Weight 1.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. Vortex Solo R/T

The Vortex Solo R/T features a ranging reticle that allows for windage corrections, and a flared eyecup to reduce stray light from entering and obstructing your view. It also feels solid and well-built, so you won't hesitate to take it on every trip.
  • o-rings to keep out dust and debris
  • no discernible vignetting
  • excellent light gathering capability
Brand Vortex
Model SOL-3608-RT
Weight 12.8 ounces
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Carl Zeiss Optical 10 x 25 T

The Carl Zeiss Optical 10 x 25 T has a nonslip exterior, which may come in handy as it can be used in the rain due to its weatherproof, sealed housing. It comes with a leather pouch and a carrying strap that make it convenient to take anywhere you go.
  • exceptional color fidelity
  • quick-focusing capabilities
  • near perfect edge-to-edge clarity
Brand Zeiss
Model 52 20 53
Weight 9.6 ounces
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

4. Nikon 7394

Despite not being particularly well-known, the Nikon 7394 has impressive capabilities. It is less than 3" long, has a smooth rubber eyecup, an internal focusing system, and an anti-reflective lens coating. Plus, it offers a 472-foot field of view at 1,000 yards.
  • lightweight titanium housing
  • lens transmits light very well
  • can be used while wearing eyeglasses
Brand Nikon
Model 7394
Weight 5 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Bushnell Legend

The Bushnell Legend combines a lightweight, travel-friendly, streamlined design with ultra HD visual excellence for bright, crisp, and clear magnification at a distance. It can be used handheld or mounted to a tripod for stability.
  • water and fog-proof
  • capable of 10x magnification
  • smooth focus ring adjustment
Brand Bushnell
Model 191142
Weight 10.4 ounces
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Polaris Optics Outdoorsman

The high-powered Polaris Optics Outdoorsman offers 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 take in on any adventure.
  • good depth of field
  • focus operates smoothly
  • slip-resistant housing
Brand Polaris Optics
Model PE-125001
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Leica 8 x 20 Monovid

The Leica 8 x 20 Monovid is a highly durable, completely waterproof option that is ideal for those who go on intense birding and hunting adventures. It produces 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 June 09, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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